Leather & David T. interview for Rock Hard Magazine (Germany).
1. When and why did you decide that it is time for a new Chastain record?
David T. Chastain: When Leather came out of retirement I originally offered to record a solo Cd for her. However she wanted to do it on her own so she started her Sledge Leather Project. I tried helping them when I could. However over time Leather kept hearing, "Let us know when you and David record a new Cd." So we decided to see what we could come up with in 2013. I had 3 Cds of metal music recorded that just needed vocals so we started demoing up some of the tracks. Eventually we recorded over 20 tracks and chose the 11 on "Surrender To No One" based on their 'fluidity' with each other. People may or may not know Leather was neither fired or quit Chastain. We just went our separate ways after recording 8 albums and numerous tours in 6 years. We just needed a break... and then we never got back together again until 2013. After we parted ways I concentrated on my instrumental career which was selling the most Cds at the time. After Nirvana destroyed music in the US it was actually a good thing Chastain wasn't recording during the early 90s. Metal bands, especially bands with above average musicians, were mocked relentlessly. I found Kate French in the mid 90s and she inspired me to try Chastain again. Kate and I recorded 3 Chastain Cds over the next 9 years. After that I concentrated on other projects.
2. We all know that you are a killer guitar player, and we all know that Leather is a one of the best female singers in Heavy Metal. But I was very surprised at the really strong songwriting this time. Great hooks, great choruses. How come?
David T. Chastain: Thank you. First off I think the mix of Leather and myself has a unique sound that you really can't say "Sounds like so and so." That is an advantage right off the bat. I wanted to make an album that was straight forward and in your face with less guitar histrionics. Plus to be truthful the peak of my "Shred Guitar Playing" was some time ago. I found that the parts of my solos I enjoyed most were more melodic and even blusey in style. So over time I have cut the shred down due to taste and my ability to whip it out. Playing guitar in my heavy blues rock band Southern Gentlemen really helped "slow" me down. In any case, on my vocal releases, I have always considered the song the most important element and not the guitar solos. I was always lucky in that I had the instrumental albums to be more musically excessive.
3. Can you describe what the record deals with? What songs are the most important to you - and why?
David T. Chastain: With a Cd title of "Surrender To No One" you can imagine an album full of tracks about not taking crap and standing up to your oppressors and/or exacting payback. With track titles like "Surrender To No One," "Rise Up," "Stand and Fight," "Fear My Wrath," and "Freedom Within," it is obvious we are proclaiming benevolence dead. Lets face it, the world is currently set up to benefit the few at the expense of the many. It is hard to fathom how people continually vote against their best interests by propaganda that inflames their prejudices and hatreds and clouds their minds to the real problems that actually affects them. We need to find the freedom within, rise up, stand and fight, surrender to no one, and for the bastards to fear our wrath.
4. Why didn't you include a bigger booklet with all the lyrics, more information and a couple of more photos? I think especially the buyers of a "physical" product are interested in more than the music.
David T. Chastain: Yes I understand what you are saying. We should have included a few more pages with the lyrics. However we have all of the lyrics up at www.chastainmetal.com and we felt that if people went to the site they would see not just the lyrics, but also extra pictures, videos, ordering info on catalog titles and much more. To be completely truthful we almost didn't print up Cds at all. In the US it is hard to sell Cds. Originally we planned on licensing the Cd to a European company. However while we found companies that would release it none could do so before Spring 2014 at the earliest. That was too long a wait as we had already created a lot of interest and we have another Cd close to completion. So we put together a basic Cd packaging just for the people who demanded Cds. We also decided we wanted to be able to price the Cd aggressively in the US to compete with all of the major releases that are priced at $9.99. So speaking from a record label perspective we needed to keep the costs down to hopefully break even on the Cd release and try to make money on download sales. We have been talking with some companies about releasing the music on vinyl. The big drawback is we would have to omit 3 songs to be able to fit the music on an Lp.
5. In general as you are part of the metal and music scene since the 80s: What do you think of the general situation? Does everything just get worse? Or is this just the thinking of grumpy old men? ;-)
David T. Chastain: I prefer the old model when there were 100 new metal releases a year and maybe 100 metal media outlets in the world. Lets face it today there are 1000s of releases a year and at least a couple thousand media outlets. Therefore it is difficult to rise above the noise no matter who you are. The internet is a double edged sword. You can learn about bands and communicate directly with lots of people. However the internet has promoted the outright theft of music. That hurts musicians, labels, distributors, records stores, manufacturers, artists, studios and many others associated with the business of music. If I want to give away my music for people to listen to it should be my decision not some morally bankrupt individual in Russia or some other legally untouchable locale.
