2014, Features, Interviews — August 22, 2014 at 7:00 am

Sam Totman of Dragonforce


“…it’s kind of an overload of everything as we’ve always tried to make our music over the top and really fast and got all of this guitar stuff going on and these big layers in the chorus of choirs and all the crap like that.”

From Bio: It’s astonishing to realise that DragonForce now have a history going back 15 years, and that they’re about to release their sixth album. But such is the pace at which music and life move these days that what was seemingly a highly promising young British metal band just yesterday are now an established full force (ahem) on the scene. In fact, their reputation is such that anything new from this lot is regarded as a landmark moment in the ongoing story of metal. But the new DragonForce album is a revelation, one that will surely entice them to another level of achievement.

Talking to us from his bed after a big night out, we caught up with Sam to fill us in on the band’s ripping new album ‘Maximum Overload’ as well as cover songs and the best way to describe Dragonforce. Read on…

To start us off, can you talk us through the title of the album ‘Maximum Overload’ and what it represents to this release?
Well it’s basically two meanings, the first thing is basically describing the music, it’s kind of an overload of everything as we’ve always tried to make our music over the top and really fast and got all of this guitar stuff going on and these big layers in the chorus of choirs and all the crap like that. So it’s kind of like all our album titles, we had ‘Inhuman Rampage’ and ‘Sonic Firestorm’ they all just described the music. People will probably thing it’s stupid, I think it sounds cool to describe the music. Then at the same time it’s kind of like describing the world we live in now, and if you’ve seen the cover art, everyone’s got so much of an overload of information coming at you with your computers and your phones and all this crap coming at you. I used to wake up in the morning and see a picture of what your friend had for lunch and that’s kind of pretty stupid really, then at the same time there’s so much out there, I think personally in the past when there wasn’t so much going on, you’d get an album from a band and you’d be listening to it like properly without other distractions. Now it’s like ‘I’ll listen to that because I can get that for free and then there’s a million movies I can get for free’ it’s like you’ve got too much choice to appreciate stuff, so it’s kind of like we’re just saying the world is a bit overloaded with stuff. It’s not going to change the world or anything but you’ve got to call it something, so that was that. *laughs*

In terms of the tracks, what was your driving inspiration for what has become the final collection?
Like every album we do we don’t try and make it a big plan and have it especially thought out, we just write a bunch of songs that we think sound good and then work out what the best order is to put them in to make it enjoyable to listen to I guess. So that was kind of it really, we just wrote songs we thought were cool, so if anyone else thinks they’re cool, I guess we’ll find out…

Well I’ve heard it and I thought it was cool…
Oh well we’ve got one fan then *laughs*

It would be remiss of me to not ask about your cover of ‘Ring of Fire’, why was that song the perfect choice to cover?
Well the reason was that we wanted to do a song that people would enjoy whether they liked or knew the original or not… I always thought there’s been so many metal bands that will do a cover of ‘Master of Puppets’ or ‘The Trooper’ or something and they play it exactly the same, and I was like well what’s the point of that? You might listen to it once to check it out but you’re not going to listen to it loads as it’s just like the original with a different vocalist. So we just thought that if we’re going to do a cover let’s make it a song that people will actually want to listen to more than once, so we thought that if they don’t like our music generally then they’re not going to like that either, but if you like our music, we’ve made it so into our own style that it could just be another one of our songs, but it’s not which makes it a really interesting thing I think.

Plus it’s a great way to finish off the album…
Yeah, well I like it, but it was pretty fun to do, I actually heard the song on TV, that’s how we got to choose it and I was listening to it and I was thinking that chorus, even though it’s an old country and western song the chord progression and the vocal line and even the lyrics ‘ring of fire’ is kind of like, well we say fire in nearly every song we do anyway, so it kind of sounds like one of our titles already so I thought that could definitely be turned into a fast epic power metal song and it kind of worked out I think.

Will that one make it into the live set?
Probably yeah, I’ll see how many people like it. If people say it’s a pile of shit then we probably won’t play it. I like it, but it’s short as well, if they don’t like it they can put up with it for three minutes *laughs*

This album sees you bring in a producer in Jens Bogren for the first time, why was now the right time to do this?
I was actually the main one not in favour of doing that, as we produced all the old records ourselves and I think we had quite good results without sounding like a bighead or anything, and I really liked the results of all those. They said we should get a producer this time to mix things up a bit and make a change and I was like ‘what if it sucks, what if we don’t like it, maybe they’ll make it sound really shit’ and so Herman said ‘nah it’ll be fine, he knows what he’s doing, he’s got some really good albums’ but it all did turn out really well in the end, and I love the end result so it was still always a little bit of a gamble because you don’t know what’s going to happen, but the main thing I was worried about was losing the big sound of the choruses and that kind of thing and the overall sound. I think thought maybe he improved it, actually I wouldn’t say improved I think when some band change producers I would not enjoy the sound of the record that much. Like when Morbid Angel did the ‘Covenant’ album I didn’t like that too much, I thought that was less polished in a way, I really like that Florida metal kind of sound and the songs were good but I really didn’t like the production so I was worried about that, but in the end it turned out fine and I really like it and I don’t think we lost anything we had before, I think we gained a few new things which is cool.

