Interview with Herman Li of DragonForce


Interview by Krish Mistry


Hi, well let’s kick off with finding out how are you?

I’m good thanks!

Have you had a good day? Relaxing or busy?

It’s busy every single day to be honest, not really any time to relax or do anything else. There’s always something to do on tour, I’m not bored anyway! Some people get bored on tour, I’m never bored!

How is the tour going so far? Positives and negatives?

It’s been really good; we’ve filmed some of the songs last night and the day before. I was up at four in the morning checking out the videos!

How has it been adjusting to the new line-up?

Well, Marc has been in the band for over a year now, it’s actually been really good. We’ve done lots of shows together, this is the first UK/European tour for him and he’s been doing really well. We spent so much time recording and practising and rehearsing, we’ve already done shows in the US, Canada, South America and Mexico, so it’s been good.

‘The Power Within’ is DragonForce’s fifth studio album, how did the recording process go?

I’m trying to remember now, I forget it’s been a while! Basically, for previous albums we used to write the songs and go straight into the studio to record, this time we actually jammed the songs and practiced before going to the studio. It made a different kind of vibe to the whole album. Basically you change the way you work to make things feel different, it’s like a domino effect; once you change one thing at the beginning, you change everything else that follows.

Was it different to what was expected/planned?

We always have a plan but things changed because when we started making the album, we didn’t have a singer. So we were still looking for the singer and when Marc became a part of the band, we had to make adjustments because he’s a different kind of singer. It’s a learning process to get to know each other well.

How was the instrument setup?

Pretty much the same stuff. I’m not really into getting new stuff, the amp and the guitars are the same. Maybe new effects, but for the main sound we’ve got gear you can treat for the rest of your life. It’s complex enough so you can mess around and do so many things with.

Does anybody have more influence over the writing than others?

We always have the main guys that start the song writing, myself and Sam for a majority and then everyone else kinda chips in with their parts to make it what it is. And not just writing, but production and recording. The song writing is not finished until it is pressed on a CD, because you can always change things. There’s an infinite amount of ways you can change things around.

Did Marc have much influence or want things to go a certain way?

Well because of his voice and the way that it’s different, we had to make adjustments and worked together to see what his range is. On certain songs, we purposely stayed in the lower ranges to explore that side of his voice, and certain songs the higher ranges. For example the acoustic song, ‘Seasons,’ it was a completely different sound for us.

How do you generally come up with ideas for the songs on the album?

Well you look at it as a whole and they are laid out in front of you. ‘Wings Of Liberty’ on the new album we decided would be more of a symphonic song, and ‘Fallen World’ is more of a heavy song. On this album we tried to separate it so the themes are different. On previous albums everything had everything; maximum guitar noises, solos, crazy keyboards, on this one we divided it out.

How do you see your sound progressing for future albums? Any interesting concepts/themes/ideas?

It’s hard to say right now, the album has just been out 4-5 months and we have started thinking about it, but until we start putting things on paper or recording, we don’t know where it’s going to go.  As I said, it isn’t finished until it is pressed on a CD. And that’s so far away, things are constantly changing and evolving. It’s not like once we’ve written it, it’s going to be that, because the next day we could be like ‘this is just rubbish!’

On the live front, do you prefer smaller or larger venues? How about festivals?

Well they are all different and actually I enjoy all of them. At small venues, you can stage dive into the crowd! With large arenas and festivals, your approach to the show is very different. Everything is far away from you and the way that you play and stage the show, it’s different. I like tonight, it’s kinda a medium place.

I saw that DragonForce are confirmed for the 70,000 Tons Of Metal cruise. The festivals on cruise ships seem to be becoming more popular nowadays, have you experienced any before and what are your thoughts?

No, I’ve never been on a cruise. I’ve played on a boat before, in Finland, but that was a freezing winter, drunk-in-Scandinavia kind of thing. Everyone’s completely wasted! But not this kind of nice weather cruise. It’s not for me anyway, there’s no internet! (Only joking!)

Are there any songs you especially enjoy playing live?

I think every song in the chosen set list I enjoy playing. We actually have more songs that we are rehearsing to put into a set and put into our song rotations to keep it exciting.

Any tricky ones?

Well the ones we play the least are always the tricky ones. ‘Storming The Burning Fields’ is pretty tricky, we haven’t played that for six years and we’ve started playing that on this tour. That will be interesting! A six year gap when you haven’t played a song – it’s fast and tricky and there’s weird stuff happening! There’s nothing in a live show that makes your life easier. The easiest to play is in a silent room by yourself, but in a live show the lights make it harder, the room, the sound, the crowd screaming. Sometimes the song has started and the crowd is so loud, I can’t even hear the drummer count in the song! But it’s just a DragonForce show, we’re not going to stand still either, nothing to worry about there!

Do you have any bands who you would like to tour with in future?

We’ve toured with so many bands I don’t even think about it. The guys on this tour are fun, you probably heard somebody being told off for partying too hard last night (there were some raised voices earlier on outside the interview room!)

I’ve seen you guys touring with bands like Firewind and Turisas before, any plans to join them again?

I dunno, I saw Gus from Firewind before the tour kicked off and we talked that we should play again, tour together. I’m sure it’ll happen again in future.

What sort of bands/albums are you listening to at the moment?

I haven’t listened to any music for a while, for over a week actually! Last ones I’ve listened to were Pagan’s Mind and Amaranthe.

And finally, if you were trapped on a desert island, what five items would you take with you?

Well I wouldn’t take a guitar or computer, that’s stupid as there’s no power anyway! I guess I’m pretty boring so I’d just take a bottle, a piece of paper and a pen, write a message in a bottle! If anybody answers that question and says they’d take their iPad and iPod, just slap them! I’d also take stuff for hunting and survival, I’m being smart!