Interview: Jesse Leach – Times Of Grace

Killswitch Engage guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz and former KsE vocalist Jesse Leach have reunited to form one of the most impressive metalcore bands to date, Times Of Grace. What started off over three years ago as a personal project between former band mates has now become one of the most anticipated releases of 2011. ‘The Hymn Of A Broken Man’ takes us through some of the darkest times in both men’s lives and I had the chance to speak to Jesse Leach briefly back in September (interview publish delayed for press reasons) about the album and reuniting with Adam after they parted ways in 2002.

Michael: The project came quite out of the blue although there were rumours that you and Adam had been working together so how did it all come to this day.

Jesse: It was about three years ago I got a phone call from Adam when he was recovering from back surgery and he’d been off the road for a while. He let me know he had a record in his head and he had some songs which he wanted me to do vocals over so I of course jumped at the chance. I was very excited to get in there and hear the music and work with him again but you’re right, it was just came out of nowhere and happened. It’s going on about three and a half years and it’s finally seeing the light of day.

Michael: When Adam called you and said he had some music that he wanted you to do vocals over, was he sitting with a lot of material or just bits and pieces that you could come in, put your input into and then shape the songs for the album?

Jesse: Initially when I first heard the music I immediately started writing and I wrote about two songs. I think the record took on a whole new meaning and character as I started to go through my own personal struggles as I had ideas about what I wanted to write about, and as my life progressed I sort of latched onto the theme of suffering, which is where Adam was kind of coming from; pain and suffering and finding the silver living amidst all of that. It’s kind of the running theme through the record, it just turns out through our experiences it came to life through our suffering.

Michael: Previously we had interviewed you and the rest of the guys in The Empire Shall Fall and we spoke about lyrical messages back then and you spoke about your goal as an artist which was to be part of the solution to all the trouble in the world. Do you feel that is something of a theme with your lyrics as you’re still searching for that silver lining in the pain and suffering.

Jesse: Yeah that’s definitely something that is instilled in me; part of who I am. I am always striving to, for the lack of a better word, just help people through my art and through what I do. If you can inspire someone to do anything, to give them the courage to make their voice heard then I am achieving my goal but I definitely think that is a theme for me.

Michael: From the early days of Killswitch Engage to now Times Of Grace there has been a lot of time apart between you and Adam so how was it to be back working with him?

Jesse: Oh man it was brilliant, it really was great. We have always had a great relationship and I think our friendship over the years just translated in the studio. You know, working with Adam on ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’ was tough as we didn’t really know who I was as a vocalist and I had a tough time performing. Fast forward eight years later and here we are working together on Times Of Grace, it was just effortless. It was a really great experience and we had a great time. We’re really proud of what we came out with together.

Times Of GraceMichael: How did both of you come around to the name ‘Times Of Grace’?

Jesse: I think for us, again there is a running theme throughout the record and the word ‘grace’ kept coming up. Initially we were going to call it Days Of Grace but we didn’t like the way it sounded so through our conversations it just turned into Times Of Grace. It doesn’t reference anything either, it just came out of nowhere and as soon as we just said it to one another, it just made sense and it happened.

Michael: I was planning to question you on the name of the album but it does seem quite self-explanatory when you listen to the lyrics on the album and by what you have said about the lyrical themes of just finding your way through the dark times and keeping hope alive.

Jesse: Yeah absolutely. It was such an organic process coming up with the title, the songs, the lyrics and well, everything, everything just kind of came out of us and we just ran with it. It was very much, as much as it was a thought out record, it was very spontaneous. We just had a connection. We were walking on parallel road when we wrote everything, literally in retrospect it just all sort of happened.

Michael: When you were working on the album, although it was very natural to work together again eight years apart, did the past ever play on your mind because the brief reunion of Killswitch Engage for the series of live shows really created a spark and now fans are expecting ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’ part two.

Jesse: Of course it’s to be expect that fans would want that or would think that is the way it would go but we have our roots together, we are definitely both very much metal guys as regards to what we write but I think people will be surprised. This record definitely takes on a life of its own and really in my opinion does stand on its own away from the whole Killswitch thing and stuff that I have done over the years. It’s really a mixture of both of our styles; it’s a diverse record.

