13/4 – 2013
Mike D’Antonio from Killswitch Engage was kind enough to give me a couple of minutes of his time before the show in Malmö on April 13th. We talked about their new album Disarm The Descent and how it feels having Jesse Leach back in the band.
You released your 6th studio album, Disarm The Descent, about two weeks ago. How has the fan reactions been so far?
It’s been incredible. I don’t read criticism or reviews but friends from my Facebook-page are really excited about it and that’s all you really can hope for. You don’t want people to be bummed, ”Why did you put this song on the record, why did you do that?” So it’s just been real positive and we are stoked, it took so long to get out and we’re just happy it’s out, period. We started drums last february so it’s been a long process just trying to get it finish so we’re stoked that it’s out and can finally play the songs now.
How come it’s taken so long?
Well, we had a little bit of a singer change and that put a stop to a lot of stuff. We just started recording even though we didn’t have a singer, we just wanted to get the record recorded. Then Jesse joined back up with the band and he did a couple of songs and then said that he wanted to go out on a tour and really get back in the form and get more close to the rest of the band so he could figure out how to approach the lyrics. So we halted the recording around April/May and then went on tour for all summer. When we came back Jesse finished what he was doing. It was crazy with that bit of a stop, when we came back he had like five or six different vocals that we never heard before, it was more intense. So he had to go back and redo the stuff that he did before we left just to match up with the intensity and energy of it.
Just because you were out touring?
Yeah, so it wasn’t like we were halted by problems. It was just getting Jesse back in the band and stuff.
This is Jesse’s first album since Alive Or Just Breathing. How is it to work with him again?
Incredible. He is one of those types of people who writes stuff and you don’t have to edit him. He chooses really good words, he’s definitely a poet. You can feel the intensity and energy in his vocal lines without having to tell him, ”Can you give us a little bit more, push that a little bit more.” He knows exactly what he’s doing, it’s a Godsend to have someone who knows exactly how to do it and what to do. It’s more like when you meet up with like a drummer or a guitarist and you play something and you have that kind of artistic energy where they know exactly what you’re playing and can add to it. There’s just this really great energy with Jesse and this band.
What’s the difference between Jesse and your last singer Howard?
Major difference would be that Howard was kind of a machine, he just had this vocal talent that he didn’t really need to practice or any of that stuff. He could just go out and do it no matter how tired he was. Jesse requires a little more time, he has to do vocal excercises and really take care of his voice. That’s the major difference between them.
How did Jesse find his way back in the band?
We did some auditions, our management-team wanted to make sure that we didn’t leave any stone left unturned, make sure we try out everybody we possibly could so we made the right decisions, cause who want to get another singer after your second singer. We took their advice so we had a bunch of people trying out, Jesse tried out and the main concern was if he could do the Howard songs because they were our more popular songs at the point. He came out and proved it real easy. The cool part was that we had a lot of people coming through who were carbon-copies of Howard, they sounded exactly like him. Jesse doesn’t sound like Howard, Jesse sounds like Jesse no matter what. He could sing Howard’s songs and give it that really cool vibe but he is not an imitator which is one of the things that really stood out to us.
So are you playing both new songs and songs from Howard-era?
We are playing more from the new album than we normally do and that is because we really believe in this record and wanna show the world that Jesse knows what he’s doing. When you come to the show expect more new stuff but we play all hits cause the audience want’s that. We are deffinitely a band that are dedicated to our fans and like them to participate along the road.
One thing I realised with Disarm The Descent is that it’s a lot heavier than your previous albums. Is that something you were looking for, a more aggressive direction?
Well, I can only speak for myself but we had a couple of years off just trying to figure out what the heck was going on with the band and in that time I personally got really upset that we were not playing or recording or doing anything. So I started an old hardcore throwback band with some buddies of mine called Death Ray Vision and just wrote a lot of pissed off music and in turn of that when we started writing new material for Killswitch Engage I continued with this pissed off course so lots of my songs on the new record are very upset, very like full of rage and lots of blast beats and that stuff. Now, I don’t know if that carried over to the other guys but that’s how I wrote my stuff.
