I love mash culture. It makes me feel like I am on top of all the latest developments in youth culture when I find a band that combines seemingly disparate influences, and because I am so culturally literate and young-at-heart, I totally get what they are doing. I love to smugly explain all the references to my clueless friends who still think of "World Demise" and "Far Beyond Driven" as "their new stuff." For a few minutes, I can forget that I am turning 31 in six weeks and have been going to hardcore shows since 1989. With that in mind, you can understand why I am such a big fan of Winds of Plague.
We blogged about this sextet of Southern California moshers a while ago (here and here), so if you are not familiar with them please take a few minutes to brush up on the band. Our printer is down at the moment, but we'll pass out a handout that has hard copies of both posts before we leave today. They'll be on the conference room table next to the Panera bagels and juice. There's also one of those cardboard boxes of coffee, please help yourself- we have Sugar In The Raw as well as Sweet N Low for Delores and Gail, our two administrative assistants who are also diabetic.
Anyhow, the big idea with Winds of Plague is that they combine moshcore ala Hatebreed with symphonic black metal. You've heard that before, but Winds of Plague adds a wiggerish slant that would make Rick Ta Life blush. I feel like we mocked them pretty mercilessly in our first post about WoP, so I was really happy to see that Johnny Plague, the singer, posted in the comments and had fun with it instead of being a butthurt pussy like Short Bus Pile Up and Waking The Cadaver.
Since they were so cool, I figured we should find out more about what makes them tick. I caught up with them on the Summer Slaughter tour where they were playing with Dying Fetus, Suffocation, Origin, and a bunch of boring bands like Born of Osiris with names in the format of "____ of ____" that I had never heard of and didn't watch.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that the Summer Slaughter tour is sponsored by Decibel Magazine, which is also owned by Metal Inquisition's parent company, Red Flag Media (this blog is the flagship piece of the viral marketing and social media division of Red Flag). Oh, and it's also sponsored by Affliction, which has nothing to do with our corporate structure, but is hilarious.
In retrospect, maybe it would have been better to warm him up a little bit, but I was too impatient and I cut right to the chase with Johnny. In my best Tom Brokaw voice, I tried to sound very frank and down-to-earth when I said "Have a seat, Johnny. I think you know what we're here to talk about: wiggerish arm movements." I thought he might get mad, but to my surprise, he was pretty sheepish about the whole thing, even apologetic!
He started by blaming someone else. "Not to point the finger, but I'm definitely going to have to put the wigger elements on our friend John, who recorded with us on that album. He also played on the new album, but we told him to tone it down," Johnny explained. I'd like to believe him, but as you can see in the photo of us above, he was wearing a Sworn Enemy basketball jersey and a backwards baseball hat. That's two strikes, my friend. If I go through your records and find a Downset CD, you're busted! He also credits moshcore pioneers 18 Visions with inspiration. "18 Visions had it going on. Speaking of wigger, remember when James had like fuckin' dreads and JNCOs?"
Life on the road can be tough. Just ask Metallica and Kid Rock, both of which have penned sorrowful, melancholy songs in which they sit on the tour bus looking wistfully out the window. Perhaps Winds of Plague will write their own version soon, because Johnny was not enjoying himself on this tour. I kept trying to get him to talk about wiggers, but he kept drifting back to how annoyed he was with this tour and wanted to go home. To bridge the gap, I asked him about touring with Suffocation. By inventing the slam riff and pioneering the use of 808 bass drops in death metal, they arguably created wigger slam metal, yet they have actual black people in the band, which makes things much less black-and-white (ba-dum crash!).
Johnny wavered a bit, suggesting that "They have black people in the band so that's automatic street cred. I didn't know about [Mike Smith's] rap album, I wish I did before though." Despite such an initially authoritative answer, it seemed like he doubted himself, or was at the very least not yet comfortable with using the w-word. "I don't really know what to say about that, or... like... the word 'wigger' in general..." he stammered, recalling Sarah Palin when Katie Couric asked her which newspapers she read and Palin answered "A-all of them."
