The fastest band in the land needs very little introduction. In keeping with their tempo and that ideal, we sat down with vocalist Marc Hudson of the powerhouse DragonForce. And....go!
D.M: For “Maximum Overload, for the first time ever on a DragonForce record, we saw some thrash themes and a few other elements that were integrated into your sound. What made now the time to try that?
MARC HUDSON: I think there were a few reasons, really. One of things was that Fred [Frédéric Leclercq] our bass player has been more involved in the writing process, and he’s got more influences that come from thrash and black and death metal. Sam [Totman] has some of that too, but hasn’t necessarily used it too much. Also I think it felt like a kind of cool thing to throw in here just to change things up a bit because we like to play that stuff and fans of ours can relate to it, too. We went with a thrash metal approach on a couple of songs and kept it traditional power metal on the other ones.
D.M: When you guys meet as a band to talk about what the album is going to sound like and what influences will be included, is there anything that’s off the table? Has anything ever been suggested that was too crazy to include?
MH: [laughs] I don’t really think so. At one point Vadim [Pruzhanov] came up with some interesting dub step thing that we talked about for about five seconds, but apart from that it’s pretty much fair game for any suggestion.
D.M: Since you brought it up, EDM is popular around the world, is that anything that DragonForce toys around with? Not that you would be an EDM band, but do you consider pushing your keyboard profile higher in the mix or using computer-generated effects?
MH: I think we like to keep pretty true to ourselves. Keep things mainly guitar and stuff, I don’t think we’d ever go that way but you never know, maybe we’ll have a breakdown section in one song that does that.
D.M: For the first time, you guys worked with a producer outside your home studio. How did it feel to do that, was it a change in thought process to give some of that power away?
MH: We were still happy with how the previous albums sounded and everything, I think we just decided it was time to get a fresh set o eyes to look at what we’re doing and get a bit of external help. We knew Jens Bogren and the production on all the albums he’s been working on is second to none, so we knew we had to choose him. Working with him was really cool, and that may have also brought out some of the thrashier elements, that’s kind of his bag as well. We got on quite well and would bounce ideas off each other. I think that’s partially responsible for the fresh sound that “Maximum Overload” has.
D.M: You may be biased as I ask you this, but do you think your fans are concentrating too heavily on the guitar portion of DragonForce, do you think people are missing out on the whole picture?
MH: Um, I don’t think so. There’s certainly a cross-section of fans who are just listening to it because they play guitar and like to see people playing guitar, there are obviously going to be a few people who are just there for that. But I think to be honest, as much as Herman [Li] and Sam [Totman] might disagree, the music is mainly about the catchy melodies and stuff that the vocals deliver as well as the guitar playing. I think most people appreciate both things at the same time, but yeah, there are fans out there who completely ignore what I’m doing [laughs].
D.M: With everyone in the band being technically skilled and showing their talent, do you run the risk of losing the melody you want people to hear amidst the virtuosity?
MH: I don’t think so. As far as the live show goes, we try to stick pretty much to what we put on the record. For the album’s recording, we carefully choose what goes into each song. If there is too much guitar or too much keyboard stuff or too many virtuoso opportunities going on, we often have to regrettably delete them from the album so that the song still sounds good. As long as we follow what we do on the album, we never really have that problem live. We like to keep the melodies as
the main thing and that’s what we try to push the most. We take a backseat when we need to.
D.M: I had the privilege to see DragonForce some years ago, and the performance is part metal show and part expressive personalities – is that something you consciously display as a band, or is that just the natural outcome of everyone being themselves?
MH: Honestly, that’s just everyone being themselves. That’s a natural thing that seems to come out with every show. We enjoy doing what we do and I think there’s quite good chemistry on stage between the band members, so that just seems to happen. Unless we’re too hung over or too tired [laughs].
D.M: What does it take to get ready for a DragonForce show, what kind of preparation do you go through daily to bring those personalities out on stage?
MH: That’s very much different for each member, everyone has their own pre-show ritual. For me, being the singer, which is probably the most annoying job, I warm up my voice a lot and try to take care of myself so we can do as many shows as we do, because we don’t really every stop, we’re always on tour. This tour we’re doing twenty-two shows, and from the release of “Maximum Overload” I think we’re looking at nearly two hundred shows now. So my stuff is all about taking care of myself and going through songs before we play them. Herman and Sam are much the same, they have their guitars on the tour bus and they go off and play through stuff. We like to make sure that we’re warmed up and ready to go. We have a little meeting before we go on stage to make sure we get the atmosphere right as well. Everyone has a little laugh before we go on stage because it’s not all serious after all.
D.M: Does anyone have any particular superstitions about playing on stage?
MH: Good question, I don’t know, actually. I’m one of those people that when I’m getting ready to go on, I have to do all my different things before I go on, I’m OCD about that.
D.M: DragonForce, for better or worse, got a healthy bump in recognition in North America to being part of a “Guitar Hero” video game. Is that something you embrace, or something you try and distance yourself from?
MH: “Guitar Hero” didn’t actually make that much of an impact on us, personally. “Inhuman Rampage” was already selling really well, and “Guitar Hero” didn’t produce much of a spike in our sales, nothing really changed. I’m guessing it opened us up to people who didn’t really ever listen to metal music, so there were certainly kids playing it and hearing it and knowing the name DragonForce. We certainly not ashamed of that at all, anything that can help is cool. And also, we like video games.
D.M: What are you playing right now?
MH: I played “Fallout 4” for about six hours and then I left to go on tour [laughs]. I’m pretty devastated about that. Waiting for “Star Wars: Battlefront,” too. I think that comes out while I’m away, so that’ll have to wait until I get back.
D.M: DragonForce has topped two hundred forty beats per minute in a song. The tenets of music theory notwithstanding, can that go up any more? Is there room to go faster?
MH: The only thing limiting us is the amount of notes per minute that the drummers can play and the guitar players can play. Even if we’re playing at two-forty, I’m still singing whatever, so I don’t have to worry about it [laughs]. I don’t know if we’ll go faster, we’re not going faster and faster to prove a point, we just happened to write a song that sounds good at that speed.
D.M: I think most of DragonForce’s influences, yours and the rest of the bands, are fairly well publicized, but give me one most people don’t expect. What’s a band you just love that people reading this wouldn’t think of?
MH: I don’t know often I’ve mentioned this in interviews, but I really like the band Yes. They’re a seventies prog-rock band. I’m a real prog rock fan, I like Yes and Genesis and Rush and King Crimson and all that stuff, which is quite weird because it’s nothing like what I play. But I like the freedom they had in music back then. Some of that translates into what we do, progressive stuff is often kind of virtuoso in the same way. Composition-wise it’s very complicated and has a lot of layers to it, and that’s what I like in music. We do a bit of that here and there, but they’re my influences.
D.M: One last thing – DragonForce has hit the point where you can pull some weight in the metal media as a whole, your opinions have merit and you can help other bands come up. Herman and Sam were helping out Babymetal for a time. Who are the bands that you see and say ‘yep, we’ve got to help them, people need to know who they are’?
MH: Good question. Personally for me, there’s a band we toured with a couple years ago from California, a really unusual band, but something about them makes me keep listening to them when I get back home. A band called Huntress, are you familiar?
D.M: Sure, I interviewed Jill Janus a couple years back, great woman.
MH: Cool, cool, she’s amazing! All of the guys in that band are great, they’re great musicians. It’s quite unusual music but it’s something I quite enjoy, and I don’t usually like that genre of music all that much. They’re a band people should be looking out for.