And if you only read one interview all year then read this as Leach lays himself bare in a a frank and revealing chat bereft of ego and rich in emotion.
rushonrock: Sharing vocals with Adam D allows TOG to make some very diverse music – are you proud of the result?
Jesse Leach: I’m pleased with what we’ve achieved. To be honest I feel as if it’s the best work I’ve ever done in my music career. It’s certainly the most intense record I’ve made. It was a painful process at times but that’s just where I was in my life back then. We were both going through a private hell and the record was a real bloodletting. We managed to capture a moment in time together. When we were in the studio if one of us hit the wall the other would step in and help out. Doing the vocals was incredible and it’s the first record I’ve made that I’m able to listen back to and feel happy with it. I’m really proud of it.
rushonrock: Was the idea always to share the vocals?
JL: Initially when Adam contacted me he told me he’d written a record while he was in hospital after having back surgery. He was wondering if he would ever walk again His way of dealing with it was to write music but he wrote this entire record in his head – before he put it on paper. I was absolutely elated to get the call. After I left Killswitch we always kept in touch and we’ve always been friends. But the fact that he asked me to be involved in such a personal thing meant I felt completely honoured. He had some lyrics and some concepts but he just said ‘give me what you’ve got and let’s go with it’. I wrote Strength In Numbers – the day that I got the CD with the music on I got it done. At that time I’d been through some really heavy stuff and Adam was the same. The suffering that we were going through led to the synergy that underpinned the album and we just clicked. The themes came out of us and the writing process therefore required little creative effort.
rushonrock: What was the heavy stuff you’d been through?
JL: It’s a pretty private matter. I just found myself at a point where I faced a real hairy crossroads in my life. I had reached a point where I was a bit suicidal. I think that’s a good enough explanation for most people?
rushonrock: It’s nine years since you and Adam last recorded together so was the magic still there for the TOG record?
JL: I’ve got to say it was different. But in a good way. Years ago when we recorded together it was a totally different time in our lives. We’ve both grown together over the years and I’m very much in touch with Adam as a person now. I wasn’t confident enough as a person back then and I suppose I hadn’t lived enough. Adam helped me get a new perspective on life. With the TOG record I came in with a lot of solid ideas and energy. Our friendship also reached a totally different level – we were having different conversations and hanging out over a few beers. The album has been completed for more than a year now but I look back on that time with a lot of fondness. The record is who we are and who we were when we came together in the studio again. I feel we really stretched ourselves. Metal is just one of the types of music that we both enjoy – we very much wanted to come in and bring a lot of melody and blues scales to the table. That’s what I did for five years – played the blues. I could easily just scream it all. But the music that Adam writes calls for something a bit different.
rushonrock: Adam is a pretty talented guy – do ever wonder how he manages to play so many instruments and produce?
JL: I bust his balls about it all the time! I’m a big fan of him as a musician and anyone would give a lot to see the way he works. The way he handles his computer and Pro-tools – he’s just a total professional. He’ll be talking about what he’s doing and doing something else at the same time and it’s all so effortless for him. I just sit there and chuckle! I just say to him ‘you’re so good at what you do it’s ridiculous’. It’s baffling really.
rushonrock: So did the album become a chance for you both to deal with some serious issues once you realised you could work together again?
JL: It definitely felt natural in that working environment to lay myself bare. And there were times when we were writing the lyrics that we realised we’d both been to the same dark places. We don’t really want to give too much away about what the songs are actually about. It would be wrong to explain too much. I want to give people the opportunity to relate to these songs in their own way. Anyone can deal with pain and suffering and individual struggles but I think our hope is that people will listen to the record and get something out of it. We want to encourage hope and positive thinking and every song, however bleak, has an optimistic spin on it. The message is that it’s going to get better. The family members we played the record to last year already described it as a therapy session and that couldn’t be a bigger compliment. But I know where they’re coming from – music has got me through some pretty tough times.
rushonrock: Do you look back on your Killswitch career with pride, regret or both?
JL: It’s hard for me to say that I regret anything. What’s the point in that? If I hadn’t left when I did then my life wouldn’t have changed and I’m pleased it did. When I left Killswitch I had to work three jobs just to live. I was in a total depression but it made me what I am today. I’m also very pleased for Adam and the success he’s had. But it’s come full circle for me and I could be staring at my computer at my desk job in New York right now. Everything that has happened to me has happened for a reason and I now realise there’s a plan for me. I’m older and wiser for the experiences I’ve had and I’m ready for that plan now.
rushonrock: Do you now have a better understanding of what you were going through back when you left Killswitch?
JL: I was just a kid. I was wet behind the ears. I didn’t even know the guys in Killswitch that well. We weren’t friends – we were just guys in the same band. I felt really alone and I didn’t feel comfortable enough to share myself with those guys. Looking back I was an ignorant little guy and I’ve learnt a lot since then. When you live a certain life and you see your friends living another life you can think the grass is always greener. But you can’t go through life being bitter and I’m just enjoying doing my thing again. I’m just playing music to enjoy it and I’m not worrying about where the next record contract is coming from.
rushonrock: Is depression still a taboo subject within the metal community or is it something you feel you can talk about?
JL: Honestly I don’t know. There are so many different kinds of depression. There’s the clinical kind and then there’s the kind that’s brought on by certain things in your life. The kind of depression I had was brought on by other things in my life and that’s tough. But I cannot imagine having a depression that you cannot escape and it’s down to a chemical imbalance. I’ve never had to be on medication or sit through a lot of therapy sessions but when it hit it hit really hard. You get to the point where you want it to end and taking your own life seems like some kind of relief. If I knew anyone who was going through that I’d be the first to help and it’s a lot more frequent than people realise. There are different way that people can break the cycle and I ran to my God. That’s what got me through and that’s what inspired me.