Socially Conscious DeathGrind
Interview with Jason Netherton
Interviewed by Andreas Aubert
First, let us get some background information about you. When and where were you born?Under what conditions did you grow up? When did you get interested in music? (especially the heavier kind) What attracted you to heavy music at first? For example, how important were the lyrics to you? What about the image, the personalities within the bands you listened to – were they important, or was the music all that mattered? How has this changed throughout your life?
I was born in 1972 and grew up in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, in the suburbs of Washington, DC. I was born into a working class family and my father was a plumber, and my mother was a telephone operator. We had our own home and I was an only child, and grew up with my extended family all around me, so it was a very stable, and somewhat typical working/middle class upbringing, in a modest planned neighborhood of a few hundred homes, somewhat rural, yet only 12 miles from Washington, DC. In the 1980’s, approximately around 1986, I discovered Iron Maiden. I was always attracted to the morbid and fascinating album covers, and what appeared to be well written and thoughtful lyrics on historical subjects. I was not a good school student, yet was heavily read and self-taught on other subjects I thought more interesting like poetry and 20th century history. After finding out about metal, I delved even more into it for both lyrical and musical reasons, and eventually I decided to play the bass guitar, primarily because of Iron Maiden as well, and the prominent place the bass held in the band (by Steve Harris) in both songwriting and performance. I continued to seek out bands that had the most poetic and ‘deep’ lyrics, lyrics that somehow reflected both amazing wordplay and poignant subject matter. I found the best of the late 1980’s lyrics, that inspired me, to be in the bands Sabbat (and later Skyclad), Holy Terror, and Fates Warning. The music was always as important as the lyrics, and I loved the bands equally. Later as death metal grew in prominence and especially of more musical interest to me, I never found much more inspiring with the lyrics, and was really only into the music at that point, although there were some occasional good tracks lyrically from Napalm Death, Brutal Truth etc. So throughout the 90s it was a void lyrically, and as far as the imagery, it has never been of any importance to me, although I wear shirts from bands I like, it all ends there. By the time the late nineties arrived, I had a rebirth of sorts lyrically and musically from grindcore and hardcore (crust) punk, that coincided with my studies at university in International Relations. I saw rabid criticism and poetic angst like death metal never had, as well as anger and passion that was not evident in the sterile and stoic lyrical approach of many death metal bands. So, by 2000, I was way into bands like Disrupt, Assuck, Nasum, and His Hero is Gone, and then finally with Tragedy, possibly my all time favorite at this point. I still love death metal more for the music, but the best lyrics are to me found in the more reality-based expressions of the grind/punk scene.
When did you start playing/"singing"? Are you self-taught or did you take lessons? Music School? What was the primary drive or motivation for you to start playing/”singing” in a band? "Egoistic self expression"? How has this changed throughout your career? For example, have the lyrics become more important? What is your main motivation nowadays?
Jason: In 1988 I started with my first bass guitar, I took lessons immediately for almost 2 years, privately from a guy who worked out of a local guitar shop. After taking the lessons for two years I started playing in a high school band that lasted from about 1989-1991 called Damnation. I was in the band with John Gallagher (who I later formed Dying Fetus with), and two other high school friends. Again, the drive and motivation was from a deep and quick infatuation with heavy metal music, and the desire to create something from my imagination much like my heroes were in bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Queensryche, and Megadeth, among dozens of others. I am sure it was driven by some adolescent fantasy dream of metal stardom, but later became more of a self-driving passion based on a pure love for the music only, as we knew being in an underground death metal band, we would be lucky to do much of anything aside from trading our demo with like minded deathmetalheads around the world. However, since perhaps 2000, the lyrics have arisen to take on a more definitive and central role in addition to the music. Growing consciousness and awareness of the world through education, experience and age has given a new meaning and purpose to the whole act of being in a touring and recording band. I now am much more dedicated to writing critical and thought agitating lyrics, and I am more conscious (and have been since 2000) of the potential impact that lyrics have on young people, using myself as an example. I looked to the lyrics for inspiration as a teenager, and now I try and inject the same question-driven analysis into Misery Index’s reality based lyrical front. I love to write them, and I write them to sort out my own thoughts and views, and at the same time, I want to complement Misery Index’s music with something I will feel comfortable screaming night after night on tour for now and the coming years.
