It’s yet another rushonrock exclusive and just 48 hours before the boys from Dragonforce bring Newcastle to its knees we track down guitar hero Herman Li. Enjoy and see you Wednesday…

rushonrock: How’s the UK leg of the Ultra Beatdown tour going right now?

Herman Li: I guess we’re just over halfway through now and it’s been great. Every show’s been sold out and it hasn’t been too bad at all. Nothing’s really gone wrong apart from Sam (guitars) jumped up during one show, slipped on his beer and landed badly on his ankle. He was laughing about it and I would have been – had he hurt himself! Unfortunately he was OK.

It’s all been pretty insane and the crowds have been full on every night. I suppose it’s just par for the course for a Dragonforce gig and we’ve still got the crazy folk of Newcastle to come…

rushonrock: Are you putting yourself under pressure by bringing along the sensational Turisas as your support?

HL: Well we’re a really good band which doesn’t fear anyone. But they also play a really different style of music to us and that’s why we wanted to bring the band on tour with us. There’s zero competition but we both go out to do our very best every night. Our fans can appreciate Turisas’ music and everybody’s a winner. We’re taking them with us through the UK, Europe and the US so we clearly like them. People who’ve seen the shows in the last few days say we’ve put together the best tour on the road right now.

rushonrock: In the past you’ve claimed everyone thought Dragonforce was a joke. Why?

HL: I think that when we started out there was a perception, from people who don’t know about music, that everything under the banner of metal had to include shouting, screaming and growling at some point. We spent 10 years trying to persuade people different and to join that scene would have been the easy way out.

It was like if you play guitar solos and your singer’s good then you’re gay or pussy or something. The people who said that just had the wrong idea about what metal always was and always will be. There was a time when iron Maiden weren’t popular but they always stuck to their guns and we did the same.

rushonrock: Why have opinions changed?

HL: I don’t really know. The great classic bands are back and I think people have a better understanding of what heavy metal is all about. People do get influenced by the printed press and that’s a fact. The same magazines that gave us so much shit for so many years are finally starting to accept us and that’s played a part.

Everyone always said I was rubbish as a guitarist anyway, even when I was a kid. So the criticism’s never bothered me. The other kids said I played widdly diddly wanking music but you just have to do what you want to do. I’m mates with Adam Jones from Tool and one day I told him that when their band came out I couldn’t even play the guitar. He asked me if I liked the music and I said ‘no, it’s shit’. But for a while that was what metal was all about.

rushonrock: Where are your metal roots?

HL: As a kid I liked the usual stuff – Maiden, Dream Theater and Slayer – so you can see where I’ve always been coming from. I got my first Dream Theater T-shirt when they played the Marquee in London but the last time I saw them they were at Wembley Arena earlier this year. They’ve come a long way and we’re following hot on their heels

rushonrock: Your new album cracked the top 10 on both sides of the Atlantic. After all the shit you’ve been through do you really care about commercial success?

HL: You do get annoyed when you spend months putting together the perfect album and you can’t find it on the shelves of your local music shop. It’s a pain when you search high and low and then you have to buy it over the internet from some obscure mail order company. With our new record Ultra Beatdown it’s been different. You could see it the day it came out and there were even copies at the airport! Imagine that? It’s just good to know in the age of the download and illegal file sharing that so many people still want to buy our record.

rushonrock: Was there ever a time when the criticism got to much and you came close to quitting Dragonforce?

HL: These days we realise all the negative publicity didn’t mean anything to us. If it had made a difference then we wouldn’t have started this band in the first place. The only time I ever thought about quitting Dragonforce was when we nearly didn’t finish Ultra Beatdown.

Luckily we were given an extension but there was a period when time was running out and a great record wasn’t going to see the light of day. We hadn’t even finished laying down the guitar parts and the record company said ‘that’s it’. We’ve become pettier and pickier over the years and we just wanted Ultra Beatdown to be perfect. In the end we needed the pressure to push us to the limit and get it finished.

rushonrock: In what’s been a vintage year for rock records what’s your favourite new album?

HL: I’ve got to say Death Magnetic. It’s great that Metallica have come back with the record everyone wanted to hear. The big bands which inspired us are still doing great things now and it makes us want to achieve even more. Metallica and Trivium have both released two great records in the space of a couple of weeks and it sets the bar for the rest of the bands out there.