An Interview with Killswitch Engage: By Design

If the city of New York had a Paul Revere equivalent, he’d let us know that Killswitch Engage is coming. The five-piece metalcore band is gearing up to play five shows at intimate venues across the city, and will debut a different new song live at each show. The album versions of each new song performed will be released on iTunes shortly before each performance.

“It’s awesome,” says founding bassist Mike D’Antonio, of the band’s innovative approach to evangelizing the new music. “But it’s stressful. We’ve never played more than one or two new songs on tour.”

D’Antonio and bandmates vocalist Jesse Leach, guitarists Joel Stroetzel and Adam Dutkiewicz, and drummer Justin Foley are celebrating the upcoming release of their seventh studio album Incarnate, due out March 11.

The record is the band’s latest to be produced by Dutkiewicz, or “Adam D.” to the Killswitch Community. He wears a lot of hats, as fans can attest, on stage (with his crazy ensembles) and in-studio. “There’s less stress with Adam doing the production,” D’Antonio notes. “The last thing you need with a big record like this is added stress. It’s so easy to record with him. I can feel confident and showing him different [guitar] fills or things I’d like to add [to songs]. Whatever he says you can trust it.”

This combination of camaraderie and serious musicianship is one of the core attributes of Killswitch Engage’s appeal. Who else can permeate such love and adoration and release a single called “Hate By Design?” Listen closely, as Leach pours his heart out: “Hate, hate by design/is destroying our lives/seek to find some understanding/Redefine your life!”

The song is a precise cut from the Killswitch Engage design. It’s an appropriate anthem for today’s politically informed consumer-driven society. It’s a deep breath of fresh air in a polluted pool of filler lyrics flooding the Top 40. It’s content we all can relate to. Of course it’s off the latest Killswitch Engage record.

The upcoming tour set list will include “Hate by Design,” as well as “Straight to the Mind” and five other tracks never played live.

We caught up with D’Antonio for an interview a few weeks before their big New York City run. He shared his excitement to play music he’s so passionate about, and humbly highlighted his personal challenges in learning the new tracks. The interview transcript follows:

There is such excitement and anticipation for the new record! Can you share the scoop on the recording process?

We started the process as we always do where everyone goes in his own separate room and develops demos; then we all get together and play them, and the we all sift through what we do and don’t like; talk about the riffs; arrange some stuff on Pro Tools. The significant difference between this record and any other is the way that Jesse brought so much to the table.

I consider my songs babies. You give birth to these things and then you cross your fingers and hope that it makes it on the record, or that the lyrics fit what you’re thinking, or whatever. I think Jesse took everything into account and really went for it. We’re super-duper proud of him. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this proud of a singer with [respect to] lyrics on any work that I’ve ever done. It’s very meaningful stuff and you can tell that Jesse wears his heart on his sleeve.

“Hate by Design” was the first track [for which] Jesse had written lyrics. He sent demos to everybody [in the band] and we were just blown away. We’re like, “Well, whatever you’re doing right now, keep on that same track. You’ve got it. You’re ready to go here.” We were so excited right from the beginning when we started to get the vocal treatments.

Audiences sometimes take for granted the challenges in putting together new music; we see you guys performing it flawlessly onstage, but was there any aspect of the recording process that you found challenging?

Jesse wrote some pretty challenging stuff that has to do with mathematics and a lot of odd time signatures. But I still can’t get my head around it. During the New York shows we’re going to be playing newer tunes and I’m doing my homework as best as I can. Some things don’t make sense to me and I really need them to, very soon! I’ve been practicing the last past weeks trying to get this one riff right. I flunked math so I’m having a hard time with this one. Some of the time signatures are pretty crazy. I think 16/17 was one of the time signatures. They’re all over the place, so you can either play it or you can’t.

I definitely have dreams about being in a classroom, not wearing any clothes, being unprepared for a test and all that stuff just because I can’t get Killswitch songs under my belt! (Laughs) But once you learn it you’re good to go. They get locked away and get stuck.

Which current bands are you into?

I love this band Witchcraft. They’re not necessarily new but they have a new record out. I tend to gravitate toward stoner rock. It’s what I listen to when I’m not listening to metal. I have a hard time getting into newer bands. Nine times out of 10 we tour with a band and then I get into them. I’m one of those people who has to see it live to understand it and feel the emotion. I can hear a band a hundred times on disc and if I don’t see them live I just don’t get it.

Also, He is Legend. I love that band. They’re doing some really great stuff. Unfortunately they don’t get the tours they deserve but those guys bring a lot to the table. Real musicianship.

What do you love most about coming to play New York City?

You guys have amazing vegetarian restaurants. Boy, oh boy, you can go almost anywhere and get some of the best vegetarian fare you’ve ever had. Also, New York hardcore is what I grew up on. Every time I walk through the streets I sing like a Cro-Mags song or something, just to remind myself of where I’m at.

The five New York City venues are some of the smallest in the area, which is fitting for metal—the louder the show! Are you excited to play in such tight quarters?

That’s part of the allure. We said, “Let’s do something real small and intimate. Let’s play some new songs and really give the fans something cool to start this whole record cycle off!”


Killswitch Engage will play Gramercy Theatre March 6; Bowery Ballroom March 7; Saint Vitus March 9; Marlin Room at Webster Hall March 10; and Rough Trade NYC March 11. Memphis May Fire and 36 Crazyfists will support. For more information, go to