What do you get when you take four guys obsessed with cartoons, anime, power metal music, and video games and put instruments in their hands? Well, you get Powerglove. Since 2003, Powerglove has been delivering their dork infused power metal renditions of video game and cartoon classics such as “Tetris”, “Pokemon (Gotta Catch ‘Em All)”, and “Mario Minor” to a well earned and dedicated fan base. Powerglove has been out supporting their 2010 release “Saturday Morning Apocalypse” and are finally about to wind down their touring schedule long enough to record and release their much anticipated follow up album.
Powerglove has been on the road supporting nerdcore rapper MC Chris and when they pulled into Atlanta for their sold out show here, they were gracious enough to invite me in for soundcheck and to talk to me pre-show. Bassist Nick Avila and guitarist Chris Marchiel joined me next door at Chipotle where we talked about just why they play the kind of music they do, why they think cheating at video games sucks, and why “Return of the Jedi” brings tears to Chris’ eye. This was a really fun interview that went into so really fun and unexpected directions. Hope you enjoy getting to learn a little bit more about the mighty Powerglove.
Chris: It’s weird. Any tour that went hip hop act/metal act/hip hop act on paper just sounds so bad but it’s gone really well on every show. We did the Summer Slaughter tour last year which was all death core bands and it went ok but we had some bad shows where people were pissed at us. So far, this tour just works. The people that listen to MC Chris and nerdcore rap come more from nerd land and less so from rap land. Often times they’re musical tastes go into rock and other kinds of music and nerdcore is pretty much the only hip hop that they’ll listen to. We’ve noticed that we can win over these crowds pretty easily. We don’t play at our normal heavy metal volume. We back it off just a bit so that it’s more about enjoying the music as opposed to that in your face metal volume.
So basically it’s just the opposite of Summer Slaughter.
Chris: Exactly. On Summer Slaughter we just had to be as loud as possible [laughs].
Nick: We like playing with so many different kinds of bands and line ups. It just makes you a better band and you’re always challenging yourself to engage the audience. We’ve done a lot of power metal tours in a row and eventually we just go into the same shtick every show. It would just become a little too easy and we’d always know what to expect what would work and what wouldn’t work. On this tour we just feel like we always have to be on our game. Once you get comfortable it gets a little bit easier but we’ve really been enjoying this tour.
Being on the road with two hip hop artists definitely must make travel and set up a lot smoother at shows.
Nick: Yeah. Touring with two rappers means there’s more of us than there are of them including their crew. We’re usually used to touring with six bands with six or eight people each.
Chris: We’re the only band on this tour with a giant Portnoy (former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy who’s known for having huge drum kits)drum kit as opposed to one of six bands with a giant Portnoy drum kit [laughs].
The last time I saw you guys you were here supporting Symphony X. Was that tour beneficial to you guys as far as picking up a bigger following?
Chris: It was definitely one of the better tours for introducing ourselves to people. That tour had a lot of problems with Soilwork and Nevermore dropping off but even though it probably hurt attendance a little bit, we went from being the fourth band on the bill to being direct support just before Symphony X. That meant that our set time increased giving us more time on stage and basically we got to step up. Attendance ended up still being very good and with us being direct support it was great. If we had gone on earlier in the show as planned, there would’ve been a lot less people. Our van broke down 5 times on that tour and we had some nice five figure repairs so when all was said and done we didn’t make a whole lot of money. Other than that it was a really great tour.
At what point did you guys decide to go the route of game theme metal and become Powerglove?
Nick: Well, it just started off as something we were doing for fun. It was just a different kind of challenge arranging the songs that we knew as kids into metal songs. It was purely a fun thing. We were all in “serious” bands before and this was just something we could do to be ridiculous and goofy and make whatever kind of music we wanted. It was a light hearted project that just bloomed from there. We didn’t have any big hopes of touring or even getting signed. We did some college shows, house shows, basements. We were just having fun with it.
Chris: The original MO of the band was to put songs on the internet and to play house parties around town.
Nick: The thing that changed it all was in 2008 when we started getting some tour offers. We got offered a tour with Psychostik which lead to a tour with Dragonforce. From there we started getting label offers and then it just turned into business from there. The first four years of the band we were just having fun.