I consider your lyrics to be political, and I consider Misery Index to be a political band. I wonder how important this aspect of the band is to you. Does anger about the world become a kind of fuel for the creative process? Do you have these things in mind when composing, or does all the political stuff come in with the lyrics? To formulate it in another way, is the political aspect of the band something which is present all the time and connected with the creative process of composing, or is it something that comes in with the lyrics? Are your political views important for the chemistry within the band? Is it part of the glue which binds you together, and gives you a bigger vision for what you are doing? If so, do you think that having a bigger vision about wanting to influence the direction of the world with your music gives you a greater sense of meaning and satisfaction?
Anger is a big part of fuelling the criticism for certain, but to me its a positive and hopeful response. I feel that raw anger has a tremendous amount of energy to it, and its essential to dusting off the engines of motivation and drive, but anger alone can not sustain the creative process, nor become a basis for change and reconciliation by itself. To tackle the massive issues, problems, and quandaries that we all face in everyday life, there has to be some concept of a positive end or goal that provides meaning, justification, and direction for the anger. I am not saying there is some universal point of perfection or enlightenment that we are struggling to reach or attain, I am more saying that there is and should be alternatives and better roads for humanity to travel upon in many of the tasks we take ourselves upon collectively, and that those paths should be discussed, argued and fought for. I would only say the lyrics are political in that they represent discussions of everyday life in social reality, and such discussions and discourses are inherently solved through political action, be it peaceful or violent. So, all questions of life and what’s best for mankind are essentially political be definition, although the goals and purposes of such conflict are ultimately spiritual and corporeal- as in yes we solve problems through politics, but the nature of the discussion is ultimately about human happiness- mental and physical. So those questions are all covered in my lyrical landscape, and as such, the band fully supports me in this, and give me a sort of free reign to write about anything, and as such give Misery Index an identity deeper than the music itself. I am conscious of the potential this has for separating us from the rest of the death metal pack, but I am also hopeful that this can lead to even more thinking and discussion about real-life issues, from a positive starting point. I believe there is much to be angry about, yet that anger does not necessarily have to manifest itself negatively, so I guess I get satisfaction from trying to inject some positive-fueled anger into a very negative and dark music scene.
You wrote "I believe there is much to be angry about, yet that anger does not necessarily have to manifest itself negatively, so I guess I get satisfaction from trying to inject some positive fueled anger into a very negative and dark music scene." From this, and also other things you wrote, I suspect that you may have an ambivalent feeling about the metal community or at least the death metal community. Is this right?
I think there is potential there, perhaps on an individual basis, for some kind of interest to develop on the subjects and themes I talk about in the lyrics. I have had people, kids etc, write to me and express their thanks for ‘getting them interested’ in such topics of social reality. However, I have no intention of thinking that there will be some broad shift in consciousness and awareness in metal. Metal is what it is, and its essence is apolitical and escapist. There are some bands like us and Napalm Death, that do our thing and scream our ‘political’ lyrics, but for the most part on a given night, kids just want to have fun and thrash out. Everything over and above that is up to them to delve into . I know metal is not a social movement of any kind, nor does it have the potential to be (at least in its form as it is today), so I try and have fun on stage and make the show enjoyable for everyone, with the hope that they will go home and read the lyrics.
You have toured with many extreme bands whose lyrics differ a lot from yours. I believe that it would be possible for you to get into some quite serious discussions with some of the guys in these bands. Has there been any problems on tour or with other bands due to your lyrics and personal beliefs? Do you keep a low profile on tour, or do you actively seek to discuss with other musicians the issues that are important to you?
