Power Trip Wants to Build a New Underground Resistance
The politically-charged Texas thrashers aren't afraid to speak out against oppression—and as vocalist Riley Gale told us, there's a lot of work to do
Last week's release of Nightmare Logic by Texas crossover thrashers Power Trip couldn't have come at a more perfect time. Written and recorded with the 2016 election race as its foreboding backdrop, the album offers a dystopian vision that no one quite expected to come true. Channeling the Cro-Mags, Sepultura, Discharge, and Nuclear Assault through a fast-paced thrashing attack that takes a hit at right-wing Christianity, big pharma, and corporate greed—all the while pushing for direct action and the rise of people power—Nightmare Logic is the album we hoped we wouldn't need. But boy, do we need it now.
Power Trip's Riley Gale grew up in the Dallas hardcore scene listening to as much Sacrilege as he did Sick Of It All. With their second album, he and his bandmates have jumped into the heavy metal world full-throttle. Whether they're touring with Title Fight, Lamb of God, or Napalm Death, Power Trip is ready to spread their message of dissent and Gale knows it will be the fight of their lives.
While their biggest problem used to be whether they were too punk for the metalheads, or too metal for the punks, there are now, as Riley says, "bigger fish to fry." This is a time for actions, not words.
I spoke to Gale as he was on his way to play a benefit show where all proceeds went toward a young cancer survivor's medical bills. He talks about scene unity, but challenges essential scene politics. He wants to stop preaching to the choir, but has to make careful decisions about touring with bands who don't share the same ideals. He is painfully aware of the dichotomy of fronting an outspoken thrash band as we stare into the abyss of the current political climate. But he also knows that if it's not now, it's when. And if it's not Power Trip, then who.
Noisey: Your album came out barely a month after all hell broke loose on Capitol Hill—certainly not a reality you were hoping for when you wrote Nightmare Logic. One you could almost say you predicted it. What drives you to write songs that have a political or social message?
Riley Gale: I go to war with my lyrics. I'm my biggest critic, I am constantly self-reflecting and our political climate isn't getting any better. Our first seven-inch was called "Armageddon Blues" and that was a reflection of me seeing the world and accepting that. In my lifetime, we're going to see some huge changes, we're moving past a post-modern way of living into some kind of futurism. I became empowered by that and the other albums have that theme. Manifest Decimation was the same thing; if you open your eyes you'll see we're being controlled by our government, by big pharma, our military-industrial complex and the corporations. If you open your eyes and see that, you'll also see that the common person is still the majority, we can change something. We can have a revolution.
Your first album Manifest Decimation introduced you as a force of change. Is Nightmare Logic a direct continuation of that same message?
The first album's title was a play on manifest destiny, which was an excuse to kill Native Americans. I said "Manifest your own destination", tear down 100 years of social conditioning. A lot of my lyrics are taking subjects and trying to look at them in a different way, seeing different perspectives, or different reasons to unify each other. A lot of what I do tries to be unifying. Look, we sit here and bicker about scene politics and I just see bigger problems that punk as a whole could come together and fight. The Dakota pipeline, for example; seeing people come together, seeing Randy from Lamb Of God drive out there to the protest, seeing people into punk and metal wake up, out of this echo chamber and realize that preaching to the choir isn't going to get anything done. We have to get out there and not just start talking about it, but being.
And we have to find some things to unify us. One of the things I talked about on Manifest Destiny is incarceration, how we've moved from public torture and executions to the torturing of the soul, putting people in solitary confinement for years on end. There is no room for rehabilitation in this country when it comes to our prison system. It's something that's meant to keep you down and we need to reform. We haven't ended slavery, it just has a new name. That's something we can all rally behind and fight for, so I try to bring attention to things everyone can get behind."
Manifest Destiny came out in 2013. It's now 2017 and were looking at a very different political climate, how has that changed you as a band?
Now it's more volatile than ever to be politically-outspoken. I have talked to the band and we are going to become more politically-outspoken. When we were doing the tour with Napalm Death, I had a segue into a song bout killing reality TV stars. See, I think celebrity culture is dangerous, it has no place in metal or punk. I see this cancer in reality TV that feeds into that ego and so I said, let's kill these fucking reality TV stars. I wrote this song in 2010, and now we have one in the White House. Let's get to work. Let's get him out of here.
