"We are not here to compete, we came to inspire and we came to help the scene"
Night Demon is one of the most hard working heavy metal bands of our times. Having just released their new album "Darkness Remains" we found the perfect opportunity to talk with singer/bassist Jarvis Leatherby about it and also discuss about some very interesting topics like Cirith Ungol’s reunion, Frost And Fire festival, the U.S. metal scene and the key elements for a band to be successful, to name a few. If the internet connection didn’t fail us, we would probably still talking with Jarvis about heavy metal, as he proved to be a very passionate and communicative guy and most of all a true fan of music.
Well, Jarvis, we finally made it... [laughs]
Yeah right [laughs]
So, how are things going, man?
Pretty good, man. Things have been crazy. I mean crazy-crazy, but I’m home right now, back in California for a few days and I’m getting ready to come to Europe.
I will ask you later about the tour you just finished with Anvil, but let’s start with the current news from the Night Demon camp. There has been a change in the line-up. Why Brent left and how did Armand come in?
Well, a lot of people ask that and I really don’t comment a lot about it. I mean, that’s more of a question for him. But, I would just say that a band is a 24 hours job and we live off this and we’re constantly on the road. It’s not for everybody you know. I think that maybe he wanted some kind of domestication and that caused some problems with us, because we wanted to keep touring. He offered... he wanted to get a guitar player to tour. But touring guys end up becoming real guys, so we are all in this together, we’re all for one and we just have to do it the way we do it...
Armand has been in the band for almost a year and a half, which is quite a while and it’s been good. Armand is half Greek, half Italian by the way [laughs], so he is looking forward coming to Greece, he’s been there many times before. We had actually asked him to join the band when we started, because we wanted to have two guitar players when we first started Night Demon, but Armand was busy with other projects and stuff. But, he was always involved with the band actually. He recorded and produced the EP and the “Curse Of The Damned”, he helped a lot with the guitar sound and solos and such... He actually played drums for Night Demon for one day or two [laugh] back then. So, the line-up changed and at first we needed a little time to get used to, but it’s been great. I know Armand for 20 years we played together in other projects and he is a phenomenal guitar player. He is really brought the band to another level.
"We're not playing something new, we're not trying to invent our own style, we're just playing in the classical realm of rock 'n' roll"
And how you did you end up as a trio instead of a four piece band?
I’m good with it. We wanted it when we started, but we didn’t want to get just anybody. I mean, I new a lot of guitar players, but I think it was really important when we started the band that everybody involved would have a strong understanding of the style of music we were gonna play. So, we became three piece, because we actually didn’t know the fourth guy. We didn’t know the correct guy to have. It was Armand, but he wasn’t available so we just did it out of necessity. We said "ok it’s just the three of us, so let’s just do it this way" and since then it’s been a kind of a magical combination to the point that when you think about Night Demon’s music we’re not playing like a new style, we’re not trying to invent our own style, we’re just playing in the classical realm of rock ‘n’ roll, but with having the three guys we actually become innovating in a way. We had to use the limited resources that we have with only three people, so a lot of times the Night Demon signature that you hear in our music is that the guitar and bass doing a lot of harmonies together. And that’s something that not a lot of bands have done in the past. So, it’s kind of interesting; when you try to extend with the pieces that you have, you end up coming up with new creative things.
Playing a classic style of music you don’t think from the beginning that you would come up with new ideas, so that’s been a really blessing for us. There’s been a magic to the three piece and to be honest, at this point I wouldn’t be entertained at all to have a second guitar player. I mean, our sound is very powerful the way it is and I think with a second guitars it would just be too much. So, it works for us and a lot of people do love the three piece. I never liked the three piece set up, but now with the band I really enjoy it and it really works well.
Would you mind give us some details behind the creation of "Darkness Remains"?Who was the main composer, how long it took you to complete it, who was the producer and stuff...
