David T. Chastain Interview 7/22/2000

Interview by Heinz Konzett from Snake Pit Magazine

Snakepit: Hi Dave, excellent news that CJSS are back in the saddle with Kings Of TheWorld, what were the reasons for the new start?

David T. Chatain: When we re-released the CJSS Cds last year "World Gone Mad" and "Praise the Loud" I put word out that the band was ready to do a new Cd. We were offered contracts from 3 different companies but we decided to go with Pavement as they seemed the most excited about the prospects. CJSS never officially broke up. We just stopped doing shows in 92 or so and I concentrated on other bands.

Snakepit: Is it true that Pavement choose the songs of the album because you didn't want to do this or because you had too many tunes?

David T. Chatain: I sent them nearly 50 songs to choose from. I felt since Pavement was paying for everything they would get to choose the songs. I agreed with most all of their selections. There were a couple of other songs I wished would have made the new Cd. All of these songs were written between 86-92. We wanted to use these songs to make sure we still had the classic CJSS sound. If we wrote new material today it might be too drastic for the fans. If we do another Cd, which we hope, it will be mostly new songs we will have written in 2000.

Snakepit: You played some live gigs with CJSS last year, how was the response, did the people still know your band?

David T. Chatain: Oh yes it was great. We also just played a concert this past week and the response was great from the fans. They still remember the words from the old songs and they also rocked out to the new songs. We will continue to play occasional concerts from time to time. I no longer live where the rest of the band does so it is hard to get together for the concerts but I will make the effort from time to time.

Snakepit: The album sounds very traditional, was this an obvious step or just the result of coming back together?

David T. Chatain: As I mentioned earlier we wanted the new Cd Kings of the World to sound like it would have if we recorded it 10 years ago. In Chastain when we put out a new Cd (Sick Society) after a long layoff there were complaints that the music was too different from the old days. No one can say that about this Cd. We even went back to using the same amps and guitars as the old recordings. It is a slightly different sound but it is not like night and day. I believe the old fans will be very happy and hopefully we will pick up a lot of new ones.

Snakepit: Going back a little, in 1984 Mystery Of Illusion came out on Shrapnel Records under Chastain along with Griffin's Flight Of The Griffin, Scratch and Scream from Trauma and No Escape from Hexx. All four albums delivered classic US Metal, how did the deal with Mike Varney work out at that time?

David T. Chatain: Originally I tried to sell him CJSS but he didn't like the vocalist and drummer so we decided to do CHASTAIN with Leather and Fred Coury in the band. Most all of the Chastain songs on the first Cd were originally CJSS songs rearranged. I have CJSS versions of many of them on demos. It was a good experience for me to do those records on Shrapnel and they are both very good releases.

Snakepit: Let us know what you did before that time, when did you join Target? Which sound did this peculiar band play? Are there some recordings left from that period?

David T. Chatain: Target was my first real band and we never did any real recordings just demos. The band was a progressive hard rock band with 2 guitars, bass, drums and vocals. It was a very enjoyable band to be in when I was writing the songs. We had songs that were 10 to 15 minutes long with lots of changes. Then the band started doing the bass player's songs and I couldn't stand them as they were not up to snuff in my opinion. We agreed to go our separate ways. Actually every once in awhile I go back and steal a lick or two from that band for my current recordings. On In Dementia, the last Chastain Cd, the lick at the end of the song SEVEN comes from one of my Target songs. That band should have done at least one record. At least I have some demos.

Snakepit: Of which reasons did it end with Target and you got in contact with Spike?

David T. Chatain: Target ended from the reasons I mentioned earlier. I met Spike when Target was on tour. Les Sharp started the band before I joined. Spike was more of a commercial hard rock band. Current Kenziner vocalist Stephen Fredrick was in the band for a couple of years and that was when the band was at its' best. He left and went to New York and we replaced him with Mike Skimmerhorn. (CJSS and Chastain) Spike also played covers as well as originals. It was a fun band to be in. We played music that appealed more to females than males and that has its' advantages if you know what I mean.

Snakepit: Was The Price Of Pleasure the first album you contributed to?

David T. Chatain: The Price of Pleasure was the first full length Cd that I was on. We were on numerous compilations before then. The Spike band that did that recording was basically CJSS with one different person. The music on the release is very commercial. Although I am considering redoing a few of the songs in a more bluesy fashion. I think there is some cool guitar on the release sandwiched in between the fluff.

Snakepit: Russell Jenkins seems to be a long time friend as he plays music with you since the Spike times, what are his talents besides being an awesome vocalist?

David T. Chatain: Russell is kind of like Ozzy in that he appeals to the average fan in a unique way. He is also a good showman live when he wants to be. He is also a good songwriter and a pretty cool guy. He can also play second guitar when we need it. He recently lost a lot of weight and when we did a concert recently it was just like old times. He was the best one in the band that night!!

Snakepit: Why didn't you release a CJSS album firstly as the band existed longer than Chastain and recorded demos?

David T. Chatain: As I mentioned earlier when I was shopping CJSS, Varney didn't like Russell and Les and wanted me to hook up with other musicians. Since I write tons of material is was not really a problem in regards to coming up with songs.

