We seem to get three types of readers here on Love is Pop. There’s the group of people who are mostly into pop music who come to read the pop stuff. Then there’s a group of people who read just about everything, perhaps because they like our style of writing reviews or my in-depth interviews. And then there’s the third group, which is the metal crowd, who’ll read anything I post that’s metal-related but wouldn’t dare read the pop stuff. Of course, there are surely people who read a bit of this and a bit of that and appreciate several genres of music, just as I do. But, getting to my point, chances are that if you’re reading this then you’re from the metal crowd. And if that’s the case, then you should already be very familiar with Winds Of Plague because they’re one of the very best contemporary metal bands on the planet, hands down.
But, in case there are a few cats reading this who aren’t familiar with Winds Of Plague, here’s the backstory… The band hails from Upland, California and was formed in 2002. Initially, they were called Bleak December, but they changed their name to Winds Of Plague in 2005, taking their name from a lyric in the Unearth song “Endless”; “Growing wings of sorrow/have brought you to the winds of plague.” Wiki classifies the band as deathcore and symphonic black metal, but I would have to disagree with those distinctions. For one thing, their lyrics cover dark subject matter, but they’re not praising Satan or cursing Christianity or any of those things one would associate with black metal. If I had to label them – if you put a gun to my head – I suppose I would call them death metal. In any case, as their story goes, they self-released a demo called A Cold Day In Hell in 2005. Their major label debut through Century Media Records was called Decimate the Weak and was released in 2008. It included some of the songs from A Cold Day in Hell, though they were re-recorded for the album. It was followed by the album The Great Stone War in 2009 and the album Against the World in 2011. Which brings us to the present…
Winds of Plague’s new album, Resistance, will be released on October 29, 2013 via Century Media Records. And, I must say, it’s easily one of the best metal albums of the year, perfect for head-banging, moshing, or whatever you’re into. It’s just bursting with energy and vigor. Sometimes you hear albums where a band is clearly just going through the motions, making an album because they have to, completely uninspired. Resistance is the exact opposite of that. Just listening to the intro track/first song makes it loud and clear that the band is firing on all cylinders, wholly inspired and passionate about what they’re doing. In the following interview, I discuss the new album, the band’s upcoming tour and all things Plague with bassist/backing vocalist/co-songwriter Andrew Glover, who’s been with the band since 2006. So, on with the show…
To my ears, “Open The Gates of Hell” sounds more like an intro track than an actual song, which I’m assuming was the point since it’s the first track on the album. Yet it’s the first song you’ve made a video for from the album. So, do you consider it to be a true song or an intro track? And what made you choose to make a video for that one as opposed to one of the longer songs?
It is an intro track and kind of a song. We just wanted to introduce people to the theme of the album. To me, the theme of opening the gates of hell is almost like a reintroduction to Winds of Plague. We’ve strained and worked and bled for this record, and it’s a crushing record. From front to back it’s 100% intensity, so I feel like the record is our own sonic layer of hell.
I must congratulate you on the video, in any case – it’s the first music video to actually give me chills in years. Is it getting that reaction from a lot of people?
I definitely think it’s making an impact on people. My dad called me the day it was up and said “I’m sick of the alien demon shit.” He had never commented on a video we’ve done before like that, so even though he didn’t LIKE it, it effected him. If it gives someone chills, or makes their skin crawl, it’s working. For the record, I don’t think that it has anything to do with aliens.
I’m assuming the beast in the video is supposed to be a demon of some sort – would that be correct? If so, is he supposed to be any particular demon or just a demon in general? If not, is he supposed to be Satan or …?
The beast in the video to me serves as a proxy between life and death. I think he is the embodiment of all the sins from the persons life. I would have to ask Jon what his idea was, but that’s how I took it. He is delivering the person to hell.
Is that you in the video? I’ve been a fan of the band for years but I’ve never seen you live and I don’t watch a lot of music videos, hence my having to ask. (Plus, whoever it is doesn’t look like themselves with that mask or make up on.) If it’s not you, who is it? How long did it take to do the make up and stuff to become that beast?
