Intervjui

Herman Li, DRAGONFORCE - 'Energija je važnija od savršenstva'
25.04.2017. | |

Kultni power metal sastav Dragonforce objaviće svoj sedmi studijski album pod nazivom 'Reaching Into Infinity" 19. maja za izdavača earMusic. Tokom svoje posete Beogradu gde su boravili tokom snimanja spota, gitarista i osnivač sastava Herman Li za naš portal govorio je o evoluciji njihovog zvuka, viđenju scene, ranim danima benda i lošoj reputaciji koja ih je pratila.

Već tri godine radite na novom albumu pod imenom "Reaching into Infinity" koji će konačno biti objavljen u maju. Šta nam možeš reći o njemu, kako bi ga uporedio sa prethodnim izdanjima?

Herman Li: Znam da je ovo možda dosadan odgovor, ali mislim da svaki novi album benda Dragonforce predstavlja našu konstantnu evoluciju. Sada više nego ikada smo kombinovali više stilova i razvili svoj stil van granica brzog sviranja kao što je bio slučaj na prva četiri albuma. Na tim albumima svaka pesma je bila brza. Ali sada smo razvili pesme koje i dalje zvuče kao mi, iako nisu i istom tempu.

Pročitao sam da će se na albumu naći i jedna 12-minutna pesma. Kako će ona zvučati, da li će kombinovati više stilova?

Herman: To je epska pesma, koja po prvi put nije brza. Obično imamo neku brzu deonicu u svakoj pesmi, čak iako ona nije brza. Iznenađujuće, toga u ovoj pesmi nema. Probali smo da uradimo nešto drugačije. Ali kada je budete čuli pomislićete "da, ovo je Dragonforce". Ne sumnjam da jednom kada čujete gitaru i solaže, sve dođe na svoje mesto. Zapravo je duga 11 minuta, pogrešio sam u jednom od prethodnih intervjua (smeh). Samo minut je duža od jedne od naših starijih pesama, tako da nije previše duga. Mislim da je pesma "Soldiers of the Wasteland" koju smo snimili bila duga, i brza od početka do kraja. Sve same sitne note u toj pesmi (smeh).

Otisnućete se na turneju nakon objavljivanja, i početi sa istokom, suprotno od onoga što je obično slučaj pošto bendovi obično krenu iz Evrope, preko Amerike do Azije na kraju. Prema tome, kada možemo da očekujemo turneju po Evropi?

Herman: To je problem, zato što pokušavamo da nešto promenimo svaki put. Ranije bismo uvek počeli u Velikoj Britaniji. Ali sada ne, počinjemo turneju u Australiji i Japanu, tako da svaki fan može da iskusi taj početak albuma na turneji. Onda prelazimo na SAD pa se nakon toga vraćamo u Evropu. Planiramo da ove godine završimo koncerte na turneji kojom promovišemo ovaj album. Nećemo ponavljati praksu iz ranih dana kada bismo išli na turneje u trajanju od dve godine, završićemo sve ove godine da ljudi mogu da nas vide brzo, a ne da čekaju mesec i više dana.

Dragonforce @ Metal Days | Photo: Marko Ristić

Imate li predstavu ko će nastupati kao predgrupa?

Herman: Biće drugačije za svaku teritoriju. Nismo još uvek objavili predgrupe za bilo koji nastup. Znate, teško je. Uvek nam kažu ’povedite ovaj ili onaj bend’, ali nije toliko prosto. Teško je naći bend koji je u mogućnosti da odradi turneju i ima dovoljno novca za to. U našem slučaju teško je izabrati i pravi stil. Moramo da izaberemo bend u kome će publika uživati, neki bend koji od toga može da ima koristi. Ako stavimo neki black metal bend da otvara nastupe verovatno neće dobiti ništa od toga.

Pa, možda se i iznenadite (smeh).

Herman: (Smeh) Da, pretpostavljam da zavisi od toga gde nastupate.

Angra, Amorphis, Sepultura i Kreator su objavili sjajne albume, možda svoje najbolje u poslednjih desetak godina. Svi oni imaju zajedničko to što je za produkciju bio zadužen Jens Bogren. Kako uspeva da izvuče najbolje od bilo kog benda, bez obzira na žanr?