So other than the producer, did you set out to do anything differently for this album compared to previous releases?
Well the writing was a bit different actually, because in the past I would write most of the stuff on my own and I don’t want to sound like a bigheaded twat or anything but that’s just how we kind of did it, so I’d do that and come in with six or seven of the songs and the other guys might do one or two and I was like no one’s gonna change, this is how it goes blah blah… but this time, me and the bass player wrote everything together which is totally a new way of doing things and we never did that before. He had come up with a lot of ideas I wouldn’t come up with necessarily so there’s a lot of parts especially in the instrumental sections that he’d come up with that I would’ve never written that. So you’ve got my kind of stuff which is traditional Dragonforce then his stuff just brought a new style to it, and that’s probably what’s made this album sound different I guess.

This is the bands second album with Marc on vocals, was he more settled in this time around when making the record?
Oh yeah definitely, the first time around was really hard work because he’d never really done it before and he’s got a great voice obviously, but he’d never really had any experience recording in a studio like at a professional level, he’d just done a few demos with his mates and that, and we were like come on this has got to be really spot on, and it was hard to explain to someone ‘sorry mate you’re gonna have to sing this another ten times to get it right’ but this time he’s a proper part of the band now, we’ve toured around the world for a couple of years and has all this experience and from making the last record he kind of knows what we want now and it’s really cool. It’s really fun to see how far he’s come in that short time and the album recording vocals this time was way easier and I think he improved even, his voice got better and it all worked out pretty well.

You’ve been there from day one along with Herman, in your fifteen years in the band what do you see as being the biggest challenge you’ve had to overcome?
Well probably changing the singer, that’s a pretty big thing to do, but luckily that kind of worked out, I think we were all thinking ‘oh man what if people think he’s shit and bring back the old guy’ kind of thing, so that was probably the biggest challenge, getting a guy that had never done it before up to standard kind of thing, that was a hard thing, but people wouldn’t notice it because by the time people heard the album it was all done and finished and sounded good, but there was definitely a lot of work that went into that. We were still kind of worried that people wouldn’t like it, but overall we had way more positive comments than negative so I think luckily it worked out ok. So that was the hardest thing to do I guess.

What do you still enjoy about being part of Dragonforce?
I guess for me I really like playing the music, even if we weren’t making a living out of it I’d probably still be doing it anyway because I really like that style of music. I mean I understand why someone like Metallica changes their style because they probably got bored of playing the previous style, but I just really like playing fast, melodic power metal, and I really like just the fact that we can tour around the world and people tell you that you’re cool which is really nice to hear *laughs* that sounds really fucking stupid, but I mean there’s probably a better way of putting it, but you go around the world, play gigs, play music that you like, drink booze and it’s just a good fun lifestyle.

I always love reading the way people describe Dragonforce, my favourites are ‘Bon Jovi on speed’ and ‘Journey meets Slayer’, do you have a favourite you’ve heard?
Well I’ve actually heard those two comments and I really like them because that’s totally what I think, so whoever thought that up I would like to buy them a beer, but yeah that’s pretty much it, as we try and do the big choruses like Bon Jovi and Journey and stuff then at the same time we’ve got this speed thing that came from as I was really into thrash metal and death metal and I always thought that drum beat that most of our songs are based on was always my favourite in any song, I was like ‘this is cool man’ and so I think I’m pretty happy to be described like that actually.

I have to ask, when can we expect to see you back in Australia?
All the touring is kind of getting planned out at the moment, we’re doing this UK tour which is in September and then we go around Europe before Christmas and then all the other stuff is in the planning, but we definitely will be in Australia for sure, not totally sure and I can’t say when because it might be something changes and I don’t want to say anything and then it’s wrong, but basically if anyone’s interested all that stuff should be announced in the next month or so and you can find it on the internet pretty easily, like on facebook and any of that crap and it’ll tell you where we’re touring. So I guess it’ll be sometime next year as we’re busy now until Christmas, but we’re definitely coming back to Australia as we always have a good time, so yeah, we’ll be there.

Lastly, let’s predict the remainder of the year, finish this sentence for me, by the end of 2014, Dragonforce will…
Be considerably more hungover than they already are *laughs* something like that and it’s just because I’m feeling a bit poorly at the moment *laughs* but there you go.


Essential information

From: London, UK

Band members:  Herman Li – Guitar, backing vocals, Sam Totman – Guitar, backing vocals, Frédéric Leclercq – Bass, backing vocals, Vadim Pruzhanov – Keyboards, backing vocals, Marc Hudson – Lead vocals, Gee Anzalone – Drums, backing vocals

Latest Release: Maximum Overload (3Wise records – Out NOW) – Check out our review HERE

Website:  http://www.dragonforce.com



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