He requires no introduction to readers of Metal Injection. Howard Jones is one of the preeminent voices of the decade, occupying a space of the metalcore's Mt. Rushmore, and he's earned the adoration and respect of fans and peers for blistering performances across decades of the rocky rise of heavy metal.
Jones, alongside partners-in-crime Francesco Artusato (guitar), and Ryan Wombacher (bass), are set to unleash the next bold chapter of Light The Torch, You Will Be The Death of Me, on June 25th through Nuclear Blast.
Jones sat down with Metal Injection for a deep dive into the dark world of Light The Torch's new album, his revived love of touring, the end of Devil You Know, re-teaming and reminiscing on his former band Killswitch Engage, his personal struggles with fame and the grind of the road and much more!
On the COVID-19 Pandemic
I had definitely gotten to a point where I was enjoying touring again, which surprised me. It took a long period of time. And it’s like, OK, I’m enjoying this again, I’m enjoying the grind of it. I’d say that was probably in the 2017 era. That’s when I really started enjoying the job again. And so things started picking up, and then just this die down is weird because we had a lot of touring. We’re ready and you write and get out on the road again, and just to have it kind of disappear, it’s like OK, what do you do to make the best of this?
At the same time it’s a nice recharge, but for me, I need to be engaged. For me balancing is me being outdoors a lot, and that’s kind of like an everyday thing. But then it helps me just be able to do this obsessive weird dive that I do into music. So for me it’s a balance that can be a little precarious at times. But I don’t know, I’m enjoying it. So that’s what this time was. It was a bummer not getting to tour with my band and we finally got the album finished. Now we’re getting to put it out, but at the same time, yeah, I’ve enjoyed kind of having a pattern of go out, then record, go out, write, record, go out.
I was just doing it in different parts of the country and everything. But just for me it worked out. And also I’m kind of anti-social. Other than the things that affected everyone, just people, whether it’s friends or family that were affected by COVID and then just the separation, that part was a little rough. But at the same time I made the most of it.
On Heavy Themes on You Will Be The Death of Me
I mean, to some extent I think it is (a darker, more inward looking record). But at the same time I feel like this is what I’ve been doing for a very long time. So I guess I’ve got some more stuff to work through. I’m terrible with people. So for me there’s always going to be subject matter. I think that’s been kind of the take away from this as I’ve been doing interviews, that this one feels intense. There’s a heaviness to it. And just everything that we were going through we really put it into this. So yeah, the album has a feel, it really has a mood to it. Interesting that that’s getting picked up on. There’s still some bursts of light.
I think I’ve always been fascinated with light and dark in people in my own nature, that sort of thing. But yeah, this one is not that cheerful. It was born out of a lot of rough time individually. That’s kind of what Fran, Ryan and I kind of bond. We have been through a lot in a relatively short period of time. We just dumped a lot of emotion into this one.
On the Importance of Band-Chemistry
I think it’s even more important than I thought it was. It’s great when you’re working together with people that you like and respect and are friends with. And then it’s just a plus, especially when you have faith in those people. I’ve been very lucky to work with the people I have. I’ve fortunately got to write all this stuff with them. And just being able to get along, getting a cool vibe is very important for me. If I don’t enjoy it, I’m out. But that’s just me. I’ve been doing it for a long time. For me, it’s just like it’s not that this will go on forever. So if I do it I’m doing it because I truly enjoy it. And so right now I’ve just been enjoying it.
And then to have Fran as a writing partner, there's just a few people in the world that I respect more and who I’m just fascinated by. He just gets interested in things, and then he just figures it out and does it. He’s one of those guys “that looks cool I’m going to try that,” and he’s just good at it. You meet those kind of people and then you meet the special kind of people like that. He’s one of those. To have this family thing that we have, it’s pretty cool because I’m not a social creature. And so for me to be able to live with them during the writing and recording process and to be at that level where we’ve shared so much, it’s like that’s a big deal. It really is.
On the Status of Drummer Alex Rüdinger
We just needed someone to record and he was the guy we asked and he said yes. We haven't had any discussions like that (him joining the band full-time). He’s a busy dude. But the thing is he killed it. I mean, the way he prepares and he’s just a blast to be around. He’s a monster.