Snakepit: When did Leather Leone appear on the map, what did you feel when hearing her amazing voice the first time?

David T. Chatain: When Varney was sending me tapes of musicians to play in Chastain he sent me a tape of a bassist. I wasn't overly impressed with the bassist but I thought the female vocalist was good. Varney said if I liked her he knew of a female vocalist that was 10 times better than that and he sent me Leather's stuff. At the time I worshipped Dio and Leather was something like a female Dio. We instantly had the same musical vision of the Chastain sound and it worked out great through all of the releases.

Snakepit: Soon the second Chastain album Ruler Of The Wasteland was released, again a highly enjoyable album with tons of great riffing, your great solo work and Leather's rough voice, which reaction did you get after this album? Did you tour and yes with which bands?

David T. Chatain: Both early Chastain albums received great press. We toured a little behind both of those Cds. I consider Ruler a classic for numerous reasons. All shows we played at the time were headline shows. Later on we did a few dates with Kiss and Alice Cooper. I don't particularly like to open shows.

Snakepit: Why did you form your own label Leviathan Records at that time? Only of the main reason to release the first CJSS album World Gone Mad? Was there no label interest in this great piece of Metal music?

David T. Chatain: I had a friend with a lot of money who wanted to get into the business so we decided to start a label. We knew that CJSS would sell a lot of Cds right out of the box so that is why we released the band on Leviathan in the US. Both of those Cds sold very well and we made a lot of money during that time.

Snakepit: Then a period of a kind of release mania began, from 1986 to 1990, both of your bands, Chastain and CJSS released tons of outstanding Metal music beginning from Praise The Loud to The 7th Of Never. Was this your most creative time and wasn't it a problem to run two full bands for quite a time?

David T. Chatain: Actually it was pretty easy having 2 bands for me. I have always have had a creative river running through me and I can write songs all day long. In 2000 I will have 3 releases, SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN "Exotic Dancer Blues" CJSS "Kings of the World" and the new ZANISTER "Fear No Man." Back in the old days when music was my main priority it was easier because I could concentrate more on music. Now days I have to concentrate more on business.

Snakepit: Which did you prefer, Chastain or CJSS? Did it help a lot to record the outputs in your own studio?

David T. Chatain: On Cds I have always preferred Chastain because it was more of my own project whereas CJSS was more of a group effort. The Chastain stuff was also a little heavier and just more of my own musical vision. However live I prefer CJSS stuff because it was more fun to play. It is great to have a home studio to record whenever the mood strikes me. I wish I could spend all day in the studio. I usually just end up recording on Cds what I have written most recently. I have a creative river I can not turn off except not to pick up the guitar. I probably have at least 50 Cds worth of songs sitting around at this very moment that will never be released. It is insane!! I need a situation like Frank Zappa had where he just sits around all day and records Cds and someone else mixes and releases them. Unfortunately at this time I don't have that luxury. Maybe one day.

Snakepit: Your soloing is extraordinary, but you always cared for the song writing and the song itself more than just playing thousand notes in one minute. Do you share this view?

David T. Chatain: I always tried to incorporate some feelings in my solos. Now days I feel kind of silly just to play fast scales as it really doesn't say anything to me other than "I can play fast scales." There has to be more to music than that for me at this point in my life.

Snakepit: Was the solo album Instrumental Variation the exception of the rule in this case?

David T. Chatain: Instrumental Variations was my biggest selling Cd worldwide and even though it is an instrumental release I tried to make the songs the most important thing. That was a special release at a special time. It still sales pretty good to this date.

Snakepit: If I had to choose one special album I would take Praise The Loud, it's a sheer power album with tons of fantastic leads, riffs and melodies and Metal classics as Don't Play With Fire, Metal Forever or Out Of Control, which single album would you choose?

David T. Chatain: If I could only take one of my Cds to a deserted island it would be my Next Planet Please release. That Cd will still sound fresh in 20 years. If not that, then Acoustic Visions. Music to relax to.

Snakepit: Why didn't you release another album with new tracks CJSS since 1992 besides compilations as there were tons of songs in your hands? As you just released a new CJSS album, did you thought it would be the end at that time? Is it true that you recorded a full length album with CJSS and never released it?

David T. Chatain: We did tons of demos during that period but never a Cd. I just wanted to do different things musically and experiment more than just the normal expectations from the fans. I have recorded a heavy fusion Cd, a live jam Cd, an acoustic Cd, a live 2 guitar instrumental Cd and a few other projects including the new SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN "Exotic Dancer Blues" which in the states is the best reviewed Cd of my career.

Snakepit: Was it a coincidence that you parted ways with Leather as well at that time?

David T. Chatain: After our last tour and album(For Those Who Dare) in 90 we were both tired of the constant touring and recording. We never broke up or anything. No fights. I still think Leather is great. However in 95 Kate French handed me her tape and I decided to make future Chastain Cds with her.

Snakepit: Which was the best gig/tour you ever did and do you have a special story for our readers?

David T. Chatain: Probably the biggest show was a New Year's Eve gig with Kiss. Paul Stanley freaked out when Leather started running up and down their ramps. Spike also did a tour with Black Sabbath when Dio was in the band and that was a lot of fun.

