On their the last days in Europe, Misery Index came to Finland to play in the festival Tuska Open Air. The band, well known for its furious grind and death metal style, was promoting their latest record, ”Heirs to Thievery”, and a day before the Tuska gig I talked with basist/vocalist Jason Netherton about the band’s current situation, their future plans and also about his time in Dying Fetus, plus about Misery Index’s hometown of Baltimore, Maryland.
Interview and live pics by Petri Seppänen Da Costa
Misery Index – The current situation and future plans
I guess you have been asked this before, about the band’s name, so can you tell me why did you choose that name? I’m not sure if most people know what Misery Index means, but I guess people in US know what that means, so was that to give some sort of statement that the band has some political lyrics or?
When I wanted to get this band together, I wanted something more identifiable, like real reality based lyrics and socialy conscious lyrics. So I always had that name in my head from the Assück album, and it just had a good ring to it, just stuck in my head and I went with that. It was just suppose to be a project band. I don’t think that a lot of people in the States really knows what that means, it’s kinda like an obscure archaic economical term. It has that meaning too, which is kinda interesting to calculate the misery of the country.
It’s pretty suitable for times like these, the name Misery Index. I actually thought that most people in US knew that term.
It’s been getting thrown around more recently to critize Obama and stuff. It’s actually a term from the 70’s that was used during the Carter administration I think, that’s when it was coined.
Okay, so let’s talk about the band’s current situation. Last year [guitarist] ”Sparky” Voyless left the band, and was he since the begining of the band?
Yeah almost. I formed the band with another guy and about a year later Sparky joined, and he was with us since then.
What was the reason for him to leave the band after such a long time?
He wasn’t happy anymore, I guess it came from originally some business disagreement, but it seemed to me that he had other things going on in his life and he just wasn’t happy with the touring stuff anymore.
And how has it been with Dan Morris now? He has been a year playing with you guys, right?
Yeah. It’s been fantastic, it’s like family, we are really comfortable with each other.
And you know him for a long time or somebody recomended him?
We grew up in the same area, he has been in some bands in the Maryland area throughout the years, most recentely he was in the side project Criminal Element with the other guys. He knew our songs because we recorded our albuns with him, like the pre production stuff in his home studio, so it was pretty much a natural transition.
So he’s a full time member?
You guys have been promoting your latest record for I think a year now, so how has the tour been?
Good. We did three US tours, one European tour and some festivals this year. We went to some other places too, Colombia, South East Asia, Midle East, so we been traveling a lot.
Is this Tuska gig tomorrow [N.: The interview was done on the 23th of July] the last European date or you guys have some more gigs?
This is it for the year, I think we are gonna come back early next year on a tour. I don’t know if it has been announced yet, so I won’t say anything but I think we are coming back in February or March, and that will it be for a while I think.
You guys recentely signed with this French label, Season of the Mist, so was the reason to leave Relapse and why did you choose Season of the Mist in particular?
Well, it just came down to wanting to have means avaliable to record an album that we wanted. The resources in Relapse were somewhat limited for us, so…in other words we got a better recording budget from Season of the Mist. We’ve only been able to do [a record in] three and a half weeks, so next time we want to do a longer, more ambitious album, something like an hour or 50 minutes [long], have different kinds of influences on there. Have more time to mix, that was important for us, plus I guess we just wanted to change scenery, something different. Plus they [Season of the Mist] have a lot of cool bands, so…*laughs*. They are a good label too.
What else you guys have planned for this year? I read that you guys have this split with Lock Up, so it that coming out?
It’s already out.
Yeah, it’s a 7” on a friend of ours’ label, a Czech label, called Damage Done Records. We did one song, they did two. They contacted us about it, we didn’t have any song so we just sort of wrote a song in a couple of days together, and we retracked at Dan’s home studio. It’s actually a really slow, mid pace song, there’s no blasts or anything, it’s kinda weird we [did the] split with Lock Up with a slow kinda song. That’s the way it came out *laughs*. It’s cool for the 7” coz it’s really different for us, it’s kinda more like…I don’t know, a mid pace Gojira type song.
Is that some sort of direction that you guys are gonna go with the next record?
