By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor
HUDSON/STERLING – Singer-songwriter and bassist Stephen Powell began performing in his teens with two rock bands in and around his hometown of Hudson. After graduating from Hudson High School (HHS) in 1985, he recorded CDs and toured with hard rock bands nationally and overseas.
Now residing in Sterling, Powell continues playing with multiple bands and foresees more reunion shows.
“It’s a pure love of playing music,” he said of his longtime passion. “It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do.”
One of Powell’s early-1980s bands, known as Child, ultimately featured lead vocalist Paulo Bettencourt of HHS class of 1981. In 1986, Powell and Bettencourt formed the hard rock band Flesh with singer-songwriter and guitarist Mark Cherone and drummer David “Gonzo” Gonzalez.
Flesh made its 1986 debut at the now-closed Narcissus nightclub in Boston’s Kenmore Square.
“It was our first Boston gig and definitely a stepping stone,” Powell noted.
Soon afterward, they became known for bringing big vocals – and equally big hair – to the Boston music scene.
Along with a songwriting deal from EMI Music Publishing, Flesh received two nominations for Outstanding Local Hard Rock Band from Boston Music Awards in the early-1990s. They released a self-titled CD in 1993.
In the mid-1990s, Flesh performed a 30-city national tour as opening act for the hard rock band Extreme. Venues ranged from a 2,700-seat theater to small clubs.
“We would go from playing places like the Orpheum Theatre in Boston to playing on stages that felt like you were standing on a pool table,” Powell recalled.
Flesh continued gigging regularly through 1997.
Exploring rock styles
Ready for another musical venture, Powell and Cherone invited the Dempsey brothers – lead vocalist Tommy and drummer Robbie – to form the band Super Zero.
“Super Zero was still hard rock but a little more pop punk,” Powell explained. “I love what Fresh did, but Super Zero was more lighthearted and fun.”
Their 1997 CD, “Attack of the Air Monkeys,” prompted a record deal with the Japanese label Big MF Records. The release of their 2001 CD, “Hogwash,” coincided with a tour in Japan.
“We made our travel plans – then 9/11 happened,” Powell recounted. “We were already committed, so we went to Japan and did the tour. The audiences were very appreciative.”
Super Zero gigged throughout New England for the next couple years.
Then in 2006, Flesh released its second CD, “The Lost Book of Malchus.” Also in 2006, Flesh launched its first of several periodic reunion shows at the Hudson Portuguese Club.
Among other sites where Flesh presented reunion shows are Foxborough’s Showcase Live at Patriot Place and Malden’s Mixx360 Nightlife. Pandemic restrictions canceled their 2020 gig at Arlington’s Regent Theater.
“Flesh will definitely get back together again,” Powell vowed. “We grew up and learned together. We’re like family.”
Powell has been performing regularly in recent years throughout Worcester County with the classic rock band Doctor Robert.
Additionally, Super Zero bandmates are meeting for songwriting sessions.
Now, Powell is also working with two other HHS alumni.
In late 2020, the classic rock band Rumour HAZIT welcomed him as a bandmate. Several decades ago, Powell became aware of the band’s drummer Bob Begg and guitarist Tony Frias, both 1979 HHS alumni. From the late-1970s through early-1980s, Powell’s older brother, Jeff, played in a band with Begg and Frias. They practiced in the Powell family’s basement.
“I thought it would be a lot of fun to play with these guys,” Powell shared. “I really looked up to them as a kid.”