EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MISERY SIGNALS BASSIST KYLE JOHNSON
Misery Signals new album, Controller (Ferret), is a genre-defying act of aural aggression which our own Vince Neilstein recently categorized as “progressive metalcore that doesn’t just borrow old tricks from the worn playbook.” I got a chance to e-mail some questions to bassist Kyle Johnson as he was on the road wrapping up this summer’s Thrash & Burn tour, and he had some interesting things to say about the band’s latest offering, their writing process, working with uber-producer Devin Townsend, and what separates Misery Signals from the rest of the metal herd. Read the full transcript after the jump.
First thing’s first: what the hell is a misery signal?
It can be explained in many ways but I guess what I take from it is that there are many hints or signs (signals) of a collapse or huge change in how we live, which most would see as misery. Kind of a regression back to an earlier time when humans weren’t reliant on technology and money and economy, etc…
What do you think distinguishes Misery Signals from the hundreds, if not thousands, of other bands currently trying to make it in the scene?
Well, for one, we are older and have been doing this longer than about 75% of similar bands out there. I’d like to think that we have molded our own sound over the last six years into something that doesn’t sound run of the mill or typical. We have always strived for originality, which is getting harder and harder these days with such an overwhelming amount of bands. It’s easier to start a band now than it has ever been in the past in my opinion. With things like MySpace, any group of kids can whip together a demo, put it online, and gain notice without having to put any real work into it at all. It’s cool that its so easy to get your music out there but at the same time if creates a cluster fuck of bands and hard working bands get lost in the shuffle.
Please tell us about your writing process – does one band member do all the writing, or is it more of a collaboration, etc? Is there a conscious vision going into each new album (e.g.,”We want to move in this direction”), or do you just kind of let things happen?
Well, every song starts with either [guitarists] Ryan [Morgan] or Stu [Ross] bringing partial songs to the table. They will usually go to each other first and sit down with it and try to develop it to a presentable state. From there the rest of us learn what they have and start making suggestions on what could be better. After reconstructing the song a few times (although some songs come together quicker than others) we move on to the next. Vocals are usually laid out after the music is set. There is usually a vision that comes along with each album. Basically we look back and see what we can do better. This is what we did with Controller especially. We realized that there were lacking elements on [2006’s] Mirrors and tried to bring back some of what was missing.
What can you tell us about working with Devin Townsend? Is it true the skullet is dead?
The skullet is gone… and don’t quote me but I think it’s permanent!!! Devin is an amazing individual and we were very fortunate to be able to hook up with him again on Controller. He helped us out quite a bit through the process and had great ideas and suggestions… Not to mention he is a master of sounds! The production on Controller is by far our favorite to date. I mean after this last album I can’t really imagine ever going anywhere else.
How do you feel that Controller is different from your other albums, if at all?
I feel that the songs are much more focused than anything we’ve ever done before. Devin really helped us to trim the fat on a few key tracks and really bring everything together as a whole album, rather than going from track to track with nothing tying it together. I also think that its really just the perfect blend to everything we have done in the past. To me is represents the band the best. It’s what we have been working towards for the last 5 years.
If a fan can only afford to buy one album this summer (we’ll pretend no one ever illegally downloads music), why should he or she choose Controller?
Well like you mentioned earlier… There are a ton of heavy bands out there now a days…. And, I mean, if you’re after the band with the cool image or crazy over the top stage show or most plays on MySpace, then so be it. But if you’re still in it for the music and emotion behind it, then i think Controller is what you’re looking for. The dynamic that the album has to offer can appeal to kids who like metal, hardcore, melody, tech, punk rock, etc… A little bit for everyone.
Similar question: There’s a lot of these big package festival tours this summer. Assuming a fan can only afford a ticket to one, why should he or she choose Thrash & Burn?
Well, Thrash & Burn has a lot to offer as far as diversity. You have your metal, your hardcore, your
metalcore (Dare I call it that?), and your thrash. Tickets are reasonably priced for the ten band package as well.
The tour is going really well actually. The turnouts have been pretty impressive. One of the better tours we’ve done in the last few years. Nothing too crazy to report. Lots of drinking and hangs. We have made it a tradition to wear Hawaiian shirts every Friday on the tour which makes things interesting.
If there was a battle royale amongst all the bands on Thrash & Burn, who would win and why?
Parkway Drive would win hands down. They don’t drink and are all pretty beefy guys. Most every other band on this tour is full of a bunch of skinny alcoholics!!!
What’s next for you guys after Thrash & Burn?
We follow this tour up with a tour in Canada with Comeback Kid, Shai hulud, Bane, and Outbreak. That takes place in October. Then afterwards is a tour with Bring Me the Horizon in the States.