READ THE BACKGROUND TO THE ALBUM...
“Plague” was a strange album for the band, having broken our contract with Candlelight and signed with Earache, we suddenly found ourselves in need of an albums worth of songs. At the same time the lineup began to fragment. It had started with the drummer situation prior to the Overkill tour, when the band had been advised by Candlelight to hire a better drummer. After searching online the band found former Dragonforce drummer Mauricio Chamucero, who after an audition we chose as our new drummer. Visa restrictions prevented him from touring internationally with the band and so our original drummer Pete Hunt was flown out from Australia and paid as a session musician to complete the bands touring commitments. The next change in the band was the departure of guitarist Sy Taplin to be briefly replaced by guitarist Tom Draper. Insurrection Rising bassist Sascha Krohn was next to jump ship to pursue novel writing and was replaced by Italian Stefano Selvatico…all this whilst I was trying to write an album! I’d naively told Earache that we had 20 songs on the go (a slightly embellished truth, but not a total fabrication) which had gotten Digby (Earache owner) excited to the point where he booked us into a studio in Birmingham for us to demo all this material. In reality the songs where only skeletal structures, and Digby expected finished material, this resulted in us delivering an utterly shambolic collection of utter rubbish (still to this day I hope Earache don’t ever release these….). Due entirely to our own fault, things had not exactly gotten off to the best of starts with Earache, but we persevered in rehearsals eventually getting our shit together enough to present a semi respectable collection of demos. This process was utterly painful however, and I lost all semblance of objectivity when assessing the tracks and really had no idea which way I was going or what I was trying to do musically. After months of painfully demoing songs, performing in rehearsal to Dan Tobin (our A&R man at Earache) along with Scott Atkins (who’d agreed to produce the entire album this time) we were almost ready to hit the studio (FINALLY!). At this point Tom bowed out, we’d had a disagreement over the contractual situation with the label and his entry into the band, and in order to preserve our friendship (I still really like Tom and saw him 2 years ago at NAMM in LA) we shook hands and parted ways. This was about a week before we were supposed to record! we also had a show booked in Lithuania that I didn’t really want to cancel….
In steps Joff Bailey. I found Joff on facebook, and briefly listened to his bands myspace and figured he sounded like a tight rhythm player (little did I know what an INCREDIBLE lead player I’d discovered). We’d already started recording Plague at this point, and Joff learned the set and flew to Lithuania with us which despite being stranded in an airport for 18 hours! was a great trip. We came back to England and Joff came into the studio and laid down his solos. I was blown away, his natural flair and note choice was unlike anyone I’d ever jammed with before and I figured we were gonna be a really strong guitar partnership!
After all the painful prep and pre-production…recording was going to be a breeze right?…WRONG!!!…things didn’t exactly start that well when we found that after we’d finished laying down the drums (a painful process in and of itself….but that’s a different story) there was no budget left to put the band into any sort of reasonable accommodation (I still consider a travelodge to be reasonable…) and Earache flatly refused to give us any more money to cover accommodation. Now, bare in mind that Scott’s studio is in the middle of nowhere (Mendlesham, Suffolk) there aren’t exactly many options, especially if you have no money. Still to this day I cannot believe we actually did this, but such was the poverty we found ourselves in it was either camping or sleeping rough…so, we camped in a tent on a local camp site throughout most of the recording of that record. Surely, there can’t be many bands that are so hard up that they’ve actually resorted to CAMPING!! whilst making an album (answers on a postcard….) such was the utter misery of those sessions. I distinctly remember my friend (and OG SM bass player) Chris O’Toole (now of Unearth) coming down to visit us in the studio with his wife, and they were kind enough to drop us back at the campsite after we’d had dinner, only for us to discover that due to torrential rain, our tent was COMPLETELY FLOODED! I’m talking soaked, inflatable mattresses floating on an inch of water type flooded. I remember the misery, late at night, wet, tired, hastily trying to protect the one bit of dry space left and find enough room to sleep!
Eventually Scott (being the beautiful human being that he is) took pity on us and let us stay in his house…
So recording ground on, slowly, and everything that could go wrong pretty much did (broken mics, lost voices, doubt, self loathing, starvation etc…the usual…), but eventually we got there and got the record finished just before hitting the road with Evile for a couple of weeks around the UK. The good old days of sleeping in vans, eating pot noodles and selling the cases of beer back to promoters just to get an extra £10 so that we could go to the supermarket and buy cheap bread, ketchup, some kind of ambiguous sandwich “meat” and multibag packets of crisps (the cornerstone of any nutritious diet!).
