There's always bands that everyone knows, and then there are bands and musicians that made an impact on you that weren't what any would call commercially gigantic. For me, vocalist Leather Leone has long been one of those musicians. While she never broke through like a contemporary like Doro Pesch did, her work was always as good (maybe better, to be honest) than the reigning queen of Metal's output was. Be it the work she did with Rude Girl, the critically acclaimed recordings as the frontwoman of Chastain, or even solo, Leather Leone was almost never considered as a "female metal singer". Instead, her grit and integrity always left her known as simply a "metal singer".
After seemingly disappearing from the music scene for two decades, Leone has circled back to not only her career, but her Rude Girl roots. She has teamed back up with former Rude Girl drummer Sandy Sledge to form a raw, cutting project called Sledge Leather. To say the least, Sledge Leather's debut IMAGINE ME ALIVE will rekindle memories of past work, although it also showcases a much more deep, mature place from which these metal warriors write from. Checking in from each other's email inboxes, PITRIFF caught up with Leone and Sledge to talk about the new project, returning to the music scene, and what's changed since they last left the metal scene. Here's our e-conversation:
PITRIFF - Where have you been?
LEATHER LEONE (LL) - I went on a long walk about. Wanted to take some time and lost track of her.
But its always amazing to take a left turn , step outside of what you think is yourself. Needed to live , find inspiration, or maybe just party for a while HA HA!!
SANDY SLEDGE (SS) - What a nightmare that Leather stepped away! The nightmare's over.
PITRIFF - Obviously Rude Girl had quite a cult following back in the day. Reunited, how is the dynamic different working with each other?
LL - Working and spending time with Sledge is like butter. We come from the same place most of the time. And accept it when we don't. We are wiser, know what we want and are ok with making it happen.
SS - True. We're picking up where we left off, with years of more experience and things to write and tell you guys about through our songs. Freaky place, this world is. I've found the answers are a lot more clear now.
PITRIFF - The press has indicated that you decided to come back to music as a reaction to the death of Ronnie James Dio. What was it about his passing that made you want to get back to music again?
LL - His passing made me think, have a realization of our time here. Doing what we were meant to do. I cant explain it in words . Watching his passion and the dedication that he had for his work moved me in a spiritual way that day. Its all in his honor. I shared the experience with Sledge, it was an awakening for me.
SS - Ronnie was always supportive of Leather and I, and always told us to keep doing music together. What more do we need? We all have emptiness and answers to find and Ronnie has always represented hope. It's our time to pick up the ball and keep it going.
PITRIFF - Obviously the industry is very different than when you left it originally. What has been different in your eyes since you came back?
LL - Of course technology and the internet have changed the landscape of music. Everyone can get their music out there, be heard ,be seen, be the mass audience. But I see it as the same force, hard f*ing work, tenacity, good songs. That will never change. Sledge and I were just having a conversation about being in the right place at the right time. I tend to believe that theory, her not so much!
SS - That theory... well...It's dangerous to believe in luck too much. I like to play hard, and I like to work hard. Fortunately, so does Leather. The tools that we have now enable us to work as hard as we do without needing someone else's money. That translates to us coming at you PURE. What you hear is how we feel. Not someone pulling strings so that we can get into a studio. I f*king LOVE THAT.
PITRIFF - Who is in the band with you and Sandy?
LL - Sledge Leather is Matt Weisheit - guitar, Rick Lambert - guitar, Chris Davidson - bass, Scott Warren - keys, Sledge - skins, Leather - vox.
PITRIFF - Listening to IMAGINE ME ALIVE, it seems like this might be a highly personal album. Is that true, and what or who is the subject matter about?
LL - It was a very well thought out album. It is a journey of someone who has passed on. They are reviewing their life, and making amends along the way. It is all about the journey for us. I was discussing with Sledge that the next record should just be straight ahead Metal songs, , but we got to much going on inside of us for that right now!
SS - LOL! These ARE straight ahead Metal songs, aren't they? Ohhhh maybe she means the in-between parts ("interstitials"). I'll always be doing 'conceptual' type cd's. It's the only thing that makes sense to me. It's like a book, or a movie. I don't see how you wouldn't want to connect everything. I like smooth transitions. LOL! The subject of IMA is a spirit reviewing the sometimes very tragic events in their many lives and commenting on those events with every song.
"IMA" - The spirit was killed early in this particular life and feels guilt for the people it left behind who are missing him\her. It's saying 'I'm still here with you. "Close your eyes--- You'll find me!" '
"The Guy Upstairs Lied" - It's saying that you can't always expect a god to do what YOU think is the right thing. What you think is the right thing may be short-sighted.You have to understand that but you can still be f*king angry about it!
"Her Father's Daughter" - For the religious this would mean that the person is doing G-d's work. For the athiests, it's the spirit having a good laugh with us about religion. But Leather wrote most of the words on this one, so I think the first answer applies more. It's highly personal to her. I guess I'm the athiest laughing. I'm also the voice of the "devil" laughing on the actual song. But I'm no devil.....*wink*
"A Taste Of Night" - The spirit is recalling an intense time of mystery and discovery in it's life, just before the WWII holocaust happened. How do I know that? I just know.
"One Glimpse" - Death. And the feeling of being slaughtered. Then the miracle of having another spirit wipe those feelings away and get some relief from the devestation. And the hope that comes with that.
"The Lost Forgiveness" - It never ends, does it? The cycle of violence against each other continues. And while the spirit finds forgiveness as a relief, it also realizes that forgiveness won't change events. But still, "Let us behold their strength and with this, their mistakes now end this." The spirit has found the strength of hope as its new religion.
"Sisyphus" - Please look up who Sisyphus is. The spirit is having a good laugh with us all.
PITRIFF - What happened with Chastain? Would you ever work with David again?
LL - Chastain is alive and well. He is always making music whether he puts it out or not. He is of course extremely supportive. Sometimes I think he is more excited than we are. I am so appreciative of the music we made together. It made such an impact for people that I am just becoming aware of. As far as working together again, stranger things have happened but times change and we always had different ideas of accomplishment.
SS - We'll incorporate any great artist's work into Sledge Leather. And Dave is family to us.
PITRIFF - There's a whole new industry of female fronted metal bands out there right now. What are your thoughts on that?
LL - As far as the females out in Metal today, I am f*king jazzed. I am so proud of them for stepping up and showing their power. I knew back in the day that they would come. Metal UP!!!!!!!!!!!!!
SS - YEAH! Metal Grrrrrlz! We're going to stay tight. You'll see more about this from us.
PITRIFF - What is coming next for you and Sledge Leather?
LL - The plan for Sledge Leather more music, more music more music!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
SS - Killer touring plans.
PITRIFF - In three words or less, give your impressions of Doro Pesch.
LL - Proud of her!
SS - Good job!!!! Call us.
PITRIFF - What am I missing that you want people to know?
LL - Listen to IMAGINE ME ALIVE, then you'll know.
SS - Keep listening. Leather's voice is going to realize its full potential. Thank you, Chris and Pitriff.com for supporting us!!