Newly reinstated Killswitch Engage singer Jesse Leach gave his first radio interview since returning to the band to Brock And The Fatguy, the show hosted by vocalist Brock Lindow of Alaskan metallers 36 Crazyfist and Fatguy on Anchorage’s alternative rock station 94.7 The End. You can now stream the entire 23-minute chat in four parts using the SoundCloud player below. A couple of excerpts from the interview follow.
On what the reaction has been to the news that he has rejoined Killswitch Engage:
Jesse: “When I knew this was gonna happen, I unplugged from the Internet, I unplugged everything, ’cause I didn’t wanna hear it. But all of my friends have been able to get in touch with me, and it’s been very positive. So I’m just doing my best to keep my eyes focused on the job I’ve gotta do, you know?! Regardless of what people think about it. [Laughs]”
On how he came to rejoin Killswitch Engage:
Jesse: “When I read the press release that [previous singer Howard Jones] was officially out, I think that’s kind of when I… it hit me that this may be something I should consider. There were a few things that were kind of making me hesitant, and one was I never really listened toHoward‘s songs [with Killswitch] with the thought in my head of 1) Would I want to sing them? And 2) Could I sing them, and how could I do that? I called up Adam [Dutkiewicz, Killswitch Engage guitarist and Jesse's Times Of Grace bandmate] and I was like, ‘Hey, you know what?! No matter what you guys do with these auditions, I’ll always do an‘Alive Or Just Breathing’ reunion tour. I just wanted to throw that out there.’ That was the first, initial contact I gave to Adam. And shortly thereafter, I ended up calling him back and I was like, ‘You know what?! I think I wanna do this, actually.’ So instead of assuming anything, I went and called their manager and said, ‘Put me on the list for the tryouts. Let me do this the right way. Put me on the list and I’ll be one of those many to audition.’ I wanted to go through the channels. I feel like, it’s one of those things, even if it was handed to me, I don’t think that’s the way it should go down. ‘Cause, let’s be honest, this band has been a band for the past [nine] and a half years without me, writing hit songs and touring the world. So, the bottom line was, who could come in and sing Howard‘s material? I mean, I can sing the songs I wrote — that’s easy — but I had to prove that to myself, [and] I had to prove that to them. So I was the last one to show up for the auditions, I was the last one in line. And I went in there and sang seven of the songs and I actually felt really good about it, and I’ve fallen in love with those songs since. ‘Cause, just having a different headspace about the songs, as opposed to just listening to them… I actually listened to them thinking, ‘OK, I’m gonna sing these now. How do I feel these?’ Listerally listening to them over and over again, and starting to feel out what the lyrics are about and trying to relate to them as best as I could, and then kind of reinterpreting certain parts a little bit, so it’s my style.”
“When I decided I was gonna do it, I saw it as a challenge. I saw this as something as 1) This could be fun, and 2) This could be a great move for me. And that’s kind of where I’ve been. In between tours, I work day jobs, and I’ve been working behind the bar over here in New York City for the past four months, and the grind just gets to you after awhile. So when this thing popped up, I was like, ‘You know what?! I think it’s time for a new job. [Laughs]”
On the Internet speculation and rumors surrounding his original departure from Killswitch Engage in 2002:
Jesse: “That’s because I had to be quiet about it; I had to go along with what the label needed me to say, which was to [blame] it pretty much on [problems with] my voice. I was having problems with my voice — thankfully nothing major, but just knowing how to use my instrument properly. So that was sort of the original reason that was put out in the press, but that’s only a very small portion of the reason. I’d say it’s kind of three- or four-fold. I was going through a bit of a depression. I had just gotten married and I was missing my wife. And I was suppressing those feelings and not feeling comfortable talking to the guys about it. We’re on our first big tour, and the last thing they want is the singer complaining about [his] problems. For me, not being able to voice those issues, and being a young guy — I was a kid back them — it just kind of messed with my head. I started losing my mind a little bit out there. Also, I was under this impression that if you don’t drink alcohol and whatever, your voice is better, which, medically speaking, may be the case, but on tour, it’s probably good for your nerves to have a couple of drinks here and there, hang out with the boys and have a good time. The majority of the time you’re out there, you’re travelling — it’s tiring, it’s annoying. And then when you’re on stage and you’re hanging out after, that’s the time when you’re supposed to have fun. But I wasn’t doing any of that; I was avoiding all of that. So I think all of that kind of contributed to me just really finding myself in a dark place. I just couldn’t deal with it, so I bailed. I was losing my mind.”
On what is different now compared to how it was when he originally quit the band in 2002:
Jesse: “Almost a decade of growing up, number one. Number two, finally figuring out who I am as a vocalist and how to use my instrument and what’s my style and what I’m comfortable with and what I’m not comfortable with. And more importantly, how to last, how to have longevity out on the road — the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts’ and the techniques; I’ve learned them all. It’s one of those things where when I walked away, I didn’t realize the impact that it would have on Killswitch, I didn’t realize the impact it would have on my career. But I’ve learned a lot since then.”
“My wife and I are going on ten years for being married. And I’m sure any person who’s been married for a long time can tell you, you love grows into this thing that you can’t explain; it’s a sort of a knowing thing. But when you’re newly married, it’s almost like an obsession, and a real strong bond that you just need to be together all the time. And I still have that — I definitely still have that with my wife; we’re very much in love — but it’s also one of those things where this has been my dream since I was a kid, and to get this opportunity, she was the first one to tell me, ‘You’ve gotta go do this.’ So once that was sort of out of the way, I was like, ‘Alright, well, I’ve gotta figure out how I’m gonna deal with it.’ Even touring with Times Of Grace, the little touring we did, it’s tough. Especially when you’re overseas and away — it hurts. But it’s just one of those things that kind of goes with it. You make it work. If you both love each other, you’ve just gotta make it work.”
On Killswitch Engage‘s new material:
Jesse: “I have the 14 demos for the new Killswitch record, and let me tell you, I’m glad that they didn’t turn into Times Of Grace [songs], and I’m glad that Killswitch is gonna have the opportunity to write another record with me — or a few more, God willing. I can tell you right now from the demos, the people are gonna be really surprised; they’re setting the bar up high once again. I’m literally within day three of just listening to them and just sort of digesting them. It’s really fast and it’s really heavy. It’s not what people are going to anticipate, I’m sure. I literally am getting chills right now talking about it. It’s gonna blow the doors off people, man. It’s gonna be great.”
Leach sang on Killswitch Engage’‘s first self-titled album, which came out in 2000, and on their landmark 2002 Roadrunner debut Alive Or Just Breathing.
The band will perform at the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival on April 22.
Leach last performed with Killswitch Engage in March 2010 in New York City, Clifford Park, New York and Wallingford, Connecticut (video can be seen below).