DragonForce Guitarist Herman Li Talks ‘Maximum Overload,’ ‘In the Line of Fire’ Concert DVD + More
With the release of their latest album Maximum Overload, DragonForce graced New York City during a stop on their recent North American tour. We had the pleasure of talking with speedy guitarist Herman Li about the band’s latest musical release as well as their first ever live concert DVD, In the Line of Fire. He also chatted about working with Trivium’s Matt Heafy and maintaining friendships in the music industry. Check out our interview with Herman Li of Dragonforce below:
Maximum Overload was released last summer. What do you enjoy most about performing these latest tracks live now?
I just enjoy playing live, the songs are different you have even faster songs than before. Certain songs are slower but we do a good mixture. I think the songs on the new album create a more dynamic set. On our first few albums everything was fast and then a ballad. I think now we have some that are different kind of tempos which is good, sometimes people can’t handle how fast we are.
Matt Heafy of Trivium provided guest vocals on the tracks "Defenders," "No More" and "The Game" on the album. How important is friendship between bands and musicians in this industry?
I think now it’s more important than ever before. It’s kind of a tough industry in music, I think every industry got tougher. Everyone has to work together these days, anyone in any profession has to work harder and get less out of it. We get on well with most people and not because we’re pretending to be friendly, we’re a pretty happy bunch and easy going kind of guys. Matt is a great guy, we’ve traveled with Trivium a couple of times so it was great of him to give us a hand.
Sometimes fans like to say, “This band is better than that band,” but the good bands that I like, we don’t see it that way. You can go to see more than one band in your life, you can like more than one band, listen to more than one album and buy more than one T-shirt. It’s not some stupid thing like an iPhone versus and Android phone. There’s so much more you can enjoy and I like people that think like that in the music industry.
You’ve stated that the title and artwork were for Maximum Overload was inspired by "the constant bombardment of information we are subjected to during our daily lives.” How do you think technology has positively and negatively affected your music?
Well when we first started, the internet was kind of young. We were so exploited for commercial reasons at that time before the whole internet boom. Later on it changes, now people believe they shouldn’t pay for any music and that they should be given things. It’s the way the generations and music has translated and changed. Internet leveled the playing field back then, not now. Back then commercial stuff came in, now we’re not on a level playing field. Now you can pay to get your streams targeted.
How have you adapted to new technology throughout your career?
Musically you can’t really change the technology. If you’re supposed to perform some kind of art, if you’re supposed to create something, if you’re getting influenced by what’s around you constantly and continuously then you can make a decision yourself. That’s the reason we started Dragonforce because we wanted to play and hear some kind of music that hasn’t been played by bands that we like. So instead of moaning and b----ing about it on the internet let’s be a band and pick up guitars and do it this way, we like hearing it this way.
In The Line of Fire DVD – seeing the clip of Three Hammers, the crowd was incredible. How was that show for you and how did you feel seeing clips of it?
The footage from “Three Hammers,” the video is from the DVD but the audio is from the album. I synched the audio with the live footage, the reason is I didn’t want to give away what the DVD sounds like. I edited the DVD from the beginning to the end. Every single shot from the show I did, the only thing I didn’t edit was the backstage footage but I was on tour with my laptop and hard drives and everything and editing the 10 to 15 cameras. I did it myself on tour but then my laptop exploded though. After all of that it burned the laptop down.
It was really cool. I played it to a few people to get an opinion from a person who wasn’t the editor and I wanted their honest opinion and they said they wouldn’t change anything. I like to do things myself, I’m not crazy at micro-managing but I know the DragonForce show better than anyone else and I know which cameras are best to use at different times.
One thing about it, I didn’t want to edit it to make it look like a technical DVD, meaning only for musicians to stare at the fingers. I wanted to make it an exciting show that people who don’t play an instrument go, “Wow, this looks great.” There’s certain stuff I like for musicians, the way the camera cuts is much slower so people can stare at the fingers. I wanted an exciting dynamic show.
At the end of the day watching a DVD is great but nothing beats the reality of the live show. The worst two things, is watching it on YouTube and going to a show and watching it through your camera on your phone while you’re there and you lose all of the magic of the show.
When I was editing the DVD, a lot of times I didn’t know which camera to pick because everyone was doing something, one was jumping in the air, one was running, that was the difficulty I had, sometimes I couldn’t make a decision. I didn’t want to do too much split screen crazy stuff that made it look like I edited on iMovie or something. [Laughs]
Did you get to go to a lot of shows when you were younger? If so, was their one impactful show that made you want to play guitar onstage?
I did, I still go to a lot of them now. One of the shows that I really remember that blew me away was Steve Vai on the Sex & Religion tour in 1993. I was probably 16. I still look at shows and think it’s great but you look at it differently because you know how to do certain things. I’m absorbing, back then I was inspired and now I’m learning when I go to a show.
What are your thoughts on the vast difference in fans that you play to when you look at the massive crowd in the In the Line of Fire DVD and then experience a smaller club show in the States?
It’s the way different countries work, the U.S. is a fast moving country. There are a lot of bands and sometimes a band may play a big room and then next time they do a small room. It’s really hard to calculate, it’s about maximum overload. You’re bombarded with so much information you’ve almost forgotten what you’ve liked because there’s so much stuff they’re trying to get you to buy, to listen to and you can’t control it.
A stubborn artist like me, I know exactly what I want and you’re not going to change my mind. A lot of people get easily influenced sometimes and it’s just the way things work in society. Sometimes people can’t go to that many shows any more or they go, “Well I saw that last time, I’m going to go here this time.” I enjoy shows that are in massive stadiums to these shows because we give a different experience. When we did the metal cruise, I played under the water, I wanted to do something fun.
What does the rest of 2015 have in store for you and the rest of Dragonforce?
Along with the DVD, we’re just touring for a long time on this album. We’ve been away quite a bit to be honest, we did a few shows and tour in 2012 and before that was 2009 so we’ve had lots of gaps. We’re trying to remind people that DragonForce is back! Let’s see what they’ll say.
Our thanks to Herman Li for taking the time to chat with us. DragonForce's 'In the Line of Fire' DVD arrives July 10. Pre-orders are available here.
Watch the "Three Hammers" Video off of Dragonforce's In the Line of Fire DVD