DAVID T. CHASTAIN interview by Rajmund "Ray" Bakalarz of Metal Up Magazine
David T. CHASTAIN - interview
01. Let's start from your latest album. It is entitled "We Bleed Metal 2017". The title clearly shows that this material refers to "We Bleed Metal" released 2 years before. Why did you decide to record a compilation album? Is it true, that you didn't like certain tracks so much that you decided to change them?
David T. Chastain: I was quite happy with the original We Bleed Metal. Never really intended 17 to happen. However I like to jam over stuff and give it a completely different sound. You can go to www.leviathanrecords.com/webleedmetal17.htm for a more detailed explanation of the newest release. It really just happened but I am glad it did as it is completely a different release. A Very Live and Heavy Cd!
02. What was the key to choose tracks for that album?
David T. Chastain: My main concern was to make sure that there was absolutely 100% new music and there was nothing the same on any of the tracks. I am 99.9% sure I have accomplished that goal. As far as I know there are no repeats at all.
03. This album is so modernly-recorded, with clear parts of all instruments, therefore the listener can notice all musicians' craftsmanship. Was that your intention?
David T. Chastain: In a way yes. When there is only a 1 guitar, bass, drums and vocal mix so you can hear everything much clearer. It is so much more alive. Of course there is much to be said for a well produced record also with 10 guitar tracks on each song. I just wanted this to be a live sound. I think I accomplished that with a few mixing tricks to open the sound.
04. I'm truly impressed by vocal parts by Leather Leone. Don't you think, that Leather sang one of the most powerful parts in her career? Her voice seems to be darker, stronger and more savage?
David T. Chastain: Yes Leather is a freak of nature and is an amazing vocalist. You would never think that voice would come out of that small of a body. I played someone a track the other day who wasn't familiar with the band and they were 100% sure it was a man singing.
05. One more question about the atmosphere of the tracks. If I didn't know that I listen to Chastain I would say that it is some kind of new industrial metal band. Do you have the same perception of this music? Have you ever heard these kind of opinions from fans, journalists?
David T. Chastain: I actually recorded the guitar with a much heavier tone than any of the previous albums because there was only 1 guitar track per song... so I could widen the sound and make it much heavier. On a normal Chastain album there are many guitars per song. However with that many guitars you have to make them less heavy or the sound would be a big mess!
06. How is it possible, that after recording so many albums, you can still create such intriguing compositions with the addition of outstanding riffs and solos?
David T. Chastain: Thank You! I really just write what I write. I have probably 1000 hours of music that will never see light of day. I am usually inspired most by what I have just written so We Bleed Metal 17 was very inspiring since it was just one guitar track per song. When you record 6 to 10 guitar tracks on a song it kind of gets to be more work than inspiration. So this was always fresh. I think it shows in the end. Kind of the like We Bleed Metal was my wife and We Bleed Metal 17 was my mistress. While you may love your wife the mistress brings a different kind of excitement.
07. How much time do you spend on every days practice and making new compositions?
David T. Chastain: In the old days I was a fanatic about practicing. 18 years without missing a day without practicing at least 1 hour a day. However now days I really only make sure to practice 30 minutes a day just to keep limber. Of course if I am recording something it could be many hours... but at least the guitar is in my hands every day. Songwriting usually just happens naturally from my practice sessions.
08. Because it is the first interview to our magazine, I would like to ask you some questions about your past. Do you remember when you hold a guitar for the first time? What kind of guitar was it? When did you realize that you wanted to be a musician?
David T. Chastain: I don't recall the first time. My parents had this cheap acoustic guitar around the house that was impossible to play but I am sure I tried. Eventually they bought me an electric guitar and that was so much easier to play so that is when I consider that I actually started playing guitar. My early teen years.
09. In your long career, you used to play for several bands. Do you remember your first band? What kind of music did you play?
David T. Chastain: A high school talent show was my first public performance that was well received. I did play out within a month of learning guitar and it was terrible! HA! They told us if we would stop they would still pay us! We were playing Hard Rock music.
10. You became famous when you played in Spike band. That band started to play back in the late 1970s. Tell us something about Spike. Why did you release only one album in 1980s?
