An Interview with Adam Dutkiewicz - Times Of Grace - July 1st, 2011
By Mike Bax
Adam Dutkiewicz is a celebrated musician and producer. His ongoing involvement with Killswitch Engage is becoming legendary and his reputation behind a mixing board has seen over thirty albums released over the past decade with his name attached as producer.
Over the past three to four years, Dutkiewicz along with Ex-Killswitch musician Jesse Leach, crafted an album’s worth of material and released it under the moniker of Times of Grace. The Hymn of a Broken Man is an album of relentless riffs mixed with moments of an almost fragile delicateness, boasting some fine lyrics by both Dutkiewicz and Leach. While the album may not resonate with each and every Killswitch fan out there, it is definitely well worth a listen and will likely wind up on a few best-of lists in it’s genre by years end.
With Times Of Grace performances coming up at both Heavy T.O. and Heavy MTL, Adam Dutkiewicz took a few minutes to chat with me on July 1st and spoke a bit about the creation of the album and what it was like working with Jesse again.
Line Up: http://lineup.heavyto.com/
Line Up: http://lineup.heavymtl.com/
Adam: Hey man; how are you doing?
Mike: Good, Adam. I just saw you guys last week?
Adam: What? Where? That’s cool!
Mike: I flew over for Graspop Metal Meeting.
Adam: Oh cool. That was a good show man, except my shit kept breaking…
Mike: Still a good show. I dug what I saw. From my perspective as a patron, Graspop was a well organized festival. Is it the same for bands as well?
Adam: That is one of the better ones, yes. There are a lot of festivals that are totally un-organized, but Graspop is definitely one of the better ones in that regard. They seem to have their shit together.
Mike: You’re doing a lot of that type of touring this summer - a lot of festival dates. Is that a good experience for you overall?
Adam: Oh, for sure, man. We’re a band that is just starting out so we have to get as much exposure as we can possibly get. Doing festivals is the best way to do that, for sure. We play in front of a lot of people every day this way. It’s really rad.
Mike: Do you get to check out any bands yourself while at festivals, or do you just get in and out real quickly?
Adam: I was stoked when we played Download cause I got to see The Darkness and then Def Leppard play back to back. It was pretty sick. Yeah!
Mike: Nice. Times of Grace is coming back to Canada for both Heavy T.O. and Heavy MTL in just under a month. I’m really looking forward to seeing you there again.
Adam: Oh heck, yeah man.
Mike: Are you going to be playing with the same line-up* that you had at Graspop?
*Joel Stroetzel (guitars), Dan Gluszak (drums) and Matt Bachand (bass)
Adam: Absolutely, yes. Those are the boys. They are our band-dudes for sure.
Mike: Times of Grace is you and Jesse (Leach) working together again. I'm guessing that this was the heart of the reason for doing the project for you both.
Adam: Well, yes. Jesse and I just kind of got back together after I had finished writing the whole record. I wrote it all on my own; well, musically anyway. After that I started writing a lot of the lyrics and figured out that I’m that good of a lyricist and I needed a singer as well, so that’s why I ended up calling Jesse. He’s been one of my best friends now for years. I’ve always looked up to him – his lyrics and his vocal abilities. So it was more of a ‘why not’ situation for us both. We hadn’t made music together for a long time and it was good to fall back into it together.
Mike: Can you talk about how you started on this path together? Was it a simple phone call saying, “Here’s where I’m at so far; can you add anything to it?”
Adam: It actually started from me having gone into the hospital. I was super bummed out because I wasn’t sure what kind of future I had as a touring musician. I feared I wouldn’t be able to be in Killswitch anymore. I was in because of my back. I couldn’t even walk, it was so bad. It was a pretty gnarly situation. I ended up writing a bunch of songs to kind of keep my head off of the negativity. Yeah, I wound up having a whole record by the time I was done.
Mike: I’m a Killswitch fan. First time I saw you guys was years ago now. I buy the albums and am an active fan of the material. Times of Grace is a different sounding album. Your story of how the material came to be created is in a similar vein to Mastodon and their last album. Brent (Hinds) wrote a good chuck of that in the hospital as well, you know?
Adam: That’s true.