Snakepit: You wrote mainly all the songs for Leather's solo effort Shock Waves so you wanted to support her in any possible form, right?

David T. Chatain: Yes, I wanted the people to know she was a great singer and songwriter. Plus she was never happy that she did not get a lot of press so she wanted to do it on her own. That Cd has just be re-released on numerous labels throughout the world.

Snakepit: Are you still in contact with her and does she has no interest in singing on a Chastain album?

David T. Chatain: I asked her a few months ago would she be interested in singing on a new Cd for some new bands I am producing and she said "She was retired." Therefore I doubt we will ever hear more from Leather.

Snakepit: Focusing on your label Leviathan Records, which of your albums you released through the years you like most of all?

David T. Chatain: I like a lot of different releases for different reasons. SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN "Exotic Dancer Blues" David T. Chastain "Acoustic Visions" "Instrumental Variations" and "Next Planet Please." From Chastain "The 7th of Never" and "In Dementia." The Kenziner release "Timescape." Zanister's "Symphonica Millennia" all come mind without looking at a release list. Also I just produced a new band's Cd and they are called VAINGLORY that I like a lot.

Snakepit: Manilla Road just played their first European gig at a festival, when will that happen with Chastain or/and CJSS?

David T. Chatain: Actually Chastain did play in France in 1990 or so. Plus Kate and I did a promo tour in 95. I would love to play a tour of Europe but most likely if any of the bands come it will be SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN.

Snakepit: Kate French was she (and her Leather like voice) responsible for the comeback in 1995 with Sick Society which sounded heavier and more angry?

David T. Chatain: Yes, Kate kicked me in the ass and wanted a more modern sound on Sick Society. She suggested a different guitar tone and band sound. If you have ever seen her you know it would be hard to say "No" to her. Actually I was glad to do it as it was something different. I get easily bored. I would have preferred a different mix but it is too late to cry over spilt milk.

Snakepit: In Dementia followed, that album was more a bit more progressive in my opinion and I like it more than the too modern sounding Sick Society, what do you think?

David T. Chatain: Yes In Dementia went back to a more traditional Chastain sound. Just the other day I listened to the CHASTAIN "In Dementia" Cd for the first time in a year or so. The Cd is a great Cd. Kate French is a great singer/songwriter who doesn't get the credit she deserves. There are very few great new singers in rock. That and Ruler are probably my favorite Cds with 7th of Never in third place followed by Mystery of Illusion, The Voice of the Cult, Sick Society and lastly For Those Who Dare. Actually For Those Who Dare is a very good record but Roadrunner remixed the Cd without the band and the version they released did not sound good. Hopefully we will re-release the Cd with the original mix at some point.

Snakepit: You wrote so many songs, but which are your favourite ones?

David T. Chatain: That is an impossible question to answer for me. I have written 1000s of songs over the years and on any given day I like a certain song more than others.

Snakepit: The Zanister contribution surprised me as you play a twin guitar with Harris and the music is more neo-classical, is this only a project or a band thing?

David T. Chatain: We are currently finishing up our second Cd for a late 2000 release. It should have the same members as the first release. I am pretty happy with Symphonica Millennia and the new Cd is turning out great so far. I don't think the band will tour unless the Cd starts selling like crazy!

Snakepit: I think you are still quite popular in Japan, the Best-of album from Bandai Records proves that, have you ever toured there or what's the reason for that?

David T. Chatain: I have done 2 tours of Japan and I loved it! I hope to return one day but the situation of the Japanese musical scene is not nearly the same as it was 5 years ago. Metal is not as popular as it once was which is unfortunate.

Snakepit: The 2.4.1 re-release of the first two CJSS albums came out in 1999, essential stuff, isn't it?

David T. Chatain: Yes, we wanted to make it available on Cd for everyone in the states foremost as it had never been released on Cd here. Then we knew that even though there had been a "Best of" release in Europe it did not contain all the tracks. It is good to hear the material in the proper format.

Snakepit: What will you do next in your time schedule, promoting the new CJSS album?

David T. Chatain: Currently I am promoting both SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN and CJSS. At the same time I am recording the new Zanister. I just got through producing the Vainglory release. (http://www.leviathanrecords.com/vainglory.htm) I also have my hands in a few other things and it seems to be busy as usual at Leviathan Records.

Snakepit: David, as a true believer in Heavy Metal music, what do you think of the development Metal made the last years?

David T. Chatain: I do think that the new Iron Maiden Cd is the best thing for metal in a long time. Finally one of the old bands has put out something that is very comparable to metal's great days. There are a lot of new bands that are very good.

Snakepit: I highly appreciate your music since the early 80's, what do you feel if you look back as well as in the future?

David T. Chatain: I can be proud of all of my releases and I don't think there is a bad one in the bunch. I hope to continue writing and recording great music until it is no longer fun for me.

Snakepit: Any last words?

David T. Chatain: Thanks for the support and please check out SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN "Exotic Dancer Blues" and the new CJSS "Kings of the World."

Snakepit: Thanks a lot for your answers. Snakepit salutes you!

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