Herman: Zar je Angra dobila dobre recenzije za poslednji album?

Nemam pojma, ali je album sjajan (smeh). Od mene jesu.

Herman: Iskreno, nisam slušao nijedan od tih albuma, pa ne mogu reći ništa o tome. Došao sam do tačke u životu kada nemam vremena da slušam tuđu muziku. Pokušam kada imam vremena, ali ne mogu reći da li je album na ovom ili onom nivou ili na kom je uopšte nivou. Ionako se radi o različitoj muzici.

Interesantno je što smo odlučili da Jens Bogren bude zadužen za produkciju našeg albuma zato što obično ne radi sa power metal bendovima. Izabrali smo ga zato što ne radi sa istim stvarima kao mi, tim stilom muzike. To je bila i poenta. Zato što vam ne treba neko ko razmišlja kao i ostali članovi benda Dragonforce, već neko ko će reći ’to je sranje’. Mislim, slažemo se sa njim u većini slučajeva. Ali dobro je imati drugačiju perspektivu.

To je definitivno slučaj i sa vašim prethodnim albumom i poslednjim albumom benda Angra, sa moje tačke gledišta. Ume da stvori zaista organski zvuk.

Herman: To je nešto što nam je trebalo zato što smo na prvim albuma produkciji prilazili drugačije, hteli smo da budemo kao mašine, čisto savršenstvo. Toliko smo bili opsednuti savršenim sviranjem i nakon što bi snimili nešto gledali bi u kompjuter i u taj audio zapis. Razmišljali smo da li nam je tajming savršen. Sada imamo više old-school metal pristup. Energija je važnija od savršenstva, zato što prava energija čini savršenstvo.

Herman Li, Dragonforce @ Metal Days | Photo: Marko Ristić

Slažem se. Ako bend uspe da uhvati svoju koncertnu energiju u studiju, to je prava magija. Pre par godina ste sarađivali sa bendom Babymetal na njihovoj pesmi "Road to Resistance" sa aktuelnog albuma "Metal Resistance" objavljenog prošle godine. S obzirom na to da su mišljenja o njima izuzetno podeljena, da li ste imali nekih negativnih komentara na ovu saradnju?

Herman: Da budem iskren, zaista ne čitam komentare, posebno one negativne, na Facebook-u ili Twitter-u. Nekada i pročitam, ali mi isto tako brzo ispari. Zaista mi nije bitno šta ljudi pričaju zato što smo imali negativnih komentara i ranije, kada smo objavili svoj prvi album i kada smo osnovali bend.

Oni zaista ne prave neku razliku zato što se čini da svako na Internetu ionako sve zna bolje od vas. Kažu da znaju bolje, ali niko ništa ne radi povodom toga. Ako je neko pametniji i ima nešto da pokaže poštovaću njihovo mišljenje. Ali ako nisu ništa uradili, naravno da imaju svoje mišljenje i vole muziku, ali mi radimo ono u čemu mi uživamo. O tome se radi.

Pritom, zaista sam uživao tokom naše saradnje, bio je to najglađi projekat na kome sam radio. Mnogo glatkije nego snimanje albuma sa bendom Dragonforce (smeh). Sarađivali smo sa njima i uživo, izuzetno su profesionalni. Kada smo imali probe u to smo se uverili. Nastupili smo bez da smo ikada ranije svirali zajedno. Tada smo imali prilike da probamo i odradimo tu jednu pesmu zajedno, bilo je zabavno.

Da li ste videli njihovu scensku produkciju tom prilikom?

Herman: Zapravo ne, nastupili smo u Engleskoj na dodeli nagrada Golden Gods. Rekli su nam ’vi ste zaduženi za muziku’. Stvarno je sjajno što su mi poverili produkciju, sastavljanje svega pa čak i miks za televizijski prenos. Zato što je nastupao naš bend, imali smo više insturmenata od njih. I bilo je kul, stvarno je teklo glatko. Razumeli smo se i ono što smo hteli da postignemo.

