When you hear the term "extreme power metal", what band comes to your mind? DragonForce, obviously. Well, they coined it themselves and they're the only band playing in that style, but it's hard to think of a better label for their music. 20 years into their career, they decided to call an album just that and on "Extreme Power Metal" the band continues along the trajectory they set at the beginning of their career, spicing the ultra-fast, high-pitched tunes with finger-breaking guitar solos. Before their Edinburgh show I sat down with DF singer Marc Hudson, to discuss their new work.
Let's start with a question about conception of the new album. As far as I'm concerned Herman and Sam have always been the main songwriters. Is that still the case?
Well, for the last two albums we had Fred, the old bass player doing a lot of writing and now it's just Sam. So, this album still has some of the songs that Fred did, I think Fred did maybe four songs but the rest is Sam. Yeah, Sam's been the main songwriter from the beginning. So it was either Sam or Fred, but now it's just Sam.
You have referred to your music as extreme power metal since the beginning. Why did you decide to title the album that now?
Yeah, good question, ha-ha! Because we just went all out with everything. You know, we don't care if we have like a couple of cheesy songs and stuff like that and we just thought that now's a good time to just call an album that. Because that's the genre of music we've been playing and nobody else really plays quite like that. And we had the idea of the artwork, you know, kind of like superheroes on the front cover as we were doing it, so we thought what would fit that, "OK, extreme power metal!" And that just came out like that.
You've now got five guys in the band, so why are there just three main characters on the cover art?
I mean, everybody is on it, Fred and Gee are on it. I think it's just the way that the artist did it. It wasn't us saying, "Oh, put them in the back," ha-ha! It was just the way that it came out. It looked cool to have three people and then the other two. Nothing personal, no weird reason behind it, ha-ha!
You've had a couple of line-up changes recently. Were there any particular reasons behind Vadim's and Fred's departures? I mean, Fred is in Kreator now...
Yeah, that's a valid reason to depart I think, ha-ha! I mean Fred had that lined up. He told me a few months before he actually said to everybody else he was going to quit. I knew he was going to do that, it's more the genre of music that he likes 'cause he's more of like a thrash guy and he likes really heavy stuff. So, I think for him it was just a good move, like he's playing stuff he enjoys more. Kreator is obviously a big band, especially in Europe and everything. So, yeah, I can't blame him for that. As for Vadim, he's got kids now and I think one of the main factors for him was that touring was something he didn't really want to do so much. But again, there's no bad feeling between anybody. It took a while for us to announce Vadim's thing, the reason why he left, but essentially that's that really.
You were supposed to have that YouTube guy Stevie T on bass...
Yeah, he was supposed to play the US tour, maybe the UK tour as well. But basically, he sent us a message saying he can't do it 'cause he suffers from anxiety and things like that. And basically he would love to have done it, but when it comes to actually getting on stage, playing in front of people, flying, traveling on a bus, all those things he found difficult. So yeah, we regret it, it would have been really fun. But for now we have Damien who's doing a good job anyway.
Coen from Epica recorded the keyboards. Why did you choose him?
Basically, he's really good at what he does. He does all the orchestration stuff for Epica. He's also a really cool guy. We've toured with him a lot and he was one of the funniest guys and we talked to him a lot. So yeah, we just thought that he can kind of you know, do what Vadim would be doing plus all the extra stuff. And listening back to it, it was a good choice for sure I'd say. We're happy about that.
There seems to be more orchestration on the album, compared to your previous releases. Was it something he brought to the table or did you have that in mind earlier?
Yeah, most of the stuff came from Coen. He did everything like the fast keyboards and all the orchestra stuff, that was all from him. I mean obviously, we thought it would sound good if we'd have that and then he just did it himself and we are really happy with the results.
And why did you produce the album in L.A.? Are there no good studios or producers in the UK?
There's plenty, I'm sure, but Herman lives in L.A. and Damien, the guy playing bass now, he produced, mixed and mastered it. And he's based in L.A. He's mixed our live DVD "In the Line of Fire" and we were really happy with what he's done. And he happens to live quite close to Herman, which makes things easier I guess.
