Dragonforce visited Finland in the end of May with Wasp. The second show in Helsinki got cancelled because Wasp-frontman Blackie Lawless' illness and their first show, well, they didn't even manage to get to the scene in Rauma! So what was left were Turku, first show in Helsinki and Tampere. With my luck I was going to the cancelled show in Helsinki, it would've been the second Dragonforce show for me. The first show I saw the guys ran out of luck also, their drummer left just a day earlier prior to Sweden Rock. But they found a replacement and still everything went all wrong. As I was doing this interview with the guys on their tourbus next to Tavastia Club I had to confess Herman Li (guitar) that I'm a sign of bad luck, that's why everytime they meet me shit happens. Herman politely let me know I'm not welcomed to their shows anymore, of course joking about it. I still managed to see them in Tampere the next day though, so all's well that ends well. Due to other assignments this interview is only possible to publish now, but enjoy.

RockUnited - You've only been together since '99. How well has the chemistry worked in the band ?

Herman - It's better now I think. This tour we thought we're gonna hate each other, 'cos we see each other every day, but it's been cool, we party hard every night. But everything's been good so far.

RockUnited - Have you dealed with any problems other than member changes ?

Herman - I think all the changes have been for the better each time, you know, get better musicians and so on. Our new bassist Adrian really has taken the band into a new level.

RockUnited - So you're like good buddies with each other ?

Adrian (Lambert, bass) - No, I can't stand any of them (laughs).

RockUnited - How has the multicultural side shown in the band ?

Herman - That's the worst thing ever actually. We've got so much problems with passports and visas. This tour almost didn't kick off because of the paper problems. There's lots of disadvantages. We had problems going to Japan, Thailand, Europe. But apart from that it's cool.

RockUnited - But Vadim (Pruzhanov, keys) didn't end up in jail in Thailand then ?!

Herman - Well someone said you can go to Thailand and get your visa there and everyone was saying different things. But in the end he got the visa and stayed in Germany for another day.

Adrian - The (internet) diary was actually exaggerating things a little bit.

Herman - The jails are quite nice in Thailand if you've seen in the movies...

RockUnited - Since all of you come from different countries do you think London is the best place for the band to live in now, is it easy to go on tour from there and do things ?

Herman - It's quite strange, 'cos there's four people from different countries and we just played and that was it. People always brought that up. But that's where we live and that's where we met, so that's where we're going to stay so far. I think it's cool actually.

RockUnited - And London nightlife is great.

Herman - Yeah, but it's actually cooler here, 'cos no one knows you. You can do whatever you want.

RockUnited - So you gotta move here.

Herman - Yeah. We're kinda hammering each town as we go.

RockUnited - How do the english fans feel about your music ?

Herman - Surprisingly we thought the UK part of the tour would be the worst part, but that's been kinda wild so far. We even signed a couple of tits and asses. We're almost like Mötley Crüe, hah !

Adrian - There's so many fans there we didn't know about. Obviously a lot of Wasp-fans, but a lot of Dragonforce fans too. The reception was great, very excited.

RockUnited - All the members have drawn musical influences from almost any genre of music, from aor to death metal, but you still manage to keep your music very fast. What is the magic in that ?

Adrian - (the band laughs) Speed's a lot of fun and it's good for headbanging.

Herman - Well, you can do melodic songs. The fast bands have a lot of energy, but aren't that melodic. So you kind of stay in between to get the best out of everything, that's what we're trying to do. You get the energy from different styles. Some people say we're not original, but try finding an album where any elements wouldn't be a cross between (something). You don't have to sound like complitely weird and off another planet to be original. You can play hard rock or progressive metal or whatever and sound original. But it's because the songs are catchy people say they've heard them a million times, but there's always the other elements that make the difference.

RockUnited - You have this jazz-prog part in one of your songs, which complitely strikes out from there.

