Leather interview by Anton Kalmukov Pro Rock Bulgaria Magazine 12/3/2013
Hey David, hope you're doing well. Congrats on Surrender To No One - that's some of the finest material you've ever writing. How does it feel to back once again, nine years after In an Outrage?
_DTC: Thanks, glad you liked the new CD. 10 years seems like yesterday so for me it doesn't feel that long ago. As you may or may not know I have released quite a few other titles in that time span with other acts but obviously nothing as metal as CHASTAIN. It does feel good that the response has been so positive and I am back in touch with a lot of the metal press/radio/fans that I haven't spoken to in years.
With releasing albums so infrequently do you think there is a chance that Chastain could lose their momentum as a band?
_DTC: Yes there is always that possibility. When Leather and I were working together back in the early days we were releasing a new album a year. That is kind of the opposite extreme in that people got overloaded with all of the music. Also touring is important but I have always gone my own way on that ideology. We will see where "Surrender To No One" takes us in regards to another CD and/or tour dates. Leather loves to play live so I have to steer her away from things that don't make sense financially.... especially since I am the one who has to pick up the tab if it isn't profitable. To me I have always preferred recording to touring. When I use to go on long tours I was thinking the whole time "I should be in the studio recording another Cd instead of sitting on the bus/van/truck for 10 hours a day."
What are the main differences between working Leather Leone and Kate French besides their distinct vocal styles?
_DTC: Their vocal styles sound pretty similar to me.... or at least until recently where Kate has veered off a little more into extreme metal vocals with her band Vainglory. Leather had a big influence on Kate's style. The big difference is that I have always been in the room when Leather recorded her vocals and Kate has always recorded her vocals on her own. Therefore I had more hands on influence on Leather's tracks. With that said, Kate's work on "In Dementia" is masterful. Leather has been consistent on all her releases and when we got back together in the studio it was as if no time had passed. Leather is always strong and passionate and it comes across on her Cds. When you hear Leather on the radio you know it is Leather! I was lucky to have worked with both of them. For the record, neither Leather or Kate were fired from Chastain. We just finished albums and went our separate ways.
And how did you come to the decision to get Leone back in the band? Was the compilation The Reign of Leather a way of easing into it?
_DTC:Actually Leather came out of retirement and wanted to do her own thing and create her own identity which I supported and helped when I could. However she hit a roadblock in that everyone wanted her to do a Chastain Cd. I always have lots of things recorded so we did demos of over 20 songs and decided on which ones fit best together and recorded those for real. We wanted to make the band as original as possible so we asked original bassist Mike Skimmerhorn back in the band. I produced a couple of Cds that Stian played on so I knew he was a beast on drums so we asked him to join the new band. Good decision! "The Reign of Leather" was a compilation Cd that really had no other ulterior motive other than releasing a Cd in which Leather's Leviathan Records titles were showcased. Leviathan Records last year released over 20 somewhat similar Cds of other artists.
You've always worn the title of "guitar virtuoso" but you've never sacrificed a song just to show off with your guitar skills. Don't you think that's the reason people have always thought of Chastain as an organic heavy metal band and no as just another project with a showy guitarist?
DTC: I always tried to make CHASTAIN a normal metal band with real METAL songs. I was fortunate in that I had my instrumental releases to showcase the more technical side of my guitar playing so I didn't need to be over the top in CHASTAIN. The lead guitar solos in CHASTAIN are not the main focus of the songs. It is definitely the vocals and riff that are most important with the solos inserted to give the vocalist a chance to catch their breath in a live situation. I do try to make the songs interesting to a musician as well as the diehard fan so we do put in little flourishes from time to time within the framework of the songs. I refer to them as "ear cookies."
In my opinion Surrender to No One marks a return to the power metal sound of your earlier releases and has almost nothing in common with Sick Society and In Dementia. Was this intentional or it just came natural?
