Manifest Proclamation: The Life & Opinions Of Power Trip
, March 16th, 2017 09:35
Riley Gale of Texan thrashers Power Trip tells Dan 'The Doom' Franklin about sleep paralysis, Plato's Cave and the work ethic of Thatcher-era UK punk bands
Portrait by Renate Winter
Riley Gale can’t sleep. In fact, he has a host of sleeping problems: "I get sleep paralysis, fits of insomnia, I’ll go days without sleeping and things get very weird."
Gale is the frontman of Power Trip from Dallas, Texas. The title of their second album seems particularly apt: Nightmare Logic. Power Trip do the old school the right way, marrying reverb-drenched thrash metal with stomping hardcore punk. They remind older listeners of all their favourite bands and are fast assembling a young, eclectic fanbase enthralled by the energy and sense of fun they bring to their gigs.
Following their debut Manifest Decimation (2013), the new album is cleaner, more vicious and stripped to the bone. Recently on tour with Lamb of God/Anthrax and hitting Europe with Napalm Death/Brujeria this spring, they are eyeing up the big time.
When I speak to Gale he has a swollen tongue and cotton mouth "like a motherfucker" from the sleeping pills he is taking. One coffee into his day, he confesses he has a propensity to ramble. Like all great articulate ramblers, he inevitably covers some fascinating ground, but makes a regular Q&A format unusable. This, then, is the life – and opinions – of Riley.
On Nightmare Logic’s title as a sign of the times
Riley Gale: Nightmare Logic is an expression from horror movies – dream logic movies. Basically anything David Lynch did falls under that dream/nightmare logic. But people say Nightmare On Elm Street also. Just anything where you have trouble distinguishing dreams versus reality. And to me, in the last couple of years or so, it seems I am in a waking nightmare.
It’s gotten a lot weirder now that Trump actually is our president because when I wrote all this lyrical content it was like, "Man, this election is looking pretty grim." The album’s not about the election but it’s just proven to me that the world has gotten very surreal. It’s very different from what I remember the world being like eight years ago when the band started. So it’s having to cope with this reality that the world really has gotten as bad as it seems and feels to me.
It’s figuring out how to navigate that as well and find a sense of empowerment. I used to have this recurring dream: I was always chased by a manic gorilla for some reason. The dream would always end with him catching up with me and jumping on my back. In the dream you could run and run and run, run away from these problems and you’re still in this dream world and you might get a breath of relief for a minute, but this thing, this darkness catches up to you. At least that’s the way I tend to experience nightmares.
This album is me saying I’m going to stop running. I’m going to take these nightmare aspects of life and face them head on. When you realise that you’re dreaming you’re much more in control of what’s going on around you. It’s a sort of contrast, trying to find the willpower to not run from the nightmare but face it, fight back and accept it for what it is.
On sleep paralysis and half-waking hallucinations
RG: I’ve had some pretty eery sleep paralysis moments. Have you ever had one where you know exactly what’s going on around you and you know you’re asleep but you can’t actually drag yourself out of it? I had this one time where I was in the back of the van: we were in Detroit, the back of the van door was open and I was napping. I could hear the conversations going on around me, and a bunch of our friends from Detroit were there and everyone was standing around the back of the van, so I could look and see everyone where they were standing as if I was sleeping with my eyes open. But I couldn’t move. I was trying to move and wake up and say, "Hey" to them. Nobody had looked at me and I guess I didn’t move but in my mind it felt like if someone had looked over at me at that moment in time I would have been some paralysed person going, "Eeeeuuuuooogh" trying to talk and say hello. My body wasn’t responding to what my brain was telling it to do and that was a very, very hectic situation that has happened a few times. I guess I’m just really fascinated with a lot of that stuff: trying to will the universe that you want to live in.
Just yesterday we filmed a video and I was waking up at a friend’s house, of our permanent roadie/merch guy. I was waking up and I’d just opened my eyes and he’d turned on the news and it was like, "More executive orders from Trump coming in" and I remember Hood going, "Oh more executive orders - I LOVE THOSE!" and I remember laughing about it. Then later I made the joke to him and he tried to laugh and I thought he’d said it earlier, but he hadn’t. I was actually just half-dreaming. Now the news was on and I’d heard that, and it was this weird situation where I was in this half-state where I thought he’d said something but he never said it.
