In an attempt to revitalise their local scene, Melbourne’s Clowns are throwing five unique gigs at …
Plague 9 is a recent entry to the Adelaide metal scene, formed less than two years ago by singer/guitarist Devon Smith and bassist John Hopf.
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The pair quickly recorded a track for a compilation album before seeking other players to join them, and they’ve since completed the five-track EP Mr Ass that shows a solid grounding in old school heavy metal. With the EP due for release and Plague 9 heading across state boundaries for shows soon, it was time to drag Devon Smith away from other commitments and give us the lowdown.
Plague 9 is a very new band for most of us Devon, so fill us in on how it all got started for you.
Back in 2017 me and John, the bass player, were doing a bit of a Metallica tribute thing in Adelaide and I had a lot of original stuff that I’d had from years before, and was getting keen to put some of it out. John was keen to jump on board with that. We did a quick recording of Stuck in Hell which appeared on the first volume of the Metal Roos compilation and then it was just a manner of finding the rest of the guys and doing the rest of it. It was a bit of a slow process, getting everything together, but we got there in the end.
Adelaide has always struck me as being a city with a pretty strong metal scene. How difficult was it finding the right people to bring into your band?
It’s hard to find people to join new bands. It’s quite a small scene but it’s strong. There’s a lot of people in a lot of different bands, so it’s hard to get people within the scene to venture out of those other bands. Finding people who aren’t already in five or so other bands is quite difficult. We got very lucky with Dave [Hone], the lead guitarist. John just put an ad on Gumtree, which we’d tried many times before. We picked him up out of nowhere, and he hadn’t been in any bands before. He was just one of those rare finds. His playing ability is just crazy.
That was a pretty lucky break, to not only find a great guitar player, but one who wasn’t already involved in a band. That’s like finding the Holy Grail.
We were beside ourselves when he said he’s never played in a band before. Me and him are quite similar. We both had these crazy riffs we’ve been putting together over the years, old analog stuff, and I was just sitting at home doing my stuff and that’s what he was doing too. So it’s been a good match.
There’s a lot of people in a lot of different bands, so it’s hard to get people within the scene to venture out of those other bands. Finding people who aren’t already in five or so other bands is quite difficult.
[ Devon Smith ]
It’s interesting that you said you and John played in a Metallica tribute band, because they were the most obvious touchstone in your music. Everyone who plays metal is influenced by Metallica in some way, but what other influences do you have as a musician?
I got into The Offspring and Disturbed, Pantera … not Megadeth so much until recently. The early stuff definitely was Metallica. I heard a lot of their later albums. The first stuff of Metallica’s that I heard was ReLoad. I just had the luxury of having all this Metallica at my disposal when I first picked up a guitar, which was 12 or 13. I was listening to Master of Puppets over and over, and just started writing riffs and a bit of Disturbed started coming through, then some Bullet For My Valentine.
Stuck in Hell is the opening track on the EP, but the other songs are probably even better and more complete. Is that because the others are much newer songs, or because you got to work with them more with the other members?
Stuck in Hell was one of the first songs I’d ever written, back when I was 16 or 17. I’m 33 now, so it was quite some time ago! It’s a very old track and it’s a bit different since when it was first written. The middle section’s very different and there was a few other bits in there which were taken out. Even Criminal Justice—the main theme of that song was from back in that time as well. They’re not full band collaborations. They’re all quite old. The vocals and lyrics are a lot newer. Most of the songs had one verse or a chorus and were never really finished until earlier last year when the recording started to happen. Obviously Dave’s stuff is all newer. He came in with the structure of the song and he came in with other lead stuff as well, like the first lead in Mr Ass, between the first chorus and the second verse. We never really imagined anything in that space. When he did that, me and John just looked at each other with big grins. That just took the song in a totally different direction.
What’s the live situation looking like for Plague 9?
We’ve only done two shows, one with Kon [Tsacos] who’s decided to jump onboard which is great, because he’s awesome and he fits with our style really well. He doesn’t try to overplay everything. We’re just looking now to get this out, do some more gigs. We’ve got our first interstate gig in August, in Sydney at Shredfest, and the New Thrashfest in Melbourne in September, so things are looking pretty good for that side of things.
Are you doing any further writing at the moment?
We’re all getting our tapes together. I’ve got a few things that are older, and Dave’s bringing forward his riffs too, so there’s definitely lots in the background happening there.
Compared to the tracks on Mr Ass, what direction do you expect the new material might take?
It will be similar. We won’t be taking too much of a left-hand turn or anything. We might make use of a few intros and guitar harmonies, maybe not so straight to the point with some of the songs. Because there won’t be time constraints on getting things out as quick as we can, we’ll have a lot more time to try different stuff, different structures and obviously getting Kon in on the writing will also be good. It will be very exciting times, I think, for the writing side of it.