David T. Chastain interview for Heavy Metal Pages 1/2014
Questions by: Katarzyna Mikosz & Anna Kozowska
I know some fans of Chastain, who did not believe, that Leather would start to sing again and again there would be an opportunity to see a Chastain concert with Leather behind the microphone. Please tell me, honestly, if you believed in this?
David T. Chastain- Yes I always believed I would work again with Leather. I have been trying to get her to record a solo Cd for sometime. She never quit or was fired from Chastain. We were just both burned out by putting out 8 Cds in 6 years with long tours every year. In 94 when I met and asked Kate French to join Chastain, I was actually touring and doing the vocals. Leather and I have kept in touch over the years. I like to work with quality musicians and I try to never burn any bridges. Chastain has always been a fluid band and as long as I was driving the ship it would be Chastain despite different band members. I write all the music so that would always be a constant. When the vocalist comes in and puts their lyrics/melodies over the music then that is when it changes to some degree.
Leather returned to sing heavy metal due to the project Sledge / Leather. Her return has led you to the idea that she could sing again at Chastain?
David T. Chastain- Well, as I mentioned previously I would have been happy to record a solo Cd for her at any point but it was good to hear her do an album with someone else's money to verify her ability was still at a high quality. While in SLP she was constantly hearing "Let us know when you and David records a new Cd." So we decided to give the people what they wanted: A new Chastain Cd.
Kate French was superb singer in your band, brought to it a completely different character. Have you thought sometimes, "how Leather would sang this or that ", or you completely erased her from memory at a time when Kate sang in the band?
David T. Chastain- When Kate was singing there was no thought of how Leather would do it or how Kate would sing a song Leather recorded. Kate readily admits that Leather was a big influence on her so they both approach a song from the same general ideology. One big difference is that I have been in the studio for every word Leather has recorded on her Chastain Cds. It is the opposite with Kate. She has always recorded on her own so I had less "control" over her final vocals. In the end they both do great work.
How would you compare Kate and Leather as vocalists? Do you compose differently in view of the different vocals?
David T. Chastain- I really think they are very similar and I wouldn't need to write a song differently for either one. I believe either could sing what I write. Both have the ability to sing heavy and quiet. Kate wrote most everything she recorded while over the years Leather mainly sang what I wrote. So I guess you would say Leather sang my vision whereas Kate was singing hers. However I think they both did amazing jobs and I was lucky to work with both of them.
There is much talk about the return of Leather, but then, Mike Skimmerhorn has joined again to Chastain. Can you tell how this happened? Was he involved in the metal through these years of break?
David T. Chastain- When we decided to reform Chastain we wanted to make the band as original as possible. I have stayed in touch with Mike over the years. We played a few CJSS and Spike reunion shows over tme. Mike has mainly been concentrating on his own metal band. The Mighty Swine. You can go on youtube and hear some stuff. He is also the vocalist in that band. Good modern metal.
Working in such a lineup, do you have the feeling of traveling in time, even to the time of "Mystery of Illusion"?
David T. Chastain- When Leather and I got back in the same room together it was as if only a couple of weeks had passed. It was the same as always. We have a good working relationship and we know what each other are capable. We are both pros. We should be by now! Her personality is basically the same as it was in her earlier days so we still have the same agreements and disagreements as before.
Your drummer Stian Kristoffersen is a completely new musician. You wanted "fresh blood" in the band?
David T. Chastain- Stian had played on a couple of Cds I produced, Firewind-Burning Earth and Kinrick-Sense Your Darkness. Of course his main band is Pagan's Mind. I knew he was a great drummer and would do an incredible job. I turned him loose on Surrender To No One and he really helped bring the band's sound up to date. It was a wise decision to play on the Cd and the only negative is he lives in Norway. However with the Internet we can get everything accomplished in quick order.
From "In a outrage" has passed nearly 10 years. I know that you have your project, and among others label, so probably next album Chastain will have to wait in the face of other duties. Have you composed during this period more songs in view of the band Chastain?
