Killswitch Engage are about two weeks into the Trespass America tour, headlined by Five Finger Death Punch with support from Trivium, Emmure and other bands, and on Friday night, July 20, they inserted a new song, "No End in Sight," into their set. We got frontman Jesse Leach on the phone from Lubbock, Texas to talk about the tour, writing lyrics for the band's upcoming album, and more.
You premiered a new song Friday night – are you playing it every night now?
It depends. We’re just trying to switch it up a little bit. We want to add a little bit of excitement to the shows, get a little bit of buzz going so more people come out, just having fun with it, you know?
What’s your favorite song to sing on this tour?
Probably “This is Absolution,” now, just because it’s so thrashy in the beginning, it reminds me of Carcass. It’s a really energetic song, just gets the crowd going.
Do you ever find yourself mentally measuring the crowd response to Alive Or Just Breathing songs versus Howard Jones-era songs?
I don’t think consciously I do that, no, I’m just overall trying to have the crowd enjoy themselves, regardless of what style or what era of Killswitch it is. Admittedly, the Howard-era stuff, those choruses are so big, they’re so easy to sing along to, so that’s usually what gets the crowd going for sure.
How long are you playing?
45 minutes. About nine songs, give or take, depending what songs we’re doing.
Do you wish the set was longer, or is this a good way for you to get back on the horse, so to speak?
I can go either way. I can play longer or shorter. I find that 45 minutes is a sweet spot, though, because your energy level stays pretty high. Past that, when you’re running around the stage like a maniac, you tend to get more tired. But I’m good for about 45 minutes to an hour. That’s usually a really nice time for me, to keep my energy high.
For me, 45 minutes is about right as a spectator, too.
[laughs] Yeah, exactly. And then after a while, you’re like, “Yeah, all right…” You’ve gotta really love a band to stay there and watch it. I totally agree with you.
So what can you say about the next record at this point?
I’ve got a couple of songs done, I’ve got a bunch to go, but I’ve got a lot of ideas. I listen to it every once in a while out here just to keep me familiar with it, so when I get home and attempt to finish the record, it’s still fairly fresh in my mind. Sonically, this is definitely – it’s got a more urgent feeling to it. It’s a lot faster, there’s definitely huge melody going on, but the songs are a lot shorter. Not one song really goes over the three and a half, four minute mark. I just anticipate lyrically and vocally it to be a very urgent record. We’re at a state in this world right now where someone needs to talk about what’s going on. There’s a lot of apathy in this world, there’s a lot of really screwed-up stuff in our government and the world’s governments, and the whole class vs. class thing, the protests that happened all around the United States – there’s a lot of unrest, and I think it kinda needs to be touched upon. And it’s up to the metal community to have a voice, and that’s what I’m aiming to do with this next record – make it very important. Make it matter.
Are you writing all the lyrics for the new album yourself?
Given that you’ve been out of the band for 10 years – obviously they’ve welcomed you back, but is everybody on the same page regarding what the songs will be about? Are you running the lyrics past them as you go?
Oh, yeah, this band is a total democracy, which is great. Coming back into it, the guys basically said, “Do what you wanna do – we trust you,” but I like to show them my progress, so I send them demos, I’ll show them my lyrics and concepts for the songs. And so far, every single person’s been really excited about my ideas, and probably just the energy that I’m bringing to the project.
Do you write much on the road, or do you need down time?
Yeah, you kinda need down time. It’s tough out here. Being a creative person on tour’s tough, because you’re so used to a schedule, and it sounds funny, people who don’t do it wouldn’t really know, but it’s tiring. You don’t really have a lot of creative time when you’re out here. You’re trying to socialize with the other bands, doing your show, and to be creative you’ve gotta hide somewhere and get privacy, and that’s rare on tour. So I’ll go for long walks by myself outside of the show grounds and attempt to write, but it’s really tough out here. I’ve had a few days the past two weeks where I’ve had a little bit of creativity, but outside of that, the road isn’t really conducive to creative thought, for me.
How does writing for Killswitch differ from writing for Times of Grace, or even for your old band, Seemless?
I think for Times of Grace, that was just – that record happened at a particular time in my life where I couldn’t help but write those lyrics, 'cause that’s exactly what I was going through. I think with Killswitch now, I’m looking outward to the world, and I want people to be able to relate to it on a bigger level. Times of Grace was a very personal album for me and Adam [D.], and as far as Seemless goes, I mean, Seemless has been gone for years now. I’m definitely a different person than I was in the Seemless days. I think more importantly, with the Killswitch stuff going forward, I want it to be crucial, I want it to matter. I want people to be able to relate to it, you know?
I understand you’re friends with Matt from Trivium – have you guys been going out to eat much on this tour?
The one time he had a great place lined up and invited me, I didn’t have my per diem because I’d just bought a really expensive skateboard [laughs]. So I couldn’t afford to go out to eat with him, so I made a rain check. But we always geek out about food and beer and wine. He’s definitely one of my favorite people out here. It’s funny, man, touring life is strange. You get into your routines, you get pulled in your own directions, and I haven’t seen him as much as I’d like to. We definitely have plans – if nothing else, we’re gonna meet up in Chicago for a foodie man date. [laughs]
In Newark, when you guys play the Prudential Center on August 18, there’s a ton of really good Spanish and Portuguese restaurants around there.
Right on. He’s on it, man, he knows. When we get to an area, he immediately knows what’s in the area, what’s good, and he’ll just give me the rundown. It’s great.
As you get older, is finding good food and stuff like that on the road more important than going to a strip club or some other rock 'n'roll cliché? Or were you never that guy?
You know, it’s funny, man, I’ve never gone to a strip club in my entire life. Not my style. Besides, I’m a married man and I’m sure my wife would kill me. But seriously, I’ve always been a food guy, but the best thing for me is grilling – cooking for myself. If I can find a grocery store within walking distance of the venue, I’m definitely there, and I’ll cook up grilled pizzas, salmon, ribs, steak, whatever I can get my hands on. That’s my passion, next to music, is cooking. I love cooking.
The Trespass America Tour continues through August 28; find a show near you!