Abaddon magazine

Music magazine

Friday, August 19, 2022

Interview: Powergame

Powergame released their latest album “Slaying Gods” in March. In this interview, Matthias Weiner, guitarist and vocalist, an excellent interlocutor, a metal fan, has a lot to say, not only about the album. Keep metal alive, may the swords never sink and the flames never burn low!

Hi, Matthias! Welcome to Abaddon magazine. First of all congrats on the new album. How is the feedback by now?
Thank you very much, it is a pleasure to be featured in Abaddon magazine! The feedback is pretty good, actually the best we’ve ever received for one of our outputs so far. As by now, I’m quite happy.

The album covers a wide range of lyrical themes. You write about politics, real life, but on the other hand you are involving fantasy. What is your main inspiration?
Maybe that sounds a little boring, but my main inspiration is life itself. I keep my eyes and ears open, and when there is a topic that catches my interest, it is possible that I’ll write a song about it. In my former band Lost World Order I have always referred to real life, politics, environment, wars and so on. In Powergame I use these topics, too. But as you wrote before I mix it with fantasy and lyrics about tv series’ and movies. I’m taking music very seriously, but I think it should be fun to listen to it and read the lyrics, I’m not a preacher.

This album is a powerful mix of traditional heavy metal and thrash metal, also some doom and epic elements are included. You are pretty much thinking out of the box and the song “Slaying Gods” is actually about it?
Well, when I started Powergame ten years ago it was my aim to form a band with strong NWOBHM influences. But to be honest, my influences are too many to stick with this forever. I love hard rock, classic heavy metal, but also doom, thrash, death and some black metal. Consequently, some of these influences find their way into our sound. In my opinion this is a detail that makes our music more interesting, and I think there will be some more surprises in the future.

You nailed the meaning of the title track. It is about thinking out of the box, about not getting caught in a boring life and acting like a robot. When my time will come, I don’t want to look back with the feeling of not having reached my personal goals or at least having tried it. This is the one life we have, why should we waste it?

The song that surprised me the most in the positive way is “The Chalice”. How challenging was it to write it?
Very challenging, haha. For more than a year I used to talk big mouth about a song with more than ten minutes running time for this album. In truth I had nothing but the chorus melody and the lyrical topic, and I had no idea how to continue. But one day I thought about the storyline and started to sharpen it. The song is about an alchemist who lived some hundred years ago and found the recipe for eternal life. He has been kind of an outlaw and tried to rehabilitate by offering the recipe to the sovereign after he had tried it himself. He was asking for freedom for himself and his family as the price for the potion. He was promised he’d be paid this way, but when he arrived at home, nobody was there. He figured out that he had been betrayed, and his family had been captured. So, he roamed the centuries in loneliness without finding out the truth, getting the chance for revenge or having the opportunity to be released by death.

After I had written down the storyline the ideas just poured out of me, and after just a couple of days I had written the whole song. The arrangement pleased all the guys in the band, so we didn’t even change a thing here. So, in the beginning there was only a lack of structure in my working, in the future I know how to do this better.

We will not analyze each song of the album, people should buy and listen to it. But, when I was writing the review, somehow I skipped the song “Chasing the Lion”. Maybe you can explain what you are singing about in that song?
When I wrote the music to it I had this hookline and the powerful words of the title. I was trying to write lyrics with a deeper meaning, but I had no proper idea. So, the song is actually about chasing lions. I would never to do this, and I’d never support the big game hunting. But I tried to describe the feelings of a hunter on the chase, the adrenaline, the sweat, the fear.

You can read the lyrics a little different as well from the point of view of an assassin making his job.

The lyrics are a bit sloppy, but I just don’t manage to be a philosopher all the time, hahaha.

