INTERVIEW WITH HOWARD JONES BY KELLEY SIMMS
Forming in 2018 after changing its name from Devil You Know to Light the Torch, the trio of vocalist Howard Jones, guitarist Francesco Artusato, and bassist Ryan Wombacher has grown stronger as a band and as friends. Joined by the superb drumming of Whitechapel’s Alex Rudinger, Light the Torch’s second full-length album, You Will Be the Death of Me, is a master class production of modern melodic metal. In our talk with Howard Jones, the singer explains how he went through dark times during the writing of the new album, the bond between the band members, and what the future holds for Light the Torch.
After changing the name of the band to Light the Torch, were you trying to make a distinction of the musical differences between the two bands?
That was part of it, just to make sure there was a distinction. That was something we definitely wanted to be clear. It’s not really the same band. The music is completely different, it’s structured differently, it sounds different, and there’s way more melody. If you listen to the two projects, they sound different, except I sound like me. It’s hard for me to escape sounding like me!
On You Will Be the Death of Me, the band honed in on the sound you established on the debut album Revival. Was there something that you wanted to further expand on or explore differently with this one?
It’s really just establishing who we are, but also, we like making an album very listenable from front to back—that’s important. Even though you can go to a streaming site and pick out whatever song you want, we want to make this a very listenable album in its entirety. We wanted to convey how we felt at that time. It was a dark moment during the writing and recording process. We were going through a lot of stuff together and individually, so we wanted to convey a lot of emotion with this album. Hopefully that came across.
“WE WANTED TO CONVEY HOW WE FELT AT THAT TIME. IT WAS A DARK MOMENT DURING THE WRITING AND RECORDING PROCESS.”
The songs are full of emotion and passion. What were you going for while songwriting?
Trying to make something that you enjoy as an artist, something that we’re comfortable with and that we enjoy listening to ourselves, but also something that has repetitive value and really pushes what we’re trying to convey. We’re juggling all of that. That’s the end goal—making something we’re happy with and the listener is happy with.
Were you focused on just these 12 tracks that made it on the record, or are there any leftovers?
No, those are just the 12 that made it. With Francesco, there are always leftovers because he’s prolific. He’s a genius! He’s able to write and write. Half the fun is figuring out what’s going to make it and what doesn’t.
Where did the idea for You Will Be the Death of Me and the title track come from?
I don’t know where exactly it came from. You get the first batch of songs in the demos and you just listen, just absorb it for a while. And that phrase just came to me. That ended up being the first song written. It just felt right, especially considering how chaotic my life was at the time. So, that’s what popped up and I went with it. It set the tone for a lot of the lyrics on the album. For the sound, we wanted it more streamlined but also varied. We have a very good idea of what we are, especially with all the touring that we did. We wanted to focus on it, and I think we pulled it off.
“WE HAVE A VERY GOOD IDEA OF WHAT WE ARE, ESPECIALLY WITH ALL THE TOURING THAT WE DID.”
Your vocals are the distinctive quality of the band. What were you going for lyrically? What types of themes or inspirations were you exploring?
I just write how I’m feeling. Life wasn’t great at that time, and for me, all the songs on the album were a snapshot of where you are in life at that moment. It was dark and heavy, so the album came out dark and heavy. I think lyrically and musically, it matched up.
The production is really great. Josh Gilbert and Joseph McQueen (Bullet for My Valentine, As I Lay Dying, Suicide Silence) were responsible for it. What were you going for sound-wise, and are you happy with the result?
Yes, I am. That’s what Fran went to school for—production. It all falls into one sound that’s well balanced. We wanted the listener to once you hear it, you want to listen to it again. So, we wanted it to be a repetitively fun album. That’s what we were looking for.
Alex on drums is an added punch that the band needed. How did it come about to get him to play on the album?
He’s pretty busy, he’s still active with Whitechapel and doing everything he does on the side. We needed someone who could really convey what we wanted, and he is just next level. He really is. I’ve never seen anyone as prepared as him, but also he was great to hang out with. Having him definitely added a big portion of sound that wasn’t necessarily missing, but that’s something else. He’s incredible.
“WE’RE A FAMILY. WE’VE BEEN THROUGH SO MUCH IN THE SHORT PERIOD OF TIME THAT WE’VE BEEN TOGETHER.”
What is the camaraderie and musical chemistry like between the band now that you’ve done two albums together?
We’re a family. We’ve been through so much in the short period of time that we’ve been together. We stay in touch. We talk on the phone, we text, we hang out, we spend time together. We enjoy each other’s company. Over time and a lot of the crazy shit that happened, it’s drawn us together. We all know that we can rely on each other.
How did you decide on doing the Terence Trent D’Arby “Sign Your Name” cover? It seems like an odd choice, but it really stands out on the album.
We were listening to the song. It was on a playlist when we were hanging out. We both love the song, and it was Fran’s idea to put it on the album. I said, “Sure, we could give it a shot.” A few days later he sent me the music. I thought it could be fun. It worked out because it has a different feel, but I could get into it nicely. We kept it somewhat close to the original.
When you guest sang on Killswitch Engage’s “The Signal Fire,” the fans really enjoyed welcoming you back. And in the music video, you guys seemed to be having a lot of fun.
It was genuinely a lot of fun. Yeah, it was easy. It was easy filming the video. It was fun hanging out and just laughing and eating. It was a good time. It was really easy for it to seem like we were enjoying it, because we were.
What are your upcoming touring plans?
We’re hoping to have something confirmed shortly to get out there, we’re just waiting to hear. We’re anxious to get going. It was a little longer than what the rest of the world wants, but we can slowly start moving. That’ll be really nice.