Without the shadow of a doubt Leather Leone is one of the most legendary female heavy metal vocalists of all time. She began her singing career by joining up with guitar wunderkind David T. Chastain. Chastain's 1985 album "Mystery Of Illusion" is an all-time metal classic. Not least thanks to Leather's outstanding vocal performance on the record. In 1989, Leather released her first solo effort called "Shock Waves" through David Chastain's own Leviathan Records label. A mere 29 years later she is now presenting her follow up album simply enough called "Leather II".
"I have never thought of "Leather II" as a follow up," Leone opens the conversation. "That was so long ago, and I was so not in touch with life as I am now. I have been with this record from a simple conversation with the band in Colombia to now. The experience of that is extremely different than "Shock Waves". I am in a total different place with a different family. I am finally okay with my mind and have found a team that is with me. With "Shock Waves" I was young and not asking questions. I believe it is a life process that I am blessed enough to continue. So no, this is not a follow up, this is a new chapter."
"The similarities between both albums are obvious," concludes Leather Leone. "I am a metal singer with the same tones and inflections as always. The difference being I got away from the overproduction that I never liked. The layering, the harmonies, the overdubs. I did a simple no frills record, you can hear pops and imperfections which make it so real for me. My voice is not an instrument that can be tuned. It depends on the day. Vinnie and Rodrigo trusted me to move forward with just the basics. The voice is so incredible if you just let it be.
The difference between Chastain and Leather be subtle to some, but it is more straight forward than what I have done. More vocally melodic and about the feel of a whole song. There is no outstanding individual parts here. This is a band oriented record. The mix is totally different and lyrically since I wrote it is more about everyday life."
A song like "The Outsider" on the new album sounds quite a lot like a version of Judas Priest circa "Screaming For Vengeance" with female vocals. "Leather II" is a true blue heavy metal album from start to finish, isn't it? "We are all inspired by the older incomparable metal sound," answers Leather Leone. "The boys from Brazil, as I call the band, are extremely into the metal of the 80s. They are actually into an assortment of different music from the 70s, 80s and 90s which was another strange path for me. I'm glad you noticed. Thank you, that is a huge compliment. For you Mr Halford ..."
Leather's voice has not aged at all, it is still as good as in the eighties, totally unique. Is singing for her today as easy as in the 1980s? "Singing has never been easy for me," is the straight answer. "It has always been a very disciplined existence, so it is no different. Tons of water, tons of sleep. Keeping quiet, yet rehearsing. It is like any athlete. It is a constant battle. Especially after not singing for years. It was a weird time getting back to shape. I thank the gods for my vocal blessing."
Between 1989 and 2011 Leather Leone turned her back on (metal) music. Why that? Has she been disillusioned with the music business? " I would say we turned our back on each other," she laughs. "After Chastain the avenues offered to me were of no interest. I have never been one to compromise. And looking back, I didn't want to fight for it. I have never been one of those people who thought music was my only calling. And as I always say, I was and am extremely proud of my work with Chastain. I was okay with closing the door. It was a struggle, but at the time I had made the decision and I stuck with it. Believe me, no one was knocking down my door anyway, lol."
As not everybody knows, Leather Leone has been in close contact with Ronnie James Dio throughout his lifetime. She says: "It was a blessing for me to meet Dio in the beginning of my music life. He is my vocal reason. I fell into his style, his method of melody, his love of metal and all his fans. His knowledge and kindness blew me away. Anyone who knew him, knew of his magic. He was so kind, yet truthful with me about my music. I had the privilege of hanging with him and his incredible family as time went on. I don't have the words for the impression and direction he had on my life. He was everything and still is. I dedicate everything musical in my life to him."
"American Woman" off the new Leather album is not a cover by The Guess Who (also done by Swiss band Krokus) but an original composition. According to Leather, "the song was inspired by a rude, drunk person I met on the road after show. The conversation got crazy due to the alcohol content. They were trying so hard to impress me and had no idea how to be unpretentious. The lyrics came to me that night."
The last track on the album, "Give Me Reason", might be the fastest song on the record. It's got this nice rock 'n' roll swagger about it, maybe also the most unusual composition on the entire album ...? "'Give Me Reason' is a very special song," confirms Leather. "Yes, it is a very different sound for me. It came from my writing partner, guitar player Vinnie Tex. His love of music is extremely blues based, which is not where I have ever come from. I originally was not that into it, but I gave it a shot for him. To my surprise lyrically it came so easy, and recording it worked immediately. It has become one of my favorites. Thank you, Vinnie."