That is Jon “JohnnyxPlague” in the mask. Jon has an incredible talent of turning into a monster/demon at the drop of a hat. I would guess it took him about 3 seconds to transform.
I’ve always wondered – why didn’t you make any videos for songs off of The Great Stone War?
We made one, it looked terrible so we didn’t release it. It seriously looked like a Nintendo 64 game. Really bad CGI.
With some of your other albums, you’ve only done one video. Do you prefer not to make videos or was that a decision by the record label or… ?
It is all based on budgets. On the last record we were able to stretch our video budget to 3 videos. On Decimate the Weak, we were a new and young band, so we had a very limited budget and opted to make the best video we could. This time around we will have 2 or 3 music videos and 1 or 2 lyric videos. We are definitely aiming to have a TON of media out for people to absorb.
Will there be any other videos for songs from Resistance?
Yes, at least one more music video, and a lyric video that should both be out by the time this goes to press.
Resistance was produced by Will Putney. How did you come to work with him? Why did you opt not to make this album with longtime producer Daniel Castleman? How did working with Will differ from working with Daniel?
Will has been making a name for himself for a number of years and had become a friend of mine after meeting him and needing out about recording stuff (I run a recording studio in Southern California called Sound Temple Studio where we tracked The Great Stone War and Resistance). He had expressed interest in working with us when we were recording Against the World with Matt Hyde. We really just wanted to explore our options. Dan has made some incredible records (As I Lay Dying, Impending Doom) and Matt Hyde has made some LEGENDARY records (Hatebreed, Slayer). This time around I think we had all been very into some records Will had done for our friends (For Today, Upon a Burning Body, Reign Supreme, Stray From the Path) and he seemed like the perfect person to collaborate on this record with.
Your previous albums have all had a handful of special guests. Are there any on Resistance? (The press releases didn’t mention any and Wiki doesn’t have a page for the album yet.) If so, who and how did you come to work with them?
Yes, we have Vincent from The Acacia Strain, Jay from Reign Supreme, Koba from Loyal to the Grave, Fronz from Attila, and our friend John Mishima who isn’t in a band but sings on every WOP record to date.
I understand drummer Art Cruz parted ways with the band in 2012 after more than a few years. What were the circumstances of his departure, if you don’t mind my asking?
Art and Winds of Plague were just on two different pages. He is an incredible drummer and we are still friends with him. The split was amicable and we definitely wish him the best. He is currently playing with Prong as well as working in different sectors of the entertainment/music industry.
How did you find your new drummer, Brandon Galindo?
We’ve known Brandon for years. He grew up in the same area as us and was the obvious choice. Brandon was the only choice as far as drummers go. When things with Art dissolved, Brandon was immediately in the band.
You’re going on tour with Bleeding Through, Oceano, Gideon and Sworn In. Where do you fit in on the bill? I would think you’d be the band to go on just before Bleeding Through. (Actually, I think you should be headlining your own shows, but perhaps that’s just because I’m a big fan and would love to see that.)
We are direct support to Bleeding Through. I appreciate your confidence in the band, but we are happy to play under them. We’ve actually been trying to get a BT/WOP tour off the ground for years, so we’re both glad it finally worked out. This is going to be their last US tour ever, so we feel extremely privileged to be able to warm up the crowd for them.
On “Against The World” you had a song called “Only Song Were Allowed to Play In Church Venues.” I know that title was a joke, but it makes me curious – have you ever played in a church? If so, was it with Winds of Plague or a previous project? And what religion was the church?
We’ve played at a ton of venues that are owned by churches in the US. They usually give you a loooooooonnnnnnggg list of rules before you’re allowed to go on stage. We’ve been kicked off of stage and reprimanded for our lyrical content more times than I can count. Obviously that song is instrumental, so we theoretically could play it without censoring it live. With that said, we’ve never played it live at any venue.
Are you religious at all? If so, what’s your religion, if you don’t mind my asking? If not, what’s your opinion on religions in general?
I am an atheist, but I support whatever people want to believe in. I am able to find light, hope and solace in everyday life. Some people look for sometime beyond that, and I commend them for seeking what is true to them. As long as you aren’t harming anyone, or forcing your ideas on people, I have no problem with any faith.
