Posted on September 11th. 2017
Questionnaire by Omni on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM
When I interviewed Cirith Ungol earlier this year, the only current member of the band who did not participate was Jarvis Leatherby, the current bassist and the band’s manager. The other band members gave him a lot of credit for being a major catalyst for their reunion, but it’s also important to remember that his full-time gig is with Night Demon. I decided to catch up with Jarvis so that we could have a one-on-one about Night Demon, Cirith Ungol and what led to his intense passion for heavy metal music.
Omni: Hello, Jarvis. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. How are you doing?
Jarvis: Doing great! Just in the airport in London, waiting for my flight back to L.A. Just finished singing for Jaguar at a festival in France. Life is good.
Omni: Wow! You’re an incredibly busy guy. How do you manage to find the time to record and tour with Night Demon, play big festivals with Jaguar and Cirith Ungol and organize Frost and Fire Fest?
Jarvis: Basically just do it all the time. It’s my full-time job and then some, but I absolutely love it! I’ve been in the music industry most of my life. It’s just who I am at this point. I don’t know any different.
Omni: It’s obvious that you love what you’re doing. How did you start playing music and when did you decide that playing heavy metal was the career that you wanted to undertake?
Jarvis: My dad was a musician and started at a pretty young age. That wore off on me quickly, and I guess you could say the first time I heard Deep Purple and Van Halen cranking through the stereo at home, I knew right then and there what I wanted to do. The music really struck me in the heart like a bolt of lightning. I’ve been fortunate to play a lot of different styles of music over the years, but hard rock and heavy metal have always been at the epicenter of my soul. Just something about it that has always empowered me and made me feel right.
Omni: Yes, I’ve heard that you played and recorded music prior to your work with Night Demon. What can you tell me about it?
Jarvis: Not too much, because there is a vast range of many different styles, and a really big catalog of music. I will say that my first band was called Black Opal. We were a heavy metal band based out of Oxnard, California. The group started when I was in junior high and lasted up until the end of high school, when my best friend and bass player Doug Clark passed away in an auto accident. We actually stole the name from my Dad’s first band which also featured Michael Anthony who would later go on to join Van Halen.
Omni: I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s passing. I’m sure that he’d be very proud of what you’re doing these days. As far as Night Demon, the band is just three guys in a classic power trio setup, where a lot of bands want to have two guitarists or some other weird lineup. Was it a conscious decision to keep things basic?
Jarvis: Not really. We really wanted two guitar players when we started, but honestly we didn’t really know anyone who would fit musically. Out of the hundreds of musicians we knew at the time, it was important for me to play with people who really loved and understood the NWOBHM sound and feel. It’s actually been a blessing in disguise, as over the years we have really created our own signature sound and constantly step up to the challenge of having only three guys make such a big sound. It’s part of our identity and it totally works for us.
Omni: I’m glad things have worked out and that you’ve developed a style that works for you and also rocks hard. What are your biggest influences in Night Demon?
Jarvis: Most of the NWOBHM bands from the seventies and eighties. Also I would say the obvious like Maiden, Priest, Purple, Sabbath, Metallica, Accept, Van Halen, and a lot of seventies proto metal stuff.
Omni: Are you planning to do more tribute songs in the vein of “Maiden Hell” in the future? That was an interesting way to pay tribute to a band that you obviously love.
Jarvis: Probably not. Maiden is my favorite band of all time, so it would be cheating for me to do that again for something else. It was a gratifying song to write, and I hope those guys can listen to it and appreciate it as well.
Omni: Haha, it makes sense when you say it that way. Were you surprised by the overall reception that Darkness Remains received? It seems to be one of the most hyped albums so far this year.
Jarvis: I was a little bit, yes. Our previous album Curse of the Damned did very well with critics and fans, and got top honors in many publications. I felt a lot of pressure to follow that up with something good or better. We felt like we had done that, but you never really know the audience reaction until they give it to you. Thankfully we are still batting above our average. My only hope is to carry that on into the future.
Omni: I can’t even imagine what that’s like. You probably remember this, but we actually had a chance to talk before when I interviewed Cirith Ungol, but you sat out of the interview. Was this an intentional choice out of respect for the senior members of the band?
Jarvis: Absolutely. They try to rope me in a lot, but I prefer them to talk about their own experiences with it all, and they definitely have a lot to say. My job is to protect the legacy of the band, so I never want to make it about me. I’m just a facilitator and the guiding light for the future.
Omni: That’s an impeccable attitude. How did you wind up becoming friends with those guys? Did you already know them before you decided to hold a tribute festival?
Jarvis: I was first introduced to Robert by a good friend Carl Valdez. Carl also played drums in the legendary hardcore punk band Ill Repute. Yes I did know Rob and Tim long before the festival. We have been close friends for quite a while now. We are basically like family. It’s a really great thing. We are all from the same small town, so it really makes sense.
Omni: That’s great. I have to say that Tim and Robert (and everyone else in the band) have been some of the nicest metal guys that I’ve talked to. What can we expect from Cirith Ungol moving forward? More live shows are a sure thing, but what about another album?
