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Powerquest

Hoera, Power Quest is terug! De eindeloos geplaagde band onder leiding van toetsenist Steve Williams zag zich in 2013 gedwongen te stoppen met wat tot dan toe een succesvol pad leek. Nu zijn ze terug met een nieuw typisch en fantastisch Power Quest album, ‘Sixth Dimension’. Er is in die laatste turbulente jaren natuurlijk veel gebeurd rondom de Engelse Freedom Call, en dat is reden temeer om eens uitgebreid bij te kletsen met bandleider Steve over de meest duistere periode van de band, hun comeback en uiteraard de toekomst van de groep!

Door: Jori | Archiveer onder heavy / power metal

Hi Steve, glad to see you returned and back in the game with Power Quest. How are things at the moment?
Hey Jori! Thanks very much for the warm welcome back. It's certainly feels great to be back in action once more. It's a really exciting time for us at the moment. It's less than a month until the new album comes out and we really can't wait for everyone to hear it. We've also just come back from our first ever visit to Japan where we played 3 shows with Freedom Call and Twilight Force and if that wasn't enough we also had the privilege to play at ProgPower USA in Atlanta! All in all, I don't think you could find a bunch of guys in a more positive frame in mind right now!

Let's get straight to the point. About six years ago you decided to pull the plug from Power Quest, Since you had been pouring heart and soul into this band for over ten years then, that could hardly have been a decision that was taken lightly. How was is for you to say goodbye to a band like Power Quest? And which reasons made you decide to this action?
It was actually 2013 when we stopped Power Quest after twelve years and five albums. It was a horrible thing to have to do and I know none of the guys wanted to stop but there was one extremely important reason for this. I had run out of money and had built up considerable debts as a result of years of investment in the band. I just couldn't risk losing my home. It was as simple as that in all honesty. It was a real gut wrenching decision to have to make but sometimes common sense has to prevail. I spent the intervening years playing keyboards with Eden's Curse but predominantly working as much overtime as I possibly could in order to get my finances back in order. I've had people ask me about bad blood or falling out with people as being the reason the band folded but that's definitely not the case here. Those who know me well would have seen an almost broken man in 2013.

But now Power Quest is back from its slumber, and ready to rock the scene again. This reunion came with something that we still know too well of the previous life of Power Quest: line-up changes in abundance. In Dendera you found your new singer, Ashley Edison, who brings a new voice to Power Quest. A few words about him from your side please?
It's awesome to be back. It was actually Christmas 2015 when I decided for sure that I wanted to re-activate the band so I was then wondering who else would want to do it again. So I called Rich (drums) and Paul (bass) to see what they thought. I think it was now Boxing Day by this point and both those guys were really keen to get going again. In terms of Ashley, he actually lives in the same city as me. First time I've had a band member so local since the very early days with Adam Bickers on guitars. I've known Ash for six years or so now and I've followed his career with Dendera closely. He also actually joined us on stage at our farewell show in 2013. I knew that this was the guy I wanted for the new era. He's also a massive PQ fan too which of course makes a world of difference too. I think we met in a coffee shop in Southampton on the same day I called Rich and Paul. I discussed what I had in mind and a couple of minutes later Ash was in Power Quest. Vocally I think he's one of the finest young singers in the world of metal today, regardless of sub-genre. His performance on the ‘Face the Raven’ EP last year was immense but his work on the new album is incredible. Nothing short of outstanding in my opinion. He's also a level headed, humble person too which also goes a long way for me.

Something that had internet rumours on for some time now. Guitar brothers Gavin and Dan Owen quit the band on the evening of a gig? So to resolve the guessing and slander once and for all, what is fact and what is fiction in this story?
Well it's always one of those subjects that people want to talk about but at the end of the day the guys decided they wanted to leave and concentrate on their own band and we all wish them every success with whatever they do in the future. We had to cancel one show in Portsmouth (which we eventually played in June instead) but we managed to save our appearance at Hammerfest thanks to our mates Andy Kopczyk (who is now in the band) and Benjamin Ellis from Scar Symmetry. They stepped in at 36 hours’ notice and did an absolutely incredible job. It was amazing to get such a great reaction given the circumstances involved.

Enough about the issues and things, let's talk about music! You have your new album 'Sixth Dimension' coming out this autumn on Inner Wound recordings, and it's a textbook example of a come-back album. How long have you been working on it? Have all the songs been written by your hand again?
Thank you! I'm glad you are enjoying the album. I'm extremely proud of it from a song writing perspective, as I think it is perhaps the most consistent Power Quest record so far. I am also proud of all the guys for the performances they put down in the studio. It was a real thrill and pleasure to be there when some of these amazing takes were recorded. Two of the songs were also featured on the EP released last year called ‘Face the Raven’. These songs were written in March 2016. These songs, ‘Face the Raven’ and ‘Coming Home’, have been re-recorded for the album to feature the new line up. The remaining songs were written between October 2016 and February 2017. As usual I've been the main song contributor but also look out for songs I wrote with Ash and Glyn and also a song I co-wrote with Richard West from Threshold. An interesting thing for me from a writing point of view this time was the fact that I ended up writing three songs on guitar rather than keyboards. These songs are ‘Face the Raven’, ‘Starlight City’ and ‘Revolution Fighter’s. It was a really interesting process for me and led to looking at arrangements in a different way as well.

