Songwriter Interviews

Adam Dutkiewicz of Killswitch Engage

by Greg Prato

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James Brown earned the nickname "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business," but when it comes to the title of "The Hardest Working Man in Metal," Adam Dutkiewicz just may be your guy. In addition to being a co-founding member/guitarist/songwriter of Killswitch Engage, he is also an in-demand producer, manning the boards for not only his band, but a gaggle of other headbanging acts.

In March 2016, KE return with their seventh studio album overall, Incarnate, which won't disappoint fans of their earlier recordings - the lads are more heavy and vicious than ever when it comes to creating metal. It's their second album since the return of Jesse Leach, who took over for Howard Jones in 2012.

Dutkiewicz (pronounced "doo-kay-vich") spoke to Songfacts shortly before the album's release, and discussed his production work, his favorite Killswitch music video, and the importance of injecting humor into the heaviness.
Greg Prato (Songfacts): I recall interviewing you many years back for another publication, and you had a statement that remains one of the standout statements out of any of the interviews I've done.

Adam Dutkiewicz: Whoa! What the hell did I say?

Songfacts: You described the then-latest Killswitch Engage album as being "so heavy that it would make your butthole bleed."

Adam: OK! Well, I doubt that it actually did that...

Songfacts: I still give you credit for coming up with the very tippity-top quote that I've probably ever heard during an interview.

Adam: That's great. [Laughs]

Songfacts: How does the songwriting work primarily in Killswitch Engage?

Adam: It's really straightforward with us. We're all pretty much songwriters in the band - every single member of the band tries to write material on their own. So, the way we are, we'll work on our own. Especially me. I'm the guy that records a lot of the records too, so I'll come up with some ideas, throw them down on my iPhone - I'll sing them. And then when I get around to it, I'll try and build a song out of my ideas on my computer and hopefully flesh out an entire song and just send an entire idea to the guys in the band.

The other guys started doing this as well, so they've all got recording rigs at their houses now. This last record we've done, it's literally just guys coming up with ideas, putting them all together on their own, and then we all listen to them together and if we give the thumbs up, it's a song. If we're like, "This part needs to go because it sucks," we'll take that out and make the song better together.

Songfacts: Have you ever written a song on an instrument other than guitar?

Adam: Well, of course I've written bass parts and drum parts and all that stuff. But no, it's mostly either in my head or on guitar.

As mentioned in the intro, Adam certainly knows his way around a recording studio, as he has produced all of Killswitch Engage's albums (the only one that didn't solely list his name was their 2009 self-titled release, in which he was co-credited along with the great Brendan O'Brien).

Other acts he has worked with over the years include Unearth, The Devil Wears Prada, Shadows Fall, As I Lay Dying, All That Remains, and The Acacia Strain. His studio of choice is Zing Recording Studios in Westfield, Massachusetts.
Songfacts: You mentioned producing the band before. As far as your production work with various other artists, how do you find the time to produce other bands while also being a member of Killswitch Engage?

Adam: Honestly, it's gotten pretty tough lately, with me spending a lot of time with my girl, and just recently, I'm trying to move across the country, so that's eaten up a lot of my time. But in between tours, if I can set up enough time, I plan it that way. I can make it work - I just don't get a lot of down time with my family and friends.

Songfacts: As far as working with other artists, I'd imagine that must have an effect on your songwriting as well.

Adam: A little bit. Of course, every songwriter is influenced by everything in their life. So I assume me interacting with other bands and other musicians, that's always going to inspire me and maybe help out my songwriting skills. It's always good to introduce new outlets and new ways of thinking.

Songfacts: Let's discuss the lyrical inspiration behind several songs, starting with "Hate by Design."

Adam: That one seems pretty obvious - that society has become led by a lot of bigotry and stupidity, and a lot just bad-minded people.

Songfacts: "My Curse"?

Adam: That's just about chicks. [Laughs] A lot of Howard's songs are about girls. It's always a topic guys can relate to.

Songfacts: Do you ever contribute lyrics to Killswitch songs?

Adam: If the singer comes up with an idea, I'll try and help that idea blossom a bit more - say, if the lyrics don't feel cohesive enough. If it needs to be fine-tuned so the song makes a little more sense, I'll help with that kind of stuff, but I love giving singers free reign to just write what they feel, because I feel like if a singer writes a song and they're very proud of it, they're bound to perform it better because there's pride behind it. I really love giving singers a lot of space, and letting them do their own thing.

Songfacts: What are some memories of filming the video for Killswitch's cover of Dio's "Holy Diver"?

Adam: Oh, that was my favorite video we ever did! I got to dress like a chick, and we went to this replica castle in Wine Country, in California. It was a replica of some castle in Europe - I forget exactly where it is. But it was just a big old castle on a huge wine vineyard. It was pretty insane, with all the costumes. It was the craziest shoot ever. It's pretty funny.

Songfacts: One thing that I've always enjoyed about Killswitch is that the band is not afraid to show their sense of humor, which is not something usually associated with heavy metal.

Adam: Myself, I definitely don't take anything I do too seriously. I can't speak for the other guys in the band, but I think it's good to be able to poke fun at yourself and poke a little fun at others, and enjoy yourself. It's the "entertainment" industry, for Christ's sake, y'know? [Laughs]

Songfacts: I remember seeing Killswitch Engage live about 10 years ago, and I remember getting a kick out of what you were wearing that night: very high cut-off jean shorts.

Adam: [Laughs] Wow, you're talking about a lot of stuff that was a long time ago, man! Going way back.

Songfacts: Would you be able to give any pointers on how to make such a kickass pair of cut-off jean shorts?

Adam: You've just got to know where to cut them. That's all.

February 19, 2016.
For more Killswitch Engage, visit killswitchengage.com.
Here's our chat with Mike Pecci, who directed some of the more memorable Killswitch videos.

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