Killswitch Engage are closing in on legendary status. Their new album debuted at # 7 on the charts, adding weight to the claims that metal will never die and has the most loyal fans on the planet. The album delivers exactly what Killswitch devoted were clamoring for: face melting riffs and powerhouse vocals from Howard Jones. The special edition was beautifully done, with four extra tracks and a bonus DVD.
Howard Jones is the antithesis of a bloated, clowning rock star. He is serious, studious and very much a man of the people. There are no preening flunkies surrounding him with the job of kissing his ass, and one gets the sense that Howard may be a little mystified with the adulation poured on him by the Killswitch faithful.
A week after the disc came out, we talked with Howard about the new record and the band’s plans for the rest of 2009.
II. Your new record debuted at # 7. Would do think that says about metal music and its fans?
HJ. Metal isn’t dead yet.
II. Can you describe your role in the band’s songwriting process?
HJ. The music is done when I get it, I don’t have much to do with the musical parts. I listen to what they have done, most times over and over until I get a groove or a line jumps into my head. Then I start wrapping lyrics around that one line.
II. What are some of the things that inspire your songs? Are they current events or maybe personal experience?
HJ. It’s a little of everything. Each album and song is different, but most definitely current events creep in. Maybe things that have happened to friends or family. Whatever fits the song. If it doesn’t, that piece of paper goes into the trash, and I start again.
II. Can you take us through the process of a song like “Light In a Darkened World”?
HJ. That song was a series of re-writes. I didn’t like what was going on, and then that line popped into my head.
II. How about “Save Me”?
HJ. I wish I knew (laughing).
II. Do you feel like the fans have fully embraced you now as the singer for Killswitch?
HJ. It seems that way. As long as the fans keep coming, and I have the band’s support, I can’t ask for more than that.
II. How would you rate the mistakes made by record labels regarding the delivery of music to fans?
HJ. I believe that digital is inevitable, but the product just has to be done better. If they still want to make records, they should be flashy. It’s got to catch your eye and make you want to buy it. I also understand that everyone has to make a profit, but if they lowered the price, maybe they would sell more physical product. Because the way things are now, digital is just killing the record industry.
II. So you believe that pricing and more appealing product could help sell more records. Can the band do anything to help sell more units?
HJ. They can go after the labels to make the product more reasonable. There is no reason for CDs to cost more each year. It’s ridiculous.
II. It is interesting that they continue to increase in price. I know that the record store isn’t making the lion’s share of the profits. How does the artist fare in that aspect?
HJ. I know we haven’t seen any cash from record sales. We make our money on the road.
II. Are you interested in other forms of writing?
HJ. I’ve definitely considered a book. I’d love to write one. But there is so much time and effort that goes into the process. But who knows, don’t be surprised if you see one.
II. Would you be interested in helping other bands with writing, recording or producing?
HJ. Oh, yeah. If I were approached, I’d have a blast with that.
II. What are your plans for the rest of the year?
HJ. Tour, and then we’re going to tour. After that, we plan to tour.
II. Are you guys still writing?
HJ. Oh, no. That was a long and arduous process. It was fun, but definitely difficult. Working with Brendan O’Brien was great, and he really worked me. In fact, we were still working on the record when we started touring this year. We were still putting the finishing touches on the album.
II. How hard was it to tour and finish an album?
HJ. Trying to do vocals and then sing every night did not mix well for me. Glad to have that over.