Killswitch Engage Singer Jesse Leach Discusses Upcoming Album, Tour With Shadows Fall + More
It’s been one hell of a year for Jesse Leach, who reunited with Killswitch Engage at the beginning of 2012. The band's first performance back together occurred at the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, and they were also part of this year’s Trespass America Festival over the summer with Five Finger Death Punch, Trivium and more.
Leach, who was the band's original singer, came back into the lineup after longtime vocalist Howard Jones left the band in late 2011. He and the rest of Killswitch have just finished up recording their first album together in 10 years. They are also celebrating the tenth anniversary of the band’s debut disc, ‘Alive or Just Breathing’ by performing it in its entirety during a headlining trek that features support from Shadows Fall and Acaro.
When we recently spoke with Jesse Leach, he expressed his excitement about the upcoming album, the tour and more.
I was at the first show at the New England Hardcore and Metal Festival earlier this year - how has your experience of rejoining the band been from that show to now?
It’s been amazing and so much fun. It’s hard to put into words, my life’s just completely changed. I’ve had so much fun with these guys and we just finished recording our record that I’m super proud of. It’s been great.
What has been the funniest thing a fan has said to you since coming back into the fold?
You know probably some of the criticisms that people give me, I think it’s hilarious – to me – about how I don’t sing the same as Howard [Jones]. It’s not necessarily funny to most people but it is for me because we’re such different singers. I think it’s hilarious that people constantly want to compare us -- it’s funny in a different kind of way. Fans have definitely been really sweet but occasionally you get the people that don’t care and they say what they want to say. As far as “Ha Ha” funny, [guitarist] Adam [Dutkiewicz] is the one that gets all the funny ones.
To play ‘Alive or Just Breathing’ in full after 10 years, what does this mean to you?
It’s surreal, it’s strange. I have a lot of love for that record but I had to do a lot of listening to it again – we’re playing it from start to finish. I look back on who I was 10 years ago as a singer and a person and I’ve changed so much. It’s just amazing for the fan to pay tribute to those fans who still care about that record, it’s just astonishing to me and it was definitely a career defining record. It’s and honor is basically how I feel, it’s an honor to perform this record. Again, I’m a different person but those lyrics still ring true for the most part for me.
It just feels good to be able to do this for the fans and for us it’s just a fan thing to do in between since the [new] record isn’t out yet, so we wanted to hit the road and have some fun and give the fans something special because it’s been ten years.
Looking back on it now, what did recording that album teach you that you took with you to record future albums in your career?
[Laughs] Recording that record taught me that I had to use my voice properly and be more confident. I think that process, being under the microscope the way that I was for that record with Adam – we both learned a lot from that record. It made me really want to learn my instrument better and have control over it because what I hear in my head was difficult to produce. What I was hearing in my head and what was coming out wasn’t what I wanted it to be – it was just me being critical of myself but then again you should be. It kind of kickstarted me to be like, “alright I got to figure this thing out.” I wanted to become a better singer and become more confident.
You guys killed on the Trespass American Festival – and you’re headed on tour with Shadows Fall later this month. No doubt this tour will be a memorable one what are you looking forward to most about this trek?
Probably just hanging out, we got Shadows Fall and my buddies in a band called Acaro. It’s pretty much all of the Massachusetts boys getting together – I live in New York now but it’s going to be a reunion of sorts. I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of antics and stuff going on. That and obviously just playing, if all goes well we’ll slide in another new song. Yeah I can’t wait for this new record – I literally finished just two days ago so I’m still buzzed from it.
For you guys going from Trespass America and doing the big festival shows to more intimate clubs, do you prefer the smaller venues versus the bigger ones?
I like them both but they definitely offer different things. The one thing I’m looking forward to with smaller clubs, especially for this record, is the intimacy of the crowd. There’s not going to be a huge divide where the audience is ten feet away from the stage and we’re ten feet above them. The intimacy is great the emotion comes off better and for this record it’s important.
There was a Facebook post on the vocals being done for the new Killswitch Engage album; how was the recording process like for you?
For the new record it was great, I came off tour I was filled with energy, ready to go, we knocked out a bunch of stuff. I had joined the band, the record was there, we’re on tour so I really didn’t have time to write. I took the past two months not only recording but writing so I’m there with an idea, being in the other room writing and going to Adam saying, “Here’s my idea I just wrote, what do you think?” So there’s real spontaneity some of the songs that we just finished up. I had maybe five or six solid ideas when I came off tour and the rest had to be developed as we were recording it.
It was exciting but at the same time tough because for me I’m digging deep down into my emotions and my psyche trying to come up with stuff that is honest and emotive and relevant, hopefully for the listener. It’s tiring but well worth, anything that’s worth achieving you got to suffer a little bit for it. I think mentally and spiritually and a little bit physically we were suffering but all of that made for an amazing record that I’m really proud of.
How has the vibe of working on the new record been with the other members?
These guys have welcomed me back with open arms and just very encouraging and digging the stuff that I’m doing and these guys were just like, “Wow we’re really excited, we feel like it’s been a long time since we’ve been this excited about music,” and that just makes me feel amazing. It makes me feel like I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
What can you tell me about where you guys are at with the progression of the new album and maybe a possible timeline or when fans can get a single?
Yeah it’s funny, I basically said to management and everybody, “I don’t want to know anything, don’t tell me anything” so I couldn’t even tell you when the record is coming out [Laughs] I don’t know if we’re doing a single before the record . As far as what the album is about and how it sounds and feels – it’s everything, it’s emotive, it’s personal, it’s spiritual, it’s political, it’s everything – my view of the world and some of the songs are written through the eyes of someone else like how I living vicariously through somebody trying to be almost like a storyteller.
The music is definitely the fastest Killswitch record ever, it’s very heavy but still maintains the signature Killswitch hooky, melodic stuff their too. There’s definitely melody attached but I pulled out some new styles vocally, yelling and screaming and growling and layers and it sounds massive.
The newest song ‘No End In Sight’ that you guys play live, how does this song represent what we can expect from the new album?
That song is the weakest song on the whole record. [Laughs] That’s my opinion, I actually almost wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t even on the record because I think other stuff is much better but probably since we played it and fans know we’ll put it on but in my opinion that’s definitely the weakest songs. Now that the record is done in retrospect that would not be the song that we would be playing live.
When will we see the return of your character Salty Rizz?
[Laughs] I don’t know! I don’t think that’s going to be a repeat character, I’ve done other characters for videos for fun and I think that’s the one that got the least amount of attention. My approach to promos and stuff - when you’re on tour, it doesn’t matter who you’re working with, what company they want you to do these video update things and when it comes to music I’m a fairly serious guy when I’m onstage. We had to do these and I was just like, “I’ll do them I don’t care, I’ll do something stupid.” There’s more stupidity to come but I don’t know if it will be Salty Rizz or not.
Killswitch Engage kick off their 'Alive or Just Breathing' tour with a headlining appearance at California MetalFest on Nov. 24. The trek wraps Dec. 29 in Clifton Park, N.Y. Click here for a full list of dates.