Leather - Leather Leone

After almost three decades, Leather has returned in the studio as a solo artist, and the Metal scene is so happy to have her. Her voice and way of performance are extremely rare, so “II” should be considered a milestone for her, but also for us. METAL KAOZ got the chance to talk to her a few days after her birthday, and learned lots of interesting information about putting together the lineup and then, creating the album. Have a look below!

Leather - Leather Leone

Hello Leather, and welcome to METAL KAOZ! How are you?
Hi Dimitris, how are you? I’m doing great, thank you!

First of all, and since I’m from Greece originally, so back in Greece we say that birthday celebrations are last for a month, so Happy Birthday, Leather!
Thank you very much, it’s still going.

And I guess having the second solo album soon to be released is the best birthday gift, am I correct?
Oh, you know it! This band has been a gift from the heavens for sure!

So, the obvious question is how does it feel seeing the second album being released almost three decades after the first one? You know, if you were to wait one year, it would have been 30 years…
I know. It’s crazy but you know, I’m taking all in strides. Obviously the way my musical life was supposed to go. It feels great – I’m older, I’m more appreciative, I know how hard it is now, I know what I have to do. It has not really hit me yet because it has not been out yet and we are just talking about it, but it feels pretty special.

Of course. And since you mentioned the band, could you give me a brief history how did you form this band?
I had the privilege my management, Rodrigo Scelza, letting me come down to South America in 2016 to do a co-headlining tour with Rob Rock and we were both using the same band with the exception of a guitar player Vinnie Tex. So after watching them every night and we got along really well, we had a lot of fun together, I just looked at Rodrigo and I said “I would like to pursue working with this band” and he said “well, they do too”. So we just writing and then I did another tour with them, just going down to Brazil and played with them, and again we just got along well and then when I got home last year we just started sending music back and forth that we wrote over the internet of course, and it worked really naturally. Everything went really easy for all of us.

So, the moment that you said “I want these guys to be my band”, were you thinking of writing new music?
Oh yes! Yes, yes. And that was the first time that I had because when I’d met Rodrigo, I got down in 2014 - 2016 and figured “hey, can I just go to Brazil or South America every other year and just play for a couple of months and come home”, you know, but when I met them, yeah, I definitely wanted to do something brand new.

And why did you name it so simply “II”?
For a lot of reasons actually; because it’s my second solo record, also I look at it as the second chapter in my life, and I always kind of feel really comfortable being number ‘2’ (laughs). Musically and in my life I’ve always been a solid two, I’ve never been a number one, and it’s ok with me. I like being in the steady, strong number two, so it kind of means a lot of things.

However, and I’m sure you know this, you belong to a really small group of women in Metal with this type of vocals – I can think of Doro and that’s it – so, your voice is unique. So, what I mean is [interrupting self] I don’t like to say ‘surprised’ when I was hearing your vocals in the album. Ok, the register is a little bit lower but the way you attack these vocals is unique.
It’s interesting, Dimitris, I always wanted to sing this low and I never could and when I put out “Imagine Me Alive” with SLEDGE LEATHER in 2011 I can remember when I let Mike Varney listen to it - you know, from SHRAPNEL - and he said to me “your balls have finally dropped”, so as I get older, my voice goes lower. Like I said, always wanted to sing this low but couldn’t, so I’m taking full advantage of it. But yeah, definitely my voice got a lot lower, yeah. Thank, God!

(laughs) With that being said, the album goes with it and with that sounds heavier.
Of course, of course. I had such of a little girl voice back in the day, and I’m glad it’s gone. I appreciate the depth of it now for sure, and I know how to use it better also.

So, how long did you actually work on the album? On the songwriting and then recording, I mean.
It’s actually been ready for about some time – last June, I think and went shopping it around. But I think it was complete in June and I’d say, although I could be wrong because I’m really bad with time, but I would say we had the whole thing written in a couple of months. So, it was definitely done by last fall, let’s put it that way. We’ve just been shopping it around and talking to people since then and this is when it came to be.

