Five minutes alone with DragonForce's Herman Li

A portrait of Herman Li with guitar
Herman Li: he\u2019s finger-picking good (Image credit: TimoJaeger)

Are you looking forward to your UK tour this autumn? A lot of people are excited that you’re doing so many shows.

“We haven’t done many UK shows in those sized venues for a while, so we’re spreading it out and doing more, smaller shows. A lot of people prefer to be up close with the band instead of having to travel from all over to one London show.”

Bassist Frédéric Leclercq has done a lot of writing on the new album. Did his Sinsaenum project give him a new lease of life?

“We try to make use of everyone’s skills, which is something we didn’t do much at the beginning of the band. I don’t think Sinsaenum made too much of a difference, because there are still so many ideas we haven’t been able to put into Dragonforce yet, and if you introduce too many new ideas you lose focus. It’s cool that he’s written all these death metal songs over the years and got to get them out there.”

What’s your favourite thing on Reaching Into Infinity?

“We have done our most epic, long song so far, The Edge Of The World, which is 11 minutes long. Fans have been asking us to do something like that. Believe it or not, it’s not fast all the way through! There are some songs on the album that are a bit thrashy, but it’s still very melodic with big choruses. I hate the word ‘heavier’ – it’s overused and doesn’t mean anything – but it has riffs to balance out all the shredding. It’s our most diverse album, which continues the evolution on from our last album. There are a lot of epic lyrics and storylines, but there’s also personal stuff, like a song called Silence, which is about a friend of Fréd’s who died by suicide.”

Power metal is still enjoying a revival. What part do you think you played in its resurgence?

“I guess [2006’s] Inhuman Rampage is one of the biggest power metal albums. It was a worldwide thing, so it got a lot of people into it, mixed with Guitar Hero. I think that had some influence. However, it’s important we get new bands. All the big bands were around way before us, so we need new bands to connect to our generation and the ones younger. Luckily, we’ve always had a good mix of younger and older fans, and now it’s continually getting younger. We’re pretty inoffensive to listen to – there isn’t any swearing because swearing’s not epic.”

Speaking of Guitar Hero, that was now 10 years ago. It was a big moment for you guys, but people forget that you’d already laid the groundwork beforehand.

“It was because of all those things happening that generated the excitement for us to be in Guitar Hero. All the bands in Guitar Hero were bigger than us and had been around a lot longer than us, so we were the new young band that made it onto the game because of the buzz that had been happening. By the time we made it onto the game we’d already been touring Inhuman Rampage for hundreds of shows. To be honest, in the metal scene, we were as big before Guitar Hero as we were after. It reached a lot of people outside of metal, but they weren’t people who came to the show. Just because it reached beyond the underground it didn’t mean all these people got into metal. I was really happy with how the band was before Guitar Hero came out, with the touring all around the world before the game. It wasn’t something that we had to have, and who knows what would have happened if Guitar Hero didn’t exist? We’d still be here. We’re still here and they’re not!”

Reaching Into Infinity is out now via earMUSIC. DragonForce tour the UK this Autumn

Dragonforce are playing Chicago Open Air, which takes place July 14-16, where we’ll be celebrating 30 Years of Metal Hammer. Tickets on sale now.

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Adam Brennan

Rugby, Sean Bean and power ballad superfan Adam has been writing for Hammer since 2007, and has a bad habit of constructing sentences longer than most Dream Theater songs. Can usually be found cowering at the back of gigs in Bristol and Cardiff. Bruce Dickinson once called him a 'sad bastard'.