A to Z of Making It, Music, My Stories

Question Everything – Inspiration From Killswitch Engage and Jesse Leach

After overdosing on the new Protest the Hero album “Volition” for some reason the last song “Skies” got me thinking about Killswitch Engage. So out come the headphones and on goes the new album “Disarm the Descent.” I haven’t listened to it since about July. Our favourites don’t last long in the times of today. With so much new music coming out, we move on very quickly. As Jesse Leach pointed out recently in an interview with Lithium Magazine, the title is a creative way of saying redemption or rising again.

“You’re in a state of your life where you’re approaching rock bottom and you find a way to pick yourself up again before you hit the floor.”

I came to Killswitch Engage late. I didn’t listen to their first three albums. The only song I heard was “My Last Serenade” back in 2004 and that was via a bass player friend. However at that time, nothing really connected with me and that was it. There was no urge to commit to the band for me.

Fast forward a few years and the “Guitar World” issue arrived in the mailbox. I don’t recall which month; however it was a magazine from 2007. At that time the magazine still came with a DVD of bonus content. One of the bonuses was a lesson from the Killswitch guitarists on how to play “My Curse” and after watching it, I was hooked.

So I asked my bass player friend to burn me all of their albums, which he did. At the time, I had no idea that vocalists changed, which after hearing “Alive or Just Breathing” in 2007, I realised that the tones of the vocalists didn’t match up. So what do we do when we need information? We Google. We click on Wikipedia. In addition, “My Last Serenade” suddenly mattered. The song sucker punched me and I was hooked. The timing was right in 2007, for Killswitch Engage to enter my life on a full time basis.

By the time, their 2009 self-titled album came out; I was purchasing it without even listening to a single note. As a bonus their back catalogue was on special at the time, so I picked them up as well and added the official releases to my collection. That is why I always say that no metrics can ever measure the reach or pull of a band at the time of a release.

Of course, sales data can show what is in demand at a certain point in time; however the reach and the popularity of a certain band or a certain album cannot be properly measured until years later. Remember that history is written by the winners. In music, the winners are the artists or bands that outlast the competition.

Going back to the different singers, since Jesse’s split with the band, he kept busy with other projects, like the stoner-rock outfit “Seemless” and the metalcore/hard-core influenced “The Empire Shall Fall”. During this period, he also appeared with Killswitch Engage, performing the track “My Last Serenade” alongside Howard Jones at the Roadrunner United concert in 2005.

Then in 2011, I was blown away by “Times of Grace”. Everything about that album connected with me on so many different levels. I saw “Times Of Grace” open up for “Machine Head” at the Uni Roundhouse in Sydney in February 2012. Adam Dutkiewicz had his leg in some form of a support cast and he still went ballistic on stage, commenting frequently that “Aussie girls are hot.”

In relation to “Times Of Grace”, I could hear the regret in some of the songs. When Jesse jumped ship from Killswitch he was fighting a pretty serious depression. He had just gotten married and he couldn’t deal with being on the road all the time and away from his new family.

Songs like, “Fall From Grace (my best song on the album)”, “The Forgotten One”, “Hymn Of A Broken Man”, “In The Arms Of Mercy” and “Where The Spirit Leads Me” capture the more personal side of Jesse Leach. I remember reading in an interview in the “Revolver” April/May issue with Jesse mentioning that at the time of leaving Killswitch he was “broken and unconfident”.

So when Killswitch Engage announced that Jesse Leach is the vocalist again, I was more than pleased. His redemption was complete. When Jesse left Killswitch Engage the album he worked on “Alive Or Just Breathing” was just another album in a burgeoning metalcore scene that helped to kick start the New Wave of American Heavy Metal movement.

Today, “Alive or Just Breathing” is seen as a classic. I always state that music is all about creating great music now so that it is recognised later for its greatness. As an artist grows their body of work takes on a new life of its own. It takes a while for something to be assimilated. Artists or bands have to hang in there long enough until they get their turn, getting better while they wait and releasing quality music.

“In Due Time” was the lead-off single.

