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WLM Interviews: Herman Li of DragonForce

April 4, 2017

 We recently had the opportunity to interview Herman Li of DragonForce. There was lots to talk about in regards to their new upcoming seventh album and tours, personal life, the condition of the world and more. 

A big THANK YOU to Herman Li, DragonForce, and Metal Blade Records.

Thanks everyone for tuning in to We Love Metal. We are joined today by none other than one of the forces behind a big name in metal, DragonForce. I am here with Herman Li, a longtime player in the metal game.

How are you doing Herman? Foremost I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time out of your very busy day to talk to us.

Herman: Thanks for having me. Yeah I’m doing good, just been practicing and getting ready for our upcoming tour so you then start to realize the more you don’t practice certain things, it’ll take you awhile to get back at it and to memorize things.

Ahh yes that is certainly a must (haha). But good to hear things are going well for you and the band. I guess the big news, well at least that us fans are aware of (haha), is that you guys have a new album coming out in May. How does it feel to be releasing your seventh album?

Herman: Well I don’t think so much about it if it’s the seventh album or third album, I don’t really think about it. It’s, you know, you make the album and it’s there. Now I know it’s the seventh album, when we finished this album, someone asked me which album number this is and I had to think about it kind of like, uhhhh fifth? Sixth? You don’t really know sometimes but the great thing is always, it’s always a great feeling to finish an album and have that weight off your shoulder I can tell you that.

Yeah of course! This being your seventh album, I’m sure you’re already used to the routine by now of recording, writing, and everything else that comes with it.

So Reaching Into Infinity, is the name of the album and I can see this being a big album and the name alone gave me some goosebumps like I can just feel this is going to be a highly successful album for the band. Would you mind telling us what the album will entail, any surprises or just in general what the album will bring?

Herman: I mean this album is a continuous evolution for DragonForce. Yes I would say, the last two albums, I think we have continuously tried to evolve our sound further, adding more elements and showing more things that we haven’t done before. I think this album is definitely the most diverse and I know I’ve said it on both of the last two albums in the interviews as well. But I’m not lying, this album is a continuous evolution and there are things that the fans have never heard DragonForce do but don’t worry, it’s still DragonForce sounding. It’s not like we changed our style, I think the fans will be happy to hear from us.

That is very good to hear. I’m pretty excited being a fan myself and I would agree your last album was very diverse and dynamic and you guys really started to showcase other faces that the band holds, not just sticking to playing fast constantly. I would also say you guys are maturing as a band and of course it doesn’t hurt the change things up once in awhile.

Herman: Yeah it’s hard to say what’s right and what’s more mature. I like people saying that, it makes us sound like we’ve grown up and I mean we have grown up. But I mean I wouldn’t take anything away from those first four albums which were intense and fast in every single song. But I think the band has moved towards a stage where we’ve needed to put on more than just that  and we spent those four albums developing our sound and we put a big stamp on it that is DragonForce and people know what we do and now we are able to add more to it. It’s not like we made a slow album and then people started to worry about that (haha). There are some slower elements but trust me, at first I thought we achieved the intensity of the music differently than just playing fast so it was fast but not as fast and it feels the same. It feels fast without being fast, maybe that’s what I am trying to say.

Change is always a good thing at least I would say so and of course being in the industry you can’t please everyone. But it sounds exciting nonetheless!

Is there a concept on the album or theme or message on Reaching Into Infinity?

Herman: It’s not a concept album but each song has it’s own theme but the theme of the cover and the title of the album is talking about the infinite reach of music, how music is timeless, metal and the stuff we do, the music we love and how it can kind of take you away from the crazy world we are in. It can help you escape from whatever is around you, just pop your headphones when you’re listening or you’re driving and even though people say, ahh you know music isn’t so important, video games, phones, etc. But music still plays a really big part in the world we are in now.

Definitely, that’s one of the things I live by, music is everything and music can persuade you, make you feel a certain way, make you do certain things and for me music is my drug of choice (haha). I am sure a lot of people would agree as well.

With the new album I am sure the fans are wondering as am I, what are your touring plans in support of the new album?

