Last Friday, Times Of Grace released their hotly anticipated debut album ‘The Hymn Of A Broken Man‘ via Roadrunner Records. The group that contains by super duo Adam D (Killswitch Engage) and Jesse Leach (The Empire Shall Fall and ex-Killswitch frontman) . Don’t be fooled into thinking that this is Killswitch: part 2 though. Written from his hospital bed, Adam contacted his old band mate Jesse to create a heartfelt and at times brutal album. Deborah Konopnicki recently spoke with Jesse, extensively covering with how the band formed, what both men were going through at the time and how that lead to the album of their careers. Click below to expand this post and have a read.
Hey, Jesse. How are you going, man?
I’m going great, thanks. How are you?
Pretty good! Thanks so much for taking out the time to chat with us today.
No worries. Thanks for doing this interview.
What’s happening at the moment?
Well, I just finished dinner here over in the States. I’m just hanging out, man. Just relaxing and doing interviews!
The topic of the day is the incredible new band that you’re in; Times Of Grace. The band has actually been around for a little bit longer then most people would be aware. Is it true that the CD has actually been four years in the making? And it was Adam D that approached you initially, correct?
Yeah. Adam D came to me. So, he actually threw his back out about four years ago and in a London hospital he just started writing this record in his head with a voice recorder in his hand. When he was able to walk again and regain his strength, he demoed the record. When he was a bit better I got a phone call from him. I’ve kept in touch with him over the years and we’ve definitely remained good friends but when I got this phone call from his I was flawed. I couldn’t believe that he was asking me to do this. It was such an honor.
Had you guys ever spoken about working together again after Killswitch Engage or was it something that just completely came out of the blue?
It kind of came out of the blue. We did have a discussion in terms of potentially doing a rock record because we’re both really big fans of Brit Pop; stuff like Radiohead and Travis and Oasis… bands like that. We always talked about doing that and having a bit of fun making a dream-pop record or something like that. This record came out of a lot of pain and suffering. I was able to relate to it because I was going through a pretty rough time in my life as well so this record was pretty much born out of pain and suffering!
Well, this record is certainly not a Brit Pop record! Why was it that you decided to go in a heavier direction? Was it a case of wanting he pain of the words to mesh with the passion of the music?
Adam wrote all of the music, so as far as it sonically was concerned it was all Adam. Lyrically; he had some ideas that he wanted to express. When you’re at a point in your life – as I’m sure you could imagine – when you’re not sure if you’re going to walk again, your career might be over and you’ve just hit rock bottom, it was writing this record that was his reaction to hitting rock bottom. He wanted to voice the suffering but he also wanted to voice not taking life for granted. I could relate to that on a whole new level because I was going through a personal crisis myself. I actually got to the point where I was pretty much suicidal. The two of us were able to write this record together and it was like therapy. I would write and record with him and we’d talk about things. It wasn’t just like recording another record experience. We captured this moment in our lives and I guess that’s why it’s so special.
So I guess that you could say that it was putting all of your effort and attention into this record that got you through that tough period in your life?
Yeah. Yeah it was. I listen to this record now and it still gets to me.
Well, the album is unbelievable, man. It’s so aggressive. It’s heavy and melodic and just pretty damn great. The lyrics fit certain passages so well. Considering that all of the music was written, how did you go about applying your words to what was there? Did you write lyrics to fit, or just adapt the music?
Well, part of my coping mechanism was just to go for long walks in the woods or down at the beach and I would just write lyrics and stuff. I would write pages and pages. Lyrics would come out of those pages. Other lyrics, Adam would write on his own. I would look at his lyrics and kind of work around them until they fit the song or vice-versa. It was a very collaborative thing with the lyrics. I think that basically with myself I was just looking towards god. I was at the end of my rope so there was a lot of desperation involved as well. I felt the need to bare my soul. If anything, at the end of the day when this record is done we want to be able to help people. When we initially started out to write this record there was no talk of a tour. There was no talk of a record label or how it would do, it was literally making music for the sake of making music. When that’s all said and done, we just wanted people to be able to hear the record and know that there is suffering and that way they could maybe find something to latch onto and help them. Hopefully it can just help other people.
