Interview With David T. Chastain
Interviewed in October 2000 by Rick
David T. Chastain is one of the preeminent guitarists in the world today. On the metal scene since the early 80s David has released Cds with CJSS, Chastain, Chastain/Harris, Zanister and solo. I recently got the opportunity to interview David about what is going on with him including the release of a brand new CJSS CD entitled “Kings of the World.”
What lead to CJSS putting out “Kings of the World,” the bands first CD in over 14 years?
We re-released the first 2 CJSS Cds ‘World Gone Mad’ and ‘Praise the Loud’ in 99 and we did a few shows to support the release. I discussed the matter with the band and we were all happy with the vibe amongst the members. I put the word out that the band would be interested in doing a new recording and we got some offers from some pretty good labels. We choose Pavement because at the time they had an A&R guy who was a big CJSS fan.
Who made the first step in getting the band back together? Was it a case of being asked all the time by your fans when the band will be getting back together?
I guess it was more me than anyone since I also run Leviathan Records and had the idea about the re-release. Of course throughout the years we all have stayed on good terms and we never officially broke up or had a falling out.
How did you come about being signed to Pavement Music?
As I mentioned before we put the word out about the band. Also Pavement Music licensed the re-releases for Europe so they were the natural choice at the time.
“Kings of the World” sounds very classic in its approach to metal. Was it a conscious decision to create a classic sounding disc or is that just what the band sounds like creatively?
We wanted to make the songs and sound of the CD as if it was recorded when the other 2 Cds were released. We had 50 songs we had written between 87-92 that were never used so we sent those as a demo to Pavement and they choose the songs that ended up on the Cd. In other words we made a conscious effort to make the Cd a continuation of the first 2.
How does it compare to the older CJSS material?
I think that it all sounds pretty comparable in most ways. Even though we made all attempts to make it “retro” all of our individual playing has changed a little over the years so that comes out from time to time.
A Favorite song of mine off “Kings of the World” is “The Executioner’s Song”. As you co-wrote all the tracks except one could you tell me if you have a favorite song on the disc?
I guess the more commercial Track ‘Thief of Hearts’ is the track that I hoped would be the style of the Cd. We had a bunch of this type of material in the 50 songs but Pavement didn’t choose any of them. They wanted it heavier sounding. I think I like all of the songs pretty much equally. On any given day I might say one was my favorite over the other.
Are you a prolific songwriter with loads of unreleased songs lying around or do you just write the bare minimum needed for a CD? What do you use for inspiration to write such great tunes?
I have enough demo material laying around for probably 50 Cds. I have a creative river in regards to songwriting. People may differ on the quality but I have no problem with the quantity. I think I will have a new company at some point that will just release all of these old demos for people to check out. They aren’t really recorded properly for a real release but there is some really cool stuff collecting dust. Just the other day I found an entire Cds worth of material that I had recorded that I more or less had forgotten about. Great stuff to me!! There is really is that much stuff here that an entire Cds worth can get lost or forgotten. It just takes time to filter through it all.
Why has it been so long between CJSS Cds? The last CJSS CD was released in 1986. 14 years seems like a long time between releases. Why didn?t the band record in the intervening years?
Back in the late 80s there were just some problems that prevented the band from moving forward so I concentrated on the Chastain and instrumental material that was selling better at the time anyway. We still played live shows from time to time and we never had a big fight or anything.
Will there be a tour behind this release and if so where will it be taking the band?
We will probably only play around the Cincinnati area as everyone has numerous commitments in there every day life that makes traveling not possible.
How do you feel about the Metal Scene in North America.? For years it seemed like metal was pushed underground. Does it feel like metal is on the rise and making its way back into the mainstream?
What passes as commercial metal in the states is all of the rap/metal nonsense. THAT is really depressing. It is worse than grunge to me. It does seem there is a slight resurgence in traditional metal with the somewhat successful release of the new Maiden and Halford Cds.
Where is the main market for your music? North America or Europe? Do you do well in Japan?
It depends on the band. Unfortunately Japan which use to be the best market for everyone has had hard financial times for most of the labels due to the economy. Music is a difficult thing to sell anywhere if it is ‘not in vogue.’
You have just released a CD with your group Southern Gentlemen called “Exotic Dancer Blues.”
Yes that is a style of music that I have been recording on the side for at least 10 years more for my on enjoyment. However I decided to release it on the public and the response has been very, very positive. Actually the best reviewed Cd of my career. www.southerngentlemen.com I really enjoyed making this Cd and it is getting great response from both the metal and straight community.
Why did you choose to do a CD of hard blues songs?
Mainly because it was an enjoyable experience. In this type of music it is more of a party atmosphere and not any really heavy topics to sing about. The music is simple and it is not like having to take a pop quiz on every song.
Why did you choose to handle the vocals and is this the first time that you have handled the vocal responsibilities yourself?
Originally we had some name vocalists demo the material but my voice just fit the music better. I have sang before in CJSS but just never lead on a Cd. I don’t really have a metal voice but the blues styled stuff I make a passing attempt. Overall the response to vocals has been very encouraging.
