Interview: Joel Stroetzel (Killswitch Engage), Brixton 10/12/16

Killswitch Engage Joel

On the last date of the Bullet For My Valentine tour, we caught up with Killswitch Engage guitarist Joel Stroetzel to talk about music, food and products of capitalism…

How do you think hard rock music has changed in the 17 years Killswitch has been going?

I think a lot of what used to be totally separate genres of music have kinda pulled together a little bit. Death metal and hardcore and punk and rock, you hear a lot of those elements all from the same band nowadays more than ever before. Heavy music is just more accepted than it was, you hear stuff on the radio with double bass drum and screaming – stuff you wouldn’t hear fifteen or twenty years ago.

What do you eat on tour?

On this tour there’s been catering ever night so it’s whatever. Some nights a roast, other nights soup and salad, whatever they have! Only on this tour though… A lot of the time we go to McDonalds and stuff [laughs]. Most of us like burgers and steaks and things like that, pizza is always a good go-to. Who doesn’t like pizza?

How do you feel Killswitch has adapted to fit each of your personal needs?

Between band members and crew members, we’ve had the same people around us for years and years. I think we just surround ourselves with friends really. Hanging out, eating together, drinking together. Just being around those you get along with is the biggest thing. I can’t imagine going out and being in a band where nobody hangs out. I think everybody would go crazy [laughs]. I guess it could work for some people but I personally wouldn’t be happy with that situation. I don’t think any of our guys would. If we couldn’t hang out together, listen to music and drink beers I don’t think any of us would do it.

How does the writing process work for Killswitch?

It’s changed a little bit over the past few years because Justin [Foley, drums] has moved down south to Florida, Adam [Dutkiewicz, guitar] is on the West Coast and me, Mike and Jesse are still up in New York/New England area on the East Coast. We tend to write a lot more on our own, like doing demos and sending them to each other. We don’t really stand in a room together and bang out riffs like we used to. We just don’t have the luxury anymore. We still do it to some degree but it’s not as frequent. Everyone will fly in, practise for a week or two straight then go home again to digest what just happened [laughs]. Usually we don’t write on tour either. We may come up with little demos here or there but we don’t try to do anything.

On the next trip over, will you be concentrating on an extensive UK tour or EU dates?

It’s usually a combination, really. If we’re going to come over then just from a cost perspective it makes sense to just do both. I think the last UK tour we did was with Trivium almost two years ago and we didn’t take that to mainland Europe so next time we’ll probably do both, maybe in two legs. Spend a couple of weeks in the UK, spend a couple in Europe. Germany is a good spot for us too, so we’ll definitely hit there when we come back. London is always great though, and honestly the UK has been really good to us since the beginning. Birmingham’s fun, people get rowdy there. What do you call it, the “Midlands”? [laughs] I think people like their metal there.

How does the reaction you get in the UK compare to that in the US?

People were initially a lot more accepting of us here, actually. It took many rounds around the States for people to start noticing. The first time we came here, the shows were really fun and people were excited. I think people in the UK are just really enthusiastic about music which is cool. It’s probably a combination of us getting bigger before we came over as well as the attitudes though. When a lot of bands tour the States, a lot of people don’t go the extra mile. An American band coming to the UK isn’t something that necessarily happens as often. Bands from the States play the States so much that people don’t really make that much of an effort to go out all the time. Here, it’s more like “oh, I may not see these guys for a year or two!” That’s a problem with the States too – the circuit in the states has got over-saturated when bands do three or even four tours a year so it’s more like “oh I just saw them” or “they’ll be back soon”. There’s more of an impact when you space things out.

What do you think about the subject of ticket reselling for profit?

I get people reselling when they can’t go, like the whole StubHub thing. If you buy a ticket and can’t go it makes sense to me to be able to sell it to someone else but I don’t agree with buying out tickets and selling them for more after the show sells out. I’ve noticed people outside venues walking around the town buying and selling tickets which is weird – we don’t have that much in the States. It’s kinda a shame that they buy shows out and people get forced to go through these people. I just think it’s unfair.

Where do you see the next move for Killswitch, either in the UK or worldwide?

I’m really psyched we got to do this tour with Bullet. We’ve been here a number of times and getting a chance to get in front of some different people is cool. The festival circuit is great to do too, maybe not every year but every other year. I think the next step for us will be doing another record and coming back to support that. We’ll hopefully be back at some point next year so yeah, before the end of 2017. It just depends. We have a few more things lined up like Australia, touring the States but I think after that the record is the one so we can finish that sooner rather than later. We can’t have a three or four year gap between records, just trying to shorten it a little bit. Makes sense for everybody hopefully!

Thanks to Joel for taking time out to chat with us. See the review of Killswitch Engage‘s set, as well as those of Bullet For My Valentine and Cane Hill here.

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