Q. Hi Eric, thanks for taking time out to answer a few questions for Revival Synth. First up, when and how did it all begin for you in the world of synth?
A. I expressed an interest in music pretty early and explored writing music as early as age 13. But I received a Roland Juno 106 as a gift in my mid-teens and that’s when I entered the world of synth. I was discovering bands like Depeche Mode, Yazoo, A-ha, and Howard Jones and was inspired to see what I could do with my lone synthesizer.
Q. You were in the band Turning Keys. You had some pretty hot gigs with them, supporting some very well-known bands?
A. The early 90s were really difficult for electronic synth music. Our first public show was at the The Roxy in Hollywood USA when we played with 5 other guitar rock bands. We soon learned that we needed to look outside standard gig venues, so we sought out opportunities in dance clubs and especially with popular artists closer to our genre. Our first big supporting role was with A Flock of Seagulls. Turning Keys also performed on one of the stages for a Depeche Mode event and were billed with Missing Persons.
Q. I think all bands have a story to tell about a most embarrassing moment, have you got one?
A. With Turning Keys, we had an amp blow up during a radio interview performance. We also once piped in so much fog for our light show, we couldn’t see the keys of the synths. Nothing recent though, unless you consider taking a selfie with carrots up your nose, and a radio show picking that photo to promote their show. Lol!
Q. After Turning Keys, you went off the radar for a number of years. What made you decide to return to producing and releasing music?
A. After leaving Turning Keys, Andrea and I began a music project called Wind. In 1999, I started a full-time paid position working with various vocalists and musicians as a music director and that new career consumed a majority of my time for more than a decade. I wrote very little original music, but was performing other artists' music live every week.
Transitioning my career away from that position in 2012 left an emptiness that needed to be filled with music. It was actually one of the most challenging times of my life and it was in those few years that I wrote most of the material for my 'Back to Life' album. Moving to Austin, Texas USA was a huge change of scene for us, and it afforded me more time and opportunity to step back into my love of synth music.
Q. You started writing and recording songs at an early age, have you got a vault full of unheard songs?
A. Oh yeah. I used to count the songs when I was in my teens. I think I was at 400 or so songs, but I stopped counting. And of course, only a few great ones make it out to the public. But I recorded something like 5 full-length cassette albums throughout my teens. Some of those made it into the Turning Keys repertoire and one called Sunshine is actually featured on the new 'True' album.
Q. Your new album 'True' was released last month (Sept 20), what were the influences and thought processes behind it?
A. 'True' is a little different sonically from my last album. While the previous Back to Life was written pretty much in a vacuum, with 'True' I had the advantage of hearing all the new influences currently on the indie radio airwaves. I think 'True' is a little more synthwave and a lot more synthpop.
Q. Without sounding critical, I find 'True' to be a more positive, uplifting album than its predecessor Back To Life. Is that a fair comment?
A. Absolutely. As I mentioned, 'Back to Life' was born out of despair and heartbreak. While its outlook is positive, it certainly wades into the confusion and uncertainty of life I was experiencing at the time.
However unintentional, 'True' turned out much more upbeat for a number of reasons. I write out of the moods and circumstances of my life, and I think that is reflected in 'True'. You can even hear it in the realization that most of the tracks are in a major key, not actually typical for me.
Q. From when you started to how it is now, how easier or more difficult has it become for an Indie artist on the scene?
A. It goes both ways. I am particularly enjoying the control indie artists now have over their music and progress compared to the early 90s. Of course, the internet is a huge tool in being able to create awareness and just get your music heard. I often wonder what might have happened if we had those opportunities back then, it was pretty difficult.
The downside now is expressly tied to the upside… that there is complete saturation in music. Anyone can release a track and the quality of what gets heard ranges all over the place, both in production and in skill. While there is more access, it’s harder to get heard over the noise.
And I am not sure that there was ever any money in music, except for hugely successful artists. Given the choice, I prefer today’s options better.
Q. You are based in Texas USA, is there an electro scene going on there?
A. Oh yeah. The band Alabama’s assertion "If you’re gonna play in Texas, you’ve got to have a fiddle in the band" does not hold true in Austin. Surprisingly there is a teeming electronic scene here alongside all genres. And it’s great. To start, I suggest checking out electronicatx.com
Q. I see debates all the time about streaming sites like Spotify versus Bandcamp and the pros and cons for either, what’s your opinion of it?
A. Well it’s hard. As an indie artist, I first and foremost want to get my music heard. But at the same time I want to maintain some artistic integrity. I think by now we all know there is no substantial payback for an artist in streaming platforms, so as an artist I most appreciate Bandcamp. I love how it gives you control over how you post your music and how you organize your store. To be honest though, I don’t really download MP3s or listen to physical CDs anymore. Spotify is where I create playlists and listen to the music I enjoy most, but I will purchase music from Bandcamp simply because I want to support the artists.
Q. Your wife Andrea features on some of your tracks and having researched her a little, she is very artistic in her own way too. Does Andrea put forward her ideas when you’re producing music?
