BEYOND THE STARS!
Power Quest interview by Wolf Gant
Melodic metal is not the norm in the UK rock scene, but recently there seems to have been an upsurge of quality British bands following in the footsteps of groups like Rhapsody, Hammerfall and Stratovarius. Really, the legacy was passed down by Iron Maiden way back in the 80's, so it's rather surprising that it's taken so long for the young pretenders to show their metal, so to speak. Power Quest are certainly one of the leading contenders, having released the critically acclaimed debut 'Wings of Forever' last year, and followed that up with the #4 position in Powerplay's readers' poll of 'Best UK Band' and a multi-album deal with UK record label Now & Then Records. I got in touch with founder member Steve Williams and began by asking him who is currently in the band, and how they got together.
Currently the band consists of Steve Scott (bass), Alessio Garavello (vocals), Andrea Martongelli (guitar), Andre Bargmann (drums) and myself (keyboards). Adam Bickers, our other guitarist, is taking a sabbatical from the band to complete the rest of his medical degree and to work as a junior doctor for a year. At the moment we are looking at options regarding who will step into Adam s shoes for the next album and subsequent live shows, which include an appearance at the Bloodstock festival.
I met Steve Scott while we were both members of DragonHeart (now DragonForce). I asked Steve about working together again in early 2001 and he was keen to get involved, despite actually being in Shadowkeep at the time. Of course, now Steve is fully focussed on the Quest! Alessio was recommended to us by Maurizio Chiarello - label boss at Underground Symphony Records - who released 'Wings of Forever' - as a possibility for the vocal slot in Power Quest, as we didn t have a vocalist at the time where we signed with Underground Symphony. When we heard Alessio s voice we knew that he was the guy we wanted for the band. Andrea came over to England with Alessio for the recording of 'Wings of Forever' last summer and was keen to contribute a guest solo. Alessio had told us what a great guitarist Andrea was and things turned out so well that he ended up contributing 4 solos to the album. About a month after we finished the recording, we approached Andrea about becoming a permanent fixture with Power Quest - an offer he duly accepted! Both Alessio and Andrea also play in Italian speed metal band Arthemis, signed with Underground Symphony. Andre is the latest addition to the Power Quest ranks, joining in January 2003. A friend of Steve Scott, Andre was the obvious choice when it came to filling the vacant drum stool in the band and he can often be found working as a tour manger or drum technician for the likes of Symphony X, Overkill and Threshold.
Melodic power metal is much more prevalent on the European continent that the UK, so what decided you to pursue this direction and who are your influences and inspirations?
Absolutely! The UK isn t exactly known for its power metal output although it s great to see that the likes of DragonForce, Shadowkeep, Intense, Mercury Rain and our ourselves are generating some more interest in the genre over here. It s also helped to have bands like Stratovarius, Hammerfall, Primal Fear, Freedom Call etc coming over to these shores to play live. I know that a lot of the guys in these bands were actually amazed at the reaction and turnout at the shows.
When it came to forming Power Quest, I was initially just looking for an outlet for some keyboard orientated melodic songs that I had written but once we hit the rehearsal rooms we quickly realised that this was going to be a proper band. We naturally gravitated towards melodic power metal because that s the genre of music we have in common as fans and that will obviously influence the song writing to a certain extent.
Overall the band who has been the biggest inspiration to me is Iron Maiden. They are the guys who first made me want to be in a band of my own. Particular mention there to Adrian Smith, who always seemed to pen the most catchy tunes! Other bands who have been a big influence are Stratovarius, Dream Theater and Labyrinth amongst others. I m also a big fan of classical music, especially the works of J.S Bach, Purcell and other baroque composers.
One of the good things about the chemistry in the band is that people bring different influences in with them. Adam is a big death metal fan, while Andrea is fan of classic bands like Uriah Heep as well as more modern bands and one of Alessio s major inspirations is the vocalist Mark Boals. It all adds a bit of spice to the melting pot when it comes to the arranging of the material.
What has the reaction been like to Wing of Forever ?
We ve been astounded by the reaction to 'Wings of Forever'! We weren t quite sure what to expect and, although we had total confidence in the material, we waited with bated breath for the reviews to start coming in. The verdicts given by PowerPlay and Fireworks magazines in the UK was amazing. 9/10 in PowerPlay and Fireworks gave us a brilliant write up, although they don t award points. The reaction from the metal webzines and magazines around the world has been excellent as well with most reviewers giving us between 70% and 97%! We even managed a full score in one review&which we certainly didn t expect. We have also had the opportunity to do interviews with PowerPlay (UK), Flash (Italy) and Metal Shock (Italy) magazines alongside a number of interviews for websites and webzines. You can find links to all the reviews we ve received and interviews we ve done at our official website at www.power-quest.co.uk <http://www.power-quest.co.uk>
A guy called Asano, over in Japan, offered to put together a Japanese website for us which was fantastic and that has really helped to generate interest over there. The number of hits on that website is catching up with the Official website very quickly.
