On the penultimate night of their UK tour Peter Dennis caught up vocalist Marc Hudson at Northampton’s Roadmender venue to discuss life on the road and all things DragonForce.
Although you’ve been in the band for almost a decade do you still get looked on as the ‘new’ guy?
Yeah, absolutely. Even though I’ve done as many albums as the first singer. It especially happens if people aren’t up to date and they’re only just checking DragonForce out.
At your shows you get a wide age range from teens to OAP’s. What do you attribute that to?
It’s something we shy away from but I think people enjoy the novelty of it. For the old school rock fans, they enjoy all the solos, for the younger kids I think they enjoy the stage production with the arcade games and we do video game songs and that’s helped get a younger audience. We’re not taking ourselves so seriously now and I think that appeals to younger people.
How has the tour been so far?
It’s been really good, we’ve sold out a load of shows, the crowds have been amazing every night and I think the new songs are going down really well, seeing old and new fans, there’s been so many people singing the new songs which is a really good thing because previously when we’ve been going on tour I’d see them singing songs the old singer sang but this new album [Extreme Power Metal] has made a big impact which I think is awesome.
Touring with Lovebites and McRocklin & Hutch it’s an evening for guitar fans.
That’s certainly what we’re trying to go for. With McRocklin he’s got that whole synthwave thing going on and that’s part of our aesthetic for the new album. Every night we get the Lovebites guitarists or McRocklin on stage to play solos with them and have fun.
Having these great guitarists on tour do you think it’s made Herman and Sam up their game?
Every time you see a new shredder you probably pick up a few new things here and there, whether it’s techniques or stage presence or any other tricks they have.
A lot of time and effort has gone into your stage set. Why is this important?
I used to be of the mindset that it’s all about the music, it still is, but I never thought the level of production was significant, I was always a music guy, but now we have it and we look at it from the front, the whole thing makes sense. It’s the missing piece of the puzzle that we didn’t have before.
The latest album’s got rave reviews but now it’s been out for a few months is there anything you’d change?
One of my favourite songs didn’t make it onto the album, a Japanese bonus track, so for me it’s a shame it’s not on there but at the same time, although we had a long time to do it, we had a rush at the end and that song didn’t get enough attention because we already had it pegged as a bonus track. If we could do it again I think that song could have been one of the bigger ones.
The Celine Dion cover [My Heart Will Go On] was a big surprise. How did that come about?
Just one of those things, to do a cover song, we thought it needs to be catchy, something we can put our signature stamp on and solo all over and it lends itself perfectly to that. Also we like to add shock value, when people saw the track list they’d think ‘Where have I heard that before?’ and I think it’s fun to give fans something they’re not expecting.
How is it to sing live?
It’s one of the highlights of the show. Sometimes you see a couple of people who’re not really engaged, I’m sure they’re at every gig, and when we play that song it’s fun to see people’s faces light up. You’re on stage like “A-ha! Got you now!”
Who’s influenced you as a vocalist?
The one who stands out is Michael Kiske from Helloween. Before I was listening to thrashy stuff like Metallica so I never had any particular influence singing melodically until I discovered Helloween and Kiske’s voice made me think ‘That’s what I should do!’ and that’s what made me improve I think.
I detect a homage to the 1980s on your new album. What’s appealing about that period?
That’s because Sam’s stuck in the ‘80s! We enjoy loads of things from that era from retro video games, movie soundtracks and also the aesthetic of the whole era: the grid lines and neon blues and pinks. It’s something we thought we’d embrace on the new record.
Sometimes I find technical music can be very sterile but DragonForce make technical music catchy. What’s your secret?
The vocals are technical in that they’re hard to sing but from a songwriting perspective they’re pretty much ABC…ABC… following what a regular pop song would do and when it’s solo time, that’s when they shred, so it’s keeping things in major and minor keys, not to get too experimental because when you get proggy that’s when you start to alienate people. You need an element of predictability but still moments where they think ‘What the fuck are they doing?!’
As a band you’ve always stayed true to metal and you’ve never veered too far into other genres.
It’s just not in us. I listen to a diverse range of music and there’s nothing I wouldn’t want to put my hand to but DragonForce is a metal band, it’d be weird if we tried anything else. I don’t think we’d enjoy it so much if we tried to play different styles and there’s so much scope where we can go with this anyway, we’re not running out of ideas. A change of genre never crossed our minds. We’ve incorporated synthwave here and there on the new album, on the last album there was a death metal section on one of the songs, which was really fun, the song was calling for it. We’ve done extreme power metal: 200 bpm, we’ve done uptempo songs, one acoustic song, thrash. Blast beats, for example, are not part of power metal but we put them in loads of our songs so we try to have an overlap of some kind but they’ll be no radical departure, playing bluesgrass or something!
What do you hope for the band in the next decade?
We’re going to aim higher than we’ve ever aimed before, not only in terms of stage production and the shows we’re booking, we’ve been thinking of collaborating with various other people, in addition to doing an album. We’ve just released the album so we’ll do the tour cycle, reflect on it and see where we go from there. It’s looking positive.