Times of Grace’s Jesse Leach: The Gun Shy Interview

Times of Grace

You may not know this about original Killswitch Engage frontman Jesse Leach, but the dude is perhaps one of the nicest, most compassionate people you’ll ever meet…who also happens to be able to scream like a fucking monster. I’m a big fan of his Facebook notes. The man knows how to write about his life experiences. On a recent trip overseas to promote Times of Grace — Leach’s new band with Killswitch Engage’s Adam Dutkiewicz — Jesse met a young heroine addict in England,

“She has obviously lived a rough life and has a bit of an odor to her,” Leach described, of the homeless woman who approached him. “I see her eyes fixated on mine and it is intense for a moment. I look away and look back and she stands before me. She then starts telling me she has been fighting heroine addiction and has been sober for seven months or so. She has been living in the streets for over two years as her family has rejected her.”

Leach handed the girl a few pounds from his pocket. Jesse “felt overwhelmed with compassion for this girl who was most likely a few years younger than me. I reached out to her and embraced her; I put one hand on her head and another on her back and just held her tightly for about 15 seconds. She began to weep, a deep full body weep…I felt something come over me. She then pushed me away gently and managed to say she had not been hugged in well over a year and as she stopped crying, started to apologize to me for breaking down.”

Leach was overcome with sadness, and, after more conversation, felt compelled to help her more. He gave her 20 pounds and “made her promise to buy food and take care of herself.  She then said that my words and actions made her want to believe in God again. At that moment, my eyes welled up with tears and I was overcome with sadness and joy at the same time, I turned away from her in an attempt to hide my tears.” Later that night, Jesse heard “a voice in the distance across the way; it is her, she is carrying a large bag filled with groceries and food.”

Jesse Leach tells Gun Shy Assassin that that is the sort of thing he lives for. “I feel like that’s my purpose,” he says. “I attribute it to my upbringing and this compassion I have for people. It’s not always there, but when people are compassionate to other people, there’s such a power in that. No matter what, love with always overcome hatred. That moment, to me, was sort of like a real wake up call; I was so excited to be there and was focusing on more superficial stuff, and that happened and it was like, ‘OK, I get it.’”

Leach — whose other band, The Empire Shall Fall, has a new album in stores today — is in the middle of promoting the forthcoming record from Times of Grace, which he called the “work of my career.” The band’s debut The Hymn of a Broken Man has been bumped back to early 2011, but fans will get their first taste of the band’s music this Friday, when they’ll make their track “Strength In Numbers” available for free download.

“I think sonically, it’s one of those songs that represents the different tones of the record without going to extremes, because it is a diverse record,” Leach says of the track. “The message of it, too…it’s about unity and is a nice way to introduce us to the world before we go into the darker parts of the music.”

The Hymn of a Broken Man is an album that’s been four years in the making. Leach says he and Dutkiewicz are very protective of it, because it began as something they just did for their own personal enjoyment. “I wanted to really make sure that this project…this band, when it comes out, that people know it’s not Killswitch, it’s not Seemless, it’s not The Empire Shall Fall. It’s its own thing. I want everything to be just right.”

Hence, the holdup of the album’s release. The band is working on a visual DVD component that will come with a special edition of the disc, that “is sort of an interpretation of the record, and I didn’t want the record to come out without that being done. That, the artwork…everything has to go through Adam and I. This is our baby, so we’re taking our time with it.”

The album overflows with different instrumentation, and varied vocal layers and interesting textures. “When we initially started recording this record, there was no talk of putting together a band or touring on it or even putting it out. This was something we had to do. We had to get together and record this. So for us, there were no limitations. We weren’t recording it with the thought of, ‘Oh how are we going to pull this off live?’ Some people will be excited; others will be like, ‘This isn’t Alive or Just Breathing. Of course it’s not. I wouldn’t want it to be. It’s almost ten years since that time…I am a very different person than I was then.”

Leach says he’s glad to be working with Adam again, because there’s “a synergy between the two of us” that doesn’t exist with anyone else. “He is definitely — as far as I have found — my musical soulmate in this world.” But Leach says that — even though he gets emails daily from fans who miss him in Killswitch, and despite how fun those shows the band played last spring with Leach were — he would never rejoin his former band.

“If that were ever an option, I wouldn’t rejoin simply for the fact that they’re a different band now,” Leach tells Gun Shy Assassin. “The hit songs they have…you can’t just jump into a band like that without singing the hits, the songs that got them to where they are. And I am definitely not a cover singer. However, I will go on the record by saying that if I were ever asked to do an Alive or Just Breathing reunion tour, I would definitely do that. And I have actually told all of them that.”

Make it happen, guys — that’s an order.

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About Chris Harris

Chris Harris is an internationally-published music journalist and writer whose work has appeared on the pages of Rolling Stone, IFC, Revolver, Alternative Press, and Radar. The former news editor for Noisecreep, Harris also served as co-host for the site’s weekly podcast, “Creep Show." Before that, he spent four years writing for MTV News.