Last year moved pretty fast, and thankfully Power Trip stopped to look around once in a while. After releasing its sophomore album, Nightmare Logic, in the spring, the Dallas thrash metal band saw its music spread farther than ever before. Now it seems as if vocalist Riley Gale, bassist Chris Whetzel, drummer Chris Ulsh, and guitarists Blake Ibanez and Nicky Stewart are standing on top of the metal world—or at least beside fellow giants like Obituary, Body Count, and Municipal Waste.
Though the album garnered them positive attention from publications and fans alike, it was their win for Metal Song of the Year at the 2017 Loudwire Music Awards—nominees included the aforementioned bands—that made their rise to fame sink in. Surrounded by their family and other music celebrities, the band members felt both flattered and surprised, especially since the award was determined based on streams instead of votes. Now, Power Trip are doing their best to share the spotlight by bringing a diverse lineup on tour of acts like hard rock band Sheer Mag and thrash crossover act Red Death.
“A small part of us was tired of—no knock to Obituary or Cannibal Corpse, who asked us out—doing straight metal tours. There’s a whole swatch of people into us who I don’t think want to see an all-metal show,” says Gale. “Sheer Mag is a band we started running into about two years ago at the same festivals and became friends. We thought it would be cool to bring them on tour because they blur the line between rock and punk the way we do with metal and punk. It’s a kindred spirit sort of thing because we all came up the same kind of way in the same generation.”
To understand what they’re like offstage, we interviewed Riley Gale for a round of Wheel of Tunes, a series where we ask musicians questions inspired by their song titles. With Nightmare Logic as the prompt, his answers are detailed and full of good intention—qualities that can get lost in the sheer volume of their music when headlining the Paradise Rock Club this Friday.
1) “Soul Sacrifice”
DIGBOSTON: What’s the biggest sacrifice you’ve had to make with the band going full time?
GALE: A normal romantic relationship. That’s probably the No. 1. That’s the hardest, being away for so long. When I date people, they tend to lighten up a bit more when I say, “Okay, I know this sounds stupid, but this is like dating a guy who’s at sea or fighting in the military, but way shittier and poorer.” There’s going to be a time where I’m gone for a month, home for a month, and then gone for three months. That’s kind of a drop in the bucket of the big picture. I don’t want to be on tour for six months each year for the rest of my life. The idea is to get to a point where we don’t have to tour as much as we do.
You grow to miss a lot of things. Like I have a dog, and when I got my dog I never thought this band would become this big. So touring has a lot of difficulties mixed in and it gets hard after a while. That’s the biggest sacrifice, having that moment of, “Oh shit, I had a bad day but I’m seven hours ahead in Europe so I can’t call someone to chat.” That gets difficult.
2) “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)”
DIGBOSTON: Since you’re a gamer as well, what are three video games you’d recommend to people who don’t play video games much?
GALE: Man, that’s so tough. I want them to be really good games that would get someone into gaming. Man, that’s a really fucking good question. I don’t know. This is so difficult. Okay, I do have one. We’ve been playing this on the bus. I got this game off Playstation and I’d forgotten about it for a while. It’s a marketplace game called Mother Russia Bleeds. It’s an old-school, side-scroller, beat-’em-up game but it’s got this cool little kick to it where the fighters in the game are addicted to a drug called nekro and you extract it out of people. So you beat people up like Streets of Rage-style to get health or different abilities. You pull the drug out of the needle and then shoot yourself up. It’s pixelated art, it’s all Russian themed, it’s pretty mindless, the soundtrack is this deep techno, and it’s a cool game. You can just button mash basically.
Another is Breath of the Wild, the new Zelda game, because that’s just a perfect video game. That’s something I feel like someone who has never played a video game before can pick that up and get a universal experience of what a game can do. There’s action and shooting, there’s crafting and RPG elements, you’ve got puzzles, and the Switch has those temples where there are physical puzzles where you have to make the right movements to get a ball in a hole. That’s a game where you can be like, “No, no, no, if you don’t like video games, this is what a video game should be.” Maybe it’s too complicated? It has a steep learning curve, but once you get there it really opens up what you can do with games.
For my third answer, I’ve been playing this game called Arms a lot. I wish more people did. It’s a boxing game for Switch. You can play it with a regular controller or other ways, but the best way is obviously standing up and using the motion controls. It’s a boxing game that’s cartoonish and all the people have spring-loaded arms. Each glove has different abilities. You basically box it out. The game has cool mechanics and a cool art style. Once you pick it up, next thing you know you’re throwing fake punches at your screen and dodging. I try to challenge people to it but most people won’t play it with me because they can’t handle it. They can’t handle the skill I’ve got.
3) “Firing Squad”
DIGBOSTON: Have you ever been fired from a job before?
GALE: Oh yeah, absolutely. I got fired from Bank of America. Actually, should I say that? Maybe if I want to get a job somewhere then it’s a bad look to have that in print. No, it’s fine. Okay, so I got fired from Bank of America while working in their corporate home refinancing department. I processed loans for home mortgages during the whole housing crisis. It’s funny if you go back and rewatch The Big Short. That’s what we were doing every day of our lives and kind of knew something was fucked up. This has nothing to do with why I was fired, but it was so strange. They were telling us to approve loans all the time to people who could not afford them. We would see their basic income and say, “These people can not afford this. Why are we doing this?” and our bosses were like, “It doesn’t matter; push it forward.” This was back in my early 20s. All of that happened, they made a movie about it, the government got bailed out, and we knew about all of this shit. But I ended up getting fired after working there for about three years when touring started to get in the way. The reason they used was pretty sad. They said I was using the internet too much and accused me of gambling. Of course everybody uses the internet though. I think they just had to cut staff down. It was a pop-up for a casino website, and I told them you could tell by the URL that it was a pop-up. They were pretty candid with me, though: “Look, everybody uses the internet, but this is the reason we’ve decided to fire you.” Once I asked if I got unemployment and they said yes, then I was fine with it. I didn’t care as long as they didn’t tell my future employers I was a shitty employee, because I wasn’t.
