Interview: Misery Index
Now with Complete Control, I just feel like we have really solidified who we are as a band and our sound, and I think it was a natural progression to this point
Misery Index have just released their new album Complete Control and it’s a full on blast of death metal and grindcore with a strong hardcore influence resulting in a formidable and straight to the point collection of songs. Just as Misery Index were about to head out on the first tour to support Complete Control, Gavin Brown caught up with vocalist/bassist Jason Netherton to get an insight into the new album and the tour to support it as well as discussing hardcore, cover songs, artwork and festivals.
E&D: Your new album Complete Control is out now. How excited are you to be unleashing it on the world?
Jason: Could not be more happy. When the Covid shutdown happened in the spring of 2020, we were actually on the last days of a European tour. After that we did not meet up for a year and half. So, we got to songwriting and getting the riff-machine oiled up and crunching. We wrote songs for the most part individually, with each of us coming up with a few songs for the album, then when finally got together in May 2021 to demo everything out and see what we had. So, it was more or less just how we did the last few albums, writing songs separately, then arranging them collectively. The main thing is we just did not see each other for a longer time, and we started writing earlier than we might have (which is a good thing as we got the album out only three years after the last one in 2019). So now, over two years later, it feels like we are at the end of a long and winding road with the release date being May 13th 2022
E&D: Complete Control is the first Misery Index album since 2019s Rituals Of Power. Do you feel reenergised with this record?
Jason: I think in some ways that Rituals Of Power and Complete Control are companion pieces, both in terms of the lyrics and the music. I just think with Rituals we kind of entered a new stage of refinement in our songwriting and elevated our capabilities a bit as musicians. Now with Complete Control, I just feel like we have really solidified who we are as a band and our sound, and I think it was a natural progression to this point, it was not a decision to go in a single direction or not, it’s just we have hammered down our brand of death metal tinged with hardcore and grind overtones; we are confident and I think it shows in the album.
E&D: Can you tell us about the cover artwork for Complete Control?
Jason: It’s a piece designed by American visual artist Matt Lombard, who specialises in creating these types of transgressive body horror works, we came across him online, contacted him, and told him about the concept for the album, and what we thought might be cool. What he came up with is perfect for us, it really captures the internal contradictions and tension of the idea of ‘control’ and even turns it on its head, as the figure is literally coming apart and very much NOT in control.
E&D: It is your first album for Century Media records. How did you come to sign for the label?
Jason: We’ve had a few labels and it’s always been a good relationship, no hard feelings or anything with any of them, it’s just about finding the best relation for the current needs of the band. Right now we are 7 albums deep into our musical career and when our last contract was up with Season of Mist, we were approached by Century Media, and it just worked out that the stars aligned and the resources they offered were what we were looking for at this point. In short, that’s what the pros are – what they can do to help you get your music to more people. We also had some friends at the label who were fans of ours for a long time, so it felt like it was the right time to try something new.
E&D: You’ve just released the song ‘Infiltrators’ ahead of the album’s release. Can you tell us a bit about the song and its video?
Jason: It’s a song that I wrote actually a number of years ago, which I had sitting around and was not sure what to do with. For a long time it felt like kind of an intro song like ‘March of the SOD’ or what have you, but then Mark had an idea for vocals for it and we actually turned it into a proper song, if a short song, that stands on the record as a more hardcore-tinged anthem against those corrupters and naysayers who creep into roles and positions of power as surreptitious fascists, or infiltrators. So we knocked out a video for the track last December when we were all together in Baltimore for a hometown show, and made the video a kind of tribute to the city where we started.
E&D: The song has a big hardcore feel. How much of an influence is hardcore on the music and ethos of Misery Index?
Jason: It’s always been a present, underlying influence which tinged our death metal with a bit of urgency and visceral anger. During the late 90s I really got into bands from across the spectrum from Integrity to Snapcase to His Hero is Gone and Disrupt, which all kind of creep in as slight influences here and there if you listen closely. The ethos is also important, especially the community and the sense to mutual support and commonality from local to national scenes and how they tie into progressive movements.
E&D: Do you feel that death metal, grindcore and hardcore come from the same place in spirit and attitude?
