POWER QUEST, the name is an obligation! Starting out in 2001, as keyboard player Steve Williams left what would later become DRAGONFORCE, and aimed for pastures green. Jumping from one record company to another, they released three albums before hooking up with Napalm Records, who seems to have offered them firm ground. The band was for some time connected to DRAGONFORCE via various members helping out, they were Anglo-Italian for about seven years, but has now returned to Steve´s home soil. The exception is well-renowned vocalist “Chitty” Somapala (RED CIRCUIT, REKUIEM), who hails from Sri Lanka. But the road has been long and dwindling, especially the last two years. What keeps a band going, and what´s it like at the moment? Who better to answer these questions than band leader and eternal keyboard player Steve Williams. Hi Steve, how´s things?
PQ; Hey Miggo! Great to be here talking with you, thanks very much for the opportunity to do this interview with you. I hope you are doing great!
FP: Please describe the new album, the recording process, the individual trade marks and contributions. How would you compare it to “Master of Illusion”?
PQ: Well, let’s start with the recording process. I think one of the most important things to mention was that we recorded at a completely different studio than we have used in the past. Previously we had recorded a lot with Karl Groom (threshold) at Thin Ice studios in Surrey, England (for the first 3 albums) and then with Nick Savio at Remaster studios Vicenza, Italy (for the Master of Illusion record). This time I decided to go to Foel Studios in Wales and work with producer Chris Fielding (Primordial, Napalm Death). It is a residential studio so we worked 14-15 hour days for just over 3 weeks to get the recordings done. We then returned to Nick Savio at Remaster Studio for the mixing and mastering processes.
Blood Alliance definitely has a heavier guitar and drum sound than previous albums and I think it is probably the heaviest and most consistent Power Quest record so far. All the guys did an outstanding job but I must mention particularly the contributions of Andy Midgley and Gav Owen, the new guitarists in the band. These guys are two of the most talented players I have seen over the past few years and together they make a formidable combination. This is only the beginning for the Midgley/Owen axis!
Arguably the Master of Illusion album divided opinions amongst the fans. Some liked the different things we were doing, while others really didn’t at all. With Blood Alliance I wanted to bring the guitars to the fore and make sure that I had written some of the strongest and most infectious PQ melodies to date.
FP: How do you remember 2009; feelings, highlights and low points. Did you ever doubt the bands future or considered using another moniker?
PQ: Yeah, 2009 was not really a great year for me personally. At least the first half of it anyway. Steve Scott (bass) told me in the Autumn of 2008 that he would be moving back home to New Zealand and as a result would be leaving the band. In the Spring of 2009 Alessio called me to say that he had decided to “retire” from metal and pursue a more alternative rock approach. Andrea was having the same problems with Arthemis as I was with PQ and so he felt he had to focus on his own “baby” and get that up and running again. Francesco knew by this point that I intended to re-form the band with a UK based line up and realized that having a drummer in Italy wouldn’t make sense and so he “fell on his sword”, so to speak. All these guys are my brothers and are still in regular contact and we will always be supportive of each other in all aspects of life.
Of course, there were times when I was on the verge of either putting the band on ice or giving up completely and maybe looking to join another band perhaps. It was a dark time for me personally but it was the former members of the band, and especially the fans, who encouraged to me to carry on and re-build the band. I’ve been very lucky, although PQ are not a big band, to have some of the most incredible fans you could ever wish for and I love each and every one of them. It means so much to me that people take the time to write to me or email me with their words of support.
This whole period gave me a lot of inspiration for lyrics particularly; you only have to look at song titles like “Rising Anew”, “Better Days” and “Survive” to see what I mean. There is a line in the song “Rising Anew” that says “For you my friends we carry on” and this is directly for and about our incredible supporters around the world. Without these guys I’m not sure I would have had the strength to carry on to be honest.
The first part of the band re-structure was definitely the high point of 2009 though. I was extremely lucky to be able to recruit Andy Midgley (guitars), Rich Smith (Drums) and Paul Finnie (Bass) at this time and these guys are now the bedrock of PQ. Awesome musicians and, just as importantly, incredible people.
FP: How do you remember 2010, the restructure, the pieces falling in place etc?
