Jesse Leach has fully settled into his new/old role in KILLSWITCH ENGAGE but he was keen to point out to The Phoenix recently that he thought the best way to show the guys that he wanted to be part of the band was to audition, just like everyone else. They also spoke about how Metal has changed over the years, bands Jesse is into and much more – you can check out an extract from that interview below:
…why did you audition? That seems odd that you would have had to.
That was my idea– that’s how I wanted to do it. There were a lot of reasons for it, but I’m trying to treat this with as much respect as I can. I mean, in reality, this has been a very successful band for the past nine years, and yeah, I had something to do with it when I helped start the band, but I didn’t do what they did, I didn’t do what Howard did. And I thought the best way to show these guys that I wanted to be part of this process was to audition. And it wasn’t just to prove it to the band, it was to prove it to myself. And when I go out there onstage, I’m gonna be singing a bunch of Howard’s songs. I have to– those were the songs this band on the map! So I had to put myself in a headspace that I might not have put myself in if I just walked into the gig. So it was a challenge, I challenged myself to sing these songs, and I truly started to fall in love with these songs. I have to admit, I’m not a huge metal guy, I love old metal I guess but I’ve never been a modern metal guy, it doesn’t excite me. I’m more of a punk/hardcore kid.
Re-visiting this band and this material, are you struck at all by how much things have changed, how much metal has changed in the nine years since you left Killswitch?
Metal has changed, but I’ve changed as well. And that’s what’s exciting about rejoining this band and doing the new record. I’ve always been a fan of the music that they call metalcore, this crossbreeding of hardcore and metal, but what passes for metalcore today I’m not a fan of. It’s been a by-numbers watered down thing. I mean, God Forbid, In Flames, Mastodon, these are metalcore bands that I love, so I’m speaking in general terms. But most new metalcore doesn’t grab me, it doesn’t have the conviction that I used to see, when people had something to say, had messages, went against the grain, fight for individuality no matter what society says, and the music as a whole has turned into something popular that is with the grain, that is part of society, and the revolution got dulled and doesn’t really do anything for me.
I mean, some of the riffs of good and the music is good, and I don’t want to sound like an elitist here, but to me it doesn’t hold the energy that it once did. But that being said, I’m part of it to, I’ve been doing music all along, and what’s most important to me is the message, the message and emotional conviction. And that’s why I’m so excited to work with Killswitch, especially the way they’ve been blending this soulful R&B feel with the whole metalcore thing. I mean, the stuff that Howard came up with, these awesome songs like “Rose of Sharon” or “Sorrow”, you can sense the conviction in his voice but it doesn’t come off like bleeding heart emo, he walked the line without getting sappy, and it was a challenge to get into that headspace and do those songs justice.
One thing that was kind of lame about the whole metalcore thing was that, initially, so many influences were instantly unacceptable or uncool, especially anything older. I mean, aside from maybe Soilent Green tossing in Skynyrd and ZZ Top riffs, it just wasn’t allowed. But Killswitch was never part of that orthodoxy, really.
Bands like Mastodon, or even Killswitch, they started incorporating rock, it wasn’t just metal or hardcore or technical metal, it was a return of rock. Riffs! And that’s what I love, I love love love that stuff, that’s what I listened to before hardcore. Like Van Halen, Adam is a huge Van Halen fan. It’s simplifying the metal aspect and leaving room, adding space in the music, and it’s great.
Play good music and don’t be afraid to push genre boundaries and just keep it exciting. To me, that was part of the excitement of why I even started playing music. How can what I do now hold the same excitement as the past? That’s the challenge.