Jason: Yes and no, I think they are each rooted in their own specific traditions, with grindcore being more closely rooted to punk as it came from punk in the late 1980s, and death metal being more of an underground movement born from the speed and thrash metal tape trading community and the bands that were pushing the boundaries of extremity in those scenes. However, I do think there is a thread that kind of binds them all these days, as the DIY spirit embraces all these genres at the most basic community level, and while death metal may be more apolitical, from what I have seen it does share a communal spirit of mutual support.
E&D: Whatever some of your all-time favourite hardcore albums?
Jason: If I had to name a top 5 off the top of my head, it would be Integrity – Those Who Fear Tomorrow; Snapcase – Progression Through Unlearning; Next Step Up – Fall From Grace; Cro-Mags – Age of Quarrel and Minor Threat – S/T.
E&D: Can you tell us about the apocalyptic video for the album track ‘The Eaters and The Eaten’ and the themes it deals with?
Jason: It was filmed last October in Saint Louis, Missouri by JT Ibanez, and it is intended to loosely channel the themes of the lyrics, based on the resources we had. The lyrics describe the horror and drudgery of modern labor conditions around the world where hidden production and suffering give us the objects we “need” here in the West. As they describe, “in the shadow of the mill…to the rare-earth (mineral) mine,” survival itself is a burden shouldered by those who have no other option but to work in horrific conditions just to exist. So, it’s a call to awareness for the sake of humanity. The video attempts to capture this struggle as it manifests against those who use state violence to reinforce these exploitative conditions.
E&D: Was it always the plans for Misery Index to combine death metal with grindcore and hardcore as well in your music?
Jason: I would say yes, since the day the band was formed back in the 2000s, I wanted to firmly kind of embed us in those traditions, as set by the like of Napalm Death in the early 90s. I myself come from the early 90s death metal underground, but by the late 90s I felt like the use of more real-world horrors for lyrics was the way I wanted to go to express the themes that concerned me. So the aim was to transmit the rabid ferocity of bands like Assuck, Tragedy, From Ashes Rise and Nasum and bridge them more sonically with death metal song structures etc.
E&D: How much fun was it getting the Cofffin Up the Nails compilation together and did it bring back a lot of good memories?
Jason: It came about as we, like many, were faced with Covid-induced downtime in 2020, so we got about putting together a collection of B-sides and bonus tracks etc for a compilation album, which inspired by the last one we did in 2010 (called ‘Pulling Out The Nails’) was to be the thematically named ‘Coffin Up The Nails’. This was fun to do, and it took some time to get the rights and the mastering figured out, but once we did, it was a blast and diehard fans reacted positively.
E&D: You cover ‘When Glory Beckons’ by Bolt Thrower on the compilation. The Bolt Thrower tribute artwork you did for it is brilliant! How big an influence is the band on Misery Index?
Jason: Yeah, the art was rendered by none other than master illustrator Gary Ronaldson – For me, when I was trying to figure out my own vocal style back in 91 or so, Karl Willets was a huge inspiration and Bolt Thrower were my favourite band. I loved the deep-mids he would do and the fact he also annunciated the words quite clearly and with tasteful emphasis. I think there are parts of our songs where BT come through, perhaps on the new album the mid-section of ‘Rites of Cruelty’ is a very much a BT-like tank-riffage chugg, and for sure they are always in my head, so it undoubtedly comes out here and there.
E&D: Was it fun experience having Rob Barrett from Cannibal Corpse guesting on the M.O.D cover and how did that come about?
Jason: Years ago we did a tour supporting Cannibal Corpse, and I would often find myself with Barret at the back of the bus after the show jamming the classics over some beers. He would do this mock Billy Milano voice that was spot on, and we always got a laugh out of the old SOD/MOD ‘s more humouristic aspects, so we did the cover (Freddy Kruger sequel track ‘Man of Your Dreams’) and we captured him doing it backstage one day on tour when he passed through town, on a mobile recording unit. Anyone who knows how ripping the first Solstice record is (from Florida), knows that Barret has a killer thrash voice and it was an honour to make that happen.
E&D: Misery Index have covered a wide range of bands in the past from Ministry to Napalm Death and Terrorizer. If you could cover more bands in the future, who would you love to give the Misery Index treatment to?
Jason: Well we are starting to run out of ideas haha, maybe something more unexpected next time like Killing Joke or Fugazi, let’s see!