What do you think are the songs that have best captured what you were going through at the time?
Oh, man. They all speak such different volumes of where we were at the time. I think “The End Of Days” is one of the more powerful ones to me. When I wrote those lyrics, they were written literally in one of the darkest paces of my life. Adam actually takes the lead vocals on that song. To hear him singing my lyrics is a very powerful thing. We actually had a rehearsal last week and it was the first time that I had ever heard him singing them in front of me and I actually got choked up. It hit me then how interesting this album was going to be to perform live! I look forward to it. I think that people can relate to things that are on it.
The track “In The Arms Of Mercy” really breaks the album up a little bit. It’s pretty much on the other extreme of the rest of the tracks. Was there any specific reason that you decided to include that track in the middle of the CD?
Yeah, for us it wasn’t mean to be that. I guess it was a bit of a break but it also shows another colour of our band. This album was a very conscious thing for both of us. If we ever were to make another record I think that people would hear a bit more diversity. I wouldn’t be opposed to putting out a blues EP. I mean, both of us are really into blues. There’s enough musical diversity in both of us that we can kind of do what we want to do, so we’ll see what happens.
Just touching on that diversity for a second, Adam has gone back onto the drum kit for this record and it’s been an absolutely flawless transition from the guitar that most people would be familiar with for his work with Killswitch. I read that it was difficult for him to initially get back into the swing of things and just being able to drum again was a bit of a battle for him.
Yeah! He has damaged nerves and muscle! He couldn’t walk for a while. So, for him to sort to get his feet back walking – he was pretty sketchy with his nerves and his muscles – it was pretty impressive when you think about it. First of all, he wrote all of the record in his head! Second of all he pulled off all of the instruments and they all sound incredible. The drums sound amazing. I take my hat off to him. He’s a musical genius in my mind.
I totally agree with you on that one. Well, for fair or unfair reasons in my mind Times Of Grace is going to be compared to Killswitch even though the music is quite different. Have you had many people speak about it at all and how does that comparison sit with you?
Not a lot actually, which is nice! When it does come up though it just is what it is. We can’t separate ourselves from our past and we’ve both very proud of my time in Killswitch as well as his. We sort of just take it as it comes. For us, it’s all part of the package. We’re not saying that it wouldn’t sound like Killswaith because it is going to; it’s part of our roots. For people that are saying it’s going to sound exactly like Killswitch, I think that they’ll find that it’s a much more diverse side to us on this record.
I guess in the same regard this feels like a little bit of a music super group – well, in my eyes anyway! You’ve got two of the members that contributed to one of the great metal albums of the past decade in “Alive Or Just Breathing”. Have you felt any pressure from the greater metal community when you factor in things like that? Or even from people close to you?
Oh, wow. I really appreciate that. And No.. .it’s funny. I’m just speaking for myself here and this is going to sound funny but I really don’t care what people say about what I do. That’s why I’ve done the music that I’ve done since Killswitch. I mean, I’ve been in a blues/rock band for five years since Killswitch. I see myself as a musician and I enjoy a lot of different styles. I proud to put myself out there in different lights. I think that’s what any artist should do. They should play as many different styles as they like. I don’t care if people judge my work and say that it should be this, this or this. It’s people’s opinions and I respect them but I don’t live by people’s opinions. I strive to be honest with myself and appreciate people that listen to my music. I’m sure that there are going to be some people that say terrible things, but that happens! I try not to pay too much attention to it.
I’m sure that for every negative comment there’s going to be about ten positive ones. The album is an absolute ripper.
Hey, I haven’t heard any negative ones yet!
I haven’t either, mate! It’s all looking good at the moment.