Herman: Well, we have a launch party for the album even though it’s technically not out yet, just something to warm us up. We have a tour in Asia then we have one in Australia and New Zealand and then we make our way to the US after that. We also are playing a few festivals, we are still working on the shows at the moment that will cover both the east and west coast.

And when will that US tour take place?

Herman: It will be in July. So the fans just need to keep an eye out for the dates on our website. But we haven’t actually done a US headlining tour, a real one, since 2009 I would say. So that will be interesting.

Yeah definitely, and I heard a lot of great things on both your US tours with Kamelot the last time you guys swung by the states. You guys always pull off great shows so the fans of course will be in for a killer time.

Have you guys had a chance to play any of the new songs live?

Herman: We haven’t played any shows since we finished the album but we are going to rehearsals this week to start playing the new songs and work on the set-list so there will definitely be some new songs popping up at our upcoming shows.

Seven albums, many years later, this is something that is always intriguing with bands and every band has different rituals and how they handle it but how do you guys, the band or you yourself, how do you keep the spark alive and keep on going after so many years with your career? Especially you and Sam who’ve been with DragonForce since the beginning and even before then you guys were in another band so you guys have been in the industry for a while now. How do you guys keep things going, do you ever contemplate quitting?

Herman: I think well for me personally, in a way we talk about using music to escape, we also need something to escape from the music, to keep our mind fresh so we can work on the music again fully charged. So we have some hobbies and new things I was never into a few years ago and that’s kind of cool so when you have something or learn something new you learn so quickly at the beginning. You get a sense of self-fulfillment as you feel good about yourself doing it and I myself need something else to do aside from just playing the guitar. Obviously guitar is one of my main loves in life however I need to get out of the guitar zone to be able to come back and play better than before.

What was the moment or what was it that told you, you wanted to pursue a career in the music industry? Was it a show? An artist or an album?

Herman: Well, Sam and I were in a band because we just wanted to have some fun. It was never really a thought that were were gonna become professional musicians we just wanted to have fun. So for me, I wouldn’t say it’s a turning point but after we recorded two albums and did two tours, one with Helloween in Japan and we had just released Sonic Firestorm and we were going to go on a European tour for the next two months, I thought you know what, there is a job always somewhere and this is kind of a one in a million chance for me to try this as a career. I never intended it to but it’s just gone off this way so I quit my job back then before the release of Sonic Firestorm and I just went for it and gave it a try.

And here you are you got that one in a million chance and years later you guys have become a big name in metal currently so congrats! Did you guys think you would be this big of a band, reaching a status to where your name is known everywhere in metal?

Herman: Not really, I mean, you can’t expect those kinds of things. We definitely never expect anything from anyone, at the beginning we were just doing what we wanted to musically and not really please people. You know it’s kind of one of those things where it’s like, oh let’s try to play some sort of popular music maybe we have a chance then but we were playing some music that definitely was not popular so we’re going against what was popular. So basically we were going in a direction that would give us the least probability of succeeding with the way we were playing these long songs with crazy guitar solos, in terms of the trend of music at the time. It’s important that I think musicians be able to do what they want to do as the main thing first before anything else.

Definitely and I wanted to add that you know sometimes you read or hear stuff online that you would think that after so many years that metal is accepted worldwide but there are those bands that are forced or kicked out of a country because they play metal which isn’t allowed and it’s unfortunate so it’s great to see bands like DragonForce overcoming that and going above and beyond what’s expected, just kind of sharing your music worldwide.

Is there there anyone you’d like to tour with? Any dream tours or anything like that?

Herman: Not really to be honest. It’s not something I like to think about at all these days. I mean when I was growing up learning to play the guitar of course, there were some dream guitar players I wish I could play with and I’ve actually done all of that now. (haha) You know when I was a kid I always thought wouldn’t it be cool to jam with Steve Vai or Joe Satriani and those guys, so these days the main focus is to make the best show possible and that’s kind of what I’ve been working on pretty hard for the last seven years or so, improving the live show, learning how to create a live show beyond of just you playing on stage to the audience. But then you take the audience point of view and understand the technology of the show it’s kind of like outside looking in now. Learning to make a great show for an audience is more than just playing a guitar really well. I know that now.