Herman - Yeah, it's from that to playing on stage. Some original ideas from (almost) playing with no drummer to playing improperly jumping around. We're quite original actually. Every band would've cancelled Sweden Rock (referring to their catastrophic show in Sweden in 2003).

RockUnited - But you're still able to play everything live that you play on the album ?

Herman - Yeah, that's why we're on this tour. The second time you see us you don't see anything and we're actually kicking ass on this tour. Disappointing really. People don't think we can play that fast, they think it must be a computer or so, but we play faster live. No backing vocals from tapes. So if we sound a little bit rough, you know why.

Adrian - Everything is played live, every part. No backing tracks, everything is coming straight from the instruments.

RockUnited - I personally know what an amazing guitarist you are. But the people who don't know must be wondering.

Herman - Well, at least we got the show last night, so it's been cool.

RockUnited - You seem to drink quite a lot. Do you feel like you'll manage all the fuss much better like this, the traditional musicians lifestyle ?

Herman - So far we've been told to party too hard. But every night we do our shows. I think it's some excuse for the record label to ruin the party. Or the tour manager, 'cos they don't drink as much as us. Every night we play a show we party hard until the morning.

RockUnited - But you don't go onstage drunk ?

Herman - Well, we still play the same either way. I can't speak for Sam's sake, but you know. Some people play better when they drink a couple of beers. The first six shows when we started this the tour I was drinking and the last few shows I didn't. And I played exactly the same, there's no difference. Since Japan we've had beer can-microphone stands with straws. Because the songs are so fast there's no time to stop and drink. But halfway through the show the cans are empty anyway.

Adrian - Staggering around, wondering on stage and wondering where we are. We video every show, so we know when we've been bad.

RockUnited - How long do you think you can keep up this kind of lifestyle then ?

Herman - I don't know, ask Sam. Sam is the person. I think the first one who's gonna need a liver transplant is Sam anyway. But hey, you're finnish ! How can I hear a finnish person saying you drink too much ?! I haven't seen so many drunken people out before Wasp started playing this tour. One guy was asking our autographs four times !

RockUnited - Is musicians life really a dream come true for all of you and what's best there ?

Herman - I think we're in the coolest part so far, just having fun and playing. It's been cool so far really. No complaints on this tour. It's been pretty wild actually.


RockUnited - You've gotten great votes in magazines like Burrn! (Japan), in the annual reader's poll for 2003 Dragonforce found place as Brightest Hope: (3rd), Best Album of 2003: (11th) with "Valley Of The Damned", Import Chart 2003: (9th) and Best Guitarist: Herman Li (32nd). What has the feedback been about "Sonic" otherwise ? It's even faster and more powerful than your previous material ?

Herman - I think it's a love and hate kinda thing. Some people like it and some people hate it because there's so much solos and it's so fast and they're just complaining the songs are so long. And the people who like us don't get the kind of speed and guitar from other bands. But it's black and white really. I know the reviews in Germany weren't as good as in other countries. And you'd expect them to like it, but...

RockUnited - I have here the review of your latest album by Urban from RockUnited. What do you think about it, he gave you a seven ?

Herman - I don't really care. He can say what he wants and we just do what we want. I don't really care what reviewers give us. We're gonna keep doing the same thing, so they're not going to stop us.

RockUnited - What do you think about the album yourselves ?

Herman - I think it's the best thing ever, that's why we do it. What we want to do without sounding like idiots is try to make something that no one else hasn't done or our own heroes haven't done. Making catchy songs and lots of melodies, fast and catchy. And good production. So everything we make we listen to ourselves all the time. It's not like you just do it and go on tour just like that. We do it how we want to hear it.

RockUnited - And the new album is always the best !

Herman - Yeah, actually. I haven't heard anything like it before in my life. But it's your own music and your own band. If you don't like it and what you're doing...

Sam (Totman, guitar) - Actually what I've heard is you already got one good album and that was ages ago...

Herman - But we've already said that when we start making shitty albums we'll call it a day.