I keep to myself, unless someone actively confronts me and wants to talk, which happens every now and then. For the most part touring is work. People in bands, and even bands that have lyrics about violence against women, hatred for humanity etc, I find their members are still apolitical about it all and just are into more the idea of ‘being in a band’, touring and playing extreme music. I have had some good talks with Cattle Decapitation, who are a proponents of vegetarianism and animal rights, and are a good example of a conscious band in metal. Also, I have had talks with Barney from Napalm Death on British politics etc, but for the most part we tour with bands that are apolitical and could care less about things aside from chasing girls, beer, and playing their instruments (something perhaps we are guilty of as well).
Concerning the same topic I also wonder if you have felt it difficult to find the balance between having something to say and say it and also having fun and joking around etc. I think having something to say can be empowering to a certain point but then it can tip over into self-torture and too much seriousness and analysis. There is a saying that "there is no limit to what you can achieve", but also a saying that "one should know one’s limitation". Do you sometimes find it difficult to find the right balance?
Well, there is in my eyes a dual purpose to this endeavor, and part of it is to express myself politically and potentially inspire others with similar hopes, and secondly it is to have fun. We travel a lot, and I love to travel and meet new people, eat new foods, and experience new environments. I like simple things, like trying different beers in various countries and in the process try and learn a few words of the local language. Its all a self-reinforcing process, and it works for now. As soon as it ceases to be fun, the band is over. That is what happened to me in Dying Fetus, I lost the spirit, and it was over for me. I have it now, so I push onward.
Your music is very powerful, and it certainly can bring about a circulation of one’s energy. A friend of mine thinks "there is a lot of shamanistic power in metal". I think there is something to this. For example, in your music some of the rhythms are very hammering and primal and it makes me think of ecstatic dancing around the fire with really fast tribal drumming etc. To me the roots of metal music and especially extreme/death metal appear to be very ancient. Personally I also feel there is something ancient about some of your "melodies" something which I quite often find about Death Metal. I feel that this kind of music is about really confronting and exploring one’s "darker sides" and getting in touch with one’s power. Please comment!
Yes, I feel it in metal, a very primal regression in some aspects, but in others something more (as in the melodies of some bands like in black/atmospheric metal etc), perhaps something that goes right to the ‘Over-Soul’ of humanity, our collective spirit. Its perhaps a wedding of the two phenomena, a primal foundation and upon it an enlightened spirit, in some dialectic musical relationship. Above all, it’s the energy present, I feel it sometimes, and I also do not feel its exclusive to metal, of course all kinds of music can have some variation of these basic human, expressive traits.
I am thinking that getting in touch with one’s own power is great, but what then? If this power is not used correctly it can be self-destructive. The way I see it, many bands are just going in circles, their music is like a kind of masturbation, getting rid of their energy so they can feel some kind of "relaxation" then just do the same thing over and over again. There is no greater aim with the music of many extreme bands than to stir up a little and that’s it. I feel that this is a kind of waste of a very powerful artistic expression and that there is a great potential for metal to be used to a greater extent for social/individual empowerment and transformation. Sadly the lyrics are often straight out self-destructive or non-constructive, it is like these people just want to be angry their whole life without ever getting into the roots of their anger and putting things into a greater perspective. I sometimes wonder how conscious many bands actually are about their art, it often appears to me like they are just going on autopilot doing what is expected and nothing more. I am glad that you are trying to expand and push the boundaries. Can you relate to what I am writing? Please comment!
Yes I think so, and I think at the root of what you are getting at is the nature of consciousness itself, and how it may or may not manifest itself, or be appropriated in metal music (if it should at all). I do not think that metal music is anything exceptional, as it is by extension a part of a very large
swath of rock music that is rooted more in creating art and self-expression, rather than trying to formulate some concrete, conscious activity of that expression. Metal is a very cathartic and energetic form however, and the possibilities exist for there to be some kind of mutual relationship with conscious social activity, or to harness the social consciousness of the listeners into the framework of the shared relationship of music creator and listener. This has been done far more effectively in punk rock, which is in some cases necessarily political and conscious, whereby metal is mostly apolitical and unconscious. Metal has been a very individualistic from its inception, in that in traditional metal it has championed the more nihilistic and pessimistic values of man, and revels in excess for its own sake. In Marxist terms then, metal has been a scene ‘in itself’ and punk has been a scene ‘for itself’. Punk has championed its DIY ethics and social consciousness into a global movement against authoritarian politics and oppressive regimes. Metal, has championed its dark imagery and dismal outlooks into a global collective of negative minded misanthropes, who have boatloads of anger and deal with it primarily by drinking, fighting, and fucking (to borrow some Manowar-esque imagery). So, Yes, even in death metal, the urgency is always for the quick burst of expression in extremity, for no sake but the moment and that is all…we are left with only more of these undirected outbursts
as each song comes along, until another band brings out its guns to get the people fired up and repeat the evening’s hyperbole. Maybe the challenge is to as you say, ‘empower’ the apathetic mass, but I am afraid it will take much more than music alone…as these things are rooted much deeper and span all aspects of culture and modernity.
