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Anxiety, freedom and pissing yourself: Times Of Grace's Adam D and Jesse Leach go head to head

Times Of Grace promo pic 2021 crop, by Hristo Shindov
(Image credit: Hristo Shindov)

Galvanising melodies. Charismatic live shows. Lyrics that guide you through your darkest days. These are just some of the reasons why we love Killswitch Engage. The metalcore heroes have been nothing less than invigorating since 1999 but, unfortunately, life itself is not always uplifting. That’s why vocalist Jesse Leach and guitarist Adam D co-helm Times Of Grace, writing post-metal musings that lament the struggles of their private lives. The two bear their souls like never before on the project’s second album, Songs Of Loss And Separation, so no one’s better placed to ask Jesse and Adam tough questions than… well… Jesse and Adam themselves. When we tasked the duo with interviewing one another, the result was a very candid discussion about abuse, hospitalisations, and the highs and lows of touring.

Metal Hammer line break

Jesse: “Adam, why music?”

Adam: “Why not? I guess from the age of 16 I just liked making music. I realised, ‘Fuck, this is fun! I may have a go at this and see if it works out. If not, I guess I’ll just go and work at the local grocery store.’ What about you? Why music?”

Jesse: “I don’t think I had a choice; it chose me. It’s something that, if I didn’t have it in my life, I really don’t know what I’d do. I could be a bartender; I wouldn’t be a happy bartender, but I could do it.”

Adam: “There are a lot of grumpy bartenders out there though, so you would fit right in.”

Jesse: “Ha ha ha!”

 

Adam: “Do you listen to lots of metal?”

Jesse: “The funny thing is, I don’t. I don’t like the typical stuff that people may attribute to me, it’s more of the creative kind of heavy stuff. I’m a huge Neurosis fan; I love everything they have done. I really enjoy abstract and ambient stuff: stuff that creates a world that you can immerse yourself in. Making heavy music, it’s therapy. I need it! It’s not even that I like doing it sometimes, because sometimes I don’t: I have to.”

 

Adam: “With this record, instead of focusing on positive lyrics like we normally do, we’re focusing on some negative things. Was it as cathartic for you as it was for me?”

Jesse: “Yeah. As we were making this record, my life was drastically changing. There’s one song that I sent you that I don’t really remember writing, because I was drunk and sad, and then I fell asleep in my bunk. I actually get a bit of a charge off of songs that don’t end on a positive note, and the way this album ends, it’s questionable.”

Adam: “Oh no, it’s fucked-up. [They both laugh.] It’s not something we could get away with in Killswitch.”

Jesse: “[To Hammer] That last song, Forever, was written about abuse. It’s from the perspective of an abuser talking to their partner.”

Adam: “It has the theme of control over another human being – having control, wanting control, needing control – and how there are so many broken relationships.”

Jesse: “[To Adam] When you’re in the midst of an abusive relationship, you’re so caught up in this web that you don’t even realise it. Even when people are physically abused, they have a hard time getting out because they’re beaten down, literally and spiritually. It’s difficult for people stuck in that situation. The repercussions if you did leave, how your life would fall apart and the people you’d have to split up – you’re thinking about all those things when you’re contemplating getting away from somebody. For better or for worse, in some ways that’s what I was going through in my own life.”

Adam: “Musically, what do you think Times Of Grace can do that KSE can’t?”

Jesse: “Be more theatrical and dark. We have more freedom to push genres and not worry about a signature sound.”

Adam: “That’s where these records stem from: being able to write music that’s so different sonically. I have to approach writing music for Killswitch in a specific way – I don’t want to disappoint the fans – whereas, with this project, I’m like, ‘I’m gonna do whatever the fuck I want!’ It’s freedom!”

Times Of Grace, Jesse Leach promo pic 2021, by Hristo Shindov

(Image credit: Hristo Shindov)

Jesse: “Before the first Times Of Grace record, you had a back injury and were laid up in hospital. What was going through your mind through that whole process of lying in a hospital bed?”