Mike: Shit man, if that’s what it takes to put out a great album…
Adam: (Laughs) I should probably go and hurt myself again, then!
Mike: Well, maybe not in those exact terms…
I think Times of Grace is a pretty strong body of work, and lyrically I think it’s quite different from Killswitch. I think of riffs more than lyrics with Killswitch, and I think you and Jesse have created something a bit deeper with this material. And I believe I like the album a little more because of this.
Adam: Yeah, right. It certainly is a little more lyrically driven, especially for me. This is one of the first times I’ve really taken the reigns and tried to write a lot of the lyrics myself. It’s a much more personal album for me.
Mike: Why this project away from Killswitch Engage?
Adam: Honestly, it was because I’d never written a record like this before. I basically wrote it from start to finish by myself. A Killswitch record is something we always try to do together. We bounce ideas off of each other and all of that good stuff. So this felt like something different to me this time around. I kind of just stuck with that notion and went with it.
Mike: And that’s cool with everyone, I’m assuming. I see a lot of folks from Killswitch doing different stuff. I’m guessing you all feel that doing projects away from Killswitch is a good thing for everyone involved?
Adam: Right, yes. Everyone was really very supportive. They were very cool about it.
Mike: Right on. There was dialogue about an album in 2009; what held up the creation of The Hymn of a Broken Man until earlier this year?
(At this point, an automated woman comes onto our line and tells us that we can leave a message for our intended party as they are not available. Adam and I both realize we are still on the line together and have to wait out this repeated recording before we can start back up again. It was both comical and strange.)
Adam: We wanted to make sure when we released it that we had really given it the time and effort that the material seemed to call for, you know? We were both busy with our other bands respectively, as well. Killswitch was in the middle of a big tour, and Jesse was busy touring with The Empire Shall Fall and he was busy with his job as well. When we released the record, we wanted to make sure we could back it up with the possibility of touring it.
Mike: Jesse really got to do some interesting things on this album. There are some pretty delicate songs on this album that work really well.
Adam: Absolutely, yes. It’s a pretty dark record for both of us, for sure.
Mike: Is there any chance of Rebekah (Dutkiewicz) joining you on stage for some of these songs live?
Adam: My sister? (Laughs) I don’t think so. They are such bit parts… I dunno if she would want to do them, you know what I mean?
Mike: Yeah, yeah. What were the first few songs that were written for Broken Man?
Adam: Musically it kind of just went in order, honestly. The album is sequenced largely that way. It’s kind of funny it just happened like that. I ended up writing a bunch of the stuff in my head while I was in the hospital. The riffs just started firing away for the most part. It was so long ago, I don’t honestly remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure the first three or four songs I just wrote them in that order.
Mike: Do you remember when you and Jesse felt like you really had the makings of an album; when you really started to gel together on the material?
Adam: To be honest, it wasn’t really like that. We were just doing songs for the sake of doing songs. We didn’t really have any intention to put out the record. We kind of wanted an outlet to cope with all of the bad stuff that was going on in our lives. It’s kind of weird. We never really intended on putting it out. We certainly never intended touring on it. And here we are… (laughs)
Mike: Is there a particular song on Broken Man that really changed a lot as you and Jesse worked on it - from demo to recorded song?
Adam: Not really, it was pretty much a straight shot. We just went at it head on for the most part. We started spitting out one song after another. It was relatively painless. RECORDING the album was, anyway.
Mike: Did you record all of Broken Man in the same studio space over one set period of time, or was it a process of breaking things up and doing them when you could find the time?
Adam: It was kind of spread out between several studios actually. The drumming was done at Zing Recording Studios and the rest of the record was recorded at my home studio.
Mike: I may take some shit for this one… but here it goes. I'm a big Funeral For a Friend fan. I hear moments of vocal inflection and guitar work on Broken Man that remind of early FFaF. 'Live In Love', ' In the Arms Of Mercy', 'The Forgotten One' and ' Fall From Grace' in particular.
Adam: Oh, no way. That’s cool with me. They’re a pretty good band. Awesome.
Mike: When you and Jesse went into Broken Man together, did you have a clear idea of what you wanted the material to sound like?
Adam: Pretty much, yes. I had it pretty sorted out in my head before going into the studio. It was pretty planned in that regard. It was strange. I’ve never done a record like that before where everything just kind of spit out on it’s own.
