Killswitch Engage: “If You Don’t Get Down And Dirty, Then Did Going To Download Happen?!”
It’s been little over a month since metalcore titans Killswitch Engage hit our shores for an epic six-date run, but the band are wasting no time in announcing their UK return at next summer’s Download Festival. Given their recent tour’s success, it’s no surprise, really.
“It was incredible,” grins frontman Jesse Leach. “The energy was great, the pits were heavy, and I feel like we were on a little trajectory. It felt really good, and also like a push in a different direction…”
The Massachusetts mob’s next steps will be taking place alongside an additional 36 bands as part of Download’s latest announcement. So without further ado, also joining Killswitch Engage in June are: Airbourne, BABYMETAL, Baroness, Blackout Problems, Bleed From Within, Blues Pills, Bokassa, British Lion, Bush, Cellar Door Moon Crow, Chelsea Grin, Dead Label, Dead Posey, Dying Fetus, Electric Wizard, Lit, Lotus Eater, Marianas Trench, Obituary, P.O.D., Periphery, Powerwolf, PUP, Puppy, Skillet, Stone Broken, Theory, The Last Internationale, The Pretty Reckless, The Wildhearts, Tiny Moving Parts, Uncured, Volbeat, Wargasm, Wayward Sons and Wednesday 13. Phew.
In celebration of another huge announcement, Jesse takes us inside the band’s plans for another triumphant set, as well as giving his verdict on the line-up, and revealing how certain members of the band cope when their instruments aren’t working. Spoiler: it involves beer…
How does it feel to be playing Download Festival next summer, Jesse?
“Download is great! Every year we’ve played it’s always been a lot of fun, minus the year where I slipped on my ass onstage because it was raining – but it was still a fun show. We’ve had a history of really fun performances, and the audiences are always so good to us. The obvious downside to this is that the weather never seems to be that good, but I guess it’s part of the adventure of playing Download. You’ve got to get your wellies ready for the mud and the rain, but it is a party, and I’m sure we’ll have a great time. If you don’t get down and dirty, then did going to Download even happen, right?!”
Of course. Donington Park has a very rich rock and metal history. How does it feel to be a part of that?
“Knowing the bands that have played it over the years, like my friends in Lamb Of God or Unearth, and even as a bystander before I rejoined Killswitch, is pretty cool! I remember the first time doing it with Killswitch after I rejoined the band [in 2012]. It remains one of my favourite shows that I’ve ever done. It was raining all day and then the rain stopped, and I had this moment onstage where I was like, ‘Wow, this is my fucking life right now… this is fucking incredible.’ That festival opened my eyes to my new path and my new career going back to the band, so Download definitely holds a special place in my heart for that reason.”
Killswitch have played Download Festival plenty of times before and after that, too. What other memories particularly stick out for you?
“Adam [Dutkiewicz, guitar] is going to hate this one, but when we played in 2014, his guitar ended up not working for a couple of songs – but instead of waiting for it to be fixed, he grabbed two large beers, ran into the audience and started partying with people. I remember watching that and thinking, ‘That’s the way to do it!’ If your guitar breaks, don’t wait for it to be fixed, just go and party. I still find it hysterical to this day, and I like the way he was like, ‘Fuck it,’ and then just jumped into the audience and decided to have beer with everybody. He’s a maniac, but that is how you should do it. You can’t get bummed out – just go and party.”
Does it speak volumes for Killswitch that Download keep inviting you back to play?
“It’s crazy! We’re just really fortunate, and it’s a situation where we feel lucky to continue to do this. And the fact that a festival like Download still want us to keep coming back is pretty amazing. I guess it means that we must be doing something right (laughs).”
There’s a lot of talk of rock and metal ‘dying out’, but do huge festivals like Download prove otherwise?
“I think it shows that music is a lifestyle of its own, but it’s also showing us as a band that we’re still able to do this, and we’re still loved by enough people that we can still make a living off of this and that this is our career. That is huge – it’s an honour. It’s always good to walk away from a festival like Download and realise that people sang along and they cared. When you play the main stage it’s just something else entirely, looking up and seeing a sea of people all the way up the hill and around the corner!”
When it comes to playing festivals compared to a headline show, how do you go about crafting your setlist?
“I think with a headline show there will be a bit more new stuff because it’s our show. With a festival, you want to put in some new stuff, but you also want to ensure that you’re playing the anthems and the sing-alongs that the audience is going to want. At festivals, you’re not necessarily playing to just your fans – the audience isn’t paying to go to your headline show, and you’re going to be playing to people that might not have seen you before. We’re very aware that we should be playing the songs that are potentially going to be bringing in some new fans, so we’re careful to carve that set, where we’re giving songs to people that have heard of us before. At the same time, you’re also playing to people who might not have heard you before, so you’ve got to give them the hits and reel them in. Hopefully you then make them new fans based on that. A festival set definitely needs to have that balance.”
Looking at the three headliners – KISS, Iron Maiden and System Of A Down – what’s it like being able to play with those bands?
“Sounds like a lot of fun, man. We’ve done shows with some incredible headliners, but you really can’t mess with Iron Maiden – there probably isn’t a better live band on the planet than Iron Maiden! We’re all fans of those guys, and they’re just awesome. They’re super-nice, too, and they made sure we were taken care of when we supported them on tour recently. Their crew are friendly, the riders on the Iron Maiden tour were some of the best riders we’ve had supporting a band, they’re perfect gentleman, incredible performers, and they’re humble about it, which is really, really fucking cool.”
And what about the rest of the line-up? There’s Korn, Deftones, Gojira…
“I mean, Deftones and Gojira are probably my two most listened to bands in the heavy metal genre. Say no more! They’re just amazing. Gojira are not only my favourite metal band, I think they’re one of the best metal bands in the world right now. And Deftones have stood the test of time – there’s something about them that is magic. I’m just a huge fan of those bands, and playing with them is always awesome.”
Is Download also a good opportunity to hang out with your friends in other bands, too?
“It’s definitely a hangout, but the thing that makes it for me are the audiences. If you’re doing a summer festival run, you really do anticipate that Download will be the one that you remember and talk about – for some reason the audiences there are crazier there than anywhere else. I don’t know if it’s the location and the amount of effort it takes to get there, but it’s always my favourite one to go to, and you know it’s always going to be a good show.”
How much material will you be performing from Killswitch’s newest album, Atonement?
“Every night of our most recent tour we were playing The Crownless King, The Signal Fire and I Am Broken Too, so I would say those three for sure. We also opened the set with Unleashed, and that seemed to get the crowd going way off the bat. The crowd did not sit still for any of them, and it’s really cool to have this new record, and have four or five songs in the set, and those songs staying in the set and still getting the reaction they’ve been getting. I would say they’ve been probably the ones we’re going to be throwing in – you’ll definitely hear those.”
Do you typically attack festivals with a competitive spirit and the mind-set that you’re going to come away as the best band of the weekend?
“I think you kinda have to, especially for us. Usually Download is: we fly in, play the show and then go back to mainland Europe to finish doing the rest of the shows. You have to really be in a frame of mind where the adventure is ahead of you, and a part of that is just keeping positive and keeping in the back of your mind that the weather is going to be shit (laughs). But going in with that positive state of mind hasn’t failed us yet! Every time we’ve been to Download, we’ve always had the best time.”
Download Festival takes place from June 12 – 14 at Donington Park. Get your tickets now.
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