Interviews : Misery Signals
With Kyle Johnson (questions 1-13) and Jesse Zaraska (questions 14-17)
Deadtide is a metal zine. Thus, it is seldom when a band outside of the metal realm gets any sort of recognition in our pages. Yet Misery Signals is an exception. Technical yet not chaotic, heartfelt hardcore with a heavy dose of metal influence makes up an impressive combination of styles that sounds unlike any other band in the genre. The band's first full-length, Of Malice and the Magnum Heart, could be the best hardcore release of 2004, easily reigning over the likes of Unearth and Killswitch Engage. It is that good!
I must confess, I missed you guys when you played with As Hope Dies at a small club in Tampa but you totally blew me away on your Ferret debut. What do you attribute such rapid development from a MCD into an amazing full-length?
Well with the Ep I feel like we may have rushed into it a bit....we wanted to keep the momentum that 7 Angels 7 Plagues left with so we felt we needed to get something out there as quick as we could and from there hit the road. There were some advantages to that and some disadvanages as well.
Most of you were in other well-known hardcore acts before starting Misery Signals. How have the fans of your previous bands responded to Misery Signals?
The majority of people who were 7 Angels 7 Plagues fans and Compromise fans are also Misery Signals fans. there are a few that would disagree but you know how that goes.
What distinguishes Misery Signals from other hardcore/metalcore bands is the aura of depression and hopelessness that fills each and every one of your compositions. I don't know if it is intentional or not but you guys wrote one of the saddest and most passionate records of 2004. What is the reason, if any, for writing such depressing songs?
Well a big theme of the record deals with one of the most depressing issues imaginable and that is the loss of friends. whether that means Losing two friends to a drunk driver or losing a friend of 6 years over selfishness. Either way there arent many things in life that are more important than friends but the record is not meant to leave you with a depressing feeling....but actually a feeling of hope.....or that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that you have to keeping pushing on.
The Year Summer Ended in June is the only song you used on the full-length from your 5-song MCD on State of Art. It is an amazing track. What is the significance of that song to you or did you pick it only because it is a great track?
Well we felt if mixed well with the new songs we were writing. It has similar elements about it which make it almost necessary that it be a part of the full length.
Nowadays, the line between what's considered hardcore and what's metal is blurred. What in your opinion separates a heavy band like Misery Signals from the more metal bands of the genre? Does it really make a difference how you're labeled?
There are really many things that separate us from most other metal/hardcore bands. We dont write music with the mindset of it being hardcore enough or metal enough...we write with the mindset of creating something different but also incorporating our metal/hardcore influences. there are no bands that we try to sound like or try to rip off but there are defietly a few bands that we are compared to quite a bit only because these are bands weve been listening to for years. everyone has influences that shine through in their songwriting but i believe in the genre of metal or hardcore misery signals strives to keep trying new things in order to take it to the next level.
Much of the spoken vocals on the album remind me of Shai Hulud. Unintentional or one of your influences? What are some other bands that you look up as musicians?
Well I would definetly consder shai hulud to be an influence on at least a couple members of this band but as far as the spoken vocals i dont think that shai hulud would get the credit for that. I mean bands have been doing it for years including bands that I have been in in the past. As far as other influences i would have to say bands such as Meshuggah, Metallica, Glassjaw, Cave In (older), and a few more would be pretty big influences.
The vocals are one of the strongest points of the band. They exude so much passion. It is also fresh not to hear every song get ruined by unnecessary clean vocals but it works rather well on Difference of Vengeance and Wrongs. Why did you decide to use clean vocals on that last track?
Well we were writing up in canada for 4 months and when it came up it just so happened that we had a friend up there with an incredibe voice so we just decided to try it out and we were happy with how it sounded so we brought him to the studo with us. We sort of put in on the cd as a bonus track type thing....thats why its last. its considered a real song but its not what we consider a strong track on the cd and its also not the direction we intend on heading just incase anyone was wondering. basically to sum it up its more of an experimental track thatn anything.
I know a band wrote a great album when I listen to the latter tracks as much as the first four. Songs like Murder, On Account of An Absence and Five Years are up there with some of the better songs by other bands this year. How difficult was it to arrange the song order for the album?
Oh it was a nightmare. we must have arranged the songs 15-20 times by the time we found an order we were happy with. We all knew that this was one of the most important aspects to the cd so we spent alot of time with it. Listening back i feel like we hit it right on the head though and that the time was well worth it.
Is it difficult to come up with a set list or are there some songs that kids seem to like more than others?
Yeah we all tend to butt heads with this issue. there are a few songs that kids seem to prefer but we try not to let that be the only issue in creating out set list. The most inportant thing to doing this is not playing all the popular songs nesessarily but to have a set that flows from beginning to end and keeps the audiences attention the whole time. Its a very hard thing to do.
Devin Townsend is not one of the so-called "scene" producers. Why go with him? How did you approach him?
Jesse (vocals) has been friends with devin for years. He's always admired devins work and once we were all introduced to it we fell in love. I still feel like its once of the better productions ive heard in a long time thanks to devin and i wouldnt be suprised if we continue to work with dev in the future.
Do you feel like he was truly able to understand and get into Misery Signals?
Absolutely. We gave devin a copy of the EP and he instantly was hooked on it. In the studio i think he seemed just as into it as we were. it was actually quite flattering coming from somebody of such noteriety.
I love how the disk ends with the opening melody. Did you work with a certain concept for Of Malice and the Magnum Heart?
I cant say that we did. certain things like that obviously brought the record together as a whole but we didnt really have the time to get to crazy although personally i would have loved to.
The artwork, while simple in nature, represents an interesting idea: a human puppet controlled by strings from above. What is the concept behind the artwork? Any anti-religious overtones here?
I suppose it can be taken that way. Thats not really the intent we had completely but I suppose a few members of the band have beliefs that are along those lines. We actually just happened to find Travis (Smith, designer) a few weeks before the artword was due in so he put something together for us. He came upwith all of it on his own although wede talked about the concept of puppets several months before.
The album title, Of Malice and Magnum Heart is also thought-provoking. What is the so-called "magnum heart" you are talking about?
Magnum heart is just referring to someone with a large heart. Of malice is referring to the world. To me, I guess it's about how hard it is for someone true of heart to remain that way in this world.
Lyrically, Misery Signals "fights" against a world full of treachery and cowardice. How would you sum up the message you're trying to convey?
I just write words about things I know. Most of the time, things I want to get out. I dont know if we are fighting against anything or trying to convey any sort of message overall. I think I am a good person. I want others around me to be as well.
Some of you have gone through incredible trials and tribulations as individuals in your previous bands. What made you go on and continue playing music and touring and not simply shut the door on being a musician?
All that was sacrificed in the past would be lost had we given in. Even though the situation is extraordinary, I figured we had to give it a shot. To not do so, would have left too many unanswered questions and too many nights at home at a time when i really didnt need to be sitting around thinking about shit. Plus, we all love what we do. Touring and playing is a great way to live. Music has always been a large part of all our lives.
What keeps you going now?
As cliche as it sounds, I would have to say the kids are what keep me going. Many nights on tour I have contemplated my future with the band, and many nights I have have been on the verge of giving in. But having kids at shows singing every word and having kids come up to me after shows and telling me about how our songs and words really helped them always keeps me going. To know that I have actually connected on that level with someone that I've never met is an awesome thing.