Dragonforce’s Herman Li: “Kurt Cobain Was One of the Best Guitar Players In The World”
The party line among a lot of music historians is that grunge killed metal, and in doing so killed exceptional musicianship. While ’80s metal was all about acrobatic guitar playing, furious drumming, and soaring vocals, grunge was all about zero solos, four-four beats, and typical dudes singing typically. But Herman Li, guitarist for Dragonforce, is one of the most renowned technical guitar players in the world — and he’ll be the first to tell you that Nirvana‘s Kurt Cobain was one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
“A lot of people ask me all the time who do I think is the best guitar player in the world. And I come up with different answers all the time. I say, ‘Well, Kurt Cobain is one of the best guitar players in the world.’ And they just go, ‘Oh, my god. What are you talking about? I thought you knew something, Herman.’ And I say, well, he inspired millions of people to play the guitar — he connected with them. So, obviously, the feeling and expression is way more important than how fast and how much notes you can play in key. If you’re a jazz master or whatever, if you can’t connect with somebody, it’s a different thing. Sometimes the simplest thing is probably the most important thing. And we learned to do complicated stuff because when you’re young, you impress your friends. It’s kind of cool. You’re flexing a little bit.
“I always tell people, ‘Learn the simplest, simplest guitar parts and then make it your own.’ So you’ve got the great simple stuff that you know will always sound good and then build upon that. Learning hard stuff and trying to copy people’s expression is a waste of time, I think, because you’re trying to be someone in a very complicated way.
“You’re spending so much time to play this really complicated lick when you can just create your own one that’s similar. I would say it’s easier to make something simple sounding like yourself than a complicated part sounding like yourself.”
This actually makes a lot of sense. Guys like Yngwie Malmsteen will always be revered for their playing, but at the end of the day, you don’t really get their songs stuck in your head. Good on Herman for being real as fuck.
Check out the interview here: