Interview: DragonForce guitarist, Herman Li


LOS ANGELES, July 25, 2014 — When one listens to DragonForce, it is easy to use terms like rippers and shredders because they both shred and rip. Known for their huge choruses and face melting guitar solos, DragonForce has added a new 80s thrash sound to some of the songs on their forthcoming album, Maximum Overload, which is due out August 19 on Metal Blade Records. They even do their first cover ever, a Johnny Cash song! Guitarist Herman Li took some time to answer some questions with Wells On Music regarding his influences and the new album.

Scroll below video to read the interview.

Kevin Wells: What made you want to start playing guitar? How old were you?

Herman Li: I basically wanted a new hobby. I got bored of the sports I was doing and was also bored of video games. I started playing the guitar when I was 16, I got an electric guitar as a late birthday present from my parents.

KW: What bands were you listening to at that time?

HL: Some bands I was into at the time were Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, Megadeth, Metallica. 

KW: Which guitar players would you credit as influences for you?

HL: There are so many guitar players I love listening to and many of them have influences some more than the other. The ones that influenced me the most are probably the following: Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Tony MacAlpine, John Petrucci, Marty Friedman, George Lynch, Vinnie Moore. Also I saw Nuno Bettencourt play with Extreme last week, it was really awesome.

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KW: The new DragonForce album sounds to have a stronger foothold in the 80s thrash metal than previous albums. Was this an intentional shift during the writing process?

HL: It just happened for a few songs to have a thrashier element with the riffs. It is still totally DragonForce with huge epic choruses and shredding solos. We just added more elements and dynamics to different songs on this album.

KW: How does the writing process work for DragonForce?

HL: For this album we changed things around a bit. Sam went to France for a few weeks to write the songs with Fred together, which added that new dimension we haven’t had before in our music. It is definitely really cool to be able use as many skills off different band members as possible, as the band carry on evolving.

KW: Whose idea was it to cover Ring of Fire?

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HL: Sam had the idea after hearing the song on TV! We were talking about doing a cover song because we’ve never done one before and it would be original for us to finally do a cover. We never want to do a cover which ends up basically pretty close to sounding like the original. The reason we picked Ring of Fire is because it could have been turned into a DragonForce style song, it totally sounds like us.

KW: Trivium’s Matt Heafy does some vocals on the new record. How did that come about?

HL: We’ve known Matt for quite a number of years, he is really cool guys and we always thought he is a great singer. It kinda came about by accident when we were listening back to the songs while in the studio, thinking what other style of backing vocals we can add to the certain songs to give it a different edge. Matt’s name suddenly came to mind because he can do such a diverse style of singing from heavy to soft. Matt did the recording in his own studio and sent us more stuff than we asked him to do, it was awesome!

KW: You worked with an outside producer, Jens Bogren, for the first time. Why did you feel the need to go outside for a producer on this album after having done it yourselves on so many albums?

HL: The idea was to make a change, challenge ourselves so we can learn new things and get better. Jens is a great producer with a really good ear for music. Overall the whole experience was excellent. You can totally hear the energy on the album, it really comes out with the songs.

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KW: Was it hard for you to release some of that control?

HL: Hahaha, absolutely! But at the same time, it was good too because we get to concentrate on the playing and not worry so much about the production part which can distract you a lot of times.

KW: Are there any plans to do any U.S. touring on this album?

HL: Definitely! The last 2 albums, we kicked off the world tour in the U.S, so this time we are gonna start the tour in Europe instead.

We will be hitting the US for sure, so fans should keep an eye out on the tour dates from our websites.

KW: Is there anything else you would like to know either about you or anything you’re working on?

HL: Be sure to pick up the special edition of ‘Maximum Overload’ which includes 5 bonus tracks and a DVD! The DVD contains the making of the album documentary along with a live performance of Cry Thunder in Japan at the Saitama Super Area. The fans are gonna love it!

Kevin J. Wells is the Sports Editor for Communities Digital News. He also writes about Major League Baseball, punk rock music and food. Kevin plays guitar in the Los Angeles punk band Emmer Effer. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball

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