If you haven’t heard of Threat Signal yet, well, you can thank me later. I chatted with them last night before their set opening for Epica. From mustard yellow couches in the sticker filled dressing room downstairs at Slim’s, the guys shared their thoughts on filming their recording process, dealing with the music business, the meaning of Twitter, metal vocals, and Lady Gaga.
HardRockChick: You’re from Hamilton, Ontario; how much does where you’re from affect your music?
Adam Weber (guitar): I’m from in the middle of nowhere, I grew up around not a lot of metal. There wasn’t many metal kids- they were all punk kids and pop punk kids, and I hated it all, I don’t know why…but I didn’t listen to anything. One kid moved to where I lived from Florida who listened to all metal- Lamb of God, Hatebreed, Shadows Fall- all that kind of shit, and I fell in love with it. And in my whole high school and pretty much the whole city, there was only my metal band, who was just a bunch of my friends who I made listen to it, and they started liking it. So there were pretty much just 5 dudes who listened to metal in my whole city. Now there’s a ton.
Jon Howard (vocalist): I remember there wasn’t much metal going on in Hamilton. I got into the whole grunge phase, you know- like all the West Coast, Seattle kind of shit…
AW: I didn’t even know that existed.
“And then I just wanted heavier and heavier and heavier, and it just went from there.”
JH: That’s what I got into, and it started me playing guitar, and my whole music career. And then I just wanted heavier and heavier and heavier, and it just went from there. But the metal scene now, it’s decent, man. Every show we play in our area is sold out every single fucking time.
Norm Killeen (drums): There are a bunch of metal bands from Hamilton now…..
JH: It’s picking up. I think metal’s a lot more accepted these days.
HRC: Yeah, for sure.
JH: You even hear heavier shit getting on the radio now, like Alexisonfire. They scream a hell of a lot. It’s cool to hear that on the radio.
HRC: When you were growing up, was there one album that really affected you and made you want to be a musician?
AW: Ashes of the Wake, 100%, Ashes of the Wake. It’s the reason I play guitar- the way I do now, anyway. I started playing guitar before that, but that’s why I’m a lot better now. But yeah, Ashes of the Wake, Lamb of God.
JH: Mine’s gotta be something like Pantera, Vulgar, or something. Like I grew up watching all of the home videos, and just fucking getting smashed and breaking shit…
AW: We still do that!
HRC: So I was reading about the beginnings of the band, and using garageband.com to promote yourself; can you talk about that a little bit?
“I was like, ‘fuck- we don’t have to play a show? Do we need a drummer? Fuck!’.”
JH: We basically had myself, and two guitarists, no drummer, no bass player. It was just like a side project. We ended up calling it Threat Signal. We were going to school, going to work, and we just recorded these demos in my cousin’s room. We just recorded them ourselves and threw it up on garageband. It’s a rating site- so fans come on and rate the songs. We put up ‘Rational Eyes’ and it went up to number one. There were like 8,000 other entries and it just went to number one. A lot of people paid attention to it after that. And that’s where we got our record deal. Nuclear Blast went on the site, listened to what was number one, what was on top, and they lost their shit. They were like ‘holy crap what is this Threat Signal band?’. So they hit me up and asked me for more demos. They just sent over a record deal right away. I was like, ‘fuck- we don’t have to play a show? Do we need a drummer? Fuck!’. So that kind of gave us the kick in the ass to try to do this full time. As soon as we signed the record deal I left college to do this full time. It’s like now or never, right?
HRC: What were you in school for?
JH: I went for architecture. I was in my third year of architecture. I wanted to build bad ass houses.
Pat Kavanagh (bass): Now he’s building a badass studio!
JH: Yeah! So I’m still using it.
HRC: I checked out most of the video that you guys did about your recording process…
AW: Oh yeah, it’s pretty long…a lot of party footage.
JH: Oh yeah, that was the basement! A lot of that drunken wrestling…oh fuck….
HRC: Was there any moment during that process that you didn’t capture on video that you think should have been there?
AW: I think there’s a lot.
JH: I think we captured a lot. We were filming all the time.
AW: Except for all the lead parts- we didn’t do any of the solos.
JH: Yeah, because we filmed it all ourselves, right?
AW: It’s kinda hard because sometimes you’re working away…
JH: You got two guys working and no one to film.
AW: So all of my guitar solos- there’s none of me playing.
