Re-engaging with Killswitch
Jesse Leach’s voice sounds profoundly calm. It’s hard to imagine that Leach, the lead vocalist for metalcore heavyweight Killswitch Engage, is only hours away from unleashing his guttural vocals to the tune of thousands of screaming headbangers in Pittsburgh.
“That is my therapy session,” Leach says of performing live. “That’s my way of releasing the demons.”
For Leach, the original vocalist for Killswitch Engage, the path has not been without its trials. In 2002, he left the band, following the release of “Alive or Just Breathing,” the album that put Killswitch Engage on the map.
“I was dealing with depression, just being newly married in my life and not knowing how to handle myself on the road,” Leach admits. “I had to get away. I had to find myself.”
Howard Jones, the vocalist who replaced Leach, officially split from the band in January, citing his struggles with both Type 2 diabetes and maintaining the passion for music.
Leach auditioned to become the new (old) vocalist.
“How soon did I find the chemistry?” Leach asks himself. “The moment that I grabbed the microphone to sing a song, we felt it immediately … that first tryout.”
In February, Killswitch Engage announced on Facebook that Leach would return.
Although he has been involved in other musical projects since 2002, the time away from Killswitch relieved Leach of the pressures of fame and allowed him to mature. He cites strained vocal chords as part of his downward spiral. Now he proudly refers to his voice as his “instrument” and says because of his care, he has been able to sing through sickness twice on this most recent tour.
“I’m not second-guessing myself anymore,” Leach says. “And part of that is just being humble and realizing that there’s always something to learn, whether it’s in life or as a vocalist.”
With a laissez-faire, Zen-like outlook, Leach asserts that everything that happened was for a reason. He attributes this view to the hard-core scene, his parents and his spirituality.
“The motto from Bad Brains, ‘PMA’ — the positive mental attitude — is something I strive to live by,” Leach says.
Back on the East Coast
Originally formed in Westfield, Mass., Killswitch returns to the Hub with the Trespass America Festival, marking his second time in the band’s home state since he came back as Killswitch Engage’s lead singer.
“They definitely tend to get more rowdy, in the Northeast especially,” Leach says.
What’s it like to see fans sing along to the songs?
“To make that connection and hopefully bring some happiness to people, bring some positivity, some hope, some upliftment — to me, what music is all about is being able to channel that energy that you’re feeling.”
Keeping up with the Jones
Since rejoining Killswitch Engage, Leach has sung for the band’s homecoming in Massachusetts and has played shows from France to Austria to Canada, all while acclimating to Jones-era lyrical and vocal content.
“I really try to not pay attention to the hype, the media, the naysayers, all those things,” Leach says. “I’m trying to focus primarily on how we’re feeling as a band, and how the stuff is feeling live, and it’s been incredible.”
With the Trespass America Festival winding down, Leach says he’s looking forward to
returning to the studio with the band. But he says he’s not competing with Jones’ style; for the new album, “There’s no real aim for it to sound a certain way.”
Instead, Leach says the biggest trial Killswitch Engage will face is the unstable state of the music industry.
“I know it’s going to be a challenge, because I really want to make this record count,” he says. “Lyrically, sonically, I want it to be important.”
If you go
Trespass America Festival with Killswitch Engage
Friday, 4 p.m.
House of Blues Boston
15 Lansdowne St.