THREAT SIGNAL is a Canadian Melodic Death Metal band hailing from the city of Hamilton. However, different members of the band hail from other parts of the Ontario province. Since the band’s formation in 2003, Threat Signal has released three studio albums, the latest one, self-titled “Threat Signal” came out last month (October 2011) via Nuclear Blast. Just before the release I had a chance to interview band’s singer Jon Howard, and here’s what we talked about…
Hi Jon, I’m Tarja, welcome to Metal Shock Finland! Your band name, Threat Signal, what it’s all about? And please give a short presentation of your band members…
Originally the name Threat Signal sounded like a cool name, so we used it! At the time it didn’t really have a specific meaning, however now I think of it as this. My lyrics analyze the world and its many problems. I focus on world issues and hope for change to make this a better place. I think of it as there is a threat to our world and we are signaling you of it. Our band members include myself Jon Howard – Vocals, Travis Montgomery – Guitar, Chris Feener – Guitar, Alex Rudinger – Drums, Pat Kavanagh – Bass.
Chris and Alex are your latest acquisitions… Has it been difficult the find the right band mates, or what was the reason for your frequent line-up changes in the past?
Yes it’s been tough over the years to find the right members for this band, that’s why we have acquired members from all across North America. It’s hard just to find local musicians of this caliber, so we used the internet to search for the rest of the band, I think it worked out great! The many changes in the band have occurred for similar reasons. Most band members have left because of money problems and stress with the industry. Its very hard to survive financially in a band at this level, so people just don’t have a choice other than to quit and work a full time job. Its very sad but very true. The current line up feels very good now. We are all in this band to play music and we will pinch our penny’s to stay alive in this band.
Your new self-titled album will come out on 7 october in Europe, via Nuclear Blast… technically speaking, what are the main differences to your earlier “Vigilance” (2009)?
Honestly if you were to compare Vigilance and our new self titled record, the differences are night and day. Our new record has very little similarities to Vigilance. Musically the new record is a lot more technical, darker and heavier sounding. Vocally I still maintain some melody in every song, but overall the vocal style is a lot more brutal sounding. My screams are deeper and some parts sound completely insane haha.
On this album have been also experimented the 7 string guitars… you’ve quoted saying: “We are headed back to the Under Reprisal days but with bigger balls.” … is it because of the 7 strings or for more brutal attitude?
The 7 strings did offer a bigger, heavier, and darker sound for the record. We have one song on the album called Death Before Dishonor and its recorded in our previous tuning of drop C, and you can tell it’s a bit different than the rest of the songs but still maintains that evil vibe. I think it’s the overall writing attitude behind the album that makes it sound more brutal. We played some very heavy, grooving riffs on Under Reprisal and I feel we went a different direction with Vigilance. But we came back around to our roots this time and took things even heavier. The playing on this record is very intense and technical compared to Under Reprisal.
What about the song themes, from where you got the ideas for them?
I really focused on world issues this time around. I really got into conspiracy theories and started asking myself a lot of questions about the world, politics and what really goes on here. I believe there is a lot that is hidden from our eyes, and that we must really dig to find any form of truth. Its hard for me to put trust in anyone or anything these days, I have to constantly question what I am shown or told. There are songs about starvation, war, decease, death, violence, greed, corruption, pain and misery… I focused on a lot of the bullshit going on in the world. However, speaking about these issues is mainly to gain awareness, and hope for change. If I can make 1 person look in the mirror and have them turn their life around to be a better person and help this world, I’ve done my job. I don’t think there is a need for the many of the problems civilization faces each day, we need to think positive and remove hate.
I’ve now listened to the album a couple of times, and to me it sounds quite heavy and the sound efforts are rather dark… was this something that you looked for, or are we talking here about the natural development?
It was a very conscious effort actually. When we spoke about writing this record we all agreed we wanted it to be our heaviest, darkest record to date, and we did that! I think all the frustrations of life and the industry over the years just made us say fuck it, lets get brutal with this record and make something that will tear faces off.
Something you’d wanna tell us about the studio sessions?
