Chastain's Leather Leone bleeds for metal

Singer reunites with '80s heavy metal favorites
By Peter Lindblad

Chastain is David T. Chastain, Leather Leone,
Mike Skimmerhorn and Stian Kristoffersen
Leather Leone is back where she belongs, fronting the blazing '80s heavy metal outfit Chastain.

The namesake of guitar wizard David T. Chastain, the band was cobbled together in 1984 by Shrapnel Records President Mike Varney, who was looking for a vehicle to shine a spotlight on the CJSS shredder's instrumental prowess, as well as Leone's fiery, powerhouse vocals.

A force of nature on Chastain albums including the 1984 debut Mystery of Illusion on through Ruler of the Wasteland (1986) – both recorded for the Shrapnel label – and The 7th of Never (1987), 1988's The Voice of the Cult and 1990's For Those Who Dare, Leone returned to Chastain after a long break from music in 2013, with the LP Surrender To No One.

Released in early November, We Bleed Metal is Chastain's latest effort, and it is an all-out blitzkrieg of crunching riffs and blistering solos, rampaging drums and bass, and the vocal fury of Leone. By turns melodic and thrashing, with an appreciation for all the elements that go into making classic metal songs, We Bleed Metal – released on Leviathan Records – is more than just a declaration of allegiance to metal. It addresses heavy subject matter, such as the collapse of financial institutions, religious extremism and mankind's penchant for self-destruction, and it does so with intelligence and raw emotion. And with it comes the return of original bassist Mike Skimmerhorn and the sensational debut of drummer Stian Kristoffersen.

A power-metal legend, Leone recently discussed her comeback, the new album and her history in metal in this interview.

Chastain - We Bleed Metal 2015
Now that you've been back with Chastain for two albums, and Mike Skimmerhorn has returned for your latest record, We Bleed Metal, in what ways does this situation feel like it did in the early days and how is it different?
Leather Leone: The end product seems like we haven’t skipped a beat. The general feeling and vibe of Chastain is absolutely there. But since we all do most everything online ... the whole studio experience is gone, which is a personal loss for me. I appreciated all the feedback and sharing of musical ideas face to face.

How tough is it to balance the interests of creating new material that's in keeping with the classic elements of Chastain while also trying to be more modern?
LL: Chastain is the main songwriter and took the reins with We Bleed Metal. He has never tried to write or attempt to go in any direction. But that being said, we did work and create music together for a long time. He has a way of writing with my thoughts and vocals in mind.

What songs on this record challenged you the most vocally?
LL: In all honesty none of them come to mind. All of these tracks came together quite easy. There was a strong, magical flow for me the moment we started working with them.

A lot of the subject matter on We Bleed Metal has to do with serious issues. How does what the songs are about impact how you approach singing them?
LL: Of course it is extremely important. And since we write about a number of serious, intense situations, my vocals, I hope, reflect that. I have always been more of an aggressive vocalist. I won’t be doing any ballad records anytime soon!

Some of my favorites on the new record include "Against All The Gods," "I Am A Warrior," and "Don't Trust Tomorrow." What are the songs on We Bleed Metal that you felt were the most exciting and why?
LL: You hit it exactly. "Against all the gods" has a special place in my ears. As soon as I put that harmony on the chorus, I was hooked. The third verse just rolls off my Metal tongue!!!! This is an unusual record for me. I am stoked about all the material. Chastain did an incredible job with the mixing ,mastering, etc. And he allowed me to get my opinion in the whole story.

What brought you back to Chastain and has your return been everything you thought
it would be?
LL: My return came through the project I did in L.A. in 2011 called The Sledge Leather Project. We had put out a record called Imagine Me Alive. I had asked him for his advice on many occasions. Of course the musical conversation led back to Chastain. During my return I had continually been asked about new Chastain music. It was inevitable!

What inspires you most about working with Chastain and David in particular?
LL: It has been the same since I met him. He is a remarkable talent. He is a perfectionist. He has known me and watched me grow vocally. He knows what I can do and never settles for anything less. Musically we just fit. I consider him one of my favorite teachers. And we love f**king METAL!!!!!

With Rude Girl, everything seemed to be coming together for you. You were sharing stages with Megadeth and Suicidal Tendencies. You had a big record deal with Columbia. Why did it not continue?
LL: It’s the same ole boring story. Egos, control, youth and stupidity. It was not meant to be. I am thankful I had the experience. What a training ground!!!

David has said this is the most "shredtastic" album since the era of The 7th of Never. Would you agree and if so, is that what you were hoping for as well?
LL: Yes, I would agree. Yes, I was hoping for him to go off on We Bleed Metal. Again, this was one of those spaces in time that just worked!

If you had a chance to do one Chastain album in its entirety live on tour, what would it be?
LL: Mystery of Illusion ... that material would rock now. With modern production and my vocals to day!!!! I hear it in my head

What for you was your most gratifying experience with the early days of Chastain?
LL: Live shows ... without fail something always goes wrong, but that audience fuel
drives me. Metal in the house!! And also, now with the passage of time, those crazy little metal records meant so much to so many of you. It is a true honor to be held so respectfully in the metal community!

The decade of the '80s was such an amazing period for heavy metal. What are your favorite memories of that time, and for you, was it enjoyable or was there a downside?
LL: Just to be privileged enough to be part of it. For me it is disappointing that Chastain never broke to become a big band. I left things out of my hands and decisions were made that I would have done differently. To be able to create music at anytime that people enjoy and are inspired by is a true gift.  Love the '80s!!!!

Taking such a long absence from the music business, what did you miss most about it and what didn't you miss?
LL: I missed being in the core of new music. I missed meeting and performing for all of you. I didn’t miss having to stay in unbelievable shape to pull off doing live music nightly!!

In making all the albums you did with Chastain, was there one that stood out as being more fun or artistically satisfying than the others, and by the same token, which one was the most difficult?

LL: For me when we recorded Voice of the Cult I had a sense that I had found my stride. My experience had kicked in and I felt I knew what I was doing. I remember being onstage and thinking I got this. It all became very easy. It is a true comment I have heard from many artists, much better to never stop!

What do you see as the next step for Chastain?
LL: You would have to ask David.

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