repeat any licks that you have used 100
times before. Every album gets harder and
harder. I will split it up with one bar of
something fast and then maybe a melody
thing for a few bars—something that people can remember. From there, I might do
a funny noise or some technique. It’s really
a bar-by-bar process. The next step is to go
back and learn the whole thing and see if
it sounds good together. I think Herman
improvises them over the actual album
and then takes whatever one sounds best.
He might play five in a row or five takes
of one solo and then pick out the bits he
likes. I think he writes his solos quite a lot
faster than me.
Li: For my solos I took a standing-up,
improvising approach where I don’t even
look at the computer. If it sounds good,
it’s good enough for me. In the old days I
was obsessed with looking at the screen and
seeing if I played it right or not. We try to
approach it in a more organic way.
Li: The songs “Cry Thunder” and “Fallen
World” changed. After playing it live, I ended
up doing a different solo on the album.
Was there a solo on the new album that
was particularly challenging?
Li: It varied from song to song. For example, “Give Me the Night” was either the
first or second take. We just went straight
for it. Some songs took a long time, like
I did the solo two months before and I
would revisit it and end up changing it.
Do you stick to the same solos from the
album when you perform live?
Totman: I pretty much stick to mine how
they are. I think it’s cool when I go see a
band, or see a band’s DVD when I was
younger, and notice how they changed it
a little bit. I would never want them to
change it completely.
Even though you mentioned you wanted
to stay away from longer songs, “Wings
of Liberty” sounds like a return to your
Totman: That’s what I call a more typical
DragonForce song. That was the nightmare
of the whole album for me. I just couldn’t
get it together at all. For probably over a
year I couldn’t get a middle section. I considered getting rid of it the whole time. This
Pro Tools session I have for the demo was
about 15 minutes long with all the different bits. I would put some in and then take
them out and try new things. I went over to
Fred’s [Frédéric Leclercq, DragonForce bass-ist] and asked him to please try and write
a middle section for this song. There are so
many bits and pieces to it—I guess that’s
why it came out the length it did.
DragonForce is known for playing at
insanely fast tempos, but “Cry Thunder”
shows a different side of the band.
Li: In the old days we said we were never
going to do a mid-tempo song. Guess what?
Here is a mid-tempo song. We play a lot
of fast solos and songs over that 200 bpm
beat, so let’s see if we can pull the tempo
down and see if we can express music differently. It forces us to evolve because when
you play fast all the time you might start to
play a lot of the same licks and ideas.
Totman: The first thing I think of when
I am writing a song is what drum beat it’s
going to have. I thought okay, I will do a
song that has a 6/8 [sings beat], or whatever
the technical word for that beat is. Then
it has that Irish-sounding melody. I have
always thought Irish music was quite cool
with that folky kind of sound. I think it
came together more easily because I had
written so many songs at that same 200
bpm tempo, it was hard to think of something new. I had never written anything at
that [slower] speed before, and it came out
Watch herman Li and Sam totman
deLiver their futuriStic
brand of Shred to the maSSeS.
While opening for Iron Maiden in Belfast, new vocalist Marc
Hudson tackles one of the most challenging DragonForce songs.
You Tube search term: DragonForce – “Through The Fire and
Flames” live Odyssey - Belfast 2011 (With Marc Hudson)
“Fury of the Storm,” one of the band’s most popular songs, is
full of “over the top” guitar pyrotechnics by both Li, who abuses
the whammy bar on his Ibanez, and Totman, who is seen here
playing a Jackson V. Don’t miss the section at 0: 36.
You Tube search term: Fury of the Storm ( Live in Japan 2004 )
DragonForce plays some new material while introducing their
new singer on a short promotional tour. Armed with their signature Ibanez guitars, Li and Totman play Celtic-inspired dual
leads at 2: 29.
You Tube search term: DragonForce (Live 10/21/11 NYC
“Cry Thunder” NEW SONG [LYRICS])
On the other side of the dial, so to speak,
we have “Fallen World.” Is that the fastest
tune DragonForce has recorded?
Totman: Yeah, I think it is. “Cry of the
Brave,” which was a bonus track on Sonic
Firestorm, is pretty fast. I thought “Fallen
World” was the same speed, but apparently
it’s about 5 bpm faster, so it’s not a huge
leap. Basically, 90 percent of our fast songs
are all about 200 bpm, so we thought we
should do one at 220. The first thing I
thought was to put the metronome at 220
and see what happens. That’s another example of how the speed determines the song. I
found that anything much over 200 didn’t
really suit it. I know with all these thrash
bands that I used to listen to like Sepultura
and Slayer, their fast songs might be at like
240 or even 250, and I tried writing some
stuff for us at that speed and it didn’t really
work, but 220 seemed to be okay. Then
again, what’s fast? People would say, “Wow,
you play really fast,” but the vocals aren’t
particularly fast. Just because the drums are
fast, you can still ring out some chords.
Li: Because we were writing some mid-tempo songs like “Seasons,” and even “Die
By the Sword,” which is a bit slower, we
thought we had to push the other way
as well. We pushed it faster and put the