Video games music. Cartoon theme songs. All wrapped together in a glorious speed metal hug.
That’s what you get when you turn on Powerglove’s amazing music. I was lucky enough to get to attend their concert at the Whisky A Go-Go this year, which was nothing short of incredible. You can read all about it in my concert review, which man. What a show! Additionally, Powerglove made an appearance in one of my countdowns about Video Game inspired bands and music.
I was so happy when I reached out to Ben Cohen, guitarist of Powerglove, and asked him for a PopLurker exclusive interview. Not only did he say yes, but he had a surprise for me— drummer and founding Powerglove member Bassil Silver was with Ben when he phoned in! A two for one interview with some incredible musicians and showmen.
And I for one was ready…with my Triforce out.
Hi Bassil and Ben! Thank you so much for giving PopLurker this interview. I’m super excited to have you here. So—let’s start from the start. Can you give us a little bit of background about the band leading up to this recent US tour that you just completed?
Bassil: Alex, our other guitarist, and I started Powerglove sixteen years ago now. We wrote our first song back in 2002. It started out as just kind of a joke project. Alex recorded a guitar cover of ‘Take Up the Cross’ from Tales of Phantasia and sent it over to me. I got stoked and was like ‘Oh dude, we should do some more!’ We recorded ‘Dr. Wily’s Theme’ together in my parents’ basement and put that up online. It’s funny because the band we were playing with together, at the time, no one really gave a shit about. But then this Powerglove stuff people were actually listening to and asking for more. After that we were like, ‘All right, let’s start doing more of this!’.
We went through a couple different member changes in the beginning, but then settled on a final lineup and started taking it more seriously and putting out more records. We did a bunch of touring throughout the country and did some US and Canada runs. It did way better than we expected, really. And that’s sort of the long and short history of Powerglove.
I’ve been a fan of your music for about eleven years now. Has there been any change in fan response from sixteen years ago up until the present where we’re now immersed in this trendy video game nostalgia culture?
Bassil: It really hasn’t affected it much, except for people were more surprised back when we started. The response was pretty much ‘Video game metal?! This is a THING?!’ Because in those days, it was really just us and The Minibosses covering video game music. And their sound was totally different than ours; they had more of this indie-rock thing going on. Maybe The Advantage was around too, but again, their sound was different. This was back in the Myspace days, where you’d put up a song on your profile and people just freaked out and thought it was crazy. But in general, the reaction is the same.
There’s this interesting thing in the scene, and I didn’t realize we had this kind of influence, but a lot of the bands playing video game music look up to us. They said that they were inspired to get their start because of Powerglove, which was really nice to hear. It gave us a warm and fuzzy feeling that they looked up to us.
What’s your current visibility outside of your shows? Are you invited to conventions or gaming expos?
Ben: Yeah, we do a bunch of them. Even before I officially joined the band, we were doing MAGfest which is always a blast. We love it. It’s massive and it’s become huge. We’re playing at Daisho Con in Wisconsin, and that one’s coming up November 16th. We play at conventions all over the place, and it’s always great.
Let’s talk about the tour that just finished, the one you did for your newest album, Continue. I feel, and please feel free to agree or disagree with me, that you guys were a little quiet leading up to that record coming out. Were you on any hiatus, or was there something going on at the time within the band?
Bassil: Not an official hiatus, but we definitely quieted down. Around 2008 we were touring and performing so much that we just needed a break. I wouldn’t say we were burnt out, but we just needed to cool off for a little while. We wanted to exist as humans and decompress. We’d get into recording mode, write a bunch of tracks (like way too many for one album, which means its definitely time to record) and then not complete anything. Honestly, it took us too long to finish recording the Continue? album. But at least with being too much of a perfectionist you end up with a product you’re really happy with. So yes, we slowed down a bit to focus on ourselves and our lives. But it feels really nice to be back and there’s a resurgence of excitement.
That tour you guys just wrapped up was a pretty big one, wasn’t it?
Bassil: It was our first headlining tour, yeah! It was definitely strange for me and Alex to stay back for it. The two of us just weren’t able to go out on the road, for a number of personal reasons. But what was more important to us was even if we as individuals couldn’t make it out on the road, we still wanted to bring Powerglove back out. It was a little bit of a risk, but we knew that as long as we got really good musicians and put on an awesome show, people would be excited even if it wasn’t me behind the kit or Alex on the guitar as long as it’s great. It seemed like it worked.
Ben: It went really well. Fans were welcoming to the fill-in members and everyone was really stoked for the show we put on. Every show was packed and people were really happy to see the band perform.
Clearly you guys are video game fans because, duh, you’re performing video game speed metal. What other fandoms do you associate with, maybe some that would surprise your fans, or those that simply influence your daily lives?
Bassil: If you see my Instagram it’s pretty obvious, but I’m a total bicycle nerd. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been totally obsessed with my bike, going out on it and doing stupid things with it. I’ve gone down mountains and big bike adventures. I’m not sure if that’s a ‘fandom’ but it’s a huge part of my life. I’m also really into computers, and I run a software company. That’s more on the obvious side. Otherwise, I’m a big video game nerd. I’m really obsessed with Super Smash Bros. and I’m looking forward to the new ones coming out on the Switch. Even music itself is a nerd fandom and hobby. Especially something like playing metal, which is so technical. Growing up, all of us would get stoked and admire different musicians and players and be really into them.