On the End of Devil You Know
There’s similarities (with DYK and Light The Torch) … but as far as we’re concerned it’s dead. It was kind of symbolic when you’re just throwing away hundreds of Devil You Know t-shirts. We gave it a proper burial. It’s part of the story, but we had to let it go. There was just too much negativity. And so it needed to be cut, and an even better way to change the name, change the style of music, but it’s still the guys who were bonded together to do it. It’s a completely separate thing. And I don’t know how many of those songs will ever see the light of day from us in a live setting, but it’s just part of the journey.
On Struggles & Rejuvenated Love of the Music Business
It changes you and time evolves you. I like to think that I’m open to change and evolution. Yeah, it’s a weird journey. At times I look back and say, oh wow, I don’t even remember myself from five years ago, let alone 10, 15 or 20. I don’t know. To me I kind of enjoy that. I mean, my life is so bizarre, but at the same time I enjoy it. I’ve been very fortunate to get to do what I do. And I know I’ve sacrificed a lot of my life to continue to do this.
And there are people who are able to have some normalcy in their professional life and in their personal life. I’ve never been able to do that. So to have some sort of balance, even though to most people I probably work too much, but I love it. And so yeah, to be in this place where I can do this and just kind of be dedicated to it, I’m pretty fortunate. I really didn’t see it coming, but I had good help on the way, just from the guys in the band and guys outside the band. I’ve got a cool small circle and that’s kind of what helped. It was just time and it gave me help when I needed it. And so here we are.
On Introduction to Heavy Metal Music
I don’t know if it was anything in particular, but I can definitely say my journey into heavy music I can place on one person. And that’s my buddy Jeremy back in Ohio. He’s the one that, being with him, all of a sudden I’m getting exposed to a lot of music. I listened to radio and stuff like that all the time. But then he’s the one that really exposed me to metal and death metal, just all that. So it was kind of him. Age of 14 or 15, he’s just got tapes and CDs and I just started absorbing it. I just loved it. That was kind of it.
I think it was like '85 when we started listening to Stryper. That time you’re just pulling from all this stuff. So I’m watching MTV, but I’m still listening to everything. If I can get my ears on it I’m absorbing it. That was a good time for me.
On Re-Teaming/Reminiscing on Killswitch Engage
For me it’s just fun. I mean, I’m getting to hang out with Jesse and the guys on stage and the energy, it’s just different. We’ve all gotten older and are all in different places in life, and it’s really cool to reconnect with them like that. And yeah, they asked, I’m down. It’s been a lot of fun. I definitely didn’t expect it. It was just cool from the start where we all finally got to sit down and hang out and talk and laugh and be silly. And then to be to this point where we get to tour together and just do this. Pretty fortunate, pretty fortunate guy.
It’s this part of my life where I grew up suddenly. I did not expect what happened. There’s so many fantastic memories, and so that really does outweigh some of the negatives that happen. And so for me I didn’t know what the music world was. I didn’t know what real touring was like and just the attention and all that. And still, at the same time just because I went through that, that’s how I got to where I am now. And that’s how I got to meet so many different people and get to work with those guys in that band. That’s where I learned how to do what I do.
For me there are no regrets. I just wish I’d learned to accept help quicker and I wouldn’t have just been so easy to push away when they were trying to reach out because they saw me diving and going deeper. It was rough, but it just took some time for me to figure out how to actually accept help from people and figure out how to tour and be somewhat normal, even though I’m pretty weird.
I didn’t know that stopping that for a while, and not having a phone for about three and a half years, I didn’t realize that this is a good thing for me. It’s just a weird journey and time is just a big part of it. Nothing is quick. I wish solutions had come faster, but that’s just not the way life works. So over time, here we are, able to talk back and talk about this and look back on it and say yeah, there really were some amazing things that happened. I’m really fortunate that I still get to do this stuff, because when I was done, I thought I was done. I really did.
On Returning to Touring
It’s what we love to do. It’s what some of us have sacrificed everything to do or we’re born to do or whatever you want to call it. It’s going to be a really good time. Just the energy is going to be insane. It’s going to be different. And for me it’s also that time together with those guys. That’s where we bonded, so we’re looking forward to it. It’s that itch that just keeps wanting to get scratched really bad.