MISERY INDEX "Heir Supply"

Interview with Jason Netheron

by Joe Who?

"The dictionary is the only place where success comes before work" of my favorite quotes that speaks the truth and also best describes the career of Baltimore, Maryland's thinking man's grinders Misery Index. For ten plus years, they've taken their knowledge, honed in on their craft and built a career from the ground up.

The group's latest release "Heirs To Thievery" is an absolute triumph in terms of determination and perserverance paying off. Perfecting their trademark fast and furious grind attack and mixing it with musical versatility has provided them with a fuller sound, while their powerful lyrical diatribes continue to be as intense and insightful as ever.

During a recent tour stop in Milwaukee opening for Dying Fetus, bassist/vocalist Jason Netherton took a few minutes of his time to talk to me about the new album, evolution, history and a lot more...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: You guys just recently completed a tour of Australia. How did it go?

JASON NETHERTON: It was fantastic. First time down there and we didn't know what to expect. We were lucky enough to be on a good tour supporting Decapitated, Origin and Psycroptic. With that kind of package, the shows were stacked. I mean, some of them had like four, five hundred people. It was a little hectic because we had to fly everyday. The cities were so far apart that you gotta fly in the morning...they're just short flights, though. But yeah, we did five shows in all five major cities plus one city in New Zealand and it was a good response. We were happy to be there, it was the experience of a lifetime.

WC: I hear Misery Index is now a trio. What happened with Sparky? Did he give you guys advance notice that he was leaving the band?

JN: Well, he said he didn't wanna do this tour with us and he wasn't into it anymore. He's just getting tired of it.

WC: The touring lifestyle can take its toll after a while, I bet...

JN: Yeah, we wish him the best, there's no hard feelings or anything.

WC: "Heirs To Thievery" has just been recently released and kicks major ass! Can you tell me about the creative process and what goals you wanted to accomplish with this album?

JN: Thanks! We just finished touring for "Traitors" last summer in 2009 and we all had a lot of ideas going around. Mark (Kloppel, guitar/vocals) and Adam (Jarvis, drums) especially had a lot of inspiration and a lot of good riffs. So we planned out the last four months of 2009 to sit down and write. We demoed the whole record at our home studio before we took it to the real studio.

WC: Wasn't that the home studio of Darrin Morris from the band Criminal Element?

JN: Yeah, he's here tonight, actually...he's guitar teching for Dying Fetus. That helped us out because a lot of the decisions we might have had to make in the studio we did ahead of time. So we had the blueprint ready to go. We felt like we got our sound how we wanted it on "Traitors". We've always had this mix of punk, grind and death metal and I guess it took us a while to refine it. So we feel with "Traitors", it's the perfect mix of all that and it's what we've been trying to do all along.

WC: Misery Index has been around for ten, twelve years now. Did you ever think you'd make it this far?

JN: No, not at all. I mean, it still feels the same but it's just been a wild journey of touring, seeing the world and hanging out with friends. We definitely feel like now we've established ourselves. It's taken awwhile with the lineup changes that we had in earlier years. But now we really feel like we've come to be what we always wanted to be...especially with these guys I'm working with now. So, yeah, I never thought I'd be doing it today and I still am, I guess! (laughter)

WC: I notice the last two albums share some similarities and could tie together. Did you have these ideas thought out in advance? Or was it just a coincidence?

JN: I think it's a natural progression of our writing styles and working together. When Adam and Mark first joined the band, we recorded "Discordia" very quickly and we were sort of unhappy with the way it turned out. We learned what we would've done differently with that album and made "Traitors", which came out how we wanted it. But yeah, "Heirs" is sort of like a continuation of that album...a further progression of those influences.

WC: Can you elaborate on the different influences you guys bring to the table that have helped transform the Misery Index style to where you are now?

JN: Well, I was firmly entrenched in punk, grind and attracted to more groovy brutal death metal. Whereas Mark liked a lot of black metal and other stuff that I never listened to. And Adam,too, came from a certain school...

WC: I also hear more emphasis on catchiness and some melodic parts on this album. I think it really shapes your sound better and prevents it from becoming stagnant. Do you agree?

JN: Yeah, because we like those elements. We want riffs with substance that are memorable. We just write songs that we wanna hear as fans and those components that you mentioned are things we feel makes the music better.

WC: The drumming really sticks out on this album. Were any new methods or techniques used while recording the drums?

JN: It was a new studio for us. We went to Wrightway Studios in Baltimore, which is a few blocks away from our rehearsal room. We've known about them because they actually mixed "Traitors", but we didn't record it there. After we did "Traitors", Dying Fetus heard it and recorded their last album "Descend Into Depravity" there. So we went and did our album there this time.

They have a great drum room. It's a big room and we took our time getting natural sounds. We're fortunate enough to have a drummer that hits very hard. We didn't have to do any replacement or studio doctoring to process the drums in any way. They're all natural...with the exception of the kicks, of course, which are a combination of trigger and natural kick. They're drum sounds that highlight Adam';s natural capabilities. Since he's a hard hitting drummer with a lot of finesse, we didn't have to use any studio trickery or anything like that, which is cool.

