Daniel Brockman of The Boston Phoenix recently conducted an interview with KILLSWITCH ENGAGE singer Jesse Leach. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
The Boston Phoenix: Revisiting 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?
Jesse: 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 RB feel with the whole metalcore thing. I mean, the stuff that Howard [Jones, former singer] 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. I’m a different person than I was a decade ago, but it all makes sense to me now.
The Boston Phoenix: In what way — how does it make sense to you?
Jesse: It’s hard to put my finger on it, but to be honest with you, I’ve been doing a lot of going back in preparing for this. Listening to early KILLSWITCH has made me listen to old Unearth, for example, and I think, “What was it about those times?” Listening to those old seven-inches, trying to recapture that spirit. And it wasn’t just a musical thing, there was something socially going on, something conscious, like we had to rebel. There was a war going on, just this helpless feeling of being in your teens and early twenties back then. I knew that corruption was going on, I wasn’t into the Clinton administration, the Bush administration, no one was speaking for me, and I still think it’s that way! So that spirit of the Reagan era influenced a generation, the second wave of hardcore kids. And you look at bands like INTEGRITY and OVERCAST, and straight edge bands like Unbroken, the metal riffs started showing up, the SLAYER riffs, and hardcore added the dynamics that weren’t there before, the breakdowns, the buildups, the singalongs, the gang vocals, worked with the more intricate riffs. Because hardcore’s all about being simple and dynamic, the singalong, the message, shove it down someone’s throat, and metal had more technique to it, and that intrigued hardcore kids who wanted to push it to the next level. Integrity had a huge influence to me, they were pretty much a metal band but their roots were in hardcore, they were the first band to fuse those styles. They were so fast, like hardcore, but they were unmistakably metal. And I’ll be honest, when I first heard INTEGRITY, I was in my hardcore phase, so if you used double bass or had long hair, I wouldn’t listen. And then a few years later, that resistance went out the window. We all realized that there can be metal kids, hardcore kids all at the same show doing pile-ons, and it just happened. Something about that time was really exciting. Another band I have to mention is RORSCHACH; they recently did some reunion shows and i still felt the excitement I felt years ago. When music gets popular and MTV and that whole popular corporate thing get ahold of something, it comes become marketable, it becomes money, it becomes business. And bands sign to labels get more money, get tour buses, get bigger budgets, all these things started to happen. That’s when the edges started to dull and the music wasn’t about the cause and the struggle, because why struggle, you’re accepted!
Read the entire interview from The Boston Phoenix.
Leach last performed with KILLSWITCH ENGAGE in March 2010 in New York City, Clifford Park, New York and Wallingford, Connecticut (see video below).