INTERVIEW - Leather Leone and Sandy Sledge - SLEDGE LEATHER
By Todd Jolicouer
ToddStar: Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule for The Rockpit. If it is okay, I would love to jump right into discussing your newest release, Imagine Me Alive ("IMA"). I find myself keeping it in my normal rotation of albums I am listening to ever since I first heard it. What can you briefly tell us about that disc, that most people may not know on the surface?
Leather: It is a actually a concept record. It s about passing on from this life as we know it, and moving through the next phase. Looking back at ones decisions, loves, loses.etc! Making amends with oneself and the world. Just a little idea like that!
Sandy: The new disc has several of the same basic components as earlier releases from previous bands of both Leather and mine.
ToddStar: The new disc has several of the same basic components as earlier releases from previous bands of both Sandy and Leather. In your opinion, in what ways does it vary from earlier releases? What elements from other discs or bands did you intentionally carry over to this effort?
Leather: Sledge and I definitely have a style, but besides the song “Taste of Night” which we wrote a few years ago, I don’t believe there was any intention at all. We just went straight forward to create a new sound for us. Vocally and through her drumming we both have come along way, and changed. We just want to finish what we started. To make Metal music that we are proud of!
Sandy: Keyboards. Which I’ve ALWAYS felt were a part of what Leather and I should have to represent our true sound. Kick drum presence from Malibu Barbi; heavy dark tone from Rude Girl. Making a statement through the lyrics, like we did in Rude Girl.
ToddStar: How do you describe the difference in sound, sonically, in the band between this effort and previous efforts?
Leather: Vocally I have come to a place where I can sing in a lower range, which I had always strived for. This music for me is deeper, darker, more spiritual. My relationship with Sledge alone, makes it come from a much more aggressive place. We have a history that was lacking for me in my previous work.
Sandy: The technology to convey the tone got easier to achieve, so sonically we’re represented exactly as we feel it. And personally, I think Leather’s vocals finally sound right.
ToddStar: What types of writing, production, and studio experiences that you learned while making previous discs or working with other artists did you know you wanted to carry over to this disc? Which did you know to scrap and move on?
Leather: All and any vocal reverb from the 80’s!
Sandy: My experience in the studio was really honed by all of the sound production I directed and produced with my radio commercial company, Funny Farm Radio. With the thousands of spots I directed and produced for blue chip companies like Pepsi, Disney, Universal, Paramount, etc., I learned how to get a top quality professional audio production in a short amount of time. That helped me to get the true expression of musical intuition out. When it takes forever, I feel that the focus gets lost. Scrap and move on? The kind that took FOREVER. J
ToddStar: Several songs are very strong, and I find myself listening to certain tracks over and over ("One Glimpse," "Her Father's Daughter," and "Imagine Me Alive"). Are there any favorites of yours that you find yourself going back to? Any you wish came out sounding different?
Leather: As an artist you always wish you had done something different or better. But I am fairly happy with “Imagine Me Alive.” My favorite song is also “Fathers Daughter.” It goes deeper than you know.
Sandy: Nice!! Yeah, people are really responding to “One Glimpse,” and I’m so freakin’ happy about that. I wrote that song for Leather and I to do about 20 years ago and it’s been sitting patiently waiting to be realized. When we did the demo, she blew me away by coming up with the last line; it seems so obvious that it should be there, but I had never put it in. That’s the magic of playing with Leather again for me. It was an amazing experience for me to play it with her in the studio. “Imagine Me Alive” was given to me from the beyond. I don’t know how else to say it but like that. It came out, like you hear it now, from me into my iphone recorder. Totally inspired by Rev from Avenged Sevenfold. Sometimes those things happen to me. On “Her Father’s Daughter,” Leather and I lean towards the doomy sound. We’re both so pulled by heaviness. Some of the ones that I find myself going back to are "The Lost Forgiveness," which means a lot to me. We need to post the lyrics. I wrote it in Prague. This last time through the small towns in Germany, and then in Prague, was a very moving experience for me. I want us to be done with bloodshed in the name of…
ToddStar: Regarding Imagine Me Alive, were any of the songs easier to write than others? You often hear about an artist that sat down to write a song and that essentially the song wrote itself. Were any of the songs difficult to get out? If so, which?
Leather: Songs come to Sledge like rain. She always has an idea brewing. So we have a lot to work with and from. All the basics for the songs on “IMA” came easy I think.
Sandy: Songs that wrote themselves: “Imagine Me Alive”; “The Lost Forgiveness”; “One Glimpse”; “Torch” happened one night when I had a disagreement with my best friend. Corny from me, but then you put Leather’s voice to my lyrics and it becomes real. And again, I felt like it was ‘from’ Rev of AX7. “A Taste of Night” is a song we wrote with our band Rude Girl back in the day. Back then, we’d write by jamming. For hours and hours and hours until we found the groove that was inside. "A Taste Of Night" was pure, raw experience of being a kid, basically, on the streets of down and dirty San Francisco before it was “hip” San Francisco. It was raw as it gets where we practiced in a dungeon on Haight Street. We’d come up after jamming for hours and it’d be 3am and completely covered in fog. We were still amped so we’d just walk the streets. We’d be out there, in the raw cold fog, open season on the night. We cut our eye teeth out there. And we never lost the hunger for it. Rude Girl was a HEAVY experience.
