Night Demon – Outsiders No More

Tuesday, 7th March 2023

A favorite with most of the scribes at Dead Rhetoric, Night Demon pound for pound are one of the shining stars for the current breed of classic-driven traditional heavy metal. Outsider is the latest full-length, their first full-on concept record and a testament to the versatility plus vitality of the genre. Nine tracks that resonate well with any generation wishing to throw up devil’s horns, bang heads into oblivion, and scream/shout with the lyrics at the top of their lungs – it’s a monster of an album through every listen. We reached out to vocalist/bassist Jarvis Leatherby to get the scoop on how the past few years have been for the band, how the trio is handling the workload living across multiple continents, the road work they’ll continue to do, thoughts on the state of heavy metal and what younger bands need to do to keep things alive/thriving, plus talk of their Night Demon Metal Podcast and more.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve had a busy couple of productive years on the recording front while the live show market was in flux due to the pandemic. Can you bring the readers up to speed as to what happened during those pandemic years for Night Demon – do you feel it was a good time to reevaluate the goals and ambitions for the band?

Jarvis Leatherby: 100%. I’ve maintained that while everything that happened was not very good for our society, a lot of people had it pretty rough for sure. But in all honesty for us, it was great. I look back on it with a bit of fondness now that it’s all over. Being able to put the brakes on, not that we ever slowed down as a band, but we’ve been touring so much it’s hard to be in two frames of minds at once. We weren’t really writing on the road, and when we attempted it, the results were pretty unsuccessful. We had been touring for so long off of the previous record, and that was good, that was our plan. It was a blessing in disguise for us, we really got to take some time and write this new record. We were writing this record during the first lockdown, right away.

I felt like a kid again. A lot of my responsibilities had gone away. If anything did go haywire, I could just blame the pandemic like everyone else in the world. Everybody from your next-door neighbor to your phone company. Everybody used it as an excuse – not that I did, but I felt like I could if I wanted to. It was a beautiful time for us. We are back now, and now I feel there are way more demands on us now than ever. I’m so glad somebody forced us to do that.

Dead Rhetoric: So was it intentional at first to have those staggered single releases that ended up being a part of the compilation for Year of the Demon?

Leatherby: Oh yeah. We had formulated that plan back at the end of 2018. We really wanted to do that. We were supposed to be on the road when the first single came out, and tour throughout that. Every five weeks a new single would come out, and we didn’t tell anybody about this – we didn’t make any announcements about this happening. We would add a new song to the live set, and see how that was going. We were writing all these songs that we didn’t feel were cohesive enough for an album – they stood out on their own. We wanted to try something new. The idea of the compilation was not thought about until we saw that this pandemic lasted a lot longer than we thought it would. We had to go tour again – we needed to tour off these songs and do a world tour before we usher in a new record. There were quite a few full-lengths that came out during the pandemic that were good, that didn’t get really much attention – and by the time bands could tour again, those records had lost steam and I didn’t think it was fair to those bands. We looked at that, and pushed things back.

A lot of people, look at things in the scope of studio albums and go, ‘man, they haven’t put out a record in six years’. Well, okay – in fairness we did three world tours, five singles, a compilation, a live album, a deluxe version of Darkness Remains, a weekly podcast that is now at 133 consecutive weeks. We have been busy, you know?

Dead Rhetoric: Right, and a lot of people don’t understand the current marketplace dictates a certain level of demand and attention, keeping interest alive. But to also come up with a strong and cohesive record, the days of doing it with quality in six months or a year don’t exist anymore…

Leatherby: It’s crazy that it just does not exist. With this record, we had a lot of time to craft it, which was nice. We spent six total days in the studio. We were ready, we are a live band, we record live. Our prep is in the demoing and the rehearsing of the songs.

Dead Rhetoric: The latest studio album Outsider is probably your most ambitious record to date – and a conceptual story to boot. How do you feel this set of material advances the career arc of the band, were there any special struggles, obstacles, or challenges to overcome during the process?

Leatherby: Yeah, a lot to be honest. Darkness Remains and Curse of the Damned initially both started out as concept records. It was tough. On Curse of the Damned we were trying to force it, we had a bunch of songs we had written and there was a guy who did a comic book based on things – we wrote “Screams in the Night” based on his concept. He helped with the cover art, but at the end of the day it was too schizophrenic for a whole concept record. Darkness Remains we got a little bit closer, if you listen to “Welcome to the Night”, “Life on the Run” and the title track, that’s the trilogy of songs that’s a story that runs through – but it’s track one, five and ten. We missed the mark on that again.