6. What do you do as a musician to pay your bills? Did it become more difficult over the years?
David T. Chastain: Not really. I have always been able to make a living in the music business. As some may or may not know I also own a couple of independent record companies: Leviathan Records and Diginet Music. We were the first to sign Gus G and Firewind and those Cds have done pretty well over the last 10 years. We have sold off a lot of the label's catalog as I wanted to eventually get it down to the releases that I either played on, wrote some or all of the music and/or produced. However I would say the biggest gold mine I stumbled upon was about 10 years ago I signed up with a company that has placed my music on 100s if not a 1000 TV shows. Mainly background music. Most of the placements don't pay that much upfront but every time the show airs additional performance fees are paid. So over time, it is enough to survive. I don't drive a Ferrari and live in a mansion but I live comfortably.
7. Even if you're a legend in the metal scene - do you sometimes wonder why you're not as famous as let's say Yngwie Malmsteen for example?
David T. Chastain: Not really. I always went my own way and turned down major label deals and tours if they didn't meet my "ethical" standards.I wasn't going to allow myself to be screwed over to move up the career ladder. I guess I chose to own 100% of a little rather than 10% of something bigger. I enjoy playing to a crowd of 1000 people much more so than to a crowd of 15000. It is just a more intimate relationship with the audience. Besides I am "too famous" as it is for my liking. I am a private person and I am somewhat uncomfortable with the acclaim I receive. People have cried when asking for my autograph! I had to move out of the city where Chastain was based in Cincinnati, Ohio. People would show up at my house at all hours and I could never go anywhere without being recognized by someone. I have recently joined Facebook and I am taken back by the positive response. I am not a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist. A musician/entertainer/athlete is usually just someone that comes naturally to something and you just have to put in the mandatory 10,000 hours of practice to excel. We aren't saving anyone's lives or creating world peace. We are banging on guitars and drums. I know some musicians are way too full of themselves. Especially some very bad musicians. I certainly don't consider myself better than anyone else. Everyone has their own unique worth. You should have asked Leather that question and she would have given a far different answer. She does crave adulation and fame. Of course vocalists are another breed of human.
8. Please tell us your "playlist". Which 5 records do you prefer to listen to at the moment?
David T. Chastain: To be quite truthful I am always listening to something I am working on. It seems I am always in the middle of an album whether it be for commercial release or TV music supervisors or even just for my own private collection. I don't have much time to listen to music for pleasure. What little time I do have is usually listening to Bach on Sunday mornings as I read the paper. I do occasionally go on youtube and hear a lot of really good bands and musicians that I am unaware. It is a shame they live in oblivion... There are far better musicians than myself who will never get out of their basements. Unfortunately that is the nature of the beast.
1. So good to have you back - how did it all happen?
Leather: I had a lot of constant encouragement from people. I spent some time in LA, and began the process 2 years ago. I would go in and out of studios to see what shape my voice was in. I began the Sledge Leather Project, and through that spoke with Chastain on a regular basis. Of course it eventually led to new Chastain Material! I had some concerns about the quality of my work, so we took our time, did different versions. During my demoing of "Save me tonight" is when the flood of emotion came calling to me. It was at that point I knew, it was meant to be.
2. You have done an album with Sledge Leather in 2012 but what have you done all the years before? We really missed you! ;-)
Leather: I had actually met with labels and the powerful people during my off time, but I found no one was that interested in me being me. It has always been important to be who you are rather than a "sellout" just for attention. I was proud of what Chastain had done, so it was ok to close that door. I got into Pitbull rescue. Enjoyed living the California life style of sun and champagne!! Looking back I do feel I had lost my inspiration. I needed to recharge. The intention was never to be gone that long! 1 year turned into 20!
3. What music do you listen to nowadays? Any great female singers in rock you've heard recently?
Leather: Yes I enjoy listening to the legends!!! But I am keen on the Metal that is being made today. I can't necessarily tell you the song titles, but the new Benedictum, White Chapel, and the last Otep Cd are on in my list! I have truly been so busy the past 2 years, I don't have a lot of time to experience all the great newer music!! But I love the aggression of the metal music I hear on the radio as I drive to LA. Its quite dangerous the speeds I hit listening!!!!! Metal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
4. What can we expect? What are the future plans?
Leather: I never know what will be knocking at my door tomorrow. There is some talk with no solid plans. My aim of course, is music in some capacity. To get out and get some stage time this year!!! Record more music, create more mayhem. Inspiration has found its way back to me, and my obligation is to her! My life goes in extreme phases. I do something full on, or not at all. My return to music with this Chastain Cd has reminded me of a quote from someone who meant everything to me. " There's something in this life, that I cant seem to find. He told me that it's called your piece of mind!" I'm still looking!!
Leather's Facebook Page
CHASTAIN 2013 T-Shirts!