Power metal titans DragonForce are midway through a run of typically overblown UK dates. Frontman Marc Hudson spoke exclusively to Rushonrock editor Simon Rushworth.
Rushonrock: What is your view of the metal scene in the UK in 2019?
Marc Hudson: There have always been a lot of great metal bands coming out of the UK and I don’t think that has changed. Hopefully I’m the exception rather than the rule but I’m out of touch with the most recent stuff! I realised that the more music I’m doing, the less new music I’m listening to. But within metal I guess the sub-genre of power metal, at least in the UK, is still far from mainstream. The bands who have been playing power metal over here for years, like DragonForce, continue to fly the flag but it’s Germany and Scandinavia where the scene is still at its healthiest. I guess it’s still a niche genre in the UK and who knows why? Sometimes people who are into their trad metal or thrash metal can be alienated by the catchy riffs and over-the-top nature that underpins power metal. I get that. What we do isn’t for everyone. All I’d ask is that metal fans are a little more open minded to bands like DragonForce. They might actually like what they hear!
Rushonrock: Are DragonForce operating in a more difficult environment right now than a decade ago?
MH: Looking back – as far back as before I was in the band – I’d say the band’s popularity has remained pretty consistent. Maybe if we’d incorporated some more thrash metal into our sound over the years we might have a greater number of fans. It has been discussed. But power metal fans are some of the most dedicated and passionate in the world and it’s always been a big market for us. We have always incorporated other metal genres into our sound but at the same time DragonForce has a signature sound that we’re very proud of. Most of our music is immediately identifiable as DragonForce and that’s hugely positive. I like to think we’ve opened the door for fans to explore different types of metal and there have been times when we’ve written darker, heavier songs. It never hurts to experiment but I think we’ve come to realise that what we’ve got is pretty special.
Rushonrock: What’s the story behind album title Extreme Power Metal? Are you trying to make a point?
MH: The title itself is not necessarily tongue in cheek but then you could argue that the whole existence of DragonForce is tongue in cheek! We’re like a walking meme! Die-hard fans will remember that Extreme Power Metal was on the front of the first album and the new record is a nod to the past and a celebration of what we’re all about. We went in a certain direction because we let go of some of the restrictions that we had put in place. We wanted to make a record that was really good fun: an album that embraced the 80s retro futuristic vibe that DragonForce was built around. We didn’t feel the need to come up with a serious title at this stage in our career. We picked a title that best reflects the music and it fits in nicely with the over-the-top artwork. In truth, we felt pretty restricted on the last couple of albums – management wanted us to put a serious spin on music that has always been all about fun. That’s not what DragonForce is all about.
Rushonrock: Take me back to before you joined the band – what was your first experience of DragonForce?
MH: I was a fan for a few years before the chance came along to join. I think the first time I was ever exposed to DragonForce was when I was on my way to band practice and the bass player had this incredible power metal blaring out. The first thing that struck me was the drumming – rather than anything else – as I’d never heard a sound like that before. It was so tight and so powerful. By the time Sonic Firestorm was making waves I was a big fan but it was the Inhuman Rampage tour before I saw them live. I went to the Oxford show and was blown away. I knew all of the songs and even though the sound wasn’t great that night the performance was exceptional. I guess I lost track of them for a while after that and it wasn’t until the audition process that I started listening to everything all over again. I couldn’t believe they were looking for a new singer and that I was in a position to try my luck.
Rushonrock: Is the fact that DragonForce is still going strong 20 years down the line a testament to the band’s staying power and consistency?
MH: I think DragonForce is still pretty much the only British power metal band form the 90s to break into the mainstream and it’s based on great albums and a lot of fun. Of course their contribution to Guitar Hero helped and a whole new generation of fans got into the band that way. That helped them to become a household name. Herman [Li, founder and guitarist] will argue that it wasn’t Guitar Hero that made the band and to some extent he has a point. But it definitely helped to solidify DragonForce’s reputation as a fast-rising power metal band.
Rushonrock: How much do you enjoy being on the road and what do like most about touring?
MH: It’s a pretty mixed bag if I’m honest. Of course it’s really cool fronting a band like DragonForce and I love doing the shows. But the tour life is a weird one. There’s a lot of waiting around and anticipation for an hour and a half of live music. But I love that 90 minutes – the show itself and meeting the people. Beyond that it can be hard to deal with. We came into the UK shows straight off the US tour and everyone is feeling it a little more now.
Rushonrock: Are DragonForce an increasingly big deal in America?
MH: It’s a little bit complicated for the band as far as the US is concerned. On this last tour we played some smaller shows and we did similar size venues on the tour before that. We didn’t push for bigger shows this time but almost every gig sold out so I’m thinking we should have aimed higher. I’m confident we could – and should – have done a bigger and better tour. But as long as the trajectory is upwards, which it is, then we must be doing something right.
Rushonrock: Every night you need to push your voice to the limit – what do you do to stay in shape?
MH: I keep changing my mind when it comes to how best to look after myself on the road. I honestly don’t know which way to go. I have been ill on tour in the past. And I’m interested to know what I can do better in terms of the endurance side of things and delivering a consistent vocal performance night in, night out. I used to be really careful about not drinking or smoking or having late nights. I stopped drinking and even went Vegan as I’d heard that might help. I think it made a small difference but I’ve since gone back to leading a relatively normal life on the road. And I’m in better health now than I’ve ever been! I can’t get to the bottom of why that is. I always warm up before we play but I don’t warm down afterwards. I do avoid situations where I need to talk loudly over music in clubs and bars – that never helps. Previously I’ve been really germophobic on tour too but I’m more relaxed in that respect too.
Rushonrock: Do you feel DragonForce deserve more respect after a 20-year career?
MH: Personally I’m not in this for any kind of validation – I’m just happy to be doing what I do. I think we command a certain level of respect which is deserved. We are asked to play at some pretty big events which wouldn’t happen if we didn’t have the respect of our peers and fans. We performed at the opening ceremony at TwitchCon, in San Diego, towards the end of September and that was a huge deal. We’re confirmed to play the Pulp Summer Slam festival in the Philippines next year with Iron Maiden and Babymetal. And there’s more to come.
Rushonrock: Can you confirm any more plans for 2020?
MH: I know we’re planning to go back to the US and test that theory about playing bigger shows. In the next few weeks and months we’ll be rolling out more videos showcasing the songs on Extreme Power Metal. We shot four videos in Serbia earlier this year and only tow have come out so far. After we finished Megadeth’s Megacruise we took the opportunity to film another couple of videos and I’m interested to see how they come out! But the plan has always been to do a video for each of the songs on the new album and the shoots so far have been really fun.
Dragonforce play Cardiff tonight before shows in Northampton and Newcastle later this week. Visit www.dragonforce.com for details.