Riley Gale from the band Power Trip was a larger than life figure in the underground music scene who passed away earlier this week. I called him up for an interview in 2014 and he obliged, answering my semi-loaded questions about hip hop and hardcore, questions I half knew the answer to already.
Years later I’d end up booking Power Trip at a tiny bar in Memphis, but when I heard the news on Tuesday the only thing I could think of is an uneventful night sitting at the Barracuda in Austin by myself. I don’t remember why I was there or who played, but Riley came and sat down next to me. We didn’t talk about anything important, but that’s the most poignant memory I have of him. For some reason, that interaction outweighs the time I booked his band or watched them level The Teragram in LA on the absurd tour they did with Destruction Unit.
Anyway, I thought people may want to revisit this pretty short interview where Riley talks about the formation of Power Trip and Dallas hardcore more than anything else. Rest in peace. A legend gone way too soon.
How did Power Trip first start? What made you guys want to start playing together?
Riley Gale: We started in 2008. My old band had broken up, and Blake knew I was looking to do something in the crossover, mid-to-late ’80s NYHC type of style. His parents lived in the same suburb of Dallas as mine. We got together, and he showed me some riffs. We got his friend who played drums to start playing with us, and it just kind of built from there. We played some local shows, and then a label showed some interest. Shortly after that people outside of Texas showed interest. We just have been pushing it since then.
The first label we were working with was called Double or Nothing. They kind of botched the whole thing. They lost the record and the dude kind of fell off the face of the earth. I’ve never even talked to the original guy to ask him what happened with the label. It’s ironic that it was called Double or Nothing because we kind of gambled on them and lost.
You guys have been described as a hardcore band, a metal band, and a crossover band. How would you describe your music? How important are labels like those today?
I mean, if you’re going to pigeon hole us, I guess crossover would be the label I would use. Me and Chris grew up in the punk scene and then got into metal. We all listen to hardcore, punk, and metal, and we take elements from all of it. I would consider us hardcore punks playing metal.
How were you guys involved in the Dallas hardcore community prior to forming Power Trip? Would you say that the scenes in Austin or Dallas helped mold you guys into the type of band you are?
I’ve been in the Dallas scene since 2000 or 2001. But around 2005 was when I had a local band that got kids excited about hardcore music. At that time, if 100 people came to a show it was considered a great turnout. The average shows would only bring about 40 people. When that band broke up we started Power Trip, and we were actually decent, so the shows got better. Through people’s hard work it’s become the best scene in Texas, and it’s one of the best in the country now. Without bragging, I think we helped make Dallas a place that’s worth playing. Bands used to skip us all the time but now that doesn’t happen. Everybody comes to Dallas now. The guys in Iron Age also got me into a lot of the bands I’m into now. I’d say they had something to do with the way Power Trip sounds.
Lyrically there seems to be more going on in your songs than the typical hardcore song message. What are some of the topics you cover with your lyrics?
It’s funny because I cover a lot of topics that are still pretty prevalent in the hardcore scene. ‘If you don’t like the world as it is then change it,’ ‘don’t take shit from people,’ all the cliché tropes are still present, but I tend to hide them in allegory or metaphor. I try to present typical ideas in a way that people haven’t thought of looking at them before. I’m not writing a fucking doctorate thesis, but I try to write about topics in ways that they haven’t been addressed before. It’s the closest thing I would do to poetry in a sense. I could be straight forward and say the world is doomed, and it’s going to end, or I could come up with a creative way to say that.
Do you listen to any Memphis Rap or Hip-Hop? How about any old Houston or Texas rap from the ’90s? Who are some of your favorites?
In the van and at shows we listen to all kinds of music, especially southern rap. We actually had something on our [contract] in Europe that said we got to control the house music before and after the bands. The last thing we want is more loud guitar music after 6 hours of loud heavy music. Our drummer is from Houston, so we listen to a lot of that stuff. Some of the more obscure Memphis stuff we don’t know about, but we like a lot of the big names like Project Pat and Three 6 Mafia. I listen to the Ghetto Boys and DJ Screw all the time. On my old computer, I had a full discography of DJ Screw. I think it was like 20 gigs. That computer died unfortunately, probably from a DJ Screw overdose. A couple years ago we had a Juicy Jay rip-off shirt that said ‘We Trippy Mane’, but that was before he got embraced by the frat-boy scene.
Can you tell me more about the Extermination compilation that’s coming out soon? Is that the first new music from Power Trip since your album came out?
It’s technically not a new song. It’s a rerecorded song from our demo that we just didn’t do right the first time around. One of the guys from the label that’s doing the compilation approached us about doing it and we were interested, but it was hard to find time to write a new song so we rerecorded that old song during the session that our LP was recorded in.
What else do you guys have planned for the rest of 2014? Are you guys recording new material any time soon?
We are starting this three week-tour with Mammoth Grinder on Monday in Memphis. Then we will be home for the fall and probably go back out in the winter. There won’t be any new music until next year, but hopefully early next year we will release a single that leads up to another LP.