DragonForce's Herman Li Says Kurt Cobain Was One of the World's Best Guitarists

"The feeling and expression is way more important than how fast and how much notes you can play in key"

Photo: Sven-Sebastian Sajak (left)

BY Allie GregoryPublished Jun 17, 2022

DragonForce's resident face-melting technical guitar wizard Herman Li has revealed one of his favourite guitarists, and the answer has apparently been surprising to some.

Speaking with Mr. Melon himself, music critic Anthony Fantano, in a recent YouTube interview, Li discussed what makes a great guitarist, and revealed that he often points to Nirvana's Kurt Cobain as a leading contender for the greatest of all time.

"A lot of people ask me all the time who do I think is the best guitar player in the world. And I come up with different answers all the time," Li said. "I say, 'Well, Kurt Cobain is one of the best guitar players in the world.' And they just go, 'Oh, my god. What are you talking about? I thought you knew something, Herman.'"

He elaborated:

I say, well, he inspired millions of people to play the guitar — he connected with them. So, obviously, the feeling and expression is way more important than how fast and how much notes you can play in key. If you're a jazz master or whatever, if you can't connect with somebody, it's a different thing. Sometimes the simplest thing is probably the most important thing. And we learned to do complicated stuff because when you're young, you impress your friends. It's kind of cool. You're flexing a little bit.

Li continued: "I always tell people, 'Learn the simplest, simplest guitar parts and then make it your own.' So you've got the great simple stuff that you know will always sound good and then build upon that. Learning hard stuff and trying to copy people's expression is a waste of time, I think, because you're trying to be someone in a very complicated way."

Sometimes writing a catchy hook or tapping into teenage angst is half the work! Consider the lasting appeal of Nirvana's three studio albums; for example, just this year, Nevermind's "Something in the Way" re-entered the charts 31 years after its release thanks to The Batman director Matt Reeves's emo tendencies. And of course, there was all that discourse about the same album's cover art and its ensuing lawsuits

Cobain and his oeuvre have never really left the collective conscience, and while that's in part probably due to some post-mortem value inflation, it's hard to imagine where we'd be today without the grunge poster boy's contributions to culture.

Watch Li and Fantano chat in the video below.

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