An Interview With Threat Signal And Arkaea Front Man Jon Howard
Canadian melodic metallers Threat Signal just released their latest full-length album “Vigilance” on September 8th in North American and September 11th in Europe via Nuclear Blast Records. The band also had a headlining U.S. tour this summer alongside The Agonist, Flatline, and Thy Will Be Done. Vocalist Jon Howard, who also fronts Arkaea, talked with me about “Vigilance” and Threat Signal’s plans for the future.
xFiruath: Can you tell me a bit about how you started in music and how Threat Signal came together?
Jon: I got into music a long time ago. I probably started on piano when I was 11. Then I ditched piano because I hated the theory and everything. I got into guitar and started playing little Nirvana songs and things. Then I got into singing and formed Threat Signal in 2003. It started with just me, my cousin, and a friend down the street. It wasn’t really a serious project at the time, it was more just a recording project. We put our music on the Internet and the record label found us. We didn’t search for success or send out CDs to labels. Kind of a crazy start man, it kind of hit us by surprise.
xFiruath: How would you explain Threat Signal’s sound to someone who wasn’t familiar with your music?
Jon: It’s metal straight up, but it’s very melodic and diverse metal. It goes back to the roots and it’s got some rock elements in there. There’s thrash metal, groove metal, some acoustic guitars. It’s a very diverse project with a broad spectrum. There’s a little bit of everything. It’s straight up metal but it has a lot to offer.
xFiruath: Tell me about your new album “Vigilance.” What can fans expect from the album that they haven’t heard from you before?
Jon: “Under Reprisal” (Threat Signal’s first full-length album) is a good album but with this one we took a lot more time and we’re a lot more grown up now. “Under Reprisal” we recorded almost four years ago. We’ve grown since then and the new album is more dynamic. It offers the similar elements from the last album but it takes it a lot further. It’s more technical and heavier and more melodic. It’s such a mix, I’m really proud of this album. I think it kicks “Under Reprisal’s” ass personally.
xFiruath: You produced “Vigilance.” Have you ever done the production on an album before and how did it go?
Jon: I’ve always been interested in recording and I’ve been doing it for years. That’s how Threat Signal started. I recorded our demos and threw them up on the Internet. Ever since the beginning I’ve been recorded and I thought “why don’t I just do Threat Signal’s album?” I’ve progressed so far and learned so much, so I approached the label and asked to do the album. It’s kind of like a control thing. I knew exactly what I wanted to do and I didn’t want to let anyone else interfere. I wanted to take it under my wing and do exactly what I wanted. I did all the engineering, the tracking, the editing, the producing. I nearly did it all except for mixing and mastering. Big job man.
xFiruath: As far as lyrics go what do the lyrics on “Vigilance” deal with and who writes them?
Jon: I write all the lyrics and its basically everything that happens through my eyes. Whether it be personal experiences, how I view parts of the world and those situations. Each song has its own flavor and its own meaning. I never sat down to write a song just for the sake of writing a song. I have to be kind of fueled by an emotion. Something has to be bugging me or there’s something I’ve got to get off my chest and talk about. Every song has a meaning. The first song on the album was kind of like a more personal song. I got a lot more personal with this album. The first song was about a friend who died in a car accident. It was constantly on my mind. I couldn’t stop thinking about it so I had to write about it. It was such a bullshit accident. An off duty cop tried to blow a red light and nailed my friend. It shouldn’t have happened, it was stupid. But I always try to look on the positive side and with that one of the lines was “I’ll see you in the next life.”
xFiruath: How do the Threat Signal songs get put together? Does everyone right their own stuff and then put it all together?
Jon: It’s kind of a mix. We all kind of collaborate and we write or own stuff by ourselves. We kind of bring it together. We don’t sit together as a band and try to write, it’s more individual. It’s the same writing process we used for “Under Reprisal.” We sat alone with our guitar and computer and we tab it out in Guitar Pro. We send each other files and then kick the shit out of them until we form a song. Then we come in and demo it to make changes that way. It’s always been that way. We’ve never been a jam band. I do a lot of the arranging but I’m open to all ideas and open to every member bringing in riffs. In this new album every member brought something to the table.
xFiruath: You guys did a video shoot for “Through My Eyes” not too long ago. Tell me about that.
Jon: We headed down to New Jersey the director from Raging Nation Films. He’s done Hatebreed and Trivium and a bunch of bands. We went to some old abandoned chemical factory. It was a real shit hole, it was where a metal video should be done. It was kind of a throwback to the old “5 Minutes Alone” Pantera video. It really focuses on the close-ups of the guitars and drums and the playing aspect of things. It turned out really intense and it’s a cool video.
xFiruath: What’s up next for Threat Signal? Any tour dates coming up?
Jon: We just got off a full headlining U.S. tour, that was about 30 shows. Came home and did our CD release party. We’re pushing for doing opening tours. We want to open for some bigger acts. We’re pushing to do some tours throughout U.S. and Europe and maybe even Canada again.
xFiruath: What’s going on with your other band Arkaea?
Jon: We’re heading out in a few weeks for a U.S. tour opening for Kittie and Soil. That’s our first tour, we’ve only played one show before. We have a fresh new album, so that’s two new albums out. One band couldn’t keep me busy enough I had to get another one.
xFiruath: What sort of music do you listen to outside of your bands Threat Signal and Arkaea?
Jon: It’s kind of funny I was listening to a lot of Sybreed, this band from Switzerland. I loved them so much I contacted them and asked if they wanted to open for our headlining tour. They’re huge fans of Threat Signal so it was killer. They opened for us so I watched them every night. That’s one of the not-very-known bands I’ve been listening too lately, everyone should check them out. I always hang out in the crowd and have drinks. I rarely hide out in the van. You’ve got to party every night and have fun.
xFiruath: I’ve got one final question that isn’t music related. I had the opportunity to interview vocalist Patrick Loisel from Augury, who is from Quebec. He was explaining to me the separatist movement in Quebec and I’d be interested in hearing your take on that since you are from a different area of Canada.
Jon: Quebec kind of seems like another world over there sometimes. I drive over there and it’s very, very French. I guess they wanted to separate and have their own country. I kind of think it’s ridiculous. They should be proud to be Canadian and proud to be where they are from. Honestly I just stay out of it. We got to Quebec and I don’t know French very well. Everyone thinks Canadians are supposed to know a lot of French but I couldn’t pick up on it. I dropped out of French in school, it’s a tough language. I have a lot of fun in Quebec though, that’s for sure.
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