What I like about the band is the mascot. How was El Demonio Negro born, what does he represent?
I always loved bands with mascots, no matter if you call ‘em Eddie, Snaggletooth, Vic Rattlehead or Johnny Tior. They give artists the opportunity to visualize their music, to let the listener dive deeper into the art. The mascot can explore new worlds and reach for the stars. It is motivating. In consequence, I wanted a mascot for Powergame as well. I was brainstorming and figured out that there are many monsters, zombies or mutants out there. I stumbled about pictures of these cool looking luchadores and knew instantly that this is our mascot, because I didn’t know any band that has had one before. Fun fact: I talked to a friend of mine only a couple of days later, and he had just drawn two pictures of luchadores without any serious intention behind it. He gave me one of it for the cover of our debut album “Beast On The Attack”.

What was still missing was a name for the luchadore. Somebody told me there was a name generator for luchadores somewhere on the web, and after I had entered my real name Matthias Weiner, the name generator put El Demonio Negro out, the black demon. How cool is that?

So, by now, we have a mascot with my name, and he is a powerful fighter what fits the band’s name. It was destiny, I’m sure!

He has been changing over the albums. Can you say something more about his evolution on each album?
Sure. The very first version was something I got after it had been finished, so the idea for it wasn’t created by the band. For the “Masquerade” album I asked Timon Kokott to do the cover. I wanted the luchadore unmasked, but his face had to stay invisible. This is the reason why there are shadows over his face. We liked the cover, but for EP “The Lockdown Tapes” I wanted another kind of style. So, I contacted Kostas Tsiakos, and he delivered a great artwork with El Demonio Negro sitting on the couch with a big belly, lazy in times of the pandemic. While we were finishing “Slaying Gods”, we created the ideas for the cover art. We wanted it more comic style, and El Demonio Negro had the mission to fight and defeat as many gods as possible. Kostats did the job again, and he absolutely killed it. I love that artwork to the bone, and maybe someday I’ll get it as a tattoo.

Which metal mascot do you consider as the best and which as the worst and why?
This is a tough one. I think there are many cool mascots, but it always depends on the artists’ vision how great it is in reality. Hands down, Eddie is the greatest. Not because he is a mutant with (sometimes) long hair or because he is Maiden’s mascot, but because of the settings he had been put in throughout the decades. Just think of “Somewhere In Time”, one of the best cover artworks ever. There are so many great details in it, even after 30 years looking at it I still figure out new ones. Derek Riggs is a genius, and he was an important part of the Iron Maiden success story, no doubt about it.

The worst one. I don’t like to talk bad about other bands, but I think Johnny Tior of Riot was not really helpful to push the band’s career to say the least. I love Riot in all their line ups including Riot V, but Johnny Tior is no favorite of mine when it comes to mascots.

This album is released on CD and 12″ vinyl. Tell me, when it comes to your personal taste, what do you prefer to have in your collection: CDs, LPs, tapes?
I’m a collector since 1991, and I only have a couple of tapes, like 20 or so. An awful medium for me personally. I prefer vinyl, but CDs are good as well. Vinyls are better for a listening experience, CDs are cool to take in the car. When I’m in public transportation I use my phone and listen to Spotify or Youtube, but I’ll always be a collector of LPs and CDs. A wall full of vinyl looks way better than a hard drive full of files, hahaha.

Musically, I would say as a singer you improved a lot. Once you said you are lazy when it comes to rehearsing, did anything change in your routine?
Thank you very much! I’m singing all the time, whenever I have the opportunity. Preferably while driving my car. I’m just lazy when it comes to practicing guitar. I do play the guitar a lot, but I really hate sitting down and playing scales. Sometimes it is mandatory – especially in preparation of studio recordings -, but it is so boring. I prefer just blasting some riffs and writing songs. Sometimes I play through some of my favorites, which is actually a form of practicing.

As a band, we do rehearse regularly. I’d even prefer to rehearse more often than we actually do. So, that laziness just referred to working on my technical skills as a guitar player.

