Hey, what happened? An interview with Bill Power of Blenderhead

Bill Power was the singer and bassist for the band Blenderhead.

The Seattle based act released three albums on Tooth & Nail Records: Prime Candidate for Burnout, Muchacho Vivo, and Figureheads on the Forefront of Pop Culture. The first two releases came out in the mid 90s. Afterward the band broke up but reformed with a slightly altered line-up to release their final album in 2000. All three albums show a progression of the band from angry hardcore punk to a more indie rock influenced punk act.

I was in a pretty angsty, depressed place in my life when I heard Blenderhead’s first release, Prime Candidate for Burnout, back in high school. To hear a band whose energy and lyrics matched my pissed off state was comforting, albeit in a gloomy manner. The cover art displaying the guy with the blender on his head and the aggravated look on his face was pretty awesome as was the extensive glossy booklet with a plethora of photos. Despite the band’s occasionally dark lyrics (see “Cesspool”) they also showcased a good sense of humor with things (the sound clips were quite memorable). I remember my friend Jeff and I spending a lot of time in our church youth group in high school trying to get the other kids to get into Blenderhead but to no avail. Also of note is that a certain troubadour named Damien Jurado added back-up vocals on some of the songs.

Muchacho Vivo was also a fine album although it showed the band moving in a more post-punk manner. At the time I wasn’t sure what I thought of it but looking back it certainly stands as a fine album that marks a particular point in my life, namely high school. Even though the band may have mellowed in some ways, it’s interesting to see how they expressed a wider range of emotion in their songs through diverse tempos and working the soft/loud angle. The production is also better and there’s a great cover of the Talking Heads song “Once In A Lifetime.”

The final album has the band showing a less aggressive side with songs about Fight Club, James McPony, the WTO Riots in Seattle, and Bill’s divorce. I think that while not as strong of an album overall in comparison with the previous releases, some of the songs on Figureheads… are the best Bill wrote.

Most importantly, it was at a Blenderhead concert in Marion, Indiana in 1995 that I – a young, pure-hearted Christian teen – spoke with Bill and he convinced me it was okay for Christians to cuss. It’s been all downhill since. :-)

Blenderhead circa mid 90s. Bill is in the middle in the back.

Where do you currently live?

Nashville, Tennessee. Or as I like to refer to it “the fifth circle of hell.” I’ve been here since 2005 and I really want to get back to the Northeast. Not a fan of country music, hick culture and the worst drivers on earth. When we first moved here we had a neighbor whose trucks had two bumper stickers. One said “Never Apologize For Being White.” The other said “If I’d Known This Was Going To Happen I Would Have Picked My Own Cotton.” The fact that he thought it was okay to drive around with that on his car was (and still is) just mind boggling to me.

What do you do to pay the bills?

I work for a company called MerchMo. I oversee the music retail site Zambooie.com and the soon-to-be-launched BigSouthMusic.com. I do sales, purchasing, product management and marketing. What does that mean? I am a t-shirt salesman. I also am partner with my buddy Mike Lewis in a charity brand called This Shirt Changes Lives. That isn’t what I do to “pay the bills” but what I do to give my life some meaning beyond outfitting the youth with rock shirts and whatnots.

Are you still involved with music in any way (work for a label, play in a band, do press for a band, book shows, etc.) or any of the other arts (performing, visual, literary)?

I put out an EP with a band called The Ted Kennedys a couple years ago. I’ve been trying to get a new project called Mountains & Missions going. But I seem to never have the time or inclination to really do band stuff. I miss it. But it’s really hard to find people who are content to just create something meaningful without ruining it with expectations regarding “success” or other music business minded pursuits that I pretty much loathe and will not be a part of. I guess you could say that my job is involved with music. I still have a “label” called Urban Achiever. But I really don’t do anything with it. I “released” some stuff in the past, including helping Everdown (one of my closest friends is the drummer) get their EP on iTunes. But again it’s really not a focus for me these days.

At what point did you decide to “give up” the touring and band life and why? Was there a sudden realization that you wanted to live in the “real world” or was it gradual?

After the US tour with Blenderhead in support of Muchacho Vivo I had kicked out Eben and then the other guys didn’t really want to do it anymore. Then we re-formed later with Tyler on guitar and made our third record. I was really proud of that record. And we played some shows and then everybody got busy and then one day after nobody seemed to care I just hung it up. I don’t know. I guess it was gradual. I think really my divorce and wanting to get out of Seattle were big driving forces in that entire ending. And I’ve also grown to realize that I’m kind of a pain in the ass. I talk too much. And I think I just bum people out. Ha. I really enjoy playing music. But I don’t enjoy the drama and stuff that comes with musicians. I’ve always been more of a go-out-and-get-things-done type person. And I’m also pretty singularly focused. Everybody in was always in all these side projects, etc. when I was just in one band.

