Beyond the Boys’ Club is a monthly column from journalist and radio host Anne Erickson, focusing on women in the heavy music genres, as they offer their perspectives on the music industry and discuss their personal experiences. Erickson is also a music artist herself and has a new EP and single out, “Last Love,” with Upon Wings. The latest edition of Beyond the Boys’ Club features an interview with Leather Leone.
Throughout the 1980s, Leather Leone was a strong voice in metal music. From her early days in Rude Girl to her high-profile performances with guitar icon David T. Chastain’s band Chastain, Leone was one of the pioneers for women in heavy music.
After a long break away from the music scene, Leather is as active in the industry as ever. She recently released her third solo album, We Are the Chosen, via SPV/Steamhammer. Now, she hopes to take the fresh songs on the road for a tour in 2023.
For Heavy Consequence‘s latest edition of “Beyond the Boys’ Club,” Leather spoke with us about the new album, what it was like coming up in the ’80s rock scene, her thoughts on the challenges of being a woman in metal music, and much more.
Congratulations on your new album, We Are the Chosen. The record’s first single is “We Take Back Control.” Tell me the story behind this song and why you wanted it released ahead of the album.
I thought it was a great introduction to the album and theme of the whole record. At this age, I am finally learning that if you want things done, you have to do them yourself. This was the first song that Vinnie [Tex] and I wrote, and when I wrote it, I had a strong, positive feeling that it was time for me to take control of my music career. This song fell into place and was written so fast, and I still like it so much. It sets the tone for the whole record.
You have released so much great music over the years. How does this new album differ from what you’ve done in the past?
With this record, I finally wrote a full record and actually worked with someone from start to finish, in the studio, from day one. It’s so important to me to have my own thoughts, melodies, words — everything. People say it’s my third solo record, but to me, it’s my first solo record. It’s the first time I did this whole process, and I fell in love with the process. This was my first venture into metal songwriting.
Do you have a favorite song off the new album?
“Off With Your Head.” From the moment Vinnie sent me the melody, it’s been my favorite. I think when people hear the lyrics, they understand what it’s all about, and all women will understand. At the time, I was looking at queens and what they did in medieval times when they were angry at someone. (Laughs) So, “Off with Your Head” is my favorite song of all time off the album.
How about a song that surprises you off the album?
I think the whole record is surprising to me. I must say “Hallowed Ground” is one, because I’m sure many vocalists feel like me, but when I sing, I try to emote a feeling in somebody. The first time I heard Dio or Robert Plant, the hairs on the back of my head stood up, and they blew me away. So, I was like, if I could do that, wow. When I listen to “Hallowed Ground,” sometimes I almost do it.
You have such a history in the music industry. How has the industry changed since you were making music in the 1980s?
Anyone can create music in their own homes now, so there’s such an influx of music. I think it’s always hard to make it in music, and I’ve been blessed. Because of what I did in the ’80s, I can at least get someone to listen to me and give me a chance. So, the main change is the influx of music. So many bands ask, what can I do? Get your music out there. Use social media. There was no social media in the ’80s. If you were in a magazine, you had to drive miles to get your copy. Just, get your music out there any way you can.
What were some of the challenges you faced as a women in rock and metal music when you first started out?
I don’t remember anything. I hear all these stories from other people, and I don’t really remember anything being said to my face. I had such a sense about myself. I knew that when I opened my mouth, it was going to be okay. I do remember that I used to like to help the crew, so I would walk in and carry guitars and amps, and people would say, “Look! They have a chick roadie!” I may have noticed it a little bit after Chastain when I went down to meet with some labels in the early ’90s, and there was a little backlash. But, I just don’t take that stuff seriously, because I don’t come from a sexual side. I did have some label say to me, “You’re very good, and when you walk into a club, people say, you’re an incredible talent. But, they don’t want to f**k you.” (Laughs) I just don’t take that seriously. I thought, “Wow. I feel really sorry for you.” But, I never let that stuff enter my realm of thought.
Do you sense that the metal and rock world is more accepting to female musicians verses when you were starting out?
Absolutely. I think it’s because they are kicking ass, from Arch Enemy to Jinjer to Spiritbox. And Doro keeps waving the flag. You can’t stop them. They’re working for so many years and are just too good to be ignored. Lzzy Hale is another one. Women have proved to the industry that they can make just as much money as men, so I don’t think it’s as big a deal as it was when there were just five of us in the ’80s. I think the whole sexual conversation is leaving, too. You don’t hear, “Oh, there’s a chick in Arch Enemy,” anymore.
Do you think women feel more pressure to look a certain way to be appealing in the music industry?
I hope not, because it’s such bullshit. I don’t pay attention to that. It’s not import to me. I remember in the ’80s talking with Sebastian Bach, and they did the same thing to him. He was so good looking, and he had to blow out his hair a certain way and he was saying they wanted him to show his stomach, so it went both ways. I just think it was more accepted with women. It’s so boring. Everyone knows what we have under our clothes. I want to know what book you wrote or movie you’re into. So, it’s uninteresting to me what you look like, but I realize I’m not everybody. But, there’s probably pressure these days to stand out that way, because there are so many bands.
What advice would you have for up-and-coming musicians?
Don’t do it because you want to be rich or famous or in a magazine. You have to do it because you love it. I’ve had some people that think they want to do it, and they follow me around for a day and say, “Screw this!” You have to love it, and it has to come from your inside. You have to be passionate about it. I tell them to just keep going. Don’t be afraid to suck, or sing out of key, or for some guitar player to laugh at you. Just do it.