Many people view metal music as a kind of reaction, something which may be appropriate at one stage of life but which one should be finished with at some point. Does it automatically follow that if something is powerful, it has to be a kind of reaction? The words reaction and rebellion are sometimes thought to mean almost the same. Rebellion – is it just a kind of reaction, a childish need to provoke? Or is it a conscious and intelligent response? Is metal rebellious by nature, and what does rebellion mean to you? Maybe something is a reaction if it does not also contain within it the seed of a solution?
Well, I believe that we ‘react’ and ‘rebel’ to our surroundings and social conditions throughout our lives, but there is something very special about the adolescent years and the notion of why as teenagers we are so in need of a foundation to reject the pressures of adulthood that are thrust upon and programmed into us from our first day at school. The pressures brought on by social conformity, especially in the industrialized, hyper-capitalist nations of the West, are inherently unnatural and unnerving to the human psyche. We reject and rebel with great intensity as we grow
more conscious of the inhuman nature of the world around us, and what it has in store for us. Some adjust to the pressures well, but for me as with many others, I found a home in metal music. I was unconscious then, but I chose it because it had in it everything that I was supposed to reject as a growing adult. The imagery conjured my imagination and made me a poet, I longed for something more than what was waiting for me at the end of my assembly-line education. I do not think there was anything childish in that at all. It was a rejection, and a natural response to the life that awaited me after school. Some hold onto that spirit and stay conscious of it it their entire lives. They find ways to survive in or around the inhumanity of the cold, calculating system of pure economy. Rebellion in that sense is a choice to not turn over one’s self to the machinery- and in the process, they need not be conscious of any workings of the international political economy, they only need to know that what they face after school or at any time in life is not what they want or desire, and so they forge another path.
I feel that you have found a very good balance in your music between technicality and groove. Some bands try to play as fast and technical as possible, but it often ends up being too mechanic with little spirit in the music. I also feel that it has come to a point where the technical/speed aspect has been taken to its limit, and that to be extreme, innovative and groundbreaking one should rather bring in other elements to the music. It seems to me that you are doing this by having some of the hardcore/punk feeling in your music, which is quite rarely mixed with death metal. Do you agree with my analysis?
Yes I do, we have sort of gone through some phases in that regard. We wanted to take the ideas and energy we had and create something that was not a part of our previous “Dying Fetus-brutal death metal school” and develop something that was unique to Misery Index. In doing so, I turned to some of the hardcore crust/punk and grindcore I had discovered, with its biting social commentary, and its raw, driving energy that I had found missing in newer death metal. I still loved my death metal of course, but frankly after hearing bands like Assuck, Disrupt, His Hero is Gone, and Tragedy, and especially the lyrics, I never looked back. There are some obvious influences from this style of music, and they show very much in our early stuff. However, I have begun to even look back to the 80s recently, primarily for the riffs. The art of writing good riff-centric songs, seems to have long passed. You hear it still in some bands, but a lot of what is passing today for modern death metal has evolved into a technical freakshow of slapped together post-modern songwriting that would have even Chuck Shuldiner rolling over in his grave. I want guts in the music, and I hope there will be a return to that early nineties riff-driven death metal I so miss.
This part of the interview was done face to face a few months after the first interview.
A lot of people may appear on the surface to be loving and they like to be positive etc, but often this is a mask. Underneath there is hatred, frustration etc. Do you think it is hard to find real love? Do you think it is becoming rare in this world?