Adrian - But this band has a lot more to offer. I mean the three months every day everyone was in a different studio working their nuts off and the energy was just incredible.

RockUnited - What has the reception in Japan been like for the album ?

Herman - That's been really cool, the tour with Helloween. I think the fans in the UK are crazier, stage diving and surfing. So they're crazy but in their own different way. They don't run and jump on each other, throw each other across you know. But it's been kinda succesful down there to get there on the first album.

RockUnited - They probably love your Asian appearance in Japan ?

Herman - I don't know actually. I thought they like blonde guys. Maybe we have more the musicianship that they like about us more than the looks. Oh, we got both actually (laughs).

RockUnited - How was the whole album recording process then ?

Herman - I think it was three and half months in two studios at the same time. We learned it from the first album that because the songs are so long and everything else and its faster, so there's much more things every second on the album, so it takes much longer to record it with so many instruments. So we took two studios at the same time to get a really good production and everything. Basically the first album were nothing to reference to. You can reference it power metal, because of the speed and the way it is.

RockUnited - So was it any fun in the studios ?

Herman - It's a nightmare isn't it. It's so much hard work but in the end you're "oh yes (sighs), we've done it". We didn't sleep for three days the last couple of days, constantly doing it really. I remember I didn't sleep for three days and then flew to Germany to get the album remastered and things like that. But it's worth it, 'cos now we're on tour, although we've got a show cancelled. Two shows now.

RockUnited - What is the bands favourite from the new songs ?

Adrian - My favourite's "Fields Of Despair". I think It's got the catchy chorus, really good solos. I don't know about these guys.

Herman - I don't have a favourite, I think they're all good, though they've got different parts I like on different songs. With "Prepare For War" there's like blast beat in the chorus which I think is actually really cool. Blast beats in chorus only happen in death and black metal. "Soldiers Of The Wasteland" in nine minutes has got some cool stuff. No special favourite yet.

RockUnited - I also like all the songs, though so far I've only listened to the new album twice.

Herman - So it wasn't that good then ? (laughs)

RockUnited - Haven't had the time really.

Herman - Oh yeah.


RockUnited - What about the old songs, do you still play them live ?

Herman - We still play them on this tour. We play half new and half old, that's what we do. Maybe a bit more old sometimes. We've played "Fields Of Despair" only once on this tour. We're just mixing and matching, so we don't get bored at the same set.

Adrian - Sometimes we play ballads and sometimes the whole set is heavy songs. Just mix it so it's different every night.

RockUnited - Have you ever thought you might be influenced by Rhapsody when looking at your song titles, or is it just an overall result of the power metal genre, every band dealing with the same issues ?

Herman - I think they're completely different. Absolutely nothing of Rhapsody in the titles. And the new album has nothing like that, but it's a self-interpretation thing. All the lyrics are not really fantasy, but people always interpret them that way. We always aim for some kind of subject, some words are easier to use in songs, so we kinda pick them up. But with using the name Dragonforce you're gonna get pigeonholed into that. But I don't really care.

RockUnited - But the same words are used often there.

Herman - You think so ? I don't think so, because the lyrics don't really rhyme. There's always a small storyline you read through.

RockUnited - How do you feel like writing ballads, maybe somehow being forced to write them or do you like them personally ?

Herman - Dragonforce loves their female fans, that's why...I mean, we've gotten influences from hard rock and stuff, so it's good to have slow songs. But I think every song we write always has a slow part in the middle. And we're not just trying to show that we can only play fast.

RockUnited - There's two lines in "Dawn Over A New World" with resemblance to the Skid Row-ballad "I Remember You".

Herman - When you make a catchy song, that's what people say is unoriginal. But how am I supposed to do it then ?


RockUnited - Many have been critizicing you for having so much and so long solos. What is the idea there, do you feel your music is more guitar oriented after all ?

