JESSE LEACH Explains Why He Wanted To 'Audition' For KILLSWITCH ENGAGE Before Rejoining Band In 2012

August 11, 2023

In a new interview with the Mike James Rock Show conducted at this weekend's Bloodstock Open Air festival in the United Kingdom, KILLSWITCH ENGAGE singer Jesse Leach explained why he felt it was necessary for him to "audition" to come back to the band back in 2012 when KILLSWITCH was looking for a replacement for the then-just-departed Howard Jones. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "'Cause I bailed [a decade earlier], number one. Number two, they did ask me to come back without all that. And I said no. I wasn't sure I could handle doing somebody else's material. I'd never sang somebody else's song with conviction. It felt odd to me. But I went back to my job, tending to a bar. It took me a few weeks to really sit with that and be, like, 'What am I doing? I should just have a go with it, you know?' So I asked to be put on the list of people to try out, 'cause that's where I feel like I deserve to be because of number one, again, leaving number two, turning it down. So these guys were, like, 'What is this guy doing?' You know? So I had to prove myself."

Jesse went on to say that taking over from Jones in KILLSWITCH ENGAGE was a more difficult task for him than many people had assumed. "It's not a simple thing to do that, to step into somebody's shoes like Howard Jones, who's, like, easily one of the best voices out there — just this powerful, beautiful voice," he explained. "We're a bit different, and especially back then I didn't quite have the technique and the skill that I do now to know how to sing without flaw. I wouldn't say without flaw, but I've gotten a lot better. Let's just say that."

Leach sang on KILLSWITCH ENGAGE's first self-titled album, which came out in 2000, and on their landmark 2002 Roadrunner debut "Alive Or Just Breathing". Leach left the band in 2002 and was replaced by Jones, but his work on "Alive Or Just Breathing" had always been revered by diehard, longtime KILLSWITCH ENGAGE fans.

Back in 2013, Leach told The Wichita Eagle that he wasn't initially interested in rejoining KILLSWITCH ENGAGE. "I didn't think I was the guy because I just wasn't sure I was going to be comfortable singing someone else's material," Jesse said. "I listened to his [Jones's] tracks sort of as objectively as possible initially when they came out, just following the band, and kind of just felt like it wasn't really my style." But he said he had a change of heart after he got word that an audition for a new vocalist was happening. "What I did was I went in and really listened to the songs as a fan, and started reading the lyrics and sort of putting my head in the headspace of how could I relate to these lyrics?" he said. "What do they mean to me? How can I place them in my life that would make sense to me that I would be able to reproduce them, not only sonically, but also have my heart and soul in it. And the first song that really struck me was 'Arms Of Sorrow'. I read the lyrics and then I listened to it, and I was, like, 'This is sonically unique. The music to it is different.' It kind of reminded me of FAITH NO MORE a little bit. Then I just read the lyrics and it was just I could relate to them being someone who suffered with depression. And I think from that point on, it just kind of opened me up and I became a fan and I started to really fall in love with the songs."

KILLSWITCH ENGAGE guitarist Adam Dutkiewicz later confirmed to Revolver that there were a handful of strong contenders for the frontman slot but that Leach ultimately came out on top. "He was great on Howard's stuff," Dutkiewicz said. "And, of course, he sounded better than anyone else on his own songs." He laughed. "Jesse had a slight advantage there."

KILLSWITCH ENGAGE's latest album, "Atonement", was released in August 2019 via Metal Blade Records in the U.S. and Sony Music Entertainment in the rest of the world. The disc featured guest appearances by Jones and TESTAMENT frontman Chuck Billy. It marked the band's third full-length release since the return of Leach.

In July 2021, Leach and Dutkiewicz released the second album from their TIMES OF GRACE project, "Songs Of Loss And Separation", via the band's own imprint label, Wicked Good Records, distributed by ADA Worldwide.

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