Questions: Conor Kerr @CKerr_92
CK: How did The Power Within come about. How was the writing and recording process? Was it different this time around? Did you change your approach?
MH: It’s been ages since I’ve been asked that question. Basically, it’s the first album I’m singing on. So essentially most of the music was written before I arrived, and was written by Sam [Totman, guitarist] and Fred [Leclercq, bassist], and so basically there was a bit of teething period where they’d written the music and then I was singing over it and we had to adjust some stuff to make it as good as it can be. So, I think in terms of writing the music it was different because of the fact that they had essentially a new instrument to work with than the last one; and as far as input that I had, we did some lyrics together and I did a few vocal melodies of my own that made it on the album.
CK: How are you in terms of lyrics? Did you have much of a say with regards to lyrics in this album?
MH: The thing is, I definitely did have input into some songs. So, for example, “Last Man Stands” and another few songs. But basically, Sam has been writing lyrics for 10/12 years now so any fresh ideas he’s happy to take on board. So yeah, I had little bit of input.
CK: What sort of subjects do you look at with this album. Do you deal with any social or political issues or do you try to avoid those?
MH: To be honest, this album is different because there are songs that have a lot of personal meaning to some of the members of the band. So, for example, “Seasons” was written by Fred; the lyrics, the music, everything. And that’s just, how can I say this without sounding incredibly gay? [laughs] It’s a song that’s personal to him about his experience before, like with people…I don’t want to embarrass him. It’s a song about someone in his life anyway. So there was that one. And then there was “Give Me The Night”, which was a song about addiction and stuff, and how it can affect people and change their life, and overcoming it eventually in the end. So for DragonForce that’s pretty fucking serious because the rest of it is you know, not like that.
CK: Sonically, how does this album vary from previous DragonForce albums?
MH: On this album there are 2 mid-tempo songs, which is a complete first for DragonForce; we’ve never done triplety or mid-tempo feel songs. There’s an acoustic song at the end which was going to be a bonus track but we liked it so much it ended up on the album. So again that’s completely new. Just in general, I think the songs are shorter and more compact and it’s kind of like everything we wanted to be in the song is there; every single section was there deliberately, for a reason, and I think that makes the songs more punchy. So that’s different.
CK: How did you find singing the old DragonForce songs?
MH: Well, singing the old songs is no easy task because basically they were written for somebody else so I have to take my voice and adapt it so I can do that night after night at gigs. So yeah it’s definitely not easy. Anyone out there who has tried to sing a DragonForce song will probably feel my pain. As far as vocals go, it’s one of the most challenging things I can think of.
CK: What is favourite old song to sing, and which is your favourite new one?
MH: To be honest, it’s changed since the last time somebody asked me that. Before I said something else. Now we do a song called “Fields Of Despair”, which is from Sonic Firestorm, and for some reason that just suits my voice perfectly, so that’s my favourite one. And the new songs? Probably “Cry Thunder” actually.
CK: When you first joined the band, how did you adapt personally and artistically to the rest of the group, and vice versa?
MH: Well for me, this is my first band that’s big enough to play anything that is not a pub. The last band I was in was playing in front of 50 people, so quite obviously my life kind of just got flipped upside down for a second. But in terms of the personal thing, how we kind of gelled together? It was pretty quick, and like, they were pretty nice guys, so we kind of just, like, hit it off basically. The first time I met them, it was me, Sam, Herman [L
i, guitarist], and Vadim [Pruzhanov, keyboards], and my brother came along as moral support because I didn’t if they were like you know, who knows? So yeah, they’re just a bunch of funny guys, they enjoy a drink same as me, and yeah the rest is history I guess.
CK: One thing that made all that happen was your audition on YouTube, which I remember. (MH: Ah you saw it? Not bad.) How useful or important do you see the internet becoming, with the likes of YouTube and downloads, in launching people’s careers?
MH: I think it’s going to be definitely a bigger thing. Essentially now, if you were a really, really big band, you could audition the world. Anyone can have the opportunity to send you an audition tape, so I think nowadays that could definitely be the way forward for a lot of people. But I know that it’s a bit lame because it’s public, and you know, advertising for a singer and then everyone auditions, it kind of gets mixed into that whole X Factor thing. And that’s really shit. We didn’t want that. But yeah if it’s done in a good way and people give good auditions, then it’s definitely they way forward for finding someone out there who’s good.
CK: What’s your view on downloads and file sharing? Do you believe that people who illegally download an album to “preview” it will then buy it anyway?
MH: You know what I don’t really have an answer. Because the thing is, I’ve never done that whole downloading thing. I mean basically everyone has, at some point, downloaded something. I never really bothered out of laziness, confusion when trying to do it, and just because I actually like to have the CD in my hand as well; I like to buy stuff. So now that my whole livelihood depends on it I’m on the side of you should definitely buy the stuff. People who say they listen to it online and download it from a torrent or something, and they play it and say it’s a preview? They’re lying. They’re definitely not going to buy it after that. It’s basically taking hours and hours of people’s work away for free. So I disagree with it in general.
CK: What kind of music did you play in your previous band?
MH: It was kind of like rock with power metal singing, you know what I mean? So kind of like Helloween meets Led Zeppelin. But like, shit. We weren’t exactly like with Herman Li on guitar. We never even got far enough to make a demo or anything, we just did a few recording or whatever.
CK: I could hear similarities to Helloween and Iron Maiden on the new DragonForce album? Are they your favourites, your main influences?
MH: Helloween definitely is. Iron Maiden we supported last year. That was crazy. Bruce Dickinson is an influence as he is to everyone basically. You can’t not appreciate him. But Michael Kiske is definitely one of my biggest influences I’d say. Hopefully on the new album, I think my vocals will be more the way I want them to be because I think the band will now allow me to sort of, show them stuff. As opposed to, you know, “sing this as that.” So hopefully you’ll hear my influences more in my singing.
CK: I noticed on the DragonForce website that there is an address for fans to send items to. Have you received any weird gifts yet?
MH: No not me. I didn’t even know you could do that to be honest. That’s a management thing. I mean weird things? No. I went to Japan with Herman and somebody gave me socks that have individual toes in them. Like that was really weird. Like a glove for your foot. That was the weirdest thing I was given. But that wasn’t really that funny or creepy. That’s all I’ve been given so far. Early days…
CK: Do you remember anything about the last time you played in Belfast? (with Iron Maiden in the Odyssey Arena)
MH: Yeah that gig was weird, because that was the first one with Maiden. Before that we did like warm-up shows and stuff which were much, much smaller than this place [Mandela Hall]. But basically, I don’t remember going on stage and I don’t remember coming off stage. But I just remember after it and before. Because I think it was such a big thing for me going from 50 people to like, 13,000 for the Odyssey, and then nearly 30,000. I think I just went into autopilot and sang my songs and my mind was somewhere else. So yeah, to be honest I can’t really remember any of it. But it was amazing for sure, like that’s definitely one of the biggest things ever for me.