On the importance of creative destruction and making the world in your image
RG: Our first EP Armageddon Blues was me coping with the fact that I thought there was going to be a big societal shift in my lifetime. Having it dawn on me that I have an impending sense of doom that we’re going to experience World War Three and it’s going to fundamentally shift how we view ourselves as humans and define ourselves, whether that be some kind of technology or some kind of war or alien contact. Then Manifest Decimation was the beginning of what I was trying on Nightmare Logic where it was sometimes you do have to destroy to create, you have to break things down back into their bulk materials to rebuild them again. And so Manifest Decimation was a call to arms to say: if you don’t like it then let’s break it down and rebuild it. And Nightmare Logic is a blend of all that together. It’s a more fully realised overall thought of identifying what needs to be broken down and how we need to reassess and rebuild things. And I’d obviously rather be the type of person that builds than destroys things. And I try and be positive. As dark as things can be and as dark as Power Trip as an outlet can be I still try and remain the eternal optimist, it’s just the way I was raised.
On a post-Capitalist future
RG: I have this memory of when I was a little kid and my dad was driving me to school. And one day I basically brought up the idea of communism. I didn’t know it was communism but I was like ‘daddy, why doesn’t everyone have money?’ or whatever. And he was like, ‘Well, son…’ and he tried to explain it to me, and essentially I was describing communism in a very remedial way and I remember my dad being like, ‘That’s communism, son, and it doesn’t work. People tried it and it doesn’t work.’ And what I’ve grown to learn is there’s no perfect system of government. We’re not going to find some kind of idea that’s going to persist and work over time, we’ve got to constantly be reassessing and restructuring the way that the world works.
In my mind we clearly need, especially in the face of globalisation, some kind of socialist/capitalist hybrid. America likes to embolden itself as the capital of capitalism in the world I guess, but we have so many closet socialist tendencies. I don’t know how closely you follow US politics, but we had all these fucking redneck dumbassses saying, ‘We’re so glad that Trump’s getting rid of Obamacare!’ and the next day they’re like, ‘Wait a minute, I lost my health insurance!’ And they didn’t realise that the Affordable Care Act was the same fucking thing. And so they wake up the next day and say, ‘Oh shit I don’t have health insurance anymore, well fuck Trump we need that shit!’ Well, that was socialism my dear buddy, and you’re one of those Confederate flag-waving, communist-hating motherfuckers!
On his Donald Trump Power Fantasy
RG: Now look, we’re onto the topic of symbolic and physical violence: that’s where things start to get tricky. Obviously, I don’t want to see people die. I don’t like that. But I do have a power fantasy. There is a 1 per cent and the 1 per cent control everything. We are still the majority. Yeah sure, they have the military and police who will do anything they say, but I still have this power fantasy of a mob of people just storming, maybe not the White House, but President Trump’s Florida property [Mar-a-Lago] and just dragging him out of there, like a mutiny or something like that. If we’re getting to a point where our government refuses to impeach a president that it’s becoming more and more clear that everyone, at least a lot of people in this country don’t want, despite the false information being disseminated, I would believe that America is starting to think they made the wrong decision as to who they voted into office. And we don’t need to let this guy hang around any longer.
Portrait by Josh Andrade
On the Thatcher-era UK punk ethic
RG: I’ve definitely come from that school of writing with a UK influence, and take a band like Sacrilege, or maybe even Bolt Thrower in some ways. Bolt Thrower has a lot of fantastical imagery more than political stuff, I know that they loved the military stuff. But I really loved Sacrilege’s ability to blend metallic imagery but have a deeper meaning behind it too if you really search for it. And that’s what I still try and do: come up with a cool allegory or metaphor for a topic, make it sound like something catchy and fun, and then for those who want to discover more about it or ask me about it, it’s there. There’s more to be learnt I guess. I don’t have all the answers, I don’t have a perfect worldview, I learn something new everyday and that’s something that the band’s looking towards.
On the song ‘If Not Us Then Who’ and dangers of representing minorities
RG: So I wanted to do something that was about women and POC and things like that, but as a white male how do I say it? And I had a good friend of mine tell me, as good as your intentions might be, maybe this is something that you don’t need to say. Now you can get out there and promote that on stage and things like that. It’s just a fact: I’m a white male. If you’re going to do it you’ve got to be very careful.