E&D: It followed the Pulling Out the Nails compilation from 2009. Do you think you will ever realise another one in the future?
Jason: I will never say never. I had no expectations we would still be doing the band this long, so its been amazing. If we can one out in another 10 years, that would be phenomenal, let’s see.
E&D: What has your label Anarchos Records got planned for the rest of this year and beyond?
Jason: Nothing actually, as its not a “real” label in that sense, its just an imprint we have always used to self-release our own material, to give it an identity and mark it as our own imprint.
E&D: Are you looking forward to hitting the road with Origin, Wake and Wolf King in support of Complete Control?
Jason: Yes, very much, we are actually staring the tour tonight! I think it’s a super diverse bill and it’s going to be a lot of fun, as each band brings their own style and vibe, which always makes the best live shows in my view.
E&D: Will you be debuting much new material on the tour?
Jason: Yeah we will play the first two singles from the album, ‘The Eaters and the Eaten’ and ‘Infiltrators’. I think as the year goes on and people become more used to the other album tracks, we can start to sneak those into the set as well.
E&D: What are your touring plans for the rest of the year after that tour ends?
Jason: This current US/Canada tour will wrap up at the end of May, and then next we have Hellfest in June and then a whole month of festivals in August in Europe. I think this autumn we will do a European headliner and a west coast tour in the US.
E&D: You’re playing a number of festivals in the summer including Hellfest as you mentioned and Brutal Assault. Are you looking forward to those shows?
Jason: Always! Those are the celebrations we are most stoked to participate in. When the legions congregate under the summer skies, it’s always a rite of decadent metal transcendence. Hoping the Covid-time is past and the riff-fueled bacchanalia can begin in earnest!
E&D: What festivals have been the best to play for you over the years?
Jason: I always liked Maryland Death Fest, as it was kind of our hometown festival and we grew up with it in a sense, in Europe I really like Party San in Germany. Just great curation, and the fact it all goes down on one big stage for the ‘just-right’ crowd size makes it fun as both a spectator and a performer.
E&D: If you could curate your own festival, who would you love to have play?
Jason: Haha, it would an incongruous mix of old and new I think, and would not make people happy, but who knows? Maybe Holy Terror, Bolt Thrower, Carpenter Brut, Cryptic Hatred, Candlemass, Monolord, Bad Religion, Dokken, Danzig, Fudge Tunnel, Grave Pleasures, 200 Stab Wounds, Killing Joke, Morbific, Terror, Morbid Angel, Wode, Propagandhi, Fates Warning, Garuda, Poison Idea, Tragedy, Asphyx and many more.
E&D: You toured with Napalm Death, Eyehategod, Rotten Sound and Bat just before the pandemic hit. What are your memories of the tour and was it surreal playing just before the world changed?
Jason: It might have been the best tour we ever did. It was so much fun and just crushed every night, I mean its still surreal to me to be sharing the stage with Napalm Death, who still to this day level everything and everyone with unparalleled energy. We had so much fun, so many laughs and good times…and yes, the tour ended the very same weekend that Europe shut down for the first signs of the pandemic, with the last show being in Cologne, Germany on Sunday March 8, and us going home to lockdowns. It was a bittersweet end to a glorious tour, and now almost, two and half years later, we are finally getting back into it…
E&D: What other tours that you have done have been particularly memorable?
Jason: Through the years, you always remember the ‘firsts’ I think the most dearly. For me it was when I was in Dying Fetus, we had our first US tour supporting Kataklysm and Monstrosity, that was a huge deal, getting that first taste of road life and learning the ropes. The first Misery Index tour in Europe was also memorable, when we supported Deicide, Destruction and Amon Amarth, although we played so damn early (opening every night), the venues were often just opening their doors, so it was almost waste in a sense. We had the most fun on the longest tour we did, almost eight weeks in Europe with Fear Factory, which was killer in the sense it introduced us to so many new people and went to every corner of Europe.
E&D: What is the heavy music scene in your native Baltimore like at the moment?
Jason: I hear its pretty good, its tough to say as I am bit out of the loop at the moment since I’ve been living in Finland for many years now, but I can say I’ve heard good things from bands like Neolithic, Visceral Disgorge, End It, Asthma Castle and No/Mas to name a few!