Interview: Killswitch Engage bass player Mike D’Antonio
Killswitch Engage has been going strong as a band for more than 15 years. The Boston metalcore outfit rages with a mix of melody and might that makes them a continued influencer in metal music. The guys’ musical chemistry keeps them going.
“It’s funny, because you join a band and you think it’s only going to last a year or two, or you’re just hanging with guys and playing music and not even sure if you’re going to play a show,” bass player Mike D’Antonio said from a tour stop in Philadelphia. “So, there was no real plan, but we just get along really well. We know, each of us, the direction we want to go with the band. We’re so like-minded that it makes sense. We’re all meant to play together.”
D’Antonio spoke with Audio Ink Radio about the band’s latest album, “Incarnate,” his love for fellow heavy music-makers Hatebreed and more. Killswitch Engage headlines Dirt Fest in Pontiac, Michigan, Saturday (Aug. 13).
You guys started Killswitch Engage in the late-‘90s and early 2000s. How have you seen the metal genre evolve over the years?
Things have definitely gone in so many different directions that I never would have thought. There are so many different genres now and classifications. They’re adding so many different terms to these labels that it’s hard to keep up. (Laughs) As for as an overall feeling, it’s great that metal music has survived this long.
I really like what you guys created with your latest album, “Incarnate,” especially the song, “Cut Me Loose.” It’s a great song and brings together Killswitch Engage’s melodic vocals and charging rhythms. What was your vision with this album?
Thank you! I didn’t write the lyrics, Jesse writes all of them, and he’s one of those dudes where the lyrics are always dead on. Jesse brings it. The “Cut Me Loose” stuff sounds like it has to do with getting out of a relationship to me, but a lot of his lyrics are in such broad strokes that you can interpret it however you want to interpret it. As far as the music, Justin wrote that one—we all write music for the band and go in our separate corners and come back and listen to demos. That song is in a weird, crazy timing. It seems like an easy song to play but is actually one of the hardest.
It’s cool that you design a lot of Killswitch Engage’s album artwork and merchandise. What’s the favorite thing you’ve ever designed?
I really like the “Disarm the Descent” record. I loved how the photos looked very mystical and with the veil blowing in the wind. It was a hard thing to shoot. I think we got the best photos using a leaf blower to make the veil blow in the wind. They finally got the right motion with the art, and I was stoked with how it turned out.
You’re playing Dirt Fest Saturday in Pontiac, Michigan. The Midwest is a stronghold for Killswitch Engage. I feel like each time you come to Michigan to play a show, whether it’s the Detroit area or somewhere else, you have a strong fan base here that’s excited to see you guys.
Well, that’s nice to hear. I really appreciate that. We do play there often and love playing shows there. I think our main base of operation is Massachusetts, so the East Coast has been very close to home for us, but we love the Midwest. They show the love, which is killer.
What do you remember about playing the festival last year?
I remember all the backstage stuff. Everyone knew what they were doing, and it was run very well and well organized. I take note of stuff like that. The fans that came out were ruckus, and much like the name says, there was a lot of dirt that was kicked up. It was really fun.
Hatebreed is also on the bill. You guys are tight with Jamey Jasta, right?
I love Hatebreed. I love watching them. Jamey used to book a lot of bands in Connecticut way back in the early ‘90s, and my old band Overcast used to play some gigs, and he was the only guy to book hardcore in that area. He single-handedly held the scene together even back then, let alone his time on “Headbangers’ Ball.” That guy has made everyone proud of him from the area. Those guys asked me to play bass for them when we did a show in South America for Monsters of Rock, too. That was so much fun. I had a blast.
What do you look for in a new band when you’re discovering new talent?
It’s got to hook me in. I used to hate choruses that would repeat, but now, I gravitate towards a really good chorus and good lyrics that you can latch onto and attribute to your life. If a band hits me hard, I gravitate towards that.
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