Mike: Were there discussions over some of the content?
Adam: As far as the lyrics go, or the music as a whole?
Mike: Probably the lyrics. I’d imagine that was where Jesse likely had the most input.
Adam: Yeah. Lyrically, we both had a bunch of ideas that just kind of co-mingled together. One person would bring something to the table and say, “Here’s this idea and what I think it could sound like”. And the other person would say, “Why don’t we try do this and change that?” It was definitely a very collaborative effort together. It was very cool for the two of us.
Mike: Do you care about musical categorization, Adam? Do you pay attention to journalists trying to categorize music?
Adam: Not at all! (Laughs) Honestly, I don’t pay attention to any of that stuff. If somebody plays me something and I like it, then I’ll listen to it. I listen to pretty much all styles of music.
Mike: If you Google Times Of Grace, Wikipedia starts off with this line: "Times of Grace is an American metalcore duo, formed in 2008". I don’t think I’d term Broken Man as metalcore.
Adam: Good old Wikipedia. They ALWAYS get it right, don’t they? (Laughs) Yep.
Mike: When you talk about your album, do you term it a metal album? Certainly over 50% of the album is quite meaty and rife with riffage.
Adam: Ummm, its so strange. I don’t know, really. I don’t really classify it as a single genre. There’s elements of rock to it, I suppose. It’s actually a difficult thing to say, really. I guess it could be a metal album, mostly because I’ve been playing metal for years now. I don’t really know what to say to that one, actually.
I don’t really categorize stuff, you know?
Mike: Yeah. I tend to think in two categories… good and bad. Everything else is kind of lost on me.
Adam: Exactly. That’s the way I look at it, too.
Mike: You seem to keep yourself pretty busy, Adam, between your bands, your guest appearances on other people’s albums, and your pedigree as a go-to music producer. Where does your desire for such an active work ethic come from?
Adam: I love making music. Honestly, that’s it. I really feel like that is what I have been put on this earth to do, man. I love doing it and I try to take every chance I can get to make music.
Mike: Do you ever take any time off?
Adam: Once in a while… (Laughs) Once in a while, but not too often.
Mike: I first experienced Killswitch Engage live on a Taste of Chaos tour. I found that tour interesting. Killswitch really came off sounding like a metal band amidst a wash of screamo. I felt your band stood out on that tour, largely because Killswitch felt more like a traditional metal band to me.
Adam: I guess we did kind of stick out a little bit on that tour. We like doing tours like that. It’s always cool to go to a show and have a bit of variation in the bands. Then you aren’t listening to the same band over and over again that way, you know?
Mike: I'm sure you get asked this a lot, but what’s up next for Killswitch?
Adam: Oh, we’re making a record later this year or early next year. We’re going to start writing after we are done with these Times of Grace dates. We’ll get together and start getting some songs together and get in the studio and make the record.
Mike: Are you guys coming out and doing signings at any of the festival dates you have been playing so far, Adam? Do you think there might be anything like that going on at Heavy T.O. or Heavy MTL?
Adam: I have no idea, man. (Laughter) We usually get told a few days before the event whether we are doing that sort of thing or not. We like doing them though.
Mike: And lastly, what is currently on your schedule for the rest of your year? Are you producing anything / writing anything?
Adam: As of right now, Times of Grace is going to go to Australia in September. After that we’re talking about maybe another tour, but we’ll see how that goes. Right now, I think the priority is for me to get writing with my other band. I’d actually like to try and record my other side project as well. I want to get that out.
Mike: What side project is that?
Adam: It’s a death metal side project with the drummer from Black Dahlia Murder and the singer from Cannibal Corpse.
Mike: Nice! That will be good. Thanks for taking the time today. I should say that when I got my copy of Times of Grace in the mail, I had no idea what the album was about. It sat on my desk in the stack of new albums that seems to never shrink, waiting for it’s day in court. It wasn’t until I heard someone tell me how great the album was and who was involved with it, that I actually gave it a genuine listen. I think it’s one of your finest moments and one of my favourite albums that you have been involved with, Adam.
Adam: Wow! Thanks a lot, man. I totally appreciate that.