It took a lot of time really to complete it and only because we toured so much. We never spent a lot of time in the actual studio. "Curse Of The Damned" was recorded in three days. I think "Darkness Remains" was recorded in one week. But the writing process took a long time and we started writing when Brent was still in the band. I mean there’re a handful of riffs on that album that he came up with. Me, Brent and Dusty wrote the main skeletons of the songs. Then we brought in Armand and he put his own signature. It’s very difficult to write on the road. A lot of people say "Do you write on the road?" and we’re going "Not really". I mean it’s difficult. When we get home is when we really work on songs.
We spent a perfect two years on it and we’re really, really happy with how it turned out. We wanted to see some songs live before we put out something else. We weren’t in a hurry basically and I feel good about it, because I feel that the time is right to release a new record.
This time we focused more on the sounds. We spent most of the time getting the right sounds that we wanted as opposed to actually recording it. We still record the albums live and that’s just how we do it. I mean the vocals aren’t live, but everything else is. Also, on this one I think the production is a little higher, however it’s more striped down to our usual approach, because there’s no rhythm guitar tracks on this album. It’s much more faithful of how it is live. When the guitar solo comes in, the bass takes over.
"The honest truth is that the musicians in Night Demon are much better, much more accomplished that you’d ever think. But the point is not to overplay on the albums"
"Darkness Remains" is a solid heavy metal album. What was your vision music-wise? Taking in mind what you said, was it perhaps about making things simpler?
I don’t think it was about to make it more simple. I think it was about focusing more on the songwriting. I’ve thought that we always have been good songwriters and I definitely feel that there’s something we’re always focused on. Listening to Night Demon’s music, most of our songs they’re not very long, and I always though that the song is more important than the individual. On this record I think we tried to make the parts a little more interesting and I really let Dusty play a lot more on this album.
The honest truth is that the musicians in Night Demon are much better, much more accomplished that you’d ever think. But the point is not to overplay on the albums. It’s not to be like "Hey look at me I can play a bass solo" or "I can play guitar a thousand mile per hour" or "I can play double bass drumming like the whole album". The goal is to serve the song, whatever the song needs, that’s why we are there. In "Cursed Of The Damned" Dusty was new in the band at that time and with the drums I held him back a lot, because I didn’t want him to overplay, I wanted him to serve the song. But on this album I just let him loose a little bit and I said let’s try some stuff and see how it is.
But, we have interesting parts that come about on this album and we don’t over do it and I think that’s the importance. Some bands that play metal these days, their technical skills are so good and it blows my mind. However, with some bands I hear a minute into the song and I’m already like "OK, where you gonna go from there" [laughs]. I mean you’ve already done this crazy shit in the first minute and now I’m bored. [laughs]. They lose their focus...
They kinda lack the feeling...
Exactly! So, that’s all about the focus on the songs.
When I’m listening to your songs, I have this feeling that you write music that is meant to played live and when you walk up to the stage the songs sounds ten times better than on the album. They have all these dynamics and the energy and that live attitude... Do you agree with that?
Absolutely! It’s funny because when I’m writing music I’m picturing myself playing it on the stage, so that’s pretty accurate. Other people had said that before and that’s definitely a truth. We are a live band and what I’ve always loved about rock ‘n’ roll and heavy metal is going to the concerts and seeing the bands. When I was a kid I watched the bands and that’s were I got that feeling "Oh, I gotta do this man"... it’s like, the goal is to rock. It’s not like hanging in the studio just putting stuff on tape. We only make albums because we have to [laughs].
"We love the classics, but we understand that it’s 2017. We don’t need to go up there and be fake about it and pretend something that we’re not"
Another thing I’m thinking is, like you said, you’re playing a music style that pretty much exists for 30-35 years, but somehow you make it sound fresh and not a kind of nostalgia act. So my question is how you manage to make it sound like todays and not yesterday’s news?
Well, there are a lot of different areas of that. The first thing is that we’re such fans of classic rock and heavy metal, it ingrained in our DNA. I think that every time we pick up an instrument we’re naturally influenced by this music, because we liked it so much. And we’ve played in other bands that have done this. I mean, with Armand we used to have a Kiss tribute band and a Black Sabbath tribute band, so we’ve learn from the masters. Once you know how to play those songs it’s just kind of becomes part of your playing and style. That’s the one aspect.