We played EVERYTHING! The drums are real, the vocals are not tuned, everything is exactly how the band would play it live. These days computers are taking over the world and albums are so produced and perfect sounding, you go to see the band play live and it fucking sucks. We are definitely a band who sounds very similar to our CD when we play live.
The album has been produced and mixed by “musical mastermind” Zeuss… how would you define his input to the final touch? And how was it to work with him?
Zeuss brought a lot to the table as a producer, engineer and mixer. We really wanted someone who understood the direction we were headed musically and could make our record sound HUGE, he defiantly was the right guy for the job. It was great having Zeuss as an outside ear to critique our music and playing. We were very used to hearing our demos for the record, so having Zeuss hear everything for the first time, he was able to pick apart certain things and make each song that much better. He also really pushed us in the studio to get our best performances, he wouldn’t settle for just anything! The overall experience was great and we got everything we needed all in one shot. It was a package deal, including accommodation, tracking, editing, mixing, mastering, Zeuss does it all!!!
Your debut album ‘Under Reprisal’ was released in 2006, which was highly embraced by fans and critics… how has your sound changed in these years?
Our sound continuously changes over the years, mainly due to member changes, different writers, and just the overall growth as musicians. Under Reprisal was a great start for us, it was a very heavy album however it contained a lot of melody as well. It was a great balance to hear what Threat Signal has to offer. Vigilance headed toward a more melodic direction and was not as heavy sounding as our first, I think that disappointed some people while pleasing more people at the same time. We felt like writing a melodic album at the time, so we did… With the new album we felt like we were missing something we had on Under Reprisal, so went back to our roots but pushed the heavy side every futher.
The album cover depicts a faceless politician with blood on his hands, dictating at a podium surrounded by devastation. This is meant to signify how the rich and powerful are trying to control this world, and in turn end up destroying us all. There is lot of corruption and greed in the political system, and it seems a lot of these people are making poor decisions based on personal and financial gain. Don’t get me wrong, there are some good people in politics but they are few and far between.
Are you going to release any videos for this new album? If so, what and when will be the first one?
We are speaking about this now actually. All I can say is that there will be a few videos released soon.
In these past years you’ve performed live with many big names, like Soilwork, All That Remains, Opeth, Hatebreed, Darkest Hour, Mnemic, Protest The Hero, Testament, Saxon, Nevermore, Lordi, Motorhead, Hammerfall, Arch Enemy, Scar Symmetry, Kataklysm, just to name some (lol) … which are your best/worst memories about these acts?
Our very first tour was in the US with Soilwork, Darkest Hour and Mnemic. Honestly this was a dream tour for me with bands I highly respect, and I will never forget it. Here’s a very cool story about the tour… When we were in Toronto I introduced Speed the singer of Soilwork to a girl I had been friends with for a long time. Speed and her got along really well and started dating. Now Speed is living in Toronto, we are great friends, and we are working on music projects together. Bro’in down with one of my vocal idols, how cool is that!?!?! There has been some tough times on the road touring, especially when we have to play a show, drive all night and all day to the next show with no sleep. It gets draining but honestly I can’t ever complain, I’m doing what I love! The worst is being sick on the road. When I was on tour with Kittie, I got pneumonia. I pushed myself way too hard and sang on stage very sick for about a week. By the end of the week I was coughing blood and could barely walk without getting dizzy and having to lay down. I went to the hospital and they wanted to put me in a bed. Instead they made me drop off the tour and go straight home because if I kept touring I could end up killing myself. I learned my lesson..
The next tour to support the new album, can you already tell us some more details?
Actually I can’t because we don’t know yet! We’ve been trying very hard to lock down tours, because we are dying to get on the road. But its been really hard for us to get anything lately. We do have some plans in the works for early next year in Europe. I can’t say any details, but it should be a great tour!
And now the last question… the word is yours, what are your greetings to our worldwide readers?
Thanks for taking the time to read this and for supporting Threat Signal. We are not some trendy band that will be here tomorrow and gone the next, we are true metal and are here to stay. Please spread the word for us anyway you can because we really need the help! Thanks so much.
Thanks for this interview, hope to see you soon on the road! Stay Rude! \m/
Interview by Tarja Virmakari
THREAT SIGNAL – S/T (2011: ALBUM PREVIEW)