I can’t help but notice that your voice reminds me a lot of Didi Shark from Madhouse, your comrades from Iron Shield. How does it feel when people compare you and your music to other bands?
People always compare things to each other, it’s part of our nature. No matter if we’re talking about movies, books, music, pasta or architecture. When my music is compared with anybody else’s music, it is the proof that the listener thinks about it. That adds a deeper meaning to my own art, therefore I usually feel good in such cases.

Of course, if anybody said something like “you sound like that other band that really sucks” it wouldn’t feel that good, but fortunately that hasn’t happened so far, hahaha.

If we look back in the past, your album “Masquerade” you did pretty much alone. There were a lot of lineup changes. Can you say the lineup is now complete and this is Powergame it should be from the beginning?
I learned to never say never after all these changes. But the band has a very strong line up at the moment. You know, I play with our drummer KG and our bass player Marc since 1994. That’s a very long time, and we know how the other guys work and play. Marc-Philip was a great addition to the band. I hope that line up will last very long.

During the Covid, you worked on “The Lockdown Tapes” including four brand new songs and Tank cover. I cannot resist asking you how challenging was Covid for you and the band.
Powergame is a hobby, we don’t have the need to earn any money with the band. It was a frustrating time, because we had no opportunity to play live like everybody else as well. Well, we made the best out of it, stopped the writing for “Slaying Gods” and produced “The Lockdown Tapes”. It was pure fun and maybe our way to not fall into the arms of madness. Playing and writing music is fun and therapy at the same time.

Over the years, you have been active in many bands, including Lost World Order. You have been playing all metal genres, what suits you the best as a lyrics writer, composer and musician?
I’m used to compose classic heavy metal and thrash metal, but I have a couple of unreleased death metal tracks under my belt as well. I think it is not about what suits me skill-wise but what I’m passionate about. When I love what I do I can unleash powers from deep within. If anybody asked me to write some radio music that wouldn’t work, because I’d not love it. But metal is in my blood, it rushes my veins, I’m ready to write any kind of metal style as long as I feel the fire.

Speaking of the Lost World Order… All the band members of Powergame were in the Lost World Order except Marc Philipp. What do you have in Powergame and did not have it inthe Lost World Order?
Lost World Order has a very long history. The band was founded under the moniker of Acrimony in 1989, changed name to Spectre Dragon in 1991/92. Marc (our bass player) was a founding member. In October 1994 KG and myself joined the band. In 2008 we changed our name to Lost World Order. When I founded Powergame in 2012 I just wanted to try out something different, because I had so much creativity in me besides our thrash metal sound. In 2019 we decided to quit Lost World Order, but that had nothing to do with Powergame, we didn’t decide to concentrate on just one band, they have always been individual entities, both of them.

As we mentioned already, listening to your album you can talk about diversity of genres; so, tell me something more about your influences.
Although I listen to some classic rock music, I am a metalhead since February 1991. This my destiny, and I’ll always be a metalhead. To death and beyond!

I have a long list of favorite bands and albums, the most important ones are Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, Judas Priest, Sacred Steel and Motörhead. The diversity of the NWOBHM movement fascinates me, from soft rock sounds over doom, heavy metal up to speed metal you’ll find a lot of styles there. The band’s name Powergame even comes from the Tokyo Blade song with that title (although Tokyo Blade were quite late to the party and are not called NWOBHM by many). US Metal is another big influence of mine, Metal Church, Vicious Rumors, Armored Saint, Riot, Jag Panzer, Titan Force, Satan’s Host, Steel Assassin as well as more obscure stuff like Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, Hallow’s Eve or Brocas Helm. Labels like Cult Metal Classics, Stormspell, High Roller Records or No Remorse Records dig out some really awesome demos and albums on a regular basis. Just listened to Talizman the other day,great stuff.

When it comes to the more extreme forms of Metal I prefer death over black metal although I like bands like Emperor, Abigor, Troll or Perished. I’m not into Melo Death, but Dismember, Unleashed, Morbid Angel, Death, Morgoth, Immolation or early Tiamat really shattered my world when they hit the scene. Not to talk about great earlier stuff like Infernäl Mäjesty, Celtic Frost, Bathory or Possessed. Newer death metal bands I really dig are Skeletal Remains, Sulphur Aeon, Chapel Of Disease, Vampire or Blood Incantation.