Well,, I think it takes a lot to keep hope going, and a lot of people experience and feel hopeful despite tremendous pressures not to, in all parts of the world. In the West it is becoming increasingly harder to define what love is. We are under a lot of illusions here about the nature of love and what it means to love. I think everyone comes to understand it in their own terms and in their own way.
Illusions about love…
Yeah, I am talking specifically about Western culture. I think every culture has its own way of defining what love is, how to express it and what it means. If we are talking about Western culture, how we understand love has become trivialized and commodified. It is something which is primarily bought and sold on holiday greeting cards and further trivialized in mainstream media. Love is something which transcends all that, it is something very personal.
There is an idea that it is only possible to love what is beautiful and easy to deal with. I think that sometimes the more problematic aspects of life are where we can find true love. What do you think?
Yeah, I think that as you say there are levels – different kinds of love which come about in different circumstances. There is definitely a difference between some kind of teenage love and a more complex love which comes about later in life between two people who have experienced a lot of things together. In that way – yes – love is multidimensional and it is experienced by all of us in different ways, some more complex than others.
In our society we always seek the things which give immediate satisfaction or gratification. I think this has also colored the way we see love.
Yeah, for sure. The media – how impressions of love are mediated to us throughout our lives, how we are taught what we are supposed to love and not to love, and how love is defined for us in different ways. Our mediated reality – as opposed to how we understand ourselves, perhaps presents a bastardized interpretation of love and what it really means.
I think love can be quite chaotic, just like your music.
Jason: Certainly. Something as complex and intangible as love will express itself in very chaotic ways, very unmeasured and sporadic, just like life itself. Some sort of intangible inner spirit. An intangible part of the human essence which is expressed in very erratic ways, depending on how our environment stimulates us to respond in different ways.
You were talking about the human spirit. Do you think that love has to be grounded in some kind of spirituality?
I think love is part of the human essence and what makes us human beings. These Ideas I never really thought out, so I am talking about it now for the first time. Yeah, I guess love is part of the human essence and is somehow coupled with our consciousness and it is the foundation for what brings out the best in people in turning different circumstances into foundations for empathy, compassion and these universal links between disparate people.
Your idealism, or political interest, do you think it is grounded in love, or is there also a lot of frustration involved? Maybe love and frustration, in this particular situation, is part of the same thing?
I think it is. Love is the understanding about the world where compassion and idealism come from. Frustration comes when my hopes for the world are too difficult to realize. Idealism is hoping and wishing about how things should be or could be, but they are not. In reality – or as reality appears – it is another way. I have an approach to that; there is a quote “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will”. Where one might approach everything with a very critical mind on the intellectual level, almost with a pessimism or doubt about certain things, the meaning and the force behind that is something far more hopeful – the optimism of the will; the human spirit. Love is a foundation for that, and a driving force.
The Dying Fetus lyrics that you wrote are quite hateful, but I think that in a sense they were a healthy response, and that it has to do with the fact that you cared about more than just yourself.
Those lyrics where written at a point where I was very unconscious about a lot of things. It represents more of a vulgar interpretation of the world around me, and a vulgar response to that. A basic violent outburst. Violence – I guess – is the primal response to injustice and suffering. It came out in that sense. I do not regret it because it represents part of how I was thinking then, but it is almost eight years ago now. Although I still like to keep the lyrics and themes dark, because I feel it suits the music better, there is definitely an underlying hope there in all the lyrics, even in the later Dying Fetus stuff. Whenever you are asking a question about something or raising an issue which people did not even think about, in whatever manner or context, I think it is a good thing. It may not have been blatantly positive or had positive undertones, but I think there is something there which was different from the “goredriven” metal, or gore for gore’s sake.
