Latest release: Threat Signal (Nuclear Blast/Riot!)Band site: www.threatsignal.com

Canadian melodic death metallers Threat Signal have been on the cusp of major things for several years now and all of their hard work may just come to fruition with the release of their new self-titled album. We chatted with vocalist Jon Howard about Threat Signal, touring plans, the future of “supergroup” Arkaea and seven-string guitars.

Q: The band is three albums into your career, so why did you feel this was the right time for a self-titled record?
A: We’ve been working very hard for the past seven years and against all odds, we are still here. It’s very hard to survive in this industry as a band at our level, there is no money so you really have to survive on the passion of the music. I’ve always said since the beginning that if we can make it to our third record, we’ll know where we stand in this crazy music industry, and our third record will be very important for us. Well… we’ve made it this far and I couldn’t be more proud. I really hope this record turns some heads because we’ve put everything we’ve got into it. The musicianship and writing on this record is at its finest as well, so all in all, I deem this record very worthy of being self-titled.

Q: Good to hear. I understand the band also experimented with seven-string guitars on this album. Why did you decide to go this way and are you completely satisfied with the results?
A: We had been experimenting with seven-strings since the beginning actually, we just didn’t choose to take that route because a lot of other bands were already doing that. For this third record we felt it was time for a change, we had been playing in drop C for the past two records, so we chose to drop it down to A# this time. The tuning change made everything sound much heavier and darker; it also offered my vocals a different range to sing in. Everything just became more evil… We are very happy the way the record turned out. You can expect Threat Signal to be experimenting with seven-strings more often now.

Q: How was the experience of working with producer Zeuss on this album?
A: It was great actually, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience tracking this record. We chose Zeuss to produce this record because we wanted an experienced outside opinion on the new music and sound of the band. After demoing the new songs for months on end, we tend to get used to the way the songs are and hesitate to hear them played any other way. With a fresh set of ears and the amazing musical knowledge Zeuss has, he was able to hear things we simply could not. He could pick out changes and offer new ideas to make the songs better. Also we needed Zeuss to push our performance in the studio to the best of our ability. He’s really good and hearing the worst parts of your playing and pushing you to improve in every way. His engineering skills are top-notch as well, so this record sounds larger than life.

Q: Indeed. In what other ways do you feel it is an improvement upon your previous releases?
A: This album is our most technical yet. The musicianship on this record is just insane; those guys pushed themselves very hard and pulled off some things I’ve never heard before. I’ve also really harnessed my vocal style. The past two records I found myself search for the right style and voice for the band. After several years of singing I know feel very comfortable with my voice and am very confident with my vocals. We basically found ourselves musically on this record and stayed very focused to that sound.

Q: What are your touring plans for the new album and can we expect a visit to Australia at some point?
A: No solid plans yet. Speaking about tours in Europe and North America, but nothing I can say for certain yet. Playing Australia would be a dream for me. I’ve always wanted to visit there, let alone play there. I really hope some magic happens and we can land a tour in Australia soon.

Q: Threat Signal has experienced a few lineup changes during the past 18 months. How stable is the current incarnation of the band?
A: Seems to be very stable at the moment! I feel like we’ve reached our peak of musicianship with these members, I couldn’t ask for a better band right now. We’ve changed so members so frequently in the past mainly due to financial reasons. It’s very hard to survive in this industry as a band at our level, we make little to no money. We basically have to do it for the love of music, but that really doesn’t pay the bills… Many members get overwhelmed and are forced to quit. I really hope our new record does well and I can actually hook my boys up with some money.

Q: (Laughs) Threat Signal also shares two members with Arkaea (also featuring former members of Fear Factory), including yourself. What is the latest on that project?
A: Yes, Pat (Kavanagh, bass/vocals) and myself are in Arkaea. We haven’t worked together on that project for about two years; however we’ve been in touch and are planning to write some new material when we have the time. I had a blast working with Arkaea, so I would love to write a new record soon and get working with that band again. I wish I could clone myself so I could work even more (laughs).

Q: On a more personal note, are there any new releases you’ve been enjoying lately?
A: I’ve been listening to the new Chimaira album lately, it’s very dark this time around and I’m loving it. Other than that, I haven’t been listening to anything new lately.

Q: If you had to give our readers three essential albums, regardless of genre, what would they be and why?
A: Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power. This is real heavy metal, kids! Don’t forget that metal can be heavy as fuck but still be melodic. This band knew how to have a great time and play some great metal. Watch the video Pantera 3 and you’ll know exactly what I mean.
Alice in Chains’ Dirt. A great hard rock record. Layne (Staley) is one of my favourite singers ever and should be recognized forever. The harmony singing between Jerry (Cantrell) and Layne is untouchable. The dark feeling over this whole record is just something that can never be re-created.
Metallica’s …And Justice for All. It’s fuckin’ old school Metallica! Enough said.

Q: What was the first album you bought with your own money, and if it wasn’t a metal record, what was also the first metal release you purchased?
A: Oh man…. When I was really young my mum took me to the record store to buy my first record. I wanted a Madonna album but my cousin picked that, so I ended up getting Kim Mitchell. You’ve gotta respect Kim if you’re a Canadian. I hear him on the radio ‘till this day and it always brings me back. As for metal, I bought a tape called Ride the Lightning from Metallica, that shit changed my life. Still love that record.

Q: Any famous last words?
A: Thanks so much for the support. Spread the word, you’re all we’ve got.