Monday, November 23, 2015

Interview: Riley Gale (Power Trip)

I met Riley Gale eleven years ago at a No Warning show when he spinkicked me in the ribs. We have been friends ever since.

In 2008, Riley Gale started Power Trip with a group of Dallas musicians. I was lucky enough to book their first show. The first intro they ever played was a cover of Leeway's "The Future (Ain't What It Used To Be)". They ended up playing it three times. The first time was because there was an equipment malfunction (which they laughed about). The second time they nailed it. The third time was because one of the group's best friends was late and missed it so they played it one more time. Those three performances of that intro told the story about Power Trip: nuanced, talented, had personality, and loyal to their friends. That's really why Power Trip have gotten as far as they have. Because when you listen to their music you can hear the music tell you "we scoured through all of the subculture, learned what was good, and are doing it better". It's honest and special. Gale's lyrics are the combination of his own life experiences along with his educational background in rhetoric. The result is a band that people will be talking about well into next generation.

The band recently finished recording their second album in Denton, Texas. I was able to get a little bit of Gale's time to ask about the last couple of years and the new album.

Tell me about the Ryan Adams saga. The whole story is pretty bizarre and worth telling.
Gale: I guess that started around August 2013, right after the album came out. He tweeted at our account about how much he liked the record and then Ryan came out to a show in LA and bought a couple shirts, maybe a record. He was pretty quiet, weird, didn’t really hang out just watched the set and left. He contacted us about recording with him and even though I was apprehensive, Blake wanted to pursue. Ryan was kind of a dick when we began asking about details, and he got really defensive when I brought up the fact we have a producer (Arthur). That left a sour taste in my mouth. I mean, I’ve heard of this guy before I knew he liked my band, and didn’t really dig his music. I didn’t like it when I checked it out again either. That was over a year ago. I’ve seen pictures of him wearing our shirt at shows and just didn’t really pay any mind. Then about a month ago, or whenever he dropped that Taylor Swift cover album, I tried listening to it and HATED it. Then like a day after I gave that a whirl a friend from high school sent me a dopey picture of Ryan playing live and was asking about him, because he didn’t know that he was a fan. That set me off. So I made a not so nice instragram post clowning him – I said he was a turd so big no toilet could flush. Turns out, we had a mutual friend, so that got back to Ryan in a couple hours. He sent me a private message and it actually made me feel kind of bad – He was definitely bummed, I could tell it hurt his feelings and he was actually a pretty damned big fan of the band. But I was also conflicted - why should I care what a multi-millionaire sad boy thinks? On the other hand, unless they’re some ignorant racist/homophobic piece of shit, which Ryan is not, then I should never just make fun of a fan. In my mind, punk taught me to accept anyone that was accepting of me. So I came to the conclusion that even if I wasn’t big on this dude’s vibe or his music, I shouldn’t clown a real supporter of our music. We talked on the phone and texted and squashed the whole thing. There were definitely some interesting exchanges, but at this point I’ll respect the dude’s right to privacy.

You guys might be one of the first bands to pick up a hardcore grand slam. You've played Chaos In Tejas, Not Dead Yet, This Is Hardcore, Black N Blue, Beserktown, and Fun Fun Fun Fest since Manifest Decimation has come out. How do you explain Power Trip being able to successfully play all of these festivals to so many different crowds?
Gale: Don’t say “No” if there’s a demand and if the offer even mildly piques and interest. We like to put ourselves out there and play line ups that interest us. We’ve never gone begging to be on a fest, we’re always approached about being added to these badass fests, and that’s an awesome feeling.

You guys are in the studio right now recording your second full-length album. With all the time that has passed since Manifest Decimation came out, what are you (and the rest of the band) being conscious of with this new album?
Gale: For Blake and Chris, who mostly handle the music, I think the idea was to take the riffs to the gym and do some serious cardio and heavy lifting. Songs are faster and shorter, and the heavier parts are heavier. It’s a good progression. For me, the thing at the front of my mind is how to make it catchier without losing substance or at least my own satisfaction with my output. There’s an opportunity to reach a wider audience on this one - a lot of great parts on the record where a quick catchy line could really take a song from good to great. The only obstacle for myself is that I still want to be satisfied with what I am actually saying – I refuse to shoehorn in a bunch of random words just because the syllables will sound good over the music. So, I’m mostly concentrating on finding that balance between substance and accessibility.