Dragonforce & Babymetal | Photo: Danny North

Sve češće viđamo bendove kao što su Ghost, Babymetal i druge koji stiču neverovatnu popularnost. Ono što ih sve povezuje je što svi imaju taj neobičan fazon ili etiketu. Da li misliš da je bendovima to potrebno da bi se probili?

Herman: Može se reći tako, a može se reći da imaju neki X faktor. Neki bendovi imaju to, drugi ne. Iskreno, nisam slušao Ghost ali razumem to. Nikada nisam slušao ni Slipknot, ali kada smo išli na turneju sa njima pomislio sam ’OK, razumem to’. Disturbed i svi ti drugi bendovi koji me ne zanimaju. Ali kada ih vidim uživo pomislim ’razumem zašto se ljudima ovo sviđa’. To je ono što ih izdvaja od drugih. Čak iako mi se ne sviđa bend, opet sam obratio pažnju na njih. Ali to ne možete da stvorite, to mora samo da se složi. Možete razmišljati o tome i siliti ga, ali na kraju ili imate to ili ne.

Iskreno, mislim da je dobro što se neki bendovi izdvajaju zato što mi je muka od bendova koji se trude da zvuče isto (imitira growl). Mislio sam da će metalcore odavno umreti. Sada je već 2017. godina a i dalje se pojavljuju bendovi koji sviraju istu stvar. Jebo te! Razumem da je kul, to je neka scena, izađete i dobro se provedete. Ali muzički sebi ne postavljaju nikakve izazove. Možda zato što još uvek nisu dovoljno sazreli.

Sa druge strane su bendovi kao što su Bring Me The Horizon. Iako ne volim njihovu muziku vidim da sebi postavljaju izazove i da su odveli svoj zvuk na viši nivo. Ali neki bendovi i dalje rade istu stvar. Ne sviraju svoj stil muzike, već stil koji svi ostali sviraju. To je fer, potrebno je vremena da sazrite ali mora biti prirodno, tako da sam sada sam sebi kontradiktoran (smeh). Kako ljudi mogu da sazre ako nije prirodno, to je ono što žele da sviraju i to je prosto tako. Tako da nemojte mene slušati.

Ne, razumem. Ponekad kada radim recenziju albuma ako se bend nije nimalo promenio to mi bude negativna stavka. Opet, kada slušam bendove kao na primer Saxon, iako nisu promenili stil već neko vreme to je u njihovom slučaju dobra stvar. Kod nekih bendova promene verovatno pale, kod drugih ne.

Herman: Da, ali Saxon, Iron Maiden i AC/DC su sami razvili svoj stil. Neki bendovi ne razviju svoj stil već zvuče kao mnogi drugi bendovi. U tome je stvar. Jedan bend koji je razvio svoj zvuk je Trivium. Evoluirali su i sada sviraju nešto što zvuči kul. Ali drugi bendovi, ponekad ne mogu da prepoznam o kome je reč.

Herman Li, Dragonforce | Photo: Jovan Ristić

I vi ste imali svoj fazon, etiketirali su vas kao najbrži power metal bend na sceni. Kako ste se oslobodili te etikete i postali to što ste sada? Da li ste sazreli kao kompozitori, šta vas je nateralo da razvijete drugačiji pristup?

Herman: Smešno je što nikada nismo ni razmišljali o brzom sviranju. Nikada nismo ni planirali da sviramo brzo, svirali smo tako zato što je dobro zvučalo. Svirali smo brzo zbog energije, bez da smo razmišljali o brzini. I kada su nam ljudi rekli da smo zaista brzi, rekli bismo im da nismo. Postoje thrash i death metal bendovi koji sviraju brže. Ali to je postao naš fazon. Dali su nam tu etiketu. Naprosto se desilo. Možemo reći da imamo svoj fazon ii X faktor, a to je da smo brzi čak iako to nikada nismo planirali.

Ako o tome razmislite sada, čak i pesme koje nisu brze imaju energiju, zato što se trudimo da stvorimo energiju u nekim pesmama. Kada smo stigli do četvrtog albuma nismo se trudili da sviramo brzo, već da sve bude preko vrha na albumu "Ultra Beatdown". Pesme su zaista ogromne sa toliko mnogo delova. Mogli smo snimiti dva albuma od tog jednog. Mogli smo iseći stvari iz pesama i napraviti nove pesme.

