Threat Signal head out on a North American tour this spring, just months after releasing their fourth album, Disconnect (November 2017, Agonia Records). It’s been six years since we last heard from these Canadian metalheads, but Disconnect shows they haven’t missed a beat. Though this latest effort was five years in the making, it quickly earned them a spot on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart. The coming months will reveal if Threat Signal’s success on record still translates to the stage.
In the summer of 2006, Threat Signal were touring to support their first (rather than fourth) album. At that time I had the chance to interview frontman Jon Howard leading up to a show held in Cambridge, ON. The article that follows is the result of that conversation.
Threat Signal: The Momentum of a Metal Machine
Things have been moving fast for Threat Signal. Two years ago they barely qualified as a band, were just three guys hiding in a basement, recording metal onto a pc. Thanks to those homemade demos, Threat Signal now has a solid line-up, a fresh new debut album (Under Reprisal) recorded with Fear Factory’s Christian Olde Wolbers, and a nearly worldwide deal with monster metal label Nuclear Blast.
The buzz humming around these four Hamiltonians and their Pennsylvanian drummer started online. Jon Howard (vocals), Kyle McKnight and Rich Howard (guitars) hadn’t even firmed up their project’s name when Jon posted the song “Rational Eyes” on Garageband.com, not telling his bandmates what he’d done. He explains: “I just wanted to hear what the world thought, so I threw it up on there, and man, it went to number one in a couple weeks and just blew me away.”
That’s how Nuclear Blast found them, asked for more songs and finally offered Threat Signal a record deal. “Internet is great,” Jon adds. “Everyone should get their music up on there. Once the online stuff started it kind of gave us a kick in the ass – ‘kay guys, get your band together and start playing. Get out there and get heard.’” Responding to the call, Threat Signal recruited a full line-up, now completed by bassist Marco Bressette and drummer George Parfitt.
The band’s chance to record with Wolbers also came as a piece of good networking fortune – a shared photographer who passed on Threat Signal’s demo, spurring Wolbers to give them a call. “I pick up the phone, and he’s like, ‘This is Christian from Fear Factory. I just heard your demo and it kicks ass.’ I’m like, ‘not a chance man, whatever.’ I didn’t believe it was him at first, but we started talking, and it was him. It was cool – we ended up going down to Los Angeles and living in his house for five weeks. He’d wake us up in the morning and cook us breakfast.”
The Fear Factory connection has inspired some lazy comparisons, but Threat Signal went to Wolbers with finished songs in hand. “His influence was mainly just getting us great sounds and pushing us as hard as we can go, and producing a lot of the vocals. It’s kind of cool because a lot of people are saying we sound like Meshuggah, Soilwork, someone else… It’s never the same band. That’s great and they’re all amazing bands, so whatever,” Jon laughs. “But I definitely think we have something more original.
“Basically, when we got together we said, ‘okay let’s make the heaviest shit possible but let’s keep melody, and we want thrash, we want solos. We basically wanna mix the old school metal with something new. And we took all these bands that we love and kind of chucked them in a blender and spit out our own style.”
That style was invisible to Threat Signal’s hometown crowd before the internet buzz kicked into gear, but Jon has fond words for the Hamilton scene. “Everyone’s been so supportive. Our first show we played and we sold it out and it was like 300 people. It’s just unbelievable. I think Hamilton’s been good – this whole area is great for music. It’s right close to Toronto and Niagara… It’s a good spot.”
Threat Signal has yet to perform outside Ontario and has only about 30 shows worth of live cred, but Jon has no doubts that they’re ready for more. “Our live show is very intense. Kyle’s doing the circle headbangs, and I’m running around like an animal. It’s pretty insane man, but we actually maintain our music ability too. We practise so much – we just sound so tight together. It’s a good time.”
After a couple more dates in Canada, Threat Signal head to Germany for their first European metal festival – as performers or audience – then a fall tour with Soilwork will take them through the US and back into home territory. Jon practically bleeds excitement talking about the band’s momentum and how much he wants to get out on tour. “We’re so excited just to see these different places and play everyday. I love being on stage. I just wanna play more. I love the vibe.”
So far no one’s accused Threat Signal of not paying their dues, and if passion counts for anything, Jon at least has earned more than his ticket. “We work really, really hard at this music. We’re playing every day, all the time. Kyle’s a machine – he’s writing stuff every day. Everyone in this band – they don’t slack off. This is what they wanna do. We wanna make this our lives. I love how fast it’s moving. I just hope it keeps going – it’s awesome. It’s like we’re never gonna stop.”
Originally published by Dynasty Publications, August 2006.
Jon Howard – vocals
Travis Montgomery – guitars
Pat Kavanagh – bass
Matt Perrin – guitars
Initial 2018 tour dates:
04/06/18 – Spartanburg, SC @ Ground Zero
04/08/18 – Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade (Hell)
04/10/18 – Austin, TX @ Come and Take it Live!
04/11/18 – Fort Worth @ TX Rail Club
04/13/18 – Mesa, AZ @ Club Red
04/17/18 – Seattle, WA @ Studio Seven
04/18/18 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre
04/20/18 – Calgary, AB @ Dickens Pub
04/22/18 – Winnipeg, MB @ Handsome Daughter
04/24/18 – Chicago, IL @ Reggie’s
04/25/18 – Detroit, MI @ Harpo’s
04/26/18 – Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
04/27/18 – Montreal, QC @ Katacombes
04/28/18 – Hartford, CT @ Webster Underground
04/29/18 – Brooklyn, NY @ The Kingsland