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NIGHT DEMON - Interview with Jarvis Leatherby
By Wojtek Gabriel,
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Night Demon US metal band
It didn't come as a surprise that "Darkness Remains", the latest release by the Californian traditional metal trio Night Demon landed on many "best of 2017" charts compiled by various magazines, websites, and most importantly, by fans. With just two albums under their collective belt the band have managed to gather a dedicated following of old-school maniacs worshipping the '80s sounds. As Jarvis said in the below interview, they consider themselves "an honorary British band from Southern California" and these words cannot be truer. Ladies and gents, may I present you the Night Demon commander-in-chief, singer and bass player, Jarvis Leatherby.
Let's start with a question about the most recent events. You've just completed your first round of U.K. dates. Did you enjoy playing on the holy grounds where the NWoBHM was born?
Yes! It was definitely a dream come true for us. It's really funny to think that of all the touring around the world we have done, we have never been to the U.K. Until now! There were a lot of fans out there that have been waiting a long time to see us, so it was well worth it, and a great experience overall.
Are the British maniacs any different to the metalheads back home?
Metalheads are the same everywhere. Some celebrate differently because of cultural differences, but if you absolutely love metal, then you love metal no matter where you are from.
You've stated in numerous interviews that you started the band just for fun. At which point did you realise it was getting serious and creating music with Night Demon could take you places?
That's very true. I realised that after the first show we played in Los Angeles. It just felt right. We were playing in a scene that we were not too familiar with, and things went over really well. I remember that night being the turning point for me. I had decided then that I was going to give everything else up in my life (including my day job) and focus solely on Night Demon and give it 100% so that I would have no regrets in my life about not at least trying.
I don't mean it in a bad way, but could the band name be more cliché, ha-ha?
Ha-ha! I'm actually surprised it wasn't taken! Yes, it is a very cliché name, and again if you talk about the band not taking itself seriously in the beginning, here's another example of it. What I did like about the name is the cliché aspect of it. There's no question it's a metal band. I also liked the fact that Night and Demon each have five letters in it. Makes for good design concepts when the logo is symmetrical.
With just the debut album under your belt you guys toured for 2 years. I must admit it's quite unusual these days for a starting-out band to get so many gigs. Seems you did put a lot of efforts into getting out there and playing live as much as possible?
Well you're right in that aspect, and the truth is that we did not have nearly as many gigs as we had liked. We spent a lot of time out on the road, but we were desperate to get anything we could. Sometimes we would spend almost one week without a show, while being in a foreign country in the dead of winter sleeping in a basement or an attic. We just really had the hunger and the fire to not let anything stand in the way of us travelling and taking our music in front of any audience that would have us.
Let's talk about your latest album a bit. So, I spin "Darkness Remains" for the first time and I notice there are no rhythm guitars under the solos. Would you care to explain it further?
We are a three-piece band. Plain and simple. We are mostly known for our live performances, so anytime we can stay as true to that as possible on record, we will always take that route first and see where we land. We also recorded the music tracks all live together in a small room. No metronome, and no isolation from the instruments. I have always attempted to have a heavy enough bass tone so a rhythm guitar would not be needed to back up the guitar solos.
The songs on the new album are short and to the point. Have you ever considered closing the album with an epic tune in the best Maiden tradition?
Actually, both of our albums end with the most epic kind of songs we have. That's a tradition that will continue. As far as short songs, that has always been our thing. Get in and get out. I am definitely interested in writing some longer songs in the future, but in no way would they repeat themselves into boredom. I do feel that there are a lot of metal songs out there that are just way too long, and really get boring when they just keep repeating the same parts. When we start to feel that happening, we just end the song on a high note and move on to the next. It also makes a good situation in a live performance. We are able to play 20 plus songs in just over an hour.
On "Darkness Remains" you're following the same proven formula as on the debut release, but I would say the progress is quite noticeable, especially in the songwriting department. Do you agree?
Yeah, I think the song structures are similar, but we did have the tendency on this record to make a lot of the songs end in a different place than they began. I think that's really where they got more sophisticated.
I'm guessing you're the main lyricist in the band and your lyrics are pretty much "metal lyrics" so to speak, meaning they're inspired by horror, books and metal itself. What are some of the non-typical subjects that inspire you to write stuff for Night Demon?
Yes, I do write all of the lyrics. Again, maybe a lot of cliché stuff here, but it's heavy metal after all and I am inspired by the same things the fans are because I am a fan. I try not to write political songs, as I feel that divides people, and I don't like to use Night Demon as a platform for any personal or political agenda. There are definitely some more personal meanings to the songs on "Darkness Remains", but we will leave the interpretation up to the listener.