I have some amusing memories from that tour; Our vehicle at the time was a 9 seater white ford transit van that was about 50 years old and close to death. It wasn’t a regular van in the sense that it had windows down all the sides and on the boot (more of a people carrier). We could pack all the gear in such a way as one person could sleep between the gear in the boot, one on the backseats, one in the footwell and the short straw going to the one who had to sleep in the drivers seat (a system we would rotate each night..despite the protestations of the drummer every time he had to sleep in the drivers seat! “Nah man…I gotta play drums man…”). I remember night one driving to Portsmouth and stopping in a car park, once we’d got set and ready for bed Mauricio the drummer disappeared around the front of the van only to reappear wearing pristine white cotton pyjamas and a sleeping mask!! which we thought was great - fair play to him - comfortable sleep wear is important! especially when wedged between flight cases in the boot of an old van! Later that night, Joff went out for a cigarette only to be approached by a couple of doggers (dogging being that thing where people watch strangers fuck in cars…modern world aye?) and had to let them down gently. In the morning he went off to take a pee, finding a nice “secluded” area under a tree, having not noticed the two elderly ladies out walking their dog that he’d just inadvertently exposed himself too! He realised mid piss - when lets face it you can’t exactly just stop, but Joff being the gentleman that he is greeted the elderly ladies, apologised for the situation and made a hasty retreat. Another time I remember we’d left Glasgow after the show, and it was late and we were tired, so we figured we’d pull into a lay by and get some kip. About 10 minutes after “heads down” there’s a tap at the window, I look up and there’s a police officer stood there looking annoyed. I opened the door and he said in thick Scottish accent “would you’s mind stepping out o’ the van and telling us what’s goooin on here”…so out jumped myself, Joff and Stefano. It’s the middle of the night, in winter, in Scotland…FREEZING COLD…we’re now surrounded by 2 other officers who demand an explanation and ID. So I explain: “well, you see, we’re a band”…they look at us with bemusement and scorn, “you’re a band?” the officer sneered, giving that incredulous look as if to suggest that in his mind we were merely a group of unwashed vagrants sleeping by the side of the road in a rusty old van! (which I suppose was not entirely unjustifiable). “yeah, I sing, he plays bass, he plays guitar” I say pointing at the other two. “where’s the drummer?” asks one officer sarcastically….’Oh, he’s in the boot” I say. Now, to add some extra context, Mauricio had sent off his passport to the Colombian embassy in London in order to get clearance to play in Ireland. So he’s cowering in the boot, trying to remain still and silent because he was panicking that as he had no ID and is clearly a foreigner, that he’s about to be arrested and immediately deported (an admittedly unlikely outcome of course, however rationale can go out of the window a bit once you’ve been sleeping in a van with 3 other blokes for a couple of weeks). Suddenly, and without warning the boot door flings open and he jumps out of the van (still in the cotton pyjamas) and instantly declares “I haven’t got a passport!!” to which the officers just look totally bewildered. Anyway, turns out they’d seen Joff get in the van with a beer, and then when they’d pulled up noticed that he was asleep in the drivers seat and figured he was drink driving. They left us alone and went on about their business. Later on, Mauricio said to me with surprise “man, you were so calm talking to the police, in Colombia, you can’t talk to the police like that”. I guess the police in Colombia are a bit different to those in Scotland….
Many other things went down on that trip, including Joff sleeping under the van in hollyhead, Joff and Mauricio nearly coming to blows in Dublin, the never ending saga of “where’s the drummers bag?” and loads of other things that I can’t repeat….
Anyways, that was a difficult album cycle for the band. Earache gave the album away for free which kind of backfired, we did some shows, wasted some time, and before we knew it, it felt like we were back to square one!
BUT - the album got really good press, we did our first music video for the track ‘All Seeing I’ which did really well. We got the cover of VEVO in the US, we got invited to do the Metallica cover for Kerrang, and all in all it taught us a lot of valuable lessons, and pointed at the direction we needed to head in….
DS - 2019
PLAGUE OF CONSCIENCE ‘HOME MOVIES’
We filmed this during week 1 of recording the Plague of Conscience album. Due to its rather evident lack of quality, we never used it. However looking back now it has a certain “Home Movie” quality to it, so for all Fan Club Members….enjoy!