Leather & David T. interview by Dimitris Kontogeorgakos from Metal Kaoz.
1. Welcome to METAL KAOZ Leather and David! We are extremely happy having CHASTAIN back in discography! Let me start with the obvious question; what was the spark that reignited CHASTAIN?
Leather: David and I had been in communication through my Cd with The Sledge Leather Project. Our discussions eventually led to him saying he had written some music that seemed like it should be a Chastain Cd. I of course, with no real intention, had him start sending me his ideas. I would say after 2 months of listening and playing with vocal ideas, it hit me!! The Chastain sound was begging to come out of me!
2. Before even starting working on new music did you discuss the sound you would be aiming for? Or you just let the inspiration guide you?
Leather: We just let it happen. But as with any art, some songs worked, others not so much. But I must say, the powers that be were there guiding this whole process. The material seemed to fall into place on its own. The more I listen to STNO, it seems like a normal, glorious continuation for us musically. I had missed that part of my life. Inspiration is a magical gift!
3. Leather, you sound absolutely fantastic in "Surrender To No One" so what you have been up to after CHASTAIN? Last year you released the SLEDGE LEATHER album "Imagine Me Alive" so is there something else that I am not aware of?
Leather: Slp was all I had done up to that point. I had basically turned off the radio!!! I had no intention of singing again; I had been living the California lifestyle, whatever that is!!!! I should learn by now to never say never. Life brings you what you need!
4. Is SLEDGE LEATHER still active? Especially now that CHASTAIN are back?
Leather: There are no Slp plans at this time.
5. Being a female singer on a Metal band must have been hard during the 80s; so how do think this situation has changed?
Leather: I don't think it was horrible in the 80s! But as I have been finding out, David protected me from a lot of the crap that was thrown at us. In my mind I was out to be the best Metal vocalist I could be. I didn't look at it any other way. It was the best time of my life, being on stage! I have never viewed my musical life by gender. You can sing or you can't. I am extremely proud for all the female rock musicians!!
6. By the way, Leather, you possess a unique singing style with lots of power, so I am extremely curious to learn your influences.
Leather: Dio, Dickinson!!!!! I love power!!!! It shows itself in many different vocal colors!! And there will never be anyone better at that then Ronnie!! I have always found my true expression through singing!! I get excited as I talk about it, what a gift!!!!
7. David, the last music we had from you until now was "Countdown To Infinity", so what have you been doing after that?
David T: There were a couple of new Southern Gentlemen Cds after that as well as numerous compilation releases. I have also had tons of music in TV shows that helps pay the bills.
8. The album has been out for quite a while; what is the feedback so far and do you feel satisfied by the result?
David T: It has been very positive for the most part. The last I heard it was #11 on the Loud Rock Charts at CMJ. That is supposedly over 350 radio stations in the US that have at least a metal show once a week. Of course the fan reactions have been the most positive. I haven't seen any terrible reviews. Am I satisfied? Well...as the Producer I can see where things could have been better in some places. I always consider myself the weak link on any CD!
9. Are there any plans to release "Surrender To One" on vinyl format?
David T.: I don't believe so. We almost didn't even release it in CD format as Digital has supplanted physical for most record companies. However I was wrong. The first pressing of the CD sold out quickly and we are just getting it back into the US stores this week.
10. David, what did it take to get Leather and Mike back to CHASTAIN?
David T: In regards to Leather, I have been in contact with her off and on since we parted ways after the For Those Who Dare tour. There was no big blowup or anything. We just went our separate ways after 6 hard years of work. Once she came back into the picture I helped her where I could with the SLP release. Of course she was constantly hearing she needed to record again with Chastain. I sent her tons of music and we found some tracks we both agreed on. She demoed up some stuff and it sounded good enough to try to move forward and record a real CD. Mike and I have also stayed in contact and he was the natural choice for a "reformed" Chastain.
11. Behind the drums there is Stian Kristoffersen; does this mean that none of the previous drummers wanted to return?
David T: Stian was my first and only choice. I had produced a couple of Cds he had been on: Firewind "Burning Earth" and Kinrick "Sense Your Darkness." However he really shines the brightest on the new Chastain Cd. I told him to go for broke and if he overplayed I would let him know. He recorded enough tracks for a second Cd. He easily kills as well on those tracks, if not better, as on the new CD.