Adam: “Depression. Sadness. Anxiety. It all stemmed from the fact that I had nothing better to do. I was stuck in a London hospital, which are quite nice, actually. It was like a hotel room! The doctors were all so nice. [To Hammer] Oh, you English people: you’re so lovely. Sorry, I’m on a tangent.”

Hammer: “Keep saying nice things about British people. Our readers will appreciate it.”

Adam: “Your weather fucking sucks. [Everyone laughs.] It’s fucking horrible! [To Jesse] Yeah, I was in hospital, so anxious and nervous, just putting songs together in my head.”

 

Adam: “I’ve done backing vocals in Killswitch for 20 years, and I’ve grown more confident as a singer, but I’m still a little scared about having people hear my voice. Do you ever get scared like that?”

Jesse: “That shouldn’t ever go away. You should always be a little bit scared and vulnerable.”

 

Jesse: “When we’re out on the road, how do you balance touring life with home life? How do you stay sane?”

Adam: “I don’t! Ha ha ha! It’s impossible in a stupid, stinky metal tube with 12 dudes. [To Hammer] It’s not as glamorous as you think, folks. It’s amazing to have somewhere to sleep as you travel, but it’s always very loud, you never have a moment alone, it always smells like a zoo and, if you have to take a shit, you’re screwed, because there’s no toilet around. When I get home, there’s a brilliant relief; no one’s gonna wake me up and I can shit whenever I want!”

 

Jesse: “Didn’t you write a song on this new record that’s about being in your bunk, depressed?”

Adam: “Yeah. Bleed Me is about all the dark things that happen to your mind on tour, if you let them.”

Jesse: “That’s one of my favourite songs on the record. [To Hammer] At the end, there’s a phone ringing; it doesn’t pick up and there’s an answering machine. When I first heard that, I got teary-eyed. For anyone who’s been away from home for a long time, when you’re going through a hard time and reach out to somebody, only to get that answering machine, your heart sinks. To me, that sample ties the song up in a very melancholic bow.”

Times Of Grace, Adam D prom pic 2021, by Hristo Shindov

(Image credit: Hristo Shindov)

Adam: “I’ve produced every Killswitch album and both the Times Of Grace albums. What’s your favourite thing about me as a producer?”

Jesse: “To me, that was one of the most exciting parts about this record: that energy we have when we’re in the same room. When that creativity’s going, you have a way to really pull stuff out of me.”

Adam: “When I’m producing, that’s one of my biggest rushes: being with a singer who wants to collaborate and then you feel that spark. I feel like, when I work with you, you don’t have any reservations about letting me in. It feels really rewarding.”

Jesse: “I feel like I need to learn that. I can put myself in a position where I get so stressed and anxious that I don’t finish things. I think it was during [Killswitch’s latest album] Atonement that you were like, ‘Hey man, let me do my fucking job!’”

Adam: “‘Hey, remember that time you hired me to produce your record and you wouldn’t let me produce your record? That was pretty stupid, right?’ Ha ha ha!”

 

Jesse: What, for you, makes for a great live show?

Adam: “The more people we’re having fun with, that’s what makes a show

for me. That’s what makes something like opening for Iron Maiden [on the Legacy Of The Beast tour] difficult. It’s cool to play for thousands of people, but we’re playing to a lot of dead faces. A lot of people are like, ‘You’re wasting my time! I can’t hold my piss forever!’ [To Hammer] Did you know there are actually people who’ll piss themselves when they’re in the crowd because they don’t wanna miss anything? Isn’t that disgusting?”

Hammer: “We’ve seen it at festivals a good few times.”

Adam: “Just fucking leave for a second and take the goddamn piss somewhere else, you sons of bitches! Or, how about this: bring a bucket. That’s a little bit better, you animals.”

Jesse: “There were moments with Iron Maiden where it forced us to look inwards onstage. We had to really fight for it and win people over, so there was a sense of triumph with some of those songs. I tend to agree with you, though: it’s the nights when the audience is there and singing along. That synergy, when it’s right, you can’t touch it. It reassures you why you’re out there doing it.”

 Songs Of Loss And Separation is out now via Wicked Good