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Interview: Power Trip’s Riley Gale on new album, why anti-Trump protest music is “f**king stupid”

Posted by on March 21, 2017

Dallas’ Power Trip released their sophomore album, Nightmare Logic, last month, and not only is it miles ahead of their impressive debut, Manifest Decimation, but it also improved on it’s debut sales-wise. When the band’s headlining tour rolled into New York at the beginning of the month for a sold-out show at New York’s Marlin Room at Webster Hall, we caught up with frontman Riley Gale to talk about what went in to making the new album, winning over fans on tour with Anthrax and Lamb of God, and why the conventional thinking that good protest music will come out of a Trump presidency is “fucking stupid.” Nightmare Logic is out now on Southern Lord Records.

 

So Nightmare Logic is three years in the making. What did you do differently than the first time?

The thing with the first LP is that was for me and Blake (Ibanez), it was the first LP we had ever done. It was a big learning experience. We were sort of under the gun about getting it done. (Chris) Ulsh has done some stuff with his other bands and recorded LPs, but the thing is he had never recorded an LP on drums, so we were all sort of novices in this situation. We learned a lot. The second time when we came back, we were much more focused and we knew what we were going to do and had a very good plan of attack going in; making sure the faster stuff was faster, the heavier stuff was heavier. I really wanted to make it a point when the vocals came around to make sure it was catchier without losing our substance and we also wanted to be shorter overall, which we did do. It’s actually shorter than the last one by about a minute.

 

So did you have any songs that you cut to make it shorter?

We had one and we decided just not to track it. We thought eight was the magic number, let’s just stick with it.

 

 

Are there any bands you grew up listening to that made you decide it should be a shorter record?

That’s a good question. I think it was based on my own attention span. At shows and even on record, my attention span was getting lost between 30 and 40 minutes. Unless you’re like Sabbath or a band that I love or that is very legendary, I don’t really want to see you play for more than 30, 40 minutes. There are a lot of bands I love that I can only tolerate for watching so long. I’d go see Sleep and they play for three hours. That was cool because I’d watch some songs, go get drinks and talk with my friends, go back and watch some songs, and that’s fine, but you’re not fully engaged the whole time. For this, I just wanted something where the worst-case scenario is if you like it, we left you wanting more. I believe we have plenty more to give. A lot of the ideas that were from this album were things we didn’t get to concentrate on with Manifest. We still have a lot in the tank.

 

I feel like there’s a lot of momentum out there from reading the reviews.

Yeah, it’s palpable for sure. It’s very surreal. I never expected the band to go this far. I didn’t expect to get signed to Southern Lord. I didn’t expect the first record to be as good as it was. I didn’t expect Lamb of God to take us on tour. After that tour and we saw how well we did with their crowd I was like, ‘Maybe we can do this as a big time thing.’ I’m going to ride it until it crests and the wave breaks. I want to see how high we can go, then when it feels tired or the excitement isn’t there, or people just don’t care about us in the same way, then I have no problem hanging it up. We’ve been lucky to have this opportunity. We’ve worked hard for nine years and here we are, so I’m going to see where it takes me.

 

So you’re headlining large rooms now.

I wouldn’t call them large rooms, more like mid-sized.

 

You’ve made it from the basement to the first floor here in New York.

But not the second!

 

We’re on the second floor now! Look at this hall. It’s amazing.

This is where we would have played if we were with Lamb of God.

 

Speaking of that, you’re used to playing small, sweaty clubs where fights probably break out. Now you’re doing this thing where fights might still break out, but it’s a bigger room and you went out with Lamb of God and Anthrax. What was that like?

It was just awesome. You got to see people who aren’t jaded on music. Playing to punks and hardcore kids, they’re a little more spoiled because they consume so much music. For these people, they only have four or five favorite bands so whether they’re young or old, if you get your hooks in them, they’ll come and see you time and time again. A lot of their favorite bands are just bands that they caught live. Someone dragged them to like, a Slipknot show or a Lamb of God show or something like that. There were plenty of people who came up to us and were like, “This is my first metal show and you guys were great.” It was funny because we’d walk around and me and Ulsh, our drummer, would walk around in the crowd before the set and we’d hear people kind of talking and we’d hear people saying things, and excuse my language, but this was an actual quote, “Alright man let’s get these two faggot opening bands out of the way so Anthrax can get up here.” We went and did our thing and afterwards that guy was at our merch table buying a bunch of stuff and being like, “You guys were the best opening band I’ve ever seen.” So it was cool, just like, exposing ourselves to this huge group of people that had never even heard our name. Those people were probably expecting to boo us. I’ve seen crowds turn on openers and it’s ugly. It’s really rough.

 

I was at the show in New York and Deafheaven certainly didn’t go over as well.

Deafheaven got that sometimes. What was cool was that George started to embrace it and kind of take on an anti-hero role and start to talk shit back, not put up with it. Spit back if someone spit on him. It actually earned them some respect. I was really proud of them for sticking it out and playing to those crowds because they did leave with new fans, it was just more of a roll of the dice for them. They knew that but were like, “Look, if 1,000 people come out to the show and 10% leave liking us, that’s 100 new fans.” That’s pretty good.

 

Have you had any people come up to you on this tour, even though it’s only been a week, and be like, “Hey man, I saw you open for Lamb of God”?

Basically every show we’ve playing after that tour that’s happened and that’s a fucking awesome feeling.