I then tell Jason about my impression of a lot of public, social debate – also in schools, universities etc. It seems that it revolves around the idea that everyone can come to agreement on things. This in itself is good. But usually this approach is driven by a fear of really getting to the core of conflicts, and the conversations are kept shallow, talking about “respect”, “acceptance of differences etc”, but it is just empty words, and is often linked with a seemingly relativistic approach to morals. Yet, at a closer look, this relativism only accepts the “diversity” of what is presented in the mainstream; different “viewpoints”, but they all follow more or less the same underlying principles. The more “radical” (I use the word in a very broad sense) points of view, which have the potential to create real change on more fundamental levels, are overlooked, because by discussing them conflict is likely to arise. So better keep everything at a medium noise level, while we continue to destroy ourselves, each other and our planet.
We discuss this for a while, and Jason comes with some points concerning these kind of “let’s get together and be friends” kind of ideas at the university level and academic, non-profit, nongovernmental level.
These organizations which get together and try to forward more just relations and ideas, and solve problems in the world economy, government etc, are really noble and important. But, I tend to be a little cynical about some of them which just sort of pontificate for the sake of it. That is not always the best way to solve a conflict. There are these gatherings at universities etc, they go off to lunch and then they go back to their homes and nothing really changes. I think it is still important to have these discussions, and many good things have come about from that, from being critical about international development etc. But I think in the end real change comes from the ground. The people who are ultimately affected by adverse situations and problems, those people tend to take the situation in their own hands it seems.
It is common in our society to reduce other people into onedimensional mental concepts, like “this person is angry“ or “this person is greedy”. It puts a lot of barriers between people and it makes it difficult to have true communication. We often communicate from “mask to mask”, rather than meeting each other on a deeper level. Do you think that in order to have more loving relationships between people we also need to have a different understanding of the complexity of human beings?
Wow, there is so much that goes into those social constructions, it is really hard to break through – especially on a scale larger than just a group of friends, or a group in a local community or village. To break through on a larger scale and have more loving relationships between people is just… it is an amazing idea, but I do not know how… Unless you put acid in the water supply (laughs). There are ways to go about it in creating more understanding and consciousness among and between various cultures and nations, but it has to go back to looking at things like the economic base. When you have a capitalist society it creates adverse relations among people and naturalizes them. It creates winners and losers and a competitive society where everyone is essentially in competition with everyone else for resources. The ones who have the best chance for survival then tend to be the ones most clever and selfish. So when you have that as a basis for the system to begin with, it is going to be hard to create a sort of universal atmosphere of love for everyone, at least in certain hyper-capitalist Western nations. I know that in Norway and the Nordic countries you have a more social democratic model, which creates more of an egalitarian system. However In the States the demographic is far more heterogeneous and populous, and therefore it is a little more cutthroat.
I think that in certain alternative communities, maybe even so-called “new age” communities, they have many good ideas but it is also quite far from the reality of everyday life. Do you think it is possible to integrate some of these ideas into everyday life, or are these people just dreaming?
It is possible. It goes back to what I said about the economic base. If you accept the materialist philosophy that the economic base sort of conditions what happens in the rest of society, then that is the first thing which has to change. But there are also cultural barriers to that, and there are also natural barriers to creating a sort of system which favors that sort of thing like total love and understanding – primarily human behaviour and its more primal instincts, so I guess we need to ask to what extent can we be conditioned or habituated to naturally and willingly love each other (or allow for a social situation that encourages this), and to what extent will our primal reaction to such notions impede this experiment?
Even though there are great differences between people, conflicts etc, is it possible to know people at a deeper level and feel love towards them, even though on the surface you may be enemies? Do you think this is possible for most people, or is it again just a way of dreaming?
I think it is possible for everybody. As long as it is in the right sort of situation. If the social conditions present themselves favourably for more love and understanding among human beings, then that is how perhaps, maybe, the social environment can nurture that kind of attitude between people, or at least the is the best place to start- with social conditions.
Sometimes talking about your family is considered taboo. Do you feel the same way?
Would you say that you love the guys in your band?
Sure. But it is never spoken as such. Its an unconscious and unspoken affinity and more like a mutually reinforcing camaraderie. It manifests itself in a sort of brotherhood, where we share the same experiences and we know about how we relate to each other, but its never really discussed.
Do you reflect about this in everyday life; what you feel about the people around you on a deeper level?
