Interview with Killswitch Engage bassist Mike D'Antonio

- Mar 06, 2007 at 03:30PM
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One of the most well respected metal bands in North America and the world is Massachusetts natives Killswitch Engage. These guys have struck mainstream stardom ever since forming around the year 1998, racking up astounding record sales and singles landing on mainstream rock charts, a virtual miracle for such a hard band. Killswitch recently released their latest album As Daylight Dies back in November and it has delivered the band not only massive sales but an increase in mainstream popularity. This formidable five piece band is currently on a North American tour with Chimaira, Dragonforce and He Is Legend that will stretch right into the beginning of April. We were recently able to catch up with founding Killswitch member and bass player Mike D’Antonio on the Toronto stop of the tour to ask him about the current tour, the band’s latest album and the condition of the band’s lead guitarist and songwriter Adam Dutkiewicz who recently had serious back surgery.

Just to start, you’re a few dates into your current tour with Chimaira, Dragonforce and He Is Legend. How has the tour gone so far and are you pleased with how it’s gone?
Mike: Yeah it’s been pretty great, this is our first time headlining a major market of the US, um, we’ve been together for seven years so it’s about time that we did one of these, but we’ve just been so caught up with festivals and all sorts of other crazy things that go along with touring that we just haven’t had time to do it. We’re really excited to be out here and headlining it, it’s the biggest production we’ve ever had.

Chimaira, Dragonforce and He Is Legend of course are all huge bands who all could probably headline their own shows. How were you able to score such a killer lineup for the current tour?
Mike: Ah, we just asked them. They were all pretty excited about doing the tour, we actually had the whole tour lined up ready to go and we were just going to go do the tour and No Fear stepped up to the plate and said oh we’d love to sponsor this thing and throw in some extra incentives like clothing and all that good stuff so we said why not?

Looking at your tour schedule, I noticed you guys played some shows earlier this month overseas in Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Austria. Was this your first time visiting these spots and what was the fan reaction like compared to when you play shows here in North America?
Mike: Um, the tour as a whole was probably one of the biggest European tours we’ve ever done. It was amazingly good; I’d say about ninety percent sellouts everywhere we went which is always pretty amazing. A lot of the spots, Spain in particular were spots that we hadn’t hit since 2002 on our very first European tour run ever so the fans were just really excited to see us back in these areas.

Unfortunately for the band and fans of Killswitch Engage, an integral member of the band Adam D. was forced to sit out this current tour because of a back injury. Can you update us at all on how Adam is doing and what his condition is?
Mike: Well this was his second back surgery in about a year and a half, he originally had three herniated discs, now two of them have been taken care of and there is still a third lingering injury that could happen. He had an operation in the U.K, that’s where he had to drop off the tour, you know we did the European tour, about a week into that tour he had to drop off. But he got the surgery right away so he was sort of out of pain fairly fast which is great to hear, great news, you never want to see your best bud in pain like that. But right now, he’s got about eight weeks bed rest, he’s only allowed to lay down and stand up straight, not really too much sitting down action. So he’s kind of bored, he’s not doing too much besides watching TV and eating lots of ice cream. He says he’s going to come back on the next tour, possibly for some of the European festivals we’re going to be doing in June.

Adam is such an important member of Killswitch and I’m sure it’s been disappointing for you guys to play without him. What has it been like playing without his prowess on the guitar and stage presence? Has it been difficult to adjust to his absence?
Mike: Um, we’ve done it before, like I said he had another back surgery about a year and a half ago where he had to drop off a tour. You know, it’s better to have him to drop off and not play rather than be in a wheelchair the rest of his life, that’s for sure. As far as on stage, it’s slightly less funny I suppose, we’re still having a really good time, there’s still smiles going on, there’s still joking around, maybe not as much, we’re not all wearing capes or anything like that. But it’s pretty rocking, a little bit more metal than we’re use to maybe, but we’re getting the job done.

