16volt has a been beating us up with a special metal spiked industrial bat since 1988. Gutsy, brash, antagonistic, and above all, adrenalin fueled, there are no apologies to be made. Conscious and fresh to beat, 16volt's new album Beating Dead Horses promises to continue on that tradition of exploration and examination of both our standing as human societies and our inner shadows. All of this wrapped up in a coating of pure metal kickass.
Salutations and welcome to another interview round with Vampirefreaks! It’s a great pleasure to have you once again.
E. Powell: The pleasure is all mine!
The album “Beating Dead Horses” comes out in May. From the preview tracks that we’ve been presented, it sounds fabulous: filled with rich and diverse metal-industrial elements to keep the rivet’s head bobbing and thrashing. In terms of a follow up to “American Porn Songs”, what sort of theme can were you going for with this release?
E. Powell: A lot of these songs are very personal and are written from a pretty selfish place. The theme is not really conscious, it’s more of a direct 360º POV on the state of the world through my eyes. We always like to leave things open to interpretation because at the end of the day, we get the most payback by sharing what we’ve made with our fans and letting the songs become theirs, for a lot of people songs become the soundtrack to their life and if we are ever a part of that it’s a total and complete honor. Unless that tool is used for evil terrible things. A consistent theme with these songs is also exploring some dark subject matter but it’s always about getting through it and never about letting it get you.
ReGen scored “American Porn Songs” as a 5/5. Based on the previews for “Beating Dead Horses” I believe the world will be equally impressed with this undertaking as your last. In terms of reviews and ratings, what sort of pressures are on you, coming off of what many consider to be a major magnum opus?
E. Powell: You can’t let that get into your head. And we don’t. Each album is its own thing and they are all going to be their own thing. Different ones resonate different with different people. Some people, we died after Wisdom, some people hate Wisdom and love SuperCoolNothing, some people don’t like American Porn Songs as much as LetDownCrush. We can’t take any of that into account. We just do what we like at the time. We try and grow with each new one and push ourselves and push what we can do and get away with. We play what we like and that’s what you get. It’s all subjective to everyone. Of course getting a review like that, it means a lot, to be recognized and appreciated for an effort is immense. It’s entirely fulfilling.
Looking at the title “Beating a Dead Horse”: what meaning should we take from the message? What does it mean?
E. Powell: Things around us feel like we are just doing over and over again. Look at government, I am at the point where I am not even sure any of it matters, the patterns are all over the place, we vote someone into office, then we turn against them, we meet someone we love, then they crush us, but we still believe in mankind, we as people are habitual deniers. We live by the motto “If you fall off the horse, get back on it”. “It’s not how you fail, it’s what you do after the failure”. So it’s in our nature to do this. We are especially critical in a humorous way about ourselves and how this behavior related to the band. We get knocked down, we come back up fists swinging. So the title really sums up a lot of what we have been going through. We face adversity on everything we do, we shoot a video and the amazing vehicle we are supposed to use gets its engine blown up the night before the shoot, we get 2 flat tires on the way back from a video shoot, and we end up stranded, there is always some disaster and we always joke about how it’s a sign to stop. How we are just beating a dead horse. Denial Junkies. And really through all that the truth is we are stronger and better because of those experiences, not only from the band perspective but as a whole. People need to learn to stand for their decisions and face them head on and deal with and work with what you get.
The lyrics seem to explore a personally darker side of both the writer and the listener’s personality. Where do you seek your lyrical content, especially in terms of the newer album?
E. Powell: It’s dark yes. But as I said, it’s really about getting into those things, getting them out and moving on. You can;t live with that shit bottled up inside you. We all have problems, we all have tragedies, broken homes, abuse, all that. We all have different levels of living that. Some people find their situation inescapable but the truth is there is always a way out and you are never alone.
Without risking wresting meaning from your work, some would say that your work contains discreet social commentary. Could you enlighten us the state of the world according to 16volt, and conversely, to Eric Powell?
