Leather Leone, the voice that guided Chastain in the ‘80s and early ‘90s has returned with a screaming new effort after a long dormant hiatus. While fans asking what happened to the voice of the cult, Leone spent several years helping protect man’s best friend, though the itch to play again was always there. Doing Chastain sets a few times a year inspired her to write new material.
The result is II, a heavy, Leather-lunged new experience, delivering the guttural embrace she best assaults with. “I’m pretty normal but my voice, not so much. The power’s always been there, I just had to learn how to direct it,” she says. “I was always a loud mouth.”
She was in cover bands back in the day doing Pat Benatar, Heart and Janis Joplin. “I let my voice do what it wanted to do.” She got turned onto Dio in ’83. “I was like wow, that’s the style of vocals I wanna do.”
Leather isn’t a fan of the Dio hologram, “It might’ve come through San Francisco. God bless Wendy and people who still wanna share what he did.” She knows the Dio Disciples but has a hard time watching them. “It’s a really hard thing for me. More generations can be exposed to it but I won’t be experiencing it.”
On her West Coast arrival, the San Francisco scene was intense, “It was right when Metallica got signed. We were all comrades going to each other’s shows. It was fresh and new. All the labels were buzzing around looking for bands to sign.”
Her first audition was in Haight Ashbury, “I was so excited. When I was young I was huge into Hendrix. In the ‘80s it was very tie dyed and tattooed. Everybody was smoking pot, it was cool.”
Most clubs where the early thrash fathers cut their teeth are gone. “Back in my day, if you could play any of the three Stones, you’d made it,” she says. “My band, Rude Girl played all of them. Leather played with Girlschool in Berkeley and Megadeth in San Jose. “The Fillmore’s still there, the Great American Music Hall was something else. That’s all that’s left.”
Leather remembers opening for KISS at Hara Arena in late ’87, “I wish there was social media back then and someone had taped that show. They couldn’t pull me off that stage, I wouldn’t leave. It was a great show. It was in Chastain’s area, Dayton Ohio, everyone was there. I just walked on stage and started bawling. It was incredible.”
KISS had given her specific instructions what not to do on stage and where not to go. “Of course, I did everything they told me not to do,” she recalls. Chastain recently did an interview saying that Leone broke every rule that night. “Needless to say, we never played with KISS again. We played a few times with Alice Cooper too.” Back then touring bands would call up local promoters and ask who the big local draw was. I wish it happened more.”
Leather’s happy the Chastain records got heavier over time, “God bless the ‘80s and ‘90s but the freakin’ production on those records. We were all in a wind tunnel,” she laughs. “Way too clean and arena rock for me. A lot of people say, your voice is much raspier now. I don’t think it is, back then, it was covered.” She just wanted it raw. “I wanna sound like I’m sitting in front of you and a little out of key, we don’t sing perfectly.” That’s the sound she wanted.
MTV gave them attention on the For Those Who Dare record, “We did a video for For Those Who Dare and Headbangers Ball was very good to us. It was on regular rotation. Back then, when you played larger clubs, before and after bands they had screens and played videos. We were on that circuit. I remember when it came out and I was at an Aerosmith show. Everybody was going crazy saying there’s that chick, they gave us a lot of love.” She also joked when the video aired MTV misspelled the name.
She wanted Chastain’s video for I Am Sin dark, creepy and ugly, “I was so blessed to do that video.” They found some public domain images to use including the St. George’s Church of Nine Ghosts in the Czech Republic. “I love that video.”
Going in, Leone’s solo band didn’t know about her past, “It was so refreshing walking into a room and nobody knows anything about you. I had no preconceived idea of doing another record.” Leone planned on doing Chastain sets a few times a year. “I was watching them one night and said, we have to try and write something. So, we did it.”
Annabelle was inspired by a creepy encounter with an ‘innocent’ child, “I wish I could find that baby. I was having dinner with friends. The baby was outside. I don’t like children. I usually look the other way, but the mother was trying to get her attention, saying ‘Annabelle.’ It was so weird, the kid just looked into me. It was the freakiest thing, like Rosemary’s Baby. The sensation was engulfing, sucking the spirit out of me. I slithered out of there, went back to my car and wrote that. Kinda witchy. One of those weird moments where I can still remember the baby’s face. I got a cool song out of it.”
They love playing early renditions of Juggernaut and The Outsider live with the crowd reacting favorably.
When not doing music, Leather still works with animal rescue, “I got into it after Chastain. I consider myself lucky, those are two things that I’ve always liked. Animals and music, I get to do both. It’s pretty cool.” She doesn’t care if she loses her house she’s gonna take advantage of all tour opportunities. It’s funny, I’m on the road playing the crazy rockers, then I think about what I do when I come home, it’s very bizarre.”
Dog fighting is still prevalent in her area, “I live in a community where there’s a lot of dog fighting. I work with authorities and take care of them, we’re under the radar. I have an intense attraction to the pickle dogs so we take care of them,” she says. “Dog fighting is still prevalent worldwide. It’s about money and status, it’s disgusting and brutal. I consider myself a tough person but it takes the breath out of you. It’s horrible.”
Leone’s more than ready to hit the road again, “I’m itching to get on the road. We have a North American tour with Grim Reaper coming. I’ve been told the first show will be September 25th, be out for a month or two. I’m frothing at the mouth to get out and play this record.”
She wanted the album cover to look dark, “In my photos sessions a lot of people responded saying, ‘we didn’t know you were into black metal’. I like that imagery. I wanted this record to be simple and dark. I love black and white themes, dark and haunting. We used to buy records from their covers. That’s the imagery I wanted.”
Leone got turned onto the intensity of black metal bands like Dimmu Borgir. She got to redo her vocals in a studio in Poland where Vader and other extreme bands recorded. “It was the first time I ever had someone in my ear saying, ‘Leather, can you try signing that a little dirtier.’”
Leone wants to return home on tour, “We have to go to Ohio. I have to play Bogarts. When I went back with Chastain, it felt like going home. That might have been one of the first shows I played with Dave. I remember the fire department came because there were too many people there. Ohio’s such a metal friendly area.”
She doesn’t mind cell phones at shows, “Anybody that wants to record or talk to me I don’t mind at all. Haven’t seen it that much in South America and Europe. It’s very different. I enjoy it. People send me killer videos from their iPhones. Do anything you want to enjoy my music.”
“I wanna throw this band in everyone faces. They’re so intense. It’s a different breed of musicians. They don’t care how crappy the food, hotels or buses are. It’s a nice family unit.”
Response to the record has been incredible, “Thank you so much for believing in me and still accepting me. The more you love something the more we can get it out there, please keep it coming. Love to you always.”
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