In the world of entertainment there are great stories being told in both movies and in music, but rarely does the actual life and history of a music band actually make up a great saga itself. However, in the case of metalcore masters Killswitch Engage, the narrative of this band includes the highest highs and some of the lowest lows imaginable, but life just can't keep a great band down and they're still going strong like any great epic, only this one concurrently plays to the soundtrack of their own well-loved tunes.
From the unleashing of their seventh studio album, Incarnate, this past March to the recently released DVD/Blu-Ray Beyond the Flames: Home Video Vol. II, as well as tireless touring around the globe, fans of the band have been treated in 2016 to both aural and visual delights, at home, in their cars, and live in concert, and couldn't be happier for it, and now with a new year upon us Killswitch Engage isn't planning on slowing down any time soon. Directly following his return home from touring in Europe, Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach took some time out of his schedule to talk to AXS about thew new home video release, their upcoming spring tour, and what he learned about life from his brush with cancer.
AXS: Hey Jesse, so the big news right is Killswitch Engage's co-headlining tour with Anthrax for next spring. That's pretty exciting!
Jesse Leach: Yeah! We've toured with tons of bands but Anthrax is one of those bands that from a really young age I've just loved. Not just because of their music but their persona, they're actually pretty similar to how we are on stage. They were the first metal band to make it ok to be funny and make jokes, you know? The whole vibe they put out and I was just so attracted to that when I was a kid, being a little skate-boarder. It's pretty amazing, they're legends in my book, deep down inside I'm still a fan-boy. We've played with Anthrax at festivals before and I always make it a point to stand at the side of the stage, not just as a fan but to see that chemistry. They've been doing it for so long it's in their muscle memory, and it's always good to watch a band like that because you can just tell there's no second guessing, which is awesome. But yeah, to me this tour is two-fold, I'm excited and I know we'll probably have some hang-out time but if anything it just kind of makes me want to step up my game and make sure we're firing on all cylinders too, especially being a co-headlining tour. Just making sure that the shows are tight and the fans leave with excitement and good memories, that's for sure. I want this to be flawless if possible.
AXS: And the other awesome thing you guys have going on is that Killswitch Engage has just released a new home DVD. And this is such a great release because it's just packed with so much footage, and the history of Killswitch Engage is enthralling just because of everything you guys have been through.
JL: Yeah, and it was important for us to get that out. Just to kind of re-introduce people who who we are especially for our newer fans who only just discovered us in the past record or two, which is still incredible to me that we're still getting new fans from the younger generation. I think there's an element of us too that we're just regular guys with extraordinary jobs, and for me it's important to break down that wall of 'rock stardom' that people tend to have – these preconceived notions of how we live and what we do, and giving them a glimpse into that, and allowing people to relate to who we are. I think for all of us that was really important.
AXS: It's cool too that bands are starting to put more documentary type movies now, it was pretty common in the 80s and early 90s - back in the VHS days - and it's starting to become more popular again.
JL: I think for me as a fan, I've always loved more than just seeing a band play live on stage, I've always really been into the documentary side of things. Seeing what that person does at home, seeing what they do when they have a day off, scenes of the band on the tour bus late at night drinking and having fun. Our friends Lamb of God put out this amazing documentary that I've watched like five or six times because you just have this sense of 'I get it,' I know who these people are and know what they go through. More so than the music, it's the journey, and I've always loved that.
AXS: The dvd also goes into your cancer scare quite a bit. Although that time if your life was terrifying, I'm sure, other than the obvious of you still being here and being able to sing, were there any positives that you were able to retrieve from that experience?
JL: Yeah, I think it's one of those things where every decision that you make you have to not hold on to regrets, you have to realize that those things happen for a reason. And if nothing else it helped me cherish my life. And after leaving the band – and the cancer wasn't the main reason but it was an aspect of it – it made me reevaluate myself, and why do I do music? And is it worth the risk of health? And is it worth being away from family and home? And I think it took me the years away of working 9 to 5 jobs and living a “normal life,” then coming back to Killswitch older and wiser - #1 I don't know if I'd be alive for various reasons, #2 I wouldn't be the person that I am today, and I wouldn't appreciate what I have now. I was able to let it go and focus on other things like myself, growing as a man. If you're on the road sometimes that growth can be stunted, I know people who have been touring since they were teenagers and they're in the 30s and 40s now but some of them are still children. Certain aspects of their makeup have never had the chance to grow because they've never been challenged by the things that a struggling 9-5er has to deal with. I had sleepless nights wondering how I was going to keep my electricity on. I had all these things that toughened me up and made me the man I am today, and that cancer scare was part of it, it was the beginning of realizing that I wasn't mentally prepared for life on the road and for as much as people have to sacrifice. But I'm happy to say that I am now, life on the road is what I want, it's a part of who I am now. I can't see myself doing anything else and I can say that with confidence now but back then I couldn't. I like to say it's a blessing in disguise.
AXS: Is there anything you'd like to say directly to your fans?
JL: Just eternal gratitude. Obviously, we can't do this without the people who support us so full-on gratitude.
The "KillThrax" Killswitch Engage and Anthrax co-headlining tour will kick off on Mar. 29 Montclair, N.J. and wind through the U.S. and Canada before wrapping up on May 7 Boston, MA. Click here for tickets.