Interview: LEATHER LEONE – Unleashed

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“Just shut up and hand me the mic.”

LEATHER LEONE is a force to be reckoned with. She lives and thrives on challenge and compassion, beauty and brutality, and yet she has never compromised herself along the way. For over 30 years, her notoriety and career have been built upon her integrity — and of course, her spine-chilling vocal prowess.

Chastain’s For Those Who Dare in 1990 made the grade for play on MTV, making the album one of their most successful, therefore cementing Leather’s place in Metal history as one of its most influential vocal artists.

Now, in her later years, hungrier and more passionate than ever, she has re-emerged with a vengeance, embracing the fans that have followed her throughout her career, and enchanting new ones, with her own band, simply named LEATHER, who are now finishing up their debut project after a successful South American and European tour.

The lady took a little time away from the work to share her energy and a glimpse into this new chapter. But, since no one can speak for Leather but Leather, let her tell you the story, herself…

LEATHER photo credit: Luciana Pereira dos Santos

After so many moons in Chastain’s prestigious shadow, it seems you finally found your own light — in Brazil, no less! Can you tell us a bit about how you found your band and who they are?

[David] Chastain was contacted by Rodrigo Scelza in 2013 regarding a tour of Brazil. As we know, Chastain and the road do not mix…lol!  Chastain mentioned to Rodrigo that I may be interested.

At that time, I was feeling the wind again and it was time to fly.  Rodrigo reached out to me. I went down in 2014. It was there that I met my now guitar player, Daemon Ross. We became instant friends.

The shows went well enough to move forward. Marching on to 2016, I had another opportunity to go tour South America with the Rob Rock tour.  It was there that the light changed; Along with Daemon, whom I had stayed in touch with, I met Thiago Velaquez (bass), and Braulio Drumond (drums). We hit it off musically and personally right away.

I had also become intrigued with Vinnie Tex who was playing guitar with Rob Rock. By the third show, I had the conversation with Rodrigo regarding a musical future with Vinnie as part of the family. After the tour, the writing began…

We know you’ve been anxious to tour for a long time. Recently, you’ve covered a few spots in South America and Europe. What has the reception been like? How have your fans embraced you?

‘Anxious’ is putting it lightly! My packed suitcase has been packed and ready since 2012.

The response of the people has been mind-blowing.  The age and variety of the Metal friends that come to see us makes me weep and work my ass off for all of their belief.

To have them sing lyrics with me from songs that have been written so long ago, takes my breath away…and they give it right back to me. My relationship  with all of them will never wane.

Do you think it will be difficult to distinguish yourself as a solo artist after so long being a frontperson for others? Shock Waves was a long time ago…

I never think of myself as a solo artist — My band is in my blood. They motivate and help me every step of the way.  There is nothing ‘solo’ about this new project other than the name.

I always need guidance, feedback, and direction to say what I want. They are my source for all of that. Everything in music can tends to be difficult. I believe the Master [Ronnie James Dio] said, “The thrill of the chase is worth the pain.” I am into the journey with my boys.

I thrive on being an underdog…

Tell us about this project you’re working on. Is there a theme? A concept?

The only theme of the new record is ‘kick-your-ass-remember-me Metal!  There are no bells or whistles, it’s just straight ahead in your face.

The boys from Brasil are a much different  breed of  musician.  They have a youthful, unjaded approach to Metal.  What struck me was their musical innocence, really.

And they all listen and have played a variety of music which makes for an interesting union.  We melded into a creative space that I had been seeking for years. So blessed.

Who are the principle composers on the album? What kind of direction did you choose to take the songs?

Vinnie Tex and I hit our writing stride quickly when we met.   He got me immediately.  He was also with me through the whole recording process. We let the songs breathe as they chose. They fell into place very easily actually!

I don’t do anything musically with a definitive idea.  I let it take me.

Vinnie and I thought the same. We had a lot of trust in each other.  I felt at home with him.  Daemon Ross has a couple of incredible songs on the record that he had brewing in his mind also.  We played them live in Europe –believe me when I say, they work well!

How is working with the band behind the glass different than on stage?

I so prefer the stage.  I get claustrophobic in the studio. I feel confined. It makes me crazy! I am never satisfied with what comes out of me.

On stage, I can breathe and express myself much better. I have the spirit of all of you in front of me and I have the boys. They have such an energy that feeds me!

They all have a history and a friendship with each other  that exposes itself beautifully when we play live.

Are you still hitting the “H” note? [Editor’s note – A little background: During an interview in 2014, Leather recounted the story of how Chastain, a guitar virtuoso-perfectionist, would get frustrated and perplexed by these ‘mysterious notes’ she would sing in the studio, thus the joke. TRV]

Oh yes!!!!  lol

It’s no secret that Ronnie James Dio was an influence on you. What’s your story?

I was a late bloomer to Ronnie.  My introduction to his music wasn’t until 1983.  Then the sky opened.  I was taken by his vocal beauty and strength.  His ability to take me places that no one else knew. He knew me.

As life would have it, I was privileged enough to have met him and spend time with him.  To me, he was a king.

It was like being in a fairy tale. He glowed a different color than anyone or anything. Hence my fascination with him. I learned and listened to every word he every told me.

To this day I draw from all his wisdom.  Musical and otherwise.  He is my vocal reason.  It is extremely heartbreaking that he isn’t on earth to hear my new music. But I have a distinct feeling he already has.

Is there anything you would like to see change in the Metal industry today? What would you advise the younger generation of bands?

Let all of us just be who we are. Stop telling young woman they have to be hot and provocative to sell music. Stop all the bullshit gender issues. We are all one big family regardless of our genitalia.

My advice to young bands, play your ass off from your heart and enjoy the inner peace that will come….

When can we expect a release and what do you hope your listeners will take from this work? Will you be supporting the album in the States?

We are hoping for a fall release. I hope all of you continue to take the ride with me. This is a raw and real effort with my new family. You will become as bewitched with them as I have. And yes, we plan on coming to the States.  I have found my road dogs!

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