I think about those sorts of things everyday, yeah.
Do you think a lot can be changed by thinking about it; being more conscious in terms of thinking? Or do you think it is necessary to practice meditation or such?
That, or it can come out in small acts of generosity. Or on the other hand, as long as you know that in your heart, even when people seem to be mean to you, in the little things of everyday life, its not intentional. You can still see that person as a good person underneath the anger they have. If you are walking right behind somebody and they let the door slam in your face, you know they did not really intend to do that, they are just caught up in their own stressed reality and not always paying attention, we all get lost in our minds during the day at some point. If you let little things like that get you angry, it’s a sign of perhaps a strict, one-dimensional interpretation of your world and the people around you- you are making yourself the center of the world, rather than coming to terms with the world as it really is. If you wash out this sort of negativity in everyday life, you start seeing changes in your spirit and how you deal with other people.
Some people have this ideal to always accept other people, and even if someone does something really bad towards them they do not want to confront it so much. In terms of the economical situation, do you think there needs to be a more “violent” approach for the sake of love?
Yes, but it depends on how you define violence. For example, I don’t think property destruction is violence. Anything which is directly against human beings and human life is violence. But if you characterize throwing a stone and breaking the window of a bank as violence… I do not see that as violence. It might be a statement. But when the social conditions become ripe and unhealthy, and anger grows across populations and the social order becomes unstable, then you will see an outburst from people.
and it is a good thing?
Well, change can come quickly or it can come slow. It happens – as we have seen in the last four hundred years – over great expanses of time. When such disruptions take place and the social order is upended, its not necessarily a good or a bad thing, but change is the natural order and condition of man and his systems as history unfolds, its what it is for better or for worse.
I know there was a project in Brazil where the police, criminals, street children etc were coming together and meeting as humans. I do not know the details, but they managed to have these people communicate with each other and I think there was a kind of loving atmosphere created. I think that when we take away everything which is on the surface, we can meet as human beings. Do you think this is possible to do with people who are in great conflict?
It is possible, but I think we should not be too naïve about it. If you take two mortal enemies and put them in a room together, they are not automatically going to see themselves as just two human beings who have the same interests or something. Every situation is unique and has its own inherent complexities. I think that in general it is important to submit a better atmosphere of love and understanding whenever you can and hope for the best. I think it is possible to have these things happen, but it should be understood how difficult it is and how hard it is going to be to ultimately arrive at that situation.
I read that the word courage is somehow related to the french word for heart or something like this. Is love and courage closely connected? Maybe the most courageous thing is to be loving?
I think love can be courageously expressed. If you are talking in terms of self-sacrifice and love and the desire to go through with something which is purely unselfish – in that sense, that is where love and courage meet. But in a negative sense, a nazi soldier could be courageous in his efforts, or courage could be manipulated and promoted for the wrong reasons or ends.
In great parts of the world marriage is seen perhaps not as the ultimate expression of love, but still a central aspect of love. I have read that Marx wanted to abolish marriage because it has to do with private property. What do you think? Which view of marriage is most representative of you?
I think it has to be seen first and foremost as a social construction which perhaps arose out of different property relations. I do not know the exact history of it, but I know it became more important as the economies became more industrialized etc. I think it might have to do with creating a labour force which has a more invested interest at stake in participating in the economy, and you have someone who is married and has a family and thus has an interest in being a good worker and provide for them. That is just a sidenote. Going back to the first point; it is a social construction, something which is mediated to us; it is like how love in our culture is defined in the absolute sense of two people coming together and making a social decoration of love to one another for the rest of their lives. I think that is just one way of expressing what love is. If two people agree with that and think it is the way to do it, that is fine. But if some people do not feel they need that social validation in print, they just understand it among themselves and that is all they feel they need. Even that can be broken down into different levels of how love is defined in relationships.
Some people even like to have different partners at the same time. Have you tried that, or is it something you like?
I have just had no girlfriend and had relations with different people, but never anything serious with more than one person. I think that is difficult, but some people might have that understanding. It is hard to arrive at, to take the notions of control and possession out of the relationship, or to redefine them into more sharing notions.
