Misery Index Interview
By: DJ Blackmoon
After nearly 14 years of performing, touring, and recording great albums, Misery Index returns with their 5th full length album, The Killing Gods. It’s an instant classic, showcasing the band’s genius songwriting and brutal musicality. Metal Mayhem Underground talks with guitarist Mark Kloeppel and bassist Jason Netherton about the new album and their recent performance at Maryland Deathfest.
Metal Mayhem Underground: “The new album, The Killing Gods, is very good. What were your influences in recording the new album, and how was the writing approached differently, if at all, than previous albums?”
Mark Kloeppel: “The Killing Gods is an intrinsically influenced literary and metaphysical side-step for the band to explicate real world travesty through prose. The Killing Gods as a whole follows the means of human control from the metaphysical to the physical (in that order), with a brief sojourn mid-record into our collective personal juxtaposition in these realms. The record revolves around themes of religious oppression, military oppression, hidden knowledge, and the intrinsic dark plume billowing in our minds like thick impenetrable smoke. It leaves the listener both digging deeper into their dark recesses and following those emotions as they extrinsically manifest. This record is a study of this bigger picture; utilizing literature, real world events, and tacit knowledge as a means of explication. For example, Faust, the first movement broken into five sections comprising the first fifteen and a half minutes of the record, is lyrically based upon Marshall Berman’s interpretation of Faust in his book “All That Is Solid Melts into Air.” Jason, our bass player, presented this concept, and I ran with it. Berman takes a literary approach to the consequences of modernity versus a nineteenth century Enlightenment drive for progress and the growth of capitalism. He talks about these issues through Faust, and how Faust is a sort of tragic figure in his drive to progress, as he destroys it at the same time. So, this one in particular was inspired by two pieces of literature: one using the other as a mode of analysis of real world dynamics. That's really what all our lyrics are, if to a lesser degree and more direct degree. For this piece, though, we are trying to join the literary ranks with our art.
Outside of the conceptual challenge we presented ourselves, production was also a major challenge. Luckily, we had a really strong mixing and mastering team in Steve Wright and Tony Eichler, respectively. In 2010, the metal crowd was more into inhuman “perfect” sounding records. That’s what our last record sounds like. We don’t particularly like that style of production, but it’s easier to churn out when you have an extremely limited timeline. With The Killing Gods, we really took our time with the production; not so much the tracking, but the mixing and mastering. We really wanted to stick to natural sounds; relaying the subtle nuances that indicate a human being is playing the parts, without losing the modern production value. The process was laborious, with different members having to periodically bow out of the process due to stress. In the end, though, our production team nailed it… all the way from the sound to the finely crafted aesthetics of the album art by Gary Ronaldson. It is an organic record in the purest sense, and that is what the public wants to hear. They want to hear the actual raw visceral energy that comes out of this music. That’s what you hear on The Killing Gods.”
MMU: “Your name was taken after Assuck’s Misery Index album- what other bands inspire your writing the most and why?”
MK: “The Misery Index sound is one that is always evolving, and is a culmination of each member's influences. This far into our evolution, I can't really point to any band in particular as a main point of influence for the band as a whole. Each member has their bands that they are primarily listening to at the time. But, just for fun, let's say Tragedy, Bolt Thrower, Napalm Death, Dissection, Edge of Sanity, Coroner, Emperor, Disrupt, Minor Threat, Sepultura, Candlemass…”
MMU: “Misery Index recently played at Maryland Deathfest- What it’s it like playing at that iconic North American festival with so many great bands? Do you have any interesting stories from the experience this year, or from past MDF appearances?”
MK: “Evan and Ryan [MDF founders and organizers] are friends of ours that grew up in the Maryland scene. We've known them since they first put MDF together. Occasionally, they'll ask us to play way in advance. But since we are all friends, Misery Index ends up being a failsafe to fill a spot for bands that can't make it. They know Misery Index lives down the street and will always get a good response and enhance the fest. This year we were scheduled to play the pre-fest party, and were booking bands for the main stage when a band dropped 3 months prior to the fest. Rather than going through the trouble of finding another band, they just had us play again, and people loved it. As a result of this dynamic, we probably play that thing more than we should. It's just too easy for everyone involved. My wife runs merchandise for the fest, and the rest of the guys are there doing other things every year, so we are all literally right there anyway.”
MMU: “Jason, what was it like playing in Dying Fetus, and how do you perform differently in Misery Index? Also, you recently published a book, called Extremity Retained: Notes From the Death Metal Underground. Can you tell us about that?”
Jason Netherton: “I perform pretty much the same as in DF, although the vibe is different. John Gallagher is among my oldest friends and we began Dying Fetus together after high school and remain friends, and try to meet up as often as we can. I left the band on good terms and we are both very happy and content with our current musical endeavors.
On the book: I just thought it'd be interesting to capture all these stories and memories from people who I had unique access to as a fellow touring musician. You always find yourself in these situations where everyone's around, even for a moment. Sometimes it's really hard to pin people down for an interview if you're just trying to send them an email or a Facebook message; it just kind of gets lost a lot of the time. So when you have that access you can just talk to someone right there on the spot... Also, when it's like, ‘Oh, he's another guy in a band, just like me,’ it's maybe got a bit more of a relaxed tone to it.”
MMU: “Although there are many great metal albums still being released, the metal scene seems to be declining. What is your opinion on today’s metal scene- death metal, and metal in general- and how is it different now than when you started?”
Mark Kloeppel: “Is it declining? It seems that metal, especially metal with screaming vocals, is as popular and mainstream as it has ever been. You certainly can't deny the strength of the summer metal festival circuit worldwide. The industry as a whole has a lot of catching up to do in terms of selling music. It's forcing too many bands out on to the road in order to make a living. The market is saturated with live music. I wouldn't say the scene is on a decline. If it were, MDF would have to extend more days and into more venues each year.”
MMU: “What is the craziest story or experience you can think of from your time recording and performing together as a band?”
MK: “I was in a band out of St. Louis with the Jesse Schobel, current drummer of Strong Intention, and Derek Engemann, current bassist of Cattle Decapitation. Adam, our drummer, is also from St. Louis. When Misery Index was looking for a guitarist in 2004, Adam sent an email to our band inquiring if I could be the next guitarist of Misery Index. Well, Jesse deleted that email with Derek sitting right there before I had a chance to read it. Hater-shit! Luckily, Adam scheduled a show with his old St. Louis band at Pop's in Sauget, IL, in late 2004, and I attended. After the show he asked if I had read his email, and I said "what email?" MI thought I just wasn't responding and were moving on. Luckily, I caught it, and the rest is history. Be careful of the company you keep!”
MMU: “What is your favorite Misery Index album and why?”
MK: “The Killing Gods, because it is our greatest achievement in terms of both production and songwriting. We are already in the process of topping it. So, the best is yet to come.” ∆
Pick up The Killing Gods on Season of Mist and don’t miss Misery Index on their European tour with Gorguts in the spring!