With the new album you were saying it has to do with the future and how one feels about the condition of the world and using music to escape from it. But how do you feel about the world personally? There are some who think the world is in chaos, others think we haven’t really reached that point at all. What do you feel about the world?

Herman: I think the world has always been chaotic but one thing for sure in DragonForce is because you can already hear about these things, it’s almost impossible to escape from this stuff and with social media now you can’t even open up your phone without being able to hear about it. So we never really discuss anything like that because I think it’s too much for people. You’re not really escaping with DragonForce if you’re hearing about this stuff again so we talk about epic cool stuff instead of that boring stuff that’s happening out there unfortunately.

I would agree as well, avoiding those subjects tends to poison the karma, the atmosphere and brings everyone down usually.

Let’s play ‘What’s Your Favorite?…” I’ll just ask you what’s your favorite, whatever and so forth. Pretty simple.

So what’s your favorite color?

Herman: I would say well since it isn’t but my main guitar has been violet for a long time so I guess I will go for a purple violet color.

What’s your favorite food?

Herman: I don’t really have a favorite food but I guess since I’m Cantonese and you want to eat some comfort food, something that reminds you of home and your childhood, I would say Dim Sum.

Favorite Drink?

Herman: That would be a drink that’s free and I didn’t pay for.

Favorite Book?

Herman: I don’t really read, the only books I read are instructional manuals and repair manuals and technical stuff. I guess one that I really liked as a kid was, Aliens.

Favorite Videogame, if any?

Herman: Well, I don’t have a favorite video game but the one I am playing right now that I am really enjoying is called, Assetto Corsa, which is a driving simulator game for the PC.

And if you could have one superpower, which one would you like to have?

Herman: I would like to have the superpower to learn things much faster. I love to absorb loads of information and different skills and learn so many things I can do from fixing a car to fixing a computer to fixing my guitar, learning songs, learning to cook so it would be great if I could absorb this stuff and learn more.

Thank you for sharing some details about your personal life! Do you have any advice for people who are trying to pursue a career in the music industry?

Herman: (haha) Well, I’ve got more than one piece of advice but I guess the most important one is, let’s say someone wanted to start a band. Best scenario I think, apart from having great musicians and people that you get along with in the band is, if everyone can learn one skill beyond music that they get really good at like video editing or recording, website making, something that’s related that can help everyone in the band, that would be a great thing. Learning a different skill than just being a musician, you know I don’t really care for musicians that only know how to play music. I think players that know more than one skill are usually better at playing as well (haha).

Wearing many hats as the term goes around. What’s the hardest part of dealing with the industry? Is it touring? Recording? Anything else?

Herman: I think it’s the same like with any industry: dealing with people. It’s hard dealing with people, trying to keep them happy, keeping everyone sane and motivated and working together. I think that’s one of the many conflicts in this world with people in general, people can’t get along with people so I think if we can overcome that, everyone can solve way more problems.

That is very true! The time has come and our final question is, as you know the name of the website is We Love Metal. So why do you love metal?

Herman: Apart from the music, metal as really given me friendships throughout my life and meeting people that I have something in common with. It’s kind of just beyond just listening to music by yourself. You know joining a band, having fun, really helping you develop your life and social skills and all those sorts of things so it’s beyond just the music. Especially I think the music that we play, it’s sort of I guess specialist music, maybe not specialist but I would say people listen to metal not just because they want to be cool but they like the music and feel passionate about something, not because it’s trendy or because it’s a cool thing to be into. At least that’s what I think anyway, so you can have longterm friends that are still into it.

Definitely, the metal family is the best family in the world. That was all really great to hear and thank you so, so very much for joining here at We Love Metal, talking to us about the album and personal details. With the way the world is, Reaching Into Infinity, could not have come at a better time I would say. The new album will be in stores May 19, 2017. Thanks again Herman and we will see you on the road!

Herman: Yeah thank you very much. Thank you for having me.


Related Articles: Album Review: Dragonforce – Maximum Overload | WLM Interviews: Matt Marinelli of Borealis | Album Review: Kamelot – Haven

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