Ben: Yeah, I was going to say that too. Other than video games, movies, and TV, I would say I’m just a huge music nerd. Especially like Progressive Metal that’s a niche genre as well. I geek out for concept albums and all of the lyrics and storylines involved with them, too. Besides the shredding guitar playing, of course.
I’m personally a huge heavy metal fan, so I would love to know who some of the bands are that inspired you guys!
Ben: I started playing guitar in the late 90s, and I just started out playing whatever was on rock radio at the time. Metallica, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Green Day, Aerosmith…just whatever was on is what I played when I first learned the guitar. But then, I started getting into heavier, more technical stuff like Steve Vai, Dream Theater, and that just got me super obsessed with the guitar as an instrument. From there I got into Prog and metal, and that kind of thing.
Bassil: For me as a drummer, I’d have to say my two biggest influences are the drummers from Opeth, Martin Lopez (Opeth is my favorite band and has always been a huge influence on me) and their second drummer Martin Axenrot came to take his place, I was skeptical. Like ‘Who is this asshole, he thinks he can take his place?!’. But he very quickly became on of my favorite players as well. Really great metal has influences from all over the place, and the fact that both of those drummers can groove while still being able to rip at a million miles per hour is still pretty cool.
And with Powerglove, one thing is we don’t try to impose our own sound on the games. We take from what’s already in the game. Like with Final Fantasy, all that music is really symphonic. It lends itself to a big symphonic metal sound. Mega Man is a lot more power metal, so you can hear the Blind Guardian, the HammerFall, and Stratovarius. Tracks like X-Men is a lot more classic metal, more of that HammerFall and a little Iron Maiden sound. So, we take influence from all kinds of metal, and those different subgenres.
Did you guys ever have a situation where one band member really wanted to record a song from a certain game or cartoon and the rest of the band was like ‘Nope, we’re not doing that’?
Bassil: I remember when we first started talking about doing the Pokemon theme, our old bassist Nick was vehemently against it. He said it sucked, we’re not playing it, he never liked that show, there’s no way he’s doing that, all of that. But once we recorded the demo tracks, he felt like it was pretty good. And when we put out the Pokemon theme, that was the first time we ever had any girls come to our shows. So, we knew it was a good idea. Girls are still few and far between, but it’s more than zero. Our shows are traditionally a sausage fest. It’s not exactly a Motley Crue show in terms of gender diversity.
How did you guys come up with the idea of all the visuals at the show? It’s so amazing to see a small show that really goes all out with the screen and the gameplay footage supporting the tracks you’re playing.
Bassil: We always knew we wanted to have visuals. With the music we play, even though we’re serious musicians, it’s not a serious topic. So, we knew we always wanted to have something fun, even from the beginning. We had costumes, and moved on to props. I like to see something more going on at a show, even if it’s just a light show. It’s something I appreciate. It’s something we tried to build up for years. For this tour that just happened, we knew it was even more important for us to put on a really good show because some of our members weren’t going to be there. We had the video going on, and Gabriel, the touring guitarist, had the idea of doing lasers, which was great.
Ben, this question is for you. On the recent tour that you just completed, did anyone give you crap that there was no bassist on stage?
Ben: No, actually! I don’t think anyone’s even brought it up, which is surprising. We had the lasers, the visuals, and Gabriel playing two instruments and singing at the same time. No one notice there was no bassist.
And then Gabriel’s appendix gave out a few days after that LA show, didn’t it?
Ben: Yeah, that was kind of insane. The day it happened, we had a long drive from San Francisco to Portland. He was in agony the entire way there. We figured he had food poisoning or something. But we got to the show, loaded our stuff in, and then we took him to the hospital. He was told then that he had to get his appendix taken out. We were already loaded on stage in Portland, Oregon with everything set up, we did our sound check, and then we found out that he wasn’t able to play the show. Our front of house guy had recorded multi-tracks from a few other shows, so he was able to use Gabriel’s tracks from those and sync them up with the back-tracks.
Somehow it worked out and we managed to play as a duo, me and Gabe (the fill-in drummer). But I went on stage before the show and made an announcement about what was going on. The crowd was super supportive and gave us a lot of positivity and energy and it was a really fun show. It was a proud moment for me personally, because it was amazing that we were able to pull it off. I was happy about that. After we finished that show and loaded up our gear, we went to go pick up Gabriel at the hospital. The doctors wanted him to stay four more days, but he wanted to get back on tour. So, we picked him up at the hospital right after the show and he was back on stage with us the next night, which was insane. What a trooper!
Woooow, I had no idea that you guys didn’t cancel that show. Thank you for sharing that story!
Bassil: For a minute we were freaking out, thinking we were going to have to cancel the rest of the tour, but we held it together! And I have to give extra kudos to Ben for going out there on stage just him and Gabe on the drums. And they still made the show happen as just the sole guitarist up front there.
Ben: That show was packed too, completely front to back!
Do you guys have any projects coming up or anything in the pipeline that you want your fans to know about before we wrap up?
Ben: I’m planning on moving to LA in January, just to expand my horizons and because the weather is nicer than Boston. I’m excited about that and seeing what opportunities arise from that. I’m staying with Powerglove, but I have another band called Lattermath which is a progressive metal band in Boston. I’m going to try to stay with them as well, and we’re working on a new album. That should be out in 2019.
Bassil: Nothing in the pipeline for me that I can talk about quite yet, but if you keep your eyes on our Instagram, you’ll see some really exciting stuff coming up.
Powerglove on Social Media:
Bassil Silver on Social Media
Ben Cohen on Social Media