When it comes to talking about Light the Torch, it goes without saying that there's one topic in particular that is a required line of questioning: Why, exactly, the band — which features three-fourths of metalcore unit Devil You Know, is now going by a new moniker. And so when Revolver asks the obvious of Light the Torch singer Howard Jones, all he can do is chuckle.
"It has to be addressed in every interview, and it's a bummer," the singer says. "It just is. It's like taking a fork and digging it in an old wound ... " He laughs again. "And then rubbing a little salt in it! It's a fantastic feeling!" But, he adds, "I know it's necessary. I get it."
In order to spare Jones any further salt-in-the-wound sensations, here's a condensed version of the story: After leaving Killswitch Engage in 2012, Jones hooked up with guitarist Francesco Artusato (All Shall Perish, Hiss of Atrocities) and drummer John Sankey (Devolved), and together the three formed Devil You Know. Along with bassist Ryan Wombacher (Bleeding Through) they recorded and toured behind two well-received albums, 2014's The Beauty of Destruction and 2015's They Bleed Red.
Then last summer, the band announced online, with no further explanation, that they had changed their name to Light the Torch. A few months later, Jones finally revealed in an interview that the new moniker was the result of legal issues following the departure of drummer Sankey, a part owner of the name. In the end, the band chose to completely sever ties with both Sankey and their history as Devil You Know, and start anew.
"So those albums and everything, they're kind of dead," Jones states. "But, you know, it is what it is. Because now we have this album."
"This album" is the new Revival, the debut release from Light the Torch — which, in addition to Jones, Artusato and Wombacher, also includes drummer Mike Sciulara (Extinction A.D.). And while the new record does, of course, have plenty in common with their work as Devil You Know, it also evidences a more streamlined and dynamic songwriting approach, with tighter arrangements and a greater emphasis on melody and hooks. "We wanted to make an album that was catchy, and an easy listen from start to finish," Jones says. "And so we did. It just started flowing and we went with it."
Now, Jones is ready to put the tumultuousness of the past year behind him and get back to doing what he and his bandmates enjoy most — hitting the road and playing music for the fans. "Having to sit on my hands for a while, that's not good for me," he says. "So we're gonna go out there and have a good time." He laughs again. "Just try and stop us!"
LET'S START WITH AN EASY QUESTION: HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE NAME LIGHT THE TORCH?
HOWARD JONES We had to get the album to the record label and we needed a name. I came up with about six or seven, and that's the one we picked. It seemed like it was appropriate enough! But, really, we were just concerned with writing music. The name came last. Like, literally, we just went down the list and said, "Yeah, that's cool. Okay — that's the name." And, I mean, it works. We're happy with it. So there you go.
YOUR LABEL, NUCLEAR BLAST, DIDN'T EVEN KNOW YOU WERE WORKING ON AN ALBUM, RIGHT?
No. We didn't have a contract. Because we had just dropped the trademark of Devil You Know. So we had nothing. We had done a minimal amount of touring because of problems with a former member, and it just got to a point of, "Do we continue just kind of sitting here in purgatory, or do we drop the name and stop trying to resolve everything?" Because nothing was working. Without going into a ton of details, we could have used the name, but it would have kept us tied to a former member. So therefore it was worth it for us to drop it completely.
WAS THERE ANY POINT WHERE YOU THOUGHT, MAYBE WE SHOULD JUST END THIS COMPLETELY, AND GO OFF AND FIND NEW BANDS ...
Well, we did. It's Light the Torch.
BUT IT'S MORE OR LESS THE SAME BAND.
We had gone through too much together. Ending it completely was not an option for us. So we said, "Okay, let's just start over fresh." We decided that, from start to finish, we were going to do it together. And that's what we did. The whole time we were recording in the studio, everybody was in there. It was no man left behind. And this was the first time I ever recorded with everyone in the studio all the time. But we went through a bunch of crap and it bonded us. This is the real deal for us.
IT'S INTERESTING THAT YOU REALLY DO TALK ABOUT LIGHT THE TORCH AS IF IT'S AN ENTIRELY SEPARATE ENTITY FROM DEVIL YOU KNOW.
