Leather Leone has been one of the most inspirational vocalists in the history of heavy metal, as trailblazing the way for female dominance in heavy metal along with greats like Doro Pesch, Wendy O Williams and Dawn Crosby.
As the voice of Chastain, the distinct nature of Leather's voice was unmistakable as she added the punch behind classic songs like "Black Knight," "Ruler of the Wasteland," "We Must Carry On" and so many more. In 1989, Leone released her first solo album, sending "Shock Waves" through the metal world. Shortly after, she dropped out of the scene before resurfacing with 2011 with Sledge Leather and rejoining Chastain in 2013.
Now, 28 years from the release of "Shock Waves," Leather returns with her sophomore solo album, aptly named "II," which will be released on April 13th via Divebomb Records. Pick up a copy at this location.
Leather sat down with our own Alanna Macron to discuss "II" and other matters!
LL: Hi, Alanna. How are you?
CROM: I’m good! How about you?
LL: I’m good! Where am I speaking to you from?
CROM: I am in Albany, New York.
LL: Oh my God, I grew up just outside of Rochester. *laughs*
CROM: I actually grew up in Rockaway, in Queens.
LL: Oh, that was the first beach I ever saw, the first ocean.
CROM: I like the name Leather by the way. I’m a huge fan of leather.
LL: *laughs* Yeah, I’ve been called Leather since I was 17 I think when I got the nickname.
CROM: *laughs* Well once it sticks, right?
LL: Exactly, and it started sticking once I started doing music.
CROM: So, I take it you wear a lot of leather as well or pleather?
LL: No, I do not. I am vegan and that’s actually the ironic thing about it. I got the nickname in college because I used to wear a lot of leather clothing and it was a joke because I had all the leather gear but I never had a bike so it became this joke. And then I started singing in bands and they kept calling me Leather and then when I moved to California in the 80s, Leather just stuck. But no, I don’t involve myself in eating or wearing it probably since the late 90s. I just don’t do it anymore.
CROM: Makes sense. I do eat meat, but I like to wear make-up but I only buy or wear cruelty free make-up.
LL: Yes! Thank you, that helps a lot. Nobody should be burning their eyes out in order for us to wear mascara. It’s ridiculous.
CROM: Yeah, exactly. To me, there is no reason that make-up or any cosmetics should be tested on an animal when there’s so many more options.
LL: Exactly! I am with you one hundred percent, there’s too many other options. Even in clothes, I have some incredible clothes that are fake. They make them from rubber or other options, but I have some beautiful fake leather clothes.
CROM: So how have you been enjoying making music again since you’ve resurfaced?
LL: It’s better than ever. I appreciate it now, I know what it takes and to be blessed enough to still be around after taking my long walkabout and never really breaking as a huge artist. It’s really satisfying and it makes me happy and I just appreciate it so much more now.
CROM: What prompted you to come back?
LL: The loss of Ronnie Dio. It was shocking, to the whole world, but it hit me very hard and I kind of realized through that situation that I was actually kind of being selfish. I had been given the gift and singing is like the one thing I can kind of do. It just kicked me in the butt and I wanted to express grief, like everybody else, I was walking around not knowing what to do. So I just started talking to people and it was like, “You know what? I only sang for him anyways.” I just started doing music again through that terrible experience.
CROM: Was his death also part of the reason you wanted to do another solo album?
LL: Well, I never really considered myself a solo artist. It’s actually kind of freaky and scary to me when people say that. So no, that’s when I hooked up with Sledge Leather which was some of Dio’s old musicians. I never thought about and then I had the opportunity to go to Brazil so I just figured, “Hey, I can go out and do these Chastain songs, some Shockwave songs that people know.” So me doing Leather II, which the only thing solo about it is my name, believe me, my family is with me in this all the way. It just came through meeting these people and realizing that we were all hungry for the same thing.
CROM: Did you notice any major differences recording this album than other of your previous albums?
LL: No, it’s really all the same to me. It’s a lot of hard work and embarrassment and frustration. I feel really limited in the studio, I’m more of a live performer. It’s very demanding for me so that hasn’t changed at all and now we had a bunch of other people around me, pushing me, so it’s still as hard and as satisfying for me as it was before.
CROM: How long did it end up taking you to record the whole album?
LL: Well, we started working on it last April. Maybe throughout the month of April, the guys were working on it musically and then I would go down and do the vocals and then I would redo the vocals. I don’t know, maybe a couple of months, about eight weeks here and there to finish it from start to completion.
CROM: And that’s including coming up with the ideas for the songs and the writing?
LL: I didn’t think of it. It’s probably been about a year. I got home last spring and then we recorded it for about eight to nine months from start to finish. From creating the ideas to finishing it.
CROM: Did you have any favorite songs or songs that stuck with you?
LL: Uhm, not really. *laughs* I’m one of those artists that as I’m recording, every song is my favorite song. After I put all my blood, sweat and tears into it, but no I don’t have a particular favorite one. I like it as a whole for sure.
CROM: Who were your biggest inspirations?
LL: Oh, well my biggest inspiration has always been Dio. And of course, I’m still very old school I started doing this in the late 80s, so Dickinson, Jeff Tate, Annie Wilson. I’m still into the old school, although I love the new modern metal. I love the aggression of it all, but I still fall back into the Dio era. He was my biggest inspiration for vocals.
CROM: Do you have any favorite current bands?
LL: You know, I really like this band Nothing More, which I’m really digging on the radio. There’s another band called Ded that I’ve been hearing that’s crazy. I like a lot of the new stuff, I hear it a lot when I’m driving around but there’s such great talent out there but like I said, I love the aggression of the new metal and the melodies. I like most of what’s going on and I love the band called Chevelle but I think they’ve been around for a while and Breaking Benjamin, Trivium. I mean, I like anybody, this is so hard to do and whoever’s on the radio, I appreciate them one hundred percent.
