The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world
Herman Li Dragonforce - Interview
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Power metal speedsters Dragonforce are poised to release a comprehensive career-spanning 'Best Of' titled "Killer Elite: The Hits, The Highs, The Vids" - the first time the UK band has presented this kind of historical 'chapter & verse' collection. They have also set to work on the follow-up to "Maximum Overload" at Fascination Street studios in Sweden with producer Jens Bogren; this new record is provisionally scheduled for a mid-March 2017 release with a world tour to follow. Guitarist Herman Li spoke to The Rockpit about the latest release, work on new songs and some of the band's career highlights.



Andrew: So how's things with you and the band at the moment?

Herman: Alright! We have a show in Turkey next week and we just done the Brixet [laughs].

Andrew: [laughs] Yeah a bit of a controversial thing at the moment I suppose!

Herman: Yeah lot's of things happening in the world.

Andrew: Well on the brighter side, we managed to catch you guys in Australia at the Soundwave Festival early last year so how was it for you guys?

Herman: Soundwave was a really cool time, it was the second time we played it so that was even better to be honest. Always enjoyed Soundwave and hopefully we get to come back if there is enough demand for some headlining shows one day.

Andrew: Yeah absolutely we would love to see you come back to Australia. Maybe you were or were not aware but that was the final Soundwave so it was a bit of an honour to see you guys at that last festival.

Herman: Yeah I guess it's a bit disappointing how Soundwave turned out in the end there. It's over I would say and hopefully there will be another festival to carry on again.

Andrew: Yeah definitely. Well obviously we are here to talk about your latest release, I guess it's a bit of a greatest hits sort of album with "Killer Elite". How was the process in putting this together? It must have been quite difficult to pick out the tracklist for this.

Herman: Yeah because we have got a lot of songs and all those songs from the albums are pretty long so to choose the songs from different albums took quite a while to think about. So I actually had my playlist on my computer and put the songs in and looked at the times and I sorted it around to see what fits and works at the same time and getting certain songs that we believe are good that some people might not know as much.

Andrew: OK so obviously a bit of a mix and variety in there. Did putting this together remind you of some of the highlights of Dragonforce over the years?

Herman: I guess definitely listening to certain songs like the 10 minute "Soldiers Of The Wasteland" and that was a song we used to play often, and I remember we played every single song from the first 2 albums on tour. They were all played live so these days when you release an album, you don't really play every single song you have recorded on the new album, unless you are certain bands that just do a new album on tour. But we don't really do that so it's kinda cool to listen back to the old times and bring back memories not just from recording but the touring time back then.

Andrew: What do you consider to be the proudest achievement of Dragonforce over the years?

Herman: I guess back then certain things that you thought was really cool but now you have to find a way to do it better. So I guess we did the shocking thing of getting a Grammy nomination [laughs]. I wouldn't call it an achievement because all these awards dooesn't really make any difference to the music or what you have done but I guess it's kind of a shocking thing because it shows at least that we can bring this kind of music to a level that hasn't been done before as I believe.

Andrew: How do you feel about your music being on a video game like for example, Guitar Hero where your songs are considered to be one of the hardest songs on that game?

Herman: That's a cool thing but so many bands are on Guitar Hero now! If you think about it, almost every band is on it! It was good that the song got recognised but the joke in the band is that song is not the best song we've done [laughs].

Andrew: [laughs].

Herman: But what can you do, that's just the way it is. It's just the time and the trend and the fashion, everything happened to work at that time to make a song special in people's lives.

Andrew: OK so you mentioned before about the difficulties of putting this tracklist together for this album but you must also be finding it difficult to put a setlist together for the live shows. So which one do you think is more difficult?

Herman: Well live shows can be more difficult because sometimes we're playing a festival or sometimes you are playing a show. When we're doing a show, we have more time and a lot of these songs are so long. So it's kind of difficult if you are playing 45 minutes at a big festival, it's hard to fit the song you want to hear that you haven't played in a while like some of the older songs. So that's probably the most difficult thing about it, the time. On the CD, there are 2 CD's worth of music so there's quite a bit more.

Andrew: Yeah it is quite an extensive set and the fact that you guys have been pretty consistent through the years is quite astounding. Out of all the albums and songs you have done so far, which one do you think the fans embrace the most?

