Interview with Dragonforce: Ready For A Beatdown?

DragonforceVocalist ZP Theart is a heavy-drinking outspoken South African who resides in London. Bassist Frédéric Leclercq is a Frenchman whose mild-mannered demeanor is in staunch contrast to his wild stage antics. Together they’ve spent weeks jetting between North America and Europe in support of the Aug. 26 release of the latest Dragonforce record, Ultra Beatdown.

Even though it was yet to be fully mixed and mastered when I previewed the record in the Manhattan office of their label, Roadrunner Records, I was able to catch a glimpse of what will inevitably become one of the great metal albums of 2008.

Leaving little to the imagination, Ultra Beatdown is an extreme pummeling of complex guitar technicality and musical melody. It’s insanely fast U.K. power metal that fuses shifting tempos with video game harmonics and fantastical lyrics. The guitar duo of Herman LI and Sam Totman continue to shred with the breakneck speed of a hummingbird’s wings, making it no surprise that “Through The Fire And Flames” off 2006’s Inhuman Rampage was chosen to become the most difficult song to master on the video game, Guitar Hero III: Legends Of Rock.

They play loud, they play fast, and they play video games. They split their time between rock n’ roll revelry and Resident Evil 4, and while the record was yet to be completed when I spoke to Theart and Leclercq, it became apparent that they were more than ready for the seven-month- long recording process to end and tour life to begin. A word of advice to anyone checking them out live this summer, keep your kicks on your feet–at all times.

Ultra Beatdown—I’d say the title of the new record is fairly self-explanatory.

ZP Theart: Yeah, well hopefully when you listen to the record the first time around, that’s exactly what its going to do to you–slam you down on the ground ‘cause its so much, so fast, so hard, and so fucking overpowering.

I had a chance to check out a couple tracks off the record. ‘Reason To Live’ stood out as a song that showcases your musical prowess, combining, a death-metal intro with a bluesy mid-section, and even some video game sound effects. Where did you get the idea to combine all of those elements?

Theart: Basic influences. The computer game thing has been a theme throughout the whole Dragonforce existence. Everyone is into playing games and we’ve never fucking grown up, that’s the problem.

Frédéric Leclercq: Yeah the black metal part, we have some people in the band who like that kind of music. Like, the drummer, he used to play in a black metal band and I used to do that too.

Was their any change in the writing process or lyrical content on this record versus your past releases?

Theart: Lyrics man, yeah lyrics come last. Once the melody line is dead secure and lyrics get written to actually fit the melody rather than the melody fit the word. Every word goes there because they fit, they don’t necessarily make sense when you read them line-by-line, but in context it does. So there’s not a specific content but its open for interpretation, everyone can read it and find something valuable in there for themselves which is pretty much the way we intended it to be.

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