With this one, we had to do this. When we started writing some of the musical pieces, the riffs, we knew this is a good direction to go in. We could take a lot of twists and turns here, we could be heavy, we can have some emotional parts to it. It really lends itself to the story, coming up with the storyline and fitting music to it was the challenge. Turning that storyline into lyrics which weren’t a literal, boring story. They are two different mediums. The challenge was also finishing it. We had taken so long to make it that during 2021 I was going through quite a depression just getting lost in what is going on in the story – staring at a blank page for hours on day by day. I’m working on it, doing stuff for it, but what was going to be that moment of inspiration? I’m most proud that it’s done.

Dead Rhetoric: The record has a great dynamic mix of quick hitters along with a couple of epics such as “Beyond the Grave” and “The Wrath”. What are the essential qualities you believe to make both types of songs work within the context of an album?

Leatherby: I could only speak for us. We have always written shorter songs. Just because we don’t feel the need to make a song longer just to make it long. I love the fact that we can play more songs in a live set than most bands. With the long tracks we have on this record, they go somewhere. There’s a total journey through and through, there’s not a lot of repetition. I think they needed to be that length, and no longer. There’s a lot that happens in them, and it easily could have just come back around, and I didn’t think that was necessary. Truth be told, the album is meant to be played straight without any breaks. It’s kind of just one piece. All of those things that happen in those songs happen with the storyline and they are supposed to happen that way.

Dead Rhetoric: It seemed like you paid more attention to detail on the little things as far as the bass work and definitely your vocal lines. Did you spend more time and effort drilling deeper on those details?

Leatherby: Definitely. I spent a lot of time improving on my vocals. I really wanted to bring a lot more power into it. I also didn’t double track my vocals, which I’ve always done. I got a good vocal sound to start with, and be able to have dynamics, sing with a bit more passion when it’s a single voice. Armand sang all the harmonies on the album, it’s much more of a band effort. With the bass playing, yeah, I really want to take it to another level. We are still three guys; there’s no rhythm guitar tracks on this album. If a band like Rush can do it, we could try and do something like that. Our goal at the end of the day was not to turn into a prog rock band, it was to add progressive elements while still writing songs that satisfy the listener. I feel like a lot of prog music, it gets you about 90% there, and then the last 10% goes off on some musical tangent. I feel like the musicians are almost trying to impress other musicians, instead of giving the satisfaction and the payoff that a listener needs to feel something. That is the happy medium here.

Dead Rhetoric: Upon the launch of the album’s release, you’ll be conducting a US tour during March/April with Satan and Haunt as tour companions. What can the fans expect from this triple bill package, and do you feel that people across America young and old are finally starting to gravitate to more melodic, traditional forms of heavy metal once again?

Leatherby: Well, you can expect a great show. We’ve been trying to do this tour since 2020, and we’ve stuck to our guns on this one. All the bands are really good friends. I can’t say enough about the other two bands – they’ve proven themselves and what they can bring to the table. We wanted to make a can’t miss show. Easily any one of us can go out on our own, but in these times when everyone is hitting the road you have to put something together that is pretty appealing.

I never can tell. When we started, I felt like nobody would care, but now we are part of a revival thing and now a decade later, it’s hard to believe it’s been that long. We are very much a part of it and in that conversation, in the last decade there has also been another 120 subgenres of metal that have popped up that have far surpassed us in popularity. Now whether that’s here to stay, I don’t know – that’s something to be debated. I still think we’ve gravitated more towards a style that I’m not going to say is outdated, but it’s classic. It takes a certain ear to be attracted to that, and that’s all I need.

I do notice that we have been getting a lot more play in some commercial avenues that are a little out of our realm. I didn’t know how comfortable I was with it at first, but at the same time, now I’m okay with it. It’s never too late to get into something good, and I think we are only a product of what we are exposed to. You think because the internet is out there that you are going to be exposed to all these new things. I’ve learned that most people on the internet are just spending their time on social media, and with that you are still in a bubble. You are still exposed to what everybody immediately around you is doing, and usually it’s like-minded. You can go to your neighbor’s Facebook page who’s into music and discover a whole genre of music you had no idea about and realize this is extremely popular around the whole world. I think that’s cool but for us, being in metal, if we are on Sirius XM radio between Five Finger Death Punch and Lamb of God or something – I’m okay with that. I don’t think we fit in with those bands, but someone who listens to that is at least going to be exposed to what we do. The more they dive into it, they can discover the back catalog, and discover a whole lot more bands who are doing what we are doing. It’s always a good time to do that.