4) “Nightmare Logic”
DIGBOSTON: What’s a trivial nightmare that’s stuck with you?
GALE: I’ve got a lot of recurring dreams. It’s hard to pick which one. I have a lot of them. This is kind of a different answer, but I was very much into it so I’ll share it. We were two weeks into the Europe tour and sleeping on a bus with another band. It was going okay, but I had this nuclear dream, which is not the type I usually have. I was in this house on a hill and was with pretty much everyone from the tour. We heard something and went outside. There was a vague city skyline and this missile falls on it, the whole thing blows up, and the flash wakes me up. I told someone about it because I thought it was weird, as it’s one of those dreams that lingers after you wake up. But as I walked by our bass player Chris, he was telling a story about his dream and it was fucking identical to the one I had. The only difference was that in his dream he had an alert. He was like, “We were in a house on a hill, I was with a few of you guys at a weird get-together, we heard an alarm, and all went outside. We all saw a missile fall.” I bet if you look it up, it’s a common dream that happens a lot and we happened to have it the same night or something, but it was very weird and bizarre to have two very similar nightmares in the same night while basically sleeping feet from one another on a bus. It was eerie to experience.
5) “Waiting Around to Die”
DIGBOSTON: Where are the best and worst places to die?
GALE: Best is probably in your own bed, surrounded by loved ones. The worst would probably be in a fire or anything like that. Fire isn’t a place, though, so that doesn’t count, I guess. Hmm. Somewhere where you’re not found. The bottom of a lake would be the worst place to die … or something. Germany would be a shitty place to go out, too, like while on tour in Europe.
DIGBOSTON: When is the last time you learned a fact about something and it wound up ruining it for you?
GALE: Oh shit, that’s a good question. Probably the Uber thing, you know? Finding out how much the CEO of Uber sucked—to the point where I can’t use Uber anymore. I have to use Lyft because that guy and the company sucks so bad. That one was recent. I was just talking about that with someone the other day, actually. He’s done everything from general homophobia and racism to sleazy business practices and treating employees in a fucked-up way. They found a way to screw over the drivers and others. There’s a podcast I like called The Dollop that did a whole episode on Uber and it’s really good. It’s two comedians who do an American history podcast and riffing on different topics, but they take on the Uber guy to tell you what he’s done with day one, from the day he was born leading up to now. He’s a real piece of work.
7) “If Not Us Then Who”
DIGBOSTON: When was the first time you realized the importance of standing up to others, even if it means you’re on your own in doing so?
GALE: Probably sometime in high school, maybe a bit earlier. I found that out a bit young. I got along with most of my schoolmates pretty well. I can’t remember a specific moment, but rather a period of time. I tried to get along with everyone, but then I couldn’t tolerate people bullying. There were a lot of times where I got into a fight because no one would stop someone from picking on someone else. I’m not trying to sound like a fucking hero, because I wasn’t, and I didn’t do this often. I remember getting into a fistfight during a free period when I was a freshman because my friend had just gotten a car and this guy was making fun of it. I told him, “You know what, you don’t even have a car.” It was stupid. You have to learn to pick your battles, but you can’t stand there and watch everything and be okay with it.
A lot of people follow the herd. There was a cool hour-long special on Netflix called The Push. This British equivalent of David Blaine casts four people to test-run an experiment to see if they will push someone off a building. They get roped into helping at a charity event and slowly give them increasingly shitty things to do that aren’t moral, like putting meat hors d’oeuvres on the vegetarian plate and intentionally mislabeling them. But things basically lead up to convince them that pushing someone off a roof is okay. It’s all to prove a point that people can be brought to do anything when social pressure comes into play. It’s hard not only to figure out when to stick up for someone, but how to do so.
DIGBOSTON: Over the last few years, what’s something you’ve found yourself fixated on?
GALE: I’ve been really fixated on comics the last few years. That’s been my big form of escapism. That’s something I’ve been really focused on, reading stories and comics because I like what the medium can do. It can cover any topic, which is nice. I’ve felt a wide range of emotions reading different comics. You can start to tell the difference between a really well-made one or a complex story and a bad one. It’s one industry that’s probably worse than being a musician. Those people work like dogs. Most have day jobs, then draw all night and write the plot, which is even harder. You have to start out with self-publishing. The comics industry as a whole, beyond the books, is fascinating and difficult.
Two comics that really showed me what the medium could do, which are obvious ones, was Transmetropolitan by Warren Ellis and Sandman by Neil Gaiman. Those were ones I read that changed my perspective on what could be done in comics. I read Watchmen in high school and Sin City. I had an old friend who had a practice room littered with comics, and he started showing me big superhero comics. That’s when I realized I didn’t like them. Years later, while having trouble reading small print like books in the van, my friend suggested I try newer comics and I hesitated. He was like, “No, you should check out these,” and suggested those two and Preacher. I crushed those even though they’re pretty long series, and they took me down a road where I was reading everything I could get my hands on. I probably caught up on a decade’s worth of comics people had already read. That’s where most of my money has gone.
POWER TRIP, SHEER MAG, FURY, RED DEATH. FRI 5.11. PARADISE ROCK CLUB, 967 COMM. AVE., ALLSTON. 6PM/ALL AGES/$16. CROSSROADSPRESENTS.COM