Interview with Michael and Dean from Leatherwolf
Who did the artwork for the new album? It is fantastic!
Thanks for the compliment! A Canadian guy named Martin Deschaumbault who is a conceptual designer and mostly known for ‘the Assasin’s Creed’ video game did the front cover artwork; and Marc Sasso, who’s done artwork for the likes of Dio, Manowar and Rob Rock did the piece we used in the tray.
You have only had one studio album (and the remake) since the last Live album, WIDE OPEN back in 1999 to commemorate your reunion. Why a live album and why now?
Well, ‘Wide Open’ has been out-of-print for years and it seemed like a sensible idea to do another one to introduce the new line-up with Rob Math and Greg Erba on guitars. ‘Unchained Live’ is a nice retrospective of some of our most popular songs and a few band faves, like ‘Kill and Kill Again.’ Hopefully, ‘Unchained Live’ will also catch the attention of some younger fans that may not have heard of us before.
This is a tough but fair question, why does it take Leatherwolf so long between albums?
Pretty much because the band has been in stop-n-go motion since we first got back together in 1999, exacerbated by line-up changes. It took several years to find a replacement for Mike before we finally settled on Wade (Black) for ‘World Asylum.’ Once Mike was back in the fold, the guitar players began to change so there wasn’t the stability you need as a band to write and record. Also, priorities change in life – we are no longer a bunch of 20-year old guys whose sole focus is music (and partying). We have families, responsibilities, jobs, etc. all of which take away from 24-7 Leatherwolf.
There have been some pretty big line-up changes since the last album. Tell us how those changes and how they evolved.
Without getting into too much detail, we had to part ways with Geoff Gayer several years ago because it became impossible to work together. Really not something we ever wanted to do because Geoff was always a huge part of the writing and a great player. Greg Erba, who is with us now, took over for Geoff. Eventually, Greg, who is pretty much a full-time musician, had a touring situation which didn’t allow him to make himself available as much as we need him at the time so we brought in Rob Math in his place. Then in early 2013, Carey Howe decided to quit and since we had a show coming up we did not want to cancel we asked Greg if he could step in. He’s been back ever since. Confused yet?
UNCHAINED LIVE sounds incredible. How did you secure the Metal production ‘Dream-Team’ of Roy Z. Tom Baker and Michael Kramer? I understand you worked with Kramer back in the day.
Right, other than Tom Baker, who is one of thr most respected mastering engineers in L.A., we worked with people we already knew. Roy Z is actually a fan of Leatherwolf from back in the day. He used to come see us play; he also helped produce the 3-song demo we did with Jeff Martin from Racer X prior to hooking up with Wade Black for ‘World Asylum.’ So Roy was the perfect choice to mix the album because he’s into the band and knows our sound very well. He’s also a cool dude to work with so that always helps.
Michael, you have been singing for years and I noticed you can still hit some of those notes! Do you do any vocal training exercises before a gig? Do you have a vocal coach or conversely do you teach young singers?
To be honest with you, I am not a very schooled singer. I learned a few tricks that help me along the way. But, I think mostly I figured it out myself by knowing what not to do. Not saying I have all the answers because I don’t – I don’t consider myself a great singer with a great range. That’s something I would like to better myself in. As far as warming up before a show, I use a throat rattling technique. It vibrates the vocal chords gets ‘em loose. It works for me. Plus humming through the transition between chest and head voice keeping it relaxed and not forced. For me singing is very physical. Being well rested is more than half the battle.
Dean, for our gearheads out there, tell us a bit about your kit. Do you teach or do clinics?
No, I don’t teach and I don’t do clinics. As for gear, I still play my trusty 7-piece Yamaha Recording Custom series kit with two 28″ bass drums build by OC Drums. I’ve had it since the 80’s and used it in the studio for both ‘Street Ready’ and ‘World Asylum.’ I also use a leather snare drum custom built by OC Drums and Zildjian cymbals. For hardware I’m using DW.
The most obvious question for the true fans is, when are we going to get a new, full-length studio album?
We really don’t know yet. Now that this line-up is dialed in we’re gonna try to get a new album in gear this year.
Do you have much stuff in the vaults? Cover tunes, rarities etc? Will those ever see the light of day? In a related question, do you have the rights to your major label albums, LEATHERWOLF and STREET READY and if yes, any chance of some reissues?
No, there is not much we have in the vaults aside from a few demos and alternate versions of known songs. Maybe some of it, like the 3-song demo we did with Jeff Martin from Racer X, will be released one day but there are no definite plans at this point. Island Records own ‘Leatherwolf’ (’87) and ‘Street Ready’
I don’t want to dwell on the past, but I always felt you were a heavier band than what the major label made you guys out to be. Was there any pressure or interference from the label to alter, or even outright change the sound of the band? In my mind the label deal was a double-edged sword. It got you lots more exposure but perhaps didn’t truly represent you as a raging Metal band. Would you agree?
Yes, that’s right. We were most definitely a heavier band than the label wanted us to be. Our main influences have always European metal bands such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, which comes across loud and clear on our debut. When we got signed by Island they of course wanted a band that could be played on the radio so they put us in the studio with Kevin Beamish whose heaviest project before us was probably producing Y&T. But, he was mostly a pop/rock guy who’d done REO Speedwagon, Jefferson Starship and stuff like that. He definitely took some of the heavy edge off our music and we let it happen to a degree. But, what are you gonna do – hindsight is always 20/20. Not that we don’t like those 2 records for Island but we’d definitely do a few things different if we could go back.
Considering this, would you work with a label again or would you prefer to remain independent and have that creative control?
We are definitely open to working with a label again if the right deal comes along. Unfortunately, record advances tend to be rather low these days and most bands will never ever see a dime on the back end so being a do-it-yourself entity does have its advantages although it’s a lot of work. But, even if we did go back to working with a label, we certainly would not relinquish creative control. We know best what makes Leatherwolf Leatherwolf so we don’t need anybody telling us what to do.
Are there any plans to do a DVD and maybe include your videos?
There is definitely a DVD in the future – we actually filmed a show for a live DVD a few years ago but then the line-up changed and it didn’t seem to make sense anymore to release something that featured an out-of-date line-up. We don’t own the rights to the videos we did for Island Records, “The Calling” and “Hideaway”, so it’s unlikely those would be included on a future DVDs. But we could include the ones we did for ‘World Asylum’ and ‘New World Asylum.’
Leatherwolf has a decent reputation as veterans and you have had a number of appearances at international Metal festivals. Is it possible in this day and age to still make a career, tour, record albums and remain competitive in todays Metal market?
It would be great to do Leatherwolf full-time and make a living at it but it’s not possible in this day and age. Obviously, album sales have declined heavily and going on the road isn’t cheap and there’s a shitload of bands competiting for a piece of the concert pie, a pie that isn’t getting any bigger mind you. Some of us do make a living playing music and/or work in the music industry in different capacities; a couple of us have their own business away from music.
What is the next step in Leatherwolfs ultimate plan for world domination?
Ha ha, good question. Go on tour with Metallica or Maiden, get signed to a huge record deal, and get Martin Birch out of retirement to produce our next album.
For more information visit www.leatherwolfmetal.com