In contrast to 'Blood Alliance', that had a more rocky edge, 'Sixth Dimension' is classic Power Quest metal at its finest again and has a much more uplifting atmosphere than its predecessor. Can we say that these new found higher spirits represent the band in its current state?
I wanted to get back to the essence or core of the Power Quest sound if you see what I mean and add to that a 2017 production and mastering. This was part of my reasoning when choosing Alessio Garavello to produce and mix the album. Of course many of you will recognize Alessio as he was the singer on the first four Power Quest albums. We recorded the ‘Face the Raven’ EP with him in 2016 and were very impressed with his studio wizardry. I figured who better to produce the new or comeback album than the guy who worked with me for so long? I'm so thrilled with the results and I know the rest of the guys are too and really enjoyed the recording experience at Rogue Studios in London. The lyrical theme of the album is pretty much a positive one I believe. ‘Lords of Tomorrow’, ‘Starlight City’ and ‘Kings and Glory’ are prime examples of this. Even a song like ‘Pray for the Day’, whilst being about loss, still manages to keep an uplifting vibe about it as well. I think you can certainly sense the fact that the guys were having a great time recording the album and this is something that really comes across in the live shows nowadays. When a group of people gel well together on a musical and personal level across the board, that's when the magic can happen in my opinion.

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A striking song is of course the title track. Its length, combined with the more guitar-oriented sound, a killer performance by Ashley and let's not forget a guest appearance by Anette Olzon make this song a true gem. Any special notion on this song?
The title track is one of my personal favourites on the album and I co-wrote it with Richard West (Threshold) who I've known for over ten years now. Richard called me last Autumn and asked if I'd like to co-write a song with him. Of course I was totally up for it so Richard initially suggested a ballad. I then remembered the song I had been working on, which would end up being ‘The Sixth Dimension’, and suggested to Richard that we could work on this as I had it in mind that it might be the title track. So that's how we started. It took us until early 2017 to actually get together but we spent 3 weekends working on the song together and it was a really cool and enjoyable experience. To come out of that with a really great tune was awesome. Quite early on we got the idea that there might be a female vocal part so we originally made a demo of it with Richard's wife Kelly providing vocals. When we had completed the song we were thinking about who to ask to record this part. I've always been a fan of Anette Olzon. I love the pop and emotional sensibilities in her voice. I suggested to Richard that we ask her and he agreed. Luckily for us, Anette agreed to take part as well and it's a real thrill to have her perform on this song with Power Quest. Originally the song was about 13 minutes long but we trimmed a few sections here and there and I think we found the right balance in the end.

I think it is safe to say you are one of the most influential musicians in British power metal, standing at the cradle of both Dragonforce, back then as Dragonheart, and Power Quest. Why do you think that British power metal bands just can't seem to reach the heights of German power metal bands like Blind Guardian or Edguy? With the exception of Dragonforce maybe. After all, Britain is the birthplace of many of the world most famous metal bands of all time.
It's a good question and one that has been asked a lot I think. The UK is no doubt a fundamentally different market place compared to Germany or Sweden for example. In the same way that not many UK power metal bands have truly broken out, with the exception of Dragonforce, bands from Europe playing power metal will not play to the same size audiences as they will in mainland Europe. This is why you often only see a band playing London and not doing a full tour. I always think of the UK as much more akin to the USA when it comes to music in an odd sort of way. Certainly when it comes to pop music but I think it's true in the heavier genres too.

As for the British power metal bands, I suppose very few have got any recognition at all outside these shores but I think that's mainly because there isn't that much recognition here in the UK. As a result there isn't much buzz or hype around the genre here. Although Power Quest have never broken out of the underground really we've been lucky to have an unbelievable group of fans across the world.

Just something I'm curious about, what is your opinion on the fact that power metal is still subject of laughter among many fans of other genres of metal? About those people who think everything about dragons and magic is for wimps, but get off to ‘Game of Thrones’ at the same time?
Oh it's all open to debate and interpretation isn't it? Haha! I guess we all find our favourite music and then it's almost human nature to want to find something to ridicule as well. People want music for different reasons. Power metal, and particularly Power Quest, is all about sending people home from the show with a smile on their face and not with a broken nose. Take people away from their daily worries for an hour or so. Give them a positive, uplifting experience. Everything doesn't have to be about being tough or evil hahaha! As for ‘Game of Thrones’, I fell asleep during the first episode and never bothered watching it after that hahaha!

So in a few weeks you will hit the road with your old friends of Dragonforce. Any chance of seeing Power Quest on the European mainland afterwards?
It's certainly going to have been the busiest year on the road ever for PQ. After playing Sabaton Open Air Festival in August and then going to Japan and USA it's going to be cool to head round the UK with our old mates DragonForce. We would have loved to do the European mainland leg of the tour as well but unfortunately we all still work day jobs of course so it was impossible for us given the amount of time we had already taken. Don't worry though, you are in safe hands with our great friends Twilight Force.

Not the safest hands in my experience though, but still. With the hopes that the current line-up of the band will remain stable for a good period of time, what are your future plans for Power Quest? Anything on the horizon already that you can tell us about?
Yeah some stability now would be heaven sent hahaha! These guys in the band now are really creating an incredible vibe which makes it a pleasure with them. We are already booking shows for 2018 and look forward to announcing some of these exciting things. Hopefully a few summer festivals in Europe as well of course. In terms of the longer term, well I already have some ideas brewing for 2019 which I'm excited about. Of course the next album would ideally be released no later than October 2019 but could of course be sooner. I'll start writing over the Christmas holidays and see what ideas are in the magic box. Having said that, I usually like to have an album title or at least theme before I get too far down the song writing road.

Well, I think we can get to a closure here now. Anything you would still like to mention, any message to the Dutch fans?
Well thank you for the opportunity to do this interview and for supporting Power Quest over the years. It is very much appreciated I can assure you. To all our amazing fans in the Netherlands, thank you so much for all your support. I hope you enjoy the new album as much as we enjoyed making it. I also hope that we can come to your country on tour someday soon.

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