Interview: Mike D – Killswitch Engage

My first in person interview from Rock on the Range 2010 in Columbus, Ohio with Mike D of Killswitch Engage.

MsBrandyRock:  Are you planning on playing the ‘Holy Diver’ song today as a tribute to Ronnie James Dio?

Mike D:  I think at this point we have to play it everyday for sure.  It’s probably the one people gravitate the most towards.  It’s gotten the most radio play and we don’t want to jip the fans by not playing it.  I suppose, we have played it the last few years not in tribute, but I suppose you could call it a tribute.  Either way we are going to play it.

MsBrandyRock:  I don’t like classifying music into genres; I look at it all as being rock, because I think the specific genres stereotype.

Mike D:  Mmmhmm

MsBrandyRock:  But, what is your definition of American Metalcore?  What does it mean to you?

Mike D:  hmmm, it just like blends hardcore and metal, blurring the lines of chuga chuga hardcore and chuga chuga metal.

MsBrandyRock:  Now, I was originally told the interview was going to be with Joel and I watched the behind the scenes video with his mom.

Mike D:  You can ask me about his mom, we all know his mom very well.  She was actually at the show last night because we took Joel’s brother’s band on tour with us and it was her first chance to see both her son’s bands play together on the same stage.

MsBrandyRock:  Do you still practice at her house?

Mike D:  Not so much anymore, we don’t really practice at all; we tour so much there’s no reason to.  We see her a lot, she bakes cookies for us all the time.

MsBrandyRock:  ‘The End of Heartache’ was nominated for a Grammy in 2005.  Did you ever think that would happen?

Mike D:  Not at all, never, never ever ever ever ever.  It was never something I thought about because it was so far beyond reality.  But, boy did it mean a lot to my parents.  It didn’t necessarily mean a lot to me, but my parents all of a sudden said ‘wow, we have to come see you play’.  After playing music for 20 years they finally wanted to come see me play.

MsBrandyRock:  So they never saw you play before that?

Mike D:  There is not reason to invite your parents if you playing a show to like 10 kids in someone’s basement.  We played a lot of shows that weren’t necessarily meaningless, but now we are at the level where it’s easier to get them through the door, get them a cushy spot, and they can watch from a good area.  And not get bumped into.

MsBrandyRock:  Were they supportive of what you were doing before you made it a little bigger and got a record deal?  Or did they think you were wasting your time?

Mike D:  Yeah, they thought I was wasting my time.  They forced me to go to a technical school which was actually a great thing because I have a career out of it.  They would tell me I shouldn’t be concentrating on playing music.  I should be concentrating on getting a job and doing other things.  But, as it turns out it was sound advice, now I have a graphic design career as well as being a musician.

MsBrandyRock:  Killswitch Engage has a history of playing festivals, like Mayhem Fest last year, do you seek out festivals or are you asked to play them?

Mike D:  9 times out of 10 asked.  I can’t really remember one we have asked to play on.

MsBrandyRock:  Why did you choose to self produce the second record?

Mike D:  We self produced every one except the last one.  Adam our guitarist does it.  It costs a lot less money; it’s more do it yourself, than let everyone else do the work for you.  More control over your product, more control over your music.  And it’s more relaxing, there is no stress involved, a friend doing all the work instead of a producer that may want to tell you what to do.

MsBrandyRock:  Who did you work with?

Mike D:  Brendan O’Brien.  He did Pearl Jam, Bruce Springsteen, the new AC/DC, Mastadon.  He had contacted us and said he was a fan of the band.

MsBrandyRock:  Did that surprise you that he contacted you?

Mike D:  Yes, totally, because he doesn’t like metal at all.  He’s more of a song structure guy, someone who concentrates more on the overall sound of a song, rather than if it is metal or not.

MsBrandyRock:  Well, like I heard Killswitch Engage for the first time on satellite radio.  So there is that appeal to a wider audience.  Has that helped or hurt you?

