Interview with Eric Powell of 16 Volt with the help of Marc LaCorte of Black Metal Box at Chicago Trax on 11/24/95

Photos by AggroChik

Jester: Does the new album have a title yet?

Eric: Yes, it was titled last night. We have a room on the tenth story of this hotel that we scored for free. Bands of my caliber can't afford their own hotels. We were sitting there and were talking about what might happen if you feel from our room. So the name of the album is going to be "Let Down Crush" after our topic of discussion.

[ The interview was momentarily postponed for Eric to go and rerecord part of the chorus to the title track from 'Let Down Crush'. We continued after he retracked the vocals and he played the three other finished tracks from the current recording session. ]

Jester: What were the titles of the three songs we just heard?

Eric: The first one was called 'Swarm', the second one was 'Dreams That Rot In Your Heart', the next one was 'The Cut Collector', and the one that was just now finished in the studio will be called 'Let Down Crush'.

Jester: Are you still planning on relocating to Chicago?

Eric: I just got offered a job here.

Jester: Any idea what kind of time frame?

Eric: Maybe spring.

Jester: What happened on the Clay People tour that caused you to pull out after only a few shows?

Eric: Basically, we're a pretty small band, so we don't make a lot of money. The budgets that we get from the label are very small when we tour. It is a really delicate thing. When we do a tour, every single cent is budgeted out in advance for something. Everything is finalized, there is no give and take. The way we do it is to separate our merchandise from our tour. There is a whole separate company. If the tour cannot survive on its own we have to dip into our merchandise money. On this tour we were supposed to get a certain amount per week which was in the contract. The problem was that not all of the shows were booked. We signed the contract and went out on the tour. While on the road we got the final itinerary back and that showed all of our guarantees. We have this gig list that shows how much money we've made at every date. We started looking at the sheet and realized that it was a really small amount. We sat down with a calculator and figured out that we were making only a quarter of what we were supposed to make per week. After forty-five minutes of calculating we looked through our budget and realized that we would have no money. So were dipping into the merchandise for a couple of days. We budgeted it out so that we would have $500 to get home. So when we reached the last show with only $500 left, we stopped touring. We were due to make very shitty money the next week. It was bad that we had to cut the tour short but the fact was that we didn't have the money to continue.

Jester: So the tour just went on without you?

Eric: Yes. What it really came down to was just pathetic booking. We had way too many days between our shows. A good example is Marc LaCorte (of Black Metal Box). He came to my house a month and a half ago and he played only six shows in four weeks. That is just pathetic booking. We were supposed to leave and do a show every day. We'd do a show have a day off do another show, have three days off, it was horrid. So even though we would have liked to come out and play. It came down to that we would have had no money to get home with if we had finished the tour. The booking was the problem 100%. If we had been receiving our booking guarantees, which is why they are called guarantees, we would have had enough money. When we got to the point that we owed the merchandise company $100 and we had four shirts left. We had no choice. We called the label and tried to get money. We called the booking agent and tried to get money. We told them that without any more money we could not do anymore shows. It was pretty sad.

Jester: Do you plan on touring with the new album in March?

Eric: I am actually planning on touring before the release of the album in March. I plan on doing the west coast to midwest thing with Sister Machine Gun and Chemlab tentatively. The tour is being booked right now, so it's happening and it's a matter of it all coming together.

Jester: How did you get involved with doing the vocals on 'Mother Tongue' on the new Vampire Rodents album "Clockseed"?

Eric: Chase asked everyone he knew if they wanted to do vocals. He had asked me on the previous album but I didn't groove well on that album. This album had beats in it and I decided that I could do something with it. It was more like a fun side project and just something different to do.

Jester: Was it the same type of motivation for doing the Cypress Hill cover for "Operation Beatbox"?

Eric: Yeah, we wanted to do a different song. We wanted to do a RunDMC song but there we three other people who wanted to do RunDMC songs. So we kind of got stuck with something not as fun to do.

Jester: How is your relationship with Chase and Re-Constriction?

Eric: My relationship with Chase is good. I consider him a good friend of mine. There are problems in other areas. My relationship with Chase as far as I know is great. I talk to him on a daily basis.

Jester: How did you originally get involved with Re-Constriction?

Eric: Re-Constriction was actually started on 16Volt and Diatribe. Chase played those demo tapes form them. So it was basically the other way around. We sent our demo tape to college radio stations and at that time Chase was a DJ doing college radio. He got our tape and liked it and played it back when he was doing the If It Moves... compilations. He had a really good response, so he went and started Re-Constriction.

Jester: What is the name of the hidden 'Skin' remix on the end of "Skin"?

Eric: It's called 'Dead Skin'. That is why it says inside the cover 'Dead Skin' remix by Fluffy because he did the remix.

Jester: This might sound like a strange question, but as I was listening to 'Perfectly Fake' I was reminded of Mick Jones from Big Audio Dynamite II during the chorus. It is probably a very horrid comparison but I was subtlely reminded of 'The Globe'.

Eric: I like to fuck around with my vocals. I talk British so much that sometimes it just happens, really weird. I do sometimes actually fall back into a faux English accent like that, it's just a quirk. People make fun of me and the band because of that. Looking back on it, its actually pretty damn funny.

Jester: I take it your going back to Portland after tonight. Will you be coming back to Chicago to finish up the recording of the album or will you just stay and finish it in Portland?

Eric: We won't be doing any recording in Portland. Right now we're in a really weird situation. The record will come out, but we're not sure how, or where or when. We're having a few problems with the mother label. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

Jester: Do you make enough money from the touring and the album to live without another occupation?