Michael: From the view point of yourself when you mention styles, do you think The Empire Shall Fall maybe helped grow the intensity of this album as when I first listened to the album I wasn’t expecting such a powerful album, well in truth I had no idea what to expect but then there is also that blues vibe which is more apparent from Seemless.

Jesse: Yeah I think so. You know, I was in Seemless for six years so there is definitely blues stuff going on vocally and I used that as inspiration at times but we just didn’t hold back. We didn’t sit and say to ourselves ‘oh we’re going to do this particular kind of music or this stretch or this part’ and again it just sort of happened. I think, like I said, people will be surprised, there is a lot of intensity but if you listen to the album, you will be able to hear everything, all the styles, that is mixed in there.

Michael: When you have to set a genre for the album it would be seen as a metalcore record. How do you see the genre of metalcore from the days of ‘Alive Or Just Breathing’ to ‘The Hymn Of A Broken Man’, do you see a lot of progression?

Jesse: It’s hard to put a finger on that in particular. I think the record stands on its own and it’s hard to tie it into anything I have done in the past or Adam has done in the past because in my opinion it’s a progression for the both of us. It’s a whole new thing and I think it has just opened the doors for us both to have a lot more freedom within our music and to not be concerned about our past; it allowed us to really just write what we were feeling at the moment.

Michael: As the lyrics mean so much to you and Adam and you had the chance to fully explore the dark times in your life, would it be safe for me to assume that there is no direct favourite or key song for either of you and it is an album that should be experienced as a whole?

Jesse: Yes. I mean in all honesty, it’s sort of an old school way to think but I really do feel that each track is as important as the other and I think that the album, as a whole, is worth a good listen to, straight away, through the whole record. If I could be so bold to ask your readers to do that, to me that is the way to experience the band and the music, to hear it from start to finish.

Michael: That brings up a point in the album, going from start to finish regarding the intro. The track listing of course sets the intro in the middle but was there a meaning for this, was it to signal a change in the message or the direction or did you and Adam see it from another perspective.

Jesse: Well for us it’s all about creating peaks and valleys; keeping people interested and listening to what we do. I think the way we organised the songs on the record is very intentional and we wanted to take the listener on a journey, what’s the word I am looking for, sort of diversity and tones you know. I think any record that’s worth its weight has a good amount of diversity to it and sonically can take the listener on a journey and that is really what we strived to do with it.

Times Of GraceMichael: I think the obvious question on fans minds when they finally have the chance to hear teasers and clips from the album is will you be taking it on the road or is this just an album that will be released and left at that.

Jesse: I think for us, we just wanted to get the record out and sort of go from there. Obviously it was the two of us who wrote the record so we have just got to gather up some people to form a band and I think that is our next step, to figure out how we can take it to the stage. It’s definitely something we have both talked about and something we are planning on doing but it’s just how we go about doing that we haven’t yet quite figured out. It’s just figuring out the logistics of it and really just getting in a room with a bunch of people who get what we’re doing and that are able to play the music so we will see what comes of that before any touring plans happen.

Michael: Do you see any special plans for the launch or a rush for a possible one night special show to celebrate the album’s release?

Jesse: We have talked about record shows or parties but nothing as follows. I think for us it’s just the excitement of finally getting the record out after all these years.

Michael: Our time is coming to a close but I know fans of The Empire Shall Fall will be wondering what this means for the future of the band as our previous interview and mentions online that you’re all working towards a second album release.

Jesse: The plan with The Empire Shall Fall is to keep writing and just do the best we can to keep the band alive while I work on Times Of Grace. We have all sat down and agreed on the future of the band and they support what I am doing but we will do our best to work on the new record while I am doing Times Of Grace for sure.


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Michael is the owner and creator of EspyRock. He is your general all round geek; sports fan; TV show fanatic. You can find him sharing his thoughts on his personal Twitter account. Contact Michael on Twitter or via Email.

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