I respected him enough to say you know what, you’re right. I think this is probably not the right way to go about it. So ‘If Not Us Then Who’ became a broad call to arms that says look, we’re not going to wait around and there’s not going to be a second coming of Christ that’s going to show up and fix everything. And you can complain on the internet all you want but things aren’t going to change unless we physically get up and try and make a difference, and like I said, ‘If Not Us Then Who’ I don’t want to say it’s white guilt, but it’s asking people to reflect on their personal responsibility and what they’re willing to wager to try and make the world a better place. Are you a selfish person that wants to hide indoors all day, make money for yourself and keep it for yourself, block out the outside world, be complacent, that kind of thing, or do we want to get together and try? That’s why it’s like ‘Get up out of your cave’ which is obviously a play on Plato’s cave. That opening line is about getting out of the cave and actually throwing yourself into the fire of knowledge.
On the ‘Promethean fire’ of technology
RG: I think technology is the new Promethean fire. Our ability to connect instantly over the internet. I’m very fascinated with technology and how that’s going to shape humanity, and I like that because I believe we can connect with each other. We’ve almost become a hyper-knit society: whatever you’re into there’s a community for you. And we can start tying these communities together under these more broad beliefs and start really building a movement. My dad always complains, like when they had the women’s march he said, ‘They go out on the march but they don’t know what they’re marching for’. Well they’re marching for a broad set of topics, there’s a lot of things they’re marching about, there’s a lot of things wrong. They didn’t sit and decide: ‘Today is the day we’re going to defend black people. Today is the day when you’re going to defend the abortion aspect of the glass ceiling.’ It’s these people getting out there and airing their grievances all at once in its many forms, and we need to start figuring out which topics are very important. I believe in the power of the human spirit to overcome adversity. Our learning is what makes us human. If people don’t want to learn anymore, or don’t want to have an open mind, they may as well start dying.
On crossing over heavy music scenes
RG: When we got announced to do the Lamb of God/Anthrax tour last year that was our first big break as a band I’d say. Tons of responses before the shows were, ‘I’ve never heard of you guys before but checked you out on youtube and can’t wait to see your band’. And we’re not that different from Anthrax and Lamb of God, but if you’re someone who’s not a connoisseur of heavy metal, who doesn’t know all the subgenres, to them they just hear another heavy band and they get excited. But it’s much easier to cross over now at a smaller level. People didn’t bat an eye to us playing with a band like The Flex [on their last UK tour]. It also goes back to the fact that you can learn everything about any scene or genre of music with like half an hour and an internet connection. You can become an expert on thrash metal in an evening. You just sit there and play around. And that’s cool. I have a love/hate thing with that. There’s people who suddenly think they know it all and throw out these wild, ugly, misguided, shitty opinions, but it also makes it really easy to get into us really quickly.
On your new favourite band: Aggressive Perfector
RG: Aggressive Perfector: they are fucking awesome. Like Venom and Midnight, just dirty metal rock & roll. At the Leeds show [last year] it was much more like jock hardcore kids, like guys wearing Collegiate stuff and Carhartt but everyone loved the band, was attentive and really into it, and the guys were super-cool. They really didn’t know shit about hardcore or anything, they just loved metal and were friends of the promoter Liam and Liam put them on the show and they were great. I got their tape and it fucking kicks ass. Really good band, I hope they keep it up and get something done because I think they could be a very popular band.
On Marduk getting shut down by anti-fascists
RG: The other day some kid tried to say we were anti-semitic because we have a star of David on the cover of Manifest Decimation. And I’m like, dude, there’s also a Christian cross and Muslim moon and crescent. I wasn’t picking on them on purpose, it’s more so that I have a beef with organised religion as a whole, and the drive to get people to believe. It’s a personal one, but when you try and force things and try and tell some people of something that’s as debatable as the existence of God, and certainly how he feels about humans and how we should behave I think the oppression or the forcefulness is the problem I have with it. But of course you have to be very, very careful over what you say these days, as people will bury you over anything, you know? I don’t know, to me it’s such a silly thing, especially when people don’t want to accept bands’ responses or don’t want to engage them in a conversation. It’s easier for everyone to just cry about it and say they’re not going to go and have the show boycotted. I don’t know enough about this situation to make a judgement though.