Powerglove has a really strong, loyal following. What is it about this music that connects with your fans?
Chris: Our music is basically emotional manipulation. We just take things that people already love and put a new spin on it. It’s like playing people lullabies. These video game songs are like lullabies. People remember them from when they were kids and it soothes them and it brings back memories. There’s this reverence for these songs and they really are great songs in their own right. Powerglove has its advantages. For instance, we can go on stage and say, “We’re going to play a new song tonight.” When most bands say that, the crowd just says, “Ok” and they sit very still and they don’t know how to react. If we say that and we play “Giles’ Theme” from Street Fighter, then everyone knows what that song is and they get into immediately.
Chris: Creatively it does pigeonhole us but I think if we did it the right way we could make original music in the style of Powerglove.
Nick. It would still be video game themed.
Chris: Yeah, we’ve had some ideas of how to introduce that and we’re working on it.
Nick: Also, we’re constantly experimenting the way we approach the re-mixes. The next album we’re going to try and vary it up a little more.
Powerglove released Saturday Morning Apocalypse in 2010 which has some really great renditions of cartoon/video game themes. Is there a new album in the works?
Chris: The album came out in 2010 and we’ve been touring with those songs since 8 or 9 months before the album came out. We had done two back to back tours that were SMA focused so we’ve been touring for that album for a good while. Right after the MC Chris tour we are going to start working on a new album.
Nick: We would’ve been working on it all this year but we actually have an album coming out in Japan called TV Game Metal. We re-arranged and re-recording some of the songs from our first EP and also remixed a bunch of songs so that took up the first chunk of this year.
I heard about this. Why are you only releasing it in Japan though?
Nick: Eh, it’s a very complicated and boring story [laughs].
Chris: Let’s just say legal reasons. The big con about being Powerglove is legality. Everything that we do requires months if not a full year of legal wrangling. Every time we say, “We want to cover this song”, because we’re signed and known now, it’s a big legal hassle before releasing it. That’s why we don’t’ sell our old albums in America. It’s just an unbelievably slow process securing the rights to record these songs.
So what makes it harder to get the rights to cover video game themes then to say, cover an Elton John song? I mean, if I want to cover an Elton John song, I just pay the publisher for the rights.
Chris: There are few video game songs that you can do mechanical licensing on but most video game songs aren’t available for mechanical licensing (a license that grants certain limited permissions to work with, study, improve upon, reinterpret, re-record something that is not in the public domain). They are not with Harry Fox or any of those other agencies so you can’t just say, “I’m going to pay you a statutory rate to cover this song.” A lot of those songs you can’t even find entries for in the US and only in Japan.
Nick: Mechanical licenses only cover straight covers. Any arrangement changes are called a derivative work so even if you cover the song exactly the way it is but say change the lyrics from English to Spanish, you have to get permission straight from the person who owns the song.
So have you guys received any feedback from the composers of these songs that Powerglove has covered?
Chris: The composer of the Power Rangers’ song really liked our version and the guy who wrote the Pokemon theme liked our cover of that one as well. We even collaborated with Daisuke Ishiwatari who designed the Guilty Gear game series to do the cover art for our Japanese album which contains one of his songs. That’s really cool.
Chris: That’s a really big compliment Don so thank you for saying that. When you play Tetris, and I’ve played that game for long periods of time [shows me his Tetris tattoo].
That’s my wife’s favorite game I think.
Chris: Oh yeah. The ladies do love the Tetris [laughs].
In your opinions, what is the most underrated Saturday Morning cartoon of all time?
Chris: Oh man. That’s an interesting question. Most of the cartoons I loved were pretty mainstream. There was this cartoon I watched when I was a kid called “Lonestar.” I just remember it was on late at night and it was kind of an anime style cartoon from the late 80’s early 90’s. I just loved that show but I only got to see it every now and then because it was on late at night. I also think “Duckman” with Jason Alexander was awesome and underrated. I loved “Duckman.” That was a brilliant show.
Nick: I think that the “Clerks” animated series was awesome. There were only like six episodes produced and it was hilarious.
So what are your favorite game consoles?
