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Why I love Dream Theater, by DragonForce's Herman Li

How DragonForce guitarist Herman Li discovered a love of prog at the height of grunge...

“I was born in Hong Kong and the pop music there was just awful. I just wasn’t into it. Then I heard guitar solos for the first time and I thought, ‘Wow, this is really cool!’ I came to London around ’88 and it was around ’91/’92 that I first heard progressive rock. It was the grunge era, but I never got into it so I had to go and find my own music. I used to live in Hammersmith and I remember borrowing tapes and CDs from the local library. I got a bunch of Rush albums and then I discovered Dream Theater and Symphony X. I got into them because they had a more modern approach.

Although Michael Romeo from Symphony X was one of the inspirations behind my guitar playing, Dream Theater are my true prog heroes. I got into them on Images And Words – I thought all the songs on that album were amazing – but Scarred from [1994’s] Awake is my favourite track of theirs. That was from my ‘learning to play guitar’ time so it meant a lot to me. I practised along to that song. It’s not extremely technical but the solo blows you away and it’s got a great melody.

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I’ve seen them play every tour since Awake – that was the first prog gig I ever saw – and I thought the Astonishing tour was the best I’d ever seen them. Wow. I don’t know what people were complaining about online because I thought that album was amazing, and the whole show, the production… they nailed it.

They say you should never meet your heroes but I’ve met Dream Theater loads of times now. We’ve played festivals together, I got John Petrucci to sign my guitar and I even interviewed him once for a magazine, which was fun! I grew up being inspired by these guys and they’re genuinely nice. Prog is the thinking person’s music so maybe that’s why the musicians are so friendly.

Through Dream Theater’s fan club and online forums, I found out about a lot of other prog rock bands, like Shadow Gallery and Lemur Voice. More recently I discovered Circus Maximus and I thought their album Nine had some really good songs.”

Reaching Into Infinity is out now. For the full list of DragonForce tour dates, see www.dragonforce.com


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