I'm not a violent person, but I think, unfortunately, when it comes to revolution and real social change I wouldn't be mad seeing a banker dragged out to the street and beaten. I'm sorry. I wouldn't. If it's someone I knew who had systematically oppressed hundreds of people through labour or gobbling up corporations to make a bottom line and laying off workers. People on Wall Street, people in the government, they have blood on their hands. They have no problem sending young kids to fight their wars for them. Look at how many of our politicians are draft dodgers or didn't go through military service. Trump himself, George Bush too. Tying this into Nightmare Logic, I heard the term to describe certain types of horror movies, the ones that deal with dreams bleeding into reality; Nightmare On Elm Street, Suspiria, Hellraiser. These are films where people are having to deal with a nightmare logic, and I see that's how our reality has become.
What is the song "Nightmare Logic" about?
Politicians have gotten the media to condition us to have no value for human life. Think of how many times some innocent kid or unarmed person is shot and killed, and we just shrug our shoulders—'that's fucked up but it's just another one.' We've been conditioned to not care about human life, and if that's the case, let's find the people who are doing the damage. Let's use their nightmare logic against them. There's a song on the album called "If Not Us Then Who," and it's taken from a quote by John Lewis. The saying is, "if not us then who, if not now then when" and I flipped it around. Look, if we want to save the world, someone's got to do it—let's make it us. We can build the world we want to see. Let's stop showing that punk and metal is an attitude or a culture, but an actual socio-political force.
Back in the 90s, a lot of bands used to give out literature. They had really good intentions, were much more into activism, but the problem was the connection. They didn't have the internet. Now we live in a globalized world we can start to actually build a movement because we can connect with people who have the same values. I think it's important for everyone to start figuring out who the "us versus them" are.
What are some of the other themes on Nightmare Logic ?
Track by track breakdown, real quick; "Soul Sacrifice" is just about somebody opening their mouth and getting into a conversation where they're wrong. Maybe it's a Christian person being shut down. It's when you have a realization that something you've always thought is now wrong. You sacrificed a bit of your soul for being ignorantly outspoken.
"Executioner's Tax" is an allegory about how we as a society are killing ourselves with certain things, whether it be food or prescription drugs, because we just want a comfortable way to die. Back in the medieval age, if you were being condemned to death, a priest might ask you to repent of your sins, and if you said yes, he'd give you a bag of silver to give to the executioner as tax so he would cut your head off in one painless swipe. But if you didn't repent, he might take it easy and take two or three swings. I made that an allegory for how we're choosing death, rather than life, as a people, and we just want a comfortable way out.
"Firing Squad" is about what you're willing to kill for, what you're willing to die for, and the ramifications of both of those things, but it's also about eliminating the old generation, finally getting these baby boomers the fuck out. Making room for millennials, if you wanna call us that.
"Waiting Around To Die" is a play on the Townes Van Zandt song. In it he seems to give in to a codeine addiction and says "I've got my friends, I like my life and I'm waiting around to die." I'm not going to let you wait around and die; get up, do something with your life. You can't be more than just a nihilistic zombie floating through life.
"Ruination" is as simple as it gets: we fucked up this country, it's time to start over, we've got to do something. "Crucifixation is more about the horrors we will go through to socially indoctrinate people, specifically about religion, but just bringing attention to what we do in the name of Christ. I get a lot of shit from my dad because he says "Well, why don't you write anti-Muslim songs if you're writing anti-Christian songs." Well it's not the dominating religion in the country, so I have to focus it through the majority. I think all religion and indoctrination is bad. I'm a spiritual person, but that's a personal journey.
These are tough topics to tackle, and some may not want to hear them. Are you ready for the fight of your lives?
I think there are plenty of things we're already bickering over. And there's so many things our scene chooses to bicker over. Like when people are fighting for safe spaces or more bands with persons of color, or that women are represented, making sure that homophobia and sexism doesn't exist. To me those are no-brainers. I understand my white privilege as someone who doesn't have to look over my shoulder every day for a cop looking for any reason to bust my ass. I've been arrested, I know how fucked up that system is. So when you have people bickering about things that should have been sorted out a long time ago I'm like, look, we have bigger fish to fry now. Instead of complaining about a festival lacking female representation, how about we stop worrying about that and put our efforts towards making sure we still have safe places for women to get abortions. It strikes both ways, and I'm scared because we're moving more toward playing in the metal scene, and that's a safe haven for Nazis and for homophobes and sexists. We're going out there to destroy that notion, and say that that's not fucking cool.
We recently had to turn down a tour with Superjoint Ritual and all I will say is that it was too politically-charged. We had a lot of things we wanted to say, but seeing as the tour would be happening two weeks after Trump's inauguration, we deemed it too politically risky. I don't know Phil Anselmo as a person, so I can't judge him but we weren't willing to take the risk and find ourselves on the road with someone who may actually be a white supremacist. Maybe he's not, maybe he was just crossing the line, I don't know and we weren't willing to take that risk. But we want to be out there and be in front of people who may not agree.