Adam D is yet again the producer for this record. What does he do that an hired-in producer can’t?
Well, we made that misstake with our last record. We went on with Brendan O’Brien and it was the first time we used an outside producer. We felt like it was our fifth record and maybe it would give us a kick in the butt, trying to get things going in the right way. It didn’t really turn out so hot, it was a really tough record to record. It just felt that there were more stress than it needed to be, so since we’ve done all our previous records with Adam we felt like It would be the easiest way to just jump back in with him and I feel from now on that he’s the only producer we will use cause It feels so easy. He is very relaxed in situations, we are sitting in his couch in his living room, we get to watch Tv, play some baseball game, drink beer and occasionaly play a riff or two and just have a lot of laughs. It’s not like working at all, recording with him, although he get’s a lot done. He’s not a goofy guy, he’s really motivated by getting work done. You can have a good time doing it, it’s not all cracking whips and people on your back, which is awesome.
Just like Adam D is the producer you’re the cover art designer. What goes into designing the album art and how do you come up with each concept?
This one in particular I went out to outside artists and asked them if they could do some covers. I wanted to have a bunch to show the guys, I didn’t want just my stuff. They actually chose on of the covers I did which is cool but it’s weird when people are very heavy handed with that, like, ”You have to use my artwork”, I don’t want that, I want them to choose the artwork to use and have the best fit with what we’re doing. As far as this one goes I have a friend who send me a photo that had this lady with a sheet over her head and the sheet was blowing in the wind. It kinda looked like smoke were coming out of her head and I thought it looked like this Ghost Rider-kinda thing. I really liked that idea, that was one of the ones I took inspiration from and it ended up with the cover that we used with the rags on the head. It didn’t particular mean much to me but Jesse said, ”Wow, this means this and this means that.” Jesse actually had a hand with the positioning of the lady and kind of calling you close with the hand gestures and stuff like that. He actually send me a photo with his hand gestures like that and asked if we could try to do it that way. It was really cool to have someone else input on the cover cause no one really does.
Do you all have a saying in the writing process or is there someone in charge?
We all write and contribute equally which is great. While we write we bring demos to practice, I write in Garage Band and then I’ll take it to practice and play it for the guys, four or five different tunes. We all sit around and talk about it, if we really like it we bring it to the Pro Tools. We all talk about what we wanna do and how to do it and then recreate everything as it comes. It’s almost like a streamline version of going to practice with one riff and everyone kinda contributes. Some demos don’t work that way, a lot of Adam’s stuff doesn’t need editing at all but a lot of mine do (laughter). That’s the way we do it.
Do you have any favourite of the new songs that you like playing live?
We are playing my favourite song of the record which is New Awakening, I really like that one a lot, I feel that it summarizes everything that Killswitch is about, lots of chuggah-chuggah and fast stuff. Cool metal core and some sing alongs in the middle. Hearing it for the first time was like, ”Wow, that was pretty great man”, I was really stoked on Jesse for that one.
Is there any song you dislike playing live?
I don’t think Arms Of Sorrow is our best song even though it really gets the crowd moving. We do play that live right now cause Jesse likes It which is fine, If someone else likes it, so be it.
What are the touring plans behind Disarm The Descent?
We are doing an Europe tour right now, it’s about a month and we are a week in so another three weeks or so then we go back to the US and tour with As I Lay Dying. I believe we come back over here again and do some of the festivals in August (referring to Getaway Rock Festival). Then we are going to Malaysia and Thailand for the first time ever and then there might be a gigantic tour that we are doing in October but I am not allowed to talk about it yet.
That was my last question Mike, do you have anything to add?
I just wanna say thanks to all the fans, thanks for believing in us and if you picked up our new record thank you very much and if you didn’t I think you’re gonna like it. It’s definitely very old school Killswitch and thanks for sticking with us through all the singer changes and problems. We really appreciate it.
Well, thank you Mike for taking you time and good luck tonight.
You can buy Disarm The Descent via iTunes.