Eric: (laughter) It depends on what you mean by enough money. I haven't had a job for like four months now. When things are busy, I can't work. In between when I am not recording, touring or writing I work. It helps subsidize my lack of income from the label.

Jester: Did you set up your own web pages on the Cyderden?

Eric: Yes. I set them all up myself. I'm trying to find someone to take over the maintenance for me because they have not been updated in eight months. I just don't have the time. It takes so long to edit them and reload page. Slow Macintosh.

Jester: What is your opinion on the Portland music scene?

Eric: You have to define Portland into two sections. One is quality of living. Living there is great, it is beautiful, there is a great deal of nature, and you can drive an hour and see a four hundred foot waterfall. It is a very beautiful and cool place to live. It is a very mellow city and people are not getting murdered every single day like other major cities. There is a low cost of living. My house is $580 for a two bedroom house with a full basement. But if you're in the music scene, it is pretty non-existent. My band has had a horrible time in Portland. We can't get shows in good clubs. They just don't give a shit about you if your not in the grunge scene. Just like here in Chicago there is this 'industrial' clique, there is a 'grunge' clique in Portland. Here in Chicago you have The Dome room, Crobar, Metro, Vic, all these places you can play. Out there you have nothing. There are two clubs which you can play in. One is the City and we're the only band that plays there. We get like 4-500 people all ages. it is the only all ages club in the city. Our scene is all ages out in Portland. The only other place to play is La Luna and they just won't book us.

Jester: Is that part of the motivation to move to Chicago?

Eric: It is the main motivation. I am sick of the scene. We got here early and came into the Studio. People started coming in and saying hello to us. Charles Levi stopped by last night. We found a place to stay every night for free. Out there I could not goto a studio and hang out. I could not get free into a bunch of clubs. I'd still have the same life, but in Portland it is very hard to enjoy myself musically.

Nick: Do you prefer playing live rather than in the studio?

Eric: I enjoy recording more but I like playing live as well. The last tour we were playing bar gigs to ten drunk rednecks. That to me was a total waste. I don't like touring unless it is a worthwhile thing. You spend so much time away from your home traveling on tour that it is really hard. Touring is very overrated. There are a lot of stereotypes that are inaccurate. You don't get chicks. You don't party all day. You work eighteen hour days, get really shitty sleep and feel crappy. After three weeks everyone wants to kick each others ass. But it's worth it, because when you play it feels great. if it isn't going to be a great experience it is just a waste and you shouldn't be touring.

Jester: What motivates you to create your music? Do you have any kind of message?

Eric: Nothing as deep as that. No message. I just like to make music.

Jester: It happens to be that a record label wants to put your music out for you.

Eric: Yes. There are a lot of different levels to it all. I don't want to call myself an artists. I like to create music and that is art so you could call me an artist. It's cool to write music and to come into the studio and make records.

Jester: You have this huge guest list of talent that was slated to perform on various parts of this album. How did you manage to compile this list of people to help you out on this record?

Eric: The only guest that ended up on the record was William Tucker and Marc, but he has played a large part in writing a lot of the tracks. We talked to all these people and asked them all if they wanted to play on the album and we ended up with this massive list. We could have had half of the people. Once we got here we realized that we should just do it ourselves. It would have been cool to have all those people on the album but whats the point. We both play guitar, whats one more player.

Marc: It would have been cool from the promotional standpoint but once we got into the studio it became much more personal and it seemed like we ought to do most of the work ourselves.

Eric: A lot of people who were supposed to help us on the record ended up coming down and hanging out like Charles Levi and Justice from Clay People. It became more of a private thing once we got here. Having all of these people present made it less of a personal thing. Tucker was really into what we've been doing.

Jester: How much of the recording process was layed out before coming into the studio?

Eric: Most of it. All of the sequencing was done and ready to go. All of the basslines were written and most of the lyrics were written. We had two weeks after the tour with nothing to do but finalize the music. I think it is ridiculous to come to a studio and pay all this money just to sit around and write music. It would be a complete waste of money. I see bands spending $250,000 on a record when half of that could be pocket money. A lockout here at Trax is like $1500 a day. Your basically almost $100 an hour to be in the studio. I can't justify spending that kind of money if I wasn't using it to record an album.

Jester: Who are current core members of the band?

Eric: Just me. I'm done with having a band. Its pointless. I don't mind having a few good friends coming in and helping out, but its like sex. When I have a band member who wants half the credit and half the money which is half of nothing. I end up doing 90% of the work and they want half, no way! It just doesn't work out for me. I have never found anyone who can put as much into it as I do. I've had the band for almost ten years now and you get someone who has been in the band for eight months wanting to tell me what to do. The band is very personal to me and I don't want to give up a piece of it's control.

Jester: Where do you see 16Volt going down the road?

Eric: I'm not sure. This record is a little more accessible than the last one. I hope it gets bigger. A lot of cool things have happened. We just got sponsored by Jackson guitars. Things are still growing and getting better but at the same time it is getting to the point where I feel that I am banging my head against the wall. It is such a pain in the ass for us to have such a small budget. At the same time I still love the music. Something is eventually going to give so that I can just make the music and be happy with it. I just want to keep growing as a musician, if the band stays at this same level for the next five years I'll probably move on to something else. It would be nice to have a fucking life and survive for once.

Jester: Any last words?

Eric: We're kind of shopping this record around. We are shopping for a new label right now and we'll see how this goes. We kind of got fucked over by Cargo and we're looking for someone with a little more support. Hopefully there will be a better solution for the band at the end of this road. I think we deserve a little something better. People should be able to find the damn record in the store. I know more people that have a dubbed copy of the record than have purchased the record. My priority is not to sell records, my priority is to make music and put the records out the right way. Five days to put out an album is a little ridiculous. Things can only get better.

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