With enough determination, every tragedy can be turned into triumph.
This is the story of Killswitch Engage, who bounced back after the loss
of their vocalist and drummer after the release of their debut 'Alive Or
Just Breathing'. They quickly found replacements in the form of vocalist
Howard Jones and drummer Justin Foley and became a better band in the
end. The band's comeback 'The End Of Heartache' sold in excess of 37,000
copies in its first week on the shelves, the fourth highest chart debut
on Roadrunner Records. Metal Update cornered bassist Mike D'Antonio at a
birthday bash and confronted him about the new lineup, his artwork
techniques and his thoughts on the band's recent success.
METAL UPDATE: The new album 'The End of Heartache' is finished. How do
you feel about the end product?
MIKE D'ANTONIO: I'm into it. It was a fun record to make. We're all
pretty excited about the new singer and the new drummer.
MU: I just read that the album is fully available on the internet. Why
MD: Probably because it got leaked . . . But what can you do, you know?
Kind of hope for the best.
MU: Do you think your sales will be affected much by the leak?
MD: Absolutely. It's one of the things that happens these days and
there's nothing you can do about it. Just roll with it and hope that the
people treat you well.
MU: You have a new vocalist and a new drummer on the album, so what is
the story behind that?
MD: What is the story behind the vocalist and the drummer being new or
that they used to be in the same band?
MU: Why the change in the vocalist and why the change in the drummer?
MD: Well complicated story . . .
MU: You don't have to get into the dirty shit.
MD: No dirty shit involved. Originally our singer decided that touring
wasn't the life for him. He got married two weeks before we were
supposed to go out on one of our first tours. He proclaimed that it
would be better for him, in the long run, to get married two weeks
before. And we all said, "No, that might hurt things a lot." So he went
along with it and got married, and it just became a thing where he just
really missed his wife a lot and couldn't deal with being apart from
her. So if that's the life he wants to lead, then more power to him and
he went off and did his own thing. It was kind of a sketchy time and
everybody was questioning what to do with the band, but the label
actually stood behind us and helped out with auditions, which was really
cool. They were still ready and willing to put all forces towards
helping us out and finding a new vocalist.
MU: So what's up with the drummer deal?
MD: Originally Adam played drums on both albums and Tom came into the
band. Adam was sick of playing drums and he wanted a change. And he
played previously in Aftershock with Joel on guitar, so they had already
synced up long ago and they were really cool. They would interact with
each other and they know each other's playing style and stuff like that.
So we knew it was going to be good. So Adam wanted to move to guitar
right after we finished the album and Tom was interested in playing
drums for us. We were real psyched to have a new member come into the
band and it worked out for a while. But Tom slowly became disenchanted
with touring - almost like Jesse - almost the same circumstances, really
- and decided that he didn't want to tour after Ozzfest. The whole time
there was a feeling that Tom wasn't into the band and things weren't
really working out. Howard talked about Justin from Blood Has Been Shed
was really interested in trying out for the band. So that's what
happened. He came out and tried out and things really clicked.
MU: So each of them has been working out for the better?
MD: Much better. We really like the lineup. The other thing with Justin
is that he's been in the scene for so long, and has been in bands that
have just played basements. He's real excited to be on tour and have a
crowd in front of you and rock out, so it's really cool to have a fresh
perspective after being on the road for a couple years. It's awesome to
have him come in the band.
MU: Aren't all those guys pretty much music graduates for the most part,
except for you and Howard? Didn't they all go to music schooling?
MD: Joel went for, I think a semester, to Berkeley but has taught guitar
for many, many years. Adam did graduate from Berkeley, I think as a bass
major, minor in guitar. Yeah, they have knowledge and it's been a super
cool learning experience coming from not knowing jack shit about
anything, just being able to figure out notes here and there to get into
a band, but those guys expanded my whole horizon, so it's been really
cool in that aspect.
MU: I've heard that Adam D. writes most of the material for Killswitch.
Is that true?
MD: Not at all. It's definitely been a three way between me, the
guitarist Joel and Adam. Except on the newest record, Adam quickly wrote
a few songs out of riffs that had been sitting around for a little while
and some of his own stuff, so we got this record done a little bit
faster. Adam contributed a little bit extra this time around, which is
very very cool. So on the other hand, there was stuff that we had done
that was thrown in the mix. It got organized a little faster than usual.
MU: How much input do the rest of you have in the band?
MU: So Adam produced all the stuff?
MD: Yes. And engineers.
MU: How easy does that make everything? It makes everything really
MD: Absolutely. The other thing is you gotta get your part done.
MU: He has his own studio, right?
MD: Not at all. No, he works for Zing in Westfield. He's been
engineering there for 8 or 9 years now ever since he graduated from
Berkeley. He recently bought a Macintosh and is looking to start his own
business and I'm sure it won't be too much of a problem to get that
thing under way. He wants to eventually mix while on the road.
