DRAGONFORCE's HERMAN LI explains how he got into online content creation
DRAGONFORCE guitarist Herman Li is the featured guest on the latest episode of “Everything But Music With Jen Majura”, the podcast hosted by former EVANESCENCE guitarist Jen Majura. Speaking about how he transitioned into the world of online creation after initially not being very involved in social media, Herman said: “It wasn’t only Instagram that I hadn’t posted much on, I also didn’t do that much Facebook, because I thought no one really cared what I had to say. Do you care about what I’m having for dinner? No. And I’m kind of an introvert, kind of a shy guy. The reason I wouldn’t post some stuff is I don’t want people to think I’m bragging and trying to be cool: ‘Look, I’m doing that.’
“In 2018, there was a big change in the band. I became the manager of the band again,” he explained. “I used to manage the band in the beginning until it got really busy. When the ‘Inhuman Rampage’ album came out (in 2005), it got so busy, so I no longer was really managing; I had to employ people. In 2018, I took the managing back because I wasn’t happy with how it was going, and then I had to look at everything again. It was, like, ‘You know what? I have the skills on the computers and everything all these years. How can I make the most out of it?’ Because the music business has changed.”
Asked how the music business had changed during that time, Li said: “Your income was still more records and stuff, and obviously touring, but at the same time, now there was streaming networks and all these kinds of things — Spotify and YouTube streaming; all these kinds of things. How do you take advantage of things? How do you do it? So instead of just saying, ‘Well, I don’t wanna do it, because I’m a guitar player. I’m gonna just do the talking or the playing,’ I’m gonna look at each social media and find something I like about it. How can I express myself in this platform? I don’t have to do what everyone is doing. Sometimes you do the platform because you think everyone is doing it and you have to do it. We don’t work that way. That’s why in the past we employed P.R. people to do promotion, to do the stuff. And now you actually have to do it yourself. So, I’m gonna find a way that I like it. So what do I like? Well, I like video games. I like computer stuff. So Twitch was the first one that stepped in.”
Regarding how he first got involved in Twitch, the Amazon-owned platform that is known primarily for live-broadcasting gamers playing video games, Herman said: “When I first started using the platform, we’re talking about quite a number of years — going four years back now, maybe five. When I first signed up, it was mainly people playing video games there. So you can go and watch people play video games… If you’re into video games and you wanna be good at it, you’ve gotta see people who are better. Like playing the guitar — I wanna see guitar players playing guitars, because I love guitars. And then afterwards you also learn about each person — they call them livestreamers, streaming on Twitch, playing the games live in front of you. They have their personality. So you’re watching the person play also connecting. You can talk to them live in the chat; they can talk to you. So the video games is the main focus on Twitch.”
He continued: “First I started playing video games, because at the beginning you’re learning. I was saying, ‘This is kind of fun. I play video games. Fans are coming up to hang with me, to watch me play a game, and they play with me as well, against me.’ It’s kind of cool. Imagine you get to play video games that you like against some of the musicians you love listening to… But, of course, as I was doing it, I was evolving it. I wanted to do it the way I wanted to do it. I didn’t wanna just copy other people playing video games. I wanted to make something fun out of it. So it ended up, I was doing a lot of music stuff. The stuff that I do on live streams, I do guitar setup — all kinds of guitar stuff. Talk about clinics, talk about gear.”
Asked by Majura how someone like her can become successful on Twitch, Li said: “One of the most important things is about being yourself. Especially as musicians, we’ve gotta be ourselves. We are not actors. I think musicians suck at acting and suck at dancing — guitar players… I saw Nuno Betterncourt (of EXTREME) dance. He said he can dance, but I didn’t think he can… It’s about being yourself and doing what you want to do.
“I was streaming even the live shows on tour with multiple cameras,” Herman said. “All this was evolving as I learned more and more. It’s like getting better on the guitar, I was getting better on the livestream. But the most important thing, I think the most amazing thing that happened on my livestream was (me getting involved in) the Jason Becker fundraiser. So I was trying to do as many fun things as possible that fans can be a part of in my life.”
Asked if his Twitch activity is a money-making venture for him, Herman said: “Well, I don’t ask for fans to pay me. But if they would like, they can donate. So for the audience who are watching, I don’t ask them to pay me money; you don’t have to pay to watch the livestream. A lot of super-generous fans there, they subscribe to the channel so they don’t have to see the adverts that come up on Twitch. It’s set by the livestreamer itself. I set it that you don’t have to pay to watch at all. However, Twitch is a company owned by Amazon, so they run ads during the stream — just like YouTube; just like anything on the Internet. So you won’t see the ads (if you subscribe). So a lot of people subscribe, and sometimes they donate just because they like what they see and they wanna support me in what I do. So that’s how it works. I don’t ask fans for money. However, I do work with different brands, doing giveaways on the streams. I’ve given away a guitar.”
Last November, DRAGONFORCE released a music video for the song “The Last Dragonborn”. The track is taken from DRAGONFORCE‘s latest album, “Extreme Power Metal”, which came out in September 2019. Produced in Los Angeles, California by Damien Rainaud at Mix Unlimited, the LP was also recorded, in part, on Li‘s livestream channel on Twitch with participation from the fans.
“The Last Dragonborn” is the first DRAGONFORCE music video to feature new bassist Alicia Vigil, who first joined the band as a touring member in January 2020.
DRAGONFORCE‘s platinum-selling single “Through The Fire And Flames” brought the London-based Grammy-nominated extreme power metal group international acclaim and was featured as the most challenging song on “Guitar Hero III”.
In March 2019, the “Through The Fire And Flames” music video reached a new milestone: it surpassed one hundred million views on YouTube — DRAGONFORCE‘s first music video to do so.
“Through The Fire And Flames” is the leadoff track from 2005’s “Inhuman Rampage” album, which was officially certified gold in July 2017 by the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) for sales in excess of half a million copies.
In August 2019, DRAGONFORCE parted ways with longtime bassist Frédéric Leclercq. He has since joined German thrashers KREATOR.