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Powergame's Matthias Weiner: " I learned that creativity has no borders…"

Interview with Matthias Weiner from Powergame
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 19 April 2022, 11:52 PM

Simply just to continue writing, it takes one's mind off things, making the best of every moment that is possible in order to maintain a status, which had a potential of being lost. So why stop because of a global pandemic? There are those that made the best of their time at home and prepared to the day after, after the tomorrow. Powergame, similar to a lot of bands out there, decided that it is only a setback, a kind that is bound to end one day, and soon. The end result for the German band is "Slaying Gods", an example of their old school Metal taste and their ventures through various themes. Steinmetal had a pleasure to talk with Matthias Weiner of the band about the experience.

Hello Matthias, it is a pleasure of mine to have you for this conversation with Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

Hey Lior, I’m doing fine, hope you too. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to present POWERGAME to your readers!

At heart of the pandemic, your band Powergame, released “The Lockdown Tapes”, a token for both your souls I presume, and for your fans. I see it as a method to deal with the hardships that this pandemic brought upon every person around the world. Looking back, how did this EP, and the later works for the new album, helped you maintain the chemistry, and motivation, of the Powergame lineup?

Well, the EP was meant to be a sign of life. We were already working on our latest album “Slaying Gods” when we decided to record an EP. The pandemic had already struck the world hard, and we wanted to show that we are still there writing and releasing music. We did it both for ourselves as well as the fans, we tried to give people hope that there are still good things around. The EP did pretty good, people seemed to really enjoy it.

We wrote four completely new tunes and recorded it along with the cover version of the Tank-classic ‘Shellshock’, so none of the tracks planned for the album were used for the EP. So, we still had all the songs that had already been written for the album. Everything came out quite naturally, and there was no lack of motivation within the band. We just focused on songwriting and tried to forget that there was no opportunity to play live.

Personally, when you look back to the past two years, how were you able to keep your mental state in check, without losing your mind or feeling a certain drawback, which could have shut you down?

Of course there have been some issues in my private life, everything seemed to be way more complicated than ever before while there has been the same amount of tasks at work. Family life has been quite challenging lately. So, the band and the writing of the new album have been very important for me, to continue working on new songs helped me a lot to stay sane. Some really odd years are behind us, and I fear the aftermath of the pandemic will haunt us some more years.

If we didn’t have enough to deal with, the war in the East has been an influential event for nearly two months. In your perspective, when you look at it, do you foresee a change in the world order?

I’m not a politician, economist or an expert in military strategies. But I watch the news, and I’m really afraid of what’s happening in the Ukraine. Like most people I haven’t taken Putin’s threats seriously, so the start of the war was a big surprise and a real shock.

Yes, I think we’ll have to deal with a different world in the next decades. Europe is hooked on Russia, because we need natural gas and some goods as well as goods form the Ukraine. This is the people’s immediate experience. But I think, there will also be some political challenges, for people figured out that there is no peaceful world at all. You know, whenever the press was reporting on wars in the last decades, it always felt like something very far away. In Germany, people realize that this war is near them, so there is some uncertainty, everything is in questions right now.

Your new album, “Slaying Gods”, proved that you guys are unbreakable, and you will continue to spread your music for whoever wishes to listen. One by one, it appears that your wrestler character, El Demonio Negro, is crippling the known mythical gods. I wonder, what does this victorious run of your champion symbolize?

The title track is about letting go of your idols, to break with old habits and to think out of the box. It is a topic that has been used in Metal-songs since the Eighties, and I still like it despite the fact that I’m not a teenager anymore. We were looking for a way to visualize these thoughts, and our partner in arts, Kostas Tsiakos, did an awesome job here. We just gave him some rough ideas, and he painted the cover of our dreams.

When it comes to our luchadore, El Demonio Negro, I’m happy to have such a strong character as the mascot of our band. He represents pure power – despite the fact that during the lockdown he used to be lazy and relaxed on the couch consuming junk food, and there will be many settings for him in the future.

 “Slaying Gods” was recently released, once again through Iron Shield Records. How has it been accepted by your fan base? What about newcomer listeners, and followers?

Until now we have received lots of good reviews, the fans like our stuff, and there are some new fans as well. Of course, there are always people who don’t like what you do, but you can’t please everybody. We are happy so far.

With the album being written while the pandemic has been in one of its strongest waves, in your view, how did this worldwide ordeal influence you while writing the album’s narratives?

“The Lockdown Tapes” were heavily influenced by everything about the pandemic, but with “Slaying Gods” we wanted to step a bit further and not only complaint about the same topic over and over again.