Da, po meni iako ste usporili na pesmama kao što je "Three Hammers", i dalje se čuje da to svira bend Dragonforce, iako ta pesma nije nešto što će ljude asocirati na vaše ime. Većina će verovatno pomisliti o pesmi "Through the Fire and the Flames", koja je bez sumnje vaš najveći hit.

Herman: Donekle je smešno, zato što su se fanovi žalili kada smo izbacili pesmu "The Game", gde su nam pričali šta je kog đavola ovo. Dragonforce su promenili stil. A na toj pesmi smo bili još brži! A ludo je to što kada smo izbacili pesmu "Cry Thunder", koja je spora pesma, niko se nije žalio. A to je naš najveći preokret u stilu. Nikada ranije nismo svirali sporije pesme. Suludo je!

Ja sam iskreno obožavao prethodni album, i jedva čekam sledeći. Pesma "Three Hammers" je po mom mišljenju jedna od najboljih power metal pesama u novom milenijumu. Treba nam više takvih poletnih pesama kao "Hearts on Fire" i "Three Hammers" u žanru. A što se tiče fazona, sećam se u isto vreme kada ste potpisali ugovor za izdavača Roadrunner Records u Srbiji je izlazio časopis Metal Hammer. Bili ste etiketirani kao najbrži bend i parti manijaci uvek sa pivom u ruci. Kako ste prevazišli taj imidž. Da li ste doživeli neki poseban trenutak ili mamurluk koji je prelomio?

Herman: Bili smo parti manijaci. Iskreno, ne mogu da se žalim na to vreme zato što smo se predobro zabavljali. Oko nas je bila sjajna žurka, odličan provod. Ali pretpostavljam da među svim tim ostalim bendovima koji su se dobro zabavljali niko nije svirao solaže i pravio žurke (smeh). Niko nije svirao ovu vrstu muzike i dobro se zabavljao u isto vreme, svi oni su bili veoma ozbiljni. Mi smo to radili i kada bi otišli na turneju ludo bi se provodili. 

Suludo je što su naši klavijaturista Vadim Pruzhanov i gitarista Sam Totman školovani muzičari koji su studirali klasičnu muziku. Nismo samo gomila pijanica koja se okupila da bi išla na turneje i opijala se čisto da vidimo šta će od toga ispasti. Ali ne biste želeli da se jednog dana nakon svih tih godina na turnejama kajete zato što ste sedeli u hotelu i visili na internetu ili Skype-u. A brze stvari, to potiče od toga što su nas ljudi doživljavali kao brze u odnosu na ono što je tada bilo popularno.

Pitao sam te to zbog intervjua koji sam nedavno pročitao. Vaš sam fan od prvog dana i jasno se sećam rasprava sa drugim ljudima koji su tvrdili da nemate pojma da svirate uživo i da ste užasni, da je sve to našminkano u studiju. Tako da mi je drago da ste to razjasnili.

Herman: Mislim, nema sumnje da danas zvučimo sto puta bolje uživo nego tada. Bilo je dana kada bismo morali da popijemo Red Bull pre izlaska na binu zato što jebeno nismo spavali. Ali i dalje smo ovde, i moram da kažem da ako kažete da smo užasni, znajte da smo se prokleto dobro zabavljali. A i dalje smo ovde, izdajemo nove albume. A bilo je i sjajnih nastupa, ali i onih koji nisu zvučali dobro na Youtube-u. To je to kada se sve složi.

Imali smo dosta sranje nastupa, moram priznati. Ali uspeli smo da to popravimo i mislim da je to bilo jedno veoma poučno iskustvo. Da sam tada znao sve što znam sada, nastupi bi bili mnogo bolji a mi mnogo profesionalniji. Ali dosta toga bismo propustili. Niko ne može reći da smo koristili kompjutere zato što očigledno nismo.

Znam da ne zavisi od vas, ali da li postoji šansa da posetite i naš region na ovoj turneji?