“All that we suffer through leads to determination
The trials we all go through gives us the strength to carry on 

Something within us burns, desire feeds the will to live
A reason to believe I will see redemption”

As the chorus lyrics go, in due time, the shadows will gave way to the light. You just need to be patient and resilient. The words could even reference Jesse’s redemption to Killswitch and the knowledge that he had to go through all these trials so that he could come back a better person.

“A Tribute To The Fallen” has that hook that resonates. In my view this song should have led the album.

“With a new dawn we rise in renewed strength
Knowing we’ve just begun to fight this war within”

Think about all the crap that is going on in our democratic nations. Governments are spying on their own people. The Corporations and their lobby groups drive legislation. Government granted monopolies like the copyright industry are doing their best to kill innovation and when that fails, insert the corporations and their lobby groups. Transparency is promised however it doesn’t exist. Every communication is suddenly classified. Enables of pirated goods get more jail time than actual criminal offenders.

“New Awakening” has the legend behind it about how Jesse blew his voice while he was recording it in the studio. After the Doctor told him about the strain on the vocal chords, Jesse saw it as a badge of honour.

“There is more to life than this
We are more than just this flesh
We are alive and our time has come
For a new awakening”

It’s the Killswitch revolution. Killswitch wants you. Where do i sign? I’m all in.

“You Don’t Bleed For Me” connects with me because it more or less sums up our politicians and how even though they are voted in by the people, they do not work for the people. Of course there are the rare ones who do their best to speak for the people but in the end money wins the game.

“Fly your flag of righteousness
When underneath it is deviousness, it is greed and lies
Don’t pretend to know me you martyr of disgrace
With your plastic smile
I don’t believe a word you say
You don’t speak for me
You don’t bleed, you don’t bleed
You don’t bleed for me”

The closer “Time Will Not Remain”.

“None of us should be thought of as anything less than a potential to change the world”

What a lyric and what a statement. That is the reason why Jesse Leach’s return means so much to Killswitch Engage and to metal fans in general. He never stopped being who he was. He was not corrupted by the modern era. He questions social norms and ideals. He questions the crap our politicians and news outlets throw at us. He questions everything. The great vocalists always have something to say.

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Music, My Stories

The Game Of Rock Stars Claimed Vito Bratta

“I didn’t like them, and they didn’t like me!” said White Lion’s guitarist Vito Bratta as he tried to explain why bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Greg D’Angelo abruptly left the band at the end of their European tour.

“We didn’t fight – it was like me and Mike were a separate band from the two of them.”

Within four days they had recruited bass player Tommy T-Bone’ Caradonna – a veteran of Lita Ford and Alice Cooper’s backing bands – and drummer Jimmy DeGrasso, formerly with Y&T.

“The way it is now,” Vito said excitedly, “there’s so much attitude it’s scary to me.” 

The above was printed in the Hot Metal September 1991 issue.

When White Lion departed with bassist James Lomenzo and drummer Greg D’Angleo in 1991, a lot of people saw it as the end for the band.

A change was coming in the musical climate.

The record labels didn’t have no moral obligation to keep their hard rock rosters in tact. The only obligation they have is to the shareholders and their bottom line.

So with every major label signing bands from Seattle, the poor old hard rock bands that made the labels billions over the last 10 years suddenly disappeared. White Lion was one of them. The label never dropped them, however in my mind they would have dropped them eventually if the band stayed together.

White Lion finished up because Vito Bratta became conflicted. Disillusioned.

The recording business in 1989 was not interested in originality or allowing artists free reign in the song writing process, even though it would have made the record label more money in the long-term. The recording business only cared about short-term income and total control. So you have two entities trying to do business with each other and of course, their goals are not aligned.

Vito was never afraid to make observations about the bands exploding on the scene. He made various comments in Guitar magazines and rock magazines, about the sad state of guitar playing and how the song ceased to matter.

Vito wanted longevity and he didn’t like how White Lion was seen as part of the same movement of bands that he was commenting about. He was an artist competing in a game of rock stars. He was an artist competing in a game of profits. With each game, there is a winner and a loser.

