Interview With The Empire Shall Fall/Former Killswitch Engage Vocalist Jesse Leach

Jesse Leach does not need an introduction. He is currently fronting The Empire Shall Fall, who released their debut album late last year to great reception. He was also the former front man for Killswitch Engage.

The Empire Shall Fall are a blend of hardcore meets metal with funk and blues elements that has Jesse giving some of the most diverse vocal performances ever. The band's debut album "Awaken" was released late last year on November 17th via the band's bassist Nick Sollecito's own record label Angel Side Side Records.

The band recently debuted a new video for the song "Lords of War" on Noisecreep, and there should be another video on the way soon. The guys have also started writing material for their next record.

During his time with Killswitch Engage, the band released their Roadrunner Records debut album "Alive or Just Breathing" which is still considered by many as the band's heaviest and best work to date.

I got the chance to ask Jesse a few questions about the band's debut album, their latest video, his vocal techniques, and his recent reunion with former band mates Killswitch Engage, among many other topics.

Here's how it went:

Mohab: First of all I'd like to thank you for this opportunity, how is everything with The Empire Shall Fall lately?

Jesse: Thank you for your interest in us! All is well here, we are playing shows, doing a slew of interviews. We also just dropped a video online for the second track of the record called Lords of War. We are also gearing up for yet another video this summer. We have also started writing new material & I feel us really figuring our selves out as a band, it is very exciting!

Mohab: The name "The Empire Shall Fall" is one that is very intriguing, could you tell us about the idea behind the name?

Jesse: The “Empire” represents: darkness/evil/corruption/Babylon System etc. To me it is sort of an ominous warning that all those who try to “rule” the world will eventually collapse & crumble to make way for the next attempt. From the Roman Empire –The Third Reich it is a cycle. Those who rule with greed & corruption will eventually be held accountable.

Mohab: Listening to "Awaken" your vocal range is wider than ever, do you have any special practicing techniques that help you develop more layers to your voice?

Jesse: I do have warm ups & warm downs I practice. On the whole though, it is a culmination of 17 years of doing this. Although for years I did not know how to do it properly, so that alone was a big lesson when I realized I couldn’t last longer than a weekend with out getting hoarse. I did take 2 lessons years back from a lovely lady named Melissa Cross (this is before her “Zen of Screaming” DVD) she said something that really stuck. She said you never hear a baby with a hoarse voice do you? A baby can scream and cry all day & not get hoarse, why is that? The air & sound comes straight from the diaphragm up through the vocal folds & out of the mouth with out any resistance.

All of the emotions & over thinking we do causes us to strain or restrict the voice. So you just have to let it flow, it is very Zen like indeed. It took me many years to get that & practice it. In fact I am still learning every time I sing.

Mohab: Do you consider yourself a singer then, a growler or vice versa?

Jesse: I see my self as a “vocalist” now. I am first & foremost a yeller/screamer because those are my roots, but now it is so much more than that. I am always looking for new ways to express myself through “voice.”

Spirit Crusher: Given recent interpretations, was Ron Paul really an inspiration to your lyrical themes?

Jesse: Ron Paul is in truth more of one of the “bands” inspirations. All the quotes & clips I have seen were definitely bold & well stated, however he did not come into mind as I was writing.

Mohab: You guys debuted a new video for "Lords of War" what can you tell us about the song and shooting the video?

Jesse: Well to start it was 10 degrees out, we were about a half mile into the woods running all of the equipment on a generator. We had a large snow storm heading towards us, so it was quite the experience. We had a large fire we could huddle around to dry off & keep warm in between shoots. At the end of the day we had a blast doing it & it felt good to see people really chip in to get the video completed. We did it all on our own dime & with the help of friends who were paid a small wage to help. We are very happy & proud of our video. Another on the way soon!

Spirit Crusher: Because all the members of The Empire Shall Fall are in different locations, how are you able to regularly meet and remain productive and efficient?

Jesse: One word: Gmail. We have full discussions & send mp3s back & forth.

Mohab: You've been involved with a very diverse line up of projects over the past years, which spanned from Killswitch Engage, to Seemless to The Empire Shall Fall, what is one thing that you always aim to express through your music?

Jesse: Honesty & Hope are major things I try to relay through my lyrics. I try to be as raw as I can with out being negative. I can only write what I feel. Although with TESF I tried to do a little “story” or concept writing. Not all of the lyrics on Awaken are meant to be taken literal, but I am not a big fan of over explaining. I will say this for example “We the People” is loosely based off of historical events & is not a first person song.

Mohab: Growing up in a religious family, did you have trouble coping with your family and people surrounding you for the type of extreme music you enjoy?

Jesse: No my parents were supportive of my artistic side & I learned a great deal from being submerged in music culture from the age of 14. I am certain not all of it was positive as I did experiment quite a bit with drugs as a teenager. However I regret nothing & everything I experienced helped form the man I am today.

Mohab: Recently you reunited with your former band mates in Killswitch Engage for a couple of shows which from bootleg footage seemed like an over the top performance, how did it feel to join those guys on stage again to sing some of the most memorable Killswitch songs?

Jesse: It was great! I felt a great sense of redemption! I had a blast hanging with them & reconnecting with those songs! I am honored to have had the opportunity to do so.

Mohab: What can you tell us about Times of Grace?

Jesse: “Times of Grace” is a very special project I did with my good friend Adam D from “Killswitch Enagage.” The record is a culmination of years of working with him & bringing real honest music to life. The music goes from metal to rock to shoe gaze/ambient to punk. It is a very Epic album theme wise & music wise. Adam wrote all of the music & actually sings lead on one song. We have a great chemistry & being back in the studio with him was a great experience. I think people will be surprised. I honestly couldn’t be more proud of a record. We hope to have it out world wide in the fall of this year so stay tuned!

Mohab: I'd like to thank you for this opportunity, I'm a huge fan of all your work and being able to have this chance to ask you a few questions has been truly a pleasure, would you like to add anything?

Jesse: Thank you! Thank you to anyone who has supported me over the years! Please check out my band The Empire Shall Fall & support a band doing it all on our own! To all people be true to yourself, live with compassion & awareness of the world around you. Take nothing for granted, life is short & precious. Give thanks to God!

I'd like to thank Kim Kelly from Catharsis PR for setting up the interview.

Make sure to check out The Empire Shall Fall on Myspace where you can stream "Awaken" in it's entirety and then order yourself a copy by clicking here. You can check out some of Jesse's solo work by visiting his Myspace page.

I'd also like to thank Spirit Crusher (who front's Voice of The Soul) for contributing his questions.

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