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Shred-tastic English power metal favourites DragonForce are headed back to Australia for a stint on the Soundwave Festival. Speaking from Jakarta, likeable bassist Frédéric Leclercq chatted with Loud about their side shows with Judas Priest, spiders, Valentine’s Day and recent controversy surrounding certain members’ previous band.

Q: You’re doing a couple of side shows here with Judas Priest, which must be an exciting prospect.
A: Yeah, it’s great. I never had the chance to see them live, so not only are we going to play with them but also we’re gonna be… I never saw Judas Priest live, so I’m really excited not only to see them live, but to open for them. So that’s awesome.

Q: The band has played shows with the likes of Iron Maiden in the past, but how do you approach a support slot for a band with such a legacy? You’re afforded a strictly limited set time and often a large percentage of the audience aren’t overly interested in anyone but the headliner. And how do you select a set-list for such a scenario?
A: (Laughs) You have to match with the audience, of course. If you’re going to open for Morbid Angel you’re not going to play ballads, unless you really think you’re cool and then you want to be like extremely wacky and a-ha, we’re gonna play you what you don’t expect. But I guess you try to just play the best songs, and think about the crowd reaction according to what their taste is.
Like we’ve been on tour with Epica, we know that people like… It’s different, because we were touring with Epica, so you want to do songs that they might enjoy because it does sound like it’s in the same genre, but at the same time you think you want people to remember you for what they couldn’t see (from) the other bands. So it’s a bit of both. We have the chance to have like mid-tempo songs, fast songs and more heavy and more traditional. We’re going to try to play what’s best and hope for the best. But it should be fine, because we’re not too far off. It’s heavy metal, and we’re not like opening for Slayer or Slipknot. So the audience, they already like us a bit I think, I hope.

Q: Would Priest be one of the collective band members’ biggest influences?
A: Maiden, definitely. Judas Priest, I love their albums and I discovered them maybe a bit after that, it’s hard to tell. I think I’ve spent more time playing Maiden songs as a kid, like trying to (learn) like all the solos and everything. But Judas Priest has always been there, so it is like a passion influence, if you will. I never mention it when I have to mention my top bands, and top five, blah, blah, blah. I never think about Judas Priest, but now that I’m doing these interviews and talking about it, I must admit that, yes, I know all their albums by heart, I know all the songs and it’s just amazing. But for some reason I never think of them. It’s like Saxon; you’re just like, ‘oh, they’re there’. But it is a major influence obviously in my music; the high-pitched vocals, the dual guitars, the long solos and the anthem kind of thing, and the guitar work. Yeah, it is Judas Priest and it’s very cliché and… But it is Judas Priest, that’s who they are. So it is a big influence, for sure.

Q: Do you have much time off between shows in Australia?
A: We do actually have some time off. I don’t really know my schedule right now, I think we’re gonna have a few days. I’m gonna stay in my hotel room and make sure I don’t see any spiders, to be honest with you (laughs). I love Australian people, but I’m scared stiff about spiders, and I know that you guys have like the biggest selection. A large selection of spiders waiting for me to die from a heart attack (laughs). So I’m just gonna stay in my bed with like a spray, and just not sleep and look around. That’s how I’m gonna spend my days off.

Q: So if you seem a tad sluggish while performing, fans will understand why if they’ve read this interview (laughs).
A: (Laughs) Exactly, that’s exactly it. You need to make sure that people read the interview before, very important.

Q: You’re going to be on the road until early 2016, and I suppose then it’s time to have a brief break, write another record and the madness begins again?
A: Yeah, pretty much. It sounds a bit boring, but that’s what we do. We tour, then we record an album and then we tour again. I think we plan on writing the album this year. We’ve got a bunch of ideas already, so we’re gonna do that. That’s what you need to do nowadays anyway, keep on feeding people and be there, because you can’t really, unless you’re a very big band, you need to be there all the time. So we’re gonna record the album next year and then release it in 2017.

