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A few days ago, I got a phone call from some very polite and nice people in New York. This was of course Roadrunner Records and it was them putting me through to none other than Mike from the legendary Killswitch Engage. Amongst other things, we chatted about: the newest album, Incarnate, the process behind both this album and the previous album and his current live equipment.
Huge thanks to Kirsten at Cosa Nostra for organising this and Mike for his time. Thanks to the Roadrunner team as well for being really polite :)
You guys have recently released an album titled Incarnate (Review here). How do you feel the response has been to it?
It seems pretty good! We’ve been playing 5 new songs in the set at the shows and the response has been pretty cool. I mean, it’s only been out for a couple of weeks now, so it’s hard to tell but I’m happy with it!
If my sources are correct, you guys played a couple of small shows in run-up to the release. How did they go?
Yes we did 5 nights residency in New York City to start off the whole touring cycle. We initially had the idea a while ago and the idea presented itself to our management and it seemed to make a lot of sense. It turned out to be really good fun and the shows will be ones I’ll remember for the rest of my life as they were so good.
Keeping on the topic of tours, you guys also recently got announced as special guests on Bullet For my Valentines tour. Are you excited for that?
Yep! We’ve played with them at a couple of festivals and we’ve been friends with those guys for a while now. You know, touring is weird because you kind of form bonds with everyone whom you are with and they become like family. Then you don’t see them for ages and then meet them on like the other side of the world and you just pickup the conversation from like a year and a half ago. But no, we love those guys and we’re really looking forward to it.
Going back to the album, musically, how different would you say this album is compared to say Disarm the Descent?
Well the previous album was sort of a desperate attempt to have one last record. We weren’t sure what was going on with switching singers and stuff like that. We tried to get Howard as much help as we could but unfortunately it didn’t work out. At that point we were like: “Ok, we don’t have a job anymore” which is pretty disheartening. I mean, we try and be as positive as possible but when something like that happens it really blows.
And then all of sudden Jesse came into the fold and everything seemed to work about pretty well with him. We wrote a lot of desperate music for that record which we weren’t sure if it was going to even be a record or at least I knew I was writing pretty desperately. I was kind of angry that we weren’t playing and I just wanted to get out there and be a band again. In that respect, the record was kind of a “I hope this gets put out” kind of thing. Everything seemed to work out though.
For this record, Jesse was more involved in the process. He really was there for the demos and put a lot of his time in. That resulted in this record becoming a more cohesive record and a record that everyone put their stamp on. The gears are working great now and the machine is running along well and we’re all happier than ever. Like I said, this is the happiest the band has been for a while.
If my sources are correct, you came up with the name for the album as well.
Um… Nope! I was watching wrestling! I get most of my ideas from watching wrestling! But no, I had created like 40 or 50 different designs for this album and nothing really hit like the final one did. Once that artwork was done, it was almost instant with the name. Jesse knows exactly what he wants and when I showed him the artwork he was like: “That’s exactly what I was thinking of”. The name in Incarnate, which means ‘In the Flesh’ or a ‘Rebirth’ so to speak. It’s kinda like the band is a cohesive unit starting again and there’s hopefully more to come.
That means that Wikipedia got it wrong!
Hahahaha! Don’t they always?!?!
This is more just out of curiosity, but who does the mix and master on your albums? Is it Adam that does it or do you have some secret guy that does it?
We use a lot of the same people to mix and master our albums and Adam normally does the recording and often passes like 3 notes to the mastering guy. The normally say something along the lines of “Compress the shit out of it!”. But Adam normally gets it pretty close and there’s not a lot of tweaks that need to be made. Normally, we’d use Andy Sneap and we get along really well with him.
For this record however, Adam felt as though he could mix it and he also had the time to do it. With mixing, you need to unwind for a while and then jump into it for like 5 or 6 weeks to get everything to sound just right. Adam knows exactly what needs to happen in terms of the song and not in the sense of personal egos and what he says makes a lot of sense.
Let’s talk a little bit about your gear now. I remember hearing that you use Ibanez basses and Ampeg amps. Is that correct?
I currently use Ibanez basses and I have my own signature model called the MDB 4. It’s kind of based off a Gibson explorer and it’s really pointy and sounds awesome. We refined a lot of the equipment to go into it and it sounds killer and I’m really happy with it.
I stopped using Ampeg about 4 or 5 years ago. I used to be with them and was very happy with them. They then changed hands and the guy who is there currently just would not return any of my calls or emails. I then moved to a Swedish company called EBS and those guys have a heart of gold. Their amps sound like you took a blanket of an Ampeg amp and it sounds a lot more aggressive than it did previously.
I try to model my sound off of Frank from Anthrax. I love the bass sound on the album Persistence of Time. I love how it sounds aggressive but doesn’t take over and adds to the sound.
Now I’m sure you get asked this question a lot, but what advice would you give to a new and upcoming band?
I’d definitely say don’t expect to ever get paid for doing this. It’s sad but true, but you need to have a second job that you like to do because you never know when the band might implode. You really need to have a backup plan and don’t out all your eggs in one basket.
Also, play what you want to play and don’t mimic other things. If you have an idea of something you really want to do then go and do it. Play out of your hometown as often as you can as well. You don’t want to become one of those bands that plays so often in your hometown that people just don’t come see you. You want to keep the hype around your band in your hometown and also have people come see you. I’d say that there is one of the most important things to do.
Thank you very much for your time today Mike. It’s been an absolute pleasure!
Thank you sir!
Killswitch Engage’s new album Incarnate is now available via Roadrunner Records.