Herman - No one complained about Iron Maiden or Judas Priest doing their solos. It's just a thing that people got used to when Nirvana came out who played less solos. Now everyone is used to short solos and four minute songs, compared to the 80's you just shred away through. And if you can't play guitar in heavy metal, where are you going to play it ? And I've never understood why people don't like hearing guitar in metal. You can't just have keyboards in metal.

RockUnited - The usual power metal fans don't have the interest to solos. They like to have a quick and fast package.

Herman - But the thing is they're not even quick or fast. They have much slower tempo. But we're not trying to be Britney Spears in the radio you know, three minute songs. I don't think we have no reason writing short songs, like a full album of them. If you have a single or a video you can edit your songs, but our songs were meant to be this way. No compromising with this kind of commercial three minute radio stuff. And it's also part of playing, when you play onstage your solo's shredding there, it's much more cooler. That's where our influences come from, that kind of Judas Priest, Maiden solos. But taking it in the way like Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, the way they've taken the guitar to another way.

RockUnited - How do you do the guitar parts, do you work on them a lot ?

Herman - Say on the album, the fast solos like double solo, Sam and I would both play like a harmonized solo. But live he has to learn my solos and I have to learn his with the same exact technique and we just play together. You don't really work it out, you just play it when the tape runs. Sam kinda worked them out a little bit.

RockUnited - And whatever comes out your mind you just record it ?

Herman - That's why it took so long to record it. Spend it all on solos.

RockUnited - Do you think you can get any faster than this and what happens if your fingers stopped co-operating, something that aging also does ?

Herman - That's a good question. I don't know. We play faster live, that's for sure. But I lose it when I fall on the floor. I've fallen three times now, I've got bruises on my legs and everything, 'cos we jump in the air while we play. We've got this box in the middle where we jump off. And sometimes there's another guys leg or something and you just trip. I cut my arm and my neck in the first show in Finland, I fell over.

RockUnited - You have to insure your hand.

Herman - Yeah, it's like a football pitcher, falling over.

RockUnited - In some show you fell over and you still continued playing the solo. That was great.

Herman - We were stage surfing while doing the solos. Sam picked me up and chummed me in the crowd. It was during the last "Valley Of The Damned" solo, some launch party show. The last show of the tour. Sam was jumping in the crowd while doing a solo.

RockUnited - I can imagine you having the guitar glued in your hands while flying through the air.

Herman - That was fun. And then there was a stage invasion, everyone came on stage.


RockUnited - How has the finnish shows gone so far, you've only got one show left tomorrow if all goes well ?

Herman - The first show in Turku was really cool. I mean the stage was great and the crowd was pretty crazy. It was the first time we played there and last night was really good too. The stage was smaller, so you've got a different kind of set. We weren't jumping that much and things like that. Last night the crowd was quiet, they only clapped in the end of the song.

RockUnited - You missed your Rauma show because of a ferry ticket mishap. Is this the truth ?

Herman - It's absolutely true. We had to stay in the hotel in Stockholm. The next day we took the ferry and we didn't get any cabins ! There was this cleaner room, we went and locked ourselves in and crashed out. Dragonforce, the fighting machine. Nothing's gonna bring us down ! But we got our cabins and they were really comfortable. Well except ZP (Theart, vocals) and Dave (Mackintosh, drums), they got a different cabin and some guy walked in with the key, so they got kicked out of theirs.

RockUnited - Have you had a lot of your own fans at the shows ?

Herman - Depends on the countries, but in Holland there were so many of them. And last night there were more than the night before. In England there's lots except Bradford. So it's kinda strange, sometimes there's lots and sometimes none.

RockUnited - You went to check out some Helsinki nightlife last night, what was it like ? (the whole band laughs)

Herman - It was fun.

Adrian - We got back at about five in the morning.

Herman - But I'm not gonna tell you what we did last night.

Adrian - Some things are best kept a secret.

