Herman Li, 2006

 

Written & Photos by: Jason Perlman

 

I used to write and photograph for Powerplay Magazine in UK, so I am familiar with Dragonforce, but now America is gaining knowledge as you are hear touring. How excited are you about being here?
It is very cool. We've been playing the same style we have always played; we haven't changed the style we have been playing. But it is great to start getting recognized.

 

You have been selling out shows and having fans go crazy during the set. Do fans react the same here as they do abroad?
It is pretty much the same kind of show. It was cool because a couple of months ago, even before our new record came out, people were singing all the songs. It was crazy. It was just like being in the UK. It was like being at home. It was amazing. We never expecting anything like that. We thought, the album wasn't out, but we would play for al these fans that have been with us for so many years, and it turned out people knew all the albums, even the new songs.

 

Being over in England, you obviously played some huge festivals, so you are somewhat familiar with that atmosphere. But Ozzfest is months long, not just a weekend. How do you think you will get used to that atmosphere, plus playing at like five in the afternoon?
I think it's great. We always have fun when we go on tour. We are never bored or miserable. We may say that we get bored or something like that, but in reality we love every second of it. That was the whole reason in forming Dragonforce was to play shows. And now we get to do the biggest rock festivals and Ozzfest, the biggest festival in the US. So it's great.

 

After you played some shows in the US and saw how the fans sang every song back to the band, were you surprised at all at the knowledge of the US fans?
I am more surprised at the number of people that show up and all the sold-out shows. I wasn't surprised they knew the songs, because we have a lot of people writing in through the Web site saying it was about time we came to the States because they have been fans for years. So it was surprising at the number of people that showed up. And it was great to finally get to meet the people here; the fans that you hear from all the time but we never had a chance to meet until now.

 

Was there any nerves coming over here for the first time or was it more excitement?
More excitement because we have done so many festivals in Europe. So this is just like an extended one. So it's not anything we haven't done before. Maybe not for six weeks, but eh, you know? We are going to have fun, that's for sure.

 

The thing about Ozzfest is they always have a few European metal bands that bring a different sound and style. How do you think Dragonforce fits in with the rest of the band on the tour?
I think it's quite different on the main stage. There is definitely a variety. You have Lacuna Coil that is totally different than all the other bands. And us that sounds a bit different. We definitely bring a totally different show and style of music to the audience here. Even though we are from London, we draw influence from metal bands from around the world. So I wouldn't say we are European sounding only. We have some Death metal and thrash metal, which is more of a US influence, as well as Prog and Power. We just try to mix it all up.

Playing Ozzfest on the main stage means people are sitting in seats and cannot really get into a band like Dragonforce that they could in a club atmosphere. How do you think Dragonforce fans will react to your music while in seats?
It is definitely going to be different. I mean, a big show is different that a small, club show. We understand when you are sweating hot in the sun, that it may be tougher to jump around and mosh into each other like they would at a club. But it is just a different kind of show. But we play the same show anyway. Whether it is a big show or small show.

We talked earlier about your back catalogue of music. Many people coming to Ozzfest may not know about the history of Dragonforce. How do you see the progression of the band and is the band where you thought it would be?
Well, there has been the evolution of the band in which we are making music now that we obviously wouldn't have made in the first record. We have just grown as musicians. We didn't change our style, we have just gown and made more interesting parts. We just try to improve everything about the band, from production to playing live. We are just kind of moving on and improving. But if you picked the idea to take the best from each style of rock metal and mix it together, you can't really say you've changed your style. You just want to try to take the best of each style.

 

There is a perception of the English scene of either the pop sound of Coldplay or the rock sound of The Darkness. What is the English scene like for a band like Dragonforce?
I don't think there really is a face, because everyone has such different styles. But obviously there are more people that listen to pop music, so I can see how that may be the perception. But for us, we don't really think of those kids of things, we just do our own thing. It doesn't matter. If it were about being popular, we definitely wouldn't be playing the style of music we do now.

