Herman Li Addresses State of the Guitar Solo + DragonForce's Approach (2024)

"We're definitely not slowing down, playing less guitars," says DragonForce's Herman Li, referencing the epic song "Burning Heart" and its 13 or so guitar solos. Within a chat with Full Metal Jackie for her weekend radio show, the guitar great spoke on the current state of the guitar solo, with a declaration for some of his fellow players who are downplaying their importance.

"I think it's cool to say something shocking. But to be honest, we all know guitar is not going anywhere," says Li to the guitar solo detractors. And he points to the band's Despicable Me 4 trailer nod as yet another sign that it's still something sought after in popular culture.

Li was on hand to speak with Jackie about the latest DragonForce album, Warp Speed Warriors. They get into their "Doomsday Party" duet with Amaranthe's Elize Ryd and how that came about, with the guitarist also sharing which new song he's looking forward to sharing live the most.

The guitarist also admits he's a "Swifty," and who in his family inspired him to take on Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams." Plus, he speaks about how the band came to collaborate on a song for the Beat Saber virtual reality game.

Check out the chat in full below.

It's Full Metal, Jackie. This week we have one of metal's true guitar greats. Mr Herman Li of DragonForce. Excited to have you back. It's been such a long time and you've got a great new album, Warp Speed Warriors, coming after the lengthiest break the band has had between records. Obviously some of it necessitated by the world events. Do you think this made for a better album? Did anything change in terms of how you approached this latest release, given that more time was available?

Yeah, I think having that time really helps because we're not gonna just make an album for the sake of it. We only make an album that we're happy about and we release it later. So it's coming in at the right time.

DragonForce, "Power of the Triforce"

Herman, one of the cool things for the band here recently was creating the song
"Power of the Saber Blade" for the Beat Saber virtual reality video game. In creating this song, did you prep any by playing the game? And also I'm sure you like to play and was wondering if you had a favorite video game?

Well, funnily enough, back in 2019, I actually went and hunted down the creator of Beat Saber.I said, "You gotta have DragonForce in the game." So it took quite a few years, but we got it together and they wanted us to make the hardest, fastest DragonForce song for the game to create the ultimate challenge.So we did it and it was a lot of fun.

I obviously played the game before. I'm gonna actually try, properly try to make sure my arms don't fall off. But it's been a lot of fun. Actually I'm getting back into VR at the moment now that I got a new headset for Sim Racing.

DragonForce, "Power of the Saber Blade"

Herman, I recently caught you and Alissa White-Gluz metalling up Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams" at a show. First off, who came up with the idea to take on Taylor Swift's song and give it that great arrangement? And secondly, have you heard from Taylor or even some of the Swifties with the reaction to your cover? And are you a fan as well?

So the story on that is four years ago, my daughter was born. So that was my first kid, and I was trying everything to make sure she doesn't cry, just like first time parents. So apart from listening to metal and guitar music, she got me into Taylor Swift because she stopped her crying and kept her entertained.

So I was listening to Taylor Swift for four years, pretty much straight for a long time. So I got into it, and that's how I decided, you know what? Let's do a cover of Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams," because we can make it into something that sounds cool, fast and exciting, very much DragonForce style.

So you can say, I am now officially a Swifty, too. Can you believe it? I never thought I would say it.

DragonForce Featuring Alissa White-Gluz, "Wildest Dreams" (Taylor Swift Cover)

Herman, there's a great new collaboration on this new album in "Doomsday Party" with Elize [Ryd] from Amaranth. Now you're getting a chance to tour Europe with them as well. How did Elize come to be part of the song?And can you talk about how that relationship has developed over the years?

During the pandemic, me and the other guitar player, Sam [Totman], we wrote a kind of a joke song making fun of Amaranthe in a friendly way. And then that was in a livestream, right? So then we got Elize, the singer, to kind of sing our silly version that we wrote about them making fun of them.

So when we wrote "Doomsday Party," we thought we actually can do with a version as a duet, female vocals, because it just kind of fit. So at that time, um, when we did the livestream, Elize told us she was a dancer before she was a singer. Likeshe wanted to be a professional dancer instead of being a metal goddess. So we thought since we did the music video, which has us dancing terribly, we thought we'd get a pro that can sing well and do some cool moves on it. So that's how it came about.

She was our first choice, and I'm glad that she accepted it. And eventually we ended up touring together. So it's all kind of a coincidence that all happened like that.

DragonForce, "Doomsday Party"

Herman, there's been a lot of talk about the state of the guitar solo lately. Kirk Hammett has stated that non-musicians don't typically remember guitar solos. Angel Vivaldi called him out for writing off a new generation of players. Marty Friedman recently said that he wished the traditional guitar solo would die a slow and painful death, arguing that guitar solos need to be more inventive. As someone who is known for their guitar work, what's your take on the state of the guitar solo in 2024, and what would you like to see from the next generation of players?

I think there's still plenty of room for guitar solos, and of course, there's so many great, influential players out there. I gotta say, sorry to tell you this, but just when you thought there's not enough guitar solos or it's gone away from the world, we had our song recently on the NFL Playoffs during a prime time commercial slot with Despicable Me 4.

So obviously, the guitar solo is still a cool thing that is still being used. I think it's cool to say something shocking, but to be honest, we all know guitar is not going anywhere.

Despicable Me 4 Trailer

It's Full Metal Jackie. We've got Herman Li of DragonForce with us. And recently, the band got another cool pop culture moment with Despicable Me 4, as you said. Being in a style of playing that's not always in the popular culture spotlight, what does it mean to you that DragonForce has been able to find these platforms and be part of a discussion that can step outside your genre?

I think being ourselves was very important. When we first became, I guess, popular, we stuck to our guns. We didn't follow any trend, and we were able to survive playing seven minute songs withten guitar solos in a song.

With 'Through the Fire and Flames," it was a surprise for a lot of people to hear something like that. It really blew up with Guitar Hero that is now part of that pop culture in some way. Even up to now, I hear stories from fans saying, I used to play that game and hear DragonForce when I was five years old, seven years old, or they were in college with their friends.

So it holds a lot of memories for people, that song. So I'm really just grateful to be able to be part of people's lives, actually. It brings so many positivity, that song. So DragonForce, definitely, we specialize in kind of epic positivity. When you listen to us, you just want to do things that kind of keep us in your brain because we all want to get out there and do things and achieve something.

READ MORE: DragonForce Receive YouTube Copyright Strike on Their Own Song

Herman, Warp Speed Warriorshas lots of new material that will be a great addition to your set list. For you personally, do you have a song off this album that you're excited to have as part of your performances either currently or down the road on your album support?

I like, of course, every single song on the album, but I think "Burning Heart," that's a really cool song that is fast, melodic and it's a little bit different than what you heard from us. So we still have the DragonForce signature sound in there, and it's cool.

Again, I think it's like a seven minute song with 13 guitar solos or something like that. So we're definitely not slowing down, playing less guitars.

DragonForce, "Burning Heart"

Thanks to DragonForce's Herman Li for the interview. Warp Speed Warriors is available to purchase now. Stay up to date with the band through their website, Facebook, X, Instagram and Spotify accounts.Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio showhere.

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Gallery Credit: Loudwire Staff

Herman Li Addresses State of the Guitar Solo + DragonForce's Approach (2024)
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