David T. Chastain: Spike was basically CJSS with one different person. At one time Stephen Fredrick was the vocalist. Stephen has recorded a couple of albums with Firewind and Kenziner. So that band had a lot of potential for commercial success at one time. Mainly a hard rock band with touches of metal. Spike did do a tour with Black Sabbath when Dio was the vocalist. That was a lot of fun.
11. Mike Skimmerhorn was a vocalist. You have been working with him for many years. But, why didn't you use his voice in other projects? Is Mike singing in other band now?
David T. Chastain: I don't think Mike is playing in any other band at present. He had a band called The Mighty Swine that was pretty good. Mike usually sang on a couple CJSS songs per album.
12. Spike showed up for a while in late 1990s. I heard, that you recorded a live album. Is there any chance that it will be officially released?
David T. Chastain: No live albums are planned to be released. This new We Bleed Metal 17 is basically a live album in that there is a live set up of drums, bass, 1 guitar and vocals. So this is really the only album that could be duplicated live since there aren't overdubs stacked and stacked. There are quite a few live bootleg videos out there of my bands. Usually very low quality but some aren't too bad.
13. Why did the band split up? Almost exactly the same line-up formed another project - CJSS.
David T. Chastain: I decided that Spike was too commercial sounding and I wanted to play heavier music. Also I wanted to concentrate on just being a recording/concert artist.
14. In CJSS Russell Jinkens was a vocalist, Mike played bass only. Are you in contact with Russell? Is it possible that you two will record something together in the future?
David T. Chastain: In 2015 and 2016 we did 1 CJSS reunion show each year. More just to have fun than do any thing serious. You can check some videos from the last show on youtube or www.leviathanrecords.com/vidcat.htm No plans for any new CJSS recordings.
15. CJSS band was still active, when you decided to start another project - Chastain. Why did you decide to create 2nd band and why Leather Leone was chosen for a vocalist? How did you manage to find a such fabulous singer?
David T. Chastain: Mike Varney at Shrapnel Records didn't particular like the CJSS band but wanted to do a Cd with me and we put together a totally new band. He knew Leather from a local band out in San Francisco called Rude Girl. Leather and I had the same tastes in metal and we recorded a demo that everyone loved... the rest is history. We have always gotten along fabulously.
16. Why did you split up with Leather? How did your collaboration with Kate French look like and why did you decide to cancel this line-up too?
David T. Chastain: After 4 Chastain albums and numerous touring around the US Leather and I were just a little burned out. There was no official breakup or fight. We just needed a break. We just didn't know it would be such a long break! After the For Those Who Dare tour I decided to concentrate more on my instrumental releases. She started to look at some other options but nothing worked out for her. Kate came up to me at a metal convention and gave me her demo tape. I checked it out and we then demoed some stuff up I was writing for a solo album and we decided to record a Cd. The Cd was called Sick Society. People were surprised because they were expecting a new sounding voice with the same music. What they got was a similar sounding voice with different music. I would like to remix that album at some point. The second Kate album "In Dementia" is one of my favorites. We also recorded "In An Outrage." After that she joined up with Corbin King in Vainglory. They released one album and are working on another. Kate and I are still good friends. She actually also lives here in Atlanta... although way across town.
17. Can you point differences between CJSS and Chastain? How did you choose compositions for those bands and for your solo albums?
David T. Chastain: CJSS was always a little more commercial and US sounding whereas Chastain was heavier and more European sounding. There are songs that could have been recorded by either band. There are tons of CJSS demos playing Chastain tracks and Leather singing CJSS songs. The instrumental tracks are usually tracks that I can't figure out a good vocal melody!
18. Is that true, that you wanted to draw a line between Chastain and CJSS and decided that Chastain will have a female vocalist, and CJSS a male on vocal?
David T. Chastain: No that was just happenstance. As I said before, Chastain with Leather just opened up a more real metal sound. CJSS had a better chance with the US mainstream.
19. Back in 1980s CJSS records were available in Europe thanks to French Black Dragon Records. How did your cooperation with that label looked like? Was it a good collaboration?