The most heartening thing for us as a band has been the reaction of the fans around the world and in the UK as well. We have received many letters and emails from people who have bought the album and enjoyed listening to it. The band really appreciate people taking the time to get in touch with us and we always try to reply to all the correspondence as soon as we receive it, whether it comes from London or Tokyo. I should make particular mention of fans like Victor (Argentina), Junko and Asano (Japan), Ali, Mary and John (USA) and Lisa, Glyn, Paul, John, Nigel and Carole (UK).
I think another factor that helped generate positive feedback was the production of Karl Groom, who managed to capture the sound we were after despite the time constraints we were under. We look forward to returning to work with Karl again later this year.
The album was #2 on the Japanese import charts. Was the album not released over there, and if not, why not?
The album didn t receive it s official release in Japan until the end of February 2003. There were some delays due to the fact that they wanted a bonus track for the version out there - and in Korea - and they produced their own version of the booklet with additional sleeve notes. That all took a little time to sort out but fortunately we got there in the end. It would be fantastic to travel to Japan one day to see the fans and to thank them for supporting the band right from the start. There s been a lot of demand for our original demo CD out there as well. The demo featured the songs 'Glory Tonight' and 'Follow Your Heart' but with different arrangements and a different vocalist - namely ZP from our friends DragonForce.
The fact that the album reached #2 in the Japanese import metal chart was also a revelation to us. Thanks again to our friend Asano for keeping us informed with up to the minute info from Japan.
It was quite strange to see our name in there above such metal luminaries as Iron Maiden, Kamelot and Stratovarius! At the time of writing the album is at #6, so it looks like we didn t quite make it to the top of the pile. Maybe next time perhaps?
Has the band played live much? You are playing Bloodstock later this year in the UK, so are there any further live plans?
We are yet to make our live debut actually, which is a source of frustration to us to be honest! The practicalities of getting everyone together [Alessio and Andrea are based in Italy and Andre is based in Germany] mean that these things are a complicated and expensive business to arrange. Of course if would be great if we lived in the same town and we could rehearse together once a week but this made it even more important for us to try and make as strong a debut album as we could. I think the fans understand our situation and know that we would be out there playing if we could.
Yes, we will be opening up the Bloodstock festival in Derby on August 29th. Power Quest will hit the stage at 6:30pm (plug!) and will be followed by Blaze and Saxon with one further band to be confirmed. Saturday should be a great day as well with bands like Nightwish and Masterplan appearing. We will be playing a warm up show on Thursday August 28th at the Vic in Derby, alongside our friends Soliloquy - Derby s new prog metal sensation. We hope to line up a show in London for Wednesday August 27th and we are hopeful of being considered for the bill at the Nightwish show in London on August 31st.
We would like to follow this up with a European tour in the Autumn of this year, possibly to promote both 'Wings of Forever' and it s follow up to be recorded this summer.
Power Quest have just been voted #4 UK band in Powerplay, just behind Leppard, Maiden and Threshold. Was that a surprise result, and how do you guys feel about the readers response to the band?
I think "surprise" is the understatement of the year! We still can t believe it now, a couple of weeks later. In all honesty I d forgotten about the readers poll when the latest issue of Powerplay landed on my door mat. I had a quick look at the 'Newcomers' section, thinking it would be quite cool if we got a mention in that category, but when I didn t see mention of Power Quest I put the magazine down briefly. My girlfriend then picked up the magazine and said "Have you looked at the British Band section of the poll?" Of course I hadn t, but when I did I was shell-shocked&.in a good way of course! To be mentioned in the same breath as guys like Iron Maiden, Threshold and Def Leppard is amazing in itself but to be voted next behind them was unbelievable.
It was also great to see Threshold in there as I think they have been seriously overlooked for too long but the fact that Karl Groom ( Threshold guitarist) produced and engineered our debut album made it even more special.
I d just like to take the opportunity to thank all the Powerplay readers who took the time to vote for us in the poll. There were quite a few people at the Stratovarius show in London recently who came up to me and said that they really liked the band and had voted for us, so it was good to be able to put faces to names so to speak as some of those guys are regulars on our discussion forum.
It s the rock and metal fans that makes these things happen for bands, be they household names or relative newcomers and we always try and let the fans know that we totally appreciate their support and confidence in Power Quest. The challenge now is to try and justify the support we have received so far by producing a worthy follow up to "Wings of Forever" and to put on a good live show for the fans.
How much of the new album has been written? Can you tell us about some of the new songs? Any surprises?
We have actually completed the writing for the new album, barring some lyrics to one track. There are eleven songs written, of which nine or ten will make the album proper. The remainder will be used possibly for bonus tracks or be made available for download at our website or at: www.mp3.com/power_quest
I think there are certainly some potential surprises with the new material, perhaps a bit more diversity than on 'Wings of Forever'. For example, there are a couple of 'hard rock meets power metal' style songs which tip their hat in a Van Halenesque direction, but still maintaining the catchy, melodic cornerstone of the Power Quest sound. Perhaps these songs will bring the band to the hard rock audience as well.
