Saturday, May 4, 2013

KILLSWITCH ENGAGE interview

by marcs77 

Jesse Leach is back and tonight before a pretty full-house show the frontman has showed the Italian kids, sweating out all the way around, how good he is, how missed he was and how his voice matured since those hectic early years with KILLSWITCH ENGAGE. But we're not gonna hold longer on this subject because I'm rather sure you already read tons of interviews going very in-depth on every possible shade of this much talked about Jesse's reunion together with his brothers last year.
Before the KSE's gig in Milan at Magazzini Generali we sat down with bass player Mike D'Antonio, who his a nice and very passionate dude, and had very fun chat about “Disarm The Descent” the new album released early April via Roadrunner records,

the European tour they're on with Heartist, the intriguing front cover artwork he did and his side career as graphic designer and much more.
For the music geeks like me I jumped at the chance to go in details about the gears he currently uses and his new signature series bass by Ibanez.
Before getting cut off because Mike was claimed to be on stage for the soundcheck he found a little time to introduce our readers to his side project called Death Ray Vision (featuring Brian Fair from Shadows Fall on vocals) that has their first EP being re-printed by Bullet Tooth records and is currently working on the new album to be out later this year.
KILLSWITCH ENGAGE played a killer and fun to attend show and I hope you'll have fun too reading the full-transcription of our chat.

gan: Hi Mike, how's this tour going and what are some of your personal expectations on tonight gig in Milan?

Okay, tour has been going amazing. The new record sounds pretty well so the people are pretty excited to hear the new stuff. Sometimes you don't know what's gonna happen when you play new songs. People who get bored, especially old fans who get bored...but we've been slowly adding more and more songs, more than we've ever played of new songs and people are singing along and having fun time. So we're gonna give them more.
Expectations for tonight? Just really excited to be in Italy again, it's been a long time for us so we're just stoked to be here. So no expectations but to have a good time and hope the fans will follow.

gan: Coming back to the tour and new songs topic. Which is one of the new songs that's getting the best crowd reaction/rowdiest crowd?

Umm...I guess maybe “In Due Time” just because has been out longer than the other ones but I'd say “The New Awakening” for me is my favourite song to play and it's been going very well.

gan: In your view how this new record fits among KSE discography?
I'd say that it falls between “Alive Or Just Breathing” and “As Daylight Dies”. I don't know...it definitely doesn't sound an old record because I think we've matured a lot as far as playing-wise goes but it's got that aggressive young angst...that teen angst that we hadn't had in a while. So some aspects sound new and some aspects sound old. I think it's because we've had primarily two years off. We just wanna play. We felt bad that we weren't doing anything and that would make it us pissed off enough to write some blast-beats.

gan: I read some reviews and these were stating that you kinda re-embraced the sound of your early works but personally I don't fully agree. The first and second records have a definitely different sound to them...
Yeah, the earlier stuff was really stripped down as well and we had these guys playing guitars like fucking nuts and they've really grown so much since those works. There's no way we can really go back but just take from it.

gan: This time around you had Andy Sneap taking care of the mixing. How would you compare the approach to mixing of Andy to that of Adam D.?

I don't like everything loud...everything on 10...so sometimes it can be overloaded...just too many things hitting your hears at the same time.
I feel like Andy has a better grasp on how to streamline things. Sometimes an outside mixer sees the piece a bit differently...things that need to pop out and what don't whereas sometimes if you are in the band you can kind of take it for granted and you push it all.
We used Andy for a bunch of different records and we've been always extremely happy with what he has done and we have a really good relationship with him...he comes out to our shows, we hang out and he's really really a nice guy...he's very easily to go along with and that's what we want it stress-free recordings.

gan: Tell me something about the bass guitar? I mean, what room in the final mix did he give you to your instrument?

It's the first thing I heard from him when we got the tracks and I loved the bass. I was stocked because I really thought the bass sound awesome too...probably the best bass sound since the first and second records when I was using a completely different bass. I used to be Gibson Thunderbird guy and it's very mid rangy...which is the range that no guitarists wanna go anywhere near so I was always cut through and since then I switched over to Ibanez it's just been kind of edge out, edge out and I started to use this pedal called The Rusty Box (by Tronographic) which is a compressor pedal and an overdrive pedal and it really pushes those mid ranges so it popped out back on this record and we were stocked. Really excited about it.

gan: I personally love to hear the bass in between the mix... 

Yeah, it's crowded but you can hear what's it's doing, thank you! Cool!

gan: You just mentioned you're currently using Ibanez basses (Mike is an Ibanez endorser) and I read this year you've got them making for you a brand new bass.

Yes, this is the third one that I've done with them, a signature series...it based out an Explorer...it looks like an Explorer...you know the James Hetfield's Explorer and it reminds me a lot of my old Thunderbird, very bulky and heavy but it sounds comfortable and fun...I really really love the attack to it

gan: When developing this new bass what basically did you ask for to the Ibanez engineers? -apart from the Thunderbird-like sound...

