Don’t fool yourself, being the “new guy” in any band is never an easy task. A lot of pressure is on them to keep the group moving forward. Yet it’s also a nerve-wrecking experience for said band, especially when they’ve been out of the spotlight for an extended period of time. So it’s extremely understandable that both singer Marc Hudson and Dragonforce had a lot on their mind prior to performing at this year’s New England Metal & Hardcore Festival (which also served as the kickoff to their first full North American tour).
Yet when Metal Insider spoke to the new singer and bassist Frederic Leclercq aboard their tour bus just hours before they took the stage, they did a hell of a job hiding any of their fears. During our chat, the two members of Dragonforce talked about the nerves that went into performing and recording, the goal of focusing on song structure with their new album The Power Within, and their thoughts on a world without Guitar Hero.
After working on music with Dragonforce for over a year now, how does it feel to finally have The Power Within released? Relieved?
Marc: Yes! [laughs]
Frederic: Yeah, finally!
Marc: Definitely. For me, it’s the first album. So we’ve been really excited for it to come out. And now that it’s finally here, it’s pretty cool.
I know that the audition process took place before this, but you [Marc] “officially” joined Dragonforce over a year ago. Have you gained more confidence as the band’s frontman over that time period?
Marc: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I had a lot to learn when I started. Obviously I had come from a completely unprofessional background. But these guys have been telling me how stuff works and how to better behave onstage. Now things are really coming together. So I think things are getting easier and easier.
What was the biggest “culture” shock since joining the group?
Marc: Culture shock?
Frederic: Talking to me, with my French accent [laughs].
Marc: No, I guess the lifestyle of touring and stuff. To be fair, I’m not really in the position to say anything because we haven’t done a big tour yet, this is the first one [note: this interview was conducted prior to their trek with Holy Grail and Huntress, which just concluded].
Frederic: Yeah, we’ve been doing just one offs, like flying in then doing a show and then coming back. So we haven’t done a “proper” tour, like he can’t hear us farting or what not [laughs]. So you haven’t experienced the full horror.
I don’t envy you on that, Marc.
Frederic: It’s honestly horrible. I’m depressed because it’s all well in theory, but when you wake up and you want to hear the birds singing or something, what you hear is the guy opposite your bunk and just going [makes a fart noise].
That’s kind of chirping, I guess!
Frederic: Naahh [laughs].
I’ve heard a little about this before, but what was it exactly that you, Frederic, were looking for in a new singer?
Frederic: To be fair, I didn’t take part of the whole process because I was having personal problems. So actually those guys were doing it and I was just like “Yeah, whatever.” Obviously we were looking for someone with a nice voice.
Frederic: Yeah, as opposed to someone with a bad one [laughs]. And someone who was nice, that’s also important, someone who’s a nice chap because if he’s got an awesome voice but is also a … can I say wanker?
Go for it! In fact, curse all you want.
Frederic: Oh fuck yeah! [laughs] But yeah, the personality is very important as well. So there you go, he’s a nice chap as well. So what more do we want? It would be nice to have a girl, but… [laughs]
Yeah, but she probably would be more disturbed about the farting.
Frederic: Yeah, probably.
As you mentioned, it’s been a while since you last toured. Are guys a little nervous?
Frederic: Obviously we are, yeah. We’ve been out for a while and we have those new songs. It’s a mix of being excited, like “Yeah, I want to play!” and then “Ahh, hope everything is going to be alright!” The last American tour was in 2009. So it’s been three years. We’ll see how it goes.
Speaking about how things have changed over time, Guitar Hero was discontinued last year. I’m sure you’re probably tired about hearing this, but for most American fans, Guitar Hero was their introduction to Dragonforce. It really helped you break big in the States. How do you feel about not just Guitar Hero, but all music video games’ decrease in popularity?
Frederic: Well to be fair, one of the biggest American tours we did was actually before Guitar Hero was released. So people are just mixing it up and think we were nothing and then Guitar Hero came out and here we are. But I remember it was when we released The Ultra Beatdown, we went to America to do some interviews and people were like “Oh my god! Dragonforce! Guitar Hero!” And I actually had no idea, like “Oh, really? Is it that big?” But I was actually not aware, I only play old video games. I’ve heard that Guitar Hero doesn’t exist anymore. There’s another one, Rock Band?
Yeah, but even that is starting to lose some steam.
Frederic: Yeah? To be honest, I really don’t like those kinds of games because I play music and [the game] is just about the colors. When I pick up a guitar [he picks up a guitar next to him and starts playing a few notes] I know where I’m going, but when I play Guitar Hero I’m like “Ugghh.” Also, on the other hand, it’s a good introduction for people if they want to pick an instrument. But the fact that people aren’t interested, I have no idea. I just play my old Castlevania on Nintendo or whatever. I’m old [laughs].