PQ: 2010 was certainly the year we got back on track as band. Firstly recruiting Gav Owen (guitars) and Chitral “Chity” Somapala on vocals completed the PQ puzzle. The brotherhood that exists in the band now is as strong as it has ever been and that is a real tribute to these guys! I think one of the lucky things for me is that each and every one of these guys was a fan of PQ before they joined the band and I think that goes some way to explain the enthusiasm and energy they have brought in.
We recorded 3 demo tracks in the Spring of 2010 (Sacrifice, Time to Burn and Rising Anew) for the record company and they loved them and so we worked hard on the arrangements for the songs before heading to Foel studios to record what would become “Blood Alliance”.
Each and every rehearsal we have had with this line up has been so productive. Rehearsals are not a necessary evil in this band; we actually enjoy hanging out together and working really hard as well.
I was pretty exhausted by the time we finally delivered the new album to Napalm in December 2010. We had done what I wasn’t sure we would ever manage and then it was just a case of waiting to see what the reaction would be. Particularly having a completely different style of singer was going to be a risk in some respects but the feedback so far has been amazing!
FP: Have you ever heard of a band called Saracen? The title track has lots in common with their old songs, very much so keyboard-wise.
PQ: I’m familiar with the name Saracen but I’m not at all familiar with their music and I’m not sure that I could name a song if you asked me! Lol! Sorry about that!
FP: How would you describe your music with the new line up? Is there as much power metal as before etc.
PQ: Well, I think it’s the most “metal” album we have ever done. I think there are certainly more guitar riffs than ever before and I think the twin guitar attack offers something very different to what has gone before too. Andy and Gav are very different players too but work so well as a team.
I think there is just as much power metal as before with songs like “Rising Anew”, “Glorious”, “Survive” and “Time to Burn” but there are also some more hard rock influenced tracks such as “Better Days”, “Sacrifice” and “Only in my Dreams”. The most noticeable change is possibly in songs like “Crunching the Numbers”. The quirky time changes combined with Chity’s powerful vocals have really added a dark side to that song particularly
We had such a hard time choosing which of the songs would be the bonus track as we all loved all the songs and we’ve already said that there is not one song that we would not want to play live. I think this is the first time that this has ever happened. I’m extremely proud of both the music and lyrics on the record.
Talking of lyrics, there are a lot more songs inspired by real life things. “Survive” and “Time to Burn” are about the environment, “Crunching the Numbers” is about the financial recession and “Rising Anew” is a thank you to the fans who supported us so much over the years but also a statement to those who had said PQ are finished in 2009! We’re back, bigger and better than ever and we intend to stick around for quite some time yet!
I think this is a melodic metal album with catchy, memorable choruses and also enough technicality as well.
FP: What happens next with the band in 2011, gigs, festivals, PR etc?
PQ: Well, we have already played Hammerfest and complete a short UK tour with Symphony X which was a great start to the year.
In May we head out for 4 UK headline dates in London, Derby, Manchester and Glasgow and then in June we play 2 shows in the Netherlands and one in Belgium. There is still one more June show to be confirmed as well.
In August we return to the festival action at Bloodstock Open Air here in the UK and I hope we will get a couple more offers to play summer festivals in Europe in 2011. After that I’m planning another run of UK headline shows in October. Any opportunities to play in Europe of further afield will also be taken advantage of as well.
FP: What do you think will be the next step for Power Quest, and what will you be doing in 2015?
PQ: Well, I think that will depend on how the new album is received. So far it is looking really good and in a perfect world I would like to release the follow up album in the Autumn of 2012 if possible. We are looking for as many support tours as possible to really spread the word about PQ and about Blood Alliance.
2015? Wow…….I’ll be almost 45 years old by then but I hope this line up is still going strong and we have continued to grow as a band and, with the support of our awesome fans, continue to make the music that we love so much!
Cheers for your time Steve!
My pleasure Miggo! Thank you so much for your support mate!
What a positive person! I can say that much; “Blood Alliance” will be on my B/O 2011. POWER QUEST has returned from hazardous waters to a strength I´ve never heard from them before. If you´re lucky to have them play around your area, don´t miss out. If not, get the album. This is way superior this far this year…