RockUnited - You've also been in Patpong in Thailand. (crazy laughter from everyone)

Herman - I wasn't there man ! But you know about Patpong, so you must've been there too.

RockUnited - Gotta admit, it's a tourist attraction after all...How did your guitar clinics in Taiwan go ?

Herman - The first one had problems, I broke a string on the first song and there was no back up guitar. My other guitar was sent back home from Japan, so I only had one guitar there. And the tape was running. All kinds of funny things happened. But it was cool to play something like that, small place, for the kids. I'd do it again. There was this Chinese guy in Taiwan speaking a different Chinese language and in the end they had to translate what we spoke. It was kinda funny, 'cos I speak Cantonese and he spoke Mandarin.

RockUnited - What has been the best part of your tour so far ?

Herman - I thought last night was really cool. Pretty much every night is good, we try to behave when we come back to the bus, but there's some strange shit happening on this tour, I tell you that.

Adrian - The best party we've had was last night and the night before. I'm writing the diary again of this tour, so when we finish it'll all be up on the internet. There's some pretty funny stuff.

RockUnited - How has Wasp been treating you then ?

Herman - Good, the guys in the band are cool. No complaining. We've got our own bus anyhow.

RockUnited - Must've been great to meet your idols ?

Herman - Yeah, but it's not like we're starstruck like when we first started. We also played with Helloween.

RockUnited - You've headlined your own shows already, but also supported bands like Halford, Stratovarius and Virgin Steele for instance and now Wasp. What has been the best tour for you as a support band ?

Adrian - It's weird actually, 'cos we're partying harder on this tour. Japan was pretty special, 'cos so few bands get to go there. It was a cool experience. But Helloween obviously, heavy metal legends.

Herman - I actually think this one is better. Japan was good too, but in a different way. Japan was probably better with the hotels, food and the stages were bigger. They've got much bigger venues than here.

Adrian - And they treated us really well.

RockUnited - They treat every band well there I think.

Herman - But even us !

RockUnited - Do you like playing festivals more than clubs ?

Herman - Doesn't make any difference I think.

Adrian - We're not festival crazy, but probably want to see the other bands. But festivals are helluva lot of fun.

Herman - We haven't done that many festivals and we don't count Sweden Rock, that wasn't real performance. Festivals have their own thing, but maybe clubs so far. We've got Gods Of Metal on this tour. It depends where you're playing. Sometimes clubs can be really shitty, 'cos you've got no towels on stage and you're sweating into your eyes. We definately don't stand still so we get really sweaty.

RockUnited - And for clubs you usually have your own fans.

Herman - When we do the headlining tour it's the best, 'cos we've got our own crowd. And we can do what we want, get our own food. So it's really different.

RockUnited - There was some incident with the Helloween catering, you wiped out two plates of their food.

Adrian - That was my fault. I take full responsibility and I apologize. The door only said "catering". (Later someone had added "Helloween's catering room" to the door).

RockUnited - How was the audience in South East Asia ?

Herman - Bangkok was really cool. We didn't expect to play there at all. There were loads of crazy people and they all understood when we spoke english.

Adrian - I remember at one point the fans were grabbing Sam's leg. They were trying to pull him into the crowd, he was losing his leg and was trying to play.

Herman - They definately don't let go. And I guess everyone knows about the Japanese fans. They get really quiet sometimes. When you're talking, they try to concentrate on listening to you. But they do sing all the songs.

RockUnited - What is the usual Dragonforce fan like ?

Herman - They're really pretty females...and then we wake up and go "dough!" (wicked laughter). But we're moving on in England, we've got young beautiful female fans there. I think English fans are a bit different, 'cos there's no powermetal crown in England. Our fans listen to Slipknot and stuff like that. So it's a bit different scene, a mixed crowd of powermetal fans and the other ones listening to whatever. But usually the fans are like in every other place. When we first started, we had an old crowd, but now we've got both old and young. I think we're reaching all kinds of audiences now.

RockUnited - You've got fans in diapers and such.