Wikipedia describes you as a deathcore band, but your label describes you as a metal band. If someone asked me, I’d probably say that you’re a death metal band. What do you consider yourselves to be? I know you don’t conform to the rules of any one particular genre, including keyboards as you do, which often add a symphonic element to your songs.
We’re a metal band made up of some guys that like metal and hardcore and we have a keyboard player. We’re influenced by all kinds of bands and genre. I think “death core” is kind of a cheesy genre, but whatever. I guess we’re a rock and roll band.
Do you ever feel restricted by the rules of whatever genre you consider yourselves to be? For example, I wonder if you’ve ever been tempted to write a ballad, of if you’d like to do more clean vocals?
We write what we want to. There has never been a point where I feel like a genre is dictating what kind of music we are putting out. The band in itself dictates what we write. Obviously, if we wrote a pop song, it wouldn’t be a Winds of Plague song. It has much more to do with what we have made ourselves out to be as a band than it has to do with any sort of genre rules.
How does the writing process usually work? Do you come up with ideas independently then come together as a group and improve on them or… ? Do you usually start with the lyrics or the music or …?
A person will have an idea, and then we’ll record the idea in pre-production and start to build off of it. Starts as a single person’s thing and gets collaborated on until it’s a Winds of Plague song.
When you’re writing the songs, do they have keyboards in them from the start or do you add that element to them after the core of the song is already written?
Most of the writing that I take part in is lyrical or restructuring of songs. But when I personally lay down a riff, it usually isn’t keyboard focused. We have some songs that started with orchestral ideas, others that started with guitars, and even some that started with drum ideas.
To the best of my knowledge, all of your keyboard players have been female. Is that just a coincidence or have you sought to at least have one female in the band at all times or …? If you’ve purposely made sure you had one woman in the band at all times, what’s the reasoning behind that?
We’ve had 5, or 4. Depends how you look at it. We initially had guys on keyboard (Chris Cooke and Matt Feinmann, both of whom helped write Decimate the Weak) and then we ended up with Kristen Randall. After we parted ways with Kristen, we had Lisa Marx for one Australlian tour and then got Alana. I don’t think it’s a “requirement” but it is a nice dynamic to have. Alana is also really good at making friends with other bands on tour which is nice. She’s more social than any of us.
Do you write all of the bands lyrics or do the other members contribute to them as well?
On Resistance, Jon and I collaborated a lot on lyrics. He will usually have a concept and then we will work them out together. It works out well because we can come up with parts in the studio during preproduction and then have a good sounding demo to listen to and build off of.
When I listen to your music, the lyrics often make me think of horror movies or books. Are they a source of inspiration? If so, have any particular songs you’ve written been inspired by any particular movies or books?
Jon is a halloween and horror fiend! I like the genre, but he is very, very involved with all kinds of gory spooky stuff. He works as a monster at a big haunted park for the month of October. He’s probably making somebody wet their pants as I type this.
What things tend to inspire you in general, aside from bands/musicians? (I ask about the latter below.)
I find a lot of inspiration from my nieces and nephews. I see their youthfulness and that they can just be completely satisfied and happy without material objects, or worrying about social norms and it puts my whole life into perspective. All that matters is that you’re happy and healthy, nothing else.
I would think that you’ve been around long enough now that there would be younger bands coming out who’ve been influenced by you. Has anyone from any of these newer bands told you that you’ve influenced them? If so, who? Also, have you heard any new music and thought you heard yourselves in it, so to speak?
I think Motionless in White probably share a lot of influences that we do. I don’t know if they were directly influenced by us, but that band rips so I’d be glad to have influenced them, They’re fucking good.
Have you ever been inspired by any newer bands or are all of the artists you’re inspired by older? What artists inspire you?
There are too many good bands to even try and focus in on that. I think we’re influenced by our peers though, regardless of their age or history.
I’m always wondering – is it straining to sing in the style that you do? I think if I screamed or growled (or whatever you’d call it) like that then I’d lose my voice pretty fast. Do you ever lose your voice?