Herman: Uvek radimo na tome da održimo što više nastupa, i to je nešto za šta niko ne može da tvrdi da lažem zato što stvarno radimo na tome da sviramo što više. Nikada nismo svirali u Bugarskoj, svirali smo u Rumuniji prvi put prošle godine. Tako da se polako širimo na Istočnu Evropu. Ljudi zaista žele da nas vide, ali je teško naći organizatore.

Dragonforce @ Metal Days | Photo: Marko Ristić

Sledeće godine je 15 godina od izdavanja vašeg debi albuma "Valley of the Damned". Da li planirate da to proslavite, objavite novu verziju albuma ili ga svirate u celosti?

Herman: Nema šanse! To je bilo 2003. godine?

Da, a sledeća je 2018. godina.

Herman: Sranje (smeh). Pričali smo o tome. Ali smo shvatili da ne možemo da uradimo turneju i proslavimo 15 godina od izdavanja prvog albuma bez originalnog pevača. Ne bismo radili nešto tako. Radili bismo godišnjicu albuma i Marc bi pevao pesme koje nije pevao na albumu. Nema nikakvog smisla. Tako da ne predviđam bilo kakvu proslavu.

Da li ste ti i ZP Theart i dalje u kontaktu, ili ste se rastali u lošim okolnostima?

Herman: Fred je skoro pričao sa njim. Ionako me niko u bendu ne voli (smeh). Mislim da u bendu svako ima svoje prijatelje sa kojima se slaže. Fred se tada slagao sa ZP-em i često su se družili. Ja se nisam baš previše družio sa njima. Više sam se družio sa Sam-om, Vadim-om i Dave-om. Svi imaju drugačije zanimacije kada nisu na turneji. Nije kao da se šestoro ljudi stalno druži. Ponekada možda, ali svako ima svoj fazon.

Fanovi uvek zamišljaju bendove kao velike, srećne porodice, ali pretpostavljam da to nije uvek slučaj.

Herman: Svi se slažemo u bendu. Ali sada razumem da kada nisam na turneji ne moram da se viđam sa ostalim članovima benda. Ionako ih stalno viđam. Kada sam bio u Los Anđelesu i Sam je bio tamo i videli smo se svega jednom ili dva puta. Mislim, nije me ni znao i nije kao da moram da se viđam sa njim. Videću ga sada pa tek za par meseci.

Da li imaš neku poruku za fanove u Srbiji i naše čitaoce?

Herman: Nadam se da ćemo vas posetiti nekada. Ovo je prvi put da sam zapravo u Srbiji. Dopisivao sam se sa prijateljem koji je iz Srbije a živi u Velikoj Britaniji i pitao sam ga šta ovde ima da se radi. Ali nemamo baš vremena za to. Ovde smo poslom. Ali nadam se da ćemo vas posetiti na nekoj turneji. Javite nam se internetu da želite da nas vidite da znamo da imamo fanove i ovde!

Herman Li, DRAGONFORCE - 'The Energy is more important than the perfection'
25.04.2017. | |

The iconic power metallers Dragonforce are releasing their seventh studio record titled "Reaching into Infinity" on May 19th. During their visit toBelgrade where they were recording a new video, guitarist and founder Herman Li spoke to us about the evolution of the band, his view of the scene, their early days and the bad reputation that followed them around.

There years in the making, your new album "Reaching into Infinity" will be out in May. What can you tell us about it, how does it compare to your previous releases?

Herman Li: I know that this might be a boring answer, but I think that every Dragonforce album is the continuous evolution of the band. Now more than ever we put in more styles and developed our style more than just playing fast which we did on our first four records. On those albums every single song was fast. But now we have developed songs that still sound like us, but not in the same tempo.

I read something about having a longer song on this one, a 12-minute track I believe. What’s that one going to sound like, is it going to combine various styles?

