Dragonforce's Sam Totman on Maximum Overload

We chat to the guitarist about the band's new album.

Dragonforce are a band built on consistency. That might sound like quite the odd statement given the turbulent ups and downs of their career, but at their core Dragonforce is a band that has always remained true to their sound. Now on album number six, Maximum Overload, Metal as Fuck caught up with guitarist Sam Totman to talk about the new album as well as their decision to work with an outside producer (Jens Bogren) for the first time.

“This time around I was thinking we should really do the new album with an outside producer. We really like the sound of all the ones we’ve done in the past. I think they’ve turned out well but at the same time, even though we like to think we’re quite ahead of the times and up with technology, we still thought that maybe we might get stuck in our own hole and get left behind without realising it. So we thought, if we get someone else, that will at least challenge our way of thinking.”

Can you tell me a bit about how his influence impacted the making of this album? “Well the songs were already kind of written. We finished all the demos which were actually quite complete this time, and sent them to Jens who kind of chopped them around. Some of his ideas were okay, but I wasn’t keen on most of them because I’ve become kinda set in my ways over the years. It was mainly more of the overall sound of the album that he changed.”

How did you approach the songwriting this time around? “Well, actually this was the first time we’ve done it a bit differently, because in the past, I would kind of write most of it on my own. This time, I actually worked together with Fred (Leclercq), the bass player and we actually wrote everything together which was a totally new experience. On the previous album, Fred helped me out with a couple of songs and actually we found that we work really well together. I went over to his place in France and It was actually the fastest song-writing I’ve done for a long time now. There was a lot of stuff that he would come up with that I would never have written. On this album, you’ve got the kind of standard Dragonforce stuff, which is probably my influence and then you’ve got a lot of stuff that I would have never come up with, so that’s given it a bit of variety which is cool.”

This is your second album now with Marc Hudson as vocalist. Do his vocal stylings impact the way your write songs at all? “Marc really feels like a part of the band now. On the previous album, most of the songs were written before we even knew who was going to be singing them. So, I had all these demos and when we finally chose Marc, they all had to be completely changed into different keys to suit his voice. If you’re writing songs for a singer, you really need to know their voice inside out. Because then you can go, ‘okay for this part, I can go up to this point here because he can sing that high’. Since he’s been in the band for a while, it makes the songwriting way easier and recording the vocals with him was so much better than last time. He’s improved so much over the last two years too because he’s been touring so much and improving his voice. So it feels really good now.”

A few songs on the new album feature some contributions from Matt Heafy. How did that collaboration come about? “Well we’ve always had some screamy/shouty vocals on all the albums since Inhuman Rampage, but we would normally just do it ourselves or get one of our friends to do it. This time, we thought that instead of doing it ourselves and getting a sore throat for a day, let’s get someone that’s actually really good at this and Matt was just one of the first people that came to mind. We know him pretty well and we’ve been friends with Trivium for years. We sent him the stuff that we wanted him to do and he actually sent back way more than we had asked of him. He said ‘I tried all these other ideas; I think they sound cool, you can try them if you want’. He was totally up for it, which was pretty cool. I actually like the idea of guest musicians; it’s cool to hear the voice of an artist you know so well on another band’s album, I think that’s always a cool thing.”

I also have to ask the burning question: Ring of Fire. A Johnny Cash song. How on earth did you arrive at the decision to cover that song? “I was just watching a TV ad. I saw the song playing and I thought, even though it sounds weird, I could actually imagine that as a fast Dragonforce song as soon as I heard the chorus for it. We’d never done a cover before, so if we were going to do one we didn’t really want to do what 90% of bands do and play a cover of Metallica and play it exactly the same, I always thought that was kind of pointless. We kind of wanted to do something that people would enjoy even if they didn’t know the original. If they like our music, I didn’t want them to just listen to it once and go ‘okay that was like a bonus track or a B-side’. That was the idea, to make something that people would actually want to listen to.”

What are Dragonforce’s plans for the rest of the year? “Just the usual routine really. You do an album, start touring and that’s pretty much that. We’re touring through the UK and Europe for the rest of the year and next year we’ll just carry on. I’m pretty sure we’ll be over in Australia at some point. I don’t really like saying anything until things have been confirmed, otherwise things change and people will complain. The next year of touring will be announced in the next month or two, so if people are wondering when we’re coming to Australia, just keep an eye on the facebook and stuff like that.”

Cheers for the chat Sam, was there anything else you’d like to say to the readers? “Thanks for liking us and supporting us, we really appreciate it. We always have a really cool time in Australia and we look forward to getting back there. Pretty standard answer really, but it’s true!”