WC: Did you expand on your vocal range at all? Because you sound really strong on this album.

JN: Well, that's another thing about working with producer Steve Wright. He was very demanding with our takes. Even though he's not really a death metal producer, he was very attentive in pushing us to give very audible loud screams and not just mumble our words. So every take was very precise until we got the cleanest, most powerful take. We can thank him for getting it Steve Wright tight! (laughs)

WC: Backtracking a bit, you've collaborated with JF from Kataklysm and Kurt from Converge over the years. What was it like working with them? And what do you feel they brought to your albums that they contributed on?

JN: Well, JF was really cool to work with. I mean, every time you work with an engineer that's more laid back and patient, the better. We went to Quebec to record "Retaliate" at a studio out in the middle of nowhere in a park outside Montreal. It was killer! He captured our sound...we were just trying to figure out what do then and he helped us get our sound started.

When we recorded with Kurt, that was another cool experience because he has a different approach for doing things. He was really into capturing our live raw sound like he had done with Converge and all the other bands he's worked with. He's really into experimenting with different tones and stuff like that. We got a really good like drum sound out of there. So, yeah, we were really happy with "Traitors" and like I was saying before, he helped us to reach what we were trying to achieve.

WC: Inside the CD booklet, there's an interesting line that says: "Please do not read the lyrics whilst listening to the recordings." Is this some kind of reverse psychology tactic to get people to learn something from the lyrics?

JN: (chuckling No, it's kind of an inside joke. That's a band called Pulp from the U.K. that were big in the 90's. I always liked that guy's lyrics and I noticed he always put that line in the lyric booklet. I always thought that was funny. So right before I send over the text to Relapse for print, I added that in just for fun!

WC: Speaking of lyrics, did it feel like you were more of a story teller or a song writer with the history theme on this album?

JN: Well, the lyrics are very important to me for sure, but we always focus on the music first and foremost. I contributed three songs and Mark was the dominant songwriter this time around. We wrote some songs with the lyrics in mind, like "The Seventh Cavalry", for instance. It's really slow and haunting and it's supposed to give that vibe of native people watching their whole way of life die before them. It speaks about the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1898. So yeah, we do write to teach a little bit, sometimes.

WC: Do you consider "Heirs To Thievery" to be a concept album? Or is it intended to be an album with different lyrical ideas that don't necesarily support one subject?

JN: When we write albums, we like to have variation and because all of us write, there's already a natural variation between the songs. But as far as the concept goes, the title track and "The Seventh Cavalry" are the only ones that are loosely related to the American history theme. Everything else is within our typical Misery Index lyrical theme.

WC: Everyday life?

JN: Yeah.

WC: If you had to compare "Heirs To Thievery" with any book, what would it be?

JN: "People's History of the United States" by Howard Zinn, for sure. Especially with the title track, because that's the Bible for alternative American history. The old one included in a typical US History textbook doesn't fit the glorious narrative of our past. He wrote this alternative history and it's from the side of the working people...the people who really fought for the rights we have today.

WC: As a socially aware person who likes to reflect and contemplate, do you think things can change for the better? I mean, it seems like as we progress forward, there's always something that holds us back. How do you stay optimistic?

JN: By approaching things with a wide perspective and understanding that broad change and history happens very slowly. You can't expect certain things to change or get better within our lifetime. It can take generations. If you look back a hundred years ago, they didn't have some of the rights that we have today. Women couldn't vote, there were seven day work weeks, child labor, de facto segregation...all these things which at that time were normal and they couldn't have imagined anything different. But eventually those things changed in time. I just stay hopeful by not expecting too much, too soon, too fast. If there's a crisis or a collapse of some sort, it's important to prevent radical or fascist roots from growing out of that.

WC: Can you tell me about the album artwork and the message behind it?

JN: It's sort of meant to mimic a classical/traditional painting in a sense that our forefathers or the the heroes of American history who we glorify for certain valid reasons that helped build this country...and don't get me wrong, I think America is a great country with a lot of potential for a lot of great things...but all this wealth we've gained was expropriated from native people through a process of taking their land, breaking treaties, and expelling them further westward until we had control of everything. The cover is meant to show that the wealth we have from the land was taken from the backs of the poor, the Native Americans and the slaves.

WC: What's next for Misery Index after this tour?

JN: We're trying to get on a US tour in September, I'm still waiting to hear back on it. We're also gonna do European festivals in the summer and I think we're going to do a November European headlining tour.

WC: What do you guys do with your spare time between gigs?

JN: We sleep, drive, read books and we also like to sight see a lot. If we have time, we'll look at a map and see if there's a park. We like to pull over and go walk in the woods. It's good for the mind, you not just be in a night club everyday. So if there's anything we can do or see, we'll definitely check it out on the way.

WC: Thanks a lot for your time, Jason. Do you have any final words for your fans?

JN: Yeah, check out our new record "Heirs To Thievery". We feel it's our best work yet!