UK power metal phenomenon Dragonforce has returned with Ultra Beatdown, an intense collection of anthemic, riff-happy, solo-frenzied chaos and symmetry the likes of which haven’t been heard since …well, since their last album of equally awe inspiring metal mayhem. But this time around the band has upped the stakes with freaky new sounds and more involved vocal arrangements. I spoke with keyboard player Vadim Pruzhanov just after the band put the finishing touches to the album, and I was privileged to hear some rough mixes, some of which were yet to have solos added: in their place were hilarious comments from the band warning off potential music pirates. This interview was originally published in Mixdown magazine in August 2008. It’s presented here cos Vadim’s approach may be quite interesting for guitarists as well as keyboard players.
VADIM PRUZHANOV: What kind of magazine is this?
PETER: It’s a musician’s magazine, with lots of stuff about gear.
VADIM: Cool man! I love geeky magazines! I’m gonna get so technical with it, you’re gonna get so confused.
PETER: Bring it on! I’ve been cranking the new album. It’s pretty intense.
VADIM: We’re pretty pleased with it! It sounds pretty awesome. We finished mastering five days ago and it turned out really cool. It took us 11 months to do this record, and our demos were really rough and really bad. We thought it was going to be a pretty crap album, but it turned out to be the best album so far. There’s such a progression on each album, and this one has the balance right. It has the melody, the catchiest stuff we’ve ever written. Inhuman Rampage was a bit of chaos, with great melody and brutal at the same time, but on this one everything is balanced out. You can have it as the background when you’re having a lovely meal with your girlfriend, you can listen to it and rock out in the car when you’re driving, and headbang to it as you’re driving. You can play air guitar or air keyboards to it. There are much more keyboards on this album, more solos. More variety actually. There’s so much depth on this album. Some influences were taken from tango music. There are some samba and jazzy fusion influences too. And we even did two or three songs mid tempo. But still the majority of the songs are pretty much the same speed, but there’s more variety and better flow.
PETER: You guys have got the speed and the sound, but the energy really comes through too, which is a hard thing to record.
VADIM: If you only try to be fast for the sake of it you’re going to lose out on the melody. On this album, we tried to improve the songwriting aspects. We tried to make the chorus overwhelmingly catchy. That doesn’t mean this album had less work done on it, because this album has more work done on it than anything we’ve ever done. Over the 11 months the songs would evolve and change all the time. It’s pretty good for us because the way we see it, the song remains fresh. I can’t wait for the fans to hear it.
PETER: What went into the keyboard sounds on the album?
VADIM: Imagine 30 keyboard tracks on each song, excluding the effects and other bits I used. I used DJ scratching, I used a Korg KAOSS pad for dynamic effects. I used this thing – I’m really proud of it – it’s called a Theremin, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of it?
PETER: Hell yeah!
VADIM: I used it to produce all these waily, ghostly noises, and I pretty much used it on every song. On one song, it sounds like a roaring, really whacked out sound. You’ll think it’s a guitar or a human voice, but it’s not human. It’s kind of alien, like an unknown language. The Theremin goes really ballistic. Without being big-headed, I’m just going to try and say this: I’m the first person in the world to use Theremin on a power metal record.
PETER: You’ve gotta get an endorsement! Get your own signature model. You can buy Theremin kits on eBay you have to put together yourself.
VADIM: I might do that, man! I bought mine already made. I’m really crap at putting things together. This is amazing. Two antennas, one for pitch, one for volume, go for it. I put it through the guitar rig. I put it through delays and reverb on the guitar processors, and I also used a talk box, so I could sing and pronounce words. I tried a lot of whacked stuff with it. I put it through a Triton Extreme sampler and messed around with it on my computer. There’s so much stuff. The KAOSS pad was used to much on every track. It’s like a new instrument, a new level, between the Theremin and KAOSS pad.
Ultra Beatdown is in stores now