DRAGONFORCE (2012 - English Version) - Herman LI

With anxiousness I pick up the phone, I'm gonna interview Herman LI, the mighty guitarist of DRAGONFORCE...
We talk about the new album, new singer, new tour, guitar, and almost everything in french.
Nice moment with a very nice guy: Enjoy!

Herman : Allo this is Herman !

SBM: Allo! How are you?

Cool and fine!

You speak French?

Yeah a little… do you prefer French or English?

Well… As you wish… French? And if you don’t feel it we’ll go on in English?

Yeah ok, let’s do it in French and if I can’t answer you, I’ll say it in English.

Ok great! Nice to meet you and thank you for your time. You’re currently in Paris, promoting the latest DRAGONFORCE album, “The Power Within”, so how do you feel about the release?

I feel great, and we’re very happy about the album, the way it sounds and everything is good. It took us a lot of time to make it, there were two years between the writing and the end of the recording, and you’re very proud about the result.

Actually there was a four years period between the two studio albums, and within this period you had to change the singer. What happened with ZP Theart?

ZP was good, and we’re very happy with the albums we did together, but slowly there were some different opinions, musically, so it was better for us to split. So he can play the music he likes and we can go on with DRAGONFORCE.

And so how did you come to work with Marc Hudson?

After the split we were looking for another singer, and we were searching everywhere if people could send us some videos on internet with songs from DRAGONFORCE. I also asked to known singers but Marc had sent us a video where he was singing very well, and I loved his voice, the way he was singing “Through the fire and flames” the first time I heard it. Then we made him sing more songs like “The last journey home” or “Fury of the storm” and we did rehearsals with him, we did demos and videos in the studio, we went to see him on stage, with his band. It took some time to finally decide that he was the new singer.

Alright! So “The Power Within” is a brand new start, a new era for DRAGONFORCE?

Yeah of course, because I think that with Marc’s voice, there are a lot of changes, he can sing very high but also very low. So this album is really more dynamic, and we have an acoustic song “Seasons” which has not a sharped voice as the others.

You have also created your own label, who had that idea? Why that choice?

Well actually we had the idea of creating our own label a few years ago… In fact, after the singer’s change and all that stuff we had enough time so we were able to do it, and that’s a good thing because we can do what we want, we can release our albums when we want, we have no pressures from the majors that say “You have to release it now”. It’s difficult, because you can play but you can’t oblige music to come…

Totally yeah…
Well let’s talk about the album now, which still has the DRAGONFORCE’s high speed touch, but with songs heavier as “Seasons” or “Cry Thunder”. How have you approached the writing of the album?

Well, before the writing, we wanted to see if we could play faster, as on “Fallen World”, the DRAGONFORCE’s 7 minutes classics as “Heart of the Storm” and slower songs just to see how we could play this style, between “classical metal” and sometimes hard rock.
And it’s little thanks to Marc’s voice that we could explore this style, because before that, we didn’t really want to play mid-tempo songs. (Laugh).
And I think that it’s due to jams with Marc, before the recording, that we could have done that kind of songs.

Alright and so with songs more direct as “Seasons” or “Cry thunder” which change in band’s usual way, we could feel a new wind blowing on the album and the band…

Yeah, this time we also changed the way we record. Before, on “Inhuman Rampage” or “Ultra Beatdown”, we wrote song and went directly into the studio to record them, and then going on tour and so on and on.
This time, before the recording, we wanted to rehearse, to play together, to jam, because it was Marc’s first experience in a professional band and we could not tell him: “So you’re in the band now, you have to go to the studio to sing, record and go on tour”. We had to step back and do like other bands, back to start in a way…

That explains some things… At the end of the album we have an acoustic version of “Seasons” which is really beautiful. Have you ever think about a whole acoustic album?

No… This time we did it by chance. Firstly we thought we’ll do this between us. But a lot of people loved it when the album was recorded, so we kept it.

Exactly, it is great and changes…

Yeah exactly it’s good, because usually DRAGONFORCE doesn’t play acoustic songs and so it is even more dynamic on the album.

So it’s really the “Rebirth album”…

(Herman’s laughing)

And concerning the lyrics, apparently it is still based on heroic fantasy. Where does your inspiration come from?

