David T. Chastain interview for Metal Rules 1/2014
Interviewed by: Helias Papadopoulos
Metal-Rules.com: Hello, First of all, how are you? First of all, congratulations on your last official album album "Surrender To No One" which is going to release by January of 2014. Of course I'd like to ask you a couple of questions about it below.
Metal-Rules.com: Which are the main influences on the 'Chastain?
David T. Chastain: I had varied influences when I first started playing. I have always really liked the heaviness of Black Sabbath, more so with Ronnie James Dio because he brought a lot of melody into the band. The "Heaven and Hell" era was their best for me. Of course the first 2 Black Sabbath albums are also magnificent slabs of metal since there are so many classic tracks. However I wanted to take heavy music and make it a little more complicated. Sabbath for the most part is heavy but simple. Therefore I liked a lot of the more progressive bands such as Kansas, Yes, Rush and others but for the most part they needed to heavy up to become metal. So I tried to combine the heaviness of Sabbath with a more progressive approach. Uli Jon Roth's work on the early Scorpions' albums was something I thought made sense for metal lead guitar playing. When I am not working on my own stuff I listen almost exclusively to classical music. Bach is my favorite composer. I just don't have the time to be a "Music Lover" unfortunately. Ronnie James Dio is Leather's biggest influence.
'Metal-Rules.com: You have only one word to describe the entire 'Chastain' career? Which word would that be? And why?
David T. Chastain: Independent. We went our own way and continue to do so. We had numerous offers from bigger labels and promoters but for the most part I felt they were not in the band's best interest. Would we be a bigger band today if we would have signed some of those deals? Possibly? Then again it could have torn the band asunder never to recover.
Metal-Rules.com: What does the 'Chastain' name mean for you?
David T. Chastain: Progressive power metal, with a strong female voice, original songs and a unique sound. When you hear a song by Chastain it doesn't sound like anyone else. We are who we are.
Metal-Rules.com: How did you get into playing music?
David T. Chastain: At an early age we always had an acoustic guitar lying around the house. It was a terrible playing guitar but I learned a few chords and moved up to a cheap electric guitar. I was always drawn to the lead guitar solos on songs when I was young and I always wanted to be a lead guitarist!
Metal-Rules.com: What do you do when you are not playing with the band?
David T. Chastain: I run Leviathan Records and Diginet Music so I am always still doing something in the music business. I would prefer to only concentrate on music without the business but that hasn't been feasible once I started the record company. On what little spare time I have, I watch movies. Last I checked there was something like 2000 DVDs in the collection. So there is something for every occasion.
Metal-Rules.com: What's your opinion on other kinds of music?
David T. Chastain: As I mentioned previously I love certain types of classical music. I have recently become a fan of when people take pop songs and put heavy music behind the vocals. There is a lot of that on youtube. A poster named bliix does a good job of that. Katy Perry in a metal band is an interesting sound. There are also so many great unknown (to me) metal bands on youtube. However the bottom line is I don't listen to a lot of other people's metal music repeatedly because I don't want to be subconsciously influenced by anyone.
Metal-Rules.com: Which are the plans of 'Chastain' for the future?
David T. Chastain: Hopefully record another Cd and maybe a tour or two when it makes sense. We would love to play shows around the world.
Metal-Rules.com: Do you know any Greek metal band? Is there any Greek metal bands that you really like or want to share the stage?
David T. Chastain: Of course I am well aware of Firewind and Gus G. Leviathan Records/Diginet Music were the first to release their music back in the old days. We actually released a Firewind Cd before "Between Heaven and Hell." I believe it was called "Nocturnal Symphony." We pulled it off the market because Gus and I didn't think it represented what the band had become. I always felt Gus had what it took to rise above the noise to become known as a great guitarist. I don't know of any other specific bands from Greece per se. However if I knew the names of some bands from Greece I might have a more educated answer. I don't really know where a lot of bands are based.
Metal-Rules.com: Well, as you are going to release any new album, can you tell me a little more about the lyrics of your last elaboration, did anything particular inspire you? Why did you name like that your last album? Is there any particular reason? Please give us some things about the production, the songwriting and the feedback of the album till now.
David T. Chastain: Most of the tracks on "Surrender To No One" are based around that general premise. Surrender to No One! Basically don't get pushed around: "Stand and Fight" "Rise Up" "Fear My Wrath" and others. Leather wrote a couple of the tracks herself that are more personal including the track "Bleed Through Me" which is about her friendship and inspirational figure, Ronnie James Dio. The response has been great to the new CD. We weren't sure if anyone would care and we certainly found out in quick order they were. It was kind of like the Iron Maiden situation where everyone, including myself, wanted Bruce Dickinson back on vocals. No matter how good his replacement was Bruce's voice is Maiden's. I think most people felt that way about Chastain. Despite the fact that Kate did amazing work, especially on "In Dementia," people were feeling Leather needed to be the voice for Chastain.
Metal-Rules.com: How important is it to you that people pay attention to your lyrics apart from listening to your music?