CROM: Definitely. So would you also consider yourself a role model for any women that are trying to get into metal or being a vocalist?
LL: I certainly hope not *laughs*. But I do hear that now and then. It’s a privilege, it’s unbelievable that someone would listen to you and get inspired. But hey, that’s what happened to me so if I do that for anybody, I’m extremely grateful. I’m the chick that wears jeans and sneakers, you know I don’t do sex, I just sing my ass off. So it would be a privilege if someone got inspiration from me and I would certainly pass it along to them.
CROM: I like the fact that you’re not into doing the sex thing.
LL: *bursts out laughing* Yeah, you know some people are like that. I believe that if it’s truly you, then it’s ok. Like Madonna was Madonna, but if I suddenly in onesies it would just be hysterical. I’m a tomboy, you need to be true to who you are and that’s what I am.
CROM: I just get very frustrated when people tell me about music and when the band would have a female singer all they can really say, “Oh I don’t know, but the singer’s hot.”
LL: Yeah, yep but unfortunately that’s still the world we live in. But I got to tell you, living in California, they do that to the guys too. So it’s all about being young enough, being pretty enough, and not too tall. I have very rarely been on a major label that tells you what to do so I could always be myself. Like I said, I’m a tomboy, I ride horses, bikes and wear sneakers. Just be true to yourself and it will come through I think.
CROM: Has this ever come up for you, where it’s been like, “Oh you need to do this for us to work with you”?
LL: Yeah, after Chastain, I think “For Those Who Dare” that was in 1990 or 1991. After that, I was blessed enough to be able to go to Los Angeles and there were still some record labels that I had a couple of meetings with and that was an issue with them. That I didn’t look “hot enough,” that I didn’t look like the girl everyone wanted to screw, and to me it was hysterical as it still is. So obviously, I didn’t continue on with those people. But it doesn’t come up anymore and did I ever give a crap anyway? No! So I just laugh at that stuff.
CROM: So you laugh in their faces?
LL: Yes! And I say, “Look, just give me a microphone and don’t worry about what I look like!”
CROM: Completely understandable. And you started off with Rude Girl and that was more of a punk band?
LL: Well, we were very heavily influenced by Priest at that time so we were just trying to do metal. I think we just looked really sloppy because in San Francisco at that time the whole club scene was just really dingy and dirty, it was so much fun. We were just trying to be for metal and trying to be so heavy and we were just trying to be Sabbath, and Priest, and Dio.
CROM: And from there on, just more and more metal?
LL: Yeah, I just locked myself in and rehearsed every night for like a year and a half before I would even go out and play. It took me a while to find what I wanted to do and when I figured that out, I had to figure out how to do it. So yeah, for everybody that wants to do music, just lock yourself in a rehearsal studio for like a year and just play and play and sing and sing and see what happens. But then I hooked up with Chastain and got into all the neo-classical stuff and it became a progression for me, for sure.
CROM: All I can think of is that joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice!”
LL: Right! Yeah, it’s so true. When I think back on it and how I used to bitch and moan like, “I need a night off to not sing!” But those were the training grounds that brought me here, but it’s hard work. It’s not a glamorous life, believe me.
CROM: Oh I can imagine. I feel like a lot of people get excited “Oh, I’m going to do music!” But when they see all the hard work that goes into it, they start saying, “Oh nevermind!”
LL: Yeah, that happens sometimes when people realize that they won’t make money. But when it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood. I’m meeting so many of these new bands and they’re just so driven and none of them are making any money or buying any mansions, but they’re so driven it’s just really exciting to see.
CROM: They’re doing the best they can!
LL: Exactly! And again, people just think that because you make records or you’re on a major label or they see a video, that it’s easy to support and it’s certainly not.
CROM: And are you planning on touring with this album?
LL: Yes! We are working on a bunch of stuff right now. We are going to do the States, I believe in September-the end of September or October with Grim Reaper. We’re going to do a tour with him. Europe probably at the end of the year. There’s a lot of conversation going on so we’ll see what actually comes of it, but yes we all just want to tour and we all just want to live out of suitcases. So yeah, we’re going to tour as long as someone will have us!
CROM: I know you have no control over this, but if you are in the New York area. I would definitely love to see you perform!
LL: Oh, absolutely! Like I said, my family is there and you know there’s a great resurgence of metal clubs in Rochester and Buffalo so I’m really hoping we’ll play there. But for sure, you’re on my list!
CROM: So you think you’ll be doing any more with this project?
LL: Oh god yes! This is what I’ve been looking for, this Leather thing will continue on for as long as people will have us. But we’re already talking about another record and it looks really good so as long as people are excited about it which they are and they seem to really be liking this record. But we are all on the same page and we all want to keep doing this.
CROM: So I think that’s about it from me, besides just no more disappearances then?
LL: Hahaha, that’s really funny. Somebody just said in a review, “So we got a Leather record in ‘89, and another one in 2018 so I guess the next one will be in 2045 or something!” You know, I’m just really weird that way. You never know what’s going to happen tomorrow but with the opportunities I have right now, I’m not going to let them go. And also at my age, I don’t think I have much time to disappear. That was a really good question, I’m going to have to remember it! I think I have to take that title, can I use it as a song, “No more disappearances”?
CROM: Sure! Go for it! Well thank you for doing this interview with me!
LL: I really appreciate you taking the time for it, thanks and have a good day! Bye!