Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage Talks "Disarm the Descent", Redemption, and More
Mon, 24 Jun 2013 06:50:04
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"I've gone through some pretty dark periods and a lot of struggles," admits Killswitch Engage singer Jesse Leach. "Where I'm at now feels like a personal redemption. I'm conscious of making that point. Regardless of where I go with the lyrics, I want the song to end up a point where you can draw something positive from it."
That's always been Leach's M.O., and that's the reason Alive or Just Breathing remains such a seminal record for both Killswitch Engage and heavy metal at large. However, get this. On Disarm the Descent, Leach amps everything up. He doesn't just sound like a man reborn. This sounds like a band reborn.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Jesse Leach of Killswitch Engage discusses Disarm the Descent, finding that redemption, movies, and so much more.
Did you approach Disarm the Descent with one vision or vibe in mind?
Yeah! Mike D'Antonio thought up the title Disarm the Descent even before I started writing. He approached me with a concept. Initially, it was "Disarming the Descent". After some discussion with him, I said, "Let's just shorten it up". I thought it was a great title. We talked about it a bit, and I wrote that at the top of the page and began writing notes from there. It's kind of a concept record.
What does the title mean?
It's a creative way of saying "Redemption" or rising again. You're in a state of your life where you're approaching rock bottom and you find a way to pick yourself up again before you hit the floor.
Killswitch Engage has collectively found redemption by getting back together.
That's initially what Mike had in mind. He felt like that's where we were all at. I took it and ran with it. It's not just about the band. It's about the state of the world. I'm writing lyrics about people in my life and family and friends so the subject matter is really broad. I tried my best to be ambiguous enough for people to draw their own conclusions in terms of what the lyrics are about. I feel like I was able to do it in a way where it's still cohesive.
People can take an individual catharsis from each song.
That was my goal so I'm glad to hear you think that.
What's the story behind "Time Will Not Remain"?
I wanted it to be the last song because I felt it summed up the whole thing. Life is too short. Don't waste your time. We sat and listened to all of the songs. We all agreed this was a great order for the album.
Where did "You Don't Bleed for Me" come from?
That's a pretty pissed off song. I had personal issues in mind but also corrupt government and the hypocrisy of organized religion. You're in that state of mind where you're so angry and there's nothing you can do about it. You're tired of people speaking for you and pretending like they know where you're coming from. That's pretty much it. It's the anger of people being hypocritical and betraying.
What were you drawing from lyrically?
This album is very different from anything I've written. That comes from trying to develop as a write over the year. I have a project called The Empire Shall Fall. The last EP we put out was a total concept record where I wrote a short story and we made an album about it. It's broken down into three parts, and we finished one of the three. It's a continuing story that will tell a story from start-to-finish word-for-word. I thought it was a cool idea because I'd never written that way. I mixed that idea with my own introspective and cathartic lyrics I did with Times of Grace. It's a culmination of the writing I've done over the years. I wanted to find a way to blend it all together. Vocally, I'm trying to come up with different sounds of my voice and mix the screaming and yelling. I made an effort to push myself with the writing and vocals.
What was recording like? Did it differ from Times of Grace? Did it bring back memories from the first Killswitch sessions?
Thankfully, it was different from all of those things. The early Killswitch stuff was a struggle for me because I wasn't confident in my vocal abilities or direction. On Times of Grace, I was a pretty damaged guy so the sessions were pretty painful as far as writing everything down and reliving it as I sang. It's pretty natural and easy. Adam and I have a great working relationship. It came together naturally. Towards the end, we were up against the deadline for the record, and another tour was approaching. Under pressure, Adam and I came together and he helped me out a lot as far as reading through my lyrics and telling me what he thought was good and what didn't work so well. He stepped it up and helped me form some of the better songs on the record. It was a great process. Without struggle, I don't think really good art is made. It was a blend of struggle and natural chemistry.
Do you feel like you collaborate better?
Absolutely! He knows my abilities, and we can work off of each other's strengths and flaws. We're such great friends, and our communication is fantastic.
What was it like getting back on stage with Killswitch Engage?
My second show back with these guys Rock am Ring in front 50,000 people. It's a huge difference from the past 20 years of my career. It's exciting for me. It feels like I've arrived. I've gotten to a place where I'm like, "This is amazing". There's no hierarchy as far as the band and crew go. The crew is treated the same as the band. It's a really good environment to walk into. I was able to walk into a really great environment. I'm enjoying the touring experience and excited to get back out again.
Do you have a favorite song off the record right now?
I love every song on the record. "The New Awakening" really speaks to me. It's a punk rock anthem about not wasting time and not being afraid to push forward and follow your passion and do what you love.
If Disarm the Descent were a movie or a combination of movies, what would it be?
That's a good question! I don't know. I think it'd definitely show the main character struggling, going through some stuff, and having to fight it out. Whether it be physically or mentally, you're battling one's own demons and finding redemption at the end. It's not a "happily ever after" redemption but finding strength through the struggle. Maybe it'd be The Lord of the Rings (Film Series)? [Laughs] That's too fantasy.
What's your favorite Killswitch Engage song?