How Power Trip Kept it Lean on ‘Nightmare Logic,’ Won Over Crowds [Interview]
Texas crossover thrash fiends Power Trip have cemented themselves as one of the best live acts of the modern day and are poised for a breakout year under their pit-friendly sophomore record, Nightmare Logic. We hit up vocalist Riley Gale and guitarist Blake Ibanez to pick their brains about the the writing process, the current state of money, power and politics, stealing the show, their Top 3 Pit Albums and more! Check out the chat below.
This album is LEAN. What is the writing process like? Do you find yourselves stripping away parts of songs until there’s the bare essentials for max impact?
Riley Gale: Usually Blake has a core riff or idea, some kind of song writing trick, maybe a hook or some kind of transition / turn, something that anchors the song or an idea that resounds throughout the song. Him and [drummer Chris] Ulsh build a song off that. We typically don’t strip anything anyway, rather, we just make sure we don’t hang around on one riff or part for too long. After Blake and Ulsh get the bulk of the song down, sometimes I’d step in to kind of envision the song from a lyrical standpoint and we might lengthen or shorten a part accordingly. Sometimes they were already perfectly laid out.
Blake Ibanez: That was definitely the goal. Usually I come up with a bit of a skeleton from riffs I've archived over time and then I bring that in to jam out with Ulsh. From there we sculpt things and his drumming / ideas influence the way it all ends up. After that sometimes even then the song can change once Riley brings the vocals in. I always look to make memorable songs and I try to keep the numbers of riffs in each song to a minimum, definitely a quality over quantity thing. We don't want any filler in there. I'm a pop-oriented guy in terms of songwriting style and I think "songs" are very important. The main thing is the song, riffs are secondary and if you have both it's a home run.
Nightmare Logic lyrically centers around money and politics being a source of obtaining power. Is there anyone in the political sphere that does not seem to bend or break under these corrupting influences?
RG: It’s hard to say. I think every politician can, and likely is, bought and sold to some degree. They are out there, pushing and pulling for their beliefs, their agenda, their self-appointed superior worldview. Some are decent. Most are not. I guess it’s important to examine whose interests fall towards helping the majority. I really would have liked to see what Bernie [Sanders] could have done as President. He really did understand the wants and needs of the middle class and could have done so much to positively change this country. If we were going to “give ‘em a chance!” as people have been commonly saying about Trump… Sadly, we should have been giving Bernie a chance. He’s still out there fightin’ though, not hiding like a sore loser. I really admire that.
You worked with Arthur Rizk again as producer. What do you like most about his style and sound?
RG: Arthur is incredibly versatile and ever-positive. He’s like a recording guru. Keeps a very positive attitude and is really good at mediating in-studio disagreements. He has no specific sound, if you ask me. I think he’s capable of operating successfully in almost any kind of musical scape.
BI: Arthur's a really good friend of ours, so he knows us well on a musical and personal level. That's a hard thing to find and we're lucky to have someone talented that can also mediate and be patient with us. I think he's one of the best at emulating classic sounds and finding the right balance of modern and old. You don't have to worry about him giving you something too polished, but he's able to polish it as much as he can without it getting out of control. I think his work has a lot of personality, certainly more than most stuff these days. It's not always conventional, but that's why it's interesting and I think the world needs more producers like that, who aren't afraid to bend the rules a bit and keep things exciting. There's a lot of by the numbers garbage out there.
What did you learn from your first experience in the studio after recording Manifest Decimation?
RG: We learned to take our time. MD was recorded, not exactly in a rush… but just not with the focus and patience we were able to give Nightmare Logic. MD was the first LP Blake or I had ever recorded in our musical careers. We had a lot to learn and not a lot of time to get comfortable with “The Process”. This time around we came in with a much more refined game plan and a better strategy to better utilize our time and make sure no one was overworked. I had a lot more confidence in myself as a vocalist on Nightmare Logic — I didn’t need to rely so much on the reverb and delay to get a satisfying performance.
BI: Mainly what to do to, be prepared and also what our strengths / weaknesses were, musically. It was easier this time to write the material because I think we knew what we were good at and what worked the best. There was definitely a lot of room to take it up a notch so we didn't hold back at all. It was also nice to be able to clean things up a bit and go for a tighter production since we had more time to record and be meticulous.
Power Trip have been stealing the show a bit on tour, opening for bands like Anthrax, Lamb of God and Napalm Death. Crowds seem to be the most physically engaged during your set - what do you attribute this to?
RG: I think we’re easily accessible — we’re just five guys up there raging as hard as we can. We aren’t reinventing the wheel, nor did we ever set out to. I always said, "Put us in a room with people who simply appreciate aggressive music and they’ll leave enjoying our band." I think we do what we do well enough to impress any one who likes or liked heavy music. We tap into the anger of it all, the frustration of every day life, as relatively common looking dudes, rather than use metal as a form of escapism that relies on an image or some kind of gimmick. Nothing against bands that do that, but I think allowing our individual diversity to shine plays a helpful role.
Pretty much every single riff on ‘Nightmare Logic’ is pit-worthy. What are your Top 3 pit albums?
BI: Slayer, Reign In Blood, No Warning, Ill Blood, Razor, Violent Restitution
Which is best: Bay Area, Brazilian, East Coast or German thrash?
RG: Bay Area or East Coast, followed closely by German and then Brazilian.
BI: Bay Area by a mile.
Power Trip, "Executioner's Tax (Swing of the Axe)"
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