I feel blessed for that, but we’ll see.
Prior to the release, you guys were been putting streams of songs up for the album online just to tie fans over until the album drops. Did you hear much from them in terms of early pre-release feedback?
Yeah, actually incredibly so. I’ve got emails from my Facebook from people all over the world who have been waiting for this moment. Just to hear people’s words and read those things and hear about all of the excitement is incredible. My hope is that we’ll be able to get to everybody all over the world but it really depends on how well this record does. My hope and my dream is to give this to the world. Always in time I guess. We’ll see what happens.
How have you found being in your band The Empire Shall Fall and working on this record? Was it something that you set specific time aside for or was it something that you just worked on whenever there was free time present?
Me personally, I work a full-time job and have been doing so for the past eight years. I’m a working-man and my bottom line is money so that I can live. Whenever I was able to get time off work or weekends off to make this record, then that’s when I would do it. With my band The Empire Shall Fall, it’s not my full time job so it was just something that I would do on weekends or whenever I had time. Right now, Times Of Grace is my main priority and I’ll do whatever I need to do to get this record out there. Within reason of course because I don’t want to be on tour for the rest of my life! I have a home life as well. I’m just ready!
Was that the reason that the album was pushed back by a few months to January? Because there was just no time to actually get it out there?
Yeah. That’s exactly it. It didn’t fit in with my schedule and then of course there is Adam touring all around the world with Killswitch and producing records. He’s much busier than I am of course but it was a case of me not being free when he was free because it would be on a day during the week where I would have to work. It was definitely tough to figure out when we were going to do it. It was also a bit of a blessing. It was nice that we had time to sit with the songs that we had already written, to sit with them and really take them in.
Just touching on something that you said a little bit earlier, I read in an interview that you were “… yet to write a record that bares your soul as much as this one”. You mention also that things were happening in your life at the time when you were writing it, but do you also think that it’s an amalgamation of everything that you’ve been doing musically leading up till now?
Yeah, I do. I’ve brought every influence from every other band that I’ve been doing to the table. I’ve been basically stepping up to the plate with all of my ammunition. I think that it is a culmination of everything that I’ve done. I’d go so far as to say that if that this was the last record that I was ever going to put out that I was going to die a happy man. I’m an artist and I would love to wow myself even more, but if I was to die tomorrow I would be happy knowing that this was the last record that I was going to release. I know that it sounds morbid! I just feel blessed at the end of the day. It’s an overwhelming feeling to know that I’ve made the best record of my career.
Have you discussed at all how the album would work in a live setting? Would Adam stay on the drums? Would he move back to guitar? Do you take your friends with you?
Yeah, there’s been a lot of discussion actually and we’ve been holding rehearsals and auditions for the past few weekends but there’s also a whole visual side to the record as well that we were able to create. I was able to give the artist few sentences about each song and she was able to create these whole visual images that go with the record. That will actually be something that will be the backdrop to the live show.
So there are no plans at this stage as to when you’ll hit the road?
We do know that we are definitely hitting the road in February. In terms of what tour, we might just head out and hit small clubs. It all depends on the reaction.
I guess that I have to ask the most important question of the interview; do you have any idea at all if you’ll be able to bring “The Hymn Of A Broken Man” to Australia in 2011?
I don’t know, man but I’ve been wanting to go to Australia since I was a little kid. If I was able to make that happen then I would be one happy guy.
One last question for you today; what’s on the cards at the moment for you ?
I’ve been blessed to actually have a few days off and I’ve actually been able to get a lot done. I’m just preparing myself for the life change. I actually get three weeks off before we tour to train; just some vocal training and I’ve started to run again. There will be a lot of focusing and meditating and praying and just trying to get into shape so that I can get up there and be a great singer, front man and whatever. We’ll wait and see, man!
TIMES OF GRACE – The Hymn Of A Broken Man
Instores Now via Roadrunner Records.