Over the years I have interviewed some great bands, some so-so bands, and some bands that I could possibly do without; however when it comes to 16Volt and Eric Powell every time I have had the chance to interview him it is nothing short of an honor. 16Volt's music still lives on as one of the purest and constantly growing examples of good old Industrial/Metal music. Come to think of it I have a hard time putting a label on the band's compositions as it encompasses so many different styles and concepts that a label is better left alone.
It has been a couple years since 16Volt's return to the world of music, and what a return it was with an epic piece like 'Full Black Habit', and now they are armed with a new release 'American Porn Songs'. So sit back boys and girls and come into the world of Eric Powell:
Rafi: I read in your very in depth interview with Mr. Benny Hell about your relationship with your father, I have to wonder what was your childhood like and how did it influence you in your writing? What songs best reflect your emotions about that point in your life?
Eric Powell: Wow, you are getting right to it huh? No dinner? No foreplay? (laughs) I am sure there are a bunch of residual affects and leftovers that I don't even know about. When you are a little kid and things like divorce or death happen around you, a key element of your foundation gets ripped out from you – security. Children need a sense of place and security, I think looking back on it, I never felt secure. I still don't. A lot of what I write about has to do with anger and disappointment, All around the same few years in my development my dad bailed, my uncle froze to death in a skiing accident, my aunt committed suicide, and my grandmother died. That's a lot of loss for a kid to deal with. I wouldn't say though that the songs these days are about all that, but I am sure that all those emotions gave me a lot of practice and the fuel to start dealing with the darker things in our songs.
Rafi: In the same interview you said that the sleeve for KISS’s ‘Destroyer’ helped influence you, what was it about that particular cover that really got your attention?
EP: That cover is like the ultimate superheroes of rock and roll cover. It's like a fantastical comic book cover of mad rock evil. I saw that and it was like a magnet, I was entranced. I had to hear it. I was so into KISS at a young age, not even aware of the theatrics of it. I remember being Ace Frehley for Halloween one year, my mom made the costume, it was flawless.
Rafi: We spoke early on in your tour for ‘Full Black Habit’ (second date if I remember correctly) how did the rest of the tour go? How different is it to tour these days than 7-8 years ago?
EP: The rest of the tour was awesome, I mean, we went into it not knowing what the response was going to be. It was our first headline tour since 1998. We had no idea what to expect. Our mantra on that tour was that we knew we had fans in each city, how many we didn't really know. So we were going to rock our asses off for 10 people or 1000, it didn't matter. We were just really happy to be able to get out there and play and it was a daily adventure. We would rather play for 10 16volt fans than 10,000 people who could give a fuck if we are there or not. If you keep that kind of outlook you will never be disappointed. Every show will be killer. And they were. Touring now days is completely different than before. We just have so much more knowledge of what to expect on the business end of things and the logistics. No one has a clue how much work it takes to put on a tour. It's immense. It's like a full time job 6 months before the thing even starts. But that doesn't matter, we love that aspect of it. The best thing in the world is to get up on the stage at the end of the day and finish it off with a show where people actually show you appreciation for what you do. It's massive. I remember back in the day when you had calling cards, when you rolled into town you had to find a payphone and make calls. Nowadays, I mean, we had mobile internet in our van on the little west coast tour we just did. It's totally different in that regard. It makes the boring times go by faster.
Rafi: I was stunned to see that you re-released your back catalogue, and on top of that gave it away for free download. What made you decide to do this? How was the response?
EP: Well, we had been approached by a few different people who see monetary value in our back catalog and wanted to do re-releases of everything and sell a few hundred to the fans we already have. These "ideas" are short-sighted in our opinion. Right now we have all this music and it's already been bought by our fans. The sales on it were pretty slow, it's all pretty much out of print, sold only in digital form. Mike and I had a long conversation about what to do with it. I mean, we could remaster everything and put it out, but there we are still only hitting the fans we already have, plus we can still do some of that anyway in the future. The main goal here is to get more people to hear it. I can't tell you how many times I have heard "I know about you, but I haven't heard you yet". Shit like that, so the thought is, take away the excuses. We believe in our music, we believe that if you hear it, if you listen to it, you will find something there you like. We think we are more than competitive in this scene and can stand our own against anyone. So what better way to get the stuff out than to just give it away. Viral distribution. Take it, share it, spread it. You can download all of our releases prior to us signing to Metropolis right from our website. We ask that you sign up for our mailing list but you don't have to. We also have a donation link on there if you feel like donating to our cause. The unexpected thing, and one of the most rewarding things about this for us has been that so far giving the stuff away has actually made us more money off donations than the entire time we have been selling the stuff digitally. Who knew right? I mean, we were selling it and not making too much, so we gave it away and now we make more. But nonetheless that isn't the point. The bottom line is we want people to get the music. And you can now, directly from us, free.
Rafi: It seemed this last couple of years really picked up, aside from bringing back 16Volt, you joined the musical crew of “Repo: The Genetic Opera” to do the programming. How did this come together and what was the experience like?