MU: Does he do a lot of other bands?
MU: Producing or whatever.
MD: Whenever we're home, he's always got a project going. He's always on
MU: When you started this band, did you have any idea that you'd make it
to where you are now?
MU: How much has Roadrunner contributed to your success?
MD: Distribution-wise, amazing. Probably the best we could possibly
imagine. There's a lot of different stories I hear from people in bands
on other labels going over to Europe and not being able to finish tours
because of buses breaking down or vans breaking down and the labels not
being able to kick down the cash to get people back on the road.
MU: You guys don't have that problem, right?
MD: Not with Roadrunner, which is very very cool. I'm pretty stoked that
we had an opportunity to do that.
MU: You personally design all the artwork, so how do you come up with
all your ideas?
MD: Just hanging out and doing my thing.
MU: I've interviewed another artist before, so I just want to go into
the full on aspects on how it's all done. How do you make it a reality?
Especially on this new album, what did it take to make this a reality?
What did you do to make the album cover what it had to be? Did you take
your own pictures?
MD: Yeah totally. The idea had just been in my head for a while. A heart
image with the nails and stuff. Kind of generic but it was intriguing to
me to put something together like that and actually make it look
realistic. I bought the heart at a little fabric type store. It was like
styrofoam. I just roughed it up a little bit and threw paint all over
it. Then I dipped Kerri's [Mike's girlfriend] hands in red acrylic paint
and went in the bathroom with two floodlights and kind of aimed them
with my digital camera and shot about 85 or 90 shots to get the one.
Kerri: I was a hand model for a day.
MU: That's awesome. That's the way it works.
MD: Had the cats scratching at the door, like "what you doing in there?"
It was super hot because of the floodlights and we were sweating. A lot
of the Photoshop stuff like that, the computer imaging, I just take as
many different images that look like they just fit together. Like a
puzzle, I throw 'em on top of each other and kind of mish mosh them
around. If they don't make anything, fuck I just wasted five days. I get
an idea and it's like, "Oh alright." And it just clicks and I'm like,
"I'm gonna work on this." Otherwise it's just like, "Fuck. This is just
not working. I can't do this" And you move onto the next thing. So, the
image kind of worked out and I threw pictures of scum off of a car from
the salt that was thrown down for snow. You know when the cars get that
ashy white film on them and it starts dripping? 150 or so shots of my
car, and got the drips and all that crap just to get the right one that
fit with the hand. Threw that on top, that's the scum kind of thing on
the nails. There's flowers with nails all over it. I bought a bouquet of
satin roses and threw nails in it. Shot like 160 or 170 shots of that
just to get one that looked really like it was supposed to.
MU: Do you have a digital camera?
MD: Yeah, it comes in very useful on tour. In Europe I think I shot like
two gigs worth of shit. Lots of architecture. I'll see a crack on the
wall and go, oh fuck, that'll look really cool on something that I'm
trying to pull off today. Lots of pictures of ceilings and floors and
textures and a bunch of stuff that people are like, "What the fuck are
MU: What programs do you tend to use?
MD: Photoshop, Freehand and Quark. That's it.
MU: You guys have been touring machines - so, where have you been and
how much has it been influential as far as what you guys have been
MD: Influential . . . probably not at all. Just getting in the way of
writing maybe. We're going to Japan for the third time tomorrow,
actually, which is a blast. Australia will be for the first time. We've
done Europe and the UK a few times.
MU: Does it seem to pay off at all?
MD: Yeah, it's amazing. It's the coolest feeling. We got put on this
Roadrunner tour for Europe and we weren't sure how things were going to
go. It was like three baby bands that had just gotten signed to
Roadrunner. Just got thrown into something. We were really scared. Like,
"No one's going to show up."
MU: Who headlined that?
MD: We did. That's the scary part. We were like, "Who the hell is going
to know us over there when we get there?" There was so much publicity
and it was like magazine ads and shit all over the place and marquis in
every place that we played. Marketed so well, because all the Roadrunner
offices can do is just spend money on their talent. They can't sign
anybody. They really have no say in the label. They kind of just help
out. And it's really cool, all the different markets that they help out
really well. They know their job, they spend what they need to to really
contribute to what's going on. It made it an amazing tour and we were
flabbergasted at the amount of people that actually came out after being
super scared to head over there.
MU: So there's a new album out and a new video and what else is coming
in the future?
MD: Three months of touring. We've really gone to all these crazy
places. It's amazing every single time I go to Connecticut or Japan.
It's awesome. I count my blessings every day that this is going on. It
blows my mind. It's retarded.
review of Killswitch Engage 'The End Of Heartache'
review of Killswitch Engage 'Alive Or Just Breathing'
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