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Interview: Joel Stroetzel from Killswitch Engage

Killswitch Engage

For over 15 years Massachusetts metalcore masters Killswitch Engage have revolutionised heavy music with rock-shattering riffs, divergent lyrical insights, and three-dimensional execution. Before the quintet hit our shores next year for their hard-hitting ‘Incarnate’ tour we caught up with guitarist Joel Stroetzel who revealed why he’s so excited to come back to Australia, fun facts about their latest album, and what Killswitch Engage is aiming for after the tour is over!

What are you most looking forward to about coming back to Australia?

We always have a good time. I really love all the big cities we’ve been to and yeah, I just think people down there are awesome. You guys rock! We always have fun.

Are you planning on any down time while you’re over here to see the sites and chill? 

Unfortunately the tour is going to move by pretty fast. We’re going to be flying almost everyday but I know we have a few days in Melbourne which I’m looking forward to. Me and (guitarist) Adam like the China Town there – there are lots of great places to eat. And sometimes we have nights off to catch a different show of somebody else in town or drink some beers. We always find ways to have fun (laughs).

Are there any Aussie bands you would love to catch live? 

Yeah, we’re pretty big fans of the Parkway Drive guys. I know them from Adam doing their record – a couple of their records I believe, so those guys have spent some time in Massachusetts with us as well. Hopefully we will get to see some of those guys.

What was the best memory from the last time you were here? 

I don’t really know in particular, it’s just a good vibe in general. Once we get off that plane it’s just a beautiful place to be. All the people are nice, and again going back to Melbourne – Adam and I always flip out over soup dumplings in Melbourne China Town so I’m looking forward to doing that again.

Supporting you for their Oz debut is Fallujah. How did you first meet/discover these guys?

We don’t know the guys personally but our management had mentioned they would be a good idea because they have a good buzz and it would be their first time going over there. It seemed like a good fit and a cool opportunity for everybody. Obviously we checked the band out online and we were like, “Yep these guys are cool, it could be a fun show”. Hopefully it works out. I’m looking forward to it.

How would you describe a Killswitch Engage show? 

It varies from night to night. It definitely depends on how drunk everyone is (laughs). You never know what Adam D’s going to say. He’s quite the character, always calling up the crowd. I really have no idea how he thinks of some of the things he says. It’s pretty insane but we’ll see. We’ll be in for some surprises…including us (laughs).

What are three things fans should always bring to a Killswitch Engage show?

Hmm…I’ve never really thought about that. Hopefully nothing that will hurt us too badly if they throw it at us (laughs). I think the best thing to bring is probably a good attitude and hopefully ready to have some fun. We always have the most fun when we can tell the crowd’s into it and that’s kind of a symbiotic relationship, you know? We can jump around and have fun if people are jumping around and having fun too so hopefully everybody has a good time. That’s the whole point!

Speaking of throwing things at you, what’s the craziest thing a fan has ever done at one of your shows?

One time, this was a long time ago and I think we were on tour with Slayer, I got hit by a giant trash barrel! I just don’t even know where a kid would get one of those. It was pretty funny. I definitely laughed about it.

Probably not at the time, I’m assuming! 

At least it was plastic so it didn’t hurt so bad!

This upcoming tour is to promote your latest album ‘Incarnate.’ Did you have an overall vision for the record?

Not necessarily. I don’t think we ever really try to plan so much. I think we all kind of tend to write different styles of songs and put them all together. We see what songs (vocalist) Jesse gravitates towards to the most. Those are usually the ones that end up making the record. But yeah, I think it’s kind of a cool mix of everything we try to do – the sludgy stuff, melodic stuff, trashy stuff and hardcore. There’s a little bit of everything and then some of the choruses and things are just rock n’ roll so it’s a cool combination of what I think everyone listens to.

Were there any tracks that were particularly hard to write or put together in the studio?

Not really. It actually came together really fast ‘cause everyone had a lot of material especially (drummer) Justin and Adam, who wrote a lot of instrumental stuff for this record. Between the two guys there were so many songs. And obviously me and (bassist) Mike D threw in a few things as well. It’s kind of cool; songs like Cut Me Lose – the song that Justin wrote – just had a different feel than something Adam or I might write and so I think there was a lot to work with and it came together fairly easily.

Where did you want to take the album in terms of musical direction?

I think we didn’t really as far as the songs went but from a production stance I think we wanted to do something that was a little bit thicker sounding and a little more organic. We spent so much time on the last record and it has a real polished sound. (Producer) Andy Sneap has a different mix style than Adam.

Both guys are great at what they do. I think after we had the perfect polished-sounding mixes we wanted to do something grittier and thicker sounding for this one. I think it worked out well. Adam did a really good job mixing the record.

Killswitch Engage are known as one of the bands who have redefined metal. In your opinion, which other bands fall into this category?

It’s weird because I know there were a lot of bands in the mid to mid-late 90s that were mixing different styles of metal and hardcore. There was Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, Hell On Earth and All That Remains on the US front but there were also Swedish bands like Soilwork and In Flames, so it was kind of a cool thing happening in music back then.

Do you have any other projects you’re currently working on?

Yes, I have another band called Brothers Born with a friend of mine back home. It’s more folky rock and indie with a little bit of an 80s twist to it…I don’t really know how to describe it. We released a record called ‘Knife Wounds’ a couple of years back and we’re working on a new record hopefully later in the year or early next year. There’s obviously a busy schedule with Killswitch so we’ll work on that when we have time.

Where would you like to take Killswitch Engage in the future? 

I think one of the things we’ve always wanted to do is break into radio but not with radio songs if that makes sense. It’s sort of worked here and there. It’s kind of tough for metal bands to be on mainstream radio which is totally understandable but I think we always try to have that mix where we don’t really compromise what we do but make it friendly enough. I don’t think it happens consciously, I just think it’s what we like to hear. We’re all suckers for melodies and things like that.

Beyond that I think we just want to maintain at this point. We’ve been a band for 17 years and everybody’s getting along well and in a pretty good headspace. We’re really thankful we can still do this after all this time.

What’s next for Killswitch Engage after the Australian tour?

Actually, I think the last thing we have on the calendar is Australia so I’m not really sure what we’re going to do after that. There will be some touring opportunities that pop up here and there but I think this time around we’ve all talked and we want to start working on a record a little bit sooner so we’re not 3-4 years between records. I think it might be nice to work on some new material.

Killswitch Engage ‘Incarnate’ Australia Tour 2017

Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane
170 Russell, Melbourne
Metro City, Perth

Get Tickets HERE