When I was asked if I wanted to interview none other than Leather Leone from CHASTAIN you better believe I answered with a resounding “YIS!” After a long hiatus, the band is back, having put out a monster record Surrender to No One. I was able to get the inside scoop on the writing, recording, and potential show/tour plans for 2014, as well as Leather’s take on women in metal today, and I am happy to share it with you guys now:
Amps: My friend Wendy raved about this album for weeks before I got it, by the way. I was like, “CHASTAIN? Leather Leone? They’re BACK?!?” So, I had to get on my other friend Dustin for a copy, and I’m glad I did. Thank you for putting out one hellacious album of classic metal!!
Leather: I’m so glad you liked it.
Amps: I’ve asked some of your peers this, now I’ll ask you: What are your thoughts on the female-fronted kickass bands out now like KOBRA AND THE LOTUS, HUNTRESS, IN THIS MOMENT, etc.?
Leather: It’s amazing because in the 80’s there were only a handful of us like me, DORO, Ann Boleyn (HELLION), BETSY, Debbie Gunn (SENTINEL BEAST), and we didn’t have things like Facebook then. I found out about DORO by sharing magazines, you know? And I am so happy and so proud. I mean, the radio is dominated by women that do rock, do metal, and it’s such a great feeling. The gender issue, you know, it’ll always be there and I wish everyone would just keep their clothes on but it’s a really, really good thing because they can do it so well. There are women everywhere now! You said HUNTRESS, Jill Janus has got the LAMB OF GOD tour right now, God bless her! You know who else I love? Otep Shamaya! The woman is a bi-polar amazing mess and I love her! But it’s a really good feeling for all of us to be able to share these stages; we’re just as good as anyone.
Amps: “Freedom Within” and “I Am Sin” are my favorites on this record. Do you have any that stand out in particular?
Leather: It changes every week. This week I’m into “Evil Awaits Us”, but I don’t know. You spend so much time with these songs it’s like a lover and after a while you’re like, “Omigod, go home!” (Laughs) and then when CHASTAIN and I would listen to the final vocal tracks for that day I would look at him and go “Wow, that’s the song!”, and he would just crack up because it would change every week. “Freedom Within” is definitely classic CHASTAIN. And “I Am Sin” was one of mine, so I’m glad that you like it.
Amps: So what was it like putting this all together again?
Leather: It was really easy. It was like putting on an old shoe, or whatever they say. It was great. You know, we’ve grown now and back in the day I was so green, I didn’t know anything. They would throw me in the studio and Oh God, I knew nothing! But I’ve grown, back then I was not interested in writing songs, I’m more at peace now, I know what I want, and it’s easier to do with CHASTAIN. It was like we’d never left, I’m still the same flighty, messy person that would be running around. You know, we’ve had a lot of fun.
Amps: You weren’t into writing songs back then, so what was the songwriting dynamic for this one?
Leather: Oh yeah, him and I did everything on this record, we’d been working probably around a year and I had a hand in every song on this one, which is much more important to me now. CHASTAIN was never like this dictator-type, it’s just that when I met him in ’83 he basically said, “Look, I have four or five records written, let’s do them” and I was like, “OK!” and whatever I would offer him lyrically he would certainly work it in, it’s just that I liked the way he was writing and I just took it from there. But I wrote this record with him, yeah.
Amps: I know the record just came out and nothing is probably finalized yet, but talk to me about a tour. Are you going to tour the States?
Leather: I can’t give you any definites right now. CHASTAIN does not wanna tour, he didn’t wanna tour back then, I can’t believe I got him out back in the day. I know that he’s talking to some promoters about some one-offs in Ohio because that’s where we started but what I say to everyone is that it’s about people buying the record and listening to it. We’re getting a lot of positive feedback from Texas where you are, so I am really hopeful. I just don’t have anything concrete yet. And I’ve spent a lot of time in Texas, I love the people there. Believe me, I would love to go. I’m packed and ready to go! But it’s hard to be financially viable these days, especially without a major machine behind us.
Amps: When you’re not kicking ass in CHASTAIN, what do you do in your spare time?
Leather: When I went away I got really involved in Pit bull rescue. I’m taking a break from it now, but I find that I’m really blessed in my life, music and animals are my passions, what I do, and I’ve had plenty of Pit bulls and I’m sure I’ll have plenty more, and I live the California life, dude. I’ve got a fast Camaro; I drive around and have fun (laughs). I should drive down to Texas in that car!
Amps: I think you should, too!! Come hang with us and we can go to shows together!
Leather: (Laughing)oh, I annoy the Captain, DAVID T. CHASTAIN every day about touring!
Amps: As you said, you were away for a long time, but you still sound awesome and you’re back with a vengeance. What do you do to take care of the voice?
Leather: I do the same thing I did back then: I run, I drink water, and I sleep. I do a vocal warm-up every night, whether it’s 15 minutes or an hour and a half. You just have to keep singing. I’m not gonna sit around and wait till I get a show to worry about it, you’ve gotta be ready. I’m older now; you’re asking your vocal chords to do a lot of work. So you’ve just gotta keep it in shape. And I started again when the master, DIO passed away in 2010, and it took me a few months to get to where I needed to be.
Amps: Oh man, I had to go into work an hour after getting the news of his death. A dark day, indeed.
Leather: I had been so out of the loop and I didn’t even know that he had been sick. It was a hard time for all of us. He left us with a lot of great memories, though.
Amps: The people that I’ve spoken with seem to really love the album. How does that feel, knowing you’ve put out something that a lot of people are really digging?
Leather: Well it’s interesting that you say that because it’s really 50/50. The critics are really panning it but what are critics these days; people who have their opinion on blogs. So, you have to go to the people like you, Damian, that really listen to and appreciate you. I’ve never really listened to it either way. The people that like it, cool; the people that don’t, cool. I can’t get caught up in any of it. The people that know us and love us, it’s great. And again, as a vocalist I listen to it myself, Damian, and I just wanna go do it again. I can’t even listen to it right now. So I kind of don’t go there, I’m just happy that enough people cared for me to have the opportunity for me to do it. You just make it and move on. Hell, I’m ready to do another one! To me, I just hear all the mistakes (laughs)! But as I sit here holding the CD after all this time it’s like “FUCK YEAH!”
Amps: Last question is simply what would you like to say to the CHASTAIN fans out there from then, now, and both?
Leather: I would like to say that I love all of you and appreciate you so much. I can’t believe the way you have allowed me into your lives. It is a privilege and an honor. Stay tuned to everything that’s going on with the band now at www.chastainmetal.com, please come and gab with me on Facebook about all things metal. Thank you so much, and enjoy Surrender to No One. It’s all for you!
Although she wouldn’t call herself one, Leather Leone is a legend of heavy metal. It is VERY good to have her back, and to have CHASTAIN back as well, making music for all us metalheads worldwide. So grab your copy of Surrender to No One, plug in, and enjoy!