EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH MISERY INDEX’S JASON NETHERTON
Being blessed by a slew of Vancouver metal shows recently, I set off last week to see a spectacular example at the conspicuously indie venue Richards on Richards. Black Dahlia Murder managed to attract the biggest mosh and gave an energetic performance even sans their lead guitarist and his parts. Soilent Green might have stolen the show managing to sound tight as bike shorts while playing their complex arrangements and with studly beast Ben Falgoust delivering his vicious stage presence with the occasional slice of Louisiana charm. However, I had already picked favorites before I even got in the door that night and I was more than excited to be able to see Misery Index dish it out in the opening slot and let me assure you that they fucking slayed. It all has to do with a little album called Traitors that turned me into an instant fan this year, front to back, riff to riff. After introducing myself to this brutal Baltimore quintet around their self-operated merch table, I stole away bassist/vocalist Jason Netherton backstage to the door of the venue’s massive walk-in beer fridge for a few questions about the making of the new album, being a political band and more.
Above, check out the band’s new, David Brodsky-directed video for the title track from Traitors; then, after the jump, read the complete transcript of our interview.
Your new album, Traitors, is on my short-list for the top ten albums of 2008. My first question to you is: why should Traitors be on my top ten list?
[laughs] Well I don’t want to sound self-indulgent or anything, but I think it’s a good record so if you feel the same way then that’s cool. That’s kind of an interesting question.
Ok. One of the new things about this album is that you’ve included a few guest appearances: Guy Kozowyck from The Red Chord and Tomas Lindberg from some band called At the Gates…
Right, and Disfear.
How did the idea to get those guys involved come about and what was it like working with them?
We knew Tomas from when we did a tour with Disfear in 2006, and we had a good time we were out for three weeks together. It turned out that they were doing a US tour the same time that we were in the recording studio at Kurt Ballou’s studios outside of Boston. Disfear also recorded with him and they were good friends with him so they flew into Boston for the US tour and he was there so naturally… it was right around the time we were doing vocals, too. That was cool.
Also with The Red Chord, we’ve been friends with those guys since way back in like 2001 even before their first record. That was another no brainer because Guy also lives in the Boston area and it was only like a 20 minute drive to Kurt’s studios in Salem.
So you said you said you recorded at Kurt Ballou’s studios? From Converge?
Yeah that’s right.
Was he present at all for this or were you just using his studio?
Yeah, he engineered the whole record. We actually ended up mixing and mastering it back in Maryland, in Baltimore at a local studio. We kind of ran out of time up there. Our hotel time was up and we had to go home.
Had you worked with Kurt before, is he a good engineer?
No [we hadn’t], we did a few shows with Converge in Europe in 2007 and it just kind of came up there, we started talking to him about recording stuff. We really liked the drum sounds he got, really natural tones and stuff. We didn’t want anything too clicky or overproduced and he thought that would be a good mix for us.
You also worked with somebody called Brian Daniloski? From Darsombra?
Yeah, from Meatjack/Darsombra.
What was his contribution to the record?
Well it was supposed to be a lot more. He does a lot of cool stuff with atmosphere tones. Since we were writing Traitors as an album we wanted a lot of continuity between songs and natural flow. He did some samples for us for the record but we ended up not really using any of them. Except for one that kind of fit, but it just worked better to have the songs run into each other.
You guys are all set to play the Maryland Deathfest this coming year with that really intense lineup of every band you’d ever want to see.
Yeah, they really got a crazy lineup this year.
What bands are you looking to see there?
Asphyx, Pestilence, and Bolt Thrower. I finally got the chance to see Bolt Thrower in Europe a couple years ago but that’ll be great to see them here. Hail of Bullets, too. Anything Martin Van Drunen touches [laughs].
Now finally onto some political questions: Do you find it difficult being in a political band? Do people often challenge your viewpoints or beliefs?
Not really. We’re an apolitical metal scene and I think the music comes first. Even with us I think people can tell that we are about the music and the lyrics and imagery are complimentary to that. We try not to shove things down people’s throats or anything. We just want to be screaming about something we feel strongly about. Both in the songs, on stage and we think it makes for a more sincere record. I’ve had some email discussions with people, message board discussions, but nobody coming out to overtly protest or anything. We just want to have fun first and foremost but for sure, we don’t mind the political moniker at all; in the Napalm Death tradition.