E. Powell: I think social commentary is a very accurate description, it’s not political, it’s purely social. I am fascinated and disturbed and amused and perplexed by the human way. We are the most messed up creature living on this ball of hot magma. And there is beauty in that, but there is also evil. I find the whole thing just crazy. I still am searching for the way to express how I feel about it all. Our inherit hypocrisy, ability for cruelty, our ability so self brainwash, we are so immensely complex and fragile yet we are all so dumb and resilient. Some might say that’s what god is about. That’s the answer. I don’t subscribe to that at all. We are ants on a car seat, we can’t fucking drive this thing! We don’t even know we are in a car, we have no idea what’s going on here! help!!
Assisting on mixing, grabbing up another Strapping Young Lad, Shaun Thingvold has been on deck with refining the album. What sort of vision and suggestions does he bring to the table?
E. Powell: Really it’s about the craft of mixing and about that final outside perspective on what we’ve done. I really like the way we are working this stuff now. We record and produce it all in-house and then have someone come in at the mix phase. By that time we don’t know anything. We have heard the songs so many times that we aren’t sure how any of it is in reality. Having someone like Sean come in, mixing is his art, it not only takes the sound of everything to a higher level, he can offer suggestion on the overall balance of what we are doing. As my friend Bill Kennedy said to me once “My favorite effect in the studio is the mute button”.
Recently, 16volt has taken on Andy Gerold of My Darling Murder/Marylin Manson on guitars and Galen Waling of Left Spine Down/Unit 187 for the live tour. Both highly impressive and definitely a tight fit for the performances. How did you approach them to take on the 16volt mantle?
E Powell: I’ve known Andy for quite some time and he is just super talented. We really wanted to play with him and that feeling was shared in return. It was really as simple as a phone call. “Hey Andy, wanna go do this with us?” And here he is. We toured with Galen on the last tour we did with Left Spine Down and just loved watching him rock every night. With Jason’s schedule being tied up in Front Line Assembly Galen was an obvious choice.
You have much to look forward to with this year. A major tour with My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult as well as the aforementioned release. You’re also hitting up my area, which is awesome. Can’t wait to see you in concert. What sort of antics can we expect from the show this time around?
E. Powell: Well, we always try and outdo ourselves so we once again hope to bring you the best of what we can. We are playing a lot of stuff off SuperCoolNothing but it’s a good mix of everything. We didn’t want to play to many of the new songs so a few of those, some classics, etc. We make no apologies for our show, we are not a theatrical band, we are hardcore heavy and rock and roll wrapped in an industrial husk. We aren’t bringing you EBM dance floor oontz, This is about a dangerous, adrenalin charged juggernaut. We come to destroy with audio and speed!
You’re one of the legends of the scene and a true pioneer of the genre. Touring with TKK really brings home the level of attainment you’ve achieved and the influence you’ve had. You’ve returned to full fanfare and have secured yourself as a major player in the scene. During your hiatus, did you imagine reaching this zenith, and what are your thoughts about how far you’ve come since your return?
E Powell: Well, hah, that’s a lot to ingest. I am just happy to be able to keep doing this. There is nothing more in this life (aside from my kids of course) that gives me what this band has given me. The fans, the friends, the whole deal. I love it. And my only goal is to be able to keep it going. To be in the room with bands like TKK is a dream accomplished. The first industrial show I ever went to was TKK in 1989. We drove 16 hours to see them and it changed my life. So this tour with them is an incredible thing. Hopefully we all get along. Hah.
Leading up to the new album, you’ve offered some sneak peeks at the studio process, what went into the recording process, much to the delight of fans. Along with photographs and recordings of sessions, you’ve given us a taste of what goes into the programming. It leads me to ask, does it feel somewhat like voyeurism? Do these updates help connect, and what sort of information do you relay through these updates?
E. Powell: I hope so. I look at the bands I love and I wish they did what we do. I want to open up that door of mystery and let you see in. It’s part of the fun! This band isn’t just about the 60 minutes we are on the stage. This is a 24 hour a day adventure! Why not let you into it? Take a look at what you are missing!