The second one I would think is... here’s one thing to think about. We obviously love the N.W.O.B.H.M. sound, but we’ve been alive and grown up after it. So we’ve lived through thrash, we’ve lived through death metal, through nu-metal, we’ve lived through all these others trends, grunge and all these stuff, so you can’t help but be a little bit influenced by all of the music you’ve listened to all your life. So, some modern stuff may come in naturally because... The reality is it’s not 1981, it’s 2017.
So, when you have all these musical influences in your life I think that some of that it’s hard to ignore. It’s not intentional, but we’ve lived through it. There’s stuff that you hear on the first EP were some people though "Oh my God this is an old band that I’ve never heard", but then there’re things like faster parts that you go "Oh wait a minute "Kill ‘Em All: didn’t come out for another two years" or something you know [laughs]. So we’re lucky to have thirty more years of music that evolved, or at least know that existed.
"I think it would be nice if the younger bands would be more comfortable with themselves and just focus on the music more than the image"
The third one... It is nice to hear people say what you’ve just said, that we’re not a total throwback and there’s a modern tendency to it, because we never though of that. We always have thought that there’s nothing modern about us at all. So, it is really nice to hear that because we’re always criticizing ourselves more than anybody else. But here’s one thing that I believe it’s very important about Night Demon and that sets us apart from a lot of the other - I guess you can call it - new wave of traditional heavy metal bands. It’s the attitude that we have and it’s the look that we have. I’m a big fan of old school heavy metal fashion. When I was in high school in the '90s I looked like a kid from the early eighties [laughs]. But the problem is -well I don’t know if it’s a problem- but the difference is that you see a lot of younger bands that are in the same category with Night Demon and you see these guys on stage and the whole thing is a throwback nostalgic thing, right? You look at them and you’re like "OK you weren’t even alive at those times and yet you look like that. The way your hair is the way you clothes are, your shoes everything, you look like you’re coming from that era".
So, I think that makes it a little bit of a novelty and I think that people takes it less seriously when they see that. Because, even the guys that create that fashion like Judas Priest and stuff, even they have evolved a little bit in the image. So, I think that with Night Demon we like good music and we love the classics, but we understand that it’s 2017. We don’t need to go up there and be fake about it and pretend something that we’re not. The music has enough of that. The music talks for itself. We still have a rock ‘n’ roll look for sure, but it’s not over the top, it’s not dated. I think that’s an important point that I would like to make and I think it would be nice if the younger bands would be more comfortable with themselves and just focus on the music more than the image.
I believe that when it comes to production everything starts with how the drums sound and in your new album I hear the proper drums sound. There’re not sound fake, there’re not triggered. It just sounds right. How you manage that?
It was very difficult [huge laughs]. It takes time you know, so again we were really focused on the sounds themselves. That was the first priority. Dusty always play a four piece drum kit. He has two toms, one bass drum and a snare, two crashes a hi-hat, a ride cymbal and that’s it. When he first joined the band he had all these drums you know...
"We don’t record with a metronome. The metronome is in our head. The tempo speed up and slows down based on the vibe. So, I think the old school approach is good and it works for us"
Like Nicko McBrain [laughs]...
[Laughs] Yeah, and that’s cool for Nicko. It’s cool and that’s his thing. But I said to Rusty "Listen, we’re a fucking rock ‘n’ roll band from the streets OK? You need to throw half of the drums away and just keep the biggest size of them" [laughs]. And I said "If you can kick ass and do amazing things with just those drums you’re gonna be unstoppable man. Don’t rely on the equipment, rely on yourself and the less is more approach". When you have less drums you can really focus and get those sounds.
We had a set in the studio that was from four different drum kit and we made one drum kit out of them. We didn’t wanna trigger the sound, we didn’t wanna use any samples on the drums. We got in the right room and we were like "OK, let’s spend hours hitting this snare drum, let’s tune it over and over again and record it, let’s hear how it sounds, let’s get it where it’s meant to be". Same on the bass drum, same with the first tom and so on. So when it came the time to do it we’re ready... You know Dusty is a very powerful drummer live and we had to capture that on the album. We had to do it. So, that’s how it really is. I can tell a sample of a triggered drum from a mile away, I can hear that. Every hit sounds the same. I know why people do it and I love the modern technology. I love the fact that you can do that, it’s amazing to me. However, as being a musician, we don’t want to rely on that and we want basically hit the stage and go "these guys sound just as good as in the album or better?" I’ve seen some of these technical death metal bands the bass drums sounds insane, it sounds so perfect... you know what I’m saying?
