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Interviews : “Everyone’s having a good time…” – An Interview With Joel Stroetzel (Killswitch Engage)

By on March 9, 2016


Joel Stroetzel – Killswitch Engage

American metal veterans Killswitch Engage are about to release their seventh album this month, entitled Incarnate. I had a chat to long time guitarist Joel about the new album, the upcoming tour, and a possible gag reel…

Just before our chat, I had a look at Killswitch’s upcoming tour schedule, and I noticed that they would be playing six (!) shows in the New York/Brooklyn area within a week. I found this somewhat unusual and I had to ask Joel about it. 

“It’s the first time we’ve done anything like that. It’s kind of a cool way to kick things off, it’ll give us a chance to start playing some of the new record. I think we’re going to try to play a new song every night. It’ll be fun, hanging out in New York and drinking some beers!”

The band has released four songs off Incarnate on YouTube already. I personally love them all, but I was curious about what kind of reception Joel felt that they had received so far. 

“So far it’s good. Definitely a lot of views and things. I hope people like them, I’m sure there’s going to be mixed reviews, particularly folks in the metal community! But so far, so good!”

Continuing on the topic of the new album, which is being released on March 11, I had to ask if there are some sort of routines present on album release day, do they sit down and listen to the album once they’ve got their hands on it? 

“Sometimes it’s funny. Our management does it and my parents do it, they have to go and buy a copy for good luck. But I think at this point we’ve all heard it enough throughout the process of making it, so we’re listening to it to learn the songs to play it live.”

What about the album writing process, did your approach change at all? 

“Maybe not so much of a different approach, but it was definitely more spread out. We probably started writing the record a year and a half ago. We just took our time with it. As we came up with arrangements that we were satisfied with, we sent it off to Jesse and he would start doing his thing. We tried to keep it comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, it took a little while! I hope in the end that people will enjoy it.” [laughs]

This will be vocalist Jesse Leach’s second album since his return to the band. I read somewhere that he really struggled with the lyrics for Incarnate. I was curious about if this turned out to be a blessing in disguise and if his struggles meant that the album turned out better in the end. 

“I think in the end, yeah, for sure it did. When he came back and did Disarm the Descent, that happened really fast and we had a lot of the music written already. He came in and just wrote the lyrics really fast and we got it out there. With this one, I think he wanted to step it up. I think in the end even though it took him a long time, I think one of the biggest highlights is the work that Jesse did. He sounds great on it and the lyrics are great. I know he’s proud of it and we’re all proud of him.” [laughs]

Adam Dutkiewicz is widely known as a class clown on stage. He’s also the producer of most Killswitch albums. I was wondering how his on-stage persona translated into the recording process of the music. 

[laughs] “In the studio he’s very professional, he kind of sits there, drinking his coffee doing his thing! He’s hard on everyone, everything’s got to be perfect and precise. Sometimes we’ll sit around for hours playing a riff: “that one doesn’t feel right, it’s got to be perfect!” He has a very particular way of hearing things. He has his vision and he always makes sure to see it through. He does a great job, and it’s funny because he gives us all a lot of shit but at the same time he’s very hard on himself as well. It’s fair!”

We then turned the subject towards the live show and the setlist for the upcoming world tour. I asked how many new songs will be on there?

“I think we’re going to do ‘Strength of the Mind’ and ‘Hate by Design’ every night. We’ll add ‘Cut Me Loose’ and probably will be rotating five or six songs on top of those two, so we’ll be playing a good chunk of the new record.”

Killswitch Engage were slotted to play ‘Alive or Just Breathing’ in its entirety at Soundwave this year. I asked Joel if he feels that it’s important to include older material on the setlist, especially for fans that has been with the band since the beginning.

“For sure, man! No matter what we do live we always try to play a couple of songs from each record, at least. The ‘Alive or Just Breathing’ thing came up when we got the Soundwave offer. We did this a few years ago for the anniversary and they wanted us to do it in Australia. So we said: “we’ll do that”, and we were very excited to be there, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. Australia is really one of our favourite places to tour, it’s amazing, so hopefully we can get down there soon!”

So you don’t have any solid plans yet?

“Nothing’s set in stone yet. I’d like to think before the end of this year we can make our way down.”

I guess we can classify you as veterans at this point, no offense…

[laughs] “We’re getting old man!”

Any career goals left? 

“There are obviously random places that we’ve missed over the years, like we’ve been to the UK and Europe so many times, but we’ve never stopped in Iceland for example, so there are places we need to go still. But I think in general the goal is to keep doing this. Everyone’s having a good time and we’re very lucky that we’ve been able to stay in the band for so long and for some reason people still care!” [laughs]

There have been some really good pranks between band members over the years. To finish off this interview I wanted to know if the pranks were reserved strictly for the tours, or if they occur during recording sessions as well? 

“There’s always a lot of goofy outtakes and funny noises people make. Some of the outtakes, we go back and listen to, we just laugh about it because it’s so ridiculous. It’s all always a good time. It’s all about having fun at the end of the day. Music is supposed to be fun!” [laughs]

Maybe you should release a gag reel: Killswitch Edition…

“We’ve thought about it! We’ve got quite the collection by now.” [laughs]


‘Incarnate’ will be out on March 11 via Roadrunner Records.


Martin is an aspiring music photographer/videographer. He is originally from the southern parts of Sweden and now he's living in Sydney, Australia. Thanks to his older sister, he got into Rammstein at the age of 9, and since then he's been into all types of metal/rock. He loves to combine photography and music, but also filming concerts and produce live material. Follow him on Twitter and check out his website.