Herman: It’s an epic song that, to be honest, isn’t actually fast for the first time. Usually, there’s something fast in every song, even if it’s not a fast song. But this one surprisingly hasn’t. We’re doing something different. But if people hear it they’ll say ‘Oh, this is Dragonforce for sure’. There’s no doubt once the guitar starts playing and when you hear the solos, it brings it all together. It’s actually 11 minutes long, I made a mistake in previous interviews (laughs). It’s only a minute longer than one of our older songs, so it’s not much longer. I think the song "Soldiers of the Wasteland" we did was long, and it was fast all the way through. Small notes on that one (laughs).

You are going to hit the road after the release, and you’ll be starting in the East, the other way around, since bands usually start out in Europe and they go over to the Americas and Asia in the end. So when can we expect a European tour?

Herman: That’s a problem because we try to make a change each time. So in the past, we started out in the UK, England first. But now we’re not, we’re starting in Australia and Japan, just so that every fan can get the beginning of the album on the tour. And then we do the US, and after we do the US tour we’ll come back to Europe. We pretty much can do all the touring for this album this year. We’re not going to be doing it like in the old days when we had two years of touring, we’re going to do it all this year so people can see us quickly, and we won’t be waiting for a month or stuff like that.

Dragonforce @ Metal Days | Photo: Marko Ristić

Any ideas who you might tap for the support act?

Herman: Well, it’ll be different for each territory. We haven’t announced any support act for any of the territories yet. You know it’s difficult. People always think ‘oh, take this band’ but it’s more difficult than that. It’s hard to find a support act that is able to do the tour and have the money to do it. In our case picking the right style is also difficult. You have to pick something the fans will enjoy, something that the opening band can benefit from. If we put a black metal band to open for us they’re probably not going to get anything out of it.

Well, you might be surprised (laughs).

Herman: (Laughs) Yeah, I suppose it depends on where you are.

Angra, Amorphis, Sepultura and Kreator all released great albums, maybe their best in decades. They all have Jens Bogren handling the production in common. How does Bogren manage to get the best out of any band, regardless of the genre?

Herman: Oh, did Angra get good reviews for their last album?

I don’t know but it was a great album (laughs). They did get one from me.

Herman: To be honest, I didn’t listen to those albums, so I can’t even tell you. I’ve come to the stage in my life where I don’t have the time to listen to everyone else’s music. I do when I can, but I can’t really say, I don’t know if an album is that level or what level is. It’s a different kind of music anyway.

The funny thing is we picked Jens Bogren because he doesn’t do power metal. We picked him because he doesn’t do anything we play, that kind of music. That was the whole point. Because you don’t need someone who is basically another Dragonforce member, you need somebody who’s going to say ‘Oh, this sucks’. I mean, we agree with him all the time. But it’s good to have a different perspective on that.

Well, that’s definitely true for both your previous album and Angra’s from my point of view. He can create a really organic sound.

Herman: I think that’s something we needed because on the first albums the way we approached production is that we wanted to be like machines, pure perfection. We were so obsessed with playing perfectly and after we finished playing we’d look at the computer and look at the waveform of the audio. We wondered ‘are we perfect in the timing’. Now it’s more old-school metal approach. Energy is more important than the perfection because the right energy makes it perfect.

Herman Li, Dragonforce @ Metal Days | Photo: Marko Ristić

I think so too. If the band can capture their live energy in the studio it’s just magic. Moving on, a couple of years back you collaborated with Babymetal on the track "Road to Resistance" from their "Metal Resistance" album released last year. Since they are the most polarizing band on the scene, did you get any backlash for doing it?

Herman: To be honest, I kind of don’t read the comments on Facebook or Twitter, if they have something bad to say. I read it, but it just goes out the other side. It doesn’t really matter to me what people say because we’ve had backlashes before when we released our first album and when we started the band.

It doesn’t really make any difference because it seems like everyone on the internet knows everything better than you anyway. They say they know better, but no one is doing anything. So if there’s someone smarter that have done something I’ll respect their opinion. But if they haven’t done anything, sure you have and opinion and you like music but we have to do what we enjoy. That’s what it’s all about.

And I really enjoyed working with them, it was probably the smoothest project I’ve ever worked on. Way more than doing a Dragonforce album (laughs). Working with them live as well, they are very professional. We played a show without rehearsing! We just played that one song and we never even played together ever. And then we got to rehearse and do that song live, so it was fun.