Manifest's lyrics were largely concerned with questioning the norms and constraints society imposes on everyone. From the lyrics of “Crossbreaker” (religion) to “Power Trip” (man's law), you resound a pretty powerful theme throughout the entire album. I'd even go so far as to say that lyrically Manifest is a concept album. Was this by design? Are there any specific topics or ideas you're aiming to drive home in your lyrics on the upcoming album?
Gale: I wouldn’t call it a concept album but it definitely had some broad themes that carried over into every song. If it had an overall theme I’d say it’s – why do you think and behave the way you do? Why do we let those in power think and behave the way THEY do? It’s about self-awareness and I think self-awareness can be very empowering. It’s very much an US vs. THEM standpoint, but it’s also about just being fucking educated, being able to back up your beliefs before you set your sights on an enemy. If I can help make a listener’s stances become more solid, or even crumble a previous notion, whatever helps them see their enemies a little bit clearer, than I’ve succeeded in my goal as a vocalist.

Changing gears for a second, how has the ride been the last couple years with the band? I'm talking about playing shows to thousands of people, having people whose music you idolized when you were younger tell you how much love Power Trip, etc. Is it still a trip or something that you've been able to get used to?
Gale: It’s been awesome and I’m absurdly lucky. Often times it’s just surreal, like getting a call from Ryan Adams because you talked shit about him. I’m important to somebody like that? Why? From my POV I don’t DO anything except jump around and yell, but some people find inspiration in that and I gotta roll with it. We HAVE to stay humble though, because ultimately punk/metal/hardcore/subculture is a tumultuous culture and it can turn on you at any moment. I always tell my friends, if my ego gets too big for my britches, then kick my fucking ass. My friends have permission to kick my fucking ass and knock me down a peg. Attempting to stay ever thankful and humbled is crucial to me.

Beyond what you've already been able to do, what are you looking toward for Power Trip's future?
Gale: I have no expectations. It could all blow up tomorrow. The goal is to keep trying and pushing ourselves until it stops being motivating or fun. If we could somehow just pull a Bolt Thrower and write a perfect album and just say, “That’s it’s, we did it. This is the epitome of Power Trip. This is the perfect ‘Power Trip’ album” I’d be happy and content with putting the band down…but we’re not anywhere close to that yet.

When can we expect the album and does it have a name yet?
Gale: Hopefully before summer really kicks off next year. With no delays, it takes about 3 months to get a record pressed from the moment of having everything ready. Music, artwork, lay out… all that. The title comes last. I have ideas, but I have to be able to look at everything in the big picture before I can commit to a title.

So now that the tour with Lamb of God has been announced, how are you feeling about it? What are you expecting (other than getting to see a wall of death every night)?
Gale: I’m thrilled. I was joking around about how fucked up it would be if I tried to call for the “Wall of death” as the openers every night… probably not the best idea. Anyway, this is our first real big opportunity to do something I would consider “mainstream”. Besides a band like, I don’t know, Hatebreed… I couldn’t ask for a better “big” metal band to take us out than Lamb of God. Obviously touring with the legends in motherfucking Anthrax is the highlight but Lamb of God is clearly going to be drawing out huge crowds. I’ve always said, put us in a room of people who like metal, and we’ll win them over. I feel like this is that moment – there will be plenty of people who will be aware of all 4 bands on the tour, but there will be plenty of clueless people I hope we can convert into PT fans. Full disclosure: I’ve never really listened to Lamb of God… but I know they’re huge, and I’m grateful as hell they’ve invited us. It was supposed to be Kylesa but they couldn’t do it so we’re extremely lucky. I’ve had a lot of friends tell me that the LoG dudes are still very much involved with the subculture which is always a plus for me. Also, having our friends in Deafheaven on the tour will help us have some established camaraderie. I’m not the type of dude to go pressing myself on Scott Ian or something. So having Deafheaven around… they’re great guys, having some friends already on the tour is huge relief for me.

Last question: what are you reading these days and how is it?

Gale: I’ve been on a heavy comic book kick. Right now I’m blazing through Jodorowsky’s entire The Incal saga and it’s been a lot of fun. I can’t really hang with the heavy big name super hero stuff, there’s not enough substance for me there, but I’ve found tons of material that is both deep and highly entertaining. I’ve read stuff that’s made me laugh, made me scared, and made me think. I’m just learning what an expressive medium that comics and graphic novels can be – they can tackle any complex subject by using the right words, tones, images, etc… and part of the pleasure of reading them is using your imagination to fill in some of the blanks that comics leave for the reader. It’s also just easier to read in the van, which is why I started reading them in the first place. I kept getting motion sickness from smaller text and I was also just burnt out on reading text heavy critical theory so I wanted something easier and more digestible but still rewarding. Comics are a perfect medium for all of that.

Power Trip will be on tour with Lamb of God, Anthrax, and Deafheaven through most of the winter season. Tour dates are below:

If you'd like to read more about Power Trip and download their discography, check out their entry from 2014:

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