Jesse Leach is one of the founding members of Killswitch Engage. Now he has found his way back to the band after being away for ten years. He sounds relaxed and humble on the phone and his tone doesn’t carry any traces of rock star cockiness or over inflated ego, but you can hear a sound of experience and maturity that is often achieved through controversy.
Over the past ten years he has been working many jobs and recorded and toured with bands called Seamless, The Empire Shall Fall and also Times of grace, with Adam and Joel from Killswitch. “It was great to get out on the road and earn my keep as a vocalist. I have kept busy and I have also just jammed with bunch of musicians and had fun together playing guitar, drums, bass, piano. Just learning different instruments.” says Leach. Being in different bands has made Leach fall in love with different styles of music and allowed him to really learn his voice.”10-11 year ago I didn’t know my voice. I wasn’t able to maintain it and I didn’t have confidence in my abilities. Because I have spread my wing so to speak and done bunch of stuff over the past decade it has made me a better performer, better singer and better person.” concludes Leach.
Eventually the opportunity presented itself for Leach and he was ready to take it on. He was listening to some of the Killswitch back catalog and fell in love with the material. He has maintained his relationship with Killswitch Engage even when he wasn’t in the band. When he went out and hung out with the guys he got very excited about the demos for the new album. “Knowing that these guys are really good guys and they have a decent career it seemed like a no brainer after a while.” Leach thought when asked to join the band again. “I did have to think about it though. It wasn’t something I just jumped back into. I knew that if I rejoined this is a lifer thing, it’s a career move and it’s going to change my life. I had to consult with my family, my wife and everybody was like “Go do it”. It just felt like the right thing to do.”
A lot has changed around Killswitch since Leach left the band. At the time they were a very small club band trying to earn their respect. Leach still feels like a kid in a candy store about being in Killswitch “First of all, I’m not working a day job anymore. Which is amazing. 21 years of my life playing in bands and I have always maintained a job and had to come home from tour to work a job. This is the first band I’m actually able to play my bills with which is amazing to me.” It’s still unreal to Leach be traveling in a big tour bus and playing big festivals and headlining tours. “It’s been a year but I’m still in a stage where I’m amused by all this. It’s great.”
Sometimes lead singers don’t want to perform material that is not written by or for them. Leach doesn’t seem to have any issues with songs that were written by Howard Jones, the previous Killswitch vocalist. “I have fallen in love with them. I wouldn’t be in this band if I couldn’t handle them. That was the initial stumbling block for me when I was originally asked to rejoin prior to the audition. There was a discussion if I wanted to rejoin and I was hesitant and I initially turned it down. I said I don’t know if I can sing someone else’s songs and be genuine about it and really mean what I would be saying.” Leach remembers. When he heard that the auditions were going to take place and someone else may be stepping in as a singer that’s when he really started to dive into Howard’s material. “I fell in love with the stuff and some of my favorite songs to play live are songs that he wrote.”
Leach noted that a lot of growing up has happened with the band since he last worked with them. They have been touring non-stop for pretty much 8 or 9 years and are just a well oiled machine. “I kind of jumped in and hung on for the ride. Killswitch has better song writing, they have better sense of who they are as a band, who their audience is. I think that reflects through the music and it reflects in the live show.” The band is really appreciative of the fans and that really rubbed off on Leach also. Even after all those years of touring and success the band is aware that they are where they are because of the fans.
Leach’s personal relationships with the band is great, just like old friends reuniting. There’s definitely some re-acquainting going on, but the moment they got on stage on that first show there was an energy there and that has been there ever since. Leach didn’t know Justin the drummer and Mike the bass player really well, but he kept in touch with Adam and Joel over the years and even toured with them with “Times of Grace”. “With those guys it was really easy and with Mike and Justin within a couple of weeks we hit it off and I consider them really close friends now.”
Having not been around when the music was first written gave Leach a chance for different approach to writing lyrics. He would listen to the demos they guys had recorded and started jotting down ideas as bullet points and phrases and sentences that popped into his head, sort of free writing. Just letting things come out of his mind. Killswitch also did three tours while making the record. Leach says: “I think touring had a lot to do with inspiring the lyrics and the vocals as well. Learning my voice again. Because on the road it’s different. When you are out there singing almost every night you got to know your instrument and I think I discovered a whole new side of my voice while performing with Killswitch again. Just being with the band and taking in the vibe of the road. It lead to a lot of lyrics that started to pop off of my head.”
There’s definitely a theme on “Disarm The Descent”. It is a clever way of saying redemption or rising again from the ashes. “That was actually a title that was brought up by Mike our bass player. He’s the one who came up with it. I thought it was just a brilliant concept to roll with.” It feels very personal for Leach and for the whole band. It could be the band trying to find themselves again or just you and your life trying to find redemption after going through hard times. The running theme is going through your struggling and suffering, finding that redemption and never losing sight of the hope that we all have to have in our lives to maintain a positive outlook into our future.
Leach’s lyrics are always on the positive side which is not so common to metal bands. ”Some songs just come out that way and others I’ll be writing all this really dark stuff in the verses and I think I got to bring it somewhere. It’s got to move. In the verse you go through the motions and the dark stuff and that’s where I really try to focus on lyrically and then the chorus is sort of the positive part of the song. I feel that when you are writing positive, when there’s a positive tone, there’s upliftment going on. A song should leave you with something positive”. That’s something Leach has always liked about music. The ability to affect the listener’s mood; when you listen to a song and in the end of it you feel sort of cathartic about it.
Next for Killswitch Engage is touring and more touring. “We are booked solid through September and offers are still rolling in for the winter so we are sorting it out but we are going to be pretty busy within the next year, maybe even two years depending how well the record does.” Killswitch just announced their US Headlining tour with As I Lay Dying, Miss May I and Affiance as special guests.
“I just have to express my gratitude and my thanks to people who have supported me and Killswitch and for welcoming me back with such warm embrace. I’m very very grateful. Just thank you to everybody.” Leach ends.