And now you just gave me the right pass to ask: you talked about shopping around, and you have different distributors. I mean, it’s High Roller Records, or Rubicon in Japan, didn’t you want to find a single record label to take care all of this?
No, I wouldn’t say I didn’t want to find one but as you know, it’s called the music business and I was talking to some really big labels which was actually really exciting till you get down to the nitty gritty. We just didn’t agree with what they wanted to do, it was too long of a process -  a lot of them wanted to wait, a lot of them wanted to put it out, and I just know the game. I’ve been in the game way too long. I just wanted to get it out. So with multiple distribution deals you can get your money back and then you have someone to work it out for you, so this was the best thing for us at this point, for sure.

And when you went through these deals, did you think “ok, I’ll do it this way for this album and for a next release, I’ll do it differently”? I mean, do you have in mind to keep putting out new music?
Oh yes! We’re already talking about for another one. We’ll see. I mean, that’s the beauty of also not really signing to a one label; you have the freedom – which is what I’ve learned from David Chastain – to do what you want and it’s so easy to get your own music out there  any way, and I’m so blessed that people still do want to listen to me. But I always look around, I’m not closed to any idea at all.

I see what you’re saying, and that’s experience talking, right?
Of course, you never close the door, absolutely not.

You mentioned Chastain, so did the fact that you released with him two albums kind of rekindle your hunger to write music and get back in the studio on your own?
Well, not necessarily; when I was doing those two records with him I was hoping I could kick him in the ass and get him to go out and do stuff because we still get offers all the time but I think by the time, you know, “We Believe In Metal” came out, he just didn’t wanna do it. So, I kind of just forgot about it not thinking I wouldn’t even necessarily do anything. When I met Rodrigo, from Brazil, I figured “ok, every couple of years I could go down to Brazil, grab a band, use some Chastain sets and come home”. It wasn’t really until I met them, until I met this core family of people that I really got inspired through them, so it really has a lot to do with them.

Since we’re talking also about live shows, we saw you live at ‘Keep It True’ last year…
[interrupting] Oh, I apologize – that was a really bad show for me (laughs).

Well, I was about to say that during the first three songs the sound was bad but why did you say that?
I had no audio in my ear at all, I couldn’t hear anything, I was out of key, yeah, it was very, very frustrating. I’ve played that festival before and I loved it but this time I had no sound. I couldn’t hear myself at all.

To tell you the truth, I have been in concerts for more than 20 years, and I didn’t get that (laughs).
Seriously? Really? Because I saw the stuff on YouTube and I can’t even listen to it. It’s so embarrassing. I tried to get them to take it down but they won’t, but yeah, I couldn’t hear a thing.

Well, of course as you understand when you go to a Metal concert, it’s not about standing there and saying “ok, she didn’t do that or didn’t get that note”, it’s about emotions too. So, watching you onstage with that energy, that’s enough for me.
Oh, I understand, thank you very much. That was a bad show for me. I was really disappointed but I’m glad it didn’t come off that bad.

You involved the other guys in the band for in the music writing, but before starting writing, did you have in mind where the sound or what type of music you’d like to have in your second album?
No, I’ve never thought about it at all. I am not anybody that plans anything; I fly by the cough as they say. I let it happen and I knew that they had a lot of energy, and you know, I tend to be really SABBATH-y and DIO-y; I like the “Black Smokes” and the “Let Me Kneel” – that’s kind of my thing – and these guys write a lot in the vein of “The One” and “Juggernaut”. So no, I really just said to them “write stuff and give it to me. Think Metal, think Iommi and just write what you write”. And they didn’t disappoint me at all.

All the classics, got it. And in the album you have 11 tracks. Do you have any material on the side?
No, I think we used everything because, I have to tell you, if there was something that didn’t work in the beginning, we just let it go. A lot of this stuff just worked. Rodrigo had a really strong feeling about this; my management team had a really strong feeling about all these songs, and again, they just all worked well. There was no plan to sound like this or like that; we said “let’s just do a record”. And the guys in the band aren’t necessarily just into to Metal, they are extremely collective, they listen to all the kind of different things, they play Brazilian music, so they came from a different angle which was very refreshing for me and I think that’s why it sounds a little more modern than I would have sounded by myself.