The short version I suppose is that I already had a job as Operations Manager for Tooth & Nail before we did our biggest tour and when we got back I went back to my job. Since I was a kid all I ever wanted to do was be involved in music and that was a gig I did not want to screw up. So I ended up doing that for 10 years until the business end came real close to ruining it for me forever. I did a management company after that for about a year. That was a disaster. Then I ended up working as a security guard at an amusement park at the Jersey shore. I lived about 5 blocks from the ocean. And I worked a lot of 12-hour shifts and I had a lot of time in my head to think about what I had done to get to that place. I tried to go back to music stuff in New York but pretty much nobody would hire me. And then one of my closest friends Mike Lewis (For Love Not Lisa, Puller) convinced me to move to Nashville and come work with him and Bruce (Living Sacrifice) doing band merch. I got re-married, bought a house and pretty well settled down.

I had a ton of fun on that US tour. And I wouldn’t mind playing in a band again with the right people and doing some shows. But I went to a trip to Africa last summer and it pretty well ruined my passion for doing that stuff. It just makes it all seem so trivial. As a fan I love music more than ever, though. I am constantly listening to new bands and am actually really psyched about a lot of stuff coming out this year (Dropkick Murphys, Obits, Rival Schools, etc.). About a year ago I inherited and had shipped to me my great grandmothers piano. I enjoy playing it from time to time.

This might be the worst answer to a question ever!  Sorry, I hope I kind of answered that.

Do you still speak with the other members of Blenderhead?

I keep in touch with Matt and Ed primarily through Facebook and a while back I saw Tyler (guitar on last record) and his wife when they were in town. But I am not in touch with Eben (pretty sure he hates me and I don’t blame him) or Paul. I love those guys, though. We had a lot of fun. Everybody grows up and has kids though. It’s just how it is. I have not been back to Seattle since I moved away in 2003. But it would be great to see those guys again for sure. Hopefully in 2011.

Are you content with not living the “rock and roll” lifestyle of your past or do you miss it?

Ha ha. I don’t know if I was ever living the “rock and roll lifestyle” at any point. I’ve been playing music since I was 5 and started my first band at 16 in 1983. So aside from a few day jobs that I did to fill gaps in employment I have been super fortunate to get a paycheck with music-related employment for the better part of my life. And all my significant friendships and relationships have all flowed out of that. So really not much has changed for me. I’m not in a band that’s putting out records. But that’s really the only difference. That was a great and significant part of my 20’s. I miss creating songs in a collaborative setting. I am horrible at doing it by myself. I miss the catharsis of strapping on my bass and playing really loud rock music. That is something special that I miss.

But as far as the rest of it, I don’t miss the drives, I don’t miss setting up and tearing down, I don’t miss the drama of being in bands, dealing with promoters, etc. These days I’m trying to shift my focus to making a difference in the lives of poor people. And that is a million times more satisfying. I have a wife who loves me. I’m collecting a paycheck at a job where I don’t have to wear a suit and tie and I don’t have somebody up my ass. I have lived a full life up to this point. So yeah, I’m content.

Do you feel as though you can still relate to the person you were when you were in a band and touring? Why or why not?

I guess. I think that the Bill of my 20’s was really self-serving. There is a time and place for everything. But I think you spend your 20’s trying to figure out what you are doing by making mistakes. Then you spend your 30’s perfecting those mistakes – ha! Now that I’m in my 40’s I just feel like I wasted a lot of time. I don’t regret playing in bands and making records. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to do that. They were special times and I have a lot of great memories from those times. But ultimately the music is not something that has much value. I’m not trying to be down on people who think that’s really important. Just, for me, that is not what gives my life significance. I’m trying to grow as a person. I’m trying to make a difference. I’m trying to involve myself as much as possible in things that are going to last beyond me. Is some punk rock music I made back in the 80’s and 90’s going to be that thing? I really doubt it. The only thing that the current me and the me of back then have in common is that we’re both the most long-winded bastards EVER!

If anybody is interested in supporting what we are doing in Africa you can check out – http://www.thisshirtchangeslives.com/.  I also maintain a blog at http://www.youthhasnoage.com/ if anybody wants to read up on what I’ve been up to.

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5 responses to “Hey, what happened? An interview with Bill Power of Blenderhead

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