A. Andrea and I have been creating music together for a long time, going back to when I first asked her sing with me at a weekend restaurant gig when I was 16. She's an immensely talented vocalist and insightful lyricist. We've written a number of songs together including the great tracks 'Need A Place,' 'Bring Me Home,' and 'Soul to Your Heart'. But she is honestly my collaboration partner on everything, not just music and production, but even our overall direction as an artist. She often has input and feedback on things I never considered, which makes us a great creative team.
Q. Some may call you a solo artist Eric, but with Andrea firmly by your side at your gigs, wouldn’t you say it’s more of a duo and if you were to give yourselves a name, what would it be?
A. We've been pondering that same question actually. We don't want to lose name recognition at this point, so how can we expand the foundation we've set in "Eric C. Powell" to convey a duo or team. If anyone has any good ideas out there, we're open to suggestions!
Q. A big live event is happening next year in London 2020 and I hear you’re going to be part of it?
A. First let me say that I am super appreciative of all the support we've received from indie radio and websites like Revival Synth over the last few years. One among many great radio stations is Artefaktor Radio, and this is the fourth year of the Artefaktor Live electronic music festival. You may know that we were already making plans to come perform and visit radio stations in the UK. That's why we were really excited for the opportunity to play all three Artefaktor Live 4 shows in London, Berlin and Copenhagen! For tickets or more about the shows visit ecpmusic.cc/al4
Q. I think the Artefaktor/Synthetic London style events are the way forward for electronic artists to get a foot on stage, would you agree?
A. We realized near the very beginning that it's an advantage to perform with artists of similar style for similar fans. So events like Artefaktor Live, Synthetic City, and Silicon Dreams are an especially good opportunity for electronic artists who are developing a following. For us, this is our first time overseas and while we were originally planning to play a couple UK gigs with another band or two, it just made good sense to partner up with the nearly 30 bands playing Artefaktor Live.
Q. Have you any other gigs lined up before or after Artefaktor4?
A. It's been a long year for behind-the-scenes production for us and so we are really feeling the draw to be creative and write music again. Therefore, the Artefaktor Live 4 events are our only shows currently scheduled. We'll be in London on April 25, Berlin on May 2, and Copenhagen on May 9 and we're hoping everyone in the areas can come see us. If we get a warm welcome and productive visit, we can assure you there will be more UK shows in the future. We are also in early discussions about a couple of large synth band gatherings in Las Vegas USA in the Summer of 2020, but we will see how those plans progress.
Q. Revival Synth has seen so many brilliant artists come and go over the years, what would you say is the key to longevity within the scene?
A. Without a doubt, the key to longevity is perseverance or "stick-to-itiveness." Overnight success is a myth and it always takes countless years of hard work and staying focused on your art. I'd say keep challenging yourself to grow and improve, keep meeting people, and practice kindness and integrity. No one cares how talented you are if you are a jerk.
Q. If you could share the stage with one of your idols, who would it be?
A. There are a number of people I'd love to collaborate with as well as share the stage. These range from the relatively unknown to some really well-known artists. But for idols? I think it would be awesome just to spend some time with Howard Jones or Vince Clark, let alone collaborate and perform on stage. I have a lot of respect for both.
Q. You released the Christmas single 'O Come Emmanuel' last year, any plans to release another one this year?
A. Andrea and I have talked about it and would love to do another Christmas track, but it's honestly not going to happen for the 2019 season. As I mentioned, we've been in behind-the-scenes production most of the year with mastering and other tasks. The upside we're planning on offering the 'O Come Emmanuel' single as a free download with an upcoming remix release near December.
Q. You collaborated with the very talented DarwinMcD last year on the track ‘Click’. Have you any more collaborations planned or a possible ‘True’ remix album?
A. Heck yeah, the 'True Remixed' album is done and currently being mastered. It has 15 amazing tracks representing 12 different artists and producers including Parralox, Fused, Nature of Wires, LorD and Master, Graflex, People Theatre, screamershock and more! My approach to releasing remixes is to hear some variety from the original tracks and these new remixes do not disappoint.
As for collaborations, I am working on some remixes and collaborations right now with Graflex, LorD and Master, and Stereo in Solo. Plus, with the success of 'Click,' DarwinMcD and I have become fast friends and have been talking about our follow up ever since.
Q. As 2019 draws to a close, what plans do you hold for the remainder of the year?
A. Other than the remix album and collaborations in the works, we've been strategizing to expand the Emotiv Media Group label into an electronic artists collective. It's something where artists can exchange their knowledge, their wins and fails, and especially something to help new artists into the fold of the #synthfam.
While Emotiv has been the primary force for Turning Keys and now Eric C. Powell Music for over 30 years, I've found myself helping several new artists move things forward. And have done so in the past with others even back into the 90s. If this is something other artists and producers are interested in, I'd love to share the vision because we are now actively recruiting for 'members' and 'friends of Emotiv.'
Q. And finally Eric, thanks for taking the time to answer this Q&A, is there anything further you’d like to add?
A. Well first, I'd truly appreciate your readers' support. Buy my album, preferably from Bandcamp. For a limited time, you can get a discount on the Physical CD and download at ecpmusic.cc/true-bc by using the codes 'revivalsynth19dl' or "revivalsynth19cd." Secondly, I encourage you to grab some tickets today for Artefaktor Live 4 in one or more cities. It's a killer deal at only £22 per show to see some of the best indie synth artists today.