Killswitch Engage strike that right balance between not taking yourselves too seriously and still producing experienced and solid metal. Killyourstereo.com was fortunate to sit down with Mike D’Antonio and Joel Stroetzel (with a cameo appearance from Adam Dutkiewicz) while in town for Soundwave recently to talk about all things band related…and have a fun, effusive discussion about beer.
First time since 2008 that Killswitch Engage have been back for Soundwave. Mike, you’re probably better to answer this because Joel you were here last year with Times of Grace, back in 2008 it was when Soundwave was starting to get big and now it’s a juggernaut, what have been the biggest differences you’ve noticed since you last played?
Mike D’Antonio: The venues are way bigger, the attendance is ginormous compared to last time we were here. [There’s] definitely a lot more bands, I can tell that right away by the amount of big buses they use to motorise us around. Pretty much everything has changed really. The crowd response is awesome as always. What else didn’t change? …the sun is still here (laughs). It’s great though – a lot of fun. missed it.
I was watching your new video clip (‘In Due Time’), which premiered today in Australia. It is a fun video clip watching you guys just laughing and playing, there’s no bells and whistles. When you were creating it, was it more of a re-introduction? Obviously you’ve got Jesse back, saying this is where we are. We are comfortable in our skin, the album’s about to come out.
MD: I think it had a lot to do with that, but the guy who did the video, Ian and Mike, both guys also did our behind the scenes video for the making of the record, so they had a feel for how we were interacting with each other. When people submit things for videos, the treatments are usually pretty off the wall and pretty crazy, and you can’t picture yourself in those situations. But, this video we right away said, “We came imagine ourselves doing this.” And, doing this off camera as well. It just felt really right. I think it was the only one that felt right out of them all.
Joel Stroetzel: We didn’t want to do a whole – the sun comes up over the mountains, the band explodes into a performance. We didn’t want to do anything like that (laughs). We’ve always tried to avoid that if possible. It just seemed like the most fool proof, fun, laid back way to do it.
MD: We got to invite friends to the video shoot…it was a good day.
On Jesse coming back to the fold, I know whenever you have a personnel change at the best of times there’s an adjustment period. I guess it’s slightly different because he has been here before and is coming back, but was there still that natural reaccustom feel? Or, was it just picking up from where you left off?
JS: It seemed pretty easy actually.
MD: The only question in my mind was, can he do the Howard parts? And, he proved that right away, so we said, “ok, this going to work very easily.”
On the topic of the album, obviously you’ve finished recording it and it comes out in a month or so, what’s the period like in between when you’ve finished it?
JS: (laughs) Sitting around, checking the Internet every day seeing if it leaked (laughs).
MD: We recorded it so long ago – the instruments anyway. Would you say it’s about six months between now and then?
JS: Probably, yeah.
MD: Now it’s the point where it’s like, “oh no, what did we record again?” “How do we play that music?” “Which one are we going to play live?” Then relearning those songs because we haven’t thought about them in awhile.
Back on Soundwave, obviously as you were saying there are so many bands. There are probably a lot of bands you wouldn’t get the chance to tour with let alone see, what have been the biggest surprises so far?
JS: I actually haven’t had the chance to see one band yet (laughs).
MD: We’re definitely stoked with our buddy John [Dette] playing with Anthrax, that is really cool. I haven’t got the chance to see him yet, but he fits right in with that band. They’re on just a little earlier than we wake up (laughs). But, Kyuss Lives! is one of my favourite bands of all time, so it’s really fun to watch those guys play.
I know Joel I saw a video interview you did at the airport and you were keen to see A Perfect Circle, is that still a priority?
JS: We play at the same time every day. Some of the days hopefully the stages are close enough and I can catch a little bit.
You’ve played the big festivals overseas. How do they differ?
MD: This one [Soundwave] seems more organised to me.
JS: It does in a lot of ways. Especially transportation wise, getting people around to where they are supposed be. I don’t know about festival to festival, it’s like one scene and the club scene is a different vibe, I don’t really notice a huge difference.
I saw on your Facebook page the other day a quirky little article that National Geographic story. That was funny. What was your reaction when you saw that?
MD: I think we were right next to boobs…from Africa (laughs).
***It is at this point of the interview that guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz additionally sits in.
Adam Dutkiewicz: That is a great band name – Boobs from Africa (laughs).
Roadrunner Records, you’ve had a long partnership with them. It is one of those things, if you’ve got the wrong label it can be so detrimental to a band, but you’ve obviously got something that works and you’ve had a good partnership with them. How has it been over the journey?
MD: Real surprising actually because we knew them as one those labels where it was either sink or swim – if you don’t do well then that’s it, you’re gone. That’s what made us most nervous about signing with them. We had quite a few labels interested and we all sat down and thought, “Who can best take care of us? Can we do this for a year and go out on tour and come back to a house? Or, are we going to live in a cardboard box when we get back. Are we going to lose a lot of money? What label is going to help us at least survive?” (laughs). And, Roadrunner was the one. It seemed to work out pretty well.