Would you say you picked the strongest tunes to promote the album with, I mean "Highway to Oblivion" and "Heart Demolition"?
I mean the thing is, everyone has a different opinion on it, even in the band. I think "Highway to Oblivion" for sure is one of the strongest songs now, but the idea with this is we're going to put forward a music video for, I'm hoping, all the songs. So it's not necessarily this is the single and then these are the other ones that you can listen to. We're going to hopefully do a lot more and in the pipeline we've probably got maybe four videos that are on the way, that we're working on.
"Cosmic Power of the Infinite Shred Machine" must be the longest song title you've ever had. What's the story behind it?
Well, it kind of matches the extreme power metal thing. Just being a bit over the top. It says "save our souls tonight" in the chorus and we thought "Save Our Souls" was the obvious choice, but it was too unoriginal, so...
Why the bagpipe intro to "Remembrance Day"?
I'm assuming it's originated in Scotland and the song is about World War I and it kind of seemed appropriate. I mean people actually were going into battle playing bagpipes. So, it just seemed like it fit the song really good, fit the theme of the whole thing.
About the last song on the album. There are tons of '80s-early '90s pop tunes you could have covered. So, why "My Heart Will Go On"?
Just because it's a really catchy song and it lends itself into power metal quite well. It sounds similar to the kind of stuff that Sam writes. He just put forward a demo to us and immediately we were like, "Yeah, we have to play this song now, we're absolutely doing it." And it's really fun and people seem to enjoy it when we play it live and obviously everybody has seen the movie "Titanic" so everyone knows that song. And it's always good to have a song that people know even if it isn't DragonForce.
You've got tons of crazy guitar solos on the album, as usual. How much time do the guys spend practicing that stuff, you know, to be able to nail it every night on stage?
I know that they both spend a lot of time practicing. Sam was practicing today, even though he's played the songs already a 100 times. It's one of those things where they write the stuff, they record it and then they learn the whole thing from start to finish. And it takes a long time. It takes longer than learning the vocals. It's a time-consuming process but they're both really good at that stuff.
I've heard that the new show production includes some huge arcade game machines. Whose idea was that?
That was Sam's idea but at the moment we kind of have this link between music and video games, we're kind of in the middle of it, we're going back to the '80s retro-futurism for the kind of aesthetic of the whole thing. And yeah, we're all like avid gamers. We all play games all the time. So yeah, it just kind of seemed like now would be the time to do it, especially have a music video that has kind of Sega Genesis and stuff. And yeah, we thought it'd be really cool to put them on stage and then stand on top of them and play the guitars.
You've always had references to video games in your music. Do you still play any vintage games?
Yeah, I'm just trying to think what old games we still play. I mean, I'm playing new stuff at the moment. I used to play on Playstation Vita, I like old PlayStation 1 games, but now I've got Switch. But Sam used to play the original Donkey Kong, the 1984 one and I was playing it with him as well. And we got really good at it. There's a documentary we watched actually about the game, about the world champion of it and we love the documentaries and we were like, "We have to try and play it." So we got it on our Mac emulators and we're playing that on tour. So we do still play like old stuff.
Talking about games, if it wasn't for "Through the Fire and Flames" which was included in Guitar Hero, do you think DragonForce would have been where it is now?
Yeah, I've asked Herman about this before because he gets asked this question sometimes. So, basically what it was, the band was already growing really fast before that came out and when it did come out it just kind of put it in the faces of some people that may have not been listening to it. And so from Herman's point of view, it was just something that helped us, but it wasn't like a one-hit-wonder kind of thing. But it certainly helped because of all these kids playing it.
You did the US tour, now you're playing on your home turf and in February you're going to mainland Europe. What's next after that?
I mean with every album we do the whole world tour basically, there's not many territories that we don't go to any more. We normally go to as many as we can. But yeah, we're doing Europe, we plan to go back to America again and then hopefully some festivals in the summer. Yeah, that would be good. But that's as much as I know at the moment.