The band’s name can be deceiving because – let’s face it – it sounds French... Well, UNE MISÈRE do not come from France, and if you – still – don’t believe me, then please read below how the band’s singer Jón Már Ásbjörnsson answered to METAL KAOZ questions regarding the band's formation and the debut record “Sermon” that was released via Nuclear Blast. And yes, he solved the band name mystery...
Hello Jón and welcome to METAL KAOZ! How are you?
Hey Dimitris! I’m very, very good, thank you, and you?
I’m quite fine, a little bit under the weather but I’m good generally speaking.
I hope you’ll get better.
Yeah, we, metalheads, are strong (laughs).
Yes, we are (laughs).
So, the band is called UNE MISÈRE; didn’t you think that you may confuse a little bit the fans to mistakenly think that you’re a French band?
Yeah, we thought about that and actually we were kind of hoping so because in the beginning we really wanted to get away from the Icelandic stereotype of a band. You know, as soon as people know that a band is from Iceland, they think “it’s so beautiful there” and they stop thinking about the music.
I don’t think so, man – come on (laughs)!
So, the band started in 2016, right? And now we’re talking about the new album that on top of this was released by Nuclear Blast. Things moved quite fast for you, guys.
Yeah, and they still kind of are actually. We just announced that we’ll take part on the ‘Impericon’ tour with bands like AS I LAY DYING and EMMURE and JINJER and stuff like that, for Europe.
How many do you think winning the Icelandic ‘Wacken Metal Battle’ doors opened for you?
It opened countless doors. I mean, at ‘Wacken’ we met our first booking agent, Doomstar Bookings, and they got us on the tour with ALL PIGS MUST DIE. Then we met Walter that got us at ‘Roadburn’. The ‘Wacken’ show opened a lot of doors and we got to know a lot of good people so that’s really good. But it’s not the only thing that opened us a lot of doors; I mean, Walter at ‘Roadburn’ has done so much for us and also we met our manager at ‘Roadburn’. He watched our show and he left his card and now he’s our manager and he’s the smartest man I’ve ever met in my entire life. He’s certainly opened up a lot of doors as well.
Were you actively searching for a record label or did Nuclear Blast contact you?
We were searching; actually, funny story, we had a deal on the table from a label here in Europe and I can’t say which label that was but we had a deal and were like “yeah, this is cool, let’s go for this” and Simon, our manager, just said “no, I wanna go bigger” and that, to us, sounded really confident, and then, two weeks later he said “alright, guys, Nuclear Blast wants you on their roster, I think we should go for it” and we though he was joking. We just laughed at him but then he sent over the deal and the rest is history.
Awesome, man! Did you have “Sermon”, the album, ready before joining Nuclear Blast?
No, we joined Nuclear Blast in December / January or something like that and we started recording the album in February but we wrote like three or four songs in the period of time from when we signed until we started the recording process. We didn’t have it ready. I don’t know; they took a leap of faith with us. They really believed in what we’re doing and our cause.
That’s awesome! So, you said you started recording in February, so how long did you collectively work on the new album?
We started the band in 2016 and I guess you could argue that we have been writing this album since 2016. I mean, “Overlooked – Disregarded” was the first song that we released and that was in November 2016. But it’s kind of been happening ever since; we gathered songs, we’ve created songs but it was 4-5 songs that we created from December to February and those are some of my favorite songs of the album actually but it’s been a process of 3 years I’d say. But we already started working on our next album.
I was trying to lead to that because usually when you have a debut that means that the band has already been working on that album for quite a while, and once it gets out, the band is already on the move for the next one.
Yeah, we knew that as soon as the first album was released, we probably wouldn’t have time to write the next one, since we’d be quite a while on the road and stuff like that. So, we decided to get a head start on it and we just started writing. I mean, “Sermon” was ready in March and we’ve been writing our second album since.
Ok. Did you have any songs that you didn’t use on “Sermon” but you’re planning to include in your sophomore release?
No, not at all. It was quite weird to me that all the songs that we wrote intentionally for the debut were used. I guess our process is quite different from others but when we’re writing, it’s a lot of ‘no or yes’. If somebody in the band comes up with a riff, it gets a ‘yes’ if it’s good, and then we work on it, and if it blows our minds, we keep working on it. But if we’re not blown away completely, we just say ‘no’ and we scrap it. But we have some riffs, we had some left-over riffs but no full songs.
Got it. You chose to finalize the production and do the mixing with Sky Van Hoff, right?
Yes, Sky Van Hoff recorded and mixed the album actually. He came to Iceland with his team, Marco Kollenz and Marco Bayati, and they were here for three weeks and we recorded the album in that period of time.
Reading the press release online, you say that you were looking for a “big sound” so did you exactly know how “Sermon” you’d like to sound or did you get some feedback from the Van Hoff team?
