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Interview: Six Memories of The Plague

Interview: Six Memories of The Plague

Chris Cudby / Interview conducted by John Baker / Images supplied / Monday 19th April, 2021 11:32AM

Founded in 1978 by actor / writer / poet Richard von Sturmer (writer of 'There is No Depression In New Zealand') after witnessing London's electrifying punk scene firsthand, The Plague were formed in reaction to the "nailed down and narrow-minded state" of Muldoon-era Aotearoa. Including members Tim Mahon, Andrew McLennanDavid Parkyn, John Schmidt, Adrian Hart and The Snoids on backing vocals: Charlotte Wrightson, Miles McKane and Sally Griffin, the songs of The Plague will at last be brought to light on a new collection on vinyl LP and 7", available at this week's reunion extravaganza at Auckland's Neck Of The Woods with X Features and DJ Dubhead. Iconic for their pioneering theatrical and untamed art-punk shows, including a high profile performance at Nambassa Festival 1979, members of The Plague generously shared with UTR some of their own memories of the wild times they spent together.

Don't delay in grabbing tickets for The Plague's very special one-off headline event, 43 years after they originally formed, where they'll be unleashing 'Mystery No Mystery', '7 Day Plan', 'Kiwi Keith', 'Voodoo TV' and 'Panthers Of Sound', plus newly recorded numbers 'Glandular Fever' and 'Private Property. Delve into Richard von Sturmer, Tim Mahon and Andrew McLennan's reflections below, and head over to AudioCulture for von Sturmer's in-depth history of the group, straight from the horse's mouth HERE.

The Plague 
with X Features and DJ Dubhead
Thursday 22nd April - Neck Of The Woods, Auckland

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Richard von Sturmer (lyrics & vocals): In July 1978 The Plague staged a concert at Auckland University’s Maidment Theatre. For the encore we played a song, 'Mr Muldoon', aimed at the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Robert Muldoon. The Snoids, our backing vocalists, smashed plates on the stage in a frenzy, plates that had been purchased from several op shops the day before.

Tim Mahon (bass): In 1978 I was playing the guitar in The Plague and writing the songs with Richard. There was a major personnel change in the group where drummer, bass player and other guitarist left and Ian Gilroy, Andrew Snoid and Mark Bell, who could all actually play their instruments, joined.

I had an Ibanez SG and a Vox AC30, it made a fine noise. Mark Bell had an old stereo amp and a Jansen Invader guitar. So the first thing I had to do is permanently loan my guitar and amp to Mark. Remember he could actually play.

I then bought a bass guitar, a yellow Fender Mustang with red racing stripes. Problem was I couldn't really play the guitar and had no idea what to do with a bass. Got hold of Bones Hillman who was the bassist in the Suburban Reptiles and who was currently rehearsing with Phil Judd for a new band [Hillman later joined Aus chart toppers Midnight Oil - Ed.].

I went to Bones' flat in Mt Eden every Thursday for about 2 months bearing a dozen Lion Red and a tinfoil offering of cabbage like cannabis. We would listen to The Who - Live At Leeds and marvel at John Entwhistle's superb playing.

Bones taught me the basics of bass playing and then I started playing with Ian Gilroy, the best drummer of that era. I got good quickly.

Richard von Sturmer: After our Nambassa concert in January 1979, the Snoids and I, still body painted in our respective primary colours, stopped the car by a stream. We entered the stream and stood waist-deep in the water, each of us surrounded by a pool of colour — yellow and blue and red — that blossomed around us before being carried away.

Andrew McLennan (backing vocals & lead vocals): First or second gig at Charly Gray’s Island of Real in Airedale Street. I remember the lovely Ann Gray leaning on the counter watching us. She was dying of cancer but still actively supporting young punks like us. .Charly and Ann contributed so much to the scene in those days of coffee and cake gigs venues with no licences no alcohol but big big hearts

Richard von Sturmer:
The Plague had the best designed band posters, thanks to two of its members, Sally Griffin and Miles McKane. Before a concert we would go out late at night with brushes and buckets of wallpaper paste to put up posters around Auckland’s CBD. I remember coming home with my arms dripping with paste up to the elbows. The morning after we put up our “A war, a war, who’s for a war?” poster — which featured a rat crawling above a cinema audience all wearing 3D glasses — I came upon an enraged old man in Lorne Street. He was tearing down the poster from a wall while cursing under his breath. “Oh, what a good response!” I thought. “On with the battle!”

Tim Mahon: The Plague at the opening of Angel Mine, a film by David Blyth.

We were going to play at the premier of Angel Mine at the Civic Theatre, wow! The other group playing were 2 versions of The Suburban Reptiles. One with Phil Judd one without.

It was the first gig of the new line up with Mark Bell, Andrew Snoid and Ian Gilroy. We set up in the balcony area opposite the sweet shop on the first floor. Richard was amazing running up and down the balcony handrails like some kind of circus clown. The drop to the ground floor was about 20 metres so actually really dangerous.

I remember playing and noticing that the art scene of Auckland was more interested in rattling their faux jewelry so I played to a bunch of street kids who were looking wide eyed in wonder through the glass doors of the front entrance.


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The Plague
Thu 22nd Apr 7:00pm
Neck of the Woods, Auckland