David T. Chastain: At the time they did a good job. I am not sure exactly how we originally started working together. That seems like a lifetime ago.
20. Those who watch your career will certainly notice your great cooperation with Michael Harris. How did you two meet? How it is to work with another individualist? Did you support each other or it was a competition - who plays better and faster...
David T. Chastain: Michael was in another local band during the Spike era. My label released his first instrumental album Defense Mechanizms. I enjoyed working with Michael and I certainly don't think there was any competition between us when we played live or recorded. I guess we did 3 albums together. I certainly respect Michael as a musician.
21. You and Michael Harris formed Zanister band and released only 2 albums. Why did you split up?
David T. Chastain: We were getting ripped off by the European label so the band wasn't making any $$. Zanister was always a studio band. Of course everyone had their own main bands so Zanister was just an afterthought. In reality the music in Zanister was basically a Chastain album... with 2 guitarists. Of course the vocals were where the differences were. Unfortunately the vocalist Brian Sarvela passed away a couple of years ago. He was an excellent vocalist and lyricist.
22. And one question about Counterpoint project. You released 1 album. Was this your intention or you just didn't want to continue that activity?
David T. Chastain: Counterpoint was well before Zanister. Chastain Harris was another one of my crazy ideas. Not sure why I wanted to do that but it is a good live record for the time. We played tracks from both mine and Michael's instrumental albums. We did one tour before the album and one tour afterwards. It was fun while it lasted but it was always just a one time project.
23. Don't you think, that when you are engaged into too many projects it affects negatively its activities and may cause split ups or irregular release of albums of these bands?
David T. Chastain: Most likely. I have the ability both fortunately and unfortunately to be able to write an albums worth of material at the drop of a hat so I always have tons of material to record. You can check my output at www.leviathanrecords.com/chasdisc.htm It is quite a collection. I have a lot of quantity and I guess it is up to others to judge the quality. Also I like many different styles of music so I would probably become really bored playing in 1 band for my whole career... unless that band was HUGE!
24. You are an awesome guitarist, so why did you played bass on several albums released by other musicians? I can find your name on Michael Harris, Joe Stump, Gus G., Corbin King or John Remesnick albums. They are all great guitarists. How did they convince you to play with them on bass guitar?
David T. Chastain: Actually what happened is that one of my record labels, Diginet Music, had a series of releases: Guitar Master and Guitar Master 2. Those were records that each guitarist played their own unique parts over the same bass and drums. So each Cd sounds completely different. So I was the one who laid down the bass track and everyone else played over it. So in reality I never really played with those guys... they just recorded over my bass guitar track. I am not the greatest bassist but I am good enough to record albums. I wouldn't be very good live on bass!
25. I have to ask you some questions about your solo albums. You have already released 11 ones. Are there any visible differences in a process of recording solo and band albums? Do you like to work on your own or you rather prefer to work in a group?
David T. Chastain: They are different beasts but on instrumental albums the guitar is the main thing people are listening to so as the guitarist it is much harder to record an instrumental album. On a Chastain album I am almost a backup musician for the vocalist.
26. Your last solo album entitled "Civilized Warfare" was released a long time ago, in 2011. Have you managed to make new compositions for another album since that time?
David T. Chastain: I haven't really put much time into instrumental albums over the last few years. As I said they are more difficult to record and to be honest the fanbase for instrumental albums is not what it use to be. "Civilized Warfare" wasn't really a true instrumental album even though it was all instrumental. It was more of a jam album. The last true instrumental album I recorded was "Countdown to Infinity" and I believe that came out in 07.
27. When you make compositions for your band, do you prepare parts for all instruments or you just let other guys to take care of their parts?
David T. Chastain: Usually I demo up every part... but the other musicians are allowed to change them up to their liking if they think they can come up with something better. Stian Kristoffersen the most recent drummer in Chastain always makes things better than what I wrote on the drum machine. He is a killer drummer!