EP: I got a call from my longtime friend Joseph Bishara who asked me if I would be into this amazing project. The time frame was short, and they needed me to work on like 40+ pieces of music. I did programming on a ton of stuff. It's amazing to see how the film has taken off in the underground, it's kinda like our generation's "Rocky-Horror", it's a must see and it's just a great group of talent working on a great movie. It's a musical that crosses the aforementioned rocket horror picture show with blade runner and the gore of saw. If you haven't heard about it yet you should check out repo-opera.com, all the info on it is there.
Rafi: To top all that you got nominated for an academy award for your work on the soundtrack, did you ever think you would get such an honor? How did it hit you when you found out?
EP: We were up for nomination, not actually nominated. I mean it was close, we were "in the building" with it. To be even considered is a huge honor. We had some really tough competition on it and Repo! was definitely the spooky uncle of the lot. I found out from Joe and it was exciting for a few weeks until we didn't make it, then we all just went about our normal business.
Rafi: Out of curiosity what did you think of the movie after it was finished?
EP: I have seen it 3-4 times. When you work on a project like this, you have to say you like it even if you don't. You say it because you have to support the film. To be honest, I am really happy to say, I genuinely love the movie.
Rafi: On the downside shortly after the release of ‘Full Black Habit’ one of the contributors to the album and legend Paul Raven sadly passed away. How did this news hit you and how do you remember him and his place in your life?
EP: Yeah that was a tough blow. I had actually made plans with him once he was to return from Europe to help him work on some new music stuff. To me, he lent credibility to whatever he worked on. I mean, having him in any band upped the ante 10 fold. Look at Ministry, Look at RevCo, without Raven, those projects aren't half as cool live. He was a good guy, he lived his art to 100%. He was extremely hard working and a great player. I knew him for a very long time and to finally work with him on something was just awesome. He is missed.
Rafi: You have now put together your new album "American Porn Songs", The album is such a well crafted and diverse piece of work, even saw some reflections of the rawness I got from old Killing Joke albums, how different was it to create this album versus ‘Full Black Habit’?
EP: It was a bit more collaborative and having Mike Peoples back in the band full time is a cool thing for sure. Other than those things it wasn't really all that different. We definitely wanted to get some more aggression out on this one and I think we accomplished that nicely.
Rafi: I loved that leading up to the album you released a series of clips on the net opening people to the bass and guitar sessions, in some ways as a fan it felt like I was on the journey to the finished product along with the band itself. What made you decide to do this and how did it help with the album’s evolution?
EP: Well, you said it yourself, to make people feel a part of it. We intend to do that more and more with everything we do. With all the tech available to us now, there is no reason not to involve people more. It also makes a great archive of the things we have been lucky to do, it creates a great memory for all of us.
Rafi: I was more than happy to see that Tim Skold had helped with the record, how did you guys come together for it and how did he contribute to the album?
EP: I've known Tim forever and we have always talked about working together on something. We had this song and I just felt like it needed a little something on it. I passed it over to him and said "go at it". He did a bunch of little synth lines in it that added a really spooky vibe to it. It was a little bit of work that made a cool little impact on the song.
Rafi: You guys did a mini west coast tour with Cyanotic, Sean is a great guy and never a dull moment at all with him. How did the tour go and any crazy stories you have?
EP: It went pretty well. It was too short. We all felt that right away. It was like we were depressed about it being over on the 2nd day. The shows went good, playing with Sean and JP and their people is always awesome. The only crazy story I can recall right off the top of my head is Sean getting kicked out of Bar Sinister for stealing liquor from behind the bar. We don't believe it happened and the bar insisted it did. Really we just think they lame goth chic promoter had it in for us and Sean was talking some shit and they had him removed. We loved playing that place and the owner is awesome, she rules but the promoter on the show. Ugh. From the get go we had issues. They wouldn't even fucking feed our crew!
Rafi: Any plans to do a full scale US tour, maybe invade Europe soon?
EP: Yes. We had planned on doing Fall but had some issues with another incompetent booking agent so we have decided to push back to Spring. There are too many tours out this fall and unfortunately the guy we were working with dropped the ball for us and we ended up getting things moving too late. We have some great things in the works already for Spring though including a big festival show we can't announce yet...
Rafi: The last written interview we did you opened up about how you are a family man with kids of your own, how does that effect you in your music and approach to the industry? Do they spend a lot of time observing what you do in the studio?
EP: It doesn't really affect it too much. I have the ability to compartmentalize what I am doing. They love the studio though and they love music and art. As my friend Jared Louche put it so succinctly, "love the fact that you are creating one of the cool kids".
Rafi: To wrap things up, I have a picture of 16Volt trying to molest me backstage at the last tour, my lawyer says I have a case. Any comment?
EP: At this time our lawyer suggests we conclude the interview. Thank you for your time and any further comment or follow ups should be conducted through his office. Due to pending legal matters we can no longer discuss anything related to your case, this interview or any other written matters. On a personal note however, you do have excellent grooming prowess.