David T. Chastain- I probably have 1000 hours of unused material so I am always composing music. When I was working with Leather on the new Chastain, we had 3 Cds worth of material we were choosing from. We easily have another Cd worth of material almost completed.
You play and also release music that doesn't have much in common with the metal. Significant activity of Southern Gentlemen falls on the times of Chastain silence. There was a risk that if Leather wouldn't return, Chastain still would not record albums? How do you find yourself as a composer between two different genres of music?
David T. Chastain- As I said I am always recording music and if Leather didn't record these songs someone would have sang the tracks. Although maybe not to be released under the Chastain name. I actually sent some of these tracks to x-Firewind vocalist Stephen Fredrick but he never did anything with them. Stephen needs a fire lit under him to get him motivated. I find it easiest to record Southern Gentlemen Cds since it is a simpler type of music to play. However over time that band has also gotten heavier. While maybe not Metal the band's last Cd, "My Favorite Disaster" is certainly Heavy Hard Rock.
I have read that "Surrender to no one" was established within one year. Were all songs on it created "from scratch", in collaboration with Leather?
David T. Chastain- No. Most of the music was written before 2013. 3 or 4 of the tracks were written in 2013. Most of the songs were mapped out and then I let Leather come in and "Leatherized" them to make them her own. She did write some stuff completely in 2013. I really lost track of who wrote what so we are both taking credit on all tracks!
"Surrender to no one" is very contemporary album in terms of sound. It could be a continuation of "In and outrage." Would you agree?
David T. Chastain- Yes. We wanted to do classic metal with modern production. I think the drums helped make the music/sound contemporary. Stian plays like the modern guys and drums are what power a band. In the mixing/mastering phase of the Cd we wanted to make it as loud as everyone else's Cd so we pushed the boundaries in that regards. In An Outrage and Surrender To No One were both mixed by Christian Schmid in Germany so that is also another factor in the Cds closeness in sound.
It seems that there were moments in the '90s, when Chastain music was part of a more "twisted", complicated playing. Now you are coming back to a simpler play. Is it a little return to the roots?
David T. Chastain- Leather and myself are going to sound like Leather and myself no matter the time or space. So we are definitely going back to our ways in how we approach songwriting and recording. In the old days we tried writing a few songs in different styles but there was still no mistake it was Leather and David.
How to interpret the title of the album "Surrender to no one"? Can be said that all the songs in some way talk about autonomy and independence?
David T. Chastain- Most of the tracks are about standing your ground and never surrendering. Lets face it there is still tons of injustice in this world and if all of the people who were getting the raw end of the deal grouped together and stood up to the powers to be, maybe things would change. So Rise Up! A few tracks are about man's continuation of his violence tendencies. Men seem to like to make war. The last track, Bleed Through Me, is about Leather's close relationship with Ronnie James Dio.
I have the impression that Chastain always moved also serious topics related to society, or even politics. Acquaintances fans of Chastain have long suspected that the "Night of Anger" is about the fall of communism. Today I know that this number has more universal appeal. Right?
David T. Chastain- Interesting, I have never heard that before about the track. Actually that song was written about Apartheid in South Africa. That song was written back in 1990 before all of the changes that finally occurred around 94. However I can see where the track could be interpreted as any group of people who have been held down and finally decide to rebel against their oppressors. The fall of communism does fall into that category.
You once said that "it is worth to write about politics" because the world needs change. Do you think that the musician is able with his texts to encourage listeners to action? Which of the Chastain tracks are those "motivating to action"?
David T. Chastain- On my level I doubt I have influenced much. I have always been anti-war, against income inequality, prejudice, bigotry, ageism, sexism and other similar causes. I have always been pro animal rights and other "liberal" causes. I wrote the lyrics to a Firewind song called "The Longest Day" which was about a family in Iraq whose mother was killed in the US bombings. I think that song affected people a lot. Also the Chastain track "Angel of Mercy" which was covered by Hammerfall has touched a lot of people. In any case, I don't think a musician has enough clout with the powers to be to change much... other than get people riled up to contemplate doing something for themselves. I don't think music fans go out and vote in mass. For example, in 2004 all of the biggest names in music held benefit concerts and did ads for John Kerry in the US Presidential campaign against George Bush. Bush still won. So my little influence isn't going to change the world. However I write what I write. I have been writing doom and gloom lyrics since I was 9.
