Interview: DragonForce

Written by Michael Carr on July 15, 2008

Playing keyboard in DragonForce, the fastest band in the world, Vadim Puzhanov is not your run of the mill musician. With the bands latest album ‘Ultra Beatdown’ having just been finished, Vad sat down with Music Feeds to discuss drinking, video games and public defecation.

Vadim is a bit of a giant, the sort of guy you would expect to be in a band called DragonForce. However the intimidating cliché stops there. The minute he opens his mouth, and his soft almost child-like voice comes barrelling out at a million miles a second, you can’t help but see him as a fan rather than a musician. “We love meeting fans,” he explains, “because when we look at them we see ourselves at their age, we’re just like grown up versions of our fans, we’re Power Metal fans just like them.”

So where did you guys come up with the name ‘Ultra Beatdown’? “We just thought it almost sounded like a video game,” he explains of the band’s latest album. “We were really happy with the album, I think it’s the best thing we’ve done so far. We recorded it in 5.1 surround, so you can hook it up to your surround sound system and you’ll be surrounded by Power Metal, DragonForce will be giving you the Ultra Beatdown from all over the place, it’s going to be sick man,” he laughs, putting out his cigarette and pushing his luxurious hair out of his face.
“Every album for us is a progression,” he continues, “and on each one we try and improve something and we give ourselves entirely to the work we do. Like, the day before we had to do the mastering we stayed in the studio from 10 in the morning till 5 in the morning the following day with no sleep,” he tells me.

You’re pretty well known for your video game-influenced style, what it is about video game music that you’re so attracted to? “I think we were like, as a band, influenced by video game music and stuff because back in like Zelda days, and Mario days there was only like a midi soundtrack for these types of games you know. There wasn’t any audio, like proper audio you get nowadays; back then there was just a couple of simple sounds making really catchy music that would stick in your head. So yeah, we thought we could produce music that’s as catchy as that pretty much, but with more instruments, with more everything.”

Were you stoked to see one of your songs on Guitar Hero 3? “Yeah definitely man, it was awesome man. We loved the game and I finished it on medium, I finished all the songs and then last song was one of ours, and I pretty much messed it up really bad which was embarrassing, so I had to play it a few times,” he confides a sheepish grin creeping across his features.

Can anyone in the band finish it on expert? “No man, no way, Herman finished it on easy I think, he’s pretty crap,” he laughs.

I ask him about the band’s reputation for drinking on stage, and whether it makes it hard to play. “To be honest it doesn’t really make a lot of difference because we learn the songs to the point where we sort of imprint it on to our brains,” he explains. “But people like Sam, they drink every single day on tour, and they can get away with it. If I get drunk one night, the following day I’m going to be feeling hung over and too worn out to play, but I do get drunk. I usually drink on stage, because if I get drunk before I’m going to fuck it up pretty badly, and I’ve done it before,” he confides, giggling at the memory.

“But yeah we do drink on stage, and Sam usually gets drunk like three or four hours before the gig, his warm up for the show, and he carries on drinking after the show. I mean, we’re not alkies or anything, when the tour is over no one really drinks, I mean sometimes we do go out but you know it’s all sort of easy going.”
I’m listening with great interest as he justifies his drinking, imagining him getting up in an Alcoholics Anonymous and telling stories like, “I used to do the thing where I would get so bored of playing the same thing, and the excitement was going because I knew every song really well, and I was just thinking fuck man, and I just started drinking on stage, you know like downing beers and stuff. It gives you a sort of edge, you never know if you’re going to fuck up or not, and even if you almost fuck up it gives you a moment of excitement, you’re more aware of what’s happening.”

Midway through sipping his beer, I ask him about his worst onstage f**k-up, and he spits a fine sheen of amber suds across the table in laughter. “It’s a pretty funny story actually,” he says, wiping the freshly ejected beer from his chin.  “What happened was I had to go for a dump during one of the songs, it was the middle section and I was like completely shitting myself. I ended up having to go take a shit on the side of the stage, and yeah that was pretty brutal. The band and everyone else back-stage could see it, I was killing myself. But Sam’s usually the worst because he’s the most wasted,” he adds. “He used to try get his cock out on stage, and we used to stop him doing that.”

“I mean we do a lot of random stuff on stage, like, we jump in the crowd and stuff, it’s a bit crazy. When we perform we try to bring that atmosphere of living for today as if there’s no tomorrow. Every time we hit the stage we let ourselves go, we don’t care what happens. We hurt ourselves, we get bruises, fall over, sometimes the keys fall over, but it doesn’t matter, we just let ourselves go and have fun,” he tells me as we get up to leave.

“But it’s going to be cool because we’re coming to Australia in mid-October,” he adds as we’re leaving. “Yeah it should be well fun, we’re going to burn some hair, party hard and pass out.” I can hardly wait.

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