It kinda had to be. With so much heartbreak associated with it, it just didn't feel right to try and make it exactly the same. So we had to do it. And once we did, it was, "Okay, no looking back." I mean, everyone changes jobs. That's all I did. And if you let it go? Let it go. Now we just want to get out there and play, and enjoy what we do.
YOU HAD A PRETTY TUMULTUOUS YEAR IN 2017. IN ADDITION TO THE ISSUES SURROUNDING DEVIL YOU KNOW, YOU WERE ALSO DEALING WITH THE LOSS OF YOUR OLDEST BROTHER. IS THERE ANYTHING ON REVIVAL ALBUM THAT DIRECTLY ADDRESSES YOUR EXPERIENCES?
I think pretty much the whole album is that. Albums are just kind of snapshots of what you're doing. Depending on how you write, at least. So, yeah, it's a snapshot of what we went through — things I saw, things I experienced, things I saw others experience. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, we had the time to really consider what we were doing.
BACK IN 2012 WHEN YOU LEFT KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, YOU WERE VERY OPEN ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE DECISION WAS IN PART BASED ON YOUR TRYING TO MANAGE YOUR TYPE 2 DIABETES, WHICH WAS EXACERBATED BY YOUR INTENSE TOURING SCHEDULE. YOU SAID AT ONE POINT YOU WERE EVEN IN A DIABETIC COMA FOR THREE DAYS. HOW HAVE YOU BEEN HANDLING YOUR HEALTH WITH THIS BAND?
I actually haven't taken insulin in several years. So I'm in a different place. But, you know, as far as handling it, life happens. Every day is what it is. Every day is not sunshine. But I'm here and I'm just trying to make the most of it. I love working and I'm just trying to work to the best of my abilities. Whatever little sleep I get, I can wake up in the morning and get to do what I love. That's what matters to me.
YOU'VE ALSO BEEN OPEN ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU STRUGGLE WITH ANXIETY. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT WHILE ALSO BEING THE GUY ONSTAGE WITH THE MICROPHONE THAT EVERYBODY IS LOOKING AT?
That's just the dichotomy of everything. Everything is light and dark. You can't give a definitive answer on how you handle it. At least I can't. I know what it is for me, and it's not always easy. There are times I don't handle it well, and then there are times where it's easier. But it's always there. Anyone who deals with depression, deals with anxiety, all you can do is try and get through the day as best you can.
YOU'RE KNOWN TO BE AN AVID FISHERMAN. DOES IT HELP TO GRAB A FISHING POLE AND JUST REMOVE YOURSELF FROM THE WORLD EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE?
[Laughs] Why do you think I gravitate toward that? There's some peacefulness about it. I've always liked quiet and solitude. I love my work, but I also love getting out on the water.
DO YOU EVER GO OUT ON A BOAT WITH OTHER METAL DUDES?
Sure. Actually, I just got an email from [producer and guitarist] Logan Mader. He and I went down to San Diego and out to Mexican waters a few years back and caught some tuna. And he hit me up again about possibly doing another trip. I'm always down for stuff like that. And back in 2009 when Killswitch was doing the Mayhem tour I went fishing with a few people. We went out by Savannah [Georgia] and caught a bunch of red snapper and sea bass. We fed the entire Mayhem tour for one date! It was really cool.
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST FISH YOU'VE EVER CAUGHT?
Oh, man. Probably a 40 or 45 pound mahimahi. I've caught pretty decent-sized halibut, too. And some big ocean salmon in Australia. But that mahimahi, it took me probably a half hour to reel it in. I was spent.
DID YOU EAT IT?
Oh, it was kept! [Laughs] That's just too good for catch-and-release.
DO YOU TEND TO LISTEN TO MUSIC WHEN YOU'RE OUT ON THE WATER?
Not so much. I'll listen to podcasts or things like that. If I do listen to music, it's usually 80s stuff. Or I'll listen to Juicy J or something.
HOWARD JONES, A FISHING POLE AND JUICY J. THAT'S A GOOD VISUAL.
[Laughs] I'm trying to be mellow! I can't get all metaled out all the time. I gotta ease into it, you know?