Interview: Chastain Talk About The Making of ‘Surrender To No One’

Interview with Leather Leone | by Eric May

Chastain is a power metal band with a long legacy, and with the return of their original vocalist and one of the originators of the female power metal vocal style, Leather Leone; it seems that the band is even stronger than ever on their latest album, Surrender To No One. I spoke to Leather as she talked about being one of the first females in power metal, as well as the early days of the band and her vocal influences. I also asked her what she thought of the current metal scene and touring in the US!

Being the original vocalist of Chastain and one of the originators of the female power metal vocal style, how does it feel to be back in the band? Also, the times have changed since the days when you were first in Chastain, and females are now fronting all sorts of metal acts. How does that make you feel?

It feels like an old glove! Very comfortable and well worn. I am always taken back by the statement of being one of the originators, but I realize that there were only a handful of us in the eighties!  As I said, I am unaffected by the gender of a talented vocalist.  So I am excited for anyone who has the strength and passion to create music that touches everyone, regardless of sex. I don’t categorize!

What was the recording process like for Surrender To No One? I’m told that you have been working on the material for nearly a year’s time. Where did you do the majority of this recording and was there ever any sort of struggle during the process? If so, how did you manage to overcome it?

Chastain and I were emailing music back and forth, sharing our ideas! When the material had reached a point, I flew to Georgia to record vocal tracks to the music which had partially been done prior.  No I don’t feel that there were any struggles, besides the usual problem of not hitting notes properly. I enjoyed it for the most part. I have a love/hate relationship with the confines of the recording studio.  But my musical relationship with Chastain is very comfortable!

Your vocals are truly impressive on this album! Who do you consider to be some of your vocal influences? Also, who do you consider to be one of the greatest vocalists alive?

Thank you for the kind words!  Ronnie James Dio has always been the most influential vocally, lyrically and all things Metal for me. Bruce Dickinson and Tate have also been lurking around the castle in my mind. They are undoubtedly my top three of all time

What bands would you say have helped to inspire the sound of Chastain? What influences did you want to bring in this time around?

I don’t believe we try to bring in any influence outright. But as an artist, all of them will creep in. Chastain and I created a distinctive sound. When we get together it will instinctively come out. When I was first sent the demo versions of “Mystery of illusion” and” Winds of change” I was introduced to the style of Chastain’s writing. I was taken by it, so I easily jumped on board. We have that sound in common.

Forgive me, as I never asked how you came back to the band in the first place. Could you please enlighten me on that? I’m curious as to how you got back in the band to begin with.

I had numerous conversations with Chastain during the making of Imagine Me Alive with Sledge Leather. I needed some guidance on that one!  As life goes, we eventually started talking of doing more music together. By that time I had returned to the land of inspiration, so we began!  Working with him without fail challenges me. I was up for it!

Also, there’s the new drummer Stian Kristofferson of Firewind and Pagans Mind who handled the drum duties for this album. He does a really great job on the disc, but how did he come into the band?

I agree with you.  He brought this material up a few notches for sure! He has a working relationship with Leviathan! And Chastain knowing his caliber of playing, asked him to come along for the ride.

The original bassist, Mike Skimmerhorn also came back to the band for this new album. How did this occur?

Mike had also stayed in touch with Chastain. Mike has continued to play, write and record with his own band, The Mighty Swine; in the Ohio area. We wanted to go back to the original members as much as we could. He was at the genesis of it all!

What would consider the idea behind Surrender To No One to be? What does this album title mean to you? Furthermore, what do these songs mean to you? What tracks stand out the most?

The idea of Surrender To No One really fell into place on its own. Chastain and I just began working on songs. We recorded approximately twenty-five. When these eleven were chosen, the writing was on the wall. I don’t know how else to explain it.  After being away for so long, we had some fighting
words! The idea for us has never changed: Stand up and fight your inner and outer demons! Give them hell with in every phase of life. As far as what track stands out, it’s different each time I hear it!!

What is your opinion of females in the metal or music scene these days that portray an unhealthy image of women? I’m talking about those who dress in skimpy outfits or dress like prostitutes on the stage. Shouldn’t the music be about the music and not the image?

My opinion doesn’t really matter.  People will express themselves how they see fit. But my incessant words of advice are to keep your clothes on!

Also, what do you think of modern music in general these days? Are there any groups or bands that you like as of recent, or do you prefer the classic metal bands that you grew up and became inspired with?

I do prefer the legends I was brought up on, but the aggression of today’s Metal is interesting. I love it! I’m wondering how much faster and higher it can go! I love the new Benedictum and Whitechapel, as well as the latest Otep! Some sick bands out there!

What was it like in those early years of Chastain? What kind of difficulties did you have being a female fronted power metal band in that era?

The early days were a blast! All of the touring, recording and traveling was a glorious time. I get asked that question constantly regarding the difficulties of being female. I didn’t notice, seriously! Chastain has protected me from all that. I assumed we didn’t get shows or tours or record deals because we weren’t what they wanted at the time, or that we were not tight enough that day.  So I had no bad experiences. I simply did my job to the best of my ability.

Let’s talk about tours. What are some of the most memorable tours that you guys have had? Who have you had the pleasure of being on stage with? Alternatively, what were some of the rougher tours that you’ve had? Any funny stories from the road to share?

We’ve toured the country many times.  Played some great huge clubs and some dives! I enjoyed them all!!  We played a couple of arenas with Kiss and Alice Cooper! It’s hard work, so party I did not! It consisted of sleep, water and not knowing what city I was in.  Every day was a crazy experience. I have eaten at every McDonald’s in the US!

Here’s an interesting one. What were some of the beliefs that you had when you first started playing this kind of music? What are the kinds of things that you believe now? Do you consider yourself a religious or spiritual person?

Not sure what my beliefs were at that age.  I had been born and raised Catholic, so that alone leaves much to your imagination. Most certainly I wanted to be independent and party my ass off. Singing gave me a strong sense of something. I loved the challenge of everyone telling me I couldn’t do it. My beliefs now are still questionable. People are still telling me I can’t do
it, so we will see!  I don’t really consider myself that much. There’s too much going on.  I would rather go for a run or work out a melody, than be in my head!

If someone told you that this would be the last album you’d ever make with Chastain, what could you look back on and say that you enjoyed the most about making the music and playing in the band?

The ability to express myself vocally. It’s an unexplainable release! I am so blessed to have had the opportunity more than once. It comes from a primal place deep inside. That place I have been trying to find for years!

Thanks for your time, Eric!

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