What’s it like being a touring band when you come to a place like Australia? I was talking to the Sword the other day and they mentioned how everything in Australia is so much more expensive.
MD: Food especially is a lot more expensive here. You can expect to pay thirty dollars for a one person meal, where in the States you can get away with doing it for five to six dollars depending on where you eat.
JS: It is definitely pricey.
MD: That is why we use a lot of credit cards and you don’t even think about it (laughs).
JS: Pretend it’s free (laughs).
You’re drinking beers now, in Australia we enjoy a good beer, what’s your favourite?
JS: I like that Little Creatures beer.
AD: Little Creatures is probably the best brewery in Australia next to James Squire. I’m a beer snob (laughs).
MD: Not Heineken? (laughs)
AD: No (laughs). Heineken is just skunk piss. If a skunk got completely wasted that would be it.
MD: What about Fosters?
AD: That’s not even Australian.
MD: It actually tastes great in the US.
AD: Terrible in the UK.
Do you have any opinion on VB?
AD: I love VB.
MD: That’s the one we get most.
VB is like the cheaper beer essentially, it is the one most bars have readily available so most people drink that. It is just funny getting people from overseas and their perspective on what it is renowned for.
MD: So that would be your favourite?
I don’t mind it, but I’m pretty typical, I like Carlton Draught.
MD: I thought Carlton would be Europe?
AD: Carling [is European]. I know everything about beer. I’ll talk about beer all day.
Isn’t in America, the main beers like Budweiser, the alcohol in it is a lot less than over here?
AD: Budweiser is about 5%.
MD: Wait, isn’t it 3.9%?
AD: Bud Lite is. Budweiser is awful; I’d rather suck a dick than drink Budweiser (laughs).
JS: There’s a lot of craft beer in the States now.
MD: Guess how much a bottle of Grey Goose is down here?
MD: No, $78.
AD: Wow, you guys have got it rough here. Is that why everyone is healthy and fit because they can’t afford alcohol? (laughs).
It’s anything and everything. I don’t know if you guys have heard of goon bags?
JS: That’s boxed wine, right?
Yeah, it has got this tag attached to it for that reason because it’s so cheap. All the teenagers and young people that can’t afford anything just buy that…and it tastes awful. It’s not just beer, it’s clothes, CDs, everything that is expensive though.
When you guys come down here, I know it’s summer time, so football is not on, but are you big sports buffs?
AD: I watch some sports.
AD: I love baseball and American football.
I’m a big baseball fan. It is incredible, over here; no one really gives it much attention.
AD: It is just a weird thing. I mean, America is the only place where people don’t really watch footy. It is not really that big. I get why people love it though, it’s a great sport.
I take it you’re a Red Sox fan Adam?
AD: Yes. Well done.
Yeah, I’m a Giants fan myself.
AD: They won a little while ago.
MD: Are there leagues over here?
We have an Australian league, but to give you an idea of it, it’s out in the suburbs where our stadium is in Melbourne and they probably average about 300 people there.
MD: You’ve got to start somewhere.
Yeah, they are passionate.
What’s the plan now? Obviously you’ve got more touring after Soundwave.
MD: This is pretty much the start.
When you have the time off, bands seem to say the beginning is the hardest because you’re blowing out all the cobwebs. Is that the feeling?
MD: We’re ready. We haven’t really just, gone “BAM! Start.” We’ve been doing stuff for a little bit here and there then taking months off at a time. This is the start of the train ride so to speak. Now we are getting on in travelling. It feels great. We are seeing everything through Jesse’s eyes now. We’re the old, bitter, jaded people that have seen everything. He hasn’t had much touring experience, so everything is new to him and exciting, [and] that makes it exciting for us.
It’s that notion, when you’re a child you’re so excited about Christmas and then you get older and you’re over it, then you have kids and they are so excited and you live vicariously through them. So, stuff you might take for granted on the road, you see someone who is new to it and so pumped, you feed off that?
MD: It breathes live back in.
MD: His [Jesse’s] aggression and energy on stage breathes life back into our stage presence – we have to keep up with this guy. He is jumping around like a nut (laughs).
I know you’ll be rehearsing so when you’re on the stage you’re ready to go, but when you are playing these songs and it’s live and unpredictable are you thinking about it a lot more? Because you haven’t played them as much and you might be on autopilot otherwise.
MD: Autopilot with every other thing and then the new songs you really have to pay attention. But once you get about five or six shows under your belt with that new song, it is real easy.
JS: I think even after the second show.
Awesome, I really appreciate you taking the time today.
MD: Thank you.
JS: Nice to talk to you.
Thanks, Adam as well.
AD: No worries.