Well, we kind of knew, like we had an idea. And we were going for that sound that tells the listener that “this is a stadium band”. But we didn’t know how to get there. And Sky Van Hoff has very much experience in that field and he kind of guided us through the process, and of course, added on to the album a lot of things that we wouldn’t have figured out ourselves, so that was quite welcomed.
So what we hear in the album, is what we’ll hear when we see you guys onstage?
I would probably say it’s bigger onstage.
That’s great! And then you worked for the album’s cover artwork with Niklas from DARK TRANQUILLITY, so what input did you give him? Did you guide in any way the concept of the cover artwork?
We found Niklas and we found a painting that he had already done and we instantly fell in love and we contacted him and said to him: “this is very amazing, could you do something similar for us?” and he was very excited for it. We kind of gave him notes on that other picture, like this but with these colors, and stuff like that and he was like “definitely”. Then, he gave us the final product and it was way better than we were expecting. It was way better than all of our suggestions and I think it’s just because he kind of got it, he knew what we were talking about but he also is very good at what he does. I feel very fortunate to have the honor of working with him.
Did Niklas listen to your music at all?
I think so, yeah. I’m not quite sure about it.
Well, we can see DARK TRANQUILLITY with UNE MISERE here in the US sometime – I’m just putting that out.
(laughs) I hope so, yeah. At least, I’m up for it!
Is there any connection between the lyrics and the artwork?
No, not a direct connection. The artwork has more to do with the atmosphere of the music because I still every time look at the artwork, I see something new or I feel something new because the depth and the colors of it are so complex. And that’s how we approach our music and how we like to have our music to be heard.
Yeah, in fact, once you start listening to “Sermon”, you can easily say “ok, this is typical Metalcore” but then it starts to reveal the rest of the flavors. I like how it has this layer of darkness underneath. So this is what I started to like because I’m an old school guy but I started seeing what you’re trying to do and I like how you deliver the vocals and I can easily understand what you’re singing about and this is really important – to me at least when listening to music.
Yeah, same here; I like to be able to sing along.
With that being said, how important are for you the lyrics for the song “Failures”?
Those are actually quite important because those lyrics are actually written about me becoming sober; like my journey from addiction to sobriety, so those are always very tough but very liberating to sing live.
“Failures” talks about getting sober or staying sober? That must be harder, right?
It’s kind of both; but the song is about the first four days of me getting sober, when I went through the withdrawal.
So, in the lyrics you’re talking about the physical side of being sober or the psychological one? I haven’t been through this but I believe that the psychological burden / pressure or battle should be harder.
Yes. The physical part is not a big deal; it’s kind of like a week, but it’s the psychological part that [interrupting himself] I mean, three years later and I’m still dealing with it.
It’s great that you’re clean, Jon! Then, you have this motto “no wound too deep”. So what does that mean to you?
It actually just means never give up because no matter how deep the wound is, we will always surpass it, we will always get better, we will always stand up. And that’s kind of what I want people to know. Don’t give up, don’t give in, things are gonna get better.
I like that you see the glass half-full and not half-empty. Although in your music, like I said, there is that dark undertone, so I like how the antithesis between what you’re saying and what the music is injecting. Or maybe music represents life itself.
So, what you’re singing in the studio – because this type of music is really demanding; you have to be in a certain mood to get all the emotions out – what get your energy at the right level to start singing like that? When you’re isolated with just yourself and a microphone?
That was actually our producer, Sky Van Hoff; he took good care of keeping me angry and energized (laughs). He was very motivating and made sure to let me know if I was doing something wrong and we kind of linked. Very early in the process I knew exactly what he wanted from me and he knew exactly what he wanted from me. So, we kind of locked in our opinions and it was very driving to have a producer like him, telling you and commenting on your vocals. Of course the guys tried to come over to the vocals booth studio as much as they could just to give me a little pad on the back or bring me a snack and stuff like that. And that was always very welcoming. I could say that recording vocals for music like this, I voluntarily put myself in a state of almost depression. I mean, I feel very bad about these lyrics and I feel bad because all these are personal lyrics, about stuff having happened to me or around me and it’s quite hard. So, seeing a smiling face is always good; it gets you through another hour.
It’s like facing your demons every time you do that. But there is a good side on that, because once you start doing that, it kind of loses its power over you at some point. So, we mentioned the European tour; have you chose which songs you’ll be using on the upcoming European tour?
Not yet. We’re actually focusing on our release show that’s on December 14 here in Iceland and like after that’s done, we’ll start figuring out next year.
Do you know if there are any talks about getting the band to cross the Atlantic?
It’s always in the works. That’s being a dream of mine ever since I knew there will be our music all over the world. I always wanted to go to the States to play. So, if nobody’s working on it, then I’ll be working on it.
Yeah, because this style of music I’m sure it’ll drive people to the shows. I’m sure about that.
That’s very nice to hear, actually.
Ok, Jon, thank you very much for your time. Have a great New Year. Hopefully, we’ll see you here in Chicago.
You too, my friend! It was very nice talking to you! I hope so too, man!