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In Words: Dragonforce

- Herman Li - September 2002 - Claudia Ehrhardt -
- Herman Li - March 2004 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

Herman Li - March 12th 2004

This is not my first interview with DragonForce and not the first one with guitarist Herman Li. I did an interview by email with Herman before the release of their debut. So this time we talked about what happened during the last year. The British had a good start, especially in Japan they were really successful. "We were really surprised that the readers of Burn!!! Magazine vote us on no. 3 in the annual charts. We were just behind Marilyn Manson and Hello­ween!." And they had the chance to tour with Helloween in Japan... "We thought it would be a good move to support Helloween to reach more metal fans, but the organizer told us that we sold enough copies to do our own headlining tour! And we got invited to play in Taiwan. That was really good! Nobody is going to play there and so the fans went crazy when we played. Everything was great! The food, organization, etc. Our show got recorded by TV crews and they aired it!" Seems that it was really a trip and will be always something special to the band. But they didn't toured in Europe, expect the U.K. and just did a very few festivals. "There was no suitable tour at that time and so we just played in England. The festivals were quite good. Especially Sweden Rock Festival it was overwhelming, coz there were so many fans and it seemed that they all know every song, every word. We have a fantastic fan base there. Unfortunately our drummer left 2 days before the Sweden Rock Festival. We decided to do it anyway and a friend was helping out on drums. Well, it wasn't our best show, but the fans liked it and I still think it was the right move." Beside the festival in Sweden and Bloodstock in the U.K. they played Torres Rock in Spain. "It was our first visit to Spain and it was cool. It ain't such a big festival, but cool. The day was a hot summer day, but from the mountains came a cold breeze and on stage we were freezing. Strange situation. Hope we can play again in Spain." But not just the vacant position on the drums had been filled meanwhile.... "Our bassist left before the Valley Of The Damned album, he had serious health problems. Adrian (Lambert - editor) came in as a session player. He did shows with us in England and after working together for a year, he became a permanent member. Our new drummer David (Mackintosh - editor) contacted us. He heard that we were looking for a drummer. He wanted to tour and that wasn't possible with his former band. We gave him a chance to audition and he knew all the songs - better then we did - and it was just amazing. We immediately knew that he was the right person for us. We can't be more happy. He's technically brilliant and he really has a stage-presence. We found two new members who really fit to us and that best thing, they we found them in England!" The new album of the British sextet is called Sonic Firestorm. "I didn't want to pick a song to name the album. Coz it should have been a song which represents the album and I couldn't say this one is better then that one. Sonic Firestorm stands for a sound which blows you away and I think that fit quite well to this album." Herman is right, the twin guitar riffing blasts you away, but breaks lead into slower - don't mean slow parts - and the vocals are catchy. They don't really fit in any genre, can't be categorized easily. "We try to push the level of fastness. It's our style. Even if we sped up compared to our debut. But we kept the general style. Blasting twin guitar riffs combined with what is typical for power metal. I listen to a lot of death metal and so the blasting guitar isn't unusual for me. We push the limits. I understand that people have to categorize it. Well, our fans call it extreme power metal... Btw, we played some of the new stuff live and we recorded the show just for ourselves, to improve. And live we play it even faster!" Fans in Europe will get the chance to see the multi-national sextet in late April / early May when they support WASP. "What we expect from the tour with WASP? Lots of dirty underwear!" *joking* The tour starts in England and after 6 shows they will come over to the continent. At all they play 25 shows - probably there will be added some more. "The audience will be pretty mixed, I think." WASP will bring long-time metal fans and young metal fans together. They usually present a special show and so a mixed audience comes to witness this event. "Luckily the tour starts in England. Here fans know us and that makes it easier. We can work it out with the soundman here, before we go to places we haven't been before and hopefully we can convince the fans. It's hard to pick songs for the show, coz we have a limited stage time." Most songs are almost 6 minutes long and one is almost 10 min. long. Ain't easy to put a set together then. "I think it'll work, coz the songs have great hooks. Usually we don't hear ourselves on stage. As a support you always have sound problems to face. Only in Japan we had a good stage sound..." Herman remembers. In late summer the English will go to play the States for the first time. "We already have a strong fan base there through the website where we released our demo. Most of the downloads were from the US, so I think it will work out well." In South America the album will be released in April, too, but it's up in the air, if they can tour there. They hope that they get the chance, but if it's impossible to tour this time, then probably with their 3rd release... "We will do our first headlining tour in Japan. Taiwan was great and also Thailand, so we will go there again. Btw, Thailand we did already as a headliner!" They will also tour as headliner in the U.K. in late summer. It seems that they have a bright future ahead. It's very unusual that a band has such a head start and do headlining shows - or play at all in Thailand and Asian countries - after the release of the debut. With Sonic Firestorm they created their own genre. They combine genre elements and perhaps they can bring fans of different style closer together... Let's see what happens on tour. And how the fans deal with Sonic Firestorm. More about the band probably after the tour... I guess that there will be time for a little chat about the first part of the tour, so... Stay tuned!

Claudia Ehrhardt

Herman Li (by email) - September, 9th 2002


On I found a band called DragonForce in the power metal Top 20. I listened to some songs, visited their homepage and contacted the band for an interview. Here we go!

You started back in fall of 1999, please tell us about the early days of the band. How do you come up with the name DragonHeart?

The first time we played together was in September or October 1999. Back then there were ZP, Sam and I, the other members were kinda coming and going without that much interest and commitment. Didier and Vadim joined after we done our first demo. I can't really remember what's with the name so I guess it wasn't an exciting moment.

About 2 years later you decided to rename the band? Why you renamed? And why do you choose DragonForce instead of DragonHeart?

