Alarming Sounds: Threat Signal on lighting the flame of Vigilance

Threat Signal - Canadian, heavy and proud of it. What's not to like? Hellishly loud thrashy melodic death from the great white north might cause avalanches, though...

You know your band’s on a winning streak when you’re able to land yourself on a bill with melodic death metal mainstays such as Arch Enemy and Soilwork - and have yourself just as revered for your driving melodies and fist-pumping riffs even though you’re not from Gothenburg. Canada’s Threat Signal have certainly raised the attention and earned the adulation of fans and the forgers of metallic destiny themselves - the industry - their rapid success astounding even the band itself.

“The speed of our success when we started the band was completely overwhelming.,” says founding member, producer and master of all things vocal, Jon Howard. “We did not expect to be picked up by a major label so fast and I feel very accomplished on how much we achieved in such a short period of time," he says.

“Originally, we were just three friends recording music in a bedroom ... and managed to gain a lot of record label attention, which in turn pushed us to find more members to start a full band.”

With any new band these days, plugging oneself on the internet – MySpace and YouTube in particular – is an absolute must for a band to expose its music to an audience, as Jon tells us.

“If it wasn’t for the internet spreading our home recordings around to fans and people in the industry, we would have had to work a lot harder to get to where we are today. YouTube has played a large role in getting us seen and heard around the world.  We haven’t had the chance to leave North America and play for the other fans around the world due to money constraints and whatever, but sites like YouTube make us available to everyone.  It’s an amazing thing. “

Even social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter are a big part of the Threat Signal culture, Jon confesses.

“We take time every single day to update our social networking sites. We are always checking emails, replying to fans, and updating personal messages on Twitter.  The other day [guitarist] Travis [Montgomery] posted this on Twitter and I thought it made a lot of sense. ‘A twitter is the space between a twat and a shitter,’” he laughs.

Although their new and hotly anticipated record entitled Vigilance won’t hit shelves until September, Jon wants to assure fans that the sound is as close to what one can experience at a live show – raw, groovy and punishing.

“We wanted the album to sound very similar to us playing live. There is still a lot of production behind some of the songs, but I think with this album you really get a feeling of what Threat Signal sounds like on stage,” Jon reveals before having a ponder.

“Well, maybe if we played every note perfect every night...” He laughs. “We love early groove metal, drinkin’ beer and headbanging to badass riffs, so that’s what we did!”

In an industry that demands the swift manufacture of records from often fatigued artists, Jon, to his delight tells us that Vigilance is by no means a rush job, having a turnaround of over six months from demoing to mastering. Even the label recognised the band's want for an organic touch, allowing them to continue without external interference in the band’s home studio.

“Since the writing and recording of our demos was going so well, we didn’t want to lose that vibe. So we approached the label and asked if we could produce the album and continue recording in my home studio.” Jon explains, having also served as producer.

“Since they loved the demos, they let me take control and produce my first album. Being in my home studio is a much more relaxed and cost-efficient way of working. This way we could go back and fix anything we weren’t satisfied with until we were completely happy with the record.”

Atypical for a thrashy death metal record, Threat Signal places great importance on vocals, making them as integral to the sound as the guitars or drums. Jon believes that the quality of vocals can “usually make or break a band” and that it’s “very important that every vocal part is strong, well thought-out, and catchy.”

Nevertheless, Jon still assures us that “there are still a lot of musical breaks with guitar solos, leads, and even acoustic parts…the musicians in this band are very well rounded. We experiment with electric guitars, acoustic guitars, piano, and even electronics. I feel it’s very important to have a wide range of musical tastes and skill to maintain a sense of diversity in our music. I don’t want to be in strictly death metal band, or light rock band; either would be boring to me. I like to mix everything together.”

Unfortunately, the band up until recently resembled chaos; line-up changes seemed to be the norm instead of the exception, as Jon explains.

“The old Threat Signal was a complete mess personally then eventually our music suffered as well. Threat Signal never really had a solid line up until 2007, there were always line up changes and other bullshit. However, now we've been running strong for years, and I finally feel I have a solid band that will stick together for a long time.  I would be lying if I said it didn’t affect our music changing a lot of our members, but I think it opened up new doors and make for a more dynamic band. We still have the old Threat Signal sound, but now its stepped up a notch and a new flavor has been added.”

What fans will be able to taste on their metallic palette will surprise some – a zesty blend of old and new metal styles as Jon says, which seems to be emblematic of the environment that cultivated their sound.

“We love the old school metal, and the modern day metal, and it totally shows in our music. We still rock out to a lot of early Pantera, Zakk Wylde, Metallica, Testament, etc. There is definitely an old school metal influence to our music. Canada has a very diverse music scene.  It does seem that a lot of bands here are pushing to do something a little different and original.”

Having played the huge shows with glamorous headliners, Jon still prefers the intimacy of a small club and the warm glow of a crowd standing mere inches away.

“We've only played one festival... It was an amazing experience, but a lot different than the club scene,” Jon humbly tells us.

“I find playing small clubs I can really feel the energy of the crowd, and that pushes me even harder. But with a larger show I have to rely more on my own energy because the crowd is so far away.  I think both have their ups and downs, but honestly I’m just extremely grateful to play in front of a crowd, big or small.”

Hopefully Jon and band would enjoy the small club culture of Australia and the Pacific, keeping all his fingers crossed to visit Down Under – if all goes to plan.

“We plan to tour the shit out of this new album.  And to keep writing, playing, and having a great time of course. It’s all about doing what we love and having fun doing it. That’s the most important thing for us. However, it’s always been one of my dreams – to visit Australia,” he beams. “I know we will get there, it’s just a matter of time. Hopefully this record does well and we'll see you soon!"

With their goals firmly in place, it seems that Australia will wake up one day soon to the panic and fury of a Threat Signal show – so lets sound the alarm!

Threat Signal's Vigilance will hit the stores in early September this year.