There is one song that has to do with the pandemic (‘Sacrificer’), and this is kind of a wicked and true story. There was a guy in India who was looking for a way to stop the pandemic. So, he started a ritual, called out to his Gods and cut out his own tongue as a sacrifice to them. That happened pretty early, I think in the middle of 2020, and as we can see he wasn’t successful at all. But at least the doctor’s managed to attach the tongue to the man again. I think this is a very impressive story, some people are ready to do anything to make the world better, and that man did the absolute maximum.

Other than the pandemic, there is that form of escapism, a will to look at reality in the eyes and simply walk away, maybe for a timeframe fitting an album’s length. If there is such a form on the album, how did it find its way into “Slaying Gods”?

Well, first of all our music is meant to entertain, and so is “Slaying Gods”. Some of the lyrics are dealing with real events, some of them are fantasy, and a song like ‘Midnite Steel’ is just about putting your jeans and leather clothes and your battle vest on, maybe grabbing some chains, spikes and a bullet belt and having the best of times with some buddies, maybe at a private party or a Metal show. But in my opinion it is never necessary to read the lyrics while listening to an album, you can enjoy the music just for its own sake. Plus, our lyrics are phrased quite imprecise, so they mostly sound like typical Metal lyrics at first. That is the form of escapism we have to offer.

When a listener heeds the call of the album, trying to comprehend the lyrical sense of the songs, what are the main morals that are digested?

First of all, I’d like to tell that the album is not about talking morals at all. There are some real topics here, but everything I write about reflects just my personal opinion and is not meant to influence somebody in any way. If the lyrics made you think about the topics, I’d be happy, but I’d never expect anybody to adapt my personal opinion about anything.

You’ll find my thoughts about the situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban took the leadership for the second time (‘Twisted Minds’) and the reactor catastrophe of Chernobyl (‘Fire In The Sky’). ‘The End Of The World’ is about the first season of the TV series “The Terror”, and “The Chalice” is a wicked story about an alchemist who finds the recipe for eternal life just to be betrayed shortly after and looking for revenge and catharsis throughout the centuries.

The emergence of “Slaying Gods” demonstrated, with finesse, the bowl of soup that consists British meets American kind of Traditional Heavy Metal along with classic Thrash Metal attributes. Even if there were such efforts in the past, the new record delivers this fusion, showing the band at its maximum form. How do you find the diversity of the musical direction on this record?

Thank you very much, I’m glad you think about the music that way! When I started POWERGAME ten years ago, it was a side project with the goal to play the most traditional Metal possible. My main band at that time called Lost World Order (where our drummer Klaus-Gerald and our bass player Marc were part of, too) played Thrash Metal, and I wanted to play something different as well. Nowadays, Lost World Order isn't around anymore, and we slightly adjusted the POWERGAME-formula, because our musical tastes are pretty diversified and we’d like to express what we love. I think that’s what music is about, doing what you love the most.

As I said before, the title track is about thinking out of the box, and with our music we are practicing what we preach as we are not only playing the most traditional Metal possible but are open for some Doom-, Thrash- or Epic-influences. Who knows, maybe we’ll play Death- or even Black Metal in a song or two. But you’ll never hear so-called modern Metal sounds in POWERGAME, that is not our cup of tea at all.

In your view, is “Slaying Gods” considered a step forward for the band in its songwriting style, along with the musicianship aspects? Did you feel as if forced to step over thresholds in order to become a little different from the rest or it simply came down upon you naturally?

I think every musician thinks of his newest effort to be a step forward, so I say yes here, haha. For me, the most important fact is that this album is the result of working as a team. The EP was the tryout for what became “Slaying Gods” later. For the album “Masquerade” I did the greatest part all by myself, only supported by two session drummers – luckily one of them is now our fulltime drummer – and Marc, who recorded the bass guitar for five out of 11 songs. Then I had guests for two guitar solos, and that was it.

With “Slaying Gods” I was lucky enough to have a complete band around me, and that really made the difference. Of course, I was open for a wider range of influences, what had an impact on the songwriting. But more important than that was the input of the other three musicians, all great players with a good feeling what each song needs in each part. It was like the script had been written by me, and we were four actors making a movie out of it.

We started talking about the songwriting. There are various approaches on “Slaying Gods”, with you going on direct, straightforward attitude or going through a constructive phase, generating songs with arrangements that would fit an epos.  How do you find the experience of the making of the album as it was written?