Heavy metal band Night Demon
Why the Queen and Sabbath covers and not some '80s British metal? Would it be too obvious?
Well, they are British rock and metal bands, and the Sabbath song is from the '80s so am I close? Actually, we were playing the fast version of "We Will Rock You" in the very first year of the band playing live. It was always a live song, and unfortunately there is no recording of it, so we thought why not do a proper studio version? That's how that came about. "Turn Up the Night" was a song that we talked about covering for years, so I'm glad we finally got on that, as well.
How often do you hear someone say that Night Demon sounds more British than many of the British bands, ha-ha?
All the time! We consider ourselves an honorary British band from Southern California, ha-ha!
You've shared stages with many well-known metal bands. Do you have any particularly fond memories from any of the tours you've done so far?
So many it's hard to pick just one. I will say having Tom Warrior take you out to dinner in Zurich and tell you how he admires what you do is quite mind numbing. We've had great conversations, and I do consider him a friend now. Meeting your heroes can be strange, but when it works, it's something truly amazing.
You've been on the bills with some bands no one would have expected a young traditional metal band to tour with, to mention Carcass or Crowbar. How did it come about and how did it work out for you?
Carcass had seen us play in Chicago on an off night of their tour. They liked us so much that merchandise was purchased. Almost two years later we got the call to tour with them. It was really one of the better tours we have done. The bands got along great (and still do), and their audience was very receptive to Night Demon. I think most extreme metal fans cut their teeth on classic metal, so they definitely understand what we are doing.
I can't help but notice that some of the metal band members openly bash other bands and I struggle to understand it. The metal community is so small, we need unity to survive. What's your view on this subject?
I personally choose to not bash any bands publicly. If there's a band I don't care for, it's easier just to not talk about it. I think a lot of the bashing comes from jealousy, honestly. We only do what we do, and that's all we can control. People are free to listen to and support what they want.
Having witnessed your Edinburgh show I must say you're quite confident as a trio. Have you ever thought about adding another axeman to the line-up to enrich the live sound?
We originally wanted two guitar players in the band, but at this point that's just not going to happen. We have such a big sound as it is, I think adding another piece would just make things too inaudible. The beauty of being a three piece is that we have created signature things in the band like the guitar and bass doing harmonies together. There's greatness in simplicity, you just need to work on it and look for the loopholes.
You're quite a busy bee Jarvis. Apart from putting a lot of efforts into Night Demon you still have time to play bass for Cirith Ungol and sing for Jaguar and on top of that run a festival. Do you have any lay-back time for yourself at all, outside of your metal-related activities?
Never! I'm always working on something. It's all metal all the time! Night Demon is obviously the first priority, so I'm thankful that Cirith Ungol and Jaguar can work around that. The good thing is that everything I do is related to each other in some way. It's not like I play metal at night, then go deliver the mail during the day. I'm satisfied with my professional life in music, and it's always defined who I am.
Talking about Cirith Ungol, you've accomplished the impossible bringing them back. I suppose they were just fed up with your constant nagging and gave up, ha-ha?
Yes, they eventually did! In reality, they saw a lot of things that Night Demon were doing around the world and caught the bug and felt it was time to give it another shot. So far everything has been even better than expected, and the future looks bright for Cirith Ungol.
How did the Frost & Fire festival go this year?
Sold out! It was a great time for all! We are in the process of planning a small U.K. Edition for 2018, and also something special for the west coast version. We've played so many festivals around the world, it's nice to be able to out our own on for all of the fans.
Who do you think will be headlining metal festivals in 10-20 years' time, when the old gods are gone?
Night Demon is the only name that I can say for sure.
I suppose you're looking forward to the 5-week tour with the traditional metal stalwarts Accept, aren't you?
Yes! This is by far the biggest thing we have done in Europe as far as touring. We are definitely excited and ready for the challenge. Looking forward to seeing our fans come to support, and also to playing in front of people that have yet to see the band.
Other than the touring activities, what's next for Night Demon?
We have a deluxe edition of our album "Darkness Remains" coming out in January, as well as a live record coming out Summer 2018. We also have some more music videos currently in production to roll out during the "Darkness Remains" touring cycle. Other than that, it's tour, tour, tour!
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel

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Tags: Night Demon, heavy metal, Jarvis Leatherby, Darkness Remains, NWoTHM
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© 1997-2020 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.