Herman Li is one of the guitarists from extreme power metal group DragonForce, and recently took the time to answer some of my questions.
* Interview by Shaq
* Pictures provided by Chipster Entertainment
It seems like you guys have gained a lot of popularity in the United States recently, enough to warrant a full scale headlining tour. How does it feel to be headlining here?
It’s great of course to be able to play a long set to our fans in the US, they have been waiting for a long time, some since year 2000 when we released our demo. With almost every single show sold out soon, it’s gonna be an amazing tour.
You’re also slated to play the New England Metal & Hardcore festival on the tour as well. What are your thoughts of playing such a festival, which doesn’t typically cater to much in the way of power metal?
I heard many great things of the festival, so we can’t wait. One of the reasons why this US tour worked out is because of the New England Metal & Hardcore festival inviting us to play, due to the request of the fans there. We have power metal influences of course but we have grown a lot since our first demo and our music is definitely not the typical power metal anymore. We have elements in our music that are able to attack listeners from all styles of metal. The only thing that really makes us power metal these days is the singing but then again it is more hard rock to me.
I was supposed to attend what was to be your debut show in the United States last November, which unfortunately ended up being cancelled. What were the actual circumstances that forced the cancellation?
There was a mistaken identity situation, they thought I was on the FBI list and wouldn’t let me into the US. I think they thought I was a terrorist or something! I did offer to play them a guitar solo on the spot to prove my innocence!
The band recently signed to Road Runner Records, a label not particularly known for your style of music. How did this signing come about?
The head of A&R in Roadrunner contacted me by email via the web site. He is really into our music, totally into the new album and really wanted to sign us. Since not much happened with our first two albums in North America and Roadrunner has been very enthusiastic, we decided to sign with them. They’ve already done an amazing job with Inhuman Rampage in the UK. We want our fans in North America to be able to get the albums and see us live easily.
Does being on the new label present you with any pressure to do things differently than in the past, be it a change in the music or in anything else?
No, we are too stubborn. Makes no difference to me, we do what we want. Inhuman Rampage is more over the top than ever!
You recently released a music video for “Through the Fire and Flames.” Did the idea for the video come from the label or was it the band that wanted to make a video?
We wanted to make a video since the first album; it’s about time someone actually listened huh? Ahaha. The funniest thing is, we made a video for the DEMO and not for the first album.
Back in the days of your first demo, you had much success on MP3.com. How do you feel this helped get you to where you are today?
It has totally helped, a lot of fans in the US known us for years. We get so many people writing to us on the internet about how they bought the tickets on the first day they went on sale because they been waiting since the demo days. Cool ah?
These days, music on the internet is a hot topic. Where do you stand on the issue? Do you feel that sharing music online is ultimately bad for the music industry, or is it more beneficial?
We have nothing to hide. They can listen to our music and decide for themselves if they like it or not, if it is what they have always been looking for in a band. We believe in our music since day one and we don’t need magazines to hype it up to get anywhere. Since the beginning our success comes a lot from music fans, via the internet or from word of mouth. I believe bands that makes bad albums are scared of the internet, if you make great music people will buy it whatsoever. DragonForce fans certainly do!
Do the members of Dragonforce work any jobs outside of the band to help pay the bills, or at this point in your career can you live completely off your music?
Nah, we don’t have any time at all to get a job! Work 2 months and 10 months off on tour? Hahaha Who will give us a job? Stopped since Sonic Firestorm came out.
Are there any plans in the works for releasing some sort of DVD? Judging from the videos on your website, you guys probably have all sorts of crazy backstage footage that would make for great bonus material.
In there future there sure will be. We have lots of material!
And now on to your most recent release, Inhuman Rampage. The title seems fitting for the music, since the speeds you accomplish in the music is inhuman! How do you feel this album compares to your past releases?
It is a continuation of Sonic Firestorm. Inhuman Rampage takes everything and puts it up another level with the best of Valley of the Damned and Sonic Firestorm combined. It’s not just about the speed, absolutely everything from production to every instrument was pushed to the next level.
What is the writing process like for your albums?
Same as always.. we make the basic structure of the songs and work on it further when we record the album. The writing isn’t complete until the album is mastered.
In the sea of power metal out there today, Dragonforce seems to have found their niche in the fast paced, extreme end of power metal. How do you feel you compare to other big acts in the genre, and what sets you apart from them?
Well it is pretty obvious we don’t sound anything like the other bands out there. The style and approach is totally different from the music to the live shows. People just have to listen or see us to be able to understand. A lot of our fans do not like power metal at all but they love us because we are able to bring all the best styles of metal into one. We have as much thrash metal and hard rock influences in the music as power metal. With a lot of power metal turning more hard rock these days, it is rather confusing if they are still PM anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love bands like Angra, also Rhapsody is cool but I wouldn’t really call them power metal. Angra for example is definitely much more than that.
What are some of your favorite bands out there today? What do you find yourself listening to the most?
I don’t have any favorites but I’ve always been into stuff like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine, Symphony X, Angra, Dream Theater, lots of prog, hard rock, thrash, death metal, video game music. Right now I am listening to the Out Run sound track, also been listening to Pagan’s Mind a lot. I like the latest Trivium album as well, I think they are cool.
Are there any plans for releasing a full length Shadow Warriors album?
People believe in too many rumors on the internet unfortunately, that band never existed.
I’m sure this is far from an original question, but do you have any tips for guitarists trying to work up to your level of skill and speed, aside from the usual answers of countless hours of practice?
Practice improvising to your favourite music with the lights out so you can’t see you fret board. Also, practice playing standing up, I mean who plays in a metal band and sits down on stage?
On behalf of Metal-Rules.com I’d like to thank you for answering these questions. I’m looking forward to catching you in New York City on this tour! Are there any final thoughts you’d like to add for your fans out there?
Cool! I will see you guys in New York! I have known Metal-Rules.com for a long time, thanks to the guys on the Metal-Rules forum who’ve been supporting us for years!
Thanks to Metal-Rules for covering us since the beginning!
I would like to thank Bridget Moyer at Chipster Entertainment for helping to arrange for this interview, and for providing the promotional photos.
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