Threat Signal are back once again with a brand new CD entitled Vigilance, which according to Jon Howard, is heavy and melodic at the same time. The band is getting ready to hit the road in support of this CD and they plan on promoting the hell out of it. Lead singer Jon Howard took some time out of his busy schedule to speak to us about the recording process for the new release, Vigilance and what fans of the band can expect when it hits the stores.
Many of your songs are so hard and intense that I am sure they translate well into a live setting taking on a whole new life in front of a live audience. How does it make you feel when the emotion and power that you envisioned in the recording studio, come to life while playing in front of a crowd?
Jon: There’s no better feeling in the world playing live on stage in front of an intense crowd. Seeing the fans sing along to the songs we’ve worked so hard on, is completely overwhelming.
What was the writing process like for this CD? Did you guys all write together? How long did it take?
Jon: The writing process was very similar to the first record. We all write songs in a program called guitar pro, which tabs our ideas and plays them back to us in midi notes. Each member would work on a riff or song idea alone, and then send their ideas to the rest of us to add to. Once a song is complete, we record it with real instruments as a demo, and then I add vocals. We never work on a song in the jam room; it is always worked on through recording and computers. The writing for this album took over a year while we were on and off from touring. It was a very fun experience writing Vigilance! We did not sit down and say, let’s make a really heavy album or a melodic album, we just wrote what we felt and left the possibilities open. Everyone in the band contributed their flavor to this one.
Give us some insight into the record Vigilance and the meaning behind its title?
Jon: I was looking for a title that represents my lyrics. I always have my eyes open to the world, watching what’s going on and asking questions. This is how I find inspiration for my lyrics, actually paying attention to the world around me, not just drifting through life thinking everything is perfect. Vigilance meaning to be watchful and aware, it’s the perfect title to sum everything up.
Give us some insight into the album lyrically. This is a super pissed off sounding record.
Jon: Of course some songs may sound pissed off since I was in a dark place while writing some of the album. I got a little more emotional with this record and just spoke my mind. However amidst all the negativity in the world I always try to put a positive spin on things. There is enough hate in the world to sing about forever, so I try to offer a brighter side to that darkness, some strength and hope.
What can fans expect when they pick up a copy of Vigilance?
Jon: Vigilance is a very diverse metal album. It is heavy and melodic at the same time, and not one song sounds alike. We use many of the same elements as the first record, but we push them even further and add have added a new flavor. From thrash to groove, this album has got it all.
Are there any tracks on this disc that are personal favorites or that have interesting stories behind them?
Jon: Each song means something to me; I’m very close to all of them. I did not just throw words together for the sake of creating a song. “Afterlife” was written about a close friend who died in a car accident last year, I could not stop thinking about her so it came out in my lyrics. She was hit by an off duty cop who ran a red light, he received a small fine and a short license suspension for pleading guilty. You would think there would be more justice for careless driving and taking a life. The only positive spin I put on this song was: “I’ll see you in the next life”.
How quick are you in the studio? Can you usually knock things out in a couple takes?
Jon: Depends on the song and the riff we are throwing down. Some parts will only be a take or two; some may take a little more. We are very well rehearsed when entering the studio, so generally tracking of rhythm guitars, bass, and drums doesn’t take too long. We took a long time experimenting with guitar overdubs and keyboards though, which was a more experimental process with sounds and playing.
Do you think about distinguishing the drum performances and sounds from release to release?
Jon: This time around we really paid attention to the drum sounds and performance. I think it is very important to find great sounding drums and to distinguish some form of style as well. I worked hard on finding the right snare and kick sound this time; I believe that’s the most important part of the kit.
How do you think your live show differs from your recordings?
Jon: We replicate our recordings very well live! I have fans that tell me they were blown away because they didn’t think we could pull the song off as good as the recording. We spend a lot of time rehearsing and preparing for a live show, it is very important for us to sound like the recordings. I guess the only difference would be the rawness and energy of a life show. Our album is very intense to listen to, but seeing a live show is very energetic and powerful.
How do you maintain that level of energy and exuberance? You sound like you are ready to go full bore every time you play.
Jon: We go full out every single night. It doesn’t matter if we are playing to 500 people or 10 people. The music provides the energy to put on a killer show. Playing shows every night can be tough if you don’t take care of yourself. We do party and hang out, but we are smart about it. It’s very easy to run your body down on the road and get sick, so we are cautious of that.
What is the toughest lesson you ever learned in the studio and on the stage?
Jon: I learned a long time ago not to settle for a mediocre take in the studio just because time is running out. Spend the extra money; fix the parts you are not 100% happy with. The world is listening and these recordings last forever, you’ll be kicking yourself later! Live I learned not to do too many whiskey shots before a show! Bad for the voice, plus you may talk some shit that you shouldn’t in the mic.
What is next for Threat Signal?
Jon: TOUR TOUR TOUR!!! We are ready to tour the world and promote the hell out of Vigilance. Thanks for listening to me ramble and we’ll see you soon.