Dragonforce

author PP date 22/12/07

Some readers might remember our interview with the Dragonforce keyboardist about a year ago when the band played at The Rock. We figured that wasn't enough, and since Herman Li is one of the most famous guys in the band, we wanted to sit down with him next time they would come around. It took about a year but here we are again, sitting at the back stage press area of KB Hallen, together with one of the best guitarists in the world. Herman Li is a bit of a joker, and made a bunch of jokes about trying to score some Danish girls tonight, and spiced up the interview with lots of humor as well. Although his combined London/Asian accent was difficult to understand at times, I think I was able to quote him pretty accurately for the purposes of this interview. The task wasn't helped by that our laptop, which we usually use for recording these types of interviews, broke down seconds before the interview started so we had to use a telephone instead - not exactly the ideal recording devices let me tell you that. But anyway, enjoy the read!

RF.net: How is the Black Crusade coming along?
Herman Li: Actually it's nearly in the end now, funnily enough. There's only about four shows left. And It's actually been fun. Some drama, but not really that much drama, It's been pretty good.

RF.net: Drama? Can you elaborate?

Herman Li: Well, you know, Machine Head.. Phil left home because his dad passed away so other band members are filling in for him.

RF.net: So what do you think about all the other bands on this tour? There's a lot of quite different bands from you?

Herman Li: What I think about them?

RF.net: Yeah, do you like one of them better than the others in terms of musically or?

Herman Li: I like some people better than the other people. Some people are more kind of like stupid like us, like to hang out, and some people don't want to do anything, they just want to sit in their bus and not do anything. Fair enough, everyone go their own thing, so.. you know, I definitely think that most people get on, most bands.. everyone from different bands get on together. So it's been cool and pretty crazy some of the nights.

RF.net: What's been going on in Dragonforce since the last time we interviewed you, about a year ago?
Herman Li: Too many things. You are talking about months of things that happened, I've had about five hundred wanks by then! To be honest, it's been business as usual as they say. Just doing what we do, touring and making an album.. already starting!

RF.net: I wanna ask you something about your guitar skills because you're obviously regarded as one of the best guitar players in the whole world, or at least that's what people are saying...
Herman Li: Yeah I don't really agree with it!

RF.net: ...so basically I'd like to hear a little bit about your development as a guitarist, you know, when you started, when did you first start noticing you were good, and maybe finish it off with some advice to younger kids that one day wanna be as technical and as good as you?

Herman Li: Well I think the better you get the worse you think you are as a player. And I actually read that from a book recently, and I thought that's so true. I mean I think I'm totally horrible at playing, you know, and some people like it and say "that's cool". We don't think about ourselves as great guitar players in the band. No, we actually laugh at each other how badly we played last night or whatever, you know. When you play, you're never satisfied how good you are. I think any player that's learning how to play, the better they know the guitar, the more they understand the music, the more they realize the little amount of knowledge they have, because it's such a wide world and there's no way you can learn everything. So I think that's what they have to keep in mind. I think everyone should just play, and this sounds really lame, but really get the feeling. You can't replicate someone else's feeling, you know. Don't be a copycat of a music style but actually just feel it. And I'm not getting mystical or anything stupid like that. But just don't try to play someone else's song like someone else plays it, but in your own way, and you can actually play better your own way. I have tried to play cover songs, trying to play like someone else, and I'm like a robot. But if I try to play myself, it's not 100% how they play it.. there's things that I cannot do that they do, have been compensated by the feeling of playing, so you see the person expressing themselves, even if it's not their song, but they're putting their touch into it. Get better than all your heroes. You aim to be better than all your favorite guitar players.

RF.net: Who are some of your favorites then? Who have been your idols, so to say?

Herman Li: Steve Vai, Satriani, Marty Friedman.. you know, loads of players. Obviously I'm not actually better than them.. I try to, and fail [laughs], you know.. but I think everyone should try to be better than their heroes. You might not be better than them in most of the things that he's doing. What you like of him is usually their strong point. You can't be better at them at what you like about them. But you can excel in other areas that they try to work on. I actually had thought last night. Who's the better guitar player, someone who can play really well, say music theory, or some guy who is really not that great player, but he influences and inspires thousands of players around the world to pick up the guitar. I mean neither of them is better than the other, they're just better in different areas.

RF.net: So related to that, from what I've read in interviews and obviously seen in TV interviews about you guys, you seem to really make a point of having great showmanship on stage, even while you are doing the complicated passages. So I'm curious, do you ever have mess ups during the shows? Like when you do one of your big jumps and you just can't do it right?
Herman Li: Totally, all the time! Jump, land, and hit the wrong chord. Oops. You know, you're jumping in mid air, you can't connect your hands, you're taking the risk.. a 100% risk. The safest way is to stand still and just play the song. To be honest, then you really can't make any mistakes. And if you do, then you're pretty crap. But that's the minimum requirement from a musician to stand still and play. That's not a show, and I don't know how they enjoy playing it that way. If it's kind of simple stuff.. well okay, it depends on the style of music. Dream Theater have to stand still to play that kind of music. You don't want Dream Theater to jump around and move around, it would be very strange. We make a show but try to be ourselves, or what we think is cool. We all dress differently, I mean everyone is shouting at each other saying "your trousers look stupid and your hat is dumb", but nobody listens to each other because that's themselves. In a way, we don't have an image. We can get boo'ed and people say we are crap, or whatever, but we don't have a single style as a band image, not like all have got tattoos. We've got one that looks like he's just fallen off the Fall Out Boy wannabe thing, one day wearing a hoodie or whatever.