Herman - YEAH ! I remember there was this guy with a gas mask. We were driving down and saw these kids who were definately coming to the gig and they were fucking mental.

RockUnited - We all know what catastrophy Sweden Rock 2003 was for you guys, but you still had a helluva show. What gave you the strength to carry on the show when everything was going down the hill big time and what feedback have you gotten about it ?

Herman - Some people really liked it, I mean they've got some special booze down there...but people might think the sound was shit and stuff, but the stage presence really beat the fuck out. A lot of bands were just standing still and playing properly. Eventhough some people were walking and wondering what the hell is the noise down there, just keyboards and singing happening. But we still give our 100 percent whatever happens.

RockUnited - You were really brave.

Adrian - We had some decisions to make. Either pull off the show and disappoint a lot of fans or do our best. And we did our best and that included the best we could play in the situation and the best performance. We went all the way to Sweden and we weren't just gonna stand and be miserable.

Herman - The funny thing is apart from the drummer problems, the microphone stopped working and the guitars stopped working. Evil forces were at large. We saw dark clouds coming over as well. I don't regret playing at the end of the day, it didn't destroy us, 'cos we've played shows before. But if it was our first show ever, people would've thought we were crap and can't play. But because we've been playing shows before we got signed, people might not take it that way.

RockUnited - You're going to the USA in the fall and after that UK. What are you expecting from those shows, after all US isn't the best place for metal bands right now ?

Herman - I have no idea what to expect yet from that. It's the first time we play there. But I think England should be cool, the headlining shows. There's some wild shit happening backstage. And then we're gonna go back to Japan again.

RockUnited - What is the dream show for Dragonforce ?

Herman - Do our own headlining shows and do whatever we want and have whatever we want concerning the stage sets and stuff. I think the dream show isn't supporting your heroes. Of course it's cool, but in the end you should do it your own way and the way you want it to bring the band across. And show the 100 percent. When you support you can't show what you can do, there's not much room to work in and the soundchecks.

RockUnited - Adrian has another band called Intense. Tell us about it.

Adrian - I can't really say too much about it. I don't work with them on a full time basis, I just help them out whenever I can. They've got some shows at the moment and I'm here with Dragonforce. They've got someone else, don't know who. I haven't spoken to the guys for a little while.

Adrian joined Intense in 2003, but their homepages inform they've had a new bass player since May 2004, so Adrian's now out.

RockUnited - As for Dave, you're quitting Bal-Sagoth after Wacken ?

Dave - Yeah, Wacken is the last live show I'll do with them and I'm doing the sixth album provided I'm not busy with Dragonforce. Have to prioritise. It's a shame really, 'cos I love the guys. The seven years have been a blast, good fun. I've ran out of time I'm afraid.

RockUnited saw Bal-Sagoth in Wacken, but Dave wasn't playing the drums anymore. That show was really energetic also, so Dave's found a very similar band in Dragonforce concerning speed and energy to continue from. But back to Dragonforce.

RockUnited - Do you see any change in the future in your music or are you keeping the furious speed ?

Herman - Hard to say. But we're definately not going to cut down the songs to three minutes or solos out. It's gonna be catchy and all that.

RockUnited - Have you written any new songs yet ?

Herman - No, we decided not to write new songs until we need to. So we can capture the band and the sound the way it is at the moment.

RockUnited - Now you have the freedom to say whatever you feel like to the fans and everyone.

Herman - We fuck your girlfriends...

Adrian - But basically, if you're into Dragonforce, believe me you're into the coolest band on the planet.

And we all took off to the London Pub, where we sat a few hours. Later the band continued their journey to the club On The Rocks where the guys had a blast. But we can't tell you all the secrets, now can we ? Read about the evening in London Pub from our "Live On Stage"-section, under "Wasp In Finland".

Interview: Satu Reunanen,
Pictures: Kari Helenius,

(C)2004 RockUnited.com