An Interview With: Jesse Leach from Killswitch Engage

Posted: Tuesday 17 July 2018

It's not often fans get to sit down with artists they love to ask them all the burning questions about their life and career, but that's exactly what Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach is doing.

Teaming up with DJ and podcaster, Matt Stocks for a special one-off event, Jesse will be taking your questions and giving an insight into all areas of his life, but before you lot get to him, we thought we'd have a chat and find out what can you expect from this rare experience.

So, Jesse, you’ve got the Q&A coming up with Matt Stocks, is it going to be weird for you being on stage, but not performing as such?

It’ll definitely be different, I don’t know if it’s going to be weird as I’ll have Matt there with me, which is a huge thing, having somebody you’re comfortable with being the MC. I think if it was just me holding the court by myself, I’d definitely be a lot more nervous.

I did this once before in Australia and I really enjoyed it, it was a learning experience for sure. I’ll definitely be a bit nervous but that’s healthy. I think it’s going to be good for fans and for people to see a different side of me.

What topics will you be discussing on the night?

No topic is off limits, I’m open to talk about whatever. Obviously it’ll be primarily based on music and lyrics, and I’m sure stories from the road will come out, but I’m kinda open to whatever. I think that’s the beauty about this type of forum, especially a Q&A, it can go anywhere.

Is it nerve-wracking knowing you’ll be putting your emotions and opinions out there for people to react to?

I think for me it’s an opportunity to speak a little bit more, because the time that I have on stage to speak, especially with someone like Adam D (guitarist, Killswitch Engage) next to me, I don’t really get moments to speak my mind and I see this as an opportunity to open up a little bit. Give people a little more insight into my mindset, which I do a little bit of on social media, but it’s different when it’s face to face and you can see somebody’s body language. I’m looking forward to it; I think it’s going to be a good experience for myself as well as the fans.

What are some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned as a musician?

I think the biggest one, is humility and vulnerability. Because the way I write, it’d be different if I was writing lyrics that didn’t have anything to do with me, but largely I write from experience, so for me it’s a very humbling thing to witness people sing those lyrics back to me on stage. It’s a challenge too, because not every night you want to be up there, there are some nights where the last thing in the world I’d wanna do is be on stage and I’d rather be hiding somewhere, especially when I battle depression certain nights, so it’s definitely been eye-opening, especially touring the world.

What things do you think the industry could do to help artists, particularly with mental health?

I think thankfully we’re starting to talk about it more and I think that’s number one, keeping the dialogue open, because I think the stigma is still around it and it has been for years.

There’s an issue with this idea that you’re doing something that people envy and they wish they could do, so suck it up, shut up and deal with it – and I think that has led to what we’ve seen recently, which is a lot of suicides going on and abusing drugs and alcohol. I think just keeping the dialogue open and making it more of a normal thing that is not frowned upon and isn’t stigmatised.

You’ve had various projects over the years, is there anything you’re particularly excited about right now?

I have a band called The Weapon, which is my punk/hardcore band and I haven’t had any time to work on it and it’s super frustrating. Obviously Killswitch takes precedence, it’s the career band and the money maker, but the few songs that I’ve done with The Weapon make me really happy. The material that I’ve heard those boys working on is very much music that I was raised on and it was my roots, the 80s punk and hardcore stuff, so I’m really excited about that, I just need to make time to work on it.

What can you tell us about the new Killswitch Engage record?

I would say that I wouldn’t tease you. Just wait for it, it’s going to be great, we’re putting our heart and soul into it, it’s everything you’ve grown to love and expect from Killswitch and maybe a few surprises here and there, but it’s going to be a good Killswitch record, I’ll leave it at that.

Is there a secret or story about Killswitch Engage that fans would be surprised to hear?

We are all very much into mellow music. Quiet, soft, folky music, minus Mike D, he’s pretty much a full on metal head no matter what. But Adam, myself, Joel and Justin really enjoy folk, country, some ambient stuff, so when you’re on a Killswitch bus there are nights when we’re playing very, very quiet, relaxing music and hanging out together.

Finally – what are the main messages you hope people will take from the talk?

Realising to de-stigmatise the whole rockstar thing, which I’m very uncomfortable with. I think with anything I like to show people I’m not that dissimilar from them and if anything, hopefully it gives people the confidence to know that what I do is obtainable and the lifestyle that I live isn’t that far out of reach. I like bridging the gap between audience and performer and I think this talk will be a good way to do that.

Get to know Jesse even better at his live Q&A:

O2 Academy Birmingham: Wednesday 8 August Buy Tickets

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