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Sam Totman (Dragonforce)

Interview with Sam Totman from Dragonforce
by Mike Coyle at 04 October 2014, 8:47 AM

In spite of their many detractors, it's hard to deny that DRAGONFORCE are one of the most popular and unique Power Metal bands in the world. Mike Coyle and Danny Sanderson sat down with one of the masterminds behind the band, Sam Totman, to talk about video games, “Maximum Overload” and how the band has changed in their 15 year career.

In spite of their many detractors, it's hard to deny that DRAGONFORCE are one of the most popular and unique Power Metal bands in the world. Mike Coyle and Danny Sanderson sat down with one of the masterminds behind the band, Sam Totman, to talk about video games, “Maximum Overload” and how the band has changed in their 15 year career.

Hi, this is Michael Coyle and Danny Sanderson and today we are talking to…

I am Mr. Sam Totman, from the band DRAGONFORCE

So, first of all, how are you doing?

I doing quite well actually. I'm kind of a bit hung over, but that's kind of the routine when you're on tour. So, yeah, nothing unusual, I'll get there.

This is obviously Mark's second album with the band, has he taken a much bigger role in the band, more or less with the writing and recording process, than on the last one?

Well, it definitely came a lot easier, that's for sure, and of course he's been with us now for so long that the recording process has been much smoother. On “The Power Within” album, he did fine, but he was still learning a lot of things that he hadn't done with professional recording before. So, as far as that goes, this one's been a lot easier. And in other ways, he now feels like a proper part of the band now, so yeah.

I wanted to ask about this tour actually. The last time that you guys played Manchester, you played the main Academy, and now you're playing a much smaller venue. Do you think that playing in a venue like this will be a much different take for your sound, which is quite big?

Yeah, well we haven't played these sorts of small venues for like ten years now, and because we always tend to do places like the Manchester Academy, playing seven or eight shows around the country. So we decided that this time around, instead of doing seven or eight big ones, we'll do something like twenty or so small ones. So at the end of the day, I think we'll be playing to the same amount of people, and it's a lot more work for us. And it's probably been quite nice for people from smaller towns, because they don't have to venture out too far into the big city for a show. So, yeah, people should be thinking that we're all very nice chaps. But as far as the sound, yeah, I think that we sound pretty good in a small place, actually. I think that you can sound better in a way, because with our music being so fast, we find that we might go to a festival or a bigger place and you'll find that it gets lost in a big place. Not always, but it can do. So I find that, generally, when you're playing a place like this, it can often sound like some of the best sounds you could possibly have. That's just my opinion.

2014 marks your 15th Anniversary as a band! Are you doing anything in order to celebrate it?

Not really, because we don't want to be reminded of how old we are. (laughs) Yeah, that's the weird thing, someone else asked me that the other day, and I kind of thought "we've been together for 15 years!" Because I still sort of see us as one of the new bands, and now we're turning into the old generation without even realising it. But yeah, it's really cool that people still like it, I can't complain about that of course, but I don't think that we're going to do anything like play the whole first album or that kind of thing, really. You know, everyone kind of does that ,and we're kind of not really that bothered. So, certainly for me, I don't celebrate Birthdays or Christmas or anything like that, I know that Herman's the same, so we're just going to let it slip by. We don't care really.

Well, I know that both of us watched some of your music videos as a kid, and it really inspired us to try and get good at guitar.

Awesome! I hope you succeeded.

I've gotten better, let's say that. (laughs) I remember hearing “Inhuman Rampage” and wanting to emulate that sort of stuff myself.

Well, it feels like yesterday that we did that album, but I guess for yourself, you were probably pretty young back then.

Well, speaking of “Inhuman Rampage”, it seems that a lot of the music on The Power Within and this new record were stepping away from that sort of thing, stuff like seven, eight, nine minute songs. Is there kind of a reason for that happening?

Well, the main reason was the we wanted to play what we enjoy, and we just happen to like shorter songs at this point in our life. I prefer to hear that kind of stuff. It wasn't like there was a big plan to go "Why don't we do a load of seven or eight minute song?", or "Maybe they'll like this or that?", we just kind of decided that that was how we preferred to write music at that moment, so hopefully, other people will like it, and that's really all there is to it. Personally, I'd prefer to hear more songs and choruses than these really long instrumental solos. I mean, there's still a lot of instrumental sections there, but it's less drawn out, I guess. So that's how it turned out really.

In all the years that DRAGONFORCE have been around, have things pretty much stayed the same, or have you incorporated more influences into your sound from extensive touring?

There'll be certain bands, like, I never really liked the band KORN ever... I still don't really, I always used to go, "Oh, this band's rubbish!", but then I saw them at a festival, and now I can see how that all works. When you see things in a live setting, you kind of get a better understanding of how it works, and you might go "Well, that maybe isn't total shit after all". I mean, I still wouldn't listen to their albums, but that's just one example of how travelling around and seeing how other things are that you wouldn't necessarily listen to. And I think that even if we weren't doing so much travelling and touring, I'd still be listening to new music all the time, and I think that everything that you hear can influence your playing in a way. It could be anything. I might be playing some video game, some tune comes out, and then you end up playing something like it without even realising, you know. So yeah, I guess it would happen like that anyway I guess.

It's interesting that you mentioned video games, because a lot of bands in Power Metal will focus on writing about Dungeons and Dragons style music, but you guys seem to take way more influence from video games. Was that a conscious decision?

It's always been something that we've really enjoyed, it's not like we went "Oh, if we sing about this, people will think it's cool". I guess it's like what most people will do, you'll focus on writing stuff that you like or would want to hear more, and you know that was one of the things that we all thought was really cool, and it kind of ended up coming into the music I suppose.

It kind of comes into your imagery as well. In the video for “Operation Ground and Pound”, there's the bit where you and Herman are controlling the guitar solos with games consoles and stuff like that. So, in terms to your style of guitar playing, do you find that it's gotten harder or easier to do over time?

Well, it does get tiriing in some ways, like for example, we've just been doing five gigs in a row on this tour so far, but it can't be as hard for us as say it is for a drummer, because they'll be building up much more of a sweat while performing. But I guess it's tiring in some ways, but I still think that it's easier than doing a job that involved physical labour and stuff like that. I would never complain about it, because I really enjoy it still, and that's why the band is still doing this now.

Before we go, is there any sort of plans for touring and promoting the album up the end of the year and into 2015?

Yeah, of course, the album's just come out, so we're going to be touring for at least the next two years or so, as far as I know. Not everything has been booked yet, but we're pretty much going to travel and do the whole world more or less, like we do for pretty much every album, which is great. I don't know about the others, but that's my favourite part. It's all fun making an album and stuff like that, but it can be hard work at time's in a studio, so going out and playing to people is what it's all about really, so that should be cool.

What is the one essential thing that you can't go out on tour without?

THAT! (motions to the can of beer he's holding)

Besides that. Everyone needs beer, but what sort of hime comforts do you have to have along on tour with you?

Erm... (Fredric, DRAGONFORCE's bassist, who is stood by making some food, motions to Sam's hat) Yeah, I was going to say that, but I guess a computer or video games that you can play while you're relaxing.

Do you have any last things to say to your fans?

Well, I always say the same thing every time; Thanks for liking us! That's all you can really say, we really appreciate it, you are very lovely for supporting us!

Thank you so much for your time! It's been a pleasure!


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Edited 02 February 2023

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