By 1991, every artist needed a hit to get recognition. The album format was already dead due to MTV playing the “HIT” video. If a band had a hit single then people were interested in buying the album to see what that band is all about. This is Vito’s disillusionment. When he made an appearance on the Eddie Trunk show, he said words to the effect like “how do you write a hit single” when he was talking about Big Game, the following up to Pride.

Vito should have trusted himself and pushed the songs that connect with him. We are drawn to emotion. We all want to be touched. Trust your heart. White Lion was never a band that played the singles game, however the industry forced them into it and their main musical songwriter started to second guess himself.

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Music, My Stories, Stupidity, Treating Fans Like Shit

Bon Jovi – The “Because We Can” Tour will be renamed to “Because I Can”

The “Because We Can” tour needs to be remained to “Because I Can”. Based on the drop off rate of musicians, it looks like Jon Bon Jovi will be the last man standing.

It began with controversy and the absence of lead guitarist Richie Sambora. In my opnion, Richie Sambora is the reason why a lot of the metal and rock community enjoy Bon Jovi’s music. He gave the band some street cred, while Jon Bon Jovi went and played all his little games like “I want to be an actor” or “I want to be a football franchise owner” or “I want to be a politician”.

Isn’t it a huge coincidence that when Richie Sambora pulled out on the eve of the show, Jon Bon Jovi had a replacement for Sambora on the same day. By connecting the dots, Jon Bon Jovi knew this was coming. In the weeks after the departure, Jon stated that the show must go on and that he is not beholden to anyone. Of course, the angle that Jon put out there was that he cares about the people that work on the show and how those same people need to know that they are being taken care off by their employer and that they can put food on the table and make house payments.

Let’s look at the departure of Richie Sambora a bit more. On September 18, 2012, Richie Sambora released his third solo album, “Aftermath Of The Lowdown.”

At that time of the albums release, Richie Sambora stated that “What About Now” album was recorded before his solo album “Aftermath of the Lowdown” was completed. From reading interviews between September 2012 and February 2013, one would get the impression that Richie Sambora is a bit upset that he had to go out and promote another Bon Jovi album, while he also had a new album out. In other words, Richie felt that Jon Bon Jovi was killing off his solo record.

In order to appease Richie Sambora, it was decided that the new Bon Jovi album, “What About Now” will include a track from “Aftermath Of The Lowdown” as a bonus track on the deluxe edition. It looks like it wasn’t enough.

Fans then started to vent their frustration at the lack of information from all involved. The Bon Jovi shows kept on selling out in new markets, and shows in the common markets of Europe and North America kept on selling well with the hope that by the time the “Because We Can” tour rolled into town, Richie Sambora would be in tow. This didn’t happen and it took everyone by surprise, including Richie Sambora, who believed that he would have returned to the band by September the latest. The issue about money was banded about on various websites and with Jon Bon Jovi trying to get rid of his New York penthouse for $40 million since April 2013, the money angle theoretically holds true.

Then on September 10, 2013 Tico Torres undergoes emergency appendectomy surgery and the band POSTPONES their Mexico concert. Based on Jon’s assertion when Richie departed, the show must go on and that he is not beholden to anyone. However in this case Jon Bon Jovi was caught by surprise. To be fair, Jon Bon Jovi would have seen the departure of Richie Sambora rising on the wind, so he did have a back-up plan for that, however when Tico fell ill, there was no back-up plan and he had to cancel. However, this would have gotten Jon thinking about having a back-up plan for Tico Torres and Dave Bryan, just in case they all pull out.

So when Tico fell ill again, New Jersey native and Kings Of Suburbia drummer Rich Scannella was called to fill in until Tico is cleared to play.

Again the show goes on. With super large merchandise deals signed, Jon Bon Jovi cannot stop the tour. He might not be beholden to his band mates however he is beholden to the contracts. Merchandise deals become very expensive to the artist if they are broken or if the sales do not meet targets or if the promised shows are not delivered.

I have tickets to see Jon Bon Jovi live in Sydney. I cannot call the band Bon Jovi anymore, as it is not a band. The tour wraps up after the Australia shows. It will be interesting to see what Jon Bon Jovi plans to do next. In my view, he will still try to get every penny out of the Bon Jovi name, regardless of who his backing band is.

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