Did you see their full stage production when you did the song live?

Herman: No, actually we did an award show in England for the Golden Gods. They said ‘you guys are in charge of the music’. They were really cool to put me in charge of the band’s production, put the stuff together and even mix the audio for the television broadcast. Because it was our band, we had more instruments than them. And it was cool, it was easy going. We understood each other and what we were trying to achieve.

Dragonforce & Babymetal | Photo: Danny North

We are seeing bands like Ghost, Babymetal and others become increasingly popular, and the thing connecting them is that they all have a gimmick of sorts. Do you think a band nowadays needs a gimmick in order to stand out?

Herman: Yeah, or you can say that it’s the X factor. Some bands just have it, and others don’t. And to be honest, I don’t listen to Ghost but I get it. I never listened to stuff like Slipknot, and when we did the tour with them I thought ‘ok, I get it’. Disturbed and all these bands I have no interest for. But when you see them live you think ‘I get it why people like this’. That’s what’s setting all these people apart. Even me not liking the band, I still paid attention to that. But you can’t simply create that thing, it has to come together. You can consciously think about it but it either comes or it doesn’t.

To be honest, I think that it’s great that some bands set themselves apart because I’m sick of all these bands trying to sound the same. (Imitates growling). I mean I thought metalcore was going to die years ago. It’s 2017 and people are still coming out playing the same thing. Fuck. I can understand that it’s cool. It’s kind of a scene, and you go out and have a good time. But musically they are not challenging themselves because maybe they haven’t grown into it yet.

Some bands like Bring Me the Horizon, I never liked their music but I can see they are challenging themselves and grown to another level. But some bands just keep doing the same thing. They’re not doing their own style, they keep doing a style that everyone else is doing. That’s fair, it takes the time to grow but it has to be organic, so I’m contradicting myself (laugh). How can people grow if it’s not organic, that’s what they want to play and that’s how it is? So don’t listen to me.

I get it. Sometimes when I review albums if a band hasn’t changed in a while that’s a bad thing, but when I listen to a band like Saxon, and they haven’t changed in a while and it’s a good thing. So for some bands, I guess change works, for some it doesn’t.

Yeah, but Saxon, Iron Maiden and AC/DC they developed their style. Some bands don’t develop their style but sound like another band. So that’s the struggle. One band that has developed their style is Trivium. They have evolved and they do that thing now which is cool. But other bands I can’t recognize which band that was.

Herman Li, Dragonforce | Photo: Jovan Ristić

You also had your own style, being labeled as the fastest power metal band around. So how did you grow out of that label into what you are today? Did you mature as songwriters, what prompted you to take a different approach?

Herman: The fun thing is that we never thought about playing fast. We never actually intended to play fast, we just played that speed because it sounded good. So we’re playing fast for the energy of the music without ever thinking that it was fast. And when people told us we play really fast, we’d tell them we don’t. There are thrash and death metal bands that play faster. But then it became a thing. They gave us that label for a gimmick. That’s what happened. We can say we have our own gimmick or X Factor to be fast, even though we never intended or thought we had to be fast.

So if you think about it naturally now, even the songs that aren't fast still have energy, because we try to develop an energy for certain songs. And I think that by the time we got to our fourth album we weren't trying to play fast but wanted to be more over the top on the "Ultra Beatdown" album. The songs are really large, and there are so many parts in them. We could have made two albums from that one album. You can cut stuff out of songs and make another song. 

Yes, in my opinion even though you slowed things down on tracks like "Three Hammers" you can still hear Dragonforce playing, even if it isn’t something people are instantly reminded of when they hear your name. Most of them probably think about "Through the Fire and the Flames", because that’s without a doubt your biggest hit.

Herman: It’s kind of weird because we had some fans complain when we did the song "The Game", there were fans complaining, saying what the hell is this. Dragonforce changed their style. And we went even faster for that song. And the crazy thing is when we did the song "Cry Thunder", which is a slow song, no one complained. And that was the biggest change in style. We never played mid-tempo before. It’s crazy.