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve also developed a Night Demon related podcast since 2020 called the Night Demon Heavy Metal Podcast. How do you feel about this medium and its impact now in promoting the band (and the cause) of metal in general – do you believe it draws people in due to the stories that are told in a longer, audio-style format?

Leatherby: I do for the hardcore fans. What I like about it is we are able to use all these resources we’ve always had, and to expose stuff to not leave it on the cutting room floor. There’s a fine line. A part of me doesn’t like the fact that there isn’t a lot of mystery surrounding bands anymore. But since there isn’t, we are going the opposite way. If you want it, and you want to know, here’s everything and the kitchen sink, in all it’s honesty. With the interviews with the podcast, we do have a rule that nobody in the band or crew is ever allowed to talk to each other before they record their commentary. So that 90% of the time, the stories line up pretty well – when there is conflicting stuff, it’s fully aired. Here is what somebody else thought about this. We just want to give the truth; we want to give the real story of the band. Since we’ve been doing this for so long, there’s a lot of interest from people to write books about the band. It’s like a reference library or a bibliography almost, where they can always go back.

Let’s just say somebody likes just one song by us. They can go and find out anything they want about it. I didn’t think there would be that much to talk about when we started. We have years of content to go. I like that our story is getting out there, it lives – and the fans love it. It’s a way for us to stay close with them, even when we can’t go play for them. Every Friday they get to hear from their favorite band, or one of their favorite bands, just talk about stuff. It’s very in-depth, it’s a lot of work. It’s not just a Friday night, beer drinking thing. We rarely do live episodes – I think we’ve maybe done three in our history. There is lot of care and attention that goes into it.

Dead Rhetoric: Now that you are in your early forties, have your views on life adjusted and changed from how you viewed your life and work during your twenties and thirties?

Leatherby: Oh yeah. It’s like light years different. They say people can’t change. I disagree, they can change if they want to. I’ve gone through a lot of changes, no matter how hard they are. I can’t even identify with the person that I was twenty years ago. There is always the ‘I wish I knew then what I know now’ kind of thing. Everything falls in its right place, and some of the shit that you had to go through, when you look back on it you think, thank God that happened. If that didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have met this person, I wouldn’t have had these opportunities, stuff like that. That’s the way I look at it.

I’m not a big fan of statistics, I hate numbers. That’s what the world we are living in now is dealing with. How many followers you have, how many likes, how many streams. People can look at how many records we sell, because that’s what matters. It’s a difference maker, we do pretty well for our status. That’s a financial difference maker and shows a real commitment to the people that really love us. We get asked all the time in interviews, do we feel like we are going to be a big band, or the next big band that’s going to take over when the Iron Maiden’s retire? I don’t know if anybody is. The way that the system is built now, nobody is championing anything coming up. The festival promoters or mainstream media, be it mainstream magazines or television, there is no going after that. Between the bottom classic band and the top newer band there’s a huge gap. If those people responsible for that don’t start putting the newer bands at the top – the people will listen to them – we will just have tribute bands of this stuff and the whole movement is just going to die. It’s out of my control.

There are bands like us that have been around for ten plus years that have a pretty full discography. And we are not kids anymore, but we are by far outperforming a lot of these acts on stage. It’s our time. I will keep flying the flag as long as I can.

Dead Rhetoric: It does bring up an interesting point. When Iron Maiden and Judas Priest retire, we don’t have younger bands filling those slots. I could say Ghost and maybe Sabaton are two bands who could possibly reach that level, but here stateside they are maybe mini-arena level acts…

Leatherby: And those bands are theater. It’s a totally different thing. I respect the hell out of both those bands, but if you look at the ‘newer generation’ bands at the top level, it always involves some gimmick, cosplay, or something outside of the musical element that is attracting people to them. It’s a bit of a circus in a way. That’s not an element that we have. We have a tiny slice of it, we are just street guys playing music. We want to interest people with the themes we have in our artwork, and yes we have Rocky come out on stage, a small production, our fans like it that way. For us to need tanks, all wear uniforms, face paint, it’s just not us. Maybe it’s the culture, everybody has their own social media page, people are maybe afraid to go support another real person. It’s easier to get behind somebody that’s not a real person, you know? You are not threatened by them. In the 90’s, it was like this guy is like you and I. Anti-rock star. That morphed into he’s like you and I – he can’t be anything special. Interesting. I’m not trying to be negative, I’m just calling it like it is.