I think his voice and throat are pretty resilient. Jon never seems to really lose is voice. I lose mine from doing backup vocals, so I think it’s just trained from doing it for so long.
What, if anything, do you do to keep your voice in shape when you’re not on tour?
You’ve been working pretty non-stop for years now, pumping out album after album and touring more often than not. Do you ever feel burned out? Does the band plan to take a year off or anything like that at any point coming up?
What do you like to do when you actually have some free time?
We recorded Resistance over a year ago, so I think we are more rested than ever. I know that I am ready to get out on the road and get on stage and let it all out. There was a period of time where I would be “burned out” as you say, but now I am just stoked as hell to get out of town again!
How do you usually kill time on the tour bus?
I am usually working to some capacity on different records that have come through the studio or dealing with interns/assistants that are working on projects at the studio. I also go to school online, so I am slowly chipping away at an accounting degree.
I’ve been asking everyone this – what do you think about Spotify and similar streaming services? I’ve heard artists say they don’t pay them enough money, that it’s not even worth being on there. And I’ve heard other artists say it’s the way of the future and that it’s better to get paid a tiny amount by Spofity than to get paid nothing if people download the music without paying for it.
I am a fan of Spotify. If it weren’t for Spotify, people would be downloading the records illegally. I’ve personally never paid attention to how much they are paying bands. I know it’s not much, but we don’t really see a whole lot from record sales anyway. I would prefer people buy the record, but if they can’t afford it, or want to preview it before buying, Spotify is great. I’d much rather have fans listening through a stream than risking that they could go to jail for downloading a torrent.
Maybe it’s my age, but I always feel a need to own the music I listen to, even if only digitally. I’d be afraid to rely on Spotify because what if all of a sudden they came to blows with a record label and then suddenly all of the music by many of my favorite artists was no longer there. Do you think people should have that concern or is that paranoia on my part?
I think you’re paranoid. But also at the speed that that technology changes, there’s always that chance that Spotify could go under, or get bought out at any moment.
When you buy music, do you buy it digitally from iTunes or Amazon or do you still buy CDs or vinyl?
I try to buy CDs of friends bands or bands I’ve worked with. If it’s something that I don’t feel a direct personal attachment to, I will just download through iTunes.
How do you usually listen to music? iPod? Computer? Normal stereo?
I listen on my phone and on my computer. I have an iPod that lives in my car and I’ll put any new music I get on there before a long drive. That’s when I feel I can absorb music the best, on a road trip.
What do you think about vinyl gradually making this bigger and bigger comeback? Are you into vinyl? Will Resistance be released on vinyl? Have any of your previous albums been released on vinyl?
That’s up to Century Media. It’d be cool to have though. Decimate the Weak was released on vinyl. I don’t believe any of the other records have been. I think it’s cool though. It’s a much more tangible format than digital, good for the experience
Connect with Winds Of Plague:
The band’s super informative page on Century Media Records’ site:
Check out the brand new WINDS OF PLAGUE website:
BLEEDING THROUGH – WINDS OF PLAGUE – OCEANO- GIDEON – SWORN IN
11/1 Denver, CO @ The Summit Music Hall
11/3 Minneapolis, MN @ Skyway Theatre – Studio B
11/4 Joliet, IL @ Mojoe’s
11/5 Louisville, KY @ Expo Five
11/6 Pittsburgh, PA @ Altar Bar
11/8 Detroit, MI @ The Majestic Theatre
11/9 Milwaukee, WI @ Wisconsin Metalfest
11/10 Cleveland, OH @ Ohio Metalfest
11/11 Allentown, PA @ Crocodile Rock
11/12 Clifton Park, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall
11/13 Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
11/14 Springfield, VA @ Empire
11/15 Greensboro, NC @ Greene Street
11/16 Jacksonville, FL @ Roc Bar
11/17 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
11/19 Houston, TX @ Walters
11/20 Dallas, TX @ Trees
11/21 San Antonio, TX @ White Rabbit
11/22 Lubbock, TX @ Jakes