David T. Chastain: I have to admit music is the most important part of a song for me. While I do listen to the vocals of other's people's music, I really just hear the melody and can't make out most of the lyrics without a lyric sheet. However lyrics should be important and not just talk about nonsense. At this point in time I would prefer that the vocalist writes their own lyrics. I have probably written a 1000 songs by now so I have said about all I need to say.... Or at least I need new topics that are relevant.
Metal-Rules.com: What scales, and modes do you gravitate to when improvising?
David T. Chastain: Good question. Usually Chastain music is based around minor, harmonic minor, Phrygian and sometimes dorian. Minor keys are inherently "dark" sounding so they are perfect for Metal. Of course if we were making this music in the Dark Ages we would be burned at the stake for using a lot of the "devil's note," the flatted fifth.
Metal-Rules.com: You are the head of Leviathan Records and Diginet Music, what bands and players from your labels should we be looking out for. Could the next shred hero be there? I know that Gus G. (Ozzy, Firewind) is one of them.
David T. Chastain: A few years back I decided not to sign any new artist to Leviathan Records that weren't already part of the family. Anything new we released I would have my hands in either as the musician or the producer. It is too much work so I want to take it a little easier on myself. Those 90 hour work weeks are no fun!! With that said in 2013 we did release over 25 albums, however most of those were compilations or re-issues. The next release on Leviathan Records is Eric William Johns "Smoke in the Sky." Eric is the monster vocalist of Southern Gentlemen. We felt he deserved his own solo album. He is a great hard rock vocalist. He can sing everything from Dio to Janis Joplin with equal competence.
Metal-Rules.com: And now I would like to discuss about some deplorable events. We are in the end of 2013 and three big metal personas have passed away... Ronnie James Dio, Peter Steele and Paul Grey (SLIPKNOT) and finally Jeff Hanneman (SLAYER) . Are the last 4 years the most donsie years of heavy metal?
David T. Chastain: Maybe it is in so far as the passing of some very well known Metal members. Unfortunately any of us could die in the next minute so we can only live our own lives the best way can. Hopefully live by the mantra "Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you." While I am certainly a non-religious person that statement would make the world a much nicer place to be a part if everyone lived by it. Only time will tell whether the music of those who pass on will stand the test of time. As a musician, that is your legacy, your recorded music.
Metal-Rules.com: Five months have already passed after Jeff Hanneman (SLAYER) passing away. What would you like to say about that?
David T. Chastain: Anytime you hear of someone passing before their time it is a sad thing. I know Slayer is a very important part of Metal history. I must admit I am really not that familiar with most of Slayer's music but I always really liked their "Seasons of the Abyss" video!
Metal-Rules.com: What do you think of today's music industry in general?
David T. Chastain: It is a different beast from when Chastain first came out of the gate. There is so much music released it is hard to rise above it and be heard. The Internet has made things easier and harder. If I had a choice of the new or old music business model I would prefer the old. However that isn't a realistic choice so we have to work within the new.
Metal-Rules.com: Is technology part of your life or are you still a "romantic"?
David T. Chastain: I use technology and of course would be lost without it. However I lived most of my life without a cell phone and the Internet and got along fine. As far as recording goes it makes recording so much easier. When we first started everyone had to be in the same room to record. Today we record music with people across the world and never see them. Stian Kristoffersen has recorded three Cds with Leviathan Records (Firewind, Kinrick and the new Chastain) and I have yet to meet him in person. However technology has also allowed rampant piracy in music and many other entertainment forms.
Metal-Rules.com: I have beholden that heavy metal changes through the decades. Heavy and Thrash metal dominated over in 80's, Death, Black and Power metal in 90's and Metalcore and Nu Metal in the 00's in general. 2010 was the beginning sign of the new decade. What do you see for the future?
David T. Chastain: Lets hope that things stay heavy, melodic, progressive and intense. One big change is that there are lots of female metal vocalists in bands today. When Chastain first hit, there was only a few and to some degree a serious backlash against them.
Metal-Rules.com: What's your opinion on downloading?
David T. Chastain: Outright theft. It hurts the musician, the labels, record stores, record distributors, graphic designers, magazines that depend on ads, and everyone else whose livelihood depends on music sales. It should be the artist's choice whether to give away their music not some unknown person in Russia.
Metal-Rules.com: If you could pick only one musician to work with, who would that be and why?
David T. Chastain: I have always had good musicians in my bands so I have never wanted what I didn't have. Of course I would have loved to written music for Dio to sing over.
Metal-Rules.com: Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:
David T. Chastain:
Thrash metal: Aggressive
Black Sabbath: Heavy
Prison break (tv series): Potential
Michael Jackson: Not a fan
Metal-Rules.com: And one last question before we end up.
David T. Chastain: I don't see a question but I would like for everyone to visit www.chastainmetal.com to check out the new CHASTAIN Cd "Surrender To No One." If you are an old or new fan you will not be disappointed. Also check out www.leviathanrecords.com for a lot of excellent musicians and Cds.
Metal-Rules.com: Thank you for this interview. I wish to 'Chastain' all the best!!!
David T. Chastain: Thanks! We wish you a HEAVY 14!!
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!!