You have played on such a quantity of albums, that I suspect there's no Chastain's song from the time before 1990 left to use?
David T. Chastain- Actually there is probably another Cds worth of material in demo form pre-1990. We considered going back and recording some of them but we decided we wanted new stuff. Especially since there was so much new stuff available. Actually there is a part on Save Me Tonight that was taken from an old Chastain demo track from the late 80s. We actually demoed up a "hit" called "Searching For You" back in the old days that I believe in the right hands could have been a major hit... just not recorded by Chastain.
What made you set up and participate in so many bands and projects? With each one you are running a different part of your musical fascinations whether the reason is much more down to earth?
David T. Chastain- I have a creative river that flows through me that allows me to write lots of songs. Hand me a guitar and a tape recorder and I can write you 95% of an album in short order. I can close my eyes and "see a song" before I play it. In other words, I write too much material for one band. Plus I like different styles so it would be pretty hard to squeeze all of those into one band.
How do you choose bands (except your own), to release under the banner of Leviathan Records? My guess is that you have your own criteria?
David T. Chastain- A few years back I decided not to release any bands that I wasn't either in or producing. It takes too much work plus it is literally a lifelong commitment. If I signed a band today I would still be paying royalties to them 25 years from now. Plus a band would have a better chance to make it in the real world on a bigger label. So now days I try to help bands find deals with other labels instead of releasing them on Leviathan. With that said, I may still release a band that I feel strongly about if they can't work out a deal somewhere else. I do still "feel" for the artist and I know the struggles they have to deal with on a daily basis.
You also run publishing house that is re-releasing rare albums. Do Diginet Music is still functioning?
David T. Chastain- In 2013 between Leviathan Records and Diginet Music we released around 25 Cds. Most of them were re-issues or compilation Cds. 2014 will be far less busy. Probably there will only be a couple of new releases. One can go to www.leviathanrecords.com and/or www.diginetmusic.com to see all of the new stuff.
Despite the fact that there's almost as much of your solo albums as records by the band Chastain, it is Chastain that raises more excitement among fans. How would you explain this phenomenon? Instrumental music is for a narrower audience?
David T. Chastain- Instrumental albums have always been more appreciated by the musicians while a metal album is more appreciated by the metal fans. There are more metal fans than musicians. Back in the late 80s early 90s there was a short time when the instrumental releases were actually bigger sellers. Still to this day my biggest selling Cd is "Instrumental Variations." However over time instrumental releases have lost their luster to the average music fan. Now they are back to being mainly for the musicians.
It is difficult for me to find information about you in the Internet, even about any concerts. Where can I find them?
David T. Chastain- www.davidtchastain.com I haven't really toured in quite sometime. I may do a one off show here or there. Chastain has had tons of offers to play festivals and to do tours. We will see if we agree to play any of them. I have always preferred the studio to playing live. In a studio you can play something until it is recorded perfect. Live, you never know what will happen. I don't like mistakes!
In the coming year, the band Chastain will celebrate its 30th anniversary. Are you planning to celebrate this anniversary with a special tour?
David T. Chastain- Actually the first Chastain Cd came out in 1985. Although part of it was recorded in late December 1984, No special 30 year plans are in the works. In any case, musically it is more like 1991 for Leather and myself. So we have yet to hit our 10-year anniversary.
Thank you for your time!
David T. Chastain- My pleasure! People can visit www.chastainmetal.com for the latest info on the band.
The band makes the most $ if you buy and especially if download direct from CD BABY!
Here are 2 full tracks from "Surrender to No One" for everyone to check out!!