An Interview with Jon Howard from Threat Signal: Winding Up

Comprised of mainly Canadian heavy metallers, Threat Signal have made an understated mark on the contemporary scene that they have managed to maintain for a decade. With a dedicated fanbase behind them, this band has toured consistently for years and will be pioneering new territory with Chimaira this summer. Although it has been some time since their self-titled release through Nuclear Blast, the gears of Threat Signal are in motion, working toward a 2014 full-length. Since their conception, the guys have been working to better themselves as musicians as well as a band. For Threat Signal, this was never about reaping the monetary benefits.

This is the philosophy that has kept them motivated and grounded for all this time. Vocalist Jon Howard took the time to speak with me about the future, past, and present for Threat Signal. Here is what he had to say:

You guys are going to be supporting Chimaira on tour this July and August. What made you jump at the opportunity?

Oh, man, we’ve been wanting to tour with Chimaira since we started Threat Signal back in 2006. I’ve always been a fan of Chimaira. Love that band, I still listen to them all the time. Our management worked it out like, “You want to go on a tour with Chimaira?” Like, you don’t even have to ask the question; right away yes, hell yes. We get to be direct support; we’re actually rotating with The Browning.

What has the band been up to in 2013 so far?

Yeah, a lot of people ask that, like, “What the hell have Threat Signal been up to?” Threat Signal hasn’t been doing too much. We’ve been just writing slowly and looking for tours. It’s tough being a metal band at this stage, finding the right tours, the tours that pay well enough to actually do. Some of them don’t, but you want to do them anyway. Kind of like the Chimaira one; it’s like, an amazing opportunity, but you’re going to go broke, kind of, touring.

That’s why we started an Indiegogo campaign, to try and raise funds online, and that’s been helping us; that’ll be great. We’re working on that right now, writing some new music. I’ve been working on running a recording studio up in Hamilton, Ontario. I’ve been tracking some local bands and mixing a few bands from overseas. I also build guitars.

Sounds like you’ve been busy.

Yeah, I keep very busy. Honestly, I don’t stop. Like, if I have a free minute, I still do something. My day consists of waking up at seven in the morning, going to the woodshop building guitars, coming home around noon, tracking bands all day, mixing bands, and just chipping away at Threat Signal writing. It’s all music all day.

Your last record, the self-titled, came out two years ago. Any plans to put out an album in the near future with the material you’re writing?

Yeah, definitely. We were tossing around an idea of throwing out an EP. We don’t want to make the fans wait too long. The idea of the EP was just bouncing around like, “Screw it man, let’s just write a whole record, track a whole record.”

We’re talking about recording in the winter this year, probably November/December in the studio. One idea was just tracking it in my studio, because that would be nice; very relaxing, don’t have to go anywhere, travel anywhere. We could all do it at home, take our time with it, kind of like what we did with our record Vigilance. We took our time and just had fun with it. It might be a good idea to do that again.

What motivates you to get focused and write new music?

Yeah, I know what you mean; sometimes I feel uninspired. It’s basically the world around me, what I see, what I experience, situations and events that happen in my life or someone else’s life. Maybe something I see on the news. It’s kind of like something that really grabs me and I can relate to.

My lyrics jump around all over the place. I’ll talk about some world issues, maybe some conspiracy theories, maybe I’ll dive into some personal stuff, maybe drama in my life or something that’s going on with the family. Anything that creates emotions, something I’ve got to get out of myself and just write it out. The music usually comes first. The guys will just start writing and we’ll work together, but lyrics are just all me.

Many great bands within your genre hail originally from Canada. What have you taken with you since your days as a fledgling band up until now?

I think just our passion to just keep doing this. It’s been a lot of years since we started this band; we’ve had a few members changes and we’ve been through a lot. We still are hungry, we’re not getting lazy. We still love the music we’ve always loved. We’re just a hard-working band. We still go in the tour van, we’ll still sleep in the van. We don’t have any crew, we’ll just do it ourselves. We don’t care, we love it. Some bands, as they get older, maybe they get lazy, want more money and shit like that. We’re still pushing on, man. We love it.

Threat Signal are making a tour stop at the Gramercy Theatre on Aug. 21. Are you familiar with the other bands that are supporting Chimaira alongside you guys?

It’s us, Chimaira, The Browning and Dark Sermon. Most of the shows have openers, but I don’t know who they are. The only band that I know is Chimaira. The Browning I just checked out the other day and it’s pretty interesting stuff; I can’t wait to check them out live. Dark Sermon, I hadn’t heard of them until the tour.

It’s just like any other tour; you jump on with bands that you don’t really know sometimes and you get to know them live. The live show is a very powerful thing, it draws a lot of people in. It’s why we keep doing it. The live show is everything.

How do you feel the band’s sound and playing has evolved over the years?

You’re always learning. You learn things along the way. When I recorded our first record in 2005, I was just trying to figure out how to sing. I was a guitarist. The only reason I started singing was because no one else could. Then when I formed this band, Threat Signal, I wanted to do the brutal vocals and the singing vocals. Some days when I was tracking I was blowing my voice out, getting really tired. My technique was just not up to par.

Over the years, I’ve kind of harnessed my technique, controlled my voice more. I’m more comfortable. Not up until our most recent record I felt the most comfortable. Now, I am personally at a spot where I can really control myself. I kind of know what I want to do. I just feel comfortable. It’s all about learning along the way. The guys and I have become better friends. I’m 31 now, I started the band 10 years ago. You learn a lot.

What music are you into right now?

Probably bands that I am recording. Other than that, I picked up the new Soilwork a couple months ago. Love that record. The new Alice In Chains, I listen to that a lot. Chains never disappoints; Layne Staley is probably my favorite singer. He’s not around anymore, but fucking Jerry [Cantrell] holds it down, man. That band never disappoints.

What do you hope to accomplish that you have not yet?

I just hope to keep going, to keep enjoying myself. This whole ride has just been about having fun. I’m not out to make a lot of money, I never was. Just to have fun, that’s still my goal.

When we get home from tour, we all have jobs. This is not our main source of income; we’re a metal band, right? We make a couple bucks here and there, but whatever. Just enjoying myself and doing it with my band members. If I’m not having fun with my band members or the band, why the hell do it, right? At this point, it’s going really great. We’re super excited for this tour. I’m just stoked to see the guys again and hang out.

What plans do you have for the band after this summer?

After the Chimaira tour, we’re home for about four weeks and then we’re going over to Europe. We’re going to be direct support for The Agonist and we’re touring Europe and the UK for a five-week tour. I can’t wait for those dates to come in, I’m excited. Hell yeah! And we actually get a tour bus, so we don’t have to drive.

After that, we’re talking about doing another record. We’re looking at maybe starting in November or December. I was talking to the guys the other day, we’re looking at tracking then and recording then. Hopefully, like an early 2014 release or something. That will be our fourth record. I can’t believe we’ve made it this far.

Threat Signal will perform at NYC’s Gramercy Theatre on Aug. 21. For more information, go to