Yeah, so perfect that feels abnormal...
Right! It’s the same thing when we’re making the albums. We don’t record it with a metronome. The metronome is in our head. The tempo speed up and slows down based on the vibe. So, I think the old school approach is good and it works for us.
Ok, we talked about where you stand music-wise, but I’ve pointed out a couple of songs to talk farther about. First of all there’s the instrumental "Flight Of The Manticore", which is has this "Powerslave"-ish kind of vibe. What are your thoughts about instrumental songs in general? When you record one you know from the beginning that it’s going to be such a song or it is something that comes along while you work on it?
I’m not a huge fan of instrumental songs, unless they are really interesting. From the get go this was not meant to be instrumental. However, when I started to write the guitar melodies that they were in my head I said "OK, let’s put this over this, let’s put that over that" and I tried to write lyrics for the song and I tried to write vocal melodies and probably we had ten different ideas. And to me they kept covering up the music and I felt that there was really no room for it. I thought that it stands alone for itself as an instrumental and it kinda gives you that feeling like the music itself it drives you and has a lot of melody inside and we didn’t want to over do it. So, it end up becoming an instrumental and I was like “Oh, man this is cool” and I added the part in the middle that it brakes down and I thought that this was the way to make it more interesting. And it was really a chance for Armond to break out and do some really great guitar solo. So, yeah, it was not intentional, but very quickly I knew that I wanted to try and make it an instrumental.
And how did you come up to close the album with the titular song, which is kind of melancholic and with all these cool effects in your voice? Do you think that this kind of song would be perhaps a stepping stone for future songwriting?
Well, not necessarily. If you listen to "Curse Of The Damned", the last song called "Save Me Now" which is much of an AOR type of song, mid-tempo kind of rocker. I thought that song was the departure from the rest of the album. So, in this album I thought that maybe we had a cool tradition that keep going, that the last track on every Night Demon album is gonna be slightly different and a way to wind the listener down and to close the album. I always loved that. Even if you listen the Metallica "Load" And "Reload" which are not great metal albums, I think they’re good sounding albums, I think they’re good albums, maybe not so good for Metallica but the last songs on those albums, you know the final songs, they’re very epic...
Yeah, you’re talking about the magnificent "The Outlaw Torn" and the mighty "Fixxxer"...
Yeah, totally... And even on the new record the "Spit Out The Bone" I think that’s the best song on the record. And I wanna have that to the album always, this kind of epic closer. The truth is that the songs "Welcome To The Night", "Life On The Run" and "Darkness Remains" is a three part story, it’s a trilogy. It’s kind of a sad story actually and I wrote the music based on the music and I thought it came up well and also that it was the time for us to try something like this. I can write "Heavy Metal Heat" 20 more times, but I already had that song. We don’t try to change, but I think it’s a good evolution of the band and it needed something there to break it up and to wind it down a little bit and I think that it came up really well.
As far as the vocal effect, Armand’s dad had... it’s funny. He is a musician too and he plays in Greece and Turkey all the time. He is a keyboard player and he had this old leslie speaker from the '70s and we had it in the studio and I said "Hey, what if I sing through that" and he said "Really?", and I said "Yeah! It would sound like "Planet Caravan" or something...". So, we try it and it end up really interesting. It was a fun thing to do. I had the song in my head for a lot of time and I just wanted to see how it’d worked and actually it came out really good. I was nervous to be honest on how people would react to it, but so far they are responding well, so...
Yeah, it’s a great song!
Now you mentioned the trilogy you give me the perfect bridge to go to the other topics I want to discuss with you and the "Paradise Lost" trilogy... you get where I’m going, right?
