Vocalist Karl Schubach
***Interview & Live Photos By Lord of The Wasteland
On their third album CONTROLLER, due in stores July 22nd, Madison, Wisconsin-based metalcore group, Misery Signals, goes over and above the sonic expansiveness that MIRRORS brought to the table and really separates the band from the overcrowded genre. Produced by Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad), the songs breathe with a rich vibrancy that is multi-layered, melodic and brutal all at once.
Speaking with vocalist (and fellow Canadian) Karl Schubach, he confesses to his frustrations over choosing setlists, addresses the Misery Signals/Misery Index conundrum, extols the virtues of Townsend as a producer and tips us off on where to go for a cold one if you’re laid up in Regina, Saskatchewan.
CONTROLLER – 2008
As a “metalcore” band, many people agree that the genre has run its course and the scene is so oversaturated that the last thing anyone needs to hear is another band with melodic guitar runs, breakdowns and harsh/clean vocal dynamics. With this in mind, what does CONTROLLER offer to silence the critics and why should people shell out their hard-earned money on the new CD from Misery Signals?
It’s a very diverse record. CONTROLLER has something for everyone. The songs are shorter, the songs are longer. Some songs are more straightforward, heavy and to the point, whereas some songs are more technical, melodic and complex.
I can really sense Devin Townsend’s touch on the new album. There are lots of atmospherics and the guitars sound really full, reminding me of his own TERRIA release in certain places on “Nothing,” “Reset” and others. What did he do differently on the new album as opposed to his production of 2004’s OF MALICE AND THE MAGNUM HEART and why did you return to him again after going with another producer for 2006’s MIRRORS?
OF MALICE AND THE MAGNUM HEART was before my time in the band, but from what the other guys have told me, Devin was just much more focused this time around. When it came time to start looking at producers, he approached us about it instead of us coming to him. The initiative he took and the effort he put into telling us how he wanted to make this record was more than enough reason to go with him. You want the guy behind the mixing board to be as stoked as the musicians in order for everything to reach its full potential.
Rumor has it Devin has cut off the skullet! Was it surprising to see him looking relatively “normal”?
We all placed bets on whether or not he’d still have the hair when we came to record. Apparently, when he cut it all off, he placed it in a box and stores it somewhere at home.
Who is playing the xylophone and the other ambient stuff on “Reset” and “Homecoming”?
All the extra percussive instruments on the album were recorded by Ryan [guitar] and Branden’s [drums] father, Rick Morgan. He’s actually a classically-trained musician who plays in the Madison Symphony Orchestra. We were all happy to have him and I know it meant a lot to the Morgan brothers to have him be a part of it.
OF MALICE AND THE MAGNUM HEART – 2004
With CONTROLLER being your second release fronting Misery Signals, have you settled into the band as a full-time member and shed the “new guy” status yet?
That depends on who you ask. To this day, there is still such an extensive, ongoing debate over "the new singer vs. the old singer" scenario that this band just can’t seem to shake. I’ve been on board for almost three years now, with two records under my belt. I’d like to think I’ve earned my place. Let’s put it to rest. I’m "the new guy" no more.
Are you doing the clean vocals on the new CD as well as the harsher stuff?
Yep, that’s all me. While we were writing the record, every time the guys would jam through those two tracks, “Ebb & Flow” and “A Certain Death,” I would just hear these catchy melodies in my head that I tried to translate into something this band could pull off. That’s not to say we’re going to evolve into one of those textbook half-singing, half-screaming bands. Funny thing is the clean vocal part in “A Certain Death” was actually meant to be an indirect shot at all these bands that strive for popularity by going the whole sing/scream route.
I know that Stuart Ross [guitar] and yourself are both Canadian hailing from Edmonton and Regina, respectively. How did a bunch of dudes from Milwaukee hook up with two guys from the Canadian prairies?! Can we expect a co-headlining tour with fellow “Queen City” kids, Into Eternity? HA!
Well, Stu linked up with the band through the previous vocalist, Jesse [Zaraska], who also hails from Edmonton. They found me through an online vocal audition they had running through their Myspace. Funny you mention Into Eternity. I just ran into their bass player, Troy, last night at this Irish Pub we always go to. Anyone reading this, if you’re ever in Regina, O’Hanlon’s on Scarth Street is the place to be on a Friday or Saturday night.
MIRRORS – 2006
Misery Signals has toured with a really divergent lineup of bands in the past including As I Lay Dying, Six Feet Under, Madball, Strapping Young Lad and Dillinger Escape Plan. Do you tailor your set to the particular crowd/tour at all (ie. more “metal,” more “hardcore,” etc.) or do you play what you like and hope it sticks?
The setlist is always a big debate when it comes time to gear up and prepare to start a new tour. I, alongside a couple members, like to cater the setlist more towards the kids that will be coming out to the shows, whereas the rest of the guys have more of a "We’re going to play the songs we want to play" mentality. Which reminds me….it’s getting to be setlist time again very soon….yay.
What are the band’s touring plans for the remainder of the year?
Currently, we have the Thrash & Burn tour that hits the States in a few weeks alongside our friends in Darkest Hour. It’s looking more and more likely that we’ll be heading across Canada following T&B in October. Dates and bands to be announced shortly, but just know it’s going to be big. Then we’re hoping to get overseas to Japan/Australia before heading home for Xmas holidays.
How often do you find people confused over the co-existence of Misery Signals and Misery Index? You should do a tour with Misery Index and mess with people’s heads!! HA!
Ahh, yes…..It probably happens at least once a tour. Tommy from Between The Buried and Me definitely screwed up one night and asked the crowd to "give it up for Misery Inde…..oops".
Here’s a good, short story that happened last time we were over in Europe with August Burns Red and Emmure. Our tour manager had been calling all the promoters to advance the shows, and did not get a hold of the guy putting on our Italy date. When the promoter called back he asked if our tour manager was ready to advance the MISERY INDEX show next week. Apparently he had posters up and everything advertising for Misery Index. I wonder if there were any really disappointed kids that came out to that show, haha.
Watching you guys bust out a proggy instrumental (“Worlds & Dreams”) and a neo-classical piece that would make Yngwie Malmsteen jealous (“The Failsafe”) in your live set here back in April, Misery Signals definitely is not afraid to mix it up. With such diverse music on your CDs, what are your musical backgrounds?
Each individual member brings very different musical tastes to the table. Stu is/always will be a punk rock dude for life. Branden’s drumming is heavily influenced by the amount of jazz he listens to. Kyle [Johnson, bass] has been known to rock a Rush shirt or two in his day. Ryan is into the more experimental/progressive stuff. I guess that leaves me, the dude that loves fast, heavy music.
Has Misery Signals reached a point yet where you can survive off the band’s music?
“Survive” is the key word in that sentence. Given our hectic touring schedule, we really don’t have time to hold down any type of "real job". Thankfully we are able to get by with the amount of money this band generates. It’s enough to pay the bills every month and really, at this point, that’s all we need.
A lot of bands say that they are happiest when playing gigs on the road. Honestly, is it all worth it when faced with traveling in a van with a bunch of sweaty dudes, eating shitty gas station food and splitting a couple hundred bucks between you night after night? Do you ever crave the security of a “regular” 9-to-5 type of lifestyle?
Being home for the past six weeks and interacting with all my friends who have graduated from college and stepped into their careers has given me even more of a drive to maintain my current lifestyle for as long as I can hold onto it. That 9-5 job will always be around somewhere, but this opportunity that we have been granted won’t always be. So we’re going to take full advantage of it.
***Thanks to Sarah Lutz for setting up the interview.
Misery Signals—MySpace Page