I'm sick of preaching to the choir. It's nice to have so many peers and feel supported by a strong scene, we have fans and friends all across the world who come and see us time and time again. They've seen us dozens of times and still support us because they feel like we carry this torch. We can represent the feelings of the new breed of kid coming out of the underground. Let's make metal feel like a force that is inclusive, and tie it into punk and hardcore and make it the new underground resistance of people who don't want to see a world full of racists, xenophobes, sexists, rapists. I don't think it's impossible. We're not getting off this rock any time soon, we're not getting to Mars, so we need to fix this place. We've got a lot of work to do.
Louise Brown is fired up on Twitter.
POWER TRIP Tour Dates:
2/24/2017 Walter's - Houston, TX w/ Iron Reagan
2/25/2017 Siberia - New Orleans, LA w/ Iron Reagan
2/26/2017 Saturn - Birmingham, AL w/ Iron Reagan
2/27/2017 Kings - Raleigh, NC w/ Iron Reagan, Genocide Pact
2/28/2017 Broadberry - Richmond, VA w/ Iron Reagan, Genocide Pact, Concealed Blade
3/01/2017 Soundstage - Baltimore, MD w/ Iron Reagan, Genocide Pact, Concealed Blade
3/02/2017 Marlin Room @ Webster Hall - New York, NY w/ Iron Reagan, Concealed Blade, Krimewatch
3/03/2017 Spirit - Pittsburgh, PA w/ Iron Reagan, Concealed Blade, Protestor
3/04/2017 Now That's Class - Cleveland, OH w/ Iron Reagan, Concealed Blade, Protestor
3/05/2017 The Studio @ Waiting Room - Buffalo, NY
3/07/2017 ONCE Ballroom - Somerville, MA w/ Iron Reagan
3/08/2017 Les Foufounes Électriques - Montreal, QC w/ Iron Reagan
3/09/2017 Brass Monkey - Ottawa, ON w/ Iron Reagan
3/10/2017 Velvet Underground - Toronto, ON w/ Iron Reagan
3/11/2017 Marble Bar - Detroit, MI w/ Iron Reagan
3/12/2017 Reggies - Chicago, IL w/ Iron Reagan, Call Of The Void
3/13/2017 Triple Rock - Minneapolis, MN w/ Iron Reagan, Call Of The Void
3/14/2017 Vaudeville Mews - Des Moines, IA w/ Iron Reagan, Call Of The Void
3/16/2017 Riot Room - Kansas City, MO w/ Iron Reagan
3/17/2017 89th Street Collective - Oklahoma City, OK w/ Iron Reagan
3/25/2017 The Mohawk - Austin, TX w/ Iron Age, Glue, The Real Cost
3/26/2017 South by So What? - Dallas, TX
3/27/2017 Sister - Albuquerque, NM w/ Destruction Unit, Primal Rite
3/28/2017 Marquis Theater - Denver, CO w/ Destruction Unit, Call Of The Void, Primal Rite
3/29/2017 Beehive Social Club - Salt Lake City, UT w/ Destruction Unit, Primal Rite
3/30/2017 WavePOP House - Boise, ID w/ Destruction Unit, Primal Rite
3/31/2017 Real Art Tacoma-The Deal - Tacoma, WA w/ Destruction Unit, Primal Rite. Gag
4/01/2017 Astoria - Vancouver, BC w/ Destruction Unit, Primal Rite, Gag
4/02/2017 Analog Theater - Portland, OR w/ Destruction Unit, Gag
4/04/2017 Arlene Francis Center - Santa Rosa, CA w/ Destruction Unit, Mizery
4/05/2017 Thee Stylehouse - Stockton, CA w/ Mizery
4/06/2017 The New Parish - Oakland, CA w/ Destruction Unit, Primal Rite, Mizery
4/07/2017 The Ritz - San Jose, CA w/ Destruction Unit, Mizery,
4/08/2017 Teragram Ballroom - Los Angeles, CA w/ Destruction Unit, Mizery
4/10/2017 The Casbah - San Diego, CA w/ Destruction Unit, Mizery
4/11/2017 Rebel Lounge - Phoenix, AS w/ Destruction Unit, Mizery, Gatecreeper
4/12/2017 Club Congress - Tucson, AZ w/ Destruction Unit, Mizery, Gatecreeper