I honestly loved the last album, and can’t wait to hear the new one. "Three Hammers", in my opinion, is one of the best power metal tracks in this millennium. We need more uplifting songs like "Hearts on Fire" and "Three Hammers". And about being labeled as a gimmick, I remember back when you signed to Roadrunner Records we had Metal Hammer printed in Serbian. You were labeled as the fastest band around and party maniacs. How come you grew out of that image? Was there a particular moment or a hangover that influenced that?

Herman: Well we were party maniacs. I can’t honestly complain about that time, we had so much fun. We partied hard, we had a blast. But I guess the difference was that of all those other people that were partying no one was playing solos and partying (laughs). No one was doing this kind of music and go partying, they were all very serious. Practice, practice, practice. And we did that and when we went out on tour we just fucking had fun. Because we said we were boring all this time, learning, practicing.

Crazy enough, our keyboard player Vadim Pruzhanov and Sam Totman, they’ve all been to music schools and studied classical music. We weren’t just a bunch of drunk guys put together who were all about getting on tour and getting drunk and partying to see what we can do. But you don’t want to regret that after all those years of touring that all you did was sit in your hotel room, go online and Skype. And the fast things, that was just whatever people perceived as fast compared to what was popular at the time.

I was inspired to ask this when I read your recent interview. And I was your fan from day one and I remember a lot of disputes with other people who said you can’t play live and suck, that it was all polished in the studio. So I’m really glad you cleared that out.

Herman: I mean, no doubt that we sound a hundred times better live now than back then. And that was a time we had to drink a Red Bull before we went on stage because we just fucking hadn’t slept. But we’re still here, and I have to say if you said we sucked we had a fucking great time back then. And we’re still doing it now, still making albums. And there’s been great shows and shows that don’t sound as good on YouTube. And that’s all put together.

But we had some shit shows, I have to say. But we were able to fix it and I think it was a learning experience. If I knew everything back then, the shows would have been better and we would have been more professional. But we would have missed out. No one can say we used computers because we obviously weren’t.

I know that’s not up to you, but any chance you might visit our region on the next tour?

Herman: We are always working to do as many shows as possible, and that’s one thing people can’t say I’m lying about because we try to put many shows. We haven’t done Bulgaria, we’ve done Romania for the first time last year. So we’re reaching out slowly to the Eastern part of Europe. People are really into it, but it’s difficult to find the promoters.

Dragonforce @ Metal Days | Photo: Marko Ristić

Next year marks the 15th anniversary of your debut “Valley of the Damned”. Do you have any plans to celebrate the occasion, release a new edition of the album or play it on full?

Herman: No way. That was 2003?

Yeah, next year’s 2018.

Herman: Oh shit (laughs). We talked about that. But we said we can’t really do a tour and celebrate 15 years anniversary of the first album without the original singer. We wouldn’t do stuff like that. We’re gonna do the anniversary of the band and Marc’s gonna sing all those songs he didn’t on the album. It doesn’t make any sense. So I don’t see an anniversary.

Are you in touch with ZP Theart, or did it end on bitter terms?

Herman: Fred spoke to him recently. No one likes me in the band anyway (laughs). I think that in the band everyone has their own friends that they get along with. Fred got along with ZP back then and they hung out. I never really hung out with them. I hung out with Sam or Vadim or Dave. They have a different thing they like to do when they aren’t on tour. It’s never like six people will hang out together. Sometimes maybe, but everyone has their own thing.

We the fans always like to imagine bands as a big happy family, but I guess that’s not always the case.

Herman: We have no problem with each other in the band. I understand now that when I’m off tour I don’t need to see anyone in the band. I see them all the time. So when I was in Los Angeles Sam was there too for a month, and I saw him once or twice. I mean he doesn’t even call me, it’s not like I have to go see him. I’ll see him now and not for another couple of months.

Do you have any final words for your fans in Serbia and our readers?

Herman: We do hope to come someday. This is the first time I actually visited Serbia. I was texting my friend who’s Serbian and lives in the UK. I asked him what is there to do, but we don’t really have the time to do anything. We’re here on business. But we hope to come here on tour someday. So let us know if you want to see us right on the internet so we know our fans here exist!

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