Adam Dutkiewicz talks microphones, guitar pickups, production and more
In hawaiian surfing culture, you will often hear people talk about the ‘Waterman’ with reverence and respect. It’s a term used to describe someone who (on top of their elite board riding abilities), also exhibits an extremely high proficiency in various other aspects of the ocean. Swimming, diving, bodysurfing, fishing, reading weather patterns and tides-to be a ‘waterman’ is to be completely in tune with all aspects of ocean life, displaying an intrinsically deep understanding of it’s moods and in many ways literally treating it as a second home.
While we don’t have a like for like translation in the Musical domain, it’s safe to say that if we did, Killswitch Engage guitarist/Times of Grace jack-of-all-trades, Adam Dutkiewicz would be a more than worthy candidate.
Read up on all the latest interviews, features and columns here.
Since the earliest days of Killswitch Engage, right through to Times of Grace’s latest full length (Songs of Loss and Separation) the larger than life Multi-instrumentalist, Producer, Engineer and Songwriter has continually immersed himself in every facet of the Music making process. From his early days studying production, audio engineering, and bass guitar at the esteemed Berklee College of Music, before eventually finding fame as the lead guitarist and primary producer of one of the biggest bands in Metalcore, Dutkiewicz has always displayed an extremely well rounded and expansive skillset- far beyond that of the traditional guitarist.
‘I know people probably say this a lot, but I genuinely just love music’ explains Dutkiewicz over Zoom. ‘I thinks it’s perfectly natural to want to learn as much as you can about it and involve yourself in the process as much as possible’
It’s this same intense hunger for knowledge, the one that seems to be at its most potent in the downtimes between recording dates and touring cycles) that has led Dutkiewicz into interesting new musical territory with his latest project with Times of Grace.
When Killswitch’s touring cycle for 2019’s Atonement was halted, roughly four days into the US leg of the tour (on account of the global COVID-19 outbreak) the unfortunate set of events proved the perfect impetus for the completion of the bands long awaited second LP, (the excellent Songs of Loss and Separation released July 16th).
‘That was definitely hard for us and still feels like unfinished business-having to head home midway through a tour like that. Still there are a lot of people going through a lot worse hardships at the moment and ours doesn’t come close to how tough some people are doing it right now.”
Sonically speaking, SOLAS is a record underlined by consistent light/shade motifs and recurring musical contrast from track to track, with moments of quiet reflection expertly offset with outbursts of hard edged metal fury and riffage, weaving a sense of dynamic narrative through the albums 10 tracks. It’s an album that picks the listener up in one place, before dropping them off in a completely different postcode stylistically, possibly with twigs in their hair or maybe missing a shoe.
For Dutkiewicz the breadth of scope present on SOLAS was more a product of natural inclination, rather than an attempt to lure the listener into a false sense of security.
‘Making this record was a chance to branch out from what people normally expect from Jessie and I and what we do with Killswitch and it felt great to step out from that metal sound a bit on this record and work some other sounds into the compositions. There are definitely Metal songs on the record, but the way we get to them-it just felt like such a natural fit and really came together very organically.’
After listening to SOLAS, it’s only too evident that this focus on loud/soft dynamics extends not only to the composition, but to the engineering and production as well, with Dutkiewicz manning the controls and remaining heavily invested throughout. For Dutkiewicz, (who also steps up to the plate, taking lead vocals on some tracks) this same approach to compositional dynamics was echoed in the recording practise undertaken in the SOLAS sessions-particularly in regards to primary vocalist Jesse Leach’s vocal chain.
‘For Jesse, i’ll generally use something fast like an AKG C414 for the more melodic parts or if we need a bit of distance, and then use a handheld Neumann KMS105 up close for when things get growly.’
‘ I love that treble spike in the Neuman handheld and what it does to his voice in the screaming parts. I feel like pronunciation and diction is something that’s so easily lost in screaming vocals. It’s a scream after all- it’s supposed to have a bit of bite.’
But what about Dutkiewicz himself? How does he go about capturing his own vocals, especially when tasked with wearing both lead vocalist and recording engineer hats simultaneously on several tracks.
‘I’ve definitely have a go to for my voice. It’s a Neumann U87, everytime.’ he explains, with a touch of self deprecation.
“It’s just better tailored to my stupid, boomy voice……..Jesse’s voice is narrower and more in the pocket, frequency wise, but I really need something that can handle the boominess.’
As an outsider, this ability to pair exactly the right piece of gear with exactly the right application, is a theme which has followed Dutkiewicz throughout his career, both as Musician and as Studio hand.
Guitar wise, he is known for his longtime association with boutique maker Caparison Guitars, with the brand giving him his own signature model, based on his beloved Custom Caparison TAT special-complete with signature Fishman Killswitch Engage Fluence pickup at the bridge.
In practice, it’s a setup that is far more versatile than it appears at first glance, thanks largely to the unique architecture of that solitary Fishman pickup.
‘It got to a point where I hadn’t used a neck pickup in years, so it made more sense to just keep it bridge only and use that placement as the centre of operations. The push/pull on our Fishman model is based on a favourite passive pickup of mine, so if you want a slightly more pulled back tone, you can just pull that and you have a second set of tonal options, without affecting the next stage in the signal chain too much.’
This utilitarian approach to Guitar tone is also apparent in Dutkiewisz’s touring rig, with the busy Guitarist having recently switched to Kempers, drawn by the consistency and control they offer.
“Deep down, I am that guy, the romantic who wants to hear tubes screaming and cabs miced up, but relying on rental gear around the world, it’s stressful to say the least.’
‘With a Kemper, you’ve got something that will work with any rig, anywhere in the world and all in the form of a handheld device, with the exact same sound coming out of the monitors every night…….it just takes so much stress out of the equation’.
With the conversation moving closer and closer to touring logistics, it all begs the question: as someone so invested in so many different facets of music making and with so many different caps on his proverbial hatrack, is there one that he particularly enjoys donning?
“For me, it always comes back to the Guitar. That’s my homebase and it always will be.”
Times of Graces sophomore LP, Songs of Loss and Separation is out now on Wicked Good/Warner Music Australia