Well, I was thinking the other way around; I mean, for example “Annabelle”, for me, has some US Hard Rock riffs somewhere hidden…
[interrupting] Oh yeah, I’m still a ballad chick. I wrote that song like in five minutes. I just sat in my car, something happened and I saw a young girl named Annabelle – I would do a whole record like this if you’d let me (laughs)… I love ballads so much and that just really came together for sure.

And just before start listening to the album, when I was looking at the tracklist, I saw “American Woman” and I thought “oh, another cover?”
I know, and I didn’t even realize it. Everybody has been bringing that up and guessed THE WHO and Lenny Kravitz who did a great cover, but no. The thing is that I was the American woman down in Brazil so that just came from me being the only American woman in the room – that’s all (laughs).

So, this is what inspired you, right?
Yeah, and also I haven’t been on tour for a long time so as I started to tour, I forgot the dynamic that some people have with you when they meet you, so it kind of came from there. I wrote that one a bit quickly too after meeting some guy down in Argentina.

Still, some things haven’t changed no matter how many years have passed…
(laughs) That’s right!

You have these multi-distribution deals – does this mean that we can see a re-release of the first solo album or you don’t have the rights for that?
I don’t think we have the rights anymore; they were never our rights anyway – I did that with Road Racer which is now Roadrunner. I know Divebomb re-released it, Massacre re-released it, but I know that we don’t have the rights for that. And I’ve got to tell you; I really wanna move on. I appreciate that everybody appreciates what I’ve done, but I wanna move on. I’ve already done that and I wanna move on.

Sure, you’re right, however, it’s your music…
[interrupting] I think Divebomb just re-released it in the past 2-3 years.

Well, I was thinking of vinyl because that would be nice.
Oh, I don’t know about that because who knows if somebody has an interest on that, I dunno...

Right. Because “II” will be released on vinyl through High Roller Records, right?
Yes. The vinyl has made such a big come-back.

Can we get it here in the US?
Yeah, it’s gonna be everywhere. Anywhere you’re buying from; Amazon etc. You’re gonna be able to get it from everywhere once they release it. But I don’t know if High Roller is gonna do it in the US, I’ll have to look into that. But you can go online and buy everything, you know that.

Perfect! You mentioned in the beginning SLEDGE LEATHER, so is this still active?
No. We just put out there one record and I don’t see anything happen in the future. It was just something to step back into it and it didn’t really go anywhere, but again, it was a great re-introduction to the world and I’m very proud of it. But there is no future with SLEDGE LEATHER, it was just a project.

And what about CHASTAIN?
I don’t know, you’d have to call him (laughs). I don’t know. I never had any plans to do “Surrender To No One” or “We Bleed Metal”, so I don’t know. David is really busy with his label, he’s re-releasing a lot of stuff. Like I said, we talk all the time but about every ten, fifteen years he gets in touch with me and says “hey, I have some material, do you wanna do it?” (laughs)

Ok. Last question: how much do you feel you have changed as a singer, as a musician in general, if you compare both albums, because as we said, those two albums are separated by almost three decades, so how much you feel that Leather has changed?
Well, Leather has grown up a little bit. I see the world differently. I’m older now, so I surely realize how short our time is here, but you know, vocally I’ve learned how to sing better and differently and I take care of my voice a lot better, and I’m just so appreciative that I’m way more careful more now, but I’m really super-excited that I have these new young guys that they’ve just kind of introduced to this. You know, I’m still youthful and crazy but I’m just much more appreciative of the gift that I’ve been given and the privilege I have of anybody caring of what I do. So, I’m extremely humble, and I’m a much, much happier person now.

And these are the best words to close this discussion. Leather, thank you very much for your time!
Thank you so much, Dimitris!