We are all playing, writing and recording for many years by now, Klaus-Gerald, Marc and myself for more than 30 years. Marc-Philipp is younger than us three, but he has gained some experience throughout the years, too. So, we haven’t been nervous, and the whole process wasn’t new to us. But like always, it’s been a lot of fun.

Once again, we headed to Jörg Uken’s Soundlodge Studio. The atmosphere there is very relaxed and productive, and we managed to record most of the stuff in 6 days – we even recorded five more songs for another EP to be released somewhere in 2023! All the vocals and my guitar leads were recorded in our own Demonio Negro-Studio. That was quite a luxury situation, because I had all the time I needed.

Every album out there, whether there are similarities to past, present or future examples, there is a sort of a game changing element that gradually becomes the drive of a record. Would you say that there is one on “Slaying Gods”?

Yes, I think the whole POWERGAME-sound has changed since the new line up is working together. From this point of view, “Slaying Gods” is a game changer for the band in general. When it comes to songs, “The Chalice” with its epic structure and the choirs is different from everything we’ve done before, and I think it turned out pretty well.

Following “The Lockdown Tapes”, were there considerations on perhaps including the songs, or some of them, within “Slaying Gods”?

No. These songs were written with the only purpose to be included in the EP. Many songs for the album had already been finished when we started writing “The Lockdown Tapes”. For us, that was a whole new project that demanded new songs.

Looking at the whole experience of “Slaying Gods”, which I presume was somewhat challenging due to the pandemic, and the lockdowns that came with the later waves of the virus, what can tell in regards to what this whole process taught you as a songwriter, and a musician? What lessons were generated from “Slaying Gods” that you know that you are bound to implement on the record?

I’d say the pandemic didn’t have such a big impact on the band or the way we are writing. Nevertheless, I learned that creativity has no borders. I had a lot of time home alone, because due to lockdowns and other restrictions we haven’t been able to rehearse as regularly as we were used to. So, I wrote and recorded stuff in demo versions, sent it over to the guys, and they started to work out their own parts. Marc-Philipp came up with ‘Sacrificer’, and after a certain time we had painted a picture we were convinced of to be cool.

Songs such as “Sacrificer” and “Chasing The Lion'' exemplify that hooks of melody, along with heavier, and thrashier, rhythm guitar riffs that are a food for every riff lover out there.  What can you tell about your impression of these songs, and the band’s capability upon producing such catchy driven outcomes?

Thank you once again! When I write songs, I always think of what I like when I listen to music. I like it heavy, I like good riffs, but a song is only finished with a good hookline in my opinion. One of my main influences is the German band Sacred Steel, who are masters in mixing great riffs with catchy choruses. I always try to achieve the same. I see a finished picture before my inner eye, but for the other guys it stays kind of diffuse as long as they haven’t heard the recorded track. On the other hand, when Marc-Philipp had written ‘Sacrificer’, it took me a while to find a proper hookline for it. It was more complicated, because the riffs haven’t been written by me. But I think, in the end I succeeded, I like that track very much.

I never expected to listen to such a lengthy epos, in particular in an album where its vast majority of songs are energetic. Nonetheless, “The Chalice” is the grounds where a different mindset comes alive, the journey is interesting, intricate in its special way while maintaining the melodic hooks right where they belong. What can you share about the creative process of this song?

That was kind of funny. The chorus melody came to me years ago, and I always knew I wanted to make a song out of it. I kept on telling the guys “listen, there will be a song with at least 10 minutes playing time on the next album”, but disregarding that one melody I had nothing. I am lucky enough to be able to write whenever I grab my guitar. I’m really lazy when it comes to practicing, I play riffs and melodies instead. So, I took that melody and started to add some riffs, and everything came out naturally. It only took me a couple of days to write and arrange the song and record a demo version of it. Everybody liked it from the start, so we didn’t change a bit of it. The other guys just added their parts and made the song even better than it was before. I’m really proud of that track and I wonder if I’ll ever write another long track of this kind.

With the inability to actually tour while the pandemic caused a total cultural shutdown, for now at least, there is somewhat of a revival. How do you intend to support “Slaying Gods”? Is there a plan in motion?

Of course we want to play as many gigs as possible, because Heavy Metal belongs to the stages. There are at least four shows confirmed so far, hopefully there will be many more.

Matthias, thank you so much for your time for this interview, I believe that you made your mark with the new album, and it is bound to have a follower. All the best

Thank you very much for all your kind words, I really appreciate it. It was fun to answer your questions, you took a lot of work assembling it. All the best for you, the mag and your readers, we’ll hopefully meet somewhere in the pit. El Demonio Negro will get you!


 



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