[laughs] Oh I see... [laughs]
Me and some of my best friends are willing to raise a statue of you in my hometown for bringing back Cirith Ungol!
[Laughs] Oh shit...
"Cirith Ungol hadn’t play together in 25 years, but not only that. The individual members they hadn’t played music at all, most of them"
You are aware that I talked with Tim, but he didn’t get into so much detail about how this whole thing came back to life. So, give me your perspective of how you persuaded them to start over and finally we’ll have the chance to see Cirith Ungol perform live...
Basically, Night Demon is responsible for that as a band. The guys of Cirith Ungol are very good friends of ours, we’re like family. Where we come from it’s much like Greece in a way. Ventura is kind of a magical place. It’s a nice spot on the ocean, the climate is great, but unlike Greece it doesn’t have a big heavy metal culture, at all. During the ‘80s the band didn’t get any recognition here and nobody cared for them. So, basically these guys have been seen everything than Night Demon was doing and there were like "Well these guys are never here anymore, where are they? We want to go out and drink and have fun with them, where are these guys?" And the answer was "We’re always on the road, we’re living the heavy metal dream" [laughs]. Tim and Rob were envy of us in a way and they said that we were doing what they always wanted to do and I said "But you still CAN do it, you can do it NOW! There’s an audience", but they didn’t want to even think about it. And I was start telling them stuff. I told them "I went to Europe and you wouldn’t believe what I’m seen out there. I went to Greece, I talked to people there, all they want to talk about is you guys", but they were thinking that I was exaggerating. But I told them that I was serious and that a lot of people want to see the band. They were hesitated for years...
So what I did was to start a festival and named it "Frost And Fire" after them. And I said that the only thing I wanted from them was to show up and sign some autographs for the fans and that they didn’t have to play or do anything else. So, I got all the surviving members, Tim, Rob, Flint, Jimmy and Greg and some of those guys had to see each other for decades. So, it was a good way for them to kind reunite and catch up and all these fans from all over the world flew here just to meet these guys. That’s it! Just to meet them! And they all were completely blown away like "Wow! This is crazy". And I said "You know what is crazier? That overseas there’re many, many more people than just these people here". So, that’s kind of how it started.
But... [laughs] , they were still reluctant. Here is a thing you need to understand. The band hadn’t play together in 25 years, but not only that. The individual members they hadn’t played music at all, most of them. I mean, Rob hadn’t picked a pair of drumsticks in 25 years. It’s not like he was playing with other bands. No! Tim, he didn’t sing in 25 years, at all! They had given up on music completely. It was difficult to get started, so what I did was, I got Rob to play drums again, in the Night Demon room, on Dusty’s drum kit. When he started playing he sounded like Animal from the Muppet Show [laughs]. It was crazy. He was all over the place unfocused and he was like "Oh, this is difficult. It’s not like riding a bike. I need to condition myself". But I can tell that he was having a lot of fun. So what I did -here’s the true story- was that I said to him "Hey Rob, why don’t you go home and relearn "Frost And Fire" and "I’m Alive". Just listen to the songs, see if you can remember the parts and come back in one week and you’ll just come and play drums and we [Night Demon] will be the band" and he agreed. Meanwhile I call Jim Barraza and I said "Hey Jimmy, just for fun, do you want to come down next week and jam with Night Demon playing some Cirith Ungol songs" and he thought that it would be fun. So I told him to brush up "Frost And Fire" and "I’m Alive" and to come meet us in the rehearsal room. So he showed up and Rob was there and I didn’t tell either of them that they both were coming...
I said "You guys watch! I’m dedicated to get the Cirith Ungol together and I’ll die trying. If anybody is going to do it, that’s gonna be me. I’m gonna do it!". And here we are now...