Of course. Can I ask you to explain the lyrics behind some of the songs on Traitors? Starting with “Ghosts of Catalonia,” what’s that song about?
It’s sort of a homage to the Spanish civil war, principally the ideas that came out of it, mostly from the socialist/anarchist side of the conflict. They had a working system there for three years. It was an autonomous system they set up themselves with an egalitarian society, and it’s something you don’t really hear about much in history. I just thought it would be fun to bring it to people’s attention and look more into it if they were curious. I read about it from George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, his autobiographical experience when he was a volunteer and fought there in 1936-37.
Are you a history-interested person yourself?
Yeah, some parts of history but not all of it. Definitely social movements and stuff like that. Anytime in history when broad social change occurs definitely interests me. How humanity progresses forward and what keeps us back, stuff like that.
What is the song “Ruling Class Cancelled” about?
It’s a broad criticism of the global economic-political structure which is run by a handful of elites in different countries and corporations and how when things start to fall apart they sow the seeds of their own destruction in a way. When you create a whole system and society that is driven by this sort of rabid hyper-capitalism, in the end you can only take it so far before things starts to fall apart. You can’t just consume, consume, consume without having some sort of end to it all. Anyways, whenever these sort of cracks in the system appear that’s what it’s talking about. “How your west was won and then your west was lost” – that little line.
Did you vote in the November election?
Yes I did.
Were you satisfied with the results?
Yeah, but the thing is even with the Democrats in the White House, still things get looked over and you have to even push democrats to get things done. Even the most idealistic guy like Barrack Obama can come to Washington and find there is a lot of systemic opposition there. There’s a lot of negotiation that goes on and a lot of meeting in the middle, so I think the fundamental structure of American society is going to remain intact. I don’t think there’s going to be a lot of crazy change. There might be because of the way the economy is going, that’s when change usually happens, when the middle class starts to see their wealth trickle away a little bit. I’m hopeful, for sure.
Yeah, you gotta be. Do you encourage your fans to get politically active in any ways?
Sure, if it’s something they’re interested in. I belong to Amnesty International, and I do whatever I can to help them out. We put it on our myspace page and also charities like Oxfam. A lot of the most important things people can do are in their own backyard. If you can do something in your town or your city to help change things that’s a good thing. Whatever you want to do and however you want to contribute in your own way is how I would encourage people.
You sound like a very well-spoken, well-read guy. Do you read a lot?
Yeah, all the time.
What books have you read recently?
Right now I’ve just been reading fiction and essays, David Sedaris, he’s a writer that writes about crazy shit in his life. One [book] is called A Long Way Gone, it’s the story of a child soldier in Africa, that one’s really good. Another one is called What is the What? by David Agers. That’s another cool book.
So besides all the political stuff, I imagine Misery Index still find time to have fun on the road, right?
That’s why we do it for sure. We don’t ever want to think of this as work or a job. We do it for the travel, to meet people, to make friends, and see new places and play music.
Do you have any fun stories from this tour so far?
We’re only a week into it. It was a lot of driving just to get out here from the East Coast, we did five shows on the way up, but its mainly just a lot of driving, nothing much has really happened yet. Last night in Seattle we had a good time, we got to hang out there and go to some different bars and stuff. It was pretty cool.
What’s the Misery Index drink of choice out on the road?
I like whiskey, Jim Beam is my favorite. I drink it straight, on the rocks or with some coca-cola.
Alright so now’s my time to come clean. I’ve already included your album on my end of the year list. I think that Traitors is a really amazing album and the only question I have left for you is where do you want to take Misery Index from here?
Awesome! We want to get on some good tours and have a lot of fun. We’ve never been to Australia and that’s also something we want to try and do before it’s over. I think with Traitors we almost feel like it’s our first record, because the lineup came together rather hastily before the last one. We put in a lot more time and really came together as a band for this record. I think that the next album will carry on what we did with Traitors and I think we have at least one or two records left in us [laughs].
Sounds good. Any last comments?
Have a good time all the time.