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Ten Questions with...

POWER QUEST

Steve Williams, Power Quest

GRTR!'s featured artist in April 2011 is Power Quest, the power metallers we've followed since their early days. 

It's been a bit of a rollercoaster ride for band founder STEVE WILLIAMS in the past couple of years following the dissolution of the 2009 line-up.

Now refreshed and revitalised, Power Quest release their fifth album 'Blood Alliance' via Napalm Records in March 2011.

In this, the year of the band's 10th anniversary, the band are sounding more powerful than ever...

 

1. What are you currently up to?

Currently we are gearing up for the European and UK releases of the new Power Quest album 'Blood Alliance'. It will be out via Napalm Records on March 23 and March 28 respectively.

Last weekend we played at the Hammerfest festival in North Wales, which was the first show with the new line up and tomorrow we are off on a short 3 date UK tour with American progressive metal masters Symphony X, and we will be playing London, Wolverhampton and Sheffield. Canít wait!

Later in the year we are playing at Bloodstock Open Air and there are a number of European dates in the pipeline as well. Exciting times!

2. How have the new band members settled in and how have they influenced the sound of the band?

The new members have gelled very well. Of course Rich Smith (Drums), Paul Finnie (Bass) and Andy Midgley (Guitar) have all been in the band since August 2009 now so they have been with me for almost 2 years, while Gav Owen (Guitar) and Chity Somapala (Vocals) joined in March 2010 and they have been in the band for a year as well.

I have to take my hat off to all these guys, they have given me a new lease of life as I was unsure in the summer of 2009 as to whether or not I would continue with PQ. The energy and commitment they have all shown is absolutely incredible and they deserve all the credit.

Power Quest

I wanted the new album to be more guitar orientated than previously was the case and in Andy Midgley and Gav Owen I believe we have, potentially, one of the most exciting twin guitar pairings in recent years. Two young guys with immense ability and a big future ahead of them.

One of the other things to note is that all the guys who have come into the band were all PQ fans prior to joining the band. This has been a huge benefit as well as they are familiar with a lot of the back catalogue as well, and understand what PQ is all about musically too.

Paul Finnie Iíve known for almost half my life. Previously he was worked for PQ in a stage management and crewing capacity and so he is also familiar with how the band operates on the road which is an immense benefit along with our other crew Simon Burrell, 'Sprocket' and Andy Whittle.

3. How did the band hook-up with Chity Somapala (Firewind/Domain)? Were you after a Ďnameí vocalist to perhaps get the band more into the news or was it more important to have the right vocal fit?

I first got to know Chity when we both worked briefly in DSG with David Shankle, previously of Manowar. We got on really well both personally and professionally and said we should work together sometime.

Chity Somapala, Power Quest (Hammerfest 2011)
Photo: L & R Publications

Fast forward to early 2010 and I was looking for a vocalist once again and decided I was going to take a different approach this time, rather than look for Alessio Mark II. I contacted Chity as I saw this as a chance to take a different approach to the vocals in PQ. He was immediately interested and we recorded 3 demos for Napalm with Chity which were very well received and it was at this point that we invited him to join the band.

Being a fan of Chityís previous work, I knew what he was capable of but I also appreciated the experience he would bring to the band as well. I felt that this would make for an interesting departure for PQ while maintaining the melodic, catchy legacy. Personally I feel that with the more guitar driven sound we now have, Chity really is a great fit!

4. This new album seems to have a more metal edge than the last album and possibly less progressive elements as well. How do you go about trying to evolve Power Questís sound each time whilst trying not to alienate too many fans?

To be honest I agree with you in the sense that the new album is probably the heaviest album we have ever done but I think there are actually more progressive elements in places than ever before, particularly in songs like 'Crunching the Numbers' and 'Blood Alliance'

I wanted this album to be more about the guitars than ever before and I think we have achieved that. Looking back at the previous album 'Master of Illusion', it wasnít as well received as previous albums to be honest and Iím not sure now that some of the experimentation was really appreciated by the fans.

Obviously 'Blood Alliance' is a different beast entirely. We recorded in a different studio with a different producer (Chris Fielding at Foel studios in Wales) and I feel that the record is the most consistent in terms of melody and hooks. Arguably the catchiest PQ album to date and the reviews that have come in so far have been amazing. Of course, I was probably more nervous about this album than I have been since the debut album but I have absolute faith in the album and there is not a single song that I would not be happy to play live.

