Herman Li, guitarist, songwriter and producer of the Grammy-nominated metal band DragonForce, is known for his speed and precision as well as his light-hearted attitude when it comes to shredding. But if maybe the on-stage trampolines fooled you, we're here to remind you this guitarist means serious business. While it's overdone to even mention how difficult it is to tackle his "Through the Fire and the Flame" licks on Guitar Hero alone, guitarists and would-be guitarists only need to listen to the high-soaring riffs within DragonForce to understand the dedication Li has given to his craft. And with the latest endeavor on his mastery mission, Li has even toned down the on-stage antics long enough to capture his band's first-ever live album Twilight Dementia with no overdubs.
To learn more about where he's coming from, we caught up with the axe-wielder to ask him what guitarists are on his personal "I'm not worthy" list. What we found is that Li is not just a guitarist who admires other guitarists, but a true musician who admires the nuts and bolts of riff-writing and melody-making. See who he called out amongst his favorite players/ writers below.
"Joe Satriani of course is one of them. I first got into him by listening to The Extremist [and] I picked up Flying In A Blue Dream. Having two albums that really blew me away, Satriani made me look at the guitar totally different. It kind of blew my mind when I first heard it with the approach to melodies and things like that. That technique really impressed me since the beginning and up to now -- I listen to Satriani, new albums or old albums. It inspires me to be better as a guitar player and to keep exploring the possibilities of the guitars."
"Same thing – the approach, the originality that he put into the sound, the weirdness, and just like Satriani, they really make some great albums. And they don’t just make the same album all the time, they try to move forward, to explore the guitar and the music and try to keep improving all the time. Satriani, Steve Vai, I learned a lot of my stage performance and stuff like that from them along with the production and recording, as they record and produce themselves."
"Another guitar player I like is Marty Friedman. Of course he was in Megadeth, and those albums Rust in Peace, Countdown to Extinction -- I can’t say enough about them. They’ve had an incredible influence on the DragonForce sound and on my guitar playing. You might not hear it, but trust me it’s in there. All the old metal stuff, I really dig the riffing and the solos, how they put those things together: the heavy riffing and the melodies, complex riffs, things like that."
"Tony MacAlpine is really a big influence on my guitar playing. His instrumental albums such as Maximum Security, Freedom To Fly, Evolution, etc, etc inspired me a lot in the technique and the approach to melody. MacAlpine’s instrumental albums are totally different than Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. There’s definitely a different dimension, maybe because he’s a piano player, his view on the music and how to put it out is very different than the other guys. But Tony MacAlpine is one of my favorite guitar players."
"Amazing guitar player; he’s another one that evolved and got better through the years and has a diverse style and keeps on getting better. He’s played with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra as well, but was with Testament all the way from the beginning until The Ritual album. He had an impact on my playing and my view of the guitar. He did just really awesome solos -- everything just really touches you when he plays, its got real good energy so you know you’ve got to check out Alex Skolnick."
"Dream Theater’s John Petrucci -- another amazing player. Dream Theater for years has inspired me as a guitar player and a musician. From when I first heard Images and Words I pretty much got all the albums straight away. Actually there was only one previous album before that one. And the Awake album -- that was really cool with the 7-string stuff. At the same time their melodies, composition, arrangements – actually John Petrucci, the way he was approaching the speed of melody is what got me into playing fast. Of course I listened to other players, but the way he was playing “buhluop buhloup” [sweep pick noises] really made me want to practice playing that kind of speed he’s got. So John Petrucci: absolutely amazing. They made so many great albums you just have to get all of them."
"I really think George Lynch’s playing and approach to solos is amazing. The melody, how he’s able to improvise -- he’s got real original sound to his playing. I’ve really liked it for years and years and a lot of my playing is still inspired by George Lynch. I used to listen to the Dokken Back For The Attack album – it’s really amazing and also the first Lynch Mob album is really cool. And also his solo album Sacred Groove-- that’s really cool."
"Vinnie Moore is the current guitar player for UFO. I’ve listened to all the instrumental albums he’s got, I practiced a lot of them for years. He taught me the approach of the melodies and putting the whole thing together and a lot how his style is a real good mix of rock, neoclassical, fusion jazzy-stuff and he pulls it all together."
"Another player I like is Mike Romeo of Symphony X. When I first got into the Divine Wings of Tragedy album, it made a big change in the way I looked at guitar. It put a different edge to the prog metal dimension that is different than say Dream Theater. I really like his approach; good composition, good arrangements -- interesting arrangement for that style of music."
"10th of my personal guitar greats: Eric Johnson. He is another very unique player with lots of emotion in his music. His tonal and melodic control is incredible. Not a metal player, but I think all rock guitarists can learn a lot from listening to his music. My favorite of his is the album Venus Isle."