ToddStar: On the new release are any of the songs being better received than others? I know the critics and reviewers speak of their favorites, but what are the fans and live crowds reacting positively to?
Leather: People are responding to the title track “Imagine Me Alive” quite often. But the beauty is they seem to be responding to it as a whole piece which is inspiring!
Sandy: I know the critics and reviewers speak of their favorites, but what are the fans and live crowds reacting positively to? The reviewers and fans seem to like it all. From what we’re hearing, people are thirsty for this kind of classic, heavy, metal. Which is freakin’ great, because we are too.
ToddStar: After going back and checking out both of your back catalog after falling into this one, I find that your music is sonically consistent, but there are still subtle changes that show growth as individual musicians. Having been at this for twenty plus years, do you still feel and hear the growth in yourselves, both individually and collectively?
Leather: Absolutely, and isn’t that what we all want? I personally have grown vocally. I have more depth and clarity to my voice, I can certainly use it better. I appreciate it so much more than back in the day. Sledge and I now can work together like a well oiled machine. We know what we want and can now accomplish all those sounds in our heads. Amen!
Sandy: I can say that I feel and hear the growth in Leather’s vocals and, as a Leather fan myself, I fkin LOVE it. She’s got a deeper tone and resonance than before. And her command of rhythm has broadened. In the future, we’re going to show different sides to her voice. Because I was a voice-over producer for so many years, I’m expecting the same out of her that I would out of the top voice talent in LA that I directed. That pushes her, and she doesn’t fail. Leather never fails. She may get pissed off, lol, but she comes back stronger. As for me, being a stronger songwriter comes from learning convention and not being afraid to use it’s tools. I used to be afraid of “commercialism” but now I realize it was just a skill I was lacking. With all the tools in the box, I have more choices to create what I truly hear.
ToddStar: If you had to describe the sound of Sledge Leather to someone who had never heard of you, how would you do that?
Leather: A classic, power, melodic band!!!!!
Sandyy: Razor blades through a meat grinder. inside of ten tons of raw ground oil with purple lollipops punching through the top. Or, ya know, Sabbath meets Rainbow, recorded in 2012. ROFL
ToddStar: When will the United States (Detroit specifically for personal reasons and requests) get a taste of what Sledge Leather can do live? Are there any other specific countries you would like to tour and make aware of Sledge Leather?
Leather: Everywhere for everyone!!!!
Sandy: Did you see the new vid we just put up on youtube? http://youtu.be/tzs1IepljTY
ToddStar: When performing live, do you find that you mix the material evenly from your earlier efforts and projects, or do you tend to play more of the newer material?
Leather: We are a this time performing the cd with a couple Chastain songs.
Sandy: We're doing the new record, as it is almost exactly. And we'll do some of the Leather classics like "Voice of the Cult." of course!
ToddStar: If you had to pick possible pairings for an ideal tour, what other bands would you like to see Sledge Leather out on the road with?
Leather: Dio of course. It will always weight heavy on my mind. Maiden, Godsmack. We wont say no to many!
ToddStar: What is next for Sledge Leather? Is there going to be a big tour cycle surrounding Imagine Me Alive?
Leather: We are trying to make that happen as we speak. We want to keep making music and playing around the world. So we hope that all of you enjoy "IMA" and let everyone know!
Sandy: We're working on a new special project involving shows. We can't wait to get out there.
ToddStar: Do you find any of the other arts affect your music or the way you approach writing, recording, or playing live with Sledge Leather?
Leather: The art of life!
Sandy: Definitely. Especially the natural arts. I get the heaviest themes from nature. I love how the world just is, and keeps being itself, and we get to interpret it into music.
ToddStar: Are there any bands that are currently releasing music or touring that influence you personally or professionally? What is the last CD/mp3 album you listened to?
Leather: I as always listen to all phases of Ronnie James Dios career! I try to listen to everything on Metal radio and really listen and learn from what is out there. The last and present mp3 is ‘The Devil You Know.”
Sandy: I love a lot of the groove metal bands and psychedellic feels from some of the heavier bands. Chevelle "Hats off to the Bull."
ToddStar: If there were one piece of music in the history of time that you wish you had written, what would it be and why?
Leather: “Heaven and Hell.” Do you really need to ask why?????
Sandy: "Little Fugue in Gminor" by Bach. It just seems to grab me and stick. "Happy Birthday" by those ladies. I could use the income. LOL \m/ I wish I’d written "Heaven and Hell," but I’d never take it away from them. We needed Dio and Iommi and Geezer and Vinny to write that.
ToddStar: Do you have any resolutions or goals for 2012 professionally or personally?
Leather: To do and write the best material with Sledge Leather! And Tour, Tour Tour!!!!
ToddStar: What is the meaning of life?
Leather: Piece of mind!!!
Sandy: The name of the next Sledge Leather album.
ToddStar: Other than making sure everyone checks out your website and Facebook, are there any other current projects or sites you would like to promote?
Leather: Stay tuned!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you for all your enthusiasm and support!
ToddStar: Thanks again for taking the time and we look forward to 2012 and more Sledge Leather!
Sandy: Thanxxxx Rockpit. Metal UP!!!
Review posted 28 May 2012