Mike D:  Definitely helped, for sure, absolutely 100 percent.

MsBrandyRock:    Did you expect that to happen when you first started playing shows?

Mike D:  Not at all.  Everything that has happened to us has been a dream, a whirlwind dream; I never expected any of it.  I come from bands that never even got paid when they played.  Drive like 10 hours to a show, play for 10 people, and not get paid.  It was just the love of playing at that was it.

MsBrandyRock: Yeah a lot of people think that if you are in a band and ‘touring’ you get paid but sometimes you don’t even have the gas money to make it to the next town.

Mike D:  Right, yep. 

MsBrandyRock: Your known for pointing out people during the live show, do you pick people that are singing along to the songs?

Mike D:  Well from experience from when I was in the crowd and that would happen to me.  I would remember that show forever.  It was out of the bounds of reality.  Usually people on stage don’t quote on quote break character or even acknowledge the audience, or do something really lame like yell at them or spit at them.  So I had always said to myself, you know, if I got any sort of statute, I would relay to the audience that I was excited and stoked.  And that they in turn were as excited and stoked to be there as what I was.  I don’t know a lot of people that I do say hi to, will come up to me afterwards and say ‘thank you that meant a lot’.  I do it all the time now.  It means so much to people why not keep doing it.

MsBrandyRock:  Other bands say that Killswitch Engage helps keep the underground alive but also helps define the genre.  Bands that you probably look up to say that, what do you think about that?

Mike D:  Cool, we are just doing what we do.

MsBrandyRock:  The positive messages that you put out, are you involved with the song writing?

Mike D:  I write the music but not the lyrics.  The lyrics were put in motion by our first singer, Jesse Leach, who wrote nothing but positive lyrics.    When Jesse left the band and Howard joined it was sort of a necessity that the songs had to be positively aimed.  Have some sort of outcome that was a little bit brighter than most of your metal songs.  Most metal stuff is total downer stuff.  There is always something that is not great about someone’s life.  We kinda wanted people to come to our shows and have fun.  And not come there scowling and think about their life being crappy.  We wanted it to be an escape from all that garbage that goes on in everyday life.  We let people participate, shake their hands, yell, scream, and laugh at us.  And it’s kind of our whole vibe.

MsBrandyRock:  What band are you most looking forward to seeing?

Mike DDeftones.  And they are playing right before us so I’m going to miss them, have never seen them.

MsBrandyRock:  What advice would you give to bands that are on that level playing to 10 people?

Mike D:  Don’t expect to ever get paid.  Do it for the love, not because you want to be a rock star, because you will never be one.  It’s like winning the lottery to get to a spot like this or just being so ridiculously good you just make it there on your own.  Do everything yourself.  Don’t pay anyone if you don’t have to.  Make your own flyers.  Book your own shows.  Go out there and play every weekend you possibly can.  Make sure you have band members that actually want to do it and are not just doing it because you want to do it.  And play music you like, not music you hear.

MsBrandyRock:  So, don’t try to be like anyone else?

Mike D:  Well, that’s the only way you really learn is to play music by other people, but at the same time if you can take that and bring it to the next level, not copy but add your own spin to it, it takes the genre up to another level, if someone else is adding something to the pot.  If people just continue to copycat it just kills the genre.   I feel like punk rock is going that way right now.  Every band sounds exactly the same, the same whiny voice, the same guitar riffs.

MsBrandyRock:  What do you think about radio in the United States?

Mike D:  Seems like its being squashed.  I come from listening to Howard Stern on regular radio then he went to satellite radio and he’s so much better now that he is not censored.  Censorship is ridiculous on regular radio.  Regular radio is just a dead medium to me.

Post by MsBrandyRock


One Response to “Interview: Mike D – Killswitch Engage”

  1. MsBrandyRock 23/06/2010 at 1:12 am

    As with my other interviews from Rock on the Range, Images are by