Studious in the idea of speed Dragonforce are renown for being one of the quickest bands out there. Following on from the release of their brand new Best Of Killer Elite, the band are touring the world over. Making a pit stop at Bloodstock Open Air this year we were able to catch up with guitarist and musical virtuoso Herman Li. Speaking about the man’s influences behind the guitar, how the band came up with “Fury Of The Storm” and most importantly the recording of a brand new album set for a release next year. We delve into the world where dragons do indeed dwell.
Check out the Soundcloud interview below or read the entire transcription below that!
I’m here today with Herman Li of Dragonforce how are you?
I’m good! My first Bloodstock Open Air.
Its the first one?
I’ve been to Bloodstock not open air which was back in 2003.
Closed air, yeah it was an indoor festival!
Are you excited to be playing main stage?
I have a lot of friends here and some great bands are playing here tonight too.
Are you going to check any out?
I want to see Symphony X again, they’re one of my favourite bands for many years. They’re going to play today so its going to be cool!
Yeah man! “Sea of Lies” all about that solo.
“Sea Of Lies” solo! I saw him shred that one at Wacken festival and I thought here we go! I remember trying to learn that on guitar years ago when I first picked up the guitar.
So what has been happening in Dragonforce’s year so far until Bloodstock?
We released a compilation, best of thing called Killer Elite. We’re basically, the shows are based on that. We’re doing a lot of old songs that we haven’t played for a while and we’ve been to loads of festivals. My shoes, I’ve just given up washing them! I’m doing festivals every week.
Yeah every week we have been doing festivals. Almost since May.
Is it European festivals or American festivals because I know you guys are going to ProgPower?
Yeah so that will be the American one but we have just been doing European ones mainly. We’ve been to Mexico as well!
Was it a good reaction in Mexico?
Oh it was great just pretty crazy! All these festivals have been great. Three mud baths, four out of all of them? Not that bad, its a pretty good count!
What kind of set are you going to do tonight, is it going to be quite varied or is it going to be based on Killer Elite?
Pretty much every single song I would say is from Killer Elite stuff. We’ve got something from first album and the second album. Those songs that we haven’t played on the last tour for example are here. We’re trying to pick the songs that we didn’t play. Obviously you’ve got a few songs that you have to play! We try and vary them on the time you have on stage.
This has been bugging me for quite a long time, how did you guys come up with “Fury Of The Storm”?
Ahhh we finished recording that album, actually I don’t rememeber… Its just one of those songs, it used to be called “Fury Of The Swarm” originally and then “Fury Of The Swarm” was inspired by the game Starcraft. We said “swarm” doesn’t sound very cool to pronounce so we though fury of the STORM is much better.
Its got a bit more balls! Are you guys big fans of games and Sci-Fi all that sort of stuff?
Yeah! We play all videogames in the past, I actually just got the Oculus Rift. I haven’t plugged it in yet because I haven’t got a graphics card, yet for it! Soon I will plug in. When the festivals are done, I will try it! See how responsible I am!?
So what have you got planned after the festivals?
We’re working on a new album as well. That will come out next year, sometime early next year.
Are you in writing process for it, have you written a lot?
We’re recording right now with Jens Bogren in Sweden and we’re doing some recording in London, between the festival time.
Do you think it helps to step away from the studio and have a bit of a look back on it, see what was working and what was not?
It helps but its also really difficult to get back into it after having had a tiring couple of days of drinking with friends at a festival. You go back and you just want to lay down for a bit but we did do some good work in between.
And you also released a live DVD last year I believe?
Yes it was called In The Line Of Fire, so we released it, we recorded it and relesaed on the Maximum Overload tour. That was filming at the Super Arena in Japan. It was a cool thing! I actually edited it on tour!
Yeah, I had my laptop. I was on the plane editing the stuff and in Australia, we were doing Soundwave Festival, we were still editing. I was editing in Indonesia, I dunno everywhere! In order to make it come out at the same time as the tour. Instead of saying here’s a DVD but that’s like two years ago. We filmed it in October and released it in June.
So bang on when the tour was.
During the tour that was still happening!