JH: Yeah, we should have captured more of that. And Travis’ solos…we caught a little bit of them, but…
AW: Yeah, it was just me and Jon when we were doing my solos, and we were like working and concentrating, so we’re not gonna go, ‘let’s get the camera and film this’.
JH: It would have been sweet to hire someone to fucking film it.
AW: Yeah, it would have been way easier. When I was doing the rhythm guitars, Pat and Jon were both there, and they were doing nothing but playing with the videocamera, so there’s so much footage of that shit. But, yeah, there could have been some more stuff. But it was a lot of fun.
HRC: Yeah, it looked like it was fun.
JH: That’s what we were trying to put across. It was a fucking blast. We just recorded until we got too drunk, and then we partied.
AW: Just the overdubs is what we missed mostly.
JH: Fuck it. We captured a lot of that shit. And it’s all edited by us, and filmed by us. I like it when bands do that. Some people say it’s too long, but I like when it’s long.
AW: It’s a long process
JH: A lot of fans like seeing everything that goes down.
HRC: It looked like a lot of people watched it. So, beyond using garageband to get a record deal and using youtube to show behind the scenes stuff, is there anything else that you’ve maybe seen other bands do or you’ve thought about in terms of social media and new, innovative ways to promote yourself?
AW: We’ve actually got a guy working for us that’s really good at all of that kind of stuff. He’s just wiring it all together, and we’ve been kind of taking a step back. We used to do a lot of that ourselves, and it’s kind of a lot. It’s way too much- especially on the road. I mean, we have internet today, but not very often. So he’s doing a really good job of making a fan club, an involved fan club, where you get exclusive videos.
JH: That’s one thing we’re really working on- the fan club.
AW: Yeah, news updates and stuff like that. You can win prizes and stuff. So he’s really good for that. We’re doing a lot of cool things that are going to be launching in the next couple months that we’re pretty excited about. So it’s not just myspace, replying to comments, and facebook.
JH: We started doing twitter now.
NK: We started twittering, but not that much yet.
JH: Almost every day.
HRC: Are you guys actually doing it or is your guy doing it?
JH: Oh no, we do it.
PK: I take a picture almost every day and put it up on facebook.
HRC: I’ll have to go check it out. We can follow each other!
JH: Yeah, twitter me!
AW: Tweet me!
HRC: That just sounds really dirty…
JH: What was that one you came up with, Travis? The meaning of twitter?
In unison: The space between your twat and your shitter!!!
HRC: There’s a lady present!
JH: Oh yeah! Well that’s what bands talk about.
HRC: I know, I’m just kidding. So, you’ve gone through a few line up changes. Besides teaching new members the music, what else do you tell them about?
AW: I think it comes back to the whole garageband thing. When you get a band out of nowhere, it’s just a bunch of kids sitting in a basement. You tell them to get a band together, buy all this shit, and go on tour.
JH: We rushed into it.
“You have to be a really strange kind of a person to be in a band and go on tour.”
AW: You have to be a really strange kind of a person to be in a band and go on tour. I would say 90% of people who want to be in a band can’t actually do it. It’s fucking hard….it’s really really hard.
JH: It kind of slapped us across the face, like ‘oh shit, we gotta do this full time?’ We didn’t know what it was going to be like. Then we hired a drummer too fast, a bass player too fast, and you think everything’s going to be fucking great, everything’s paid for, you’re set. Fuck no. You’re broke, sleeping in a van.
Travis Montgomery (guitar): I think teaching us how the business actually works. Because people have no idea what it’s really like and how it actually works.
JH: A lot of people learn how it works and just quit.
HRC: People in the business don’t even know how it works.
JH: Well, that’s what we’re finding out. So with the new members, it’s basically, we know up front to tell them what’s going on and how the business works. These guys haven’t left yet- they’ve been with me for years and years…three years. Pat’s been around for fucking ever…
PK: Six? I dunno.
JH: He’s even got the Threat Signal tattoo on his arm- that’s a fucking lifer!
AW: I think we’ve all been in this band longer than anybody who started the band, except for Jon, of course.
JH: Yeah, this has been the line up for longer than anyone else who was in the fucking band. I don’t even consider that. This is fucking Threat Signal right here.
HRC: I first found out about you (Jon) through your other project, Arkaea. When I first listened to that, I thought, ‘he sounds so much like Chester form Linkin Park!’. Do you take that as a compliment or no?
