Alicia Vigil (DragonForce) about the new album, videos and Taylor Swift

DragonForce‘s new album will be released at the Ides of March. The five are often praised as the world’s fastest band; the album was therefore appropriately titled Warp Speed Warriors. A month before the release, we spoke to Alicia Vigil, the band’s bassist, and topics such as creativity, innovation, criticism and videos were discussed. And let’s not forget Taylor Swift…

Hi Alicia, how are you doing? How has your day been thus far?
Hi Patrick, I am fine. I hope it is the same for you.

My day has been fine. This series of interviews must be one of the first for you when it comes to DragonForce. How do you feel?
I feel good about it. It is definitely my first run of interviews surrounding the new album, but I look forward to hear everybody’s questions and hear some thoughts about the album.

Well, let’s go then. Warp Speed Warriors is album number nine for the band. Your first, but number nine for the band. What are you as a band looking for in a new album? When you will ask the fans, many people will say they want another Inhuman Rampage or another Sonic Firestorm. But how is that for the five of you? What do you – as a band – look for into a new album?
You know, being so new, it’s hard to tell from obviously the band members that have been involved since the beginning. But for me, and being in the band for four years now, it’s pretty cool to witness that. I think that they’re doing a good job at blending a lot of the old, classic DragonForce sound with a lot of new elements. They’re keeping it refreshing and new. It’s not the same old, always going to be just fast, speedy, power metal, but with added elements. We got a song called Doomsday Party that we released, it’s very disco metal, it’s funky and dancey. And I think that was a surprise element to it. And there is a ballad on the record, and there’s a Taylor Swift cover. I think it’s dynamically very versatile. So, I think that’s pretty cool. Because for being a band for over 20 years, it’s hard to keep things new and exciting. I think DragonForce are doing a really good job at keeping it new and exciting.

And I think it should be new for you as a musician as well. Because after all, playing the same songs many times during the year in a live concert, you also want it to be entertaining for you as well by trying new things instead of doing the same thing over and over again.
I think they are always looking to do something new and exciting. And along with that comes the live element. I think we’ve been adding new elements to the stage to go with our new theatrics in the songs as well. And that’s exciting, because if you haven’t seen the DragonForce show, it’s really, it’s not the typical metal band, you know. There’s a lot going on, and every time, every tour you come, it will be different. There’s going to be new things on stage, or new elements that we’re doing. Yeah, because it’s also visually quite attractive. Because there’s a lot of things happening on stage. So, I think it’s a very fun band to be a part of for that reason.

This release will be your first since joining the band. How special will the 15th of March be for you?
Oh, it’s going to be super. I think we’re actually going to be on the road during that time. We’re going to be in Europe. So, it’s going to be a very exciting way to celebrate. And, you know, it was an honor to be a part of it, finally. After I’ve been in the band now for just over four years. So, it’s been nice to finally have that be the next thing that I can be a part of the legacy of the recorded aspect now too. It’s going to be very exciting.

What does writing an album look like for DragonForce? Nowadays with so many possibilities online, do you share ideas through the internet after which each of you write or continue on certain riffs or something? Or do you actually still get together in a room? How do you deal with those things?
Yeah, so this band, everyone, you know, really does have their own role. They have their own job duties. So right now, at least for this album specifically, our guitar player Sam is the mastermind. He’s the main songwriter of the band. He, lyrically and instrumentally, delivers all the demos to us, basically. He had time, you know, during the pandemic to do it. So, luckily, we did have that time that he could do that. So, he sent us all the demos, and then we were all able to go into the recording studio, record our parts, but put our own little flavor on it, put our own feel on it. But, yeah, so it’s been awesome. And it was an interesting recording process, too, because I’m used to being in a band that’s all in the same place. We go in together, but this time we were all, you know, our drummer lives in Italy, and our singer, our other guitar player, Sam, he lives in England. Herman and I live here in Los Angeles. So, I mean, I was luckily able to go in person to the studio because our producer, Damian, lives here in LA. But to not have the other bandmates there, it’s a little strange, but it was cool because then everyone would, like you said, technology, we can exchange notes, and if we need any parts changed, and re-record things. So, it’s definitely a different, unique experience to be separate. Yeah, especially when you think that one is in Italy, and two of you being in the US, and it’s still possible to combine.

You already mentioned that there’s a Taylor Swift cover on the album: Wildest Dreams. I didn’t know the original by Swift, had to look for it … and your version is so different. It has the typical DragonForce characteristics all over it. What made you decide to go for this song, because Taylor Swift is not the type of artist you instantly think of when you talk about DragonForce. It could have been so many other bands. Who came up with the idea of Taylor Swift?
This idea came about because of Herman actually. He has a daughter that likes Taylor Swift, so I think that had something to do with it. But he’s always trying to come up with new and creative ways to keep things exciting. I think it was a really good idea, because Taylor Swift is one of the biggest artists in the world now. It would be very cool if maybe some of her fans got to hear it and think: “Whoa, this is totally different.” They’ve probably never heard anything like that before. Maybe it’ll expose them and get them more interested in metal, and DragonForce songs in particular. Who knows? Yeah, I think it’s very cool. It was definitely a shock, because I hadn’t really heard the original too much either. Now I hear it, and it’s totally different. But I really love our version too. It’s grown on me, and it’s fun to play live.

