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Interview with Herman Li - The Power Within
February 2012

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Cover of Dragonforce's album The Power Within

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Version Française sur Entretien Dragonforce avec Herman Li.

Dragonforce have a new album out called The Power Within. Metal Traveller met the guitar hero and founder of the band, Herman Li, so the album won't have any secrets left to you!

Metal Traveller: Can you please introduce Marc Hudson, the new singer of Dragonforce?

Herman Li: Before he joined the band he was actually not a professional musician. He had a band but his job was an electronic engineer at the car company BMW. When we were looking for a singer, the guitarist of his band told him to send a demo as a joke, just to see if anyone cared. That’s how it started with him.

Woah! Was it difficult was for him to integrate Dragonforce?

Herman Li: I don’t know if it was easy or hard, but we definitely spent a lot of time to make sure he integrated well in the band. Before he joined the band, we jammed, we rehearsed, we went to the studio and recorded some demos together… just to see how it’s like, to understand his personality. After he joined the band we didn’t want him to be like “Hi Marc, welcome to the band, record the songs in studio and see you on tour”. You have to be a real family, so we jammed and rehearsed a lot, and that really helped him to integrate the band.
The first show he had to play with the band was with Iron Maiden, in front of 20 000 people. I didn’t tell Marc until the warm-up gig 2 weeks before!

Herman Li from Dragonforce

Was Marc involved when composing the new songs, or the album was already composed when he joined the band?

Herman Li: Most of the music was already composed when we were auditioning him. After he joined the band, we had to change the voice a little bit to get the best out of his voice. We found out that he ca sing very high, but also really low at the same time. So in certain songs we explored his low range, like Seasons or Give Me The Night, on which he goes from low to high. Then we tried to explore the high register, like in Holding On.

There two versions of Seasons in the album, which easily could be different songs. Which one came first? Was it first an acoustic or the electric version?

The electric version was the first version. Months later the record company, I think in America, asked for a bonus track. We thought Why don’t we try an acoustic song? And after they heard it, they loved it so much that they said it had to be on the album. It’s totally different, it doesn’t sound like the same song at all.

Speed is still your trademark in this album and you’re probably the fastest band in the world. What does this means to you to play faster and faster?

I like the energy of the fast songs. When I was growing up listening to this melodic power metal, I liked the fast songs the most. That’s where we got inspired first. Of course that was back then, in this album we really varied it, with Seasons, Wings of Liberty or Last Man Stands. We still kept the pure Dragonforce sound and have the fast songs: Fallen World is faster than the old songs. Now we’re able to go faster and mid tempo. So we’re trying to pull the Dragonforce frame in different directions and see what we can get out of it.

The lyrics on this album seem less related to fantasy…
First one to say it!!


You noticed it! Great job! People ask me what the lyrics are about but no one actually say that! So on this album we tried different subjects on current affairs in the world: The social unrest, or the economy… People get worried.
Seasons is a personal song from Fred about hard times he had to go through. I think people can relate to that song.
Last Man Stands is about people that sacrifice their lives for thousands. I actually talk a bit about the incident that happened in Japan, about the people that gave their lives to fix everything. And they’re still going on!
Holding On is about the economy, everything is going down and people really need to get together, not give up through the hard times.
Cry Thunder is more "fantasyish".
Give me the Night is about addictions, anything that people can be addicted to.

Marc and Fred from Dragonforce

You might have been asked this question dozens of times, but what are your main Influences: bands & guitar players.

I think the best way to put it, is in terms of a band perspective. The band is inspired by metal, those twin guitars like iron Maiden. But we would approach twin guitars in a different way. I love Satriani and Steve Vai so we approach twin guitars that way and not the classic metal way. The singing goes from the hard rock melodic singing to a mix of the Thrash or Extreme Metal. So we have influences from many styles and that’s what made us the way it is. And of course there’s the production: a good and clean production. We don’t want a dirty sound but we want the feeling of a live band, that’s how we approached it.

As a guitar hero from melodic band, are the any classical composers that you admire too?

My main influences are guitar players. Bands like Helloween, Stratovarius, Labyryth, Malmsteen, or Rhapsody inspired me to start the band and play. If there’s any classical on my playing that comes indirectly from neoclassical guitar players.

Any chance to see you playing with an orchestra?

I don’t think that’s me, to be honest. I don’t find myself as a neoclassical player. Many guitars players I like did this, but it’s not something I’m interested in. I want to rock out!

Herman Li and Metal Traveller

Dragonforce tours extensively all over the world. What are the places that you prefer?

I don’t know… We’ve been to a lot of places. Europe of course is great in terms of population who likes metal. But I think Indonesia is a very interesting country when it comes to metal. Last time we played there was totally crazy, and that was 2006. I think when we’ll come back it will be totally insane. When I do guitar clinics there, there’s almost 2000 people. 2000 people at a guitar clinic! It’s like a big event, with big screens with multiple cameras filming, competitions, people winning prizes… It’s totally different and it’s something you don’t expect from Indonesia.
That’s why I think Indonesia makes such great guitars now. You think you have to buy American guitars or Japanese guitars, but guitars made in Indonesia are really high quality. Try an Indonesian Ibanez and you’ll be surprised!

What’s your favorite guitar?

Fenders and Les Paul sound great and they have their history in rock. But they’re very difficult to play for what I do in music. I think you have to create your own sound, it’s not because they used to play a Les Paul in that style that you have to do it. I’m trying to create my own sound with my own guitar. I helped design it with Ibanez and I’ve toured with it all over the world. That will be my own classic.

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Dragonforce Links:

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Dragonforce Line-up:

Marc Hudson – Vocals
Herman Li – Guitars
Sam Totman – Guitars
Vadim Pruzhanov – keyboards
Frédéric Leclercq – Bass
Dave Mackintosh – Drums
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