INTERVIEW: DragonForce (10/09/2019)

Credit: Promo

After hair metal burned out in the late 1980s, the most popular rock songs had solos that relied less on technical wizardry and more on catchiness or noise value. However, with the inclusion of DragonForce‘s ‘Through The Fire And Flames’ on the classic video game ‘Guitar Hero III: Legends Of Rock’, solos with blindingly fast finger work were suddenly cool again.

Now the British power metal legends are back with their eighth studio album ‘Extreme Power Metal’.
In the run up to the release, we caught up with guitarist Herman Li to discuss the new album and tour, as well as Celine Dion and playing triangle on stage…

DP!: It’s just over two weeks until the new album ‘Extreme Power Metal’ comes out. How excited are you to let fans hear your new material?
Herman: I’m very excited. The months actually waiting for the album to come out, so the fans can actually hear it. It’s gonna be really cool, I can’t wait for fans to hear the final result, after spending that much time making it.

DP!: Which songs from the new record are you most excited to play live?
Herman: Well, I don’t wanna give away the setlist already, you shouldn’t know the end of the movie until you go and see it. Obviously, we’re gonna play the singles, and some other songs from the album. The funny thing is, the singles aren’t the best songs on the album. We’ve kind of started it with a slow thing, because the video production of the other songs, which I think are better, cost way more money to make and took longer to make, so we have better songs that people don’t even know. You’d think “the singles must be the best songs” but they’re not, actually.

DP!: You announced that Stevie T (YouTube personality) will be filling in on bass for the US tour. How did this come about?
Herman: I’d met Stevie before, and he’s got a cool YouTube channel and he’s a great player, so it happened to be after we’d made a fun thing about the triangle playing, where fans were joking around saying “get Stevie T to play triangle”, so we’re doing it! We’re getting Stevie T to play the triangle on the upcoming tour. Why not? And the bass, obviously. And a bit of guitar, maybe some 20-string guitar. Bring it back from the grave after the djent war.

DP!: I like the cover of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ that closes the record. What was the thinking behind doing THAT cover?
Herman: It was about making an epic song on every DragonForce album, and it fits in well with the whole theme of the album and the fun artwork and just having fun with it. It’s really catchy and people like it.

DP!: You’ve been in a band for 20 years now. Do you still get nervous before you go on stage?
Herman: It depends on the show but I do get a bit nervous. Not to the point where I’m actually shitting myself or that tingling sensation in your stomach that you might drop one out. I will be a bit nervous with the new tour, because we did a test run with the new production in Germany for the last three shows, and we have this massive video game arcade machine. I felt like I was gonna die if I drop off that, with how high that thing is, and they didn’t put the safety barriers in at that point, so I thought “If we die, at least people will know about this massive production”. But we’ll have the safety barriers by the start of the tour, so we won’t have to worry about it by then.

DP!: Since pretty much every DragonForce song has fast intricate playing on them, how do you ensure that you can play them live without messing up?
Herman: I actually sit down and practice for hours, the same parts, again and again, literally looping the solo, so I’m playing them hundreds of times. I don’t know how many hundreds of times I’ve played these songs to prepare for the tour, so the songs are embedded in me so they don’t go away after that, they just stay there like a scarring experience. That’s just how much we play it.

DP!: Everyone knows ‘Through The Fire And Flames’. Do you ever worry about being labelled a “one hit wonder”?
Herman: I’d rather have one hit that no hits. Most bands don’t have a hit that big. The funny this is, if you like ‘Through The Fire And Flames’, you should like every DragonForce song, pretty much. We’ve heard people complain that all our songs sound the same. It’s not even our best song, it’s just happened to be something that people remember. But we have a song that is as equally as good as that on every DragonForce album, so it doesn’t really matter what people say about us. And every band has their biggest song, like, Disturbed are always gonna play ‘Down With The Sickness’ last because that is their big song. It also kind of became part of a culture back then, with the Guitar Hero thing, and it was cool to be shredding on guitar again, because when we came out, it was still a very uncool thing to be playing guitar solos. I think we played a part in making lead guitar cool again.

I’d also like to add, make sure and check out my twitch channel, because we’re gonna live stream the tour on there! we’re gonna live stream the first time we ever play these songs, with professional audio production to launch the new album, so fans from all around the world can see the first time we play these songs.

DragonForce’s new album ‘Extreme Power Metal’ is out on September 27th, via Metal Blade Records.

The band start their US tour on October 1st with a show in Tucson, AZ, which will be streamed live via Herman’s Twitch channel here.

They will also be hitting the road in the UK in November with Lovebites and McRocklin & Hutch. You can catch them on these dates:

NOVEMBER 09 – NORWICH, The Waterfront
NOVEMBER 14 – NEWCASTLE, Northumbria Institute

Tickets are available from the band’s official website here.