Nick: Oh, Super Nintendo for me. That’s the one I was deprived of when I was a child so I’d always go over to my neighbor’s house to play Final Fantasy III. He’d get up to go the bathroom and I’d lock the door and grab his controller and just play [laughs]. I finally got one of my own and I never put it down. To me, it has the most classic RPGs.
Chris: I played a lot of consoles so it’s hard to say but at a young age, Super Nintendo was it. I loved that and also the Nintendo. I probably have more Nintendo games than anything. I loved Genesis. I skipped PS1 but never got that one. I did get a PS 2. Hell, I love the Wii, Xbox 360. I love them all [laughs].
Are you a fan of game cheats or do you choose to go the honest route?
Chris: No. I do games for real man [laughs].
Nick: Right when he starts a game, Chris chooses like “master” difficulty [laughs].
Chris: Yes. I want the full challenge so I can get defeated and overcome it. If I beat a game and I don’t feel the challenge of it, it’s not played again.
Nick: Because there’s far more gamers today than there were back in the day, I feel like the games are way too easy now. There’s a bright, glowing yellow light showing you where to go and arrows telling you where to go. It’s just too easy. When I was a kid, sometimes I would use Game Genie but only because there might be some really cool cheats like turning Mario into a dinosaur or something [laughs].
Are you guys Star Wars fans as well?
Nick: Oh yeah.
Chris: It’s hard not to be a Star Wars fan. Actually, I’m probably the only member of the band that knows all the extended universe stuff too [laughs]. Like all the stuff that happens after Return of the Jedi and the whole lineage of the Skywalkers and Solos and stuff. I was really into Knights of the Old Republic and all that as well.
Chris: Oh that’s such an easy question [laughs]. Always Empire Strikes Back.
Nick: When I was a kid my favorite movie was Return of the Jedi.
Chris: Return of the Jedi? [laughs] Yeah, I know. The Ewoks were adorable [laughs].
Nick: When I was a kid. It was good but as I got older it was Empire Strikes Back.
I agree. Empire Strikes Back all the way. I mean, the good guy doesn’t win at the end. How bad ass is that?
Chris: Yes. Exactly. It ended with tension.
Nick: Yeah, that move was very dark.
Chris: Empire will always be my favorite but “A New Hope” is such a solid movie. With Return of the Jedi, you can make fun of the Ewoks and all but I love the Anakin Skywalker redemption story. I mean, Luke Skywalker was not the chosen one. It was Anakin Skywalker who returns balance to the Force, not his son. He’s the one that makes the decision to throw the Emperor into the pit. Love saves him in the end and I always get a tear in my eye when Luke goes, “I have to save you” and Anakin says, “You already did.” I always get teary.
Oh man, I get that same way when Vader is looking at Luke, then back at the Emperor, then back at Luke, then he picks up the Emperor and tosses him. Shit kills me every time.
Chris: Oh man. I love that part.
I’m totally into collecting dorky music memorabilia and star wars shit. Are you into collecting anything like that?
Chris: I have a collection of all my old video game cartridges. That’s about the only thing I have a collection of. I also have a whole bunch of guitars. I have like 20 guitars at home. I used to buy cheap guitarist and replace the parts and what not so I could learn how they worked. Those are really the only things I have.
Nick: Pretty much the same. I have a lot of old game systems but that’s about it. I could never keep anything in the package and I’d use them right away [laughs].
Being that you guys play metal all the time, what is your biggest non-metal guilty pleasure?
Nick: [laughs] I don’t consider anything that I listen to a guilty pleasure any more. When I was like 16 or 17 I was a true metal elitist but after going to Berklee, my first day there I got told that I sucked by a bunch of other guys so that humbled me really fast. I learned to appreciate a lot of other things after that. I like Circus Survive a lot but I wouldn’t consider then a guilty pleasure.
Chris: Mine is definitely Tegan and Sara. I love their sweet lesbian folk rock and I don’t care what anyone says [laughs].
I’m like Nick here. I don’t really have “guilty pleasures” because I feel like if it’s good, it’s good no matter what genre it is.
Chris: Yeah. Metal is my favorite genre of music but it also has a really high crap ratio [laughs].
Nick: I mean, why waste your time hating things? There’s so much music out there to listen to.
I’m always curious to ask bands what they think about all the hater posters on Blabbermouth. Does that shit bother you guys at all?
