Four years ago, Winds of Plague frontman Johnny Plague decided he needed to change his relationship with the band that had dominated his adult life, so the 32-year-old singer went out and got himself a day job. Fittingly for a man who has demonstrated a keen grasp for spine-curdling imagery over the last decade, Plague now helps design haunted houses.
But after building a stable financial foundation outside of rock music, the singer returned to Winds of Plague with a new lineup and new focus to record Blood of My Enemy, which is due out October 27th and available for preorder here. Today, Revolver is premiering the new cut "Kings of Carnage" — which Plague calls "a heavier song to show that this is still the Winds of Plague that you fell in love with in 2008" — along with its no-nonsense performance video. We spoke with the singer about the upcoming LP and why sometimes it's better for your band to be your hobby than your life.
YOU TOOK SOME TIME OFF BEFORE THIS RECORD — WHAT BROUGHT YOU BACK?
JOHNNY PLAGUE I just heard the stage calling. The band has been a large part of my life growing up. I took some to get some home life things in order. I really missed playing shows, traveling, connecting with people all over the world, so I decided to pick it back up. I figured I was in a good point in my life where I could start getting away and doing more shows.
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO TAKE A STEP BACK?
Even previous to the past record, Resistance, things were starting to become difficult. As a musician in a band the size of Winds of Plague, unless you're out touring you're not making money. Things start to get scary as far as fallback plans. If the band ended, what do you do? I started to expand my career into other creative outlets, whether it's producing music videos or designing haunted attractions or working on other scenic theme park things. I started to get more into that and take a couple of years to focus on that as a career and make sure that, financially, I was being responsible for my family.
WHAT'S IT LIKE TRYING TO BALANCE THAT RESPONSIBILITY WITH HEAVY TOURING?
It's incredibly hard. To be honest, I think unless you're on the insane high end of things, I think it's … I wouldn't say impossible, but damn near impossible to maintain. It was good to be able to take that break and get some things in order. Now we're approaching the band and it's not a career any more. It's back to being a hobby. It's something I can just go and do and not have to stress as much about the business side of the band. I can just go and enjoy it again.
HOW MANY SHOWS A YEAR WERE YOU DOING AT YOUR PERFORMING PEAK?
300-plus a year, easy. It was nuts. It was nonstop. And that was great. For my early twenties, it was amazing to be able to travel, go play awesome shows, meet awesome people — I loved traveling to foreign countries and immediately having this bond and connection with people I've never met who don't even speak the same language. That was an incredible, amazing life experience and something I'm very fortunate and grateful to be able to have done.
DID YOU THINK WHEN YOU STARTED THAT THE BAND WOULD STILL BE GOING ALMOST 15 YEARS DOWN THE ROAD?
No. No. Never. Never in a million years did I think the band would do anything other than sell a bunch of tickets to play at the Whiskey. I thought that was amazing when that happened. But no, I had no idea. I've always been that person to just put my head down, work hard and see what comes next.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WISH YOU KNEW AS A YOUNGER MUSICIAN THAT MIGHT'VE HELPED YOU ACHIEVE THE BALANCE YOU'RE SEEKING NOW EARLIER IN YOUR CAREER?
No major regrets. It's the same thing in life in general — it would've been nice to have some of the wisdom I have in my early years. But just the same mistakes any twenty-year-old kid makes. It would've been nice to avoid them. But I'm at where I'm at for a reason. I have an amazing family, a great life.
DID THAT DECISION TO TAKE A STEP BACK CONTRIBUTE TO THE MAJOR LINEUP SHIFT FOR THIS ALBUM?
We all grew differently in different directions, and it started to become a stress on what we were doing with the band and the creative direction we wanted to go in. That's when we decided to take a break, and at that point, a couple guys decided they were ready to move on and pursue other avenues in their life. Then a couple of us wanted to pick the band stuff back up, but before we even decided that, we sat down to discuss what we wanted to do, how much we were gonna tour, what we wanted to do to progress, musically. We all got on the same page. Then we picked up some new players. Adrienne Cowan, our new keyboard player, has been amazing, and we've been able to utilize a lot of her skills and talents on the new record. She was able to lend her voice to the record as well.
We wanted to throw all the cards on the table before this record, and to be honest, when we did, there was another member that decided this wasn't for him. But I wanted to put everything out there. Do things correct this time and be very upfront that I don't want to tour full-time anymore because of my family. There were a lot of long and very in-depth conversations about everything having to do with this record.
HAS THE RECEPTION TO THE SYMPHONIC ELEMENTS OF YOUR SOUND CHANGED SINCE YOU STARTED?
I will say, over the last 10 years up until this point, the internet has always had a love-hate relationship with us. Sometimes the hate side of things can be a little bit louder than the love voice, if you will. That's always been a thing. I made a decision a long time ago that that wouldn't affect me anymore — I would just keep doing my thing. When we put out this last song, "Never Alone," I was like, "OK, let's go look at the comments. Let's see what people think." I was completely blown away with the reception. I don't know what changed, but for whatever reason the reception has been very positive. Which I'm not sure is a good or a bad thing yet!
DO YOU THINK BECAUSE YOU PERSISTED FOR SO LONG, FANS FINALLY CAME AROUND, OR OTHER ACTS HAVE HELPED POPULARIZE THE STYLE?
I think when we first started doing this, there were very few bands that had the keyboard element. Over the years, it's been introduced more and more. Now even bands that don't have keyboard players are having these symphonic and keyboard elements throughout their songs. I think it's more of an openly received element to this kind of music. But I'm very pleasantly surprised to the reception this has gotten, especially to the symphonic stuff — that's something we really focused on for this record. We let some of the guitar playing at times take a back seat and let the orchestration kind of shine and carry the melody. It's something on this record we went all in — crafting songs around the orchestration instead of just overlaying it on top.
We decided to roll the dice and record with two guys who had never really produced an album before [aside from their own] — Noah Sebastian and Joakim Karlsson from the band Bad Omens. They didn't even have a studio. I felt like it was the perfect environment we needed, just us sitting in this guy's garage with a box of pizza. No pressure, no nothing. Shack up in a room with your friends and hash it out.