Q: Given DragonForce’s work ethic you must have your road routines well-honed by now, and understand each other’s personalities and quirks.
A: Yeah, I like to stay alone really (laughs). We know each other very well and we know how to not get on each other’s nerves. As far as I’m concerned, I have no brothers, no sisters, I like to be alone, so it’s always like hard for me to cope with just people surrounding me 24/7. So I try to stay as alone as I can, have some me time, reading and listening to music. But it’s fine, we know each other for a long time. Even the new members, they’re very easy to live with and with the others we know each other, so we know exactly, we leave each other space, and that’s fine.

Q: About a decade ago the band had a hard-partying reputation. Do you still partake as much, or have you reined that in somewhat over the years?
A: Well, I went to the doctor a week ago to get some more medication because I’ve got acid reflux, does that answer your question? (laughs) So I have to slow down on the booze, but we still party a lot. It’s just now we’re a bit wiser, so we try to party after the show, as opposed to before, when we were doing it before the show, and like sometimes the shows would be like (mimics a drunken slur, then laughs). So now we play sober, or sort of, and then we just party hard after. Not as often as I used to on a personal level, because it’s just like, it burns, it burns, burns, burns, which is why we did ‘Ring of Fire’ (laughs)… my personal ring of fire.

Q: Did you feel at one point that said reputation preceded you somewhat, that fans expected to go to a show and see you downing beers during solos and the like?
A: (Pauses) I guess people, it’s hard, I mean, I’m not going to drink a bottle of Jack just to make them happy. But when I’ve got a bottle of Jack on the side, and I take a sip, I just make sure they look at it, because usually it makes them happy. So it is part of the reputation I guess that we like have a few drinks, like that we’re party animals. I guess it’s part of the reputation, but the last European tour I drank a grand total of four beers on the ten, 15 shows that we done, four beers on-stage. That’s what I’ve done, so I can behave, and I hope that people still enjoy what we’re doing, even if there’s no alcohol on-stage. And if they don’t, well then they have to buy me drinks after (laughs) and we can talk, and see who’s the strongest at drinking (laughs).

Q: (Laughs). Switching topics, the band attracted some negative publicity last year when a writer unearthed lyrics from selected members’ (guitarists Sam Totman and Herman Li’s outfit, Demoniac, contained some ill-advised content) pre-DragonForce act and asked about it. Did that register much with the band overall?
A: That was dumb. That was dumb, and the girl who done the interview, actually we know her, so that’s really fucking dumb. ‘Cause we started the interview, I was next to Sam, and it was just like, ‘hey, how you doing?’ blah, blah, blah, and it doesn’t seem that she likes us a lot. I think this is really dumb, and it’s just like blowing out of proportion something that shouldn’t have been in the first place. That’s definitely not good publicity, but it’s really fucking dumb, and it’s a shame. I’m not going to comment on it, just because it’s really dumb (laughs), especially coming from someone you know. It’s a bit… crap.

Q: Did the negative response seem to die off relatively quickly?
A: I think this is just bad publicity, but it’s just like, it exploded like a (makes exploding sound effect), it went like a lead balloon or whatever you call it. She was trying to make publicity for herself; ‘oh yeah, I’ll bring them down’. I don’t want to talk about it; I don’t want to talk about her. She doesn’t deserve my side of the publicity (laughs). So that was just a dumb moment that nobody really picked on it, and it’s pretty fucking stupid.

Q: We’re currently two days out from Valentine’s Day. What are your plans, if any?
A: (Laughs) I was gonna say I’m gonna give myself a manicure on the right hand (laughs).  Nothing, even if I have a girlfriend I don’t like Valentine’s Day. I think it’s dumb, and I’m just being a lovely man the rest of the year. I don’t buy this Valentine’s Day crap, so I’m not going to do anything. I’ll probably go for a meal with one of the guys in the band, that’s about it for a Valentine’s Day. Go and get Burger King (laughs).  

Q: Any famous last words?
A: Thank you very much for this interview, thanks for reading it, I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed doing it. Buy our new album (Maximum Overload), ‘cause I wrote most of it, so it’s amazing (laughs). And I hope to see you guys at the shows we do in Australia. Buy me a drink after, and we’ll see who’s strong at drinking.

You can catch DragonForce at Soundwave:

They will also be performing with Judas Priest on the following dates: