Interview: Adam Dutkiewicz
6th May 2011 | 13:10
The Killswitch Engage man talks about his new project, Times of Grace
"It feels like there is a shoe inside my stomach." The guitarist (and producer, and occasional drummer) is in the UK to talk about his new project, which means a familiar ritual: phall curries, the hottest there is, and the inevitable morning after realisation that follows eating one.
But although he has a reputation as something of a flamboyant joker onstage in his other band, Adam's in a serious mood today - and it's more than just the food.
"I needed something to drive and motivate me - to pick me up out of the depression and anxiety I was going through. That's when I started writing the music."
Times Of Grace is a more personal outlet for one of metalcore's pioneers, one that sees him reunited with an old Killswitch friend on a path of recovery and redemption from a time where he was almost paralysed.
"The record itself was a cathartic thing," says Adam. "It wasn't even just my back. It stemmed from that, for the two years we were working on the recording Jesse and I were hanging out and talking about the rough things that we'd been through - personal issues."
The recurring back injury he refers to is one that struck at its worst when Adam was touring with Killswitch Engage in the UK during 2007, throwing his whole future in music into doubt.
"I had to have emergency back surgery here in London. I thought I wasn't going to be able to play in Killswitch Engage any more - to travel and tour."
Now Adam reveals some of the prodigious qualities that other American metal musicians who have worked with him speak so highly of.
"I needed something to drive and motivate me - to pick me up out of the depression and anxiety I was going through. That's when I started writing the music and I'll be honest, most of the record was written from my hospital bed."
The surgery was a success and as soon as Adam was able, he began demoing the songs back home in the US that would become Times Of Grace's debut, Hymn Of A Broken Man.
Although he's always been active in contributing vocal parts to Killswitch Engage, Adam looked to an old friend to help him realise his musical vision, former Killswitch singer Jesse Leech.
It's a reunion fans of the band's seminal 2000 album Alive Or Just Breathing never thought could happen. That album helped popularise the melding of hardcore and metal finesse that would be called metalcore, before Jesse abruptly quit due to the pressures of intensive touring.
"It was just so natural - it felt great to work with him again," says Adam about the reunion. Had he noticed any changes in the singer during their time apart? "Confidence - that's the biggest thing. He was this fragile man of a singer when he was in Killswitch. Now he's more secure with his abilities and skills.
"That's cool to see because he's very talented and it's very refreshing to see him come into his own and realise what he's capable of."
Switching on again
Although Jesse and Adam may be loth to sell it as such, Hymn Of A Broken Man frequently sounds like it has picked up where Alive Or Just Breathing left off. This is uplifting, spiritual heavy metal -songs about dealing with struggle and the positive message of overcoming it.
"It's one thing I've always believed in," says Adam. "If you're handed a bad situation you can either sit there and mull over it or you can try to fix things as best you can and try to move on. That's the positive way to move forward in any circumstance."
"I'm not technique-driven at all. I never really aspired to be anything fantastic as a player, it's about making music first and foremost."
The '80s-influenced finesse of Adam's galloping riffs, and Jesse's modern approach to vocal dynamics (with frequent harmony from Adam and even his first lead vocal on closer Fall From Grace), drive the anthemic Live InLove and Where The Spirit Leads Me.
As such they will immediately thrill Killswitch fans; indeed this music sounds more spirited and driven than that band have in years. But there's progression here for Adam too.
Until The End Days and The End Of Eternity have a much more brooding feel with textural tones that defy any fears that he's been backing into a creative cul-de-sac with his songwriting in recent years.
"The ideas for the music really just spilled out of me," he explains, "the lyrics as well. Thinking about things, and realisations. The End Of Eternity is a pretty deep song, there's lots of different things about the lyrics in that song that I'm very, very proud of."
Something Adam can also take pride in is producing and playing every instrument on the album. He's already produced plenty of albums for bands including Killswitch, Shadows Fall, Unearth and All That Remains, but returning to the drum stool he occupied in Killswitch Engage's early life before switching to full-time guitar was the biggest challenge.
"That was probably the most difficult instrument for me to pick back up because of all the nerve damage in my leg from the surgery. The double-kick parts were the hardest parts to tackle."
Being a multi-instrumentalist seems like a huge challenge with technical metal like this, but it's completely in keeping with Adam's philosophy as a musician.
"I feel like a jack of all trades, master of none. I'm not a bassist, drummer, guitarist or singer specifically - I like everything about music. That's why I started producing records, it made sense for me to approach it to just make music."
However, Adam's natural skill as a songwriter should not eclipse the fact he's a tasteful lead player when the mood takes him. Any Killswitch fan will know that solos are a rare thing in that band's songs, but it's great on this album to hear what Adam's harmony solo section in Hope Remains brings to the song.
"I like playing leads," he confirms. "I don't want a wankfest or anything like that, but once in a while it's a cool musical departure to have one in a song. It's natural to me and I like it once in a while - just not all the time."
Means to an end
Adam's style as a whole betrays his main influencesgrowing up: a melding of the melodic rock and extreme metal worlds. "First and foremost it was Eddie Van Halen," he reflects on his early inspirations. "Both the Van Halen brothers, actually, because I was drumming as well. Then I got way into the European metal of the early and mid-'90s - Carcass, At The Gates and all that stuff."
In Killswitch Engage he shares guitar duties with Joel Stroetzel, so did he brush up on his technique to deal with the pressure of going it alone for this album?
"To be honest I don't really rehearse on any instruments. I just wing it!" admits Adam. And he's also pretty self-effacing when asked what he thinks his strengths are as a player. "I'm not technique-driven at all. I never really aspired to be anything fantastic as a player, it's about making music first and foremost.
"It's about songwriting. Good songs really move me - whether they're metal songs or otherwise."