Do you feel the process should be more inclusive for fans? You’ve done an excellent job connecting to numerous fans giving information concerning the album as well as surveying for upcoming tours and other bits of enjoyment. It leads me to ask, what sort of connection to the scene do you envision as the perfect balance? Does the internet help regulate certain decisions during the process of creation/brainstorming?
E. Powell: Nah, I mean, maybe to some degree. We did a poll awhile back to see what people want to hear live, that’s cool. I mean, don’t get me wrong. The internet has brought the wall down. We get that instant feedback and it’s great. But I don’t think at the end of the day we change much based on what people say on a message board. We love the direct communication though. I think it would be since to get more pictures of boobs sent in though.
Metropolis has thrown us a bone: telling us that we’ll also hear from Clint Carney of God Module/System Syn and Bill Sarver. What can you tell us about their contribution to the album?
E. Powell: Bill has been like the secret member of 16volt since 96. He has worked on every album. He’s a genius programmer. He adds a lot to what we do, he has a new project that’s really getting a lot of notoriety and it’s made him less accessible so we asked Clint, who rules, to do some things here and there. It’s just that extra little bit of things that I wouldn’t think of or do and I like having that on our songs.
We’ve also been given previews for an upcoming music video to the song “Burn”. Tell us. What goes into a 16volt music video? What sort of visual elements do you like experimenting with and what do you imagine goes best with your tracks?
E. Powell: It’s probably one reason we haven’t done one since 1994. Haha. Our imagination always exceeds our budget. We wanted to do a real deal video and not skimp on it. The music has always been more important to us, we always kind of saw the video as an image marketing tool. That being said, when we do one, we want to do it right. So we found a guy up in Portland named Paul Peterson whose reel just had a look we were hoping for and we stepped up on the budget and made it work. The video for Burn was shot in multiple locations in and around Portland, including some remote footage and scenes shot in central Oregon on an indian reservation. The band scenes were shot in a warehouse in Portland that is right on the river. There was a shipping barge that hit the building last winter and ripped half the back of the building off. The location was just perfect. The song is a very personal one for me but I think it will reach a lot of people and they will relate. My “Father” passed away last year from renal failure caused by alcoholism. The video is the story of his life from my perspective. He abandoned us when I was eight and I tried to connect with him a few times, it never worked. He was a person with a terrible addiction and that addiction overcame any kind of humanity he had. I cannot understand on any level someone’s ability to just walk away from your children. So anyway, that track is about him, and about how I feel about him. It’s pretty dark and intense but for me, it needed to be expressed.
I have to also ask, will we also see a remix album to eventually accompany “Beating Dead Horses” as we did with “American Porn Songs”?
E. Powell: There are no plans right now to do that but who knows. We might. It all depends really on how the album does I guess.
As a family man, do you let your kids listen to your work? Do they ever come into the studio with you? Do they have aspirations to be musicians when they grow up as well?
E. Powell: They don’t really get it totally yet, they are too young. My studio is in my house so they are constantly around it, they like to hear the music and they love to mosh around and dance around and just be kids. It’s awesome. I don’t let them listen to the stuff once there are any words or themes that could cause permanent mental damage though. As for them being musicians, I will support them in whatever path they choose but I truly hope they find pleasure in music and not profession. It’s a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll.
I want to thank you for sitting down with us today. You’re a true inspiration and I take pleasure in interviewing you. Good luck, and I can’t wait to see you in Detroit. I’ll be one of the weirdos yelling “WOO!” from near the front. Before we go, can you share your favorite vocal warmup song?
E. Powell: Ha, looking forward to it! And it’s my pleasure, thank you for the support and thanks to everyone for checking out our latest effort. We think it’s some of our best work and we hope people get into it. My favorite vocal warm ups aren’t a song at all. They are actual vocal warm ups from a vocal coach. When you sing like this every day on a tour, it’s a must-do. It usually takes me a week or so for my voice to get back into the daily tour, I am hoarse for a few shows in the beginning but the warm ups are a must. An embarrassing, ridiculous must.