No, we always had in our albuns like slower songs, like one or two slower songs coz we don’t want to have for an album just straight from the begining to the end all grind or something. We’ve been really a death metal band that has a lot of grind, rather the other way around. I think you can always expect those kinds of songs from us, but it just happened that this one was just like that.
Are you guys gonna start recording soon then or what’s the plan?
No, I think this is gonna be the longest stretch between albuns that we are gonna have coz we have some other personal stuff going on with us too. Our guitarist got married and is having a baby, I’m gonna go back to the university, so it’s gonna be…hopefully, maybe we’ll be in the studio next year.
This year I believe marks the 10th aniversary of Misery Index, so how do you see these 10 years with the band? How they have been?
It went really fast. I think when you…it’s not like when you are a teenager and every year seems to take forever to get older, but now all the years go faster and faster. It’s the same when you are touring around, it’s…I think that when you are doing something that you love, time goes faster. If you are really happy with yourself, you don’t worry about time, it doesn’t tend to drag.
We had a lot of good times and everything was great. We get to see the world a few times over, and that was one of the objectives, to tour a lot.
You mentioned before that you are going to the university, so I wanted to ask you…since you can’t just depend on Misery Index, so what else you guys have going on besides the band?
Well, we had odd jobs, um…in between tours for years, I have done everything from eletrical work to working in a book store. The other guys have worked in night clubs, security…work you can find in between tours that you can leave and then come back. It’s been tough coz you live month to month just trying to pay your rent. It’s a cool way to live for a while, you are making music and traveling, having good experiences and sometimes that’s worth more than just working nine to five, saving up money for something. We are gonna have some kinds of changes I think, coz we can’t do this like what we have…Mark [Kloeppel, guitarist/vocalist] is starting a familly.
Do you see the band continuing for a long time?
Well, I know that right now we still feel inspired, and I think that as long as you are inspired, you feel that you want to express that way, that’s important. Like you see some bands that go out and do it coz that’s all they know, I don’t think they have the passion for it anymore, they just go out and get the big guarantees and stuff, and go home…I think for us, we still wanna do it, maybe not as hard as we have been pushing it, maybe more of a tour here and there kinda thing.
Dying Fetus – The begining, influences and the reissues
So if it’s okay with you, I wanted to ask a few questions about Dying Fetus.
How did the band came about and was that your first band?
We started Dying Fetus after our high school band. John [Gallagher], the guitar player/singer, he was…We had a band in high school, like a power metal band, power straight up thrashy metal band called Damnation, and we did that for a couple of years in high school, did a demo. That’s when we started hearing death metal, around 1990 and we decided we wanted to do that instead, and we started Dying Fetus in 1991. That was that…went through different members.
What was the band that changed what you wanted to do? Like, continue with this more death metal approach?
Probably Obituary and Deicide, when we first started hearing those Florida bands, they were just…all of sudden we were in this quest to hear something heavier and heavier, find out what could out do the other. Actually Sepultura, I remember when I saw the ”Inner Self” video on MTV, I thought that was the heaviest thing in the world. Then we found out about the other Roadracer [N. Roadrunner Records] bands, like Obituary and Deicide, this sort of wave of death metal started coming out. It was the time when you go to the store and buy anything and it’d be great, coz everything was still new, and everybody was just spontaneous. It wasn’t for a couple of years before you started to get these bands that were trying to sound like the other bands, so it was a good time.
From this time with Dying Fetus, is there a favorite album for you, one that you are the most proud of?
Probably ”Killing on Adrenaline”. When we first got Kevin Talley in the band that was a game changer for us, coz drummers at that time, even by the mid 90’s, were still very hard to find, like that could blast really hard and do double bass properly. We found him in Texas, that’s how it was, you had to find drummers like in the other side of the country. When he joined the band things got really cool, there was a really spontaneous, energetic writing process that only comes around in bands one time really. I like the way that came out, although we probably could have done the mixing a little better, but it’s still really heavy.
Probably most Misery Index fans know that you played and sang in Dying Fetus, so do you hear requests from fans to play some Dying Fetus songs?