You are the type of band who has a lot of creativity and start new things, but as always there will be people criticizing your choices…
I think that’s what you should be doing. If you don’t have any kind of reaction at all, and you feel that it’s just boring and to be expected, then you’re probably not doing it right. So, I think it is very cool to see very mixed reactions, both good and bad, and get people just excited in their responses. Because that’s what Herman is very smart about doing. He’s always looking for … well, people are talking about it. And that’s better than when they are silent about you, when they don’t talk about the band. Because then, especially nowadays, with so many bands being available, really so many, then if you do stand out, that is fine. And of course, it’s never possible to satisfy everybody. That’s impossible, simply impossible. So, talk about us, give us some feedback. Even if it’s negative. People will talk about it and there will be people who will like it. Who knows? Maybe even Taylor will hear it and like it.

Will you be sending a copy of the album towards Taylor or Taylor’s management or whatsoever?
Why not? I think it would be awesome to know what she thinks of it. Hopefully the fan base of DragonForce fans and Taylor fans that hear it, can make it happen. Yeah, somehow it will come around her. But of course, we are not the only band will be covering a song from her. But who knows?

It’s nice to hear that you are above criticism and don’t let it get to you. You will be going around on a tour in Europe and your show the Netherlands was rapidly sold out. How does that feel, seeing that people are willing to come to the show, that they are excited about it? What does that do to you before going on the road?
It feels really good. I mean, it shows how strong the fan base is. I’ve always felt really strongly about the Netherlands specifically the crowds there. You guys do a chant where you put hands on your head. Do you know what I’m talking about? I don’t experience that over here in the States at all. So, I always have a lot of fun seeing how enthusiastic the crowds are there. So, it feels really exciting that we’re going to be going over and already half the shows are sold out. It feels very good. All the hard work is paying off.

You already mentioned the stage act. Visual aspect has always been important for DragonForce. To what certain extent do you use video games in the visual aspect as well? Because video games are also a big part of DragonForce. How do you take that into the stage show? Or not at all, maybe? Do you use parts of video games or clues from it in the stage show?
You know, honestly, for me personally not as much as the other guys. I think my focus has been so far on music that I don’t really have as much time or passion in video games. But I grew up with Nintendo 64 and Guitar Hero. There’s definitely some of that in there. I just think it’s really freaking cool how they’ve been able to blend the worlds of video games and music and make a unique experience for the listener. So many of the fans, I think, are more video gamers than normal metalheads sometimes. A lot of the people that come to our shows are like, this is my first concert. And it’s like, wow, it’s crazy. But it’s pretty cool. I love that DragonForce has been able to pull different types of people. And it’s not just a metal show. Like maybe another metal band that’s just more so about the music. So, I think that’s really cool and makes a different type of band.

When you’re out on the road, is the tour bus constructed with video consoles or none of them?
Surprisingly … none. I think out of the four years I’ve been with them, I don’t think I’ve seen them play at all, which is fine, because… well they do when they’re home. And Sam likes to try to find pinball machines wherever he goes, like in the cities where we go. But other than that, we really don’t play on the bus because we’re just so busy doing everything else, you know?  Sometimes people think that when you’re out on the road, you have nothing to do. But of course, you have so many things to do. Not only the travel itself. And a bus is not that enormous that you can store a lot of things in there. It can be nice just to walk into the city …that’s one of my favorite parts. I have seen new parts of the world. So that’s definitely what I like to do if I have ever free time and before soundcheck and all that. Yes, it’s been a good experience.

As a sort of promotion for the album, you released three videos up till now: Astro Warrior Anthem, Doomsday Party and Power of the Triforce (after the interview the video for Wildest Dreams was released). Do you have full freedom when it comes to picking the videos or is this something the record company has a say in it after all? Do you combine ideas or is it just no, we want to make a video of this and that’s fine?
Good question. I think Herman and Sam are the ones who choose. But I’m sure the label probably chips in as well. But that’s something Herman might be able to answer better because I don’t do… I just show up when I’m needed. You know, I don’t know much about that.

Especially the video for Doomsday Party, got a lot of response because there were people who felt like, “Why are they making fun of black metal? Why are you making a character out of Abbath?” How do you cope with these kinds of comments?
You know, that we all could come together for Doomsday Party and celebrate together and get along. It was just so much fun to do. It never had the intent to insult; we were just having fun. That was definitely my favorite video I’ve ever been a part of. We had choreography going on. We all got to be silly. It even holds choreographic dances, et cetera. It’s got everything which you don’t expect from a metal video. If we were to just put out another video, just the same old, playing heavy riffs and doing nothing special, it wouldn’t really be very memorable. But this was something totally different. It left a feel and it was so fun to be a part of. And we all had to learn the dance. None of us danced at all, so it was just really funny and dumb. Hahaha.

But isn’t that what music should be about for you as well? It should be also about having fun and enjoying the things you are doing. What do you do to keep working in music fresh for yourself? Because it can turn into a sort of routine after a while. And nothing wrong with a routine, but it shouldn’t get dull…
Luckily, I feel like just the way all the bands that I’ve been a part of work, as soon as you do feel like, we’re starting to get in the routine, then something new happens. We have this new album, now we’re playing a bunch of new songs, now we have new videos to be a part of, and there’s always new things happening. So as long as you’re not just playing the same set and doing the same exact thing over and over, keeping it new things happening, then it’s still exciting and you’re having fun. If everyone’s getting along and having a good time, then who could complain? Yeah, no one, I think.

I see time is running out on us, Alicia. Thank you for taking the time, for your kindness, for digging into the questions. Have a great trip around Europe and make the 15th of March extra special when the album is being released.
Thank you so much. I appreciate the talk so much. Thank you and see you around.