They know my string gauge and that's fine...I told them specifically okay, I like this bridge, I wanted to try a new pick-up state and they sent me one Destroyer bass just set up from the factory and I loved it...it was a different sound to me...very mid rangy and attacky. One thing I hated was the top which was very square and it would give me these massive bruises on your arms so I had them to bevel the edges so to feel more comfortable...and I hate tons of knobs on the front...because of the bumping on...I'm so clumsy on stage that I'm constantly turning myself down or turning the treble up or something like that so they had everything loaded in the back with a low hole so you can adjust the tone through the string pocket and not have to worry about bumping on it anymore.

gan: Let's talk about the cover artwork of “Disarm The Descent”. I know you're taking care of the graphic duties within the band and also for other bands as well.

Yes, I've my own design company (DarkicoN) that's been running since 2002. I've done stuff for Unearth, Shadows Fall, All That Remains, Crowbar and new England Metal Fest and a lot of stuff like that. I did the artwork for the new KSE record, the new logo...but actually for the first time I've haired four different designers to try and come up with new stuff and the band picked mine which is cool but I wanted to give them as much artworks as I possibly could because I don't wanna be that guy, that nazi guy...I wanted them to make their own free decisions on what they want for the artwork. But I was stocked on what they picked that I really liked it...it's sort of a lady kind of beckoning you for with this sort of new fire burning in her chest. You know, Jesse was in with artwork too and how he wanted the hands to look this siren of sort beckoning you for and so...I've actually a picture of Jesse doing the exact same hands movement of the front cover and it's pretty funny...hahaha...

gan: Among all the artworks you've got the chance to do over these years, is there one which you're particularly fond of?

I love...I did the new Crowbar record. I was really stocked with artwork. I love how it came out pretty nicely. Sometimes you design something and when you print it just doesn't look right this one all way around I was pretty excited about it. No spelling errors...

gan: And what about you artistic background? How did you get involved into graphic design?

I used to be a skateboarder and that's how got into bands just looking at the t-shirts...somebody who were wearing a Misfit t-shirt...and I was “whoa I've got to check that band out”. In a lot of skateboarding magazines there were works from a graphic designer called Dave Carson and he was so different from anybody else. I think I finally started sketching up stuff like he was doing back then in the mid eighties...a lot of dirty fun and shredded things...I walked around with my camera and I took photos of the dirt everywhere and put it in my designs...and he was like the master of really disgusting weird looking art and that actually made a lot of sense...and he was a huge inspiration on me. But nowadays...Travis Smith is one of my favourite...he has a really great art and spooky style so the new record kind of came out more of that sort of Travis Smith style. I've actually contacted him to trying to do the record cover for us but it was too late.

gan: Did you go to art school or something (I know you're a self-taught bass player so I was just wondering...)?

Yes, I went to high school for graphic arts and I did that for four years and then I did college for four years and then...nothing really is as good as a real work experience so once you get out in the field you start learning a millions things a day and you really catch on exactly what it is to be a graphic designer. So I had a lot of real world experiences. I quit that job but I loved doing graphic design for Clear Channel as matter of fact, doing billboards and advertising and that was great. It was fun. But I quit that to do this and I think I chose the right choice...hehe...

gan: You were talking about when you were a young skateboarder and got into new bands. Then before joining KSE you had your band called Overcast. I read off the internet that back then you were basically playing, booking shows, doing graphic design and all in a very DIY fashion. Do you miss something of those days?

I don't miss it at all...because I was going out of my mind...I was going insane. People did not like me back then. I was a very mean person. Now I feel like nicer and calmer. When you have that many things going on it's very easy to lash out on people for no reason...and I was doing that a lot...but it was my love and you would do anything for your love and those guys were a band which was very close to my heart. When we broke up I was extremely sad. I had actually given up on music for a good nine months but then I got in touch with Adam to try and start a new band again. When you have music in your blood you can't stop, I'm sure you know...you just can't stop...there's no way...you're always get drawn back into it.
So now I've started a new band when we had two years off I play with Brian from Shadow Falls and Pete Cortese (guitar) from Overcast as well and it's called Death Ray Vision and it's very pissed off.

gan: I heard you are recording new stuff...

Yes, we recorded an EP which is gonna be out on May 10th (re-pressing) and LP which is almost finished in the works and that should be out in September or something like that. It's like 80/90's hardcore...Agnostic Front, Madball...all kind of stuff...there's a little of southern rock thrown in here and there...Pete is very southern rock...he can connect...I don't know...he writes what he wants to write so there's a lot in there. We're very excited about it...we're gonna do a little bit of touring here and there.

gan: Are you on Bullet Tooth, right?

Yeah! The old Trustkill label...

gan: And how's your relationship with Josh?

Josh (Grabelle) is alright. We like Josh...he's been really cool with the band...he just really liked the band so that's the best thing that I hoped for.

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