 

So do you want to continue going out with larger bands or do you like what you’re doing now?

I just want to do whatever is interesting. Whatever comes our way, we’ve got an open mind. We’ll see. I have no expectations and I think that makes for the better situations. We’re going to Europe with Napalm Death and that’s actually a primer for us to do direct support for a very big death metal band from New York. I’ll let you try and take a guess, but very big. It hasn’t been announced yet but that’ll be in August. Going to Europe with a band of this caliber will be big. The shows might actually be bigger than Lamb of God, but I imagine this band might draw as many as 5,000 people in Europe so I think it’s going to be really cool. I’m excited to play the bigger shows now that I know that I can work the crowd.

 

Did you have any concerns about playing shows this big?

My banter is really weird. I really don’t try and change myself when I’m up there, but I did learn that it is fun to ham it up. I’d go out there on the bigger stages. So like Randy from Lamb of God, super chill dude. He comes up to and talks to you and sounds like a surfer like, “Hey, what’s going on guys, how are you?” then he gets up there on stage and he turns that redneck up 1000% and he’s like, “What’s up motherfuckers, how are you doing? Give me a ‘WOO.’” That’s awesome and I realized he’s having fun. It’s like a pro wrestling bit or something like that. I remember one time in Nashville, I kind of came up with some fun shit to say. One of my favorites, in Nashville, I smoked a very big joint and I was very, very stoned. I got up on stage and I was like, ‘What am I doing up here?’ and it was time to start the set and I was just like, ‘Uh, we’re Power Trip from Dallas, Texas and I am way too high to be up here right now,’ and everyone in the crowd was like, (imitates loud screaming and cheering) and the set was crazy from the jump. It was awesome. It’s fun saucing the meatballs, as we like to say.

 

And the lyrical content on the album is a little political in nature.  Were you thinking about the election and everything that’s been going on?

No, I wrote all that before. I wrote that before Trump was a viable candidate, which makes it a lot freakier. I didn’t direct anything at his type of authoritarianism directly, but he certainly falls under what I would label as “the enemy to the common people.” I think that man violates human rights on a regular basis and I think he’s awful and I think he needs to be stopped. Mostly the record, and a lot of the bands material all across our discography, is just how to survive in this world where I see a huge shift in the status quo coming, whether it be some kind of nuclear war, biological war, something different. Maybe something weird like Black Mirror or something with AI. I think we’re living in an age where we’re going to be seeing some kind of massive thing that might end in massive amounts of death. It’s trying to be mentally prepared to handle that and not to become crippled by it and still try and go out and do things.

 

A lot of people said when Trump won at least there’s going to be a lot of really good hardcore and punk and protest-y rap like Public Enemy. Do you think there might be some great protest music made from his presidency?

I think that’s fucking stupid. If a band is really that inspired, good for them, but to me that just shows they haven’t been paying attention. Like I said, I wrote these lyrics before Trump was a viable candidate. There’s plenty to be pissed off about. He’s just a big steaming turd on top of the cake. I think there should always be protest music. There are always things that need to be fixed. There’s no perfect form of government that’s going to work everywhere. We need to constantly be reassessing things and we can’t get stuck because we think some 250-year-old document is perfect law. It’s a frustrating thing that people lack perspective and lack the understanding to perceive certain people’s lives and how they view the world. I did a lot of research trying to understand where people from the alt-right come from. I see their logic but I still see the fallacy in it. I can see how that would brainwash somebody and how they could say that and believe that their sense of truth is reality, but I disagree so this band kind of exists to break down those misconceived notions that forcing a religion on anybody is okay.

I think religion, and communion is completely acceptable. I think spirituality and religion is a very personal journey but to me it’s never something that should be forced on somebody else. I think that’s where a lot of it goes wrong. A lot of it is driven by liars and crooks and cheats and con men. Look at the evangelicals. They’re so fucking full of shit. They have a fucking compound with a football field and an arcade in their mega-church and a fleet of vehicles and all this shit. Jesus said, “The meek shall inherit the earth.” You think that’s meek? I grew up going to Catholic school from kindergarten through 12th grade. From a young age the whole “I am the body of Christ thing” never stuck well with me, but Jesus has a moral foundation. Good guy, good set of beliefs, but people don’t get it. It’s completely ass-backwards. He would never want anyone to die in his name, ever. We had the crusades where we were slaughtering people for that. In a way, that’s what we’re doing now with the Muslims. People are scared, Christians are scared that Muslims are becoming a dominant religion in the world and I think we have to look at the dangers of Islamic conservatism, and we need to start propping up more moderate leaders and showing people that Islam is just like any other religion; it can be violent, it can be peaceful. It’s all in the practitioner. That got pretty off base but it deals with some of the things I talk about on the album and they’re masked in allegory and metaphor but for the people who want to look deeper, it’s there.  If anybody ever wants to know what I was thinking, I love telling people what the song’s really about. People think it’s one thing but it might be completely different.

 

And there are probably just people who want to go out and have fun in a mosh pit.

There’s that too, so we’re giving that to them as well.

 

I listened to Rage Against the Machine and I wasn’t really caught up in the plight of the Zapatista Indians, no offense to the Zapatistas that are watching this, but you know. If you want to look past the message and just get into the music there’s also that.

Right. But then I believe the mock violence of a metal or hardcore show, the mosh pit, things like that help people release aggression to keep them from going out and doing something worse out in the real world. I think it is a good release. It has been for me anyway.

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