Did you approach the song writing process for this CD any differently than for any of your other projects?
When I sit down to practice guitar a sit by a tape recorder and I am never sure what style of music is going to come out of me that day. I find writing SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN material very naturally and easy. I KNOW I could write an entire new Cd of material by this time tomorrow and there be some cool stuff on it.
Do you prefer the bluesy guitar style on this disc or the shredding style that you are known for?
At this point the bluesy guitar is coming more naturally only because in some ways it is easier. It other ways more difficult. I really don’t have the time to devote to keeping my metal chops up to the level that is necessary to be at the top of my game. If I am doing a metal Cd then I have to practice a lot to compete. Whereas the bluesy stuff is simpler but the phrasing is more important. There are good points to both styles. Both are appealing to different parts of the body. Metal to the head, blues to the heart.
What, if any, is the story behind “Chastain” vocalist Kate French being on the cover of “Exotic Dancer Blues”?
Kate sent me that photo a few years ago and we originally planned to use it in the promotion of CHASTAIN but there was never a good place in time to use it. Once I decided to do the SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN Cd I new it would be a perfect cover.
Speaking of Chastain. When is Chastain the band going to be recording a new CD?
Maybe in 2001. Kate had a baby and has been busy being a mother and couldn’t really concentrate on music. Things have calmed down a little and she is now back in gear.
First Leather Leone was the vocalist for Chastain and now Kate French. Why female vocalists? Is that just a coincidence or does your vision of Chastain work better with a female lead singer?
For some reason I gravitate towards female vocalists. The only vocalists who can put chills down my spine are women. Both Kate and Leather are great singers. I even like some of the pop female singers such as Shania, Jessica Simpson, Christina, etc. They are great talents no matter what the style. In regards to Chastain most of the material was just a little too high for men to sing and if they did they sounded like munchkins.
How does it feel to be in the music business for almost 20 years and to never have gotten a household name? Most people in the metal community know of you and your various projects but outside the genre you are a virtual unknown and have never gotten the recognition that you deserve.
Doesn’t really bother me. I never intended to be on the cover of Rolling Stone. I don’t make music for money or fame. I make music because it is who I am. If people like it, that is great. However I am my own final judge and jury. With that said if any project became a huge seller I am not going to refuse the money, fame or glory.
What do you think of other “guitar heroes” such as Yngwie Malmsteen, Chris Impellitteri, Michael Harris etc?
I like Yngwie’s instrumental stuff, not that familiar with Chris and of course I like Harris’ material. Michael and I have played in 2 bands together, Chastain Harris and the new Zanister. We respect each other’s abilities and there is no ego problems involved. There are a lot of other great guitarists out there. However many of them can only play guitar and are not very good songwriters.
You also have a stake in Leviathan records. What is your involvement with this label?
I am co-owner and I basically run the company’s day to day operations. We have been in business since 85 and continue to make enough money to survive. IT IS HARD WORK!!
How do you manage to juggle your various projects? I mean doesn?t a record label, 3 bands and a solo career take up a large amount of your time?
Yes I have no life to speak of! However I am a workaholic and I believe myself to be extremely efficient on most tasks. Plus my girl friend works from 7 at night till 7 in the morning so I don’t have a woman yelling at me to spend time with her. I usually have 2 or 3 things happening every minute. I kind of go crazy sitting around doing nothing. I have also written a book about a fictitious band called Saint Savage. I hope to release it next year, once I am through editing it. I also am writing a murder mystery but I am only about half way through that.
Do you do any session work for other performers or is all your time spent on your own projects?
I am too involved with my own music to play on other people’s Cds. However I do produce other bands such as Kenziner and Vainglory.
Do you make a living from your music or do you have to work a “day job”?
Well running Leviathan Records is a serious day job but at least it is in the music business. I have never had to have a straight job once I turned 19. Always music in one form or another.
When my musician friends found out that I was interviewing you they all wanted me to ask you a few questions about your gear. What is your favorite guitar? Amp you prefer to use and effects that you use to create your sound?
I don’t have a guitar that I couldn’t live without. I have been using mainly old Kramers throughout time but occasionally I would use a B.C. Rich and the last few years I have also been using a Yamaha. Amps vary between a Marshall Valvestate, Lab Series L100, the new POD is something I am using a lot lately. Great sounds in a box!
Why have you never released an instructional video like so many of the other guitar greats?
Actually I have an instructional video that came out on the market back in ’93 or so. It still sells pretty well. If anyone is interested they can find out further info and ordering information at www.leviathanrecords.com/vidcat.htm The drummer on the video is Scott Travis of Judas Priest fame. There is actually quite a bit of live jamming on the tape with 2 full songs performed by the band.
Thanks for the opportunity to interview you David. Is there anything you would like to say to the readers of Metal Rules!!?
Check out all of the Leviathan Records acts at www.leviathanrecords.com Spread the word on the ‘true artists’ that are out there not the current trend of the month.
Best regards, David T. Chastain.
Visit Leviathan Records on-line at: www.leviathanrecords.com