12. How long did it take you to write and record "Surrender To No One"?
David T.: The real recording process probably took a couple of months. We spent 6 months writing and demoing the tracks beforehand. Most of the material on this CD I had written previously but 3 or 4 songs I wrote the music in 2013. It was just getting the vocals to fit with the music. Almost all lyrics/melodies were reworked or written in 2013.
13. What was your composing process and did it feel differently than the mid '80s?
David T: I have always written the music first to any song. I have an endless supply of music that flows thru me so quantity has never been a problem. In the old days I also wrote most of the lyrics but after writing 1000 songs I have trouble coming up with new storylines so I prefer the vocalist to do as much of that as they can.
14. Many think that it's impossible to get a band working as it did in the beginning, so what is your experience with CHASTAIN? I mean, how different it feels being together after almost three decades?
David T: The first Chastain CD was a studio project that Mike Varney and I assembled. We all met in the studio for the first time to record "Mystery of Illusion." Everyone was scared of Leather on that album since she was so intense. However over time, I was able to work with her and didn't back away from trying to get her to sing to her fullest potential. When Leather and I started working on "Surrender To No One" in the studio it was as if we had only taken a couple of weeks off. In other words, it was just like the old days. We both still have the same quirks but I know when she can sing something better than maybe she does. Of course she knows when she is tired and can no longer sing that night.... I can't fight that.
15. Are there any plans to make a video to promote the new album?
David T: We have discussed the possibilities. The logistics of doing a performance video is pretty daunting at the moment but we will see what happens in 2014. A few fans have already posted some stuff on youtube that is pretty cool. We have someone working on a sophisticated lyric video that hopefully will be available soon.
16. Do you have more songs written that did not make to the final tracklist of the album? Are there any plans to release them?
David T: Everything is recorded for another Cd except for the final vocals. We will release it if we feel there is demand for it. The tracks are very similar to "Surrender To No One." The ones we chose for the current release just seemed to work well together.
17. Lyrically, where is "Surrender To No One" standing?
David T: With a CD titled "Surrender To No One" most of the lyrics are about holding your ground and fighting back. Titles like "Fear My Wrath," "Stand and Fight," "Rise Up," "Freedom Within," and the title track are all calls for the oppressed to "not take it anymore." I also have a tendency to write about man's inability to stay peaceful. "Evil Awaits Us," and "Call of the Wild" continues that story. Something in men's DNA makes them violent. Leather writes more personal types of lyrics such as "Bleed Through Me" and "I Am Sin." "Bleed Through Me" is about her connection to Ronnie James Dio. "Deep Down in the Darkness" is a track I wrote a few years back that is about an immortal living "A little north of Hell."
18. Who did the album's cover artwork and is there any connection with the lyrics?
David T: We were looking for a cover that matched the title "Surrender To No One" and we came upon the one we used which Eric Massaro created. Leather made the final decision. I believe he is from France. It really seemed perfect with the huge evil figure being approached by a single individual obviously showing no fear.
19. Now, the burning question; what are your plans for taking CHASTAIN on the road? Europe, US or both? We'd love to see CHASTAIN live in Chicago!
David T: There always seems to be new offers coming in everyday to play this festival or go on tour in this country. However so far we have not committed to anything official. I have refused in the past because I didn't want to go out and play a bunch of old songs. So in other words I want to play a good mix of old and new. I am waiting for the new Cd to gain traction so that we can accomplish that goal. In other words, we don't want to go on the "oldies tour."
20. If you were to choose songs for a live setlist, which would you choose from the new album?
David T: Probably songs that are tuned to standard pitch or can be played that way so as not to have to change out guitars all the time. So that would mean Call of the Wild for sure. Save Me Tonight also is a good Chastain track. We would really have to pick the old tracks and then see what new ones compliment the "vibe" of the set list.
21. Do you consider "Surrender To No One" as a one-time album or the beginning of a series of album releases? After all, making a living out of music has become tough and in some cases impossible.
David T: I have been fortunate enough to have always made a living at music since I first started out. As I mentioned previously the next Cd is recorded except vocals so that wouldn't take a lot to complete. It is just a matter of whether we want to move forward... and if there is truly a demand for Chastain 2014. Once that is established we will move forward or not.
22. It was a great honor having both of you in METAL KAOZ. I hope to see you live very soon! Have wonderful Xmas holidays and a New Year full of success. The last words are yours.
David T: The same to you! Thanks for the continued interest!
Leather: Thank you for all your interest and belief in Chastain. Go to www.chastainmetal.com for all things relating to the band. I so appreciate all of you, hope to see you soon!!!!
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