Thrash metal originally had a giant impact on me, because it used to be the most intense and energetic subgenre once. Nowadays there are not many newer bands around that can catch my attention (but at least some, i.e. In Malice’s Wake), thrash in general has become the most generic and boring thing ever. It’s a shame.

But luckily there are loads of great new speed and black/thrash-bands out there like Knife, Evil Invaders, Bütcher, Stälker, Vulture or Black Viper just to name a few. Not to forget the veterans of Desaster, they are just awesome.

Are there any young bands that inspire you and you think they can inherit bands such as for example Iron Maiden, Metallica, or Judas Priest?
There are many bands that inspire me! I saw Ambush last month, and they blew me away. Enorcer are great, and I love Night Demon. I already mentioned some speed and black/thrash-bands that are stunning.

Unfortunately I don’t think any of these bands will be able to inherit the great old ones. Music is not as important for many fans and the greater part of the industry nowadays as it used to be in the eighties or the nineties. In former days, labels pushed loads of money in building up a band, but these times are gone forever. When Maiden, Priest or Metallica once are gone, there won’t be any new stadium bands of that style. Maybe bands like Ghost or Volbeat who can reach a wider fanbase, but this I not the same.

Speaking of successful bands, what is your definition of success on a personal and professional level?
When people talk about my band, buy our records or tell me “you just did a cool show, mate” it’s already a lot of success for me personally. Of course, selling millions of records and play all over the world is commercial success and probably a great thing, but for me the points mentioned above are also great.

Another form of personal success is putting out a new album, because it’s usually the ending of a long time of creativity, hard work, loads of joy and sometimes frustration.

At some point we are colleagues too. Where can people read what you write?
You did your homework, but you forgot to check the years, haha. I used wo write between 2004 and 2008 during my studies. I was part of the German Legacy magazine’s team and wrote for Metal.de. In 2008 I quit writing, because it always felt kind of odd to be a musician myself and judge about other bands’ work at the same time. I know how much work and sweat are involved in the production of an album, and writing a bad review just didn’t feel fair for me at the end of the day. It was like being a double agent, hahaha.

As a writer, or journalist, do not know which word you prefer, what is your favorite part of the job: interviews, reviews, concert reports?
Back in the days I preferred to do interviews. They have always been much more work than the other kinds of articles, but it was so cool to talk to people like King Diamond, Barney Greenway, Tom Warrior, Martin van Drunen or Lemmy (who got me drunk within just one hour, hahaha).

We live in the internet era; a lot of platforms are available, so as social media. People do make comments. Do you read what the people think about your work and what positive and negative sides of criticism you would single out?
Yes, I do read it. I’m glad the greater part of the comments is positive. But even negative ones are not a big deal to me. Once I decided to publish my music, and at that point you have to be aware that people will talk about it in many directions. Especially in times of social media, where literally everything goes viral in minutes. That’s the deal, and I’m fine with it. Sometimes negative comments or criticism even help to improve yourself, because they are not always just polemic.

I could ask you a million questions, but for now I will just stop here. One last question of course has to go in the direction of live performances. Will your fans hear you this summer at some festivals or you plan a promotional tour?
Unfortunately we were not able to get any festival slots this year, and a proper tour is really difficult for us because of our dayjobs and families. But we’d love to go on the road for maybe a week.

The good news is there will be some single shows this year with bands like Final Cry, Night Demon, Skyclad, Blizzen and our labelmates Blackslash. We’re already planning some shows for 2023.

Thank you so much for your time, I wish you all the best and hope we will see each other on the road somewhere in Europe soon.
I thank you for the great questions and the feature! Keep metal alive, may the swords never sink and the flames never burn low!