_DTC: I think "Sick Society" is the only CHASTAIN recording that is outside the power metal sound. When people heard I had a new vocalist in Kate they expected the vocals to be different and the music to sound the same. What they got was the opposite: a similar voice but a different style of music. Actually the music on "Sick Society" was material I was touring behind in which I was doing the vocals. So it wasn't really written with CHASTAIN in mind but rather a somewhat more simplistic music that I could play and sing at the same time. Quite a few people were upset with the musical direction of "Sick Society" but it has made a small fortune as background music for TV shows. "In Dementia" for me as the creator of Chastain is one of the Top 2 Chastain Cds in the catalog. In regards to "Surrender To No One," I think Leather and myself are going to create music that sounds like we sound and there is just no way around it. We just have this metal synergy that is going to sound like traditional CHASTAIN whether we intentionally want it to or not. So in other words it is very natural for us. In the old days we had some songs that were definitely more commercial but we never released them to the public.... even though they may have made the band more commercially acceptable to the masses. They just didn't feel right to us.
Having a career spanning over four decades, how do you feel about being back in music business in 2013? Are you less comfortable with it now than you used to be back in the 80's?
_DTC: In the old days CHASTAIN was 90% music and 10% business but now that has flip flopped. Now days it is much easier for someone to record and release music but it is much harder to promote and sell due to the 1000s of releases out there. The illegal download situation is ridiculous. It seems there are more illegal download sites with our music than legal ones. It is quite disheartening for all musicians to know they are not being compensated for their hard work and capital outlay. I help run a couple of independent record labels so I am always in the business and will be for years whether I ever released another piece of music or not. The internet has made a life in music both better and worse. Today we have to combat things we didn't have to do in the early days.
_Are there any young guitarists that have impressed you lately?
_DTC: Wow.. tons of them. Just go on youtube and you get an endless supply of very technically adept players. Some are very scary with their technique. Now whether they can write a decent song is another matter. I believe either you can write music or not whereas one can train to become a super guitarist with hours of practice. Sports Illustrated had an article where they were discussing what it took to become the best at what you are doing... not just sports but music as well. To become one of the best you had to put in 10,000 hours of practice!! I do appreciate the time it takes to become a technical monster but an endless stream of notes is just that... an endless stream of notes. Even as a guitarist myself it gets boring after "the shock and awe" factor wears off. To me I can't enjoy a guitarist who doesn't have good vibrato. That is what makes a guitar "naturally sing."
Do you keep in touch with any other guitarists from the Shrapnel Records era?
_DTC: Unfortunately no. When we were together back in the old days everyone was very friendly. However once you walk out the door each goes his separate ways and falls back into their normal patterns that got them to where they were..... extreme practice. That doesn't equate to good social skills. Even today I can only count true musician friends on one hand. The only time most of us socialize is when we are playing shows. I certainly have no enemies amongst them... just no real contact.
Do you have a favourite Chastain album and If yes, what makes it so special to you?
_DTC: Excluding "Surrender To No One," I think "Ruler of the Wasteland" is my favorite CD of the Leather era. I look at a Cd on different levels than most would see it: The Songs, The Production, The Playing and most importantly did the final version of the CD portray the vision of the music I was going after. The best Cd of the Kate French era as I mentioned earlier, is "In Dementia." Those 2 Cds ended up as I wished. "The 7th of Never" has the best guitar playing of any Chastain Cd but the production lacks. I will be able to better judge "Surrender To No One" with the passage of time. At this point I have heard it 100s of times in the past 3 months so I can't really be objective. I do believe it is a very strong Cd from front to back and I don't think there is any filler in there. Every song counts.
_The best heavy metal album of 2013 in your opinion is...?
_DTC: I know it may be hard for people to believe but I don't really listen to a lot of other metal bands due to my workload. Also I don't want to be influenced by what they do. Once again I go on youtube and just cruise around and hear all of these very good bands...but I don't dwell on them. In my spare time I listen to classical music, mainly Bach piano pieces. I find that soothes the savage beast and allows respite from the real world. Plus musically speaking they are "perfect." I do buy metal Cds mainly to compare volume and EQ levels when mastering our Cds.
_Thank you, David. The best of luck! Cheers.
DTC: Thank you and hopefully there will be CHASTAIN in everyone's stockings this year!
Leather's Facebook Page
CHASTAIN 2013 T-Shirts!