JH: I definitely take it as a compliment, you know, Chester is a great singer. He may not be as metal as a lot of people want, but he’s a fucking amazing singer….great band. I’m not biting his style or anything…my voice sounds like it does, you know. I think it’s a lot heavier than Chester’s, that’s for damn sure.
HRC: Yeah, I agree.
NK: A lot of people think you’re trying to sound like Chester….they don’t get that Jon just sounds like Chester.
PK: It’s almost a vocal technique, like Jon doesn’t sing clean very often- like he does in ‘Rational Eyes’ and a couple of other songs- but the new album he doesn’t sing clean I think at all.
JH: No, not at all because I’m really pushing to put that rasp on it because I want it to be hard.
AW: There’s a thick rasp on it and I don’t think a lot of people understand what’s going on.
JH: I think it’s because I’m so high- I think it’s the range, because I’m up in the higher range.
AW: You’re fucking high, that’s for sure.
JH: Especially the Arkaea record- there’s a lot of highs on that shit.
AW: A lot of dudes do that now. Like Randy just started doing that in Lamb of God.
JH: Everyone’s trying to put it in.
AW: It’s exactly the same technique. Speed does it from Soilwork. The dude from All That Remains tries it sometimes, Phil. Not just clean singing. Killswitch does it, too.
JH: Melissa Cross is trying to teach it.
“Melissa Cross, the vocal teacher, she teaches people how to sing like Jon.”
AW: Melissa Cross, the vocal teacher, she teaches people how to sing like Jon. She met him once and goes, how the fuck do you know how to do that because I try to teach people to do that.
JH: Yeah, she’s like, Jon, you should teach my class. It was like a huge compliment from her.
AW: The dude from Shadows Fall is trying to do that now. Like those guys all get lessons from Melissa Cross, and they’re teaching what Jon already does. I don’t know how the fuck he knows how to do it.
JH: Yeah, she’s like ‘don’t do the death metal, and go to the straight singing’.
AW: Just low screaming, and la-la-la-la-la. I think it’s all from Pantera. Phil used to do that like a motherfucker. Always raspy singing and shit, after the Diamond Darrell phase.
JH: I’m influenced a lot by Phil, man. He did the raspy melodies.
AW: Yours is more trained, and I think you know what you’re doing.
PK: Even James Hetfield used to do it, not anymore.
JH: Yeah, that’s what I grew up on….Metallica, Pantera. Layne did it, too! Layne had some fucking balls.
AW: Chuck Billy does it in Testament. He’s got a heavy fucking voice, too. That’s what Jon does, he just sings it really fucking high! I dunno- it just seems like the metal thing…I just named, how many names in metal bands? People get pissed off because we’re not metal…..
HRC: When you’re not playing music, what else do you like to do?
HRC: Besides drinking….
TM: I don’t really do much else.
JH: Lots of music….recording….producing…
TM: All I do is work and play guitar.
AW: I ride my dirt bike.
JH: He works at a videogames store. I used to build guitars for 10 years. I was building guitars from scratch, custom guitars. We’re DJing now- metal DJ night! Every Friday! Rock Hard Friday.
NK: Yeah, the rest of us show up and get drunk and go ‘play this song!’ and everyone gets mad at us. People want to dance!
JH: Gotta play the crowd.
HRC: What’s something you listen to that people wouldn’t expect you to listen to?
NK: Lady Gaga!
AW: Norm listens to Lady Gaga, let’s just get that straight. Jon does, too. I do not.
JH: I enjoy it, I won’t lie. I like to dance while I drive.
AW: I listen to James Taylor a lot. I like to cry. What else….Andrea Bocelli….he’s a wicked singer.
TM: Lots of jazz stuff.
PK: A lot of people think I’m weird when I say I like the Foo Fighters.
JH: Foo Fighters are alright.
PK: Well you listen to Lady Gaga.
NK: We’re in a metal band, you know.
This is the point where someone makes a joke about sucking Lady Gaga’s dick….to which everyone laughs…..and I remind them that I have this all on tape.
HRC: After this tour, what else do you guys have planned?
JH: We have a European tour lined up after this supporting Hed PE. Hopefully that gets pulled together. We’re working on signing some last minute financial details. After that we’re looking to open more shows. We’re looking to be a support band…we’ve headlined for way too many years…and we need to grow our fanbase.
AW: Hopefully we get some sweet tours.
JH: We gotta find some hook ups, man.
Thanks to Jeff for setting this up and taking the pictures.