So, it was kind of an ambush... [laughs]
Totally, totally! [laughs] And they were "Oh, hey what’s up?". So we started playing and those guys man they were smiling the whole time in a manner "Oh man, this so cool, this is so fun, we missed this" and so it kinda started from there. Eventually I got Greg there and by that time Brent had left the band so it was Me, Greg, Jimmy and Rob and the funny thing was that Tim was the last one to jump aboard. He would come to all the rehearsals and he would just sit there, but he told us that he wasn’t interested to sing and that he just wanted to sit there and listen. I would always leave a microphone on in the back of the studio just in case. We never sing, it was all instrumental stuff, I mean I wasn’t gonna try and sing the Cirith Ungol songs, there was no way, you know [laughs]... So one day we’re there and playing "Chaos Descends" and all of the sudden man I hear that voice coming through the PA and I turned around and Tim was up there singing and I was "Oh my God!". We all got goosebumps and I thought "Holy shit! This guy still can do it. He’s back!" and from that point I was on his ass daily "Please dude, please, let’s do this" [laughs]. So, that’s the story man and that’s how it got started and many people from Germany and the U.K. and Greece they were telling me all the time for years "It’s never gonna happen. You’re never going to be able to do it" and I said "You guys watch! I’m dedicated to get the band together and I’ll die trying. If anybody is gonna do, it’s gonna be me. I’m gonna do it!". And here we are now...
That’s a very interesting story to tell your grandchildren someday sitting around the fireplace... [laughs]
Night Demon is not here to compete, we came to inspire and we came to help the scene
Let’s talk a little bit about Frost And Fire festival. How did you come up with the idea? Was it somehow the U.S. answer to Keep It True and Up The Hammers perhaps?
Absolutely! The thing that’s important for you to know is that our first passion is music. We wanted to be a band and we wanted to be a touring band. We’re not into this to be festival promoters. But I have a long background in promoting concerts. I’ve been doing this since I was 16 years old. I stepped away from it obviously to play in a band, but the main thing is that when you’re in a position like Night Demon are and you travel all over the world, you played all those festivals and we could see what was good about some of them and what was bad about some of them.
So, I thought that first of all, I know all those bands personally. Second of all, there’s no festival like this in California and third, we have the experience as a band and as promoters how to do it and what works and what doesn’t and what the bands wants because we’ve been artists too. So we thought that this was no brainer, that we had to do it, we had to try. And that’s how it started. It started as a one day event and the next year we had a 2-3 day event and now we have an outdoor stage, so the festival is growing.
The one downside is that when you’re in a band like Night Demon and you’re completely dedicated to it, you always want to make yourself available when opportunities come up. We don’t have day jobs, we don’t have wives, and we don’t even have apartments really. So we want to be able when an opportunity comes up to say "yes, we’re available, we’re going". The problem is that when you have a festival, you have to commit to these days of the festival over a year in advance. For example this October we got an offer to tour that we couldn’t accept and we had to turn it down because of course we can’t not be on our own festival [laughs]. I would say that that’s the only downside to it, but however, especially after the last year’s festival, you see people coming here and when somebody tells you that they had the best weekend of their entire lives, you feel great.
Night Demon is not here to compete, we came to inspire and we came to help the scene. And where there’s no scene, you have to create it and that’s what we’ve done here. We feel that it is our responsibility as ambassadors of heavy metal to do this for the people. It’s a greater responsibility for us, if that’s make sense. We’re doing it for the scene, we’re doing it for heavy metal and as long as we have that on our minds the intent is good.
In the U.S. in the '80s metal was the number one mainstream music and that’s why it got shitty
Now that you mention the scene... What do you think about the U.S. traditional heavy metal scene? It was quite dead for a long time or kinda lurking in the shadows, but nowadays it seems that there’s an awakening with bands like Night Demon, Visigoth and Eternal Champion, to name a few...
First of all, a lot of people ask me especially from other counties something like “Who’s the best metal audience? Is it South American people? Is it Spain? Is it Germany? And I think that everyone is the same to be honest. I think hat heavy metal fans love heavy metal no matter where they’re from. You can play in Germany and maybe there’s a guy standing in the back. He’s just watching, he’s not banging his head, he’s not singing along, he’s not moving around. But that guy probably has all the albums, he knows all the words and he is a huge fan. So, I think that people celebrating in different ways, but they all are equally important.