Chris: We see internet shit talkers saying stuff like, “Eh, yer so gayyyyyy. Yer ruining metal for meeeee cuz your false metal is in my true metal and ruining it.” It’s pretty ridiculous. Ultimately, it’s just harmless and people want to just bash on the internet. It’s the same as people expressing their love on the internet. It’s just people knowing that they can be anonymous and scream their opinions at everybody. The internet is just a giant warehouse of people standing on their soapboxes and screaming their opinions hoping everybody will hear them.
I grew up without the internet so back in the day, if you didn’t like a band you pretty much had to personally go stand in front of the stage while they played, cross your arms, and just shake your head.
Nick: [laughs] Back then if you didn’t like a band you had go to their show and punch the singer in the stomach or the face [laughs].
Speaking of fighting bands, what band would win in a steel cage match: Powerglove, GWAR, or Slipknot?
Chris: Well, we can take ourselves off the table right now. We would die within the first few minutes of the battle [laughs]. With that being said, I think it’s a pretty easy win for Gwar. Gwar has an army of slaves, they have tons of weaponry, and they have guns that shoot seamen and urine at people. Slipknot’s got a clown.
Nick: I think Slipknot would have the budget to buy more high power weaponry and flamethrowers. They could even hire other people to kill Gwar.
Powerglove has toured with a lot of bands and done some killer tours. What is the most star struck you have ever been?
Nick: Well, it wasn’t on tour but the most starstruck I’ve ever been was when I was at NAMM this year. I met Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth vocalist/guitarist). Oscar Dronjak from Hammerfall, who we toured with, was taking to Mikael so I went up to my Oscar and I asked him to introduce him to me and talk to him in Swedish. I just thanked him for all the music he’s made. He was a super nice and funny guy.
Chris: I try really hard not to be starstruck. In fact, when I’m on tour with a band that I really like, I try not to talk to them for a while so I can get used the their presence and I’m not a total dork when I meet them [laughs]. The one person that I was really starstruck by was Tony (Kakko; vocalist) from Sonata Arctica. I’ve listened to that band since was really young and I just always loved his vocals so much. I was very starstruck when first meeting him and had some awkward “hellos.” We toured with them for a month but after two weeks they invited us on their bus and we just broke the ice and hung out. After that, we became really good friends and after the tour Tony offered to do vocals on our album. When I’m at home practicing to our version of Pokemon with Tony singing, it’s just so surreal to me.
Nick: Tony is just a great guy in general. He is the one that hooked us up with our Japanese label which was really amazing.
If Powerglove could tour with any band, who would it be and why?
Nick: Probably the one that makes the most sense to me would be Dethklok. Cartoon band and video game band? That would make perfect sense [laughs].
Chris: We emailed them begging to take us on tour so we’ll see what happens. I’d love to tour with Blind Guardian too. That would be truly awesome. We really wanted to open for X-Japan on their last US run but that didn’t happen.
If you could spend 30 minutes with any musician alive or dead, who would it be and what would you do?
Nick: Probably Martin Mendez from Opeth. I’d just love to have a bass lesson. I’d just say “teach me!” He’s probably one of my favorite bassists.
Chris: That’s a tough one man. Hm, I’m going to try and focus on the dead here. I think Dio. If I could resurrect Dio and go on some sort of mystical adventure with him where he would teach me the meaning of the spirit and shows me how to shoot soulbeams out of my arms. That would be ideal.
Nick: I don’t know that a half hour is enough time for all that.
Chris: Dio could do it in a half hour. Dio would manipulate time and space to the point where a half hour lasts forever.
Finish this sentence: If I wasn’t a musician I would be ________________.
Chris: Super Homeless [laughs]
What can Powerglove fans expect from you guys in 2012?
Nick: Super disappointment [laughs]. Actually, we’re going to be doing a few one off shows, some conventions, and all the places we can. We’re going to be producing and recording our new album.
Chris: 2012 is going to be album year. We want an album out so that will be our main focus after this tour. We poured so much into this album cycle so right after this tour, it’s time for a new album.
Thank you guys so much for taking the time out to do this. You guys are great and good luck tonight and with the new album.
Chris: Oh man, not a problem at all. Thanks a lot.
Nick: Thanks a lot.