Howard Jones: Metal's Unsung Hero

“I have never thought about that, you and your strange questions,” says Howard Jones, the former Killswitch Engage and current Devil You Know vocalist – and one of metal’s most respected characters. We’ve just asked him if he expected, or even acknowledges, the idea that he has grown into a cult figure within the scene. If the success of his post-KSE outfit was something he saw coming. Clearly he didn’t.

“I didn’t expect anything,” he states. “I’m very grateful that people care about what I do and if there are people out there that were happy to see me come back then… well… that’s really nice. But I didn’t sit around thinking about that. I mean, as far as I was concerned I had walked away and was no longer there. I had no right to an immediate fanbase from my previous work. I was like the old Soviet Union. You know, off the map!”

Which should not come as too much of a shock to hear from such a humble and self-deprecating character as Howard Jones. Recently, in the run up to the release of Devil You Know’s forthcoming second album They Bleed Red, Howard has been more than open about his struggles with depression and confidence. Which is an admirably honest way for a metal musician to act.

“Well I’m not going to pretend to be someone I’m not,” is his take on how he is perceived. “All of these musicians in hard rock and heavy metal, whether it’s hardcore, thrash, death metal black metal, whatever, all of those people are human. We breathe the same air and eat the same kind of food. And the heaviness is an outlet, no one in any band is that aggressive and that angry 247. Those bands that are huge, they’re not superstars all day long. It just isn’t like that. I know who I am, I’m a normal… well I can’t say I’m normal but… I’m just a guy. And that portion of me is something that I have to deal with. I’ve made a career out of that aggressive aspect of my personality.”

And, although we’re sure he’d be slow to admit it himself, Howard Jones has had an impressive career thus far. The next chapter is They Bleed Red.

“It’s finished!” proclaims Howard when we ask about the album. “It’s just been finished. Which is such a relief. When you work so closely in the studio together on a project and put so much into it for so long it’s a relief when it’s over. I don’t want to think about for a little while. I’m excited for people to hear it, but when you get this far down the road you just want to think about anything else! Ha ha”

The commercial aspirations are not something that he pays much attention to either. When asked about the thought that Devil You Know could make the same impact as the classic Killswitch album End Of Heartache Howard quickly scoffs at the idea.

“That was something that just happened,” he says. “we didn’t see that coming. I guess the thing for me is that I try and write things that aren’t just heavy, just screaming constantly gets a bit monotonous. I thought I’d write stuff with a bit of melody, but if success comes that’s fine. It’s not why I do this.”

And the shock of the success of that whole period of his career is still something that he seems unable to comprehend even to this day.

“I spent so long in bands that had no success,” he laughs. “let alone commercial success! So it was a shock. I’ve just been really lucky to have another great group of super talented guys and write some great music. And it has just been important to me to get my head right and get back into the scene. That’s the most important thing to me.”

Just as you’d have expected. Good to have you back Howard, sorry for the strange questions.

KSE ex Howard Jones reveals suicide attempt

Stephen Hill

Since blagging his way onto the Hammer team a decade ago, Stephen has written countless features and reviews for the magazine, usually specialising in punk, hardcore and 90s metal, and still holds out the faint hope of one day getting his beloved U2 into the pages of the mag. He also regularly spouts his opinions on the Metal Hammer Podcast.