In the U.S. in the '80s metal was the number one mainstream music and that’s why it got shitty. Because, the big record companies said "OK, this is the most popular form of music. Now we have to manufacture this and we have to create new bands to make money" and shit like this. And in this way you get less quality. And at the same time there is hip-hop and rap which is underground and people -even white kids that can’t relate to that stuff- starts liking it because it was different, it was underground, there was a scene for it and a message and rock was exaggerating and it was fake. Now that’s not the most popular music and heavy metal and rock is very underground in the U.S. there is an audience for it, yes. It is getting better, there’re more bands and there’re more bands that tour. We tour a lot in the U.S. and I see it grow. But, people are spoiled here. They get to see everything, every band tours here, so it’s easy for them to be picky about things. It’s not like when you go to some small town in Spain where no band has ever played and it’s a big deal for people there.
The scene is getting bigger here and I hope it gets much stronger and the only way that’s going to happen is more bands hit the road and tour, especially for this style of music. So, we’re here to inspire that. I want all the younger bands to look at us and say "Hey, if these guys can do it, we can do it". It’s a scary thing to start, I know. It’s a big country. There’s less money here and the conditions are much more difficult. You play in a club and they don’t give you food and hotel and stuff like that. You have to find a way to make it on your own and that’s what we’ve done.
I’ve talked with many bands about it, most of them were European but I think that U.S. bands facing the same difficulties. Because U.S. is such a vast country you have to cover all these distances which means bigger expenses and tiredness, sometimes due to low attendance you don’t even get paid and it’s very easy for things to go south. I know as a fact, a band that run out of money in the first week of the tour and they didn’t have any money even to return to their country! So how difficult it really is to tour over there?
It doesn’t have to be that difficult. You have to calculate correctly, you have to play the right shows, you have to play with the right bands, and you must have great merchandise. That’s the thing. We never lost money on a tour. Our first tour we did was with Raven and when we started we had something like $500 to our bank accounts. We just said "Fuck it! We’re gonna do it" and we went out for two months with them and we did fine. Look, if your band is good, you don’t have anything to worry about [laughs]
The thing which is great about heavy metal is that the fans love it and they support it so much. You go play a show and they’ll by your merchandise, they’ll offer you a place to stay... We stay at people’s houses all the time. We rarely get hotels. So, you just have to do it that way and sometimes man we played some shows with Raven that there were four people there [laughs] but we made it work. You just have to have the hunger, you got to go, and you can’t make excuses for things. We’ve made it and we continue to make it grow. We started doing support tours where we’re getting paid $50 per night and now we’re a band that gets $500 per night to support other bands. It’s a building process, but you really have to commit to it. I think that a lot of people have this false idea of music and popularity and they’re in for the wrong reasons, like the goal is to be famous or something. That’s a bad way to look at it because you never gonna get famous if that’s the only thing in your head. It’s for the wrong reasons and it’s a bad way to do it. I think that a lot of bands are waiting to be discovered. They think that if they play in that festival or if they open for this band or something like that, there’s gonna be there some guy that he’ll see them and who works for Sony Records and he is going to take them away to the mystical wonderland of champagne and caviar and cars and mansions...
Everyone want to be rich and famous, so that they don’t have to do anything. What kind of life is that?
And endless lines of cocaine... [laughs]
[laughs] That’s the false perception of things that the entire mainstream media and TV, (American Idol and such), that they teach young kids nowadays. They want to be rich and famous, so that they don’t have to do anything. What kind of life is that? Everybody should work. But they should work at something that they love doing. That’s what life is about. People are lazy these days and that’s a fact. They want something for free all the time. That’s why they end up where they are...
The most important thing for bands, if you want to tour in the U.S., is to find the other bands that like your band, go to their town, let them set up the gig and you’ll be fine. We know all the heavy metal bands from the underground, so when we go on a tour when I’ll go to Chicago I’m going to call High Spirits. We’re going to do the show together and it would be successful. It’s their home, they’re gonna work on it for a month and when they come to our town it’s our turn to help them. We do the same thing with the next city. So, it’s all about how you calculate it...
That was quite interesting. You should write a book called "The ultimate guide of being a successful metal band"... [laughs]
Maybe I will... [laughs]
How was your South American tour? You also tour in North America with Anvil, how that thing went? What your thoughts about being on the road with them?