I’ve noticed that you’ve got a Tony McAlpine T-shirt on. Who is a sick guitarist! Who would you say are some of your favourite guitarists?
Well apart from Tony McAlpine, Steve Vai, Joe Satriani those guys. Vinnie Moore, Ritchie Kotzen, Marty Friedman, Michael Romeo (Symphony X), John Petrucci (Dream Theater) all the best.
Have you listened to Inferno by Marty Friedman?
Yes! I saw the tour actually, I’ve seen this tour, this new Tony McAlpine tour and I just saw recently Steve Vai on the Passion and Warfare twenty fifth anniversary tour.
No way! Did he play it in its entirety?
Yeah he played the whole Passion and Warfare for the first time then other songs as well.
You’re known for crazy, crazy solos. What was the first solo you ever learnt?
First one I ever learnt! You know what I can’t remember. Probably tried a Megadeth one and failed miserably, one of Marty Friedman’s.
Tornado of Souls!
Ah I think I was doing something from Coutndown To Extinction or Bon Jovi I can’t remember! You think that just because its slow its easier, absolutely not! Slow means nothing it actually makes it harder. Slow guitar solos has got its own soul and its own way to express so unless you’re expressing the same way you just sound sterile, boring and cold. Its very difficult. I always find if you play a cover song of somebody, you have to play it so much that you can express it in your own way. Otherwise you just sound like a bad copy, I find cover songs very hard to play with that same energy originally recorded. You’re just mimicking someone, its not easy.
Have you tried cover songs before? With Dragonforce I mean.
We play Iron Maiden once or twice just for fun. We done “Ring Of Fire” which is a cover but it sounds completely different. We did it our own way fast as hell, if we do a cover we change it, do something different.
You’re renown for being such a fast band, was that something that you wanted to have from the start or is it just a by product of what happened?
Its natural we just though oh lets play the song this way, no too slow lets speed it up go faster. Lets play faster, drums have got to go faster. We didn’t think of lets be fast, because we like Thrash Metal as well. We thought oh it sounds better if it was fast!
Where do you lie with you influences? Are you more Power Metal, Thrash Metal?
Really all sorts of stuff, Death Metal, Power Metal, Thrash Metal, Prog. Everything together, Hard Rock, melodic rock stuff. Some people listen to a bit of Black Metal some people listen to a bit of Pop Punk, there’s no limit. Its all the same to me.
What are your favourite Prog bands?
For me? Dream Theater. Its gotta be Dream Theater. No comparisons, I saw them on their current tour. I saw the show and I was thinking my god this is absolutely insane, I said to John Petrucci, I have seen Dream Theater shows since Awake, every single tour pretty much and that was the best I have ever seen them. It was incredible. I know that some people say oh they’re playing the whole new album but I think that the new album is absolutely great and that they show that. Its incredible production.
I know what you mean, I saw it at the London Palladium I think. Also Fredric Leclerqc has got a new band Sinsaenum at the moment. Is that logistically somewhat of a problem or do you guys figure it out with tours.
Its no problem you know! Fred’s got more skills than what he can show with Dragonforce. He also likes different kinds of Metal. He’s done something completely different from what we do, I think its cool! You get to do something like that. Its like when we did that Babymetal thing you know?
Thats true, it was at Download?
Yeah we did Download and we played the guitar on their song “The Road To Resistance” on the new album. Its fast like Dragonforce and there’s solos and all that and its cool to do outside the band that you always play from.
Would you ever think of doing something completely different, you personally, a solo record or band?
I’ve thought about it but we have to say. Its a pain you know, musicians are such a pain to deal with. To do another band, I don’t know I can handle that kind of pressure dealing with people haha! That’s it sorry, if you find the right people and its easy then great. I don’t want to do another project just to pull my hair, to say I don’t like this or this guys doesn’t want to do that.
To finish things off, what has been a record that you have been listening to over the last six months?
To be honest that Dream Theater album that we talked about.
I listen to that all the time.
Even though its that long though?
I listen to the whole thing, two CD’s bam. I’ve heard it about a hundred times.
Jesus you’re the biggest Dream Theater fan in the world!
Dragonforce are currently working on their new album.