Killswitch Engage: Seasons in the Abyss
GW The prior Killswitch Engage albums were all produced entirely by Adam. What did you think Brendan could bring to the table that Adam couldn’t?
STROETZEL We were hoping to get his vibe on some of the arrangements, and he was pretty cool with that. He didn’t want to change too many things musically. But the big thing was, we really wanted somebody other than Adam to work with Howard. They tend to drive each other nuts in the studio, in a good way and a bad way. It’s not necessarily the best thing for somebody to be criticizing your parts and your performance and then have to spend two years on a bus with him after you’re done with that.
DUTKIEWICZ I just think that Howard doesn’t take my criticism as well as he should. [laughs] So having a fresh perspective is nice. I tend to be a little harsh on singers sometimes.
STROETZEL It was a cool thing for Adam to take a back seat on the vocal sessions and just kind of listen. And Howard could do his thing alongside someone with a fresh set of views.
DUTKIEWICZ Howard was very into the idea of working with somebody who’s done big records before.
GW Apart from the vocals, did you approach any other aspects of recording differently this time?
STROETZEL The only thing really different was the drum tracks. In the past, Adam and I would do a scratch track with a click and then let Justin do his thing. But this time, Brendan had us all play in a room together when we were tracking drums. When it came time to track guitars and bass, we went back to Massachusetts and did those tracks at home, just as we always have. The whole process wasn’t that different for me, except for spending a week or two in Atlanta recording drums and some overdubs.
GW I’ve heard only rough mixes, but the drum sound seems more open than on prior Killswitch Engage albums. And there’s a little more swing in the rhythm parts. Everything’s really tight, but there’s a little more push and pull.
STROETZEL That was one of the goals too. We didn’t want to have a super Pro Tool–ed, completely perfect record. There are some imperfections here and there with the guitars, drums and so on, but that doesn’t matter. We didn’t go into this saying we’re going to sound like robots. We wanted to embrace the human element a little more.
DUTKIEWICZ We’ve gotten rid of all the raw, nasty drum tones that were in the rough mixes you’ve heard. We’ve cleaned it up a little bit.
GW But I like the raw, nasty tones!
DUTKIEWICZ We’ll, we’re a metal band. It should sound like a metal record instead of a Stone Temple Pilots record.
STROETZEL But this wasn’t one of those records where you spend five weeks on guitar and double-track every single note and make sure everything’s perfectly in tune. We wanted to get more of a live feel. Not a sloppy feel, just a live feel.
GW What were your main guitars and amps for the album?
STROETZEL I used a Caparison TAT guitar. They’re a small Japanese company. Their guitars have hardware similar to what you find on a Gibson, but the TAT is more like a Jackson Soloist in that the neck is kind of thin, like the old USA Soloists. I used a TAT with EMG pickups.
DUTKIEWICZ And I used my Parker Fly, which has an EMG-81 and an EMG-85 pickup.
STROETZEL We used a bunch of different amps. The main rhythm tracks were played with a Diezel through a Boogie 4x12 with Celestion Vintage 30s. For most of the dirty overdub stuff we each had a Splawn Nitro that we played through the same cab.
DUTKIEWICZ Splawn is a small, boutique amp maker in North Carolina. Scott Splawn is an Eighties guy who’s doing his version of Marshalls. It’s kind of like hot-rodded Marshalls. That’s right up my alley. A really high-gain [Marshall JCM] 800 is one of my favorite heads.
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