You may remember that on 'Wings of Forever' there was a track called 'Power Quest (part I)'. Well part II will be featured on the new record. At this stage it is potentially the title track and first song on the album. This song is called 'NeverWorld (Power Quest part II)'. Of course we will still have songs in the galloping, frenetic power metal style. One such song on the new album is called 'Sacred Land' which features another huge, catchy chorus! We also continue to explore the slightly progressive edge found in the song 'Power Quest' on the first album. One of the songs is currently clocking in at over 10 minutes, which is again new territory for the band.
Steve Scott has been more involved in the writing side this time around. Expect to see a couple of songs that Steve has contributed heavily to on the new album whilst Andrea has also penned a tune that is a candidate for inclusion.
It will great to have longer to work on the vocal arrangements this time round as on the first album Alessio had only two days to record all his vocal parts. All things considered I think he did a fantastic job on 'Wings of Forever'. I fully expect the addition of Andre Bargmann to bring more life to the new material as well. All in all we can t wait to get started on the new record!
Is there anyone in the rock field that you would love to write with or record with?
There are a number of artists who I would really like to collaborate with in the future. It would be awesome to write and record with such vocal talents as Jorn Lande (especially after hearing the recent Masterplan debut) and Bob Catley. I was a big fan of his work with Magnum (especially 'Wings of Heaven') and his solo work is also amazing. I m also a huge fan of female vocalists Tarja (Nightwish) and Sabine (Edenbridge). It would be cool to have that calibre of voice on a future Power Quest release.
To work with Steve Harris and/or Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden would also be a dream come true for me as I ve always admired their song writing ability. It would be fantastic to sit down with guys like that and see how their songs take shape in the studio. I m sure we could learn a lot given such an opportunity.
On a purely musicianship level, it would be fantastic to meet and work with the guys from Dream Theater and Queensryche. Even now, some 15 years on from it s release,' Operation Mindcrime' is a regular on my playlist and as for albums like 'Images and Words' and 'Awake'&..well what can you say? Timeless classics!
Def Leppard have always managed to produce the killer combination of catchy melody and massive vocals. To talk to these guys about how they go about structuring and arranging their songs would also be an opportunity not to be missed and to be able to play live with any of the above mentioned artists would be awesome&nerve racking I m sure, but awesome none the less!
How did the deal with Now & Then come about?
When we recorded our demo back in December 2001 we sent copies out to all the rock/metal magazines as well as selected labels. The guys at Fireworks magazine liked what they heard and promised to keep an eye on what we doing. Of course we eventually signed a one album deal with Underground Symphony and released 'Wings of Forever'. We then sent out copies of the album to all the same magazines and labels, this time including Now and Then records who seemed very impressed with the progress we had made from demo to album in less than a year. Although we talked with a few other labels, we kept coming back to the fact that Now and Then seemed like they enjoyed the album as fans as well as wanting to sign the band. We always believe, as a band, that it is important to work with people who have the same level of interest and enthusiasm as the band.
In February 2003 we received the official offer from Mark Ashton at Now and Then records, who offered us a 2 album deal with an option for a third if both parties are happy. This was the ideal thing for us at this stage in our career as we didn t want to be changing labels after each album and this offer would present a period of stability for Power Quest. We finally put pen to paper at the tail end of March.
Another major factor was the fact that Now and Then are based in the UK, a territory where we didn t get official distribution for Wings of Forever. This will be another weight off our mind! Having said all that, we are very happy with the work that Underground Symphony did for our debut album. We fully understood that the promotional budget would be limited and we endeavoured to make up for that by purchasing our own advertising in Powerplay, Fireworks and Terrorizer magazine here in the UK.
We look forward to working with Now and Then and opening the second chapter in the story of Power Quest.
Any other info the fans should know, and any message you would like to give them?
We are scheduled to begin recording our sophomore release on June 11th with proceedings being completed by early August, which should give us time to have a few days breather before rehearsals begin for the live shows in August by which point we will know who will be filling the second guitar berth in the band. You can keep up to speed with all the latest news and developments at PQ HQ www.power-quest.co.uk. We hope to produce some video clips of the studio sessions and the upcoming live shows so we can make them available to the fans who were not able to be at any of the shows.
Power Quest t-shirts, lighters and guitar picks are now available as well. We hope to bring along some new merchandise lines for the live shows. For anybody who is keen to pick up 'Wings of Forever', you can order it from mail order stores like Zroxx, Destiny Records, ST Records and Ultimate Metal. Anybody in the Southampton area can find the album (digipack and jewel case) in HMV.
On behalf of all the guys I d again like to thank all the fans who have bought 'Wings of Forever', visited our website, sent us emails and letters etc. We are really looking forward to meeting you all at Bloodstock (unbelievably there are people travelling from the USA to the festival&mainly to see Power Quest!) and perhaps we will see some of you at the warm up shows in London and Derby. Please come and say hello if you are there&we d love to talk to you all.
Thanks for the chance to do this interview and opportunity to reach some fans of melodic hard rock and metal who may not have come across the band so far. Get in touch with the band via our website if there s anything we can help out with.
Until then - the Quest must go on!