Killswitch Engage’s Jesse Leach: Putting Out New Music Gives Me Purpose Through Pandemic
Killswitch Engage's Jesse Leach was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The singer has remained incredibly busy since the coronavirus pandemic shut down his band's tour with August Burns Red and has released new music across a number of different platforms, including a charity B-sides collection from Killswitch.
Whether it's soothing ambient music from The Way Back Within, his hardcore punk group The Weapon or even an acoustic Killswitch Engage song performed by each member in their respective homes, Leach has kept his foot on the gas, stating that while he can't perform live, releasing music still gives him a sense of purpose as an artist.
The Killswitch frontman also guested on "Stop the Bleeding," a new song from Machine Head written in response to protests against police brutality. Ultimately, Leach and Machine Head mainman Robb Flynn are begging for an end to violence and conflict in what is a positive message amid a tense situation.
Check out the full chat below.
Let's first talk about the new Machine Head song that you're featured on called "Stop the Bleeding." It addresses the current civil unrest in the United States. What makes music, and metal in particular, so effective to raise awareness and drive change?
Music is a universal language — it transcends culture and it transcends language barriers. It's been something that since I was a kid, as effectively from the Beatles, The Clash, you name it... it's a good vehicle for a message we're trying to spread.
That particular song is about putting an end to the violence and finding a way where we can find some peace. You know, not only calling attention to the issues that are going on, but also just asking — pleading — for an end to this kind of stuff. It's a positive song. Initially, people might have a reaction to it, but if you really listen to the lyrics, we're talking about putting an end to this.
Machine Head, "Stop the Bleeding" Feat. Jesse Leach
Both Killswitch Engage and your other band The Weapon have released music to benefit coronavirus relief. And there's new The Way Back Within music from you on Bandcamp. Why is staying musically active to any extent important right now to a musician's mental wellbeing?
It's all we've got, really. Between that and just getting physical exercise is my way to combat sort of the depression I'm feeling and the sadness I feel. As a musician, you use your music to connect with people in life at venues for live concerts. That's the way to do it. You reciprocate beautiful energy that really keeps you going.
When you don't have that, it's tough and you try to find your purpose. Putting out music as much as possible helps give you a little bit of that feeling of purpose back. I feel like I'm helping in some sort of way, so that's why I do it.
Killswitch Engage were scheduled to tour this year with August Burns Red. What was the progression of thoughts as you watched in real time as the world, including tours, shut down?
Initially we are kind of in disbelief. We wanted to carry on and thought we could do our part by bringing our music and being safe. It just wasn't the case. It blew up so quickly.
By the second day of the tour, we kind of knew that it was at its end and it was devastating, but at the time there was so much uncertainty and so much panic and fear, so it was just the right thing to do to pull the plug on it and make sure that everybody was safe.
We understood the situation better and now here we are still waiting to figure out when we're going to make those shows up. It is what it is at this point. We're just going to keep pushing forward and hopefully this thing ends safely and sooner than later.
Music often takes on different meaning people at different times in their lives. What surprised you most about the way Killswitch's acoustic performance of "We Carry On" has such a different connotation in the context of a pandemic?
I wrote that for much different reasons, but I wrote it in such a way where it's ambiguous enough where you can kind of put it in a different position. As we were talking as a band as to what we could do to help out raise awareness and raise money, it just seemed like a no-brainer to use that song.
Killswitch Engage, "Carry On" — Acoustic Quarantine Version
The message rings true no matter what you're going through. However, darkness, whatever trials and tribulations you face, you got to just keep pushing forward. It's the only thing you can do and that was the message we went on to give out to our fans —we'll get through this.
Even before the isolation caused by COVID-19 you were already living more remotely in upstate New York. How is that? Has it benefited your creativity?
It's the best thing that ever happened to me, period, to move here. I wish I made the decision sooner. You just have a clearer state of mind. I feel like nature has a way of slowing you down and helping you realize what's really important. I'm focusing a lot less on bills being paid and just sort of focusing on what really matters and that's my music, my art and my relationships with people. It's really given me a perspective change. We're so disconnected from the way we're supposed to be living.
Nature reminds us constantly to reevaluate how we're living and our trajectory for the future. I have a whole different way of looking at life now because of that. I love it. I'm never moving back to the city.
Thanks to Jesse Leach for the interview. Grab your copy of Killswitch Engage's album here and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.
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