The lights are on
If the only thing that comes to your mind when someone says the word “Powerglove” is a failed Nintendo peripheral, it’s time to start thinking differently. Powerglove is also a metal band that chugs out blisteringly brutal renditions of your favorite video game tunes. From Sonic to Final Fantasy IV, from 8-bit to MIDI, no catchy gaming song is left un-metalized.
During the middle of the band’s current two-month tour, I had the pleasure of meeting them for a nice chat over some cheeseburgers. I spoke with Chris Marchiel (guitar), Nick Avila (bass), and Bassil Silver (drums) about their favorite games, the band’s history, fan’s most requested songs, and why they think metal and video game music blend together so well. (Unfortunately, Powerglove’s additional guitarist, Alex Berkson, was unable to make it.)
Powerglove has a new album, called Saturday Morning Apocalypse, due out this fall. It joins the ranks of their previously released albums Total Pwnage and Metal Combat for the Mortal Man. Unlike previous albums however, Saturday Morning Apocalypse also features hellish versions of popular cartoon show themes. I was lucky enough to hear Transformers and X-Men when I recently attended Powerglove’s stage show.GI: Why do you think video game music works so well with metal?Bassil Silver: I feel like there are two sides to that. One side of it – and I think we all feel this way – is that when we were kids playing these video games we always just heard them as metal songs. The first time I played Mega Man – actually, [this was] when Chris [Marchiel] was getting me into [legendary German metal band – Ed.] Blind Guardian in high school – I thought “This sounds like a Blind Guardian song; this sounds like power metal.” So many video game songs translate so well into metal because they have a melodic quality to them. The other side that I feel lends itself well is that a lot of metal heads – ourselves included – are into video games. We’re a nerdy bunch. It just sort of made sense to us.Chris Marchiel: Sometimes we need to change the chords to give it a more metal feel. We play happy major chords as metal even though it’s not a standard metal progression. One thing that’s really good about that is that by playing a lot of [Final Fantasy composer] Nobuo Uematsu songs, and other songs by the best video game composers, we become much better songwriters. By analyzing and transcribing Uematsu’s stuff I learned a lot about key changes and harmony – his bass lines are insane. We learned so much. Otherwise, we would just be writing standard metal songs. GI: Speaking of Uematsu, it’s clear that you’re big Final Fantasy fans. Four of your songs are Final Fantasy tunes: “Omnishred,” “Red Wings Over Baron,” “Birth of a God,” and “Decisive Battle.”Silver: “Red Wings Over Baron,” that’s pretty much every song from FFIV. There’s still way more that we want to do.Marchiel: It’s four tracks, but more like 15 songs if you add them all together.Avila: In the future, we’d love to do an EP where it’s just Final Fantasy music.
For the uninitiated, "Tetris," by Powerglove:
GI: Name your favorite games.Silver: I would say my favorite console game of all time has to be FFVII. That game is unbelievable. I spent so long on that game. For PC, I’m going to have to go with the original StarCraft and Brood Wars. Those two games – in very different ways – I spent my childhood on. Those are my all-time favorites. If I had to pick one, I’d pick FFVII. Unbelievable.Avila: My favorite is definitely Chrono Trigger. I actually didn’t actually get a chance to play it until I was 14 years-old. My parents wouldn’t buy me a video game system when I was a kid – which is probably why I’m in this band right now – so I would go over to a friend’s house to watch him play it. When he would leave to go to the bathroom I would run into his room and start playing it as long as I could. Once I finally got my hands on it I was so excited that it instantly became my favorite game.Marchiel: My favorite game – Squaresoft is getting a lot of love tonight – from the past is Secret of Mana. That is just the fondest memory. I had two friends, John and David, and we would play three-player cooperative. And we named the characters after ourselves, and played that game so much.GI: You had the SNES multi-tap and everything?Marchiel: We had the multi-tap and we did three-player Secret of Mana. It was great. However, I would be remiss if I did not say that right now I play StarCraft II [beta] at least ten hours a day, every chance I get. Silver: He’s not lying at all.Marchiel: We’re on tour and every time I find wi-fi I hook it up…I don’t sleep. Last night we all slept in a hotel room, I was up all night playing StarCraft. No exaggeration.
Chris Marchial (left), Nick Avila (center), Alex Berkson (right), Bassil Silver (in back)
GI: When deciding which new songs to work on, how do you decide what games make the cut? Is there a song you’re dying to record?Silver: There are definitely more songs that make it to the album. It’s honestly just depends on how the songs come out. There are definitely songs that we wish made it on [the album] but weren’t quite there. There’s one that Chris did a lot of that I got really excited about that never made it, which was a mix between the Terra and Celeste theme from FFIII [Japan’s FFVI]. To me, every time I heard it, I said it had to be on. It’s great. We wanted to get an opera singer for it. I found two different opera singers and both of them were totally ready to do it. They both flaked and it never happened.Marchiel: We need opera vocals for that song.Silver: For me, that was one that I really, really regret not making it on. Hopefully, someday it will.Avila: We get a lot of requests that pile up.GI: What are your top three requests?Avilia: Contra, Kirby, and Chrono Trigger. Two of those we are planning to do in the future. Some of the themes, such as Chrono Trigger, I’ve always wanted to do it but I’ve had a lot of trouble convincing these guys to do. Sometimes, if people request and harass us enough, eventually we do sit down and look at the music and give it a shot. Some don’t work out. For example, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theme. Everyone wanted us to do that. We sat down with it, we tried every single thing we could do with that song and it just didn’t work. Although, Turtles in Time does have some great stuff.Marchiel: For Metal Combat for the Mortal Man, on our official request line we got over 4,000 responses. We went through it with a database sifter. That gave us a good sample, and that’s how we got the figures for Kirby and Contra. “Spark Mandrill” [from Mega Man X] was also on there; that’s another one that we would love to do.