Yeah, sometimes I hear some ”Kill Your Mother, Rape Your Dog” scream.
Do you play if they ask a lot?
We never play *laughs*. As long as they are together, I mean if they would have broke up years ago…maybe. If they broke up years ago maybe we’d play something I wrote or something.
Recentely Relapse re released some Dying Fetus albuns, were you involved in any way, did they ask you to write some liner notes or something?
Yeah, I wrote all the liner notes and provided the bonus tracks. I worked with John [Gallagher, Dying Fetus' guitaris/vocalist], he didn’t have any of that stuff, and John wanted me to do it, write the stuff coz I guess he doesn’t like to write that stuff so much, and I worked with Relapse on that. It was cool.
Baltimore – Misery Index’s hometown
Okay, so last but not least I wanted to ask you a few questions about Baltimore, Maryland. First, how’s the metal scene there?
It’s pretty good, it’s better than other parts of the country. Usually on the coasts, East Coast, West Coast, major cities, have some kind of scene. Baltimore is okay, we have a handfull of bands. Us, Misery Index, Dying Fetus of course…umm there’s another band, a brutal death metal band which is really good…um Visceral Disgorge, yeah. There are other bands too, Condemn the Infected, a lot of unsigned bands you know playing Maryland style death metal, mixing breakdowns and stuff. It’s pretty cool, but it’s mostly really… punk and grind scene, there’s a really big punk and grind scene with Pig Destroyer, some other bands like that. But there are bands too, Darkest Hour in Washington, it’s a pretty cool area.
Is it too underground or is there a lot of support, a lot of people involed in the scene?
Yeah, there’s the Sonar Night Club, a few places to play, tours always go there, the Maryland Death Fest is there every year and that has brought a lot of attention to it.
I think you are aware of the tv show The Wire [N.: A tv series that ran through 5 seasons during 2002 – 2008, which showed the drug trade, the police force, the school system, the gorvenment, the sea port system and the print news media in the city of Baltimore]…
How did you think the city of Baltimore was portrayted? Was it, let’s say, fair? I had read that, I’m not sure now if it was the mayor or some governor didn’t like the series because it gave this rough image. How did you think it was?
I haven’t seen all the shows, I have seen some episodes, but I know it’s very real and very close to reality. I know that a lot of people see that, but I think every city has some cool and interesting parts too, it’s not all about the poverty, although that is a big part of American cities which is shut away from the tourist areas and stuff so…but yeah, a powerful series, a lot of people say it’s one of their favorites. It could really have been in Philadelphia, could have been in Cleveland, could have been in Buffalo or any eastern, coast industrial city which has sort of lost its economy and it’s in transition, so a lot of people got left behind. I don’t think it could be just Baltimore, there are dozen of cities like that.
I saw an interview with this director, John Waters, and he was saying that Baltimore used to be murder capital…
Yeah, one year it got the per capita number, which is based on population you know…but I mean that’s…it goes around. New Orleans had it recently, Washington had in the 90’s, early 90’s. I think a lot of the media is always gonna focus on those more sensationalistics aspects that are attention grabbing, the statistics, the violent side of things, which is important to show…but sometimes if you are on the outside looking at that, it gives you…not really a correct vision of what’s going on. But I think that’s part of the whole system in America, it’s like you have winners and losers, that’s hyper capitalism, you know? There are people who are fucked, and then you look at this side of the street there are happy suburban families everywhere.
Actually that was one of his points, John Waters called Baltimore an ”extreme city”, that it has its good sides but it also has the rough sides…
It is true, it’s very distinct the lines of…you’ll go over this one road and it’s like miles of boarded up houses. It’s…you know, it’s what they used to call third world countries, developing countries.
Has that kind of enverioment influenced you or affected you as a musician, when you write lyrics or even riffs?
Yeah, it’s come up before, I mean…in lyrics too, the song ”Breathing Pestilence” is about that. But yeah, we are more influenced just from what we grew up on, 80’s metal, and of course death metal after that, and the hardcore scene in Maryland is really strong so that had a big impact on Dying Fetus too.
Well, I guess that’s it then. Thanks a lot for the interview!
Cool, thank you.