Well… usually we don’t speak too much about the lyrics of the songs, but this time we changed it: the booklet contains explanations about the themes… and… well… I’m going to explain in English because I’ve been speaking French for a long time now… (Laugh).

(English part of the interview)

There are these… cruel affairs of the world, what’s happening, with social unrest, problems, and we talk about that in songs like “Last Man Stands”.
Seasons” is actually a song written by Fred, which is about a personal experience that happened last year that has just gone bad, and how to relay to it. “Fallen World” is about war, what’s happening, the bad things about war…

Who’s writing the lyrics?

(Back to French speaking)

Me and also Fred and Marc.

A real team work, right?

Yeah everyone has worked on the album; it’s something we’ve done together.

Have you tried, on the album, to create new sounds that come from video games, as the famous “Pac Man”?

Before, we created sounds and gave names from video games because it sounded like games… Here we created sounds but didn’t name it. (Laugh)

Do you have the feeling that your guitar level has improved since “Ultra Beatdown”? Do you have still things to learn?

Yes I think that this time we were less concentrated on the idea of playing perfectly, exactly, by watching the computer. Now I put the headphone on my ears, and if I like the sound we keep it, and I think that there is more feeling with that way.
Sometimes I’m too perfectionist and I made hundreds of try because I thought it was never perfect, but now I don’t.

And do you think that you have, technically, things to learn?

Yes because there are still things to learn on the guitar, and this is true for everyone, and I still try to learn new things, not only on the guitar but on the production too, because I’m also producer. And it’s important to have the good sound of all the instruments at the same time and make it work.

Apparently you’re still playing on Ibanez guitars, so what do you love about them?

I’ve been playing on Ibanez guitars for 18 years now, and I love it because it’s easy to play on. And of course the sound is great. The fact is that Ibanez always want to do things better, improving the guitar quality and it concerns sound, touching, whammy bar, and tremolo, everything to make things easier.

Ok and have you ever wanted to change for another company?

I’ve already tried other guitars with friends… I’ve tried but I think that Ibanez is better.

Alright! Let’s go back to the band… You’ll start a new tour in the US in a few months. How do you feel about touring again?

(Laugh) Well it’s been a long time since we haven’t done a real tour, so that’s really cool because we can also play new songs. We’ve already done “Cry Thunder” and “Fallen World”, but now we can created a new set-list with Marc and that’s cool, we’re happy about that.
I guess we’ll be in France after summer.

We’ll be waiting! And what will be the band’s project after that? Touring again? Slow down and write new songs?

This tour is a “World Tour”, so we’ll go everywhere: Asia, South America, and I don’t know how much time it will take but it will be long. So we’re currently focusing on touring and then we’ll think about our new album.
We’re also thinking about recording songs on tour next time.

Yeah we’ll have the album sooner!

Yeah! Or a studio in the bus! (Laugh)

(Laugh) Have you ever think about side-projects to create different things? Another kind of music or stuff like that?

I’ve think about an instrumental guitar album with friends when I’ll have time for it! (Laugh)
I can’t make it all by my own, because music is better with someone to play with. Playing alone, recording alone is not really what I want to do. So I’ve spoke to friends and maybe we’ll do an album together.

Have you think about blues? Jazz? Or stuff like that?

No I think this will be metal or instrumental rock… Not really blues or jazz, I don’t think so.

Not your stuff?

Oh no I love to listen to fusion, blues, classical rock, but it’s not the styles I like to play. I prefer rock or metal for that.
I like to listen to other styles, don’t like to play them.

OK… I guess we’re reaching the end now, so I leave you the final words if you want to say something to the French fans?

I think that fans of DRAGONFORCE will really like the album and I hope to see it on the tour, because we’re really happy about the way Marc sings the new songs.

Yeah I had the chance to hear the album which is awesome, and I think we’ll have a blast on stage…

Yes on this DRAGONFORCE tour, we’ll play better, we’re improving thinks, continually, we want to make it well!

Well thank you for everything! Enjoy Paris and see you on the road!

Thanks for the interview.

You’re welcome! See you!


Critique : SBM
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