The last time Jesse Leach released an album with Killswitch Engage was more than a decade ago. Leach’s return to KSE in 2012 had fans wondering how the original frontman would stack up after the 10-year departure — especially after growing so accustomed to vocal styles of interim vocalist, Howard Jones.
Fans, just like the band, can relax.
Reverb caught up with the very laid back Leach to talk about “Disarm the Descent” (out April 2) and why he says this feels like a brand new Killswitch Engage.
Reverb: Straight up, are you happy with the album?
Leach: Very. I wouldn’t change a thing.
The last time I spoke with you was at the beginning of Trespass America Tour last year and you were still working on the album. Did being on tour affect the album?
It definitely changed everything actually. I think my voice became stronger from working it out on tour and lyrically. After hearing stories from the band and different things on tour it definitely helped.
I know a chunk of the songs originated from when Howard was still in the band. Did you have to go back and change any of those?
The instrumentals were about 80 percent done, demoed and solid before I even joined. But as far as lyrics and melodies, Howard hadn’t done any of that, so it was free range for me.
How are you writing differently now than you were 10 years ago with “Alive or Just Breathing”?
Oh man. There’s so many differences. But I would say the main one for me is obviously just having a different view of the world. I’m 10 years older and wiser. To me, I really try to focus from writing from other people’s point of view as a storyteller and the introspective stuff. It has a lot less to do with just me. I think that’s important about being a writer, being able to write about things other than yourself.
Are there any songs on the album that you’re particularly proud of lyrically?
“New Awakening”— I’m proud of that one. It’s sort of a punk rock anthem about not living in fear and about not being afraid to go against the grain. The other one is “You Don’t Bleed for Me,” which is sort of my angry critique, if you will, on the government and the hypocrisy of organized religion. It’s kind of a new chapter for me. I’m a spiritual person myself.
Have you always been spiritual or is that something you’ve developed recently?
I would say both. I’m a preacher’s boy; I was raised in the church. But I think as I’ve grown and searched things out on my own and looked into other religions I’ve found myself coming back to my core beliefs as a Christian. I’m on a very different level now. I’m not afraid to tell people that I don’t agree with everything that’s going on. As far as organized religion is concerned, you’re talking about the judgments of other people and the whole topic of homosexuality within Christianity… All of those things are really touchy subjects for me and make me very angry because I believe that God teaches us to love, not judge each other. I call myself a Christian but I feel like there has to be an explanation to that. The modern view of Christianity I believe has been skewed and bastardized by organized religion and mainstream media.
When you write, is it ever with the intention to cater toward the radio?
Absolutely not. If nothing else, I always want to write stuff that’s memorable but there’s never ever been a motive for me to write for radio. I’m not a fan of radio. I don’t listen to the radio—I could care less. I mean granted, it helps people listen to your stuff but I’d rather write heartfelt stuff that doesn’t go to radio.
It’s been 10 years since your last release with Killswitch Engage. Are you nervous about the release of “Disarm the Descent”?
I’m adamantly not nervous. I stand by my work and if people don’t like it—so be it. [Laughs].
The video for “In Due Time” shows candid moments of you guys having what appears to be a great time. Is that pretty reflective of the attitude of the band right now?
That’s exactly where we are and that’s exactly why we put that out—to show people that we’re just old friends reunited and having a good time. It’s a whole new band. It feels like a whole new band. There was a ton of talk on the Internet about me replacing Howard, but we wanted to make a statement to say hey man, we’re having a good time and we hope you want to join us. Period.
Killswitch Engage has plans to play at least one date in Colorado this summer. However, the date and location has yet to be confirmed.