A friend of mine used to be security for The Astoria over in London, and he always likes to talk about how band have a more lasting impression over in England than in the states. That very few bands are popular for any significant amount of time. Now that Dragonforce is making its way in the States, how much do you pay attention to perceptions of America?
Well, we don't follow any trends, although it is good to know what is going on around the world even though you are not going to be following it. It's like seeing what the latest movies are out just so you know what is there. We have been doing our own style of music, so whatever people do, it doesn't bother us at all. I think different styles of music offer different things. Hardcore, death metal, whatever even nu-metal. They offer different kinds of things than say Power metal or Prog metal. But I think you can listen to all of them and get something out of them even if you are not trying to sound like them. And even some European countries are a bit slower to listen to new music, but fans are generally the same. There is always the underground scene, and just because you are not on TV doesn't mean people are not listening to your music. We have proven that this last tour, because we haven't had that much US press, but there are people listening to the music; to Dragonforce all the time over the past several years.

 

You mentioned earlier the different influences and types of metal Dragonforce pulls from, so when the band sits down to write, how difficult is it to bring all that together?
We look at it this way: Our favorite parts of metal is the melodic singing, so we that is always the main thing. We are always going to pick that part. Drumming-wise, we like Prog drumming, the Thrash and Death metal intensity. So we grab the intensity from the thrash and death metal world. So it just all comes naturally after you listen to many types of music for many, many years. Sometimes you have to think about it and sometimes it just comes out naturally. But we will try different things to see if it works or not, different kinds of instruments. But a lot of the stuff is pretty natural.

I think a lot of people who listen to Dragonforce would automatically want to assume that the band members are as aggressive as the music. I just was talking with Paige Hamilton from Helmet, and he was saying that the band was actually laughing and joking when some of the most aggressive music was written.
I think we are not really aggressive, but I think our music isn't so much as aggressive as it is intense and in your face. I see our music with a lot of intensity and a lot of things happening at the same time. But we love to joke around. We're a good laugh, we are not aggressive people. We are just always laughing and joking and that is our personality, really.

 

Is it hard to keep capturing that intensity you put down in the studio day in and day out?
Every night we seem to pull it off. I remember when we were on our in Japan, I was literally asleep 5 minutes before we were to go on in the dressing room because I was so tired from the plane. But once I get on stage, I just go full-on. I was a totally changes person. When you are on stage, you are just there, ready to go. There is no way you can be bored with it. When you have fans watching you play music you like to play, it makes it pretty easy to give it all every night.

You are now in the States, a place you haven't toured before. What does the band do when it has some free time?
When we can get it, we just take a break. Hang out at the hotel and maybe go down and have a look around. Just take it easy, because you have to have a break sometime.

 

It seems every band says a band is like a family; you fight like family and stick together like family. Have there ever been any instances where Dragonforce got caught up in an argument?
We're okay because we have been playing together for years. It is not like a super group where you have a lot of famous people from different bands trying to get together to make an album. We have been touring since our demo days, so we are just used to each other now. If someone gets annoyed, we just don't really care. We know they will be okay in a few hours. We are just used to each other after so many years.

Because you have been a touring band since the demo days and have been a working-class band, are you ever surprised at the success of Dragonforce?
No, and not because we are arrogant, but because we love the music we play. We are making an album we want to listen to, so each time we finish an album, we will sit there listening to it saying, "Yea, this is really cool. We love that, that part is really good." So we think since we really like the music, other people will really like it as well. But we are not expecting anything, we are just doing the music we want to play and we want to play in front of people who like the same kind of music as us. But it's great that so many people are into the band.

Because of the success of the band before signing to Roadrunner and releasing a record, Inhuman Rampage, in the States, was there any new excitement to the band, or was it just sort of old tricks by then?
We are celebrating each day when we are doing a show. It's a party each time. We don't celebrate with a launch party or anything like that, we are just like, "It's cool that we made the album." We are just having a good time all the time. That is how we run, we are pretty easy going.