RF.net: There's a lot of talk about a certain YouTube clip with you guys playing guitar hero, and also you have your song "Through The Fire And Flames" in Guitar Hero III as well, what do you think about having your track in it and it being one of the most difficult ones in the game?
Herman Li: Well the thing about the game, I read on the internet all these clever people say "why don't you go and play the guitar you idiots, why are you playing a piece of plastic". Well to be honest, I don't blame them. Someone who has played Guitar Hero maybe a few weeks will be able to play our song, if they're hard working. But they won't be able to do it on a real guitar. But people play Call Of Duty, and they don't want to be in war, shooting at terrorists with machine guns, it's just a fun game to play. The same with Guitar Hero, some people just don't want to play the guitar, they wanna have a laugh, and I think that's what it's good for. Anyone that complains on the internet about not learning to play a guitar, it's a totally different thing. The guy that plays, like I said war games, don't wanna be shot really [laughs].. if you don't wanna play the guitar you don't wanna play. And I think it's a cool thing, and we got the hardest song, so that's even cooler.

RF.net: So I have to ask, have you tried to play it yourself? Your own song?

Herman Li: Yeah, I played it even before it came out actually, I was at the game studio where they developed the game, and I thought it was really cool

RF.net: Can you get through it?

Herman Li: I can't because.. when I hear that song, my fingers play it like a guitar, I cannot break the pattern of what I'm doing, matching the numbers.. I'm probably the worst at it ever in the world, so I haven't played it that much. But I thought the picking the right hand side, is definitely very close to the real thing. The fast picking on expert level. It's easier to play the expert level for me than the easy level, because my hand moves like that already.

RF.net: What does the future have in store for Dragonforce? In terms of new albums, more tours?
Herman Li: Win some fans and lose some fans. That's the life cycle of the band. Some people like you and will hate you next year, and some people that hate you might like you next year. We are gonna stick to the rule that we are gonna play music, not for anybody but ourselves. Because we're the ones that have to play the songs. If you like it that's good, if you don't like it, that's cool, it doesn't really bother us.

RF.net: So have you started working on your new album yet? It's been what, eleven months since the last one?

Herman Li: Even longer than that, January 2006! We started, but there's not much to talk about it because we've only just started before this tour, and now we're on tour. We haven't done anything, we took the portable studio on the bus, but I haven't opened it once yet.

RF.net: What's the ultimate dream for the band? What's the top goal for Dragonforce?
Herman Li: You can't really have a top goal, I'd call myself an idiot if I go around thinking "oh I wanna be a super rock star, make lots of money, have a nice house". To be honest, forget about those things.

RF.net: Yeah but might it be like some kids grow up and think that "one day I wanna play this and this festival, maybe this and this stage, I wanna support Metallica I wanna do this and that", so some kind of dream for you guys, or just you personally?

Herman Li: For me personally, I actually achieved all the ones I wanted when I was a kid. I've played with Steve Vai, Joe Satriani who are my favorite guitarists. We've played with Iron Maiden, we've toured around the world, you know, done some other things [laughs].. you know, things change and your ideas change when you grow up, so obviously now.. the next step.. when you are a kid you might think of a dream which is so far away.. I didn't even dream of that for ten years, I dreamt about playing with Satriani in my early days, and I had to realize it's not gonna happen, so I kind of let it go but it happened anyway fourteen years later. Now it's make a great album and see what happens. I'm not dreaming imaginary things, not dreaming about my fans or anything like that.

RF.net: Last question. One of my friends spotted you at a Enter Shikari show in London a couple of weeks ago. So somehow I don't see how this whole power metal thing that you guys do fits with this kind of nu-rave thing that Enter Shikari do, so I'm curious, what's your opinion on Enter Shikari as a band? Are you a big fan of their music, or were you just checking them out casually?
Herman Li: Not at all, I'm not really a fan of their music. But I'm not gonna turn a blind eye to the world and think that's the best style of music, nothing else is great. Every style of music has something to offer, in terms of maybe not musical ideas for us, but maybe stage show, or maybe just see the reaction of fans, how they play with the fans, all kinds of things. There's so many details. We had been recording and we had been so bored, and we thought well we can get in for free, lets go in. So we there with Sam, Vadim and Fred, which was actually a bad idea because next day we didn't do any recording, we were too tired, we were totally fucked, you know. We were so drunk that we were running around in the lobby area, stopping fans going out, shouting "free tickets, free backstage passes for The Black Crusade next week if you suck my cock" [laughs]. That was Sam actually, and Vadim, shit like that, we thought it was hilarious, even though no-one recognized him or anything.

RF.net: A funny anecdote that my friend told me was that at one point when he wasn't quite sure if it was you guys or not, he said that some really drunken English man shouted "oh look guys! IT'S THAT GUY FROM DRAGONFORCE", I don't know if you remember that at all. But just try to imagine that scenario in your mind, how would that make you feel, you're in a show, and some guy goes "oh that's the guy from Dragonforce" and kind of like idolizes you?

Herman Li: Come on man, we're used to that, we're super rock stars now, come on, happens every day [laughs].. except in Germany!

RF.net: Why is that?

Herman Li: We got boo'ed so much in Germany it is amazing. Honestly, stuff thrown on stage, people going "boooo", after the gig "boooo", before we started "boooo", there's some kind of hatred going down there, we don't know why, what have we done to them. But actually, one of the funny things that I was gonna go back which I forgot to say, the most famous video of us on YouTube, is not actually Guitar Hero, it's the one where we play really shit, and some other one that we're totally drunk and couldn't play songs and were falling over. Our faults, or the bad things that we've done, are actually more famous than all our achievements. So the haters are really good at it. But lets see what happens tonight. It's all been good except for certain places in Germany!

RF.net: Okay, well that's all we have. Do you have any last comments, anything for your fans or readers or anything you wanna say? Anything to the Germans?
Herman Li: Thanks for surviving this interview and constantly listening to this! I try to make it more exciting..

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