Power Quest, Blood Alliance

Really, I write first and foremost for me. I have to like it and I could not write an album to formula just to chase the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I appreciate that some fans may not like the new material as much as the older stuff but thatís life sometimes. Things change and bands have to move on and progess so to speak but I have to say that the feedback from the fans that I have heard so far has been overwhelmingly positive.

5. Getting the Symphony X support is a major coup. How did this come about and how do you decide a setlist when you are supporting another band? Do you go for more new songs on the premise that the audience wonít be that familiar with the bandís music or simply shorten a headlining set?

The Symphony X tour came about because of the reputation of PQ being a good band to tour with, hard working and no messing around. This is as important as being a good band musically I believe.

We are fortunate that we have a wide variety of material in the PQ canon and, as a result, can quite happily sit on a melodic rock, power metal or progressive metal bill. For this tour I have worked on the principle of balancing 45 minutes between new and old songs. Pretty much a 50/50 split actually.

We have added some of the more progressive tunes to the set for the Symphony X shows for example but on the whole we pick the set we want to play. One thing I donít want the all new PQ to be is a tribute to the previous line up. So we are going to be bringing in older songs this year that have never been played live before or have not been played live for a number of years.

6. Whatever happened to you being part of the David Shankle Group? Outside of Power Quest are you likely to work and/or produce with any other bands?

David decided that he needed to have musicians based in the Chicago area rather than working on material over the internet. We had some pretty cool songs going on there at the time but unfortunately I couldnít commit the time that was required. Funnily enough it was DSG that led to me and Chity becoming good friends and ultimately working together in PQ.

Iíve had numerous offers to work with other artists over the past few years and I would love to be able to take up these opportunities. However, the reality of the situation is that this work does not pay as well as the day job and it is this job that keeps a roof over my head, food on the table and enables me to carry on with PQ.

7. In this age of downloads and declining CD sales has the internet helped you get your music out there or has it in some ways hindered it by websites offering free downloads etc

To be honest the internet is a double edged sword for bands like ourselves. Of course it enables us to spread the word of the band so much better than it was ever possible before but it does also have downsides as well.

I think the impression is that PQ is actually a much bigger and more successful band than it actually is. We have some of the most loyal fans out there and Iím very grateful to these guys because these guys keep us going by buying CDís, merchandise and tickets for shows. The illegal downloading doesnít really help us at all though.

The argument is of course that people who download for free say that they will buy tickets for gigs when we are in their town. The point that is missed in this argument is that tour support from record companies is calculated on CD sales not illegal downloads.

So if we donít sell enough copies, we canít go on tour further afield than the UK. So you could have 100,000 people wanting to see you play in the US for example but if only 5000 have bought the album then we are not going to be able to get there to play.

It worries me that music is now being viewed as a free commodity, as it certainly isnít free to produce. In this age of smaller budgets from labels, the artist has to 'top up' the budget out of their own pocket. So it is even more difficult to break even than ever before Iím afraid.

Power Quest (Hammerfest 2011)
Photo: L & R Publications

8. What have been the live highlights for you and why?

There have been numerous live highlights over the years but if I had to pick a couple they would have to be the UK tour with Helloween in 2006 and the European tour with Angra/Firewind in 2007.

The Helloween tour was a dream come true for me. Having been a fan since 1985, I never expected I would ever get the chance to play with those guys.

The Angra tour was our first foray into Europe and to spend 3 weeks playing in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Switzerland was an amazing experience. Something I hope we can repeat again sometime in the not too distant future.

I have also really enjoyed all the UK tours we have done over the years, and playing festivals like Bloodstock, Firefest and Hammerfest have been amazing experiences as well.

9. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time away from music?

Iím finding these days that I have less and less spare time away from music to be honest. I have been asked to be a part of many other projects over the past couple of years which I would love to have been able to do but between PQ and my day job it really doesnít leave a lot of free time. When I do get the chance I enjoy watching Rugby and Cricket, those are my other two passions in life after music.

10. Anything else to add and a message for your fans...

As always, Iíd like to thank all our fans around the world who have been so supportive over the 10 years of Power Quest but especially over the past couple of years where I have had to rebuild the band. I hope you all enjoy the new album 'Blood Alliance'ÖÖitís for you guys! As the lyric of 'Rising Anew' saysÖÖ'For you, my friends, we carry on'!

See you on the road! The Quest must go on...



Interview by Jason Ritchie, March 2011
All rights reserved.

Photos by Dijana Capan / www.division-images.com
except where stated

Album review (with Steve's track-by-track breakdown)

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