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The Story Behind The Song: Killswitch Engage’s My Last Serenade

A press shot of Killswitch Engage in their early days
KSE, back when they were all knee-high to a grasshopper

It was written in a basement

“We all used to just jam in a basement, and I was in there on my own and came up with some drum patterns, then I added some riffs to it. By the time the rest of the guys turned up for practice I felt like I had something new to show them, so we just toyed with it! Joel [Stroetzel, guitar] came up with the riff that comes in at the end, but we collectively flushed it out together pretty quickly.”

Jesse Leach had complete control of the lyrics

“He came in one day and had it all written; we didn’t change anything apart from a few bits of phrasing and some of the melodies. It was recorded just as he had in mind. Sometimes Jesse comes in and he has a very clear and impassioned idea of what he wants to say and how he wants to say it in a song, and that was definitely one of those times. He really felt the whole thing.”

We didn’t think we’d written a classic

“It didn’t really stand out in the writing process. It was when we took it to people at the label and they started freaking out about it… Those guys were great back in those days, they really took it and ran with it. It felt like they really believed in us, and we noticed the difference. Suddenly, you heard our name getting whispered by lots of people, and their belief in that song played a huge part in that.”

That melodic intro was pretty different

“Especially for us at that time. We hadn’t really done anything like that before. For me, once we had the idea that the label were going to push the song, we wanted to make it stand out as much as we could. I like that; I like the idea of having those melodic parts to break it up. Those little calm breaks from the intense stuff really works for me, it gives things an extra flavour.”

Suddenly we had to make a video

“That all was very strange for us. We’d never made a video before, so we didn’t really understand why we had to stand in this room all day pretending to play the song over and over again. But it was just another thing that showed that we were becoming something that we never really could have imagined before. It was certainly the song that kicked off our career in terms of what we went on to do.”

It became really significant when Jesse came back

“He’d never been there to see the impact that it had on people for himself, so it was one of those songs that really came to life again when he returned to the band. I think that it was cool to have the guy who played such a huge part in our success be there singing the song that was the first footstep on the road for us. It’s obviously a hugely significant song to us, and people want to hear it when we play. If I had to play it alone in my house every day, then, yeah, I’d get pretty bored of it. But when we play it live you see how happy it makes people and it keeps it fresh!”