» Joel - Killswitch Engage
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Interview conducted June 7-- 2018
Interview published June 14 2018

"Thankfully we haven't had anything thrown at us yet."

Metal Covenant recently talked with Joel Stroetzel, one of Killswitch Engage's guitarists, before the band's show at Sweden Rock Festival.

"We're not gonna suddenly turn into a bluegrass band or something."

Tobbe: Jesse [Leach, vocals] had surgery about a month ago and before a summer like this for Killswitch Engage, wasn't that just a little bit scary?

Joel: It was very scary. We were literally 4 days away from leaving for a short tour in the US and he went to see his doctor. He was having some trouble and had polyps on his vocal cord and had to have surgery. So we were like "Okay. What does that mean for the summer and for Iron Maiden and all that stuff?". That was scary, but it's 3 weeks recovery and he's doing great.

Tobbe: And being out with Maiden is of course an experience to most bands on this planet and tell me how you guys look at this opportunity.

Joel: It's pretty insane, man, and we kind of definitely feel like little kids up there, 'cause these guys were our heroes for many years and it's kind of insane being on tour with them. It's so many people, but it's a different crowd for us. It's a challenge and it's kind of scary, but it's fun; it's awesome. I think we're all very honored to be part of it.

Tobbe: Usually some support acts to Maiden have, like, a hard time sometimes, like getting things thrown at them, and have there been any incidents yet on the few shows you've done?

Joel: Thankfully we haven't had anything thrown at us yet. But there's definitely some people looking at their watches there for sure. Everybody's there to see Maiden, so. We go and give it our best and so far, so good.

Tobbe: I guess you have more days off now on tour, because Maiden don't play every day usually, and what are you guys doing in those days?

Joel: We're filling in some of the days with our own shows. Just some smaller clubs and festivals. And, you know, if we have a day off in a nice city we just find somewhere to eat and have some beers. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Your last record, Incarnate, was out, like, two years ago and what can the fans expect now in terms of another record out?

Joel: Well, we're kind of at the tail end of working on a new one. We wrote a lot of songs; probably over 20 songs. I'm not really sure which ones are gonna make the record yet, because Jesse and Adam [Dutkiewicz, guitar] are going through it and putting vocals to it. So, you know, sounds like us and just a little bit different. We'll see.

Tobbe: And your former singer, Howard Jones, has made a guest appearance and what led up to his involvement, really?

Joel: We hadn't seen him in probably a year or two and we played a show in Winnipeg, Canada, and he came out to hang with us and we just thought it was so great to see him and we kind of got everybody talking again and him and Jesse have become good friends. So it's awesome. There was a song where Jesse had his voice in mind and invited him to come and sing it. It's awesome and you will hear it eventually.

Tobbe: Is Howard's presence kind of equally important to the band and to the fans, if you know what I mean?

Joel: I think so. But it was important for us too, just to let people know everything's all good and there's never any hard feelings, I think, either way. We've always remained friends, so.

Tobbe: Hypothetically, if Jesse would be in need of more surgery and needs to take some time off, could Howard be his replacement?

Joel: Ah, I'm not so sure. It depends. I know Howard's busy with his own stuff and, you know, it depends how Jesse would feel about that. I guess it's a bridge we'd have to cross if we came to it, you know.

Tobbe: Do you guys most of time when you make a new record have kind of a set path?

Joel: No, not necessarily. I think we kind of just let things happen, like some of the songs are more rock songs, some are thrash, some have death metal parts, some where it's melodic. We just go with whatever happens.

Tobbe: You never try to fit a market, I guess, but do you have any idea of where your market will be in the future for your style of metal?

Joel: I don't think we know yet. We'll see. I don't really think radio is as much of a concern as it used to be. I think even for labels. Everybody is streaming and playlists and things like that. I think people can kind of just write what they wanna write and do their thing. It's kind of cool.

Tobbe: What kind of things in life or in this world today bring forth your most creative side?

Joel: It's hard to say. I mean, musically I tend to draw from all the stuff that I grew up listening to, like thrash metal and early Metallica and Testament and Slayer and things like that. I always go back to that stuff when trying to write music, you know. Jesse is a little bit in tune with… Lyrically, he tends to be more political sometimes, personal struggle and things like that. It's a way to kind of get any frustration or emotion you have… like, get it out in your music. It's a healthy way to blow out some steam. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Could Killswitch ever kind of change their music style a little bit, more than just from one record to another, like going into different territories with other kinds of music?

Joel: There might be hints of that from song to song, but I don't think it'll ever be a conscious choice to change styles, you know. We're not gonna suddenly turn into a bluegrass band or something. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Do you think you have kind of a set fanbase nowadays and the long-time fans always come back or is it possible to kind of gain new fans today?

Joel: I think there is kind of a set fanbase. But, you know, like this Maiden tour for instance; obviously it's different people we've probably never played for. We'll be touring in Australia with Parkway Drive and those guys have kind of a younger fanbase. We always try to not do typical metal tours every single time and try to play for different crowds and hopefully we can stay relevant, you know. It's been 20 years almost and it's amazing.

Tobbe: You're playing a few festivals this summer and what do you expect out of a festival show, really?

Joel: Festivals are great, man, because everybody is here to party all day and it's always a good time, you know. People don't tend to judge at festivals. They're here to have fun and it's always a big crowd, so.

Tobbe: Besides Jesse leaving the band for a couple of records, you guys have been together for a long time and don't you ever get tired of one another?

Joel: You know, it's cool, 'cause we're all really good friends. I think that's what's made us last so long, 'cause we actually like hanging out together. On days off we go eat together and we have beers and listen to music and everybody still gets along …for some reason. [Laughs] I can't figure it out.

Tobbe: You started the band in '99 and it's 20 years soon and the first record was out in 2000 and are you looking to do some kind of celebration for one of those things?

Joel: I think we'll probably have to do some kind of party when we hit the 20-year mark. We're not sure just yet, but we'll do something.

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