We found out there were like 3 other bands, 2 movies and a record label using the same name. We decided to change it to DragonForce. A lot of the old fans still call us DragonHeart cos they knew us from the demo under that name.

After you recorded the first demo you put the tracks in! Why you decided to do it that way? Why not shopping around to get a deal at that time?

Since they are only demo tracks done with so little time, we didn't want to get a labels to release it. I put it on the net so people can download it for free and at the same time I sent it out to a few different labels to hunt for a recording deal. We had many good responses at the time and things were moving very quick for a band barely together for 1 year.

What did you feel when you recognized that Valley Of The Damned is in the charts?

It was a surprise when we got to number 1. I did remember saying to myself, 'How the fuck are we gonna beat Blind Guardian in that chart? Impossible!'
A few weeks after we were in there at the top with the other 4 tracks following after. Now, it has been 2 years and a half and they are still up in the top 3 of the charts.

There is no doubt that the internet is important for young bands these days. What do you think about mp3's? What is your opinion about Napster & co.?

I actually believe mp3 done more good than bad for music. There are too many arguments on both side, but to cut it short. For us anyway, it really worked with the demo. But now we are signed, so things are different. I get to have a taste from the other side of the table. Napster is old news, there is nothing I want to comment on it.

You are finally signed to Sanctuary Records and hoped to have the album out this fall. Now it's announced for early 2003. What caused this change?

In the original plan, Sanctuary/Noise Re­cords wanted us to record with Tommy Hansen in Denmark, who worked with bands like Helloween and Pretty Maids before. We wanted him as an engineer to record the drums and vocals really... We were gonna do the rest at my place and in another studio. Unfortunately it didn't workout with Tommy, there were a big clash of styles and production techniques. We knew exactly what we wanted like sound, after we finished recording the drums with him we decided to finish the rest of the album with Karl Groom (producer, guitarist of Threshold) at Thin Ice Studios in England and at my home studio. This change of studios made us lose a couple of weeks time, cos another band was in Thin Ice recording then, and going another week over time. I am a real perfectionist so I was also giving the guys a real hard time, with a high quality control bar hahaha! You know, when you have your own recording facility, you end up spending more and more time on it, trying to making it sound the best possible. We are so much happier now staying in England instead Denmark, home advantage basicially. We have access to much more equipment and much more time can be spent on the record. We are making sure the album sounds amazing and put in as much care as possible even for a debut.

You are already recording. Can you tell us something about the recordings? Why have you choose Thin Ice Studios and producer Karl Groom?

We have recorded our first demo with Karl already, as well as some pre-production stuff. He is easy to work with and I like his modern production style, it is very similar to what we want. Since we already recorded 7 songs with him before, he is the obvious choice for recording the rest of this album. The recording will be finished at the end of this month.

Is a decision made about the artwork of your debut album? Will JP Fournier do it?

Yeah, JP done a couple versions already, we are almost done on the 'to be' final version. It is a cross between his and our original idea.

What can the fans expect from your debut beside the re-recorded demo tracks?

We really like the new songs, I think they are even better. They are still in the same vein, very catchy, melodic and of course... fast! Some of the pre-production demos of those new songs actually got leaked on the internet last year.

How much will the versions of the demo tracks vary to the new recordings? Will it be just re-recorded? Or have you made changes?

The re-record tracks now sound much better with much more power and life to it. Some of the songs like Black Winter Night, we made a lot of changes on it. It works better than before. We have added in a lot more things on all the songs backed by a stronger performance. I know this album will separate us from the other power metal bands. None of us have ever heard a power metal album like what we are doing. The guitar solos are just crazy! Everything is so over the top!

You played a few shows in the UK with Halford and Stratovarius. Also you played your first headlining show at the Underworld. Please tell us about those experiences!

The shows with Halford and Strato­varius were superb. Especially the Halford show in London with Bruce Dickinson and Geoff Tate, what a night that was!
Last year, we only did headline shows. This year we only played 1 show so far, that was with Virgin Steele. We gonna have our first headline show this year in October at the Underworld. Falconer will be coming from Sweden playing as our main special guest for the night. It will be a great gig and we have some surprises for our fans.

Have you played some new tracks at the Underworld? If yes, how were the re;actions?

When we played our headline shows across England last year, we played all the songs from the new album, we will be playing some for the next show of course.
The reactions were excellent cos the songs are really catchy and plenty of insane guitars!

Do you write songs as a band? Or did some­one come up with an almost finished track which you work on?

Sam wrote most of the songs on this album, I wrote 2 and ZP done a lot of the lyrics. We arrange all the songs together at a band in rehearsals.

What inspires you musically? What inspires you for the lyrics?

Hmm... well, any types of music we listen to inspires us in some way. The lyrics it really depends on the day I guess, and who is writing them.

Do you think that the Nu metal stuff which got played by MTV and other channels will sooner or later bring back hard music to TV?

I don't have MTV and never watch it so I don't know what's on it these days.

Do you think it makes sense these days to do a video clip for a metal band?

Of course! The problem is getting it to be played right?

If you would have the chance (not talking about the money), would you do a live clip? Or prefer doing a kind of short movie?

It depends on the song, but if money is not in the equation, we would be doing both!

Here in Germany metal bands get in the album charts and also in some other countries. Should that be seen as a positive tendency for the metal scene?

Yeah, as long as the people buying it are getting it for the music, not because they think it's just a cool trendy thing to be doing.

How much influence do you think have to fans to change things?

Depends on the scale you are talking about, but of course they have influence on the music scene.

Famous last words.... Anything you want to say to the fans?

We gonna kick some ass in January!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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