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HERMAN LI Remembers People Laughing At DRAGONFORCE When They First Started

So they leaned even harder into what people were laughing at.


Dragonforce originally formed as DragonHeart in 1999 when playing powerful heavy metal was far from cool. Fortunately Dragonforce stuck with it, gained international attention in 2007 with their song "Through the Fire and Flames," and is still out there kicking ass to this day. Though founding Dragonforce guitarist Herman Li remembers when the band first started and getting laughed at.

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In an interview with Paul Reed Smith of PRS Guitars, Li said Dragonforce was extremely uncool at the time and got laughed at for their shreddy and melodic elements. Which made them lean into those aspects of their sound even harder – a gamble that clearly paid off.

"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. It was the same thing with [co-founding guitarist 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.'

"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 [fuck you] 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.'"

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Li added that he felt if Dragonforce was going to go as extreme as they could, they might as well do it with everything. Hence their insane stage shows now.

"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.' 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."

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