On giving people the chance to change
RG: I believe in people’s ability to change and if you did engage in some kind of behaviour you have to own up to it but you can say, ‘I used to be a different person.' A perfect example I was talking about to a friend the other day is that the word ‘faggot’, back when I was coming up through the hardcore and punk shows, it was much more acceptable to say. And it wasn’t an insult to someone’s sexual identity, it was just used as a broad insult, you know? Like calling a woman a cunt, you’re trying to get someone upset about it. The Texas hardcore and punk scene used to be more meat-headed and jock-driven, but even the women involved would say ‘faggot’ or whatever. Now people don’t see it as an acceptable word or part of the vocabulary, there’s no justification for it. I’ve seen people that I know who I would’ve considered as ignorant: they’ve changed. People have this ability to change and I think it’s unfair to hold someone accountable for something they did a long time ago if they have actively worked to try and change their behaviour and be a different type of person. So I think it’s unfair to condemn someone for something they did when they were 18 or 22, or even 25. I still think that at 30 I’m a dumbass that could say something and we’re a band that’s very very careful about what we say and who we say it to on the internet.
On Nightmare Logic being the definitive version of their sound
RG: It’s hard to say. I don’t want to say that we’ve reached the apex of our growth as a band, but I think to date that this is the ideal album that we’ve wanted to produce. I always loved how Bolt Thrower did Those Once Loyal and were like, ‘We’ve done the perfect Bolt Thrower album and we don’t need to write another out of obligation. We nailed it.’ There are ideas and themes that we can and want to do and expand upon. But I would absolutely say that the new album is the one that you need to check out first.
I worked really hard to make something that was catchy but didn’t lose any substance from a lyrical standpoint and so I think I did a really good job. I felt like, lyrically, Manifest was a bit more nonlinear and this one is a lot more focused on writing songs. We love pop music, we want to write songs: this album very clearly has many more verse/chorus, set-ups, hooks, things like that. And I think it works in our favour. I like that it’s got good production but is still very rough around the edges. We didn’t have to rely on studio magic as much this time. There’s not as many post-production effects added to my vocals. What you’re hearing is mostly what came out of my throat into the microphone. There’s not as much reverb and delay.
We didn’t have to rely on as much studio magic but we got to have a lot more fun with the post-production. It’s a lot noisier, a lot more atmospheric as an album, and I like that. It almost gives us, I don’t want to say shoegaze, but it gives us a very noisy quality and it’s a very different vibe that I don’t think a lot of bands have done, certainly not in the thrash/crossover realm. Some parts there’s not really a solo there’s just a lead that is a very noisy divebomb kind of thing and there is a very big energetic atmosphere to it. We wanted to craft something that had a distinct feeling when you’re listening to it. To me I wanted something that thematically felt colder, which is why you see this album cover rather than the dark reds and browns of the first album, we have these cold blues and greys.
On the new importance of being political
RG: I think now more than ever people need to be political, especially when you’re coming from a place of influence. I love plenty of metal bands that write out of pure fantasy. Eternal Champion is one of my favourite bands and put out one of my favourite metal records in a long time and it’s pure fantasy. There’s no big political points there and that’s fine, but to say there’s no place for politics in metal I think is stupid and I think that usually comes from someone who has a stance that they don’t want people to know. If you’re afraid of politics it’s because you know you probably hold some beliefs that you are not educated enough to hold. I believe that if you’re going to have a political belief or a religious belief you better be able to defend it, and I mean defend it well.
On getting political with Napalm Death
RG: There’s no way I would ever want to play after them. They still absolutely crush it and I don’t know how Barney [Greenway, Napalm Death singer] keeps that energy up for as long as he does. He’s got fifteen years on me and flails like a maniac for an hour every night. After about 35/40 minutes I’m dead inside. Politically too, it’s great. Bands like Anthrax and Lamb of God they’re not quiet as such, but they’re neutral about their beliefs, and I’m really excited to be with a band where I feel like I can be a bit more open about where we stand politically onstage and not worry about any backlash. Because if you’re going to see Napalm Death you’re going to get some political banter and I think that’s great, it’s good news for us.
It’s not necessarily like I had to hide anything but Lamb of God undeniably have some fans that have some questionable politics. They fill that void that Pantera left so there are some guys who think it’s still OK to wave a Confederate flag around and things like that. With Napalm Death we can be way more upfront about it and I feel like I can have a lot more political discussion. I like a good talk: even if I don’t agree with someone I like a good conversation. I want to learn different perspectives from people even if I don’t necessarily agree with their perspective.