DragonForce’s Herman Li is one of the most revered guitarists in modern music, but if you asked the musician which guitarist he thinks is one of the best guitarists in the world, the answer might surprise you. His pick is the late Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain.
The conversation turned to Cobain when Li spoke with YouTube host Anthony Fantano (see below) about the importance of simplicity when it comes to developing your style. And apparently Li has always loved Cobain for his ability to connect listeners through his acting.
“A lot of people ask me all the time who I think is the best guitarist in the world. And I get different answers all the time. I say, ‘Well, Kurt Cobain is one of the best guitarists in the world.’ And they just say, ‘Oh, my god. What are you talking about? I thought you knew something, Herman,'” the guitarist admits when he usually shares that response.
But he clarifies: “I say, well, he inspired millions of people to play the guitar – he connected with them. So obviously feeling and expression is much more important than speed and how many notes you can play in the key. If you’re a jazz master or whatever, if you can’t connect with someone, that’s another thing. Sometimes the most simple is probably the most important thing. And we’ve learned to do complicated things because when you’re young you impress your friends. It’s kind of cool.
The guitarist adds: “I always tell people, ‘Learn the simplest guitar parts and make your own.’ So you have the simple, great stuff that you know will always sound good, and then build on it. Learning difficult stuff and trying to copy people’s expressions is a waste of time, I think, because you’re trying to be someone in a very complicated way. You spend so much time playing this really complicated piece so that you can just create one that’s similar. I’d say it’s easier to make something simple that looks like you than a complicated part that looks like you.
In his opinion, there’s probably not a person who’s listened to rock music over the years who doesn’t instantly recognize the guitar parts of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, “Come As You Are” or “All Apologies”. almost instantly, and while not all that complex, they definitely connected with the audience.
Although often more complex in his guitar playing, Li also managed to connect with fans over the course of DragonForce’s eight studio albums. The last born of the group, Extreme power metalcame out in 2019.