Oh it was great. South America was cool and it was good for us because we have never been down there. There’ve been friends always talking about us coming. It was good we finally got to do it. These people have a strong passion for the music too. We went and visited a lot of places in the Amazon that don’t get a lot of shows, so that was a good thing for us, it was a wise move, because our status has grown a lot from one tour.
Touring with Anvil was great. We did a very short tour with them last year and they really loved our band. They really liked us and they requested us to do this tour and it’s a good thing that we were available. We went out with them for six week and we had great time, we smoked a lot of pot with them... [laughs]
I did an interview with Lips a couple of years ago and he was super happy all the time... [laughs]
[Editor: he imitates Lips Kudlow’s voice] "Hey man, how’re you doing buddy?"... [laughs]... "Oh yeah, it’s great! This is rock 'n' roll man, you know? This is my day job now! I don’t fucking do deliveries any more, man" [laughs]
Yeah, he was super psyched about it. It was a very nice thing for Anvil, after the movie came out to see them stand on their feet again and do what they really love. It was a very sad story with all that struggle that brought tears to my eyes...
Yeah for sure... And what was important about the movie in my opinion was that it brought the heavy metal scene to the mainstream. The movie was not made for metalheads. It was made for people that they don’t know about it. It was good touring with them. We’re actually talking doing another tour in Europe early next year... So, it’s cool, we’re brothers and they are really nice guys. It’s good to see your heroes every night and becoming friends with them. It’s funny because these are things that you never thought would happen... [laughs]
I hate to be this guy, I hate to say this because it sounds so arrogant, but the fans should expect Night Demon to be the best band of Up The Hammers festival
In May you’re coming back to Greece to play in Up The Hammers festival. How you feel about returning here and what should the fans expect from you?
I hate to be this guy, I hate to say this because it sounds so arrogant, but the fans should expect Night Demon to be the best band of the festival, without a doubt. I mean Cirith Ungol gonna be a magical thing for sure, everybody loves the Manowar songs that Ross The Boss playing, you’ve got Attacker which is an amazing band, Tyrant... It’s gonna be good all-around and I think it’s going to be great for the fans. But, as far as watching a show, seeing a show happen, feeling the energy and really getting kicked in the face? We’re gonna win. There’s nobody gonna perform like Night Demon in Greece. It’s not gonna happen... [laughs]
Are out there any bands that you think are ready for the next step and becoming something bigger than simply a very good underground band?
Anything is possible for sure. I think it’s about how you carrying yourself. It’s about being real. I think that people nowadays want something real. They can tell a fake from a mile away and people are not stupid. I hate pointing out what’s the next big thing because you don’t really know. A lot of it now has to do with the attitude and the willing to work from the bands perspective.
For example, I manage Visigoth. I love the band and I manage them because I think they’re great. I don’t want to be a band manager by the way. I only do it when I have to. I see these guys, they’re so fucking good and they’re just lost, they don’t know what to do. So I thought that I had to help these guys and I’ve been managing the band for almost two years now and it’s been really good, but at the same time they are in a position right now where they’re not willing to go out and do the kind of things that Night Demon do. They’re in a different point on their lives. They’re comfortable playing here and there. So, I think that they could have been the next big thing, but you only going to do that if you go out and try to be the next big thing [laughs]. Again, if you’re any good, people will discover you, they will. They always find great music, but they’re not going to be the ones to continually worshiping you if you play five shows a year. You’re only getting the people there and not the people coming from all over the place just for you.
I would think of Savage Master. I have really loved that band and I think they had a good gimmick and the music is awesome. I think that they crossover well and if you’re into punk or metal you can dig that band. They have a great work ethic and they have a really good attitude...
I also think of High Spirits. A lot of people love that band and there’s something special about them, but at the same time Chris [editor: Black] has a family and his goals are different. His goals are like to have fun with the music, which is great. He wants to make records and go to do the occasional tour once or twice a year, playing great festivals and stuff like that, which is fine you know, but it also keeps them from breaking through on a broad level. But that’s what he is looking for...