Formed by frontman Theo Zhykharyev in 2017 initially as a bedroom project, Powerplant are a five-piece synth-punk collective based in London. The last show I ended up seeing before THE EVENT was Folly Group, Legss, and Powerplant at The Old Blue Last in March 2020. Shortly afterward, they became a band of great comfort to me during several lockdowns, especially periods where it felt like they became my own soundtrack to derealisation. It’s not exactly easy to pinpoint why their sound works, but the militant midi drums coupled with angular guitar riffs alongside the piercing retro synths evident in almost all of their work is a compelling combination. Think of The Coneheads but blended with the original DOOM soundtrack and an extra sense of dread. Zhykharyev spoke to us about how they created their sound, playing in Benidorm and their upcoming Dungeons and Dragons-inspired campaign soundtrack.
What was your life like between the release of your albums Dogs See Ghosts and People In The Sun?
Simpler times! I was doing my film BA and getting into cool new music and doing PP stuff half ironically for my own pleasure. But I guess over the years I kinda figured I want to do music more rather than film, you could probably tell with the growing effort in each project. But besides, in those two years, I want to say I met people that are my true friends to this day and very important occurrences happened in my life that I hold dearly that I guess opened my eyes to what existence really is or could be and what people are like?
I’ve noticed over the past few years how many different types of bills you’ve ended up on. What is the connection between Powerplant and the wider London hardcore scene?
Lloyd, who drums the drum, played/plays in many hc bands and we got onto many bills through that I suppose. But it’s probably mostly through friends putting on gigs and people wanting to have fun – I don’t remember! Lloyd being such a fast violent drummer definitely helps too! I think we are way less clean live, so it works.
What equipment do you use to deliver the dungeon synth sound?
It’s all MIDI! Well, like 85% or something. Which was very fun to work with, I used to be anti-MIDI and anything that’s not an audio recording in Logic. All this choice is fun but it will be the death of me. Plugin wise, I used Roland Sound Canvas that I heard in Daggerfall. It’s just a perfect early cheap midi that sounds amazing with a wobble, and another big plugin was Arturia’s DX7. Good sounds there. Harland Steed (President Evil, SMTB) did tape reruns at CORPUS and that made it not flat and computer sounding. It rocks!!!
I’ve noticed that a lot of your music has a sense of unknown nostalgia. Did you have any specific influences from your childhood that inspire your music?
I listened to 50 Cent when I was a kid, so at the moment probably I want to say no haha. But who knows what the future shall bring – let’s find out.
How was your recent show abroad in Benidorm?
It was a great time – it was a crazy time! Lots of good people there – good sound on stage! First time in Europe for me in a long time and half the city is like little England with every other place called ‘The Bulldog’ or ‘Churchill’. There was a 1 euro pizza slice place and a strip with sketchy sex shows. We swam and walked around – it was really good! Thank you Paloma!
Tell us about this upcoming album and role-playing adventure module?
I kinda properly got into ‘Dungeon Synth Archives’ on YT in late 2020 and got super into it. I tried making some songs – it kinda happened and I just thought it would be an odd/funny thing to commit to. It was supposed to be like a one-two instrument thing originally and seemed like a good contrast with punk PP stuff I was working on that was all too many tracks. However, as time went on and got more serious I got about this I ended up complicating it more etc. ‘Stump Soup’ is looking to be 18 tracks and just under an hour. I think in the end it’s somewhere in between DS and comfy synth, so egg synth of comfy synth I dunno.
I don’t remember exactly where the idea to make an adventure module came from – maybe Cam suggested it, just like the whole DS album thing, but I’m not sure! I named the second track Herziegger’s Mansion after a homebrew DnD campaign I wrote, so maybe that went someplace afterward. In my head, it works very well as there isn’t much context to songs besides the track name, and the campaign is there to attach a personal story/relationship to songs, should be fun! I always wanted to print some stuff and keep it silly, so I’m excited about it all! My good friend and DM Tom Terry is doing most of the writing. I Gotta do it. But I guess throughout the whole thing main inspiration to actually do it all was the SFDD album and the quote/review from the Bandcamp release. It’s just perfect, it’s everything. And doing the whole instrumental album thing kinda makes sense because there was an instrumental skit on almost every release.
I saw that Powerplant was mentioned on /mu/ thread the other day, how did that make you feel?
It made me smile. The weirder the community the better, and I guess that’s just as odd as it gets. And if people are mentioning stuff on there I guess it’s somewhat really working. Used to get DS charts from /mu/ last year.
Finally, what do you hope to do with Powerplant in 2022?
Man, at this point I just want something to do, I just want to have fun.
Pixie GF is out now, listen below!