To replace Adam on the current tour, you guys enlisted the help of a very skilled replacement in Pat Lachman who’s played with Damageplan, Halford and Diesel Machine in the past. How did Pat joining the fold for the current tour come about and are you pleased so far?
Mike: Yeah, Pat is a great dude, he learned all the songs very, very fast, I think there’s about seventeen or so songs in the set, so he learned those brutally fast, about three weeks it took him to learn all those songs and then we only practiced two days before we left for the tour. He’s been doing an amazing, amazing job, he’s been doing backup vocals, yeah I can’t say enough good stuff about him. He really fits in with the crew, everyone loves him, he really gets along with everyone and sometimes that’s half the battle with being out on tour, you know finding out if you can live with somebody and we can definitely live with that guy.

Let’s talk a bit about your latest studio record As Daylight Dies released just a few months ago. How do you personally feel about the new record and what do you think sets it apart from your previous three albums?
Mike: Um, new record, I think has a little personality built into it you know, the people in the band, you can usually pick out what parts they may have written or why we wrote certain parts the way we did.... Um, we did a really cool thing with this record where we took off time in between touring and writing the record, we had about nine months off where we didn’t even talk to each other, we just kind of got our minds focused and anticipated the day that we would get back together and start writing again. And when we did, it was sort of like magic, there were lots of really good ideas floating around the room, everyone came in with solid plans, solid structures for songs and riffs and it’s sixteen songs we had so we said let’s just stop writing at this point and just refine what we had. We settled on thirteen for the record so I guess the other three will just go on the backburner until next time. But with this record, it was kind of back to the old Killswitch formula from the first two records of everyone writing, a big democracy going on, all the contributions making sense. The End of Heartache was a bit of a departure from this, we had been on tour for a good four years almost straight and everyone was just kind of sick of playing or, no one could get in the mindset of writing and we had our label kind of breathing down our necks saying we need a new record. We finally got off the tour and no one wanted to write, everyone was just burnt out, it was just time to go home and time to sleep you know, for a few months. So we had four songs when we got off tour and one day of practice when we were just kind of staring at each other wondering what we were going to do, Adam came to practice and said oh, here’s some riffs that you guys wrote and a lot of stuff that I had that I structured, here’s seven songs, let’s go in and record a record. And that was kind of End of Heartache more than just an Adam venture....

How many songs from the new album are you playing on this tour and what has the crowd reaction been like to the new material?
Mike: I believe it’s about four or five songs (from the new album) that we’re playing and the sing alongs are working, definitely. We’re pretty excited that the record is doing very well. Here I heard today from a Roadrunner Records rep that we’ve sold more in three months of the new record than we did in three years from the last record so that’s very very positive. We’re expecting lots of sing alongs tonight so we’re pretty stoked.

One thing that I noticed about the new album is that of the eleven new tracks, it’s the first Killswitch Engage record to not feature an instrumental song. Why did you decide to not include any instrumentals on this record?
Mike: Ah, we wrote two for the record. We just wanted to have this record a little more fast paced, a little more, just down and dirty, there’s no guest vocals, there’s none of that stuff, it’s just us rocking out. The original mindset of the record was that we were going to do either ten or eleven songs and keep it at that and that was going to be the record. It was sort of going to be like a Slayer type of approach, just down and dirty, here you go and then leave them wanting more attitude. Um, when it boiled down to it, everyone was like oh we want this song and that song and it turned out we were going to put all thirteen songs on the record that we recorded, but we had to kind of decide that ok, these instrumentals can’t go on here, let’s just keep it as a fast paced album and keep it at that. But rest assured, those instrumentals are going to end up on the special edition that they always do like three or four months after the record comes out.

Just to finish off, despite Adam’s absence, everything seems to be going amazingly well for Killswitch at the moment. What do you guys have planned for the rest of the year, specifically spring and summer tour plans?
Mike: I know for spring we’re heading back over to the U.K. and we’re doing the Download Festival again and probably some other festival dates and the whole festival sort of touring cycle that goes on over there. For summer, not a lot to say about what we’re doing just yet, rest assured it’s a big tour, but it is not Ozzfest, but other than that I really can’t say. But I will guarantee that we will be on tour at least until next December, that’s just the way it works.
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