Armed with their new/old singer Jesse Leach and Disarm the Descent, Killswitch Engage is back in full force and better than ever as shown by their stellar new album, live show and attitude. Punknews interviewer Jason Epstein spoke to Killswitch Engage bassist Mike D'Antonio about Howard's departure, Jesse's return, the new album and the new tour.
Killswitch Engage and where are you as of a couple of months after the release of Disarm the Descent?
[We were] fragmented on the last release. We weren't really sure what was going on with the band completely, but now we're feeling like the band is more together and more of a team effort than pretty much ever before. It's an amazing experience to be in a band 14 years and have someone new step in – or someone new/old-step in – and have it cohesive again and have it feel like a brand new band. So we're just having the time of our lives right now and it's pretty awesome.
That's great. Aside from the way they work with the band, what do you think are the main differences between Howard and Jesse's vocal contributions?
It's kind of hard to pick apart each singer. Jesse's got a lot of passion and Howard was one of those dudes that never had to really put forth effort, he just could do it. He knew how to sing properly and he could push every day and he was warhorse with that sort of thing. Jesse takes a bit more care of his voice. There are some nights where he refuses even to speak, which is fine. He's just taking care of his "instrument." But Jesse brings so much to the table it would take me a couple of hours to really elaborate. But he's just a rad dude, he's really fun to hang out with and be around and as far as his vocals go, I'm just impressed with pretty much every lyric he's written. It's poetry to me and I come from a long line of bands where I had to rewrite vocals or specific lines that didn't really make sense. I was very heavy handed in other bands and with Jesse I don't have to be that way at all; you can just kind of let him roll with what he's got – and that's kind of awesome.
If you had to take 2014 completely off from any Killswitch activity, how would you choose to spend your time?
I would definitely be home hanging out with my wife and my dogs, probably enjoying the pool. It appears that this summer is not going to happen for me whatsoever as far as being home, so that's a bummer because I like being home a lot. So I guess that'd be it.
I can imagine if you're out on tour all the time you sort of just want to get back to a comfortable place.
Not to say that I'm ungrateful for the position I'm in. It's pretty rad being able to do this as a full-time gig. But to have some time off…I would love to have a summer to myself.
You recently did a tour for the tenth anniversary of Alive or Just Breathing, playing the album in its entirety. Is that something the band would also consider next year for The End of Heartache's ten year?
No, just because it's a Howard record. No, that wouldn't happen.
All right, so something current…Disarm the Descent took a lot longer to release than past albums. Was this mostly due to Howard's departure, or was that something that occurred in the studio or during the writing process as well?
We stopped touring really early on the last record. There was just a lot going on and it was very apparent that things were not working in our camp at all and we pretty much took two years off where we weren't sure if the band was together anymore.
The four of us who write the music were really interested in getting back together to write more music and taking it where it went but it was mainly due to just not knowing what was going on with Howard and trying to figure out the best avenue and the best plan of attack to help him. We spent two years trying to help with what was going on with him and it seemed like it was all for naught. We all got together talking about the new record and it was plain as day that it wasn't going to work out.
So, it was kind of a scary time for everybody. We weren't sure what was going to happen. We talked about getting new jobs and talked about other bands that we might do in the interim. I started a hardcore band [with my old buddy] to kind of fill the time.
It's a lot of years to not be on stage and jump around like a nut and I was itching to do it. In that respect a lot of the music for the new record turned a bit more aggressive I suppose and pissed off especially more of what I was writing cuz I wanted to be out there playing. And that we were wasting time, in a sense, just sitting around on our butts. But thankfully we got everything together.
Yeah. Now, when you say, "new job," do you mean finding other bands to join or actually getting day jobs?
Ah, both I guess. Justin went out and played with Unearth for a summer and Adam was just taking on a lot of production work, and I delved back into a lot of graphic design, doing that stuff again. We were just unclear how long we would be off or if we would be off forever. And at one point our management said, "Do you need help finding something else to do, because we don't know if you'll have any income for the next foreseeable future, so we'll figure it out and help you out with that."
I guess royalties aren't all they're cracked up to be.
No, not in this day and age.
What are some bands you think your fans should check out?
I've been on a stoner kick craze lately. I've been loving the new Witchcraft record on Nuclear Blast, it's called Legend and it's pretty amazing. I've been loving this band Orchid from California; super stoner rock band. And I always listen to a lot of old school stuff like Madball, Agnostic Front, Cro-Mags; New York stuff. This band called Red Hare is this new/old throwback band from DC with the guys from one of my favorite bands called Swizz. A lot of times bands get back in the studio after 20 plus years and it doesn't sound any good, but I think these guys super nailed it. It sounds like something you would have picked up in the early 90s/late 80s. Some bands kind of get it and know how to get back to it.
Cool man I'm an Agnostic Front fan myself. Their newest record is great.
I haven't heard the new one, but we played a fest with them and Madball. I had never really met the guys. I had met Stigma before, but we hung out with them a bunch and man, they're super nice. Really, really nice guys.
Yeah, yeah. Their mosh pits are not filled with super nice guys though.
Yeah, I feel you in that. I was way in the back. I'm far too old to get something broken in a mosh pit.
Oh yeah. All right, I've got one last question: what's the worst interview question you've ever been asked?
A lot of times it's just re-explaining something that's been explained many times. Like, tell me the history of the band or if someone who doesn't know what your music is asking what you sound like. Those are kind of like nails on a chalkboard. But not everyone knows the band, so that's fine. I'm just happy people want to interview us to tell you the truth.
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