Herman: That's difficult to say, I wouldn't base that on how many albums we've sold at all. To be honest I don't really know, I would say the "Ultra Beatdown" album...I mean a real Dragonforce fan wouldn't say that's a crap album because it has everything Dragonforce in it and maximised to the max! Over the top in every single way, more over the top than any of the other albums. So if they find that too much, then they probably didn't understand Dragonforce that much from the beginning.

Andrew: Well there are some people out there that have criticized you guys for some of the outlandish ways you put your music together. What are your thoughts on that and do you have much of a response to that kind of criticism?

Herman: Every band gets criticized, it's not [something] anyone in a band should care about really with any type of music. 3 chord music to 20 chord music, you're going to get criticized whatever you do anyway so who cares.

Andrew: Exactly! So I have read that you guys are working on a new album, is that right?

Herman: Yeah so touring for this "Killer Elite" tour, we're also working on a new album in the studio at the moment.

Andrew: How has it been going so far?

Herman: It's going good! We do it when we're off tour obviously, when we get back to London in the UK. So we're carrying on but still a while to go.

Andrew: How is the process for writing new material? Is it a collaboration between all members or do certain members of the band do most of the writing?

Herman: Every album is different so regarding the new album, we have to finish it before we can tell you [laughs]. If I give you an answer now, it may not be what it really is so we will have to revisit that one once we've done it. All I can say is we've started recording it.

Andrew: Oh so every album the process changes a bit then?

Herman: Yeah we don't want to stay static and say, 'That's the rule, that's how we're going to do it every time.' From the first album up to now, things have definitely changed, the method of doing things, recording. Always trying to find a way to do it better, faster and get better results.

Andrew: And for you personally, what inspires you to come up with new ideas and new riffs and solos and things like that?

Herman: I guess the music you have to play with, like the song and if you kind of run out of ideas, you just have to go and listen to other music and just refresh your mind or just listen to nothing, silence. But all the music I listen to from the past to present all comes in and out of my brain to inspire me. Pretty boring answer I know but I've been doing this for that long!

The Rockpit | Soundwave Festival 2015

Andrew: [laughs] Well what kind of music inspires you? What kind of bands influenced you to write music and play guitar?

Herman: Recently I saw Dream Theater on their new tour "The Astonishing" and for me that was probably the best I've seen them play ever. From the band to the production level and light show, I thought it was incredible how it was all put together. So that really kind of inspired me not just musically playing but also looking at the next Dragonforce tour and how the production would go. So there's really so many levels that after playing music for so long, you kind of want to get better at. Not just playing the guitar in your own room but just in the studio, kinda think bigger picture.

Andrew: John Petrucci is an amazing guitarist as well and hugely influencial. You must have been inspired by his playing as well I guess.

Herman: Yeah I think the first time I really understood how to play fast was listening to Dream Theater's "Images And Words" and I think I was watching the "Pull Me Under" video and watching some guitar lessons he had in magazines so he's definitely a great guitar player that influenced me and also millions of players around the world.

Andrew: Well going back even further to the beginning when you were growing up, what made you decide to want to be in a band and what made you pick up the guitar?

Herman: I think it was just a fun thing. Just want to have some fun and play some shows and have a good time, no real other reason! Definitely the music I play is hardly the chick magnet so it wasn't really about that where you're going to pick up women playing this kind of music [laughs].

Andrew: [laughs] Well you must be super happy with how Dragonforce has become quite successful over the years. How does the band feel about where you guys have gotten to now?

Herman: I can't really tell you how they feel but I believe we've been extremely lucky I guess because there are so many great musicians out there that have been doing this for years and can never get a break. So I guess we had the luck on our side and to be doing what we do right now after so many years. The music industry is even harder now to get into and staying in at the same time, so anyone trying this is definitely going to have to find a new way. The industry changed so quickly that it's hard to tell people what you should do, there's less of a framework to follow from the past with the whole digital thing and everything coming at the same time so you have to think of new ideas now. Of course it used to change before too but it wasn't changing as fast as now.

Andrew: Well these collection of songs from "Killer Elite" is quite extensive and I think is a good way for new fans to be introduced to your music. Congratulations on this and we are looking forward to seeing the new album come out, hopefully by next year.

Herman: Yeah we are definitely looking for a next year release and Australia is definitely on our mind to come back to for sure. We haven't played a headline show I guess, we've played Soundwave twice and the Judas Priest side wave shows so we're definitely going to work on that. So the fans out there in Australia, we'll be there soon hopefully!

Andrew: Looking forward to it! Thanks for your time, really appreciate it and good luck with everything.

Herman: Thank you, thanks for having me.

Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on June 29th 2016