How about you, Marc? What games do you play then?
Marc: I’m probably slightly more nerdy than these guys. Call Of Duty and Battlefield, that kind of thing.
Frederic: I was pretty nerdy. I’m just like an old nerd, like retro games. That’s my area. But I had no idea that Rock Band was going down.
While there’s a lot of technicality on The Power Within, I felt that you guys put a little more focus on song structure. What inspired the band to take that route?
Frederic: You! [laughs] But no, on the previous tour we were playing that song “Strike Of The Ninja,” and that song was a bonus track for Japan. And it’s really straight forward, it’s just three minutes and a half, and it’s very simple. We had fun playing it onstage and the crowd had fun. So I guess that not forced us, but gave us that sort of “Yeah, that’s what we should do!” So it wasn’t like we all sat down and went like “Right, your song is seven minutes. So you’ll have to cut that.” It just went naturally. But your right, it’s more about the song writing, like we’ve got different tempos and an acoustic song.
I know Marc that you’ve said before how you didn’t try to come in and “take over.” But did you feel that you got to contribute a little bit to the new album?
Marc: I mean, obviously most of the album was written before arrived. And when we played the songs through, there’s a lot of adjustments made to the songs to suit my voice better, or there’s a few things on the album that I improvised that ended up actually being recorded. So I managed to contribute some stuff, but 90% of it Sam [Totman, guitarist] and Herman [Li, guitarist] had already written.
Were you nervous at all, whether it was during the audition process or recording process? Were you ever like “Oh my god, what am I getting myself into?!”
Marc: Yeah, definitely! There’s about ten occasions I could think that happened. Recording was obviously a nerve racking thing for someone who’s never done it before because not only are you singing, but you’re singing with people listening to you looking at minor details. But then the other thing that happened was the Iron Maiden gig, which was obviously fucking the scariest ever. We supported them in August of last year?
Frederic: August, yes.
Marc: I think it was about 23,000 people.
That was in England, right?
Frederic: Belfast and London.
Marc: So yeah, that was the scariest thing.
I could imagine!
Frederic: It’s nothing to me, I’m French [laughs].
So what’s the plan for after the tour with Huntress and Holy Grail?
Frederic: Yeah, recovering.
Marc: You know that thing where you just drink water.
Marc: Yeah, detoxing! [laughs]
Frederic: We’re not too sure what’s going on in the Summer. We’re not going to do any festivals. We’re going to keep them for next year, I think. And then we do South America and then we do Europe. So then next year we’ll see what’s going on. I guess we’re going to go to Asia and whatnot.
Having toured more extensively, Frederic, what are some of the biggest differences between touring North America and Europe?
Frederick: The beer [laughs]. The beer is better in Europe, sorry. But to be serious, the difference between crowd reaction?
Yeah, but also even in the…
Frederick: The infrastructure?
Yeah, because whenever I talk to bands who’ve done extensive touring in Europe, they mention how the layout is extremely different. Like in America, you have to drive to more locations.
Frederick: Yeah, that’s true. That’s one thing. So obviously the bus is bigger. No one really cares about that. Have you ever been on a European tour bus?
No I haven’t.
Frederick: It’s like those double deckers and it’s smaller because you’ve got bigger roads. It’s sort of narrow and it smells bad. The crowds in America, Europe and Japan are pretty much the same. Well no, in Japan they are very polite. They go like “Woo!” and when you tell them to stop, they stop. And when you tell them to start again they go “Woo!” But no, I think it’s pretty much the same really, besides all those points you made, but that’s got nothing to do with the music.
One last question for Marc, what do you hope to contribute to Dragonforce going forward? In the end of the day, what do you hope you can bring to the band that might have been missing before in your opinion?
Marc: I don’t know, actually. It’s quite a hard question. I want to contribute to the next album musically.
Frederick: Not going to happen. [laughs] No no, just kidding!
Marc: [laughs] Fuck I don’t know. Maybe bring some more energy to the band because they’ve been doing it for years and years and they’re getting older and older.
Frederick: It is a hard question, though. Yeah, we are very old. It is a hard question what you want to contribute anyway because just being there and playing music is already something. It’s like you feel kind of lucky.
Marc: Yeah, I can’t think of anything unique that was already missing.
To be continued then!
Marc: Yes! To be seen.
[photo taken by Louis-Philippe Alain via Live N’ Loud Magazine]