Jarvis: Yes definitely some more live shows. Big festival appearances in the works. There is also some new material brewing. We will see what medium that will be on, but definitely some new tunes coming your way, soon.
Omni: That is excellent news! Is there a lot of pressure when you play with a legendary band like Cirith Ungol? They seem like seriously down to earth guys, but their fans are very passionate and serious about the music.
Jarvis: More than you can imagine. Especially since these guys haven’t done anything together in nearly three decades! All in all it’s been a very rewarding experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I know they wouldn’t either. All we can do is go up there and do the best we can, and we definitely have put the work in preparation for these moments, so no regrets on our part.
Omni: Yeah, everyone seems to be having a great time and the band has been sounding great. You’re also doing vocals for Jaguar. How did that collaboration come about?
Jarvis: YES! Another dream situation here. Night Demon had covered their song “Axe Crazy” on our first self-titled EP. Their manager at the time had heard the track, and reached out to me thanking us for doing such a good job. At that point I got talking to Garry Pepperd (founding member and lead guitarist) about what was happening with the band. They had been looking for a new singer, but were not having much luck.
They asked if I would be up for the gig, but at the time, I was so busy with Night Demon, and in the middle of some heavy touring. With them being in the U.K. And me having a home base in Southern California, I just didn’t see how it could work. About a year and a half later, I saw they were scheduled to play a really big festival in England. I reached out to Garry and asked who would be singing. He said they still hadn’t found anyone, and they were planning on pulling out of the gig and ultimately breaking the band up for good.
At that point I suggested that I sing for that gig and we see how it is and go from there. The rest is really history, and those guys have now also become very close friends of mine. We go out and play when we can, and have a blast doing it. I hope I get to record a new album with them in the future.
Omni: I look forward to hearing that album if it happens! This might be a difficult question since you’ve done so much already, but what is your proudest moment as a musician to date?
Jarvis: That’s really tough to say…. If I had to think of something off the top of my head, it would be something that hasn’t even happened yet. HAHA! My father took me to the very first OzzFest in 1996. He actually used to take me to see Ozzy all the time. Night Demon has been confirmed to play OzzFest this coming November at the very same venue my dad took me to see the first editions of the festival, as well as many other memorable concerts that shaped my life. I am so proud to say that now this time I will be the one taking him to the show, and he can see his son perform on it. That’s what I’m most proud of.
Omni: Wow! That’s actually a pretty inspirational story. You’ve been playing all over the world for a while. Do you have any advice for bands that are just starting out?
Jarvis: The first thing I would say is to do it because you love it. Have fun, and don’t take yourself too seriously at the beginning. You have to do it for the right reasons. Don’t do it to be famous, don’t do it to impress other people, and definitely don’t do it to be rich. The only reason I am still in this business is because it’s who I am. I thought I had a choice, but I really don’t. In order for me to be happy, I just need to be honest with myself and be who I am. If I wanted to be rich and famous, I would’ve chosen a different career. You have to be a true artist and be the best at what you do to gain notoriety. That self satisfaction should be enough. If you can follow those guidelines, you will be okay.
Omni: Solid advice. There are a lot of newer bands out there that are really starting to find their own way, so I think that the future of heavy metal is in good hands. Aside from Night Demon, who do you think are the most important metal bands these days?
Jarvis: Well obviously some of the classic bands that are still around are the most important. Bands like Maiden, Slayer, Metallica, Accept, etc.
As far as next generation bands, we will see later who is important during this time. I will say that the following bands show a lot of promise, and definitely have the true spirit of metal flowing through them in the most organic ways… High Spirits, Savage Master, Visigoth, Midnight. These are the important bands for me at the moment.
Omni: Yeah, those are some excellent choices. I’ve actually just reviewed Savage Master’s upcoming release only a few days back and I really enjoyed it. You’ve played on the same bill as some legendary bands. Have you ever found yourself totally starstruck when you meet someone backstage?
Jarvis: All the time! I’ve been meeting rockstars most of my life, but when I find myself being their peers, I get even more starstruck, because they open up to me a lot more. It’s a crazy life, and I really try not to punish people too hard. Haha!
Omni: That sounds like a good way to go through life. Thanks again, Jarvis. I really appreciate your time. Do you have any final words for the readers out there?
Jarvis: Always stay true to yourself. Find what you love to do, and do it well. You don’t need to do anything else in life. Your friends and family may even tell you that you’re not doing the right thing, but only YOU will truly know that and YOU have to live with yourself. If you’re alive it’s never too late, but if you’re dead, it is. Don’t waste any more time.
I was extremely impressed by the positive outlook that I witnessed throughout this interview, and I hope that readers will find similar inspiration from his words. I’ll be looking forward to seeing more from Jarvis and Night Demon in the future, as well as the possibility of new music from Cirith Ungol and Jaguar. The future of heavy metal is looking good, and guys like Jarvis Leatherby are a big part of the reason why.