Anthony Morgan of Metal Forces recently conducted an interview with guitarist Herman Li of British epic power metallers DragonForce. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
On vocalist Marc Hudson joining DragonForce:
Herman: "Before Marc was even in the band, we actually worked him really hard in terms of the audition process. He sent us a video, and we got him to sing more songs that he had to record live on a video. After that we met up with him just to see his personality, and then we had to have a rehearsal with him; singing a 35-minute set, getting him to learn a bunch of songs, and playing them together. After that I went to see him play with his band live in Reading somewhere, and then afterwards we got him into the studio to record demos of the new songs. If you think about that, that took about eight months to do and that was before he was even in the band. Later on it was just a continuation of what we were doing, rehearsing songs and recording and all that. Marc had a long trial initially before he was even in the band."
On the differences between the vocal style of Marc Hudson and that of DragonForce's previous singer, ZP Theart:
Herman: "The tone, the approach, and the techniques are very different, so the way they approach the arrangement and the way they express themselves musically is different. If you take someone like a classic metal singer against a classic hard rock singer — like Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden) versus Jon Bon Jovi — you can hear the difference in the style. I wouldn't say it's like that, but it's similar to how you would compare the two."
Comparing new album, "The Power Within", to 2008's "Ultra Beatdown":
Herman: "'Ultra Beatdown' is a much more extreme, longer songs kind of album. Every song was long, and every song was over the top with more things than you can imagine putting into a song and into this kind of music. 'The Power Within' doesn't sound like any of the other albums because this album is more diverse with all the different tempos we have. We went full-on, 100% with everything on the new album. In the old days, we had one tempo pretty much. We stuck with a fast tempo, but this time we played around a bit with different tempos and showed different sides of us. Every song has its own feel so we tried to have one song more symphonic, another song more guitar driven with less keyboards, and things like that. You've got your acoustic song, and you've got your seven-string, faster than all the other songs and heavier. Of course you have the fast stuff and the faster stuff, but there's definitely more on this album. We've mixed the feel for each, whereas every song on 'Ultra Beatdown' had everything."
On his guitar work for "The Power Within":
Herman: "The guitar had to be played differently, the vibrato and the note choice and all that, technique. When I say techniques, I mean techniques you use to express the music have to be done differently. I think there is a lot of emphasis on different bending of the notes, because when you've got a bit more time to play you've got a bit more time to use different techniques. When you're playing really fast you don't really have time to bend the notes, so that's something we worked on for this album."
On how well DragonForce play live nowadays:
Herman: "I think we play better than we've ever done before, but with the internet and incredible technology… On a mobile phone, it sounds like complete shit. It's kind of a fucking weird thing, because people don't really care about bands live in the same way we do. Years ago people judged bands live by going to live shows, instead of judging them by a compressed audio/video feed on a low-resolution computer screen. Unfortunately, a lot of uneducated people think this is what it is musically. That's how it sounds when the microphone in your smartphone is only supposed to pick up your voice, and not record a whole PA blasting out with that much bpm and that much intense music. It sounds like garbage. That's why a web stream always sounds horrible, because the compression is pretty lame these days. Especially all this so-called secure streaming or whatever that gets captured, it's always really bad quality anyway. That has changed what live music is all about.
"People think when you hear a band live they sound exactly like they do on the album, but live productions are supposed to sound totally different anyway. I think people have been blown away by the amount of music they hear, but they don't see enough shows to understand what shows are supposed to be like. If I went to see a band and they sounded exactly like they do on the album 100%, I would think something is wrong. It isn't humanly possible, but hey, people are accustomed to having a certain ear. Imagine you hear 100 albums, but just one show. You just don't know what's going on in a way, how live shows are supposed to sound."
On forming the band's own label Electric Generation Recordings:
Herman: "If you look at what's happening these days, a lot of small labels are closing, bigger labels taking over the smaller ones and closing them, and all that kind of stuff. We already went through that before; we were with Noise Records, and then Sanctuary took over. We pretty much made all the decisions before, and now it just makes it easier to control what's going on, like when we want the album out. It helps us to get on tour easier, for example. If anything doesn't work, it's our fault. We can't blame anyone. The main thing here is that we have control of the music. We don't have to worry in a year's time if the label actually gets closed down, and you have no one to talk to and you can't do this and that. I've experienced that myself."
Read the entire interview at Metal Forces.