28. What would you prefer: to be considered as a "guitar god" or as a great composer?
David T. Chastain: I have always considered myself first and foremost a songwriter. Even on my instrumental tracks the song is always the most important consideration. There really is no winner in who is the greatest guitarist. Music is subjective. Everyone likes what they like. There is no supreme expert. I actually don't like to be included in the "Guitar God" category because most of the time I am just a backing musician and I am not "showing off" to impress the shredheads. If I was only playing instrumentals all night then it would be a different story.
29. Which of your 1980s albums do you consider as the most important for your career?
David T. Chastain: As far as Chastain probably "Ruler of the Wasteland" broke the band big. My instrumental album in 87 "Instrumental Variations" is probably the biggest selling record I ever had. In regards to the CJSS albums probably "Praise the Loud" is better all things considered for listening. However when we play live we play far more songs from the first album "World Gone Mad."
30. What was the reason for funding Leviathan Records? You wanted to be more independent? Does your work for label disturb music activities in any way?
David T. Chastain: I learned a lot from Mike Varney and I knew it didn't take much to start your own label. Fortunately I found a partner, Steve McClure, who could be trusted and we originally just planned to release the CJSS album "World Gone Mad." However the label is still in existence and doing well enough to continue. I never envisioned it would still be viable 30 years after the fact! Yes it takes a lot of time away from music. As I like to say, "When I started my record labels my time was spent on 90% music and 10% business. However once I had my labels it became 90% business and 10% music." So yes I believe I would have had a different path musically without the labels. I would have been a better musician. However having my own labels grants me total freedom to do what I want and when I want.
31. You have released your solo albums, Chastain albums and that ones recorded by Michael Harris under Leviathan Records... so why did you form Diginet Music sub label, which released CJSS albums?
David T. Chastain: It was for titles that I deemed less commercially viable in the marketplace. Mainly titles for the digital domain. Also it was a place artists could release titles that were out of print or good sounding demos. It was never meant to be a place for "big sellers." Although it still is in existence I don't put much effort and time into it.
32. Apart from your bands records and the ones recorded by Michael Haris, you released Corbin King albums. What did you choose that musician? Have you ever thought about further widening of your catalogue?
David T. Chastain: Corbin King is a great guitarist who I have known for probably 20 years. He needs to be playing in Megadeth or Metallica. At this point Leviathan Records is only releasing music that I am directly involved. When we first started the label I didn't comprehend that when I signed an artist I would still be paying out royalties and having to send tax forms 30 years later. I know we should be happy we are still selling copies of albums that old but it is still a lot of tedious work!
33. Your latest compilation album was released by a German Label Pure Steel Records. Does it mean that David Chastain will finally play in Europe, where he has so many fans. Is there any chance that we will see Chastain live in Europe? At one of the German festivals... Keep It True or Headbangers Open Air for example? Or maybe in Poland...
David T. Chastain: Most likely not. Leather is out touring as "The Voice of Chastain" so she is playing all the Chastain favorites for the fans... but never say never. I actually received a pretty decent offer this morning to play a European festival. However the rehearsal costs and time wouldn't make it worth it.
34. You said of different occasions that you wanted to join Iron Maiden. Is that true, that you wanted to replace Adrian Smith when he left Iron Maiden?
David T. Chastain: Yes. I contacted Iron Maiden's management when Adrian left around 90 or 91. At that time Chastain was pretty well known in all of the UK press especially Kerrang. However by the time they received my package they already had the other guy worked into the band so there was really no chance for it to ever happen. However I am not a good follower so I would have probably butted heads with Steve Harris a lot! HA! I respect Maiden and obviously they are still going strong in the concert world.
35. What are your plans for the nearest future? When can we expect a brand-new Chastain album?
David T. Chastain: Not sure. Currently drummer Stian Kristoffersen and I have been workings on some new stuff. I plan on remastering quite a few of the older titles to bring them up to today's audio standards. There will probably be a few more vinyl reissues also. Of course I never know what I might write the next time I pick up a guitar so only time will tell!
Thank you very much,
Thanks! My pleasure!
Anything else to say? David T. Chastain: Thanks to everyone!! For all the info on the new Chastain albums go to www.chastainmetal.com For info on my stuff personally go to www.davidtchastain.com For general info on all of the music go to www.leviathanrecords.com