In one of your lyrics there is a line “Hate for the other is hate for yourself, it is the cancer condition”. Can you comment?
It is from the song “Angst isst die seele auf” which means “fear eats the soul” in German. It comes from a movie with the same title, which attacks rascism and misunderstanding between people. Most people who are racist you find do not really know why they hate the other person, or they simply become attached to fundamentally irrational bases for their hatred. If you look at it closer, it is moreso something deficient in themselves they seem to be unhappy with, and they externalize it onto others in an attempt to deny the dissonance in themselves. So that line means that to hate the “other” only reflects the hatred in one’s self, and for one’s self, and it is going to eat them alive if they do not break out from the selfimposed walls.
Is there anything you would like to add about your relation to love?
I think it is a learning process, something which I try to find out more about every day. It is something which is continually changing, and for me, my challenge is to realize its potential in some way. Right now I still have a lot of selfish problems which I am trying to overcome and become a better person. It is complex and it is an ongoing process.
By the end of the interview, I ask Jason some questions about his vocals.
1. When did you start doing extreme vocals?
2. What made you start to do extreme vocals?
My love for Death Metal and metal itself, it was something really passionate I felt about it and I started doing it myself.
3. Can you describe the technique or the techniques you are using?
I do not know, I just tried to mimic my favourite vocalists at the time. It kind of hurt at first, and after a few days it did not hurt anymore.
4. Has your technique changed during your career?
Yeah, I have become much more “open and midrangy”. I started very low, going with some kind of guttural thing, but I did not have as much power or force as the other guy in the band, so I switched to a more open, midrangey kind of scream.
The technique I use for this style is “Half from the gut, half from the throat”. The more guttural vocalists sing more from the gut, but I have an open tone which relies a lot more on the throat. This is something I have become adjusted to. It is almost natural to do it, but it takes a while to get up to that. If I do not do it for a few months it takes three or four days to get into it again and get adjusted to it.
5. Have you ever hurt yourself by using a “wrong technique”?
Just learn not to overdo it. As soon as you feel discomfort, stop. Start again the next day. It is the same thing as if you are lifting weights. You do not want to lift 100 pounds the first day if you can only do 50. Do a little the first day, then the next day a little more, and your throat becomes adjusted to it. If you do 3 or 4 screams the first day and it starts to hurt, stop. Then do it again the next day, see if you can get one more out and then the next day one more.
6. Do you have any routines that you do on a regular basis to keep your voice in shape?
No, but when I start to practice for a tour I just start off slow and drink tea with honey, warm water etc.
7. Do you think it can be dangerous to do extreme vocals?
If you overdo yourself and try to force it, it is not gonna work. Start out slow and take it easy. As for the long-term effects, I don’t know.
8. What is most important for you – to make cool sounds and interesting rhythms, or to have a clear diction/pronunciation?
A little of both, depending on the song or the kind of riffs – the song in general. Lately I have started to pronunciate the words a little more clearly. I want people to understand the lyrics; they are a big part of the band. At the same time I want it to sound aggressive and angry.
9. Do you think that extreme vocals can be made into a science, like “this is how it works for everyone, to make this sound you have to do this etc”? Or is it more intuitive and individual how to do it?
It is personal all the way. I do not think it can be made into a science. Maybe within the broader category of the science of the human voice and what its capabilites are, across the broad spectrum of jodling to opera to screaming, chanting etc, but it can not be made into a detailed science. If it was possible it would be the most worthless science.
10. Do you have any advice to people who wants to start doing extreme vocals?
- As I said, start off slow. Do not push it to the point where it hurts, just do a little bit every day. Develop your own style.
www.miseryindex.com (official Misery Index homepage)
www.demockery.org (Jason’s personal homepage/blog. Check out his essays!)
Want to hear some cool vocals by Jason? Then check out the authors myspace site www.myspace.com/aubertmetal , where you can hear the song “A Foretaste of Sanity”, featuring Jason Netherton on guest vocals. This song was written by the author and performed/recorded by Kai Åsvik. Check out his site too, http://www.myspace.com/deadcattleprod