WoP also share the bill with wigger slam pioneers Dying Fetus. I was thinking Johnny would have taken advantage of the opportunity to compare notes and ask Fetus how to be a slam wigger. Had he ever sat down with Fetus singer Jason Gallagher and asked for tips? "On how to properly do it? No. It's not that tricky, you just say ignorant shit over and over."
Not ready to let him off the hook, I asked him about my favorite line from my favorite WoP song, their wigger mosh anthem "Reloaded." In this song, one part that makes the moshbros go crazy goes "Bustas fall down when we're barking commands. Atlas ain't got shit on our steez." Having moshed my balls off to it earlier that night, I asked for more detail on exactly what Winds of Plague's steez were. Finally the dam broke. Johnny let it all out, all the shame, the lies, the wiggerish secrets he'd kept inside for so long.
"Honestly I don't even know what 'steez' means. Is that even a real word?" he said plaintively. "The wigger stuff is from our one music video," he volunteered. "The video was an awesome idea that wasn't done well. It was supposed to be over the top. I had a great time doing it, and I guess it's cool because we had fun, but in the big picture it's not really the way we wanted to be portrayed... yeah. Going into it I was like, 'Who the fuck watches music videos, anyway? So let's just have fun with it.' We didn't have much of a budget, our friend had a nice car, so we just said fuck it." While the band was generally happy with it, Johnny had some ideas on how it might be improved. After a thoughtful pause, he reflected that "the guys did a great job on it. But there should have been more chains, more large black women."
Most musicians are comfortable to stay within the narrow, conventional definition of what it means to be in a band. But like Dave Mustaine's ventures into the coffee business, Sammy Hagar's tequila brand, and Kiss peddling, well, absolutely anything, Johnny has dreams of being a stylist-slash-image-consultant for bands like his. As the band works on repositioning its brand, Johnny is getting the ball rolling by making some small changes to his personal brand. "I'm gonna say, I've grown out of the puffy vests. I had to give it to my friend that lives in Reno so I'm not tempted," he said, looking down and picking at the table as though he was craving his Nautica vest like a tweaker fiends for a bump.
(In case you are wondering why I included this picture, she plays keyboards for Winds of Plague)
With the wigger discussion behind us, we moved on to the second most important item on the agenda: chicks. As long-time readers of this blog know, I have advanced-level game, so I wanted to talk shop with one of the few people who might have even better game than me, if such a thing is possible: a dude in a band.
Johnny is a modest guy, so he was hesitant to offer any suggestions on how I might improve my game. "This isn't really the best question for me. I mean, I don't have any game, I really don't. And I'm not afraid to admit that. But basically, just be loud and obnoxious, hang around the merch table and try to trade free shit for head I guess!"
He wasn't nearly as timid when I asked him when band had the most haggard groupies, though. Literally without a split second of hesitation, he said "Blackguard. I love them to death, don't get me wrong. They're kind of a folkish metal band. I dunno man, they just attract some real, uh, winners." I'm sure it's pretty slim pickings on these metal tours, which Johnny confirmed. "Dying Fetus pull some fuckin'... dude I don't even know what the word would be... trollish, stone age type women. I'm not saying they're hooking up with them, I don't know if that happens, but they're there in full force, drunk as fuck."
Drummer Art Cruz showed me some pretty sweet gambits he uses to snare groupies, such as a variety of magic tricks like the one where he made a coin seem to go through my hand. It was cool, but I started to get uncomfortable after a minute because I thought he was going to kiss me or something. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
Metal Inquisition + Winds of Plague = hella mass tight bros
I am not sure why so many people pick on Winds of Plague. As you can see they can take a joke and will make you mosh your balls off, and I'm not sure what more you can ask of a band than that. I thought they were going to be uptight dickbags, but it couldn't have been further from the truth. Even if you don't like metalcore, you should pirate their album to show your support!! Every click counts, my friends!!
Check out Winds of Plague on MySpace and Twitter