Recently, DragonForce’s Herman Li sat down with the famous founder of PRS Guitars, Paul Reed Smith, to discuss all things guitar. Herman, who’s the band’s lead guitar player and creative force, reflected on the band’s uncompromised power metal style and how a certain portion of rock and metal fans weren’t fond of such musical direction when they emerged on the scene in the early 2000s. He said (transcript via Blabbermouth):
“Looking back now, and I still remember, the only reason we were playing music is because we enjoyed it. And we wanted to play onstage. I’ve always thought the experience of performing in front of an audience was exciting; same thing with Sam [Totman].“
“But we made this band, and we thought, ‘Well, in order to play live, we’ve gotta make demos and we have to get record deals. That’s the only way we can get on tour and have a great time.’“
“And at that time, when we started the band, playing guitar solos, any kind of technical, melodic [music] — with melodic singing — was kind of being laughed at a lot around the world, especially in England and America.“
“People laughed at us: ‘Oh, you guys play solos. That is so yesterday. Who cares?’ And, ‘You guys have singing. That’s so cheesy.'”
However, instead of backing down, Herman said that they opted to double down and go one step further. He continued:
“So what happened is it actually made us do more of everything that people [were] laughing at us for. So we made double the amount of guitar solos, made it more melodic [with lots of] harmonies. It was kind of like a ‘F.U.’ way to say, ‘You don’t like what we play? Well, you know what? We’re gonna go an extra mile and take it to another level to the extreme.'”
“That’s what happened. And as the albums went on, we took it to another level. And people didn’t really like it at the beginning. They thought, ‘This is too fast, too much guitars.’“
The strategy, fortunately, worked well for Herman and DragonForce as the trends eventually shifted and virtuosic guitar solos once again got their much-earned respect back, as well as new listeners. He said:
“But slowly, the world kind of turned around and we were the only people at that time that went up with that kind of extreme guitar playing on to the mainstream; it kind of exploded.”
“And, of course, I had to have the longest hair, because if you’re gonna have long hair, [you should have it] the longest. Go most crazy. Trampoline on stage, everything — the clock, everything. You name it. We tried to go one up. More was more.“
“And that’s kind of how it came about. And it defined our sound, was going against the grain of what was popular at that time.”
The band’s approach is also present on their latest album, 2019’s “Extreme Power Metal.” The title and the whole concept of this record also reflect on DragonForce being looked down upon by some metal fans over the years. There’s the over-the-top album cover as well as the band’s response on the matter.
Herman Li never took these accusations, or outright insults, too seriously. He did his own thing and played it cool with his humorous approach, something that we can also notice through his social media accounts. And there’s also that whole guitar playing in the pool thing that Herman Li did a few years ago. All things considered, he doesn’t seem to mind the critique or any potential negative reactions to the band’s music.
As of this writing, late 2022, DragonForce has eight studio albums and two live albums. In 2019, their longtime bassist Frédéric Leclercq left the band to join Kreator. After some time, DragonForce officially planned to recruit guitar YouTuber Stevie T as their new bass player. Eventually, in January 2020, they hired Alicia Vigil. There are plans for new music but we’re yet to hear news on this.
Photo: Michael Stollmann (Herman Li – Dragonforce – Foto by Michael Stollmann – fotoglut)