Friday, February 20, 2009

Interview With: PLAGUE BRINGER

Kim Kelly for Hails & Horns Magazine 2009

It’s 2009. Happy belated New Year! We’re now only three years away from 2012, and, if you believe in that sort of thing, the end of the world. Untold numbers of theories, prophecies and “facts” about the onset of the end times have been circulating for millennia; whether you buy into the Novelty Theory, watch the skies for signs of deadly asteroids, fear the return of the Annunaki, or simply watch the news, it’s apparent that the shit’s about to hit the fan. Something’s gotta give, and when it does…it won’t be pretty.

The apocalypse is nigh, and the Four Horsemen are drawing near, ushering in a new world order built upon ancient evils. The silent white horse of Pestilence – the Plague Bringer - eyes wild with triumph…the red horse of War, its slavering jaws stained crimson with the blood of a thousand battlefields…the black horse of Famine, bathed in the stench of rotting corpses…and finally, the pale green horse of Death, and the last days of humanity.

A depressing thought, no? Until those dark days are upon us (or, you know, until the next round of prophesies hit the tabloids), do yourself a favor: take a deep breath, kick back, pop open a cold one, and read on as I catch up with Greg Ratajczak of Chicago’s own apocalyptic riff machine, Plague Bringer.

“I came up with the name Plague Bringer; its origin (in this context) is kind of a long story involving Werner Herzog's "Nosferatu the Vampyre,” but the way we see it, the name translates to, mean “Enjoy today as if is your last...we're all going to die, make the most of your life.” I began writing music under the name Plague Bringer back in 2002. Originally, I had no intention of starting an actual band, I just wanted to write and play heavy music for my own enjoyment. I began writing some songs on whatever equipment I had lying around my apartment at the time. After a few months of writing, I came up with four, songs I felt satisfied enough with to present to Josh for him to write words for. The next thing we knew, we were being asked to play shows.”

Plague Bringer’s sound comes across as a vicious mishmash of grind, death, industrial, and electronic music, propelled by the drum machine from hell, Josh’s manic exhortations, and Greg’s own frenetic guitar playing.

“ People come up to us and say that they hear all kinds of stuff within our "sound". Everything from hip hop to industrial, death metal, and straight up pop! Its awesome. I love ALL music. There is not a genre that i don't listen to. Inevitably, some of those influences creep into my writing. I only ever wanted to write music that i enjoyed playing/listening to. As far as Plague Bringer's actual sound goes, i would say: equal parts TOOL, PIG DESTROYER and GODFLESH. In regards to using a drum machine instead of a human drummer – when Plague Bringer began, I was just doing what I could using what i had at the time and fell in love with the process! After all these years, the machine has become as significant to this project as both josh and myself. i have had more offers from drummers wanting to play with us than i can even recall, but i have no interest in changing the way that i work at this point in the game.”

Their set at Kuma’s Doom Fest this past winter was one of the most insane intense performances I’ve ever witnessed; the ‘Bringer are known for the barely-contained insanity of their live shows, yet rarely tour.

”I would love to go over seas. I've heard that it's actually easier to tour in Europe. Playing shows is a lot of work for us. We both have jobs and bills to pay so it's hard to find the time and money to travel sometimes. Another big reason we don't get out much is that our live rig has kinda become a part of the band! We have an ENORMOUS live rig! its our "band", if you will. it's 5 1/2 feet tall by about 10-12 feet wide. we've completely outgrown our touring vehicles and gas prices last summer made it virtually impossible to travel and not lose money. However, it is in the works to get it together to do some traveling and playing this summer; there is not a song on "Life Songs..." that we do not enjoy playing live because the songs are more dynamic and challenging, and I can't wait to play "One in Two Parts" live!”

HeWhoCorrupts Inc. released the record “Life Songs in a Land of Death” in 2008, and will also be unleashing its follow-up companion album later this year.

“The new record is titled "One In Two Parts". It is intended to be a companion release to "Life Songs...". It's basically one long track and like "Life Songs...", it is a complete thought. Every note/sound has been obsessed over and is absolutely intentional. I write and record all the music pretty much alone. All the while, Josh outlines ideas for the lyrics...alone! Did I mention that we live together?! HA! Obviously, we share our ideas, but it's usually only AFTER the music is finished, that Josh actually comes in and starts laying down ideas. I took over three years writing and recording both "Life Songs..." and "One in Two Parts". I really wanted to make an album (or two) that was more than just a collection of songs. I wanted the completed vision, when reflected upon, to make the listener think. I feel that we really accomplished something with these albums both musically and lyrically. That's not to discredit any of the music on our first record, "As the Ghosts...", but the biggest difference between our old and new material is that the new material is more dynamic and very conceptual.” “Our songs are generally about things that affect us every day. Love, death, fear, hope, addictions... They're about overcoming adversity and becoming a better person in the process. "Life Songs...", however, deals with a few very personal subjects and has a strong political tone to it. While writing the album, our dear friend Malachi Rischter, committed suicide by self immolation in protest of the war in Iraq ( The album contains two songs that are written for and dedicated to him. We also dedicated the entire record to his memory. We've never set out to be a preachy or politically inspired band, but as far as i see it, its hard to be American these days and not be affected by the situation we're in. The title basically represents everything that PB is about. The way we see it, the Life Songs are these uplifting and relatively positive ideas that we "sing" in order to stay sane in this Land of Death, which could be seen as either the actual WORLD or just the metal scene, depending on your perspective. Life Songs = Positive. Land of Death = Negative.”

A product of and well loved within Chicago’s hugely fertile metal scene (which is as individualistic as it is tight-knit), it comes as no surprise that Greg’s last words were of support for his city, his scene, and his friends.

”Ya know, i have no idea where all these great bands are coming from. One day i woke up and Chicago is this great metal town. Who would've thought? I think part of what makes our scene so great is that every band is doing something original and doesn't really sound like anything else. I think that goes a LONG way these days. Harpoon, Lord Mantis, Winters In Osaka, Bloodyminded, the Atlas Moth, Decrypt, Indian, and Dirty Dead are some local bands that could use some attention. I'm sure i forgot others, sorry guys!”

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