Jesse Leach – Killswitch Engage ‘A Killer Catch Up Before The Next Era’
The lads in Killswitch Engage have been biding their time, taking time out throughout the pandemic (and releasing a live album to tide fans over), however, the band seem to be picking up momentum with developments of their 9th studio album making news and catching fans off guard.
It was only 2019 when the boys released their killer album Atonement and it looks like they’re about to knuckle down and get started on the next release as we found out in our candid chat with frontman Jesse Leach. The fearless leader shared some intricate details about their current writing process, reconnecting with Howard Jones and the genius that is Adam D!
Jesse! What’s been happening in your world?
Honestly a lot of nothing! Going to the swimming hole, playing with my cats [laughs]. I have two – one’s very shy and the other’s very grumpy, and I love them both.
Oh awesome! And thanks for taking the time out to have a chat. You’re a very busy guy.
Yeah! Working on new Killswitch actually is the correct answer to that last question [chuckles]…
Very nice. Are you doing it in a studio you’ve gone to before or is it more home-style recording?
Right now, the guys are getting together and jamming, just sending me demos. But eventually, we’re going to meet up and jam out to some songs. We haven’t done that since we were kids. The way we make records now is just… email. Everyone wants to email ideas back and forth and then we’d go to record… I did most of my vocals for the last record with Adam at his house, and we did a little at Zing Recording Studios… I assume we’ll do a little vocal work there, but right now it’s early days…
Nice! And are you the type of vocalist to write ideas down in a notebook, record it on your phone…?
When melodies come to my head, I’ll go to the computer and just sloppily mumble stuff just to get the idea there.
I’m pretty frantic… I’ll wake up from a sound sleep and have an idea, so I’ll go to my phone and do voice notes. I’ve been doing this practice where I’ll wake up first thing in the morning and write pages – it’s from this book called The Artist’s Way – so now I’ve got like seven separate ideas that could potentially turn into songs, and then I’ll go in and dissect them.
I’m in that process now of going in and dissecting certain phrases, trying to figure out the song from the chaos.”
It’s so good to be able to get those ideas on paper, especially being a lyric writer, right? Sometimes it’s organised chaos, if you will.
Exactly! I do a lot on hikes – that’s where the majority of stuff comes from. So I’ll go on a hike and come up with a melody and placement – it’s just me making noises. There’ll be no lyrics to that. Then I’ll race to my computer, sit and make noises. Then I’ll write lyrics separately and try to join the two. I’ve found in the past writing songs, trying to fit lyrics into my melodies… the melodies were less creative.
Chatting with bands and artists over the years, it’s sometimes mind-boggling how that creative process can work. It’s different for each artist, isn’t it?
I love lyric writing. I’m a poet first and foremost. I can’t really let people write my shit. I really enjoy writing.
We actually have some poetry open mic nights in Sydney. It’s such a great thing to go to those and see poets doing their thing.
Yeah! I spent many years in the slam poetry [scene] watching it and watching real MCs doing their ciphers freestyle. To me it’s super inspiring.
It really is. That feeds into what we’ve been talking about. You are really freestyle, almost manic, but when the finished product comes together, it’s beautiful and organised chaos.
The organisation end of it is Adam D. for sure. I come to him with my chaos and he helps me trim the fat off or reword things so they make sense. He’s questioning me all the time. What’s the main driving force of the song? You’ve got this paragraph that needs to be a sentence-and-a-half. He’s really good in helping me distil my ideas. I need him for that. Otherwise I get consumed by my own chaos [chuckles].
That’s what the band dynamic is for, isn’t it? One person can’t do all of that and be sustainable. You need to be able to bounce off others, right? Otherwise, you’d go insane.
Yeah which is kind of what Adam is, insane [chuckles]. He does have the talent to do it on his own, but he prefers my lyrics. He’s more direct and I’m more poetic… But he’s annoying how talented he is. He’s taught me a tonne as a songwriter as he’s so cerebral.
Speaking about past members now but how they’re part of the fabric of Killswitch, how was it working with Howard Jones on Atonement and live in the studio?
It’s been great, I think for everyone – including Howard. On many levels. For example, making sure the past is the past but revitalising those old friendships and bonds. When Howard left, it was never talked about in the press, but there was a bit of bad blood that the boys had to figure out amongst themselves (which had nothing to do with me). Once it was sorted, including Howard was almost a no brainer.
That idea started kicking round five or six years back, and then one night Howard showed up and we just hit it off. From that point on, it’s been great to have an actual friendship, and to see the entire group heal from it… And now we’re having fun. It was cool to listen to Howard sing and amusing to hear Adam berate him and beat him up like he does with me.
To hear him sort of screw up made me go, ‘Oh Howard isn’t perfect, oh cool’. And same thing for live… When I give him the microphone or we do a duet, you can see him so excited and then I get excited. Everyone loves it.
Aww, that’s so good. Sounds like things in the Killswitch fam are on a high right now. Thanks heaps for the quick sit down, Jesse. We’ll see you soon, I hope (and with a new record out!)
Interview by Genevieve Gao
Grab Live At The Palladium here
Killswitch Engage – Live At The Palladium tracklisting
2. The Signal Fire
3. Us Against the World
4. The Crownless King
5. I Am Broken Too
6. As Sure as the Sun Will Rise
7. Know Your Enemy
8. Take Contro
10. I Can’t Be the Only One
11. Bite the Hand that Feeds
12. Ghostie Skit
13. Temple From the Within
14. Vide Infra
16. Rusted Embrace
19. Numb Sickened Eyes
20. In the Unblind
21. Just Barely Breathing
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