Dead Rhetoric: I try my best to champion things in my social media use, but many people like to throw the negative out there instead. We have a short time to live, wouldn’t people want to spend more time lifting people up instead of tearing them down?

Leatherby: That’s so right on. What that can do – if we can reverse that, what that could do for the world would be incredible. People don’t even know what they are missing out on.

Dead Rhetoric: How did it come about that you moved from California to Ireland – and has it made things easier or more difficult to get things done with your workload?

Leatherby: I still have my place in California, I just split my time between two places when I am not on the road. It’s made things way easier to be honest. To be eight hours ahead of the West Coast, I find that when the day is over out here, I’m ahead. Time is an ugly thing – linear time, I always feel like I don’t have enough of it. The pace is a bit slower here, I can gather my thoughts and keep up with myself. And band-wise it’s great. When we get together, we get together for weeks or a month at a time. It’s completely focused work, we set time aside and we get stuff done. Man, that is so much better than living in the same town, everybody. Our drummer moved back to the East Coast a couple of years ago, so it’s so much more focused when you block out time and set deadlines for ourselves.

When the inspiration is there it’s the best time – when you step away from it, and you are there once a week, it’s hard to pick it back up. We have found a way to make it work, so we are just going to keep things going like that.

Dead Rhetoric: During the downtime I remember also seeing some video footage of you discussing books outside a bookstore, reading a lot of personal development and self-improvement material. Do you believe this helped you as well with your mental well-being?

Leatherby: Absolutely. I’ve been into that stuff since about 2010. I went to a book store to get a copy of the Satanic bible actually, and in that section I found so much more metaphysical books. People are afraid of that stuff, they think it’s evil, but then you start to read philosophy and you realize how much we use this stuff on a daily basis and don’t even realize it. How people use power against us. The things that Tony Robbins talks about are the same things that Aleister Crowley is talking about, just in a different package. Power – the world tells us power is evil, and money is evil. No, not if you have a good relationship with it and can use it for good things.

That has helped my mental mindset. I consider myself a seeker. I don’t have all the answers, I’m always looking and I’m very open-minded to any new philosophies. Being able to listen to the other side, and having a desire to be wrong. Not thinking that I know everything, and I would love to be wrong about some things. Maturity is being able to change your mind, given some new information.

Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of heavy metal in the current marketplace? Are there specific things that you enjoy seeing as of late – and areas that still need to be fixed, if so – do you have any possible solutions for people to think about/implement?

Leatherby: Yes. This kind of goes back to the other question. I don’t know where it’s at currently. I’m seeing a lot more newer, younger bands pop up which is awesome. I would like to see bands, heavy metal bands be more original in the sense of just being themselves. That’s what would move things forward. That’s another thing to what I was saying, maybe some of the newer bands are not doing themselves a favor by being a copy. You can’t replace the original. The Stray Cats were a big band in the 80’s, but they were never Gene Vincent, you know? As much as we love the passion and the classic bands, we know as Night Demon it’s 2023 and we know who we are. I was always the guy with short hair doing this, people used to talk shit about that. I bang my head harder than anybody with long hair. I just wanted to be myself.

The style is in us. The complete copycat makes it a novelty. You see bands that are incredible, and some of these young kids, their voices are so well developed. And they can hit the highest notes I’d ever dream to hit. The fact that they are going up there, and really acting like it’s 1983 when they were born in 1995, it’s never going to be taken seriously at that point. I think if they could just inject who they are and what they’ve experienced in their lives, and bring that classic sound into it, then we’ve got something going on here.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s next on the agenda for Night Demon over the next twelve months or so?

Leatherby: We start a tour the day the album comes out, the one you mentioned, until mid-April. From there we go to the Keep It True Festival in Germany, Cirith Ungol is playing. Night Demon is the road crew. We will go on our first trip to Japan, we are very excited about that. It’s cool at this point to have firsts. We will go to Newcastle next and play a couple of shows for the fan clubs, low key shows. We will play the Dominion Festivals – and then to Ireland, to do a full Irish tour. Many people out there said don’t do it – just play Belfast and Dublin. But you know us, we don’t care if there’s ten people there, we are trying to build something. In mid-May we will take a couple of months off from touring, we will have a new video coming out of one of the album tracks to keep the album going a bit. We will tour Europe the second half of July until September. October I’m trying to bring the Frost and Fire Festival back to Ventura, California – we’ll see. And then November we will do the Monterrey Metal Festival in Mexico, shows in South America. First weekend in December we will be doing Philadelphia and New York, a couple of one-offs. We always have a plan, and there you go.

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