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Interview: Wade Black (Leash Law)

Pure metal...interviews

Even though I had arranged this telephone Interview with Wade Black a few weeks ago, I have to admit that the frontman of the all-star band Leash Law managed to surprise me with his spontaneousness and his excitement over the release of his bandís debut album "Dogface".

I also talked with this charismatic artist about his previous employment with Crimson Glory, his short duty with Seven Witches and also about our mutual admiration for Heavy Metalís leading band, Judas Priest.

Is Leash Law is just another project of well-known musicians, or a proper band.

Wade: Well, I mean, this band is way different from being hired on to, as being the lead singer in a band and stuff. Leash Law is not a side project by any means, but a full time band. We have put a lot of time into this. This is our band, itís not one person who takes care of this band, it takes everybody in order to make this band happen. You know, by far this is a project that youíll be at least expecting a couple more albums out of us.

The band has quite an interesting line-up, considering the history of each and every member. How did you all manage to get together, and why did you choose to play this specific style of music?

Wade: I couldnít have dreamed to put this band together, you know. Itís funny because it all kind of fell into place. I am a really lucky person to be able to play with these musicians.

Rick (Renstrom: guitars) and I had met in a show that we were playing together, we really liked each otherís styles when we played live, and he then actually asked me to sing on his solo album "The Bitter End", which was out last year...good ratings by the way! After that we just started sending songs back and forth. I would sing to him songs over the phone, he would send me music ideas on the computer, Mp3ís that he started writing, and weíre still doing the same thing.

We have such a great chemistry in the band, we work really well together. You know, everybody writes in the band. Emo co-wrote "Dogface", the title track of the album with me. Everybody contributes, itís everybodyís band like I said, not just one personís band.

Ok, but you didnít quite tell me why you chose Power Metal as a style?

Wade: I think that a lot of people just want to put a label on something. I think that the music is good and itís of quality. You can call it Power Metal, you can call it Progressive Metal you can call it what it is, I just call it good music. It just really sucks to be Wade Black, the Power Metal vocalist. Iím also in another band called Tiwanaku thatís completely different. Itís like David Vincent from Morbid Angel singing. We got a Death style vocal, and we got a clean style Metal vocal over the top of that. Thatís something totally different, we cannot put a label to it. Putting labels is part of the politics culture.

The music of Leash Law combines the best elements of both the American and the European Power Metal scene. How different are these two styles, and which in your opinion are their strongest points?

Wade: We love the music thatís coming from Europe, from Germany, from everywhere. People there, they love that style of music. Weíve been back and forth there for the last five years and we pick up on that. We pick up on the European styles, the particular music thatís coming around, you know, so we picked that up on our influences. So maybe when we did that record, that's why you hear all these European influences, cause we listen to all these bands there all the time.

Which would you say then are the main differences?

Wade: I think that itís maybe the way that the guitar is played, the phrasings, the way that they write the keyboard interludes a lot of these bands like for instance Stratovarious. They use the keyboards and stuff in there, I think which gives them that European accent.

Who is the main songwriter in the band?

Wade: At this particular time, on this album, Rick and I have done the majority of the writing as far as lyrics, melody lines and stuff, except as I said the song "Dogface" which Emo wrote, and the song "Paving the Way" which Richard Christy wrote, both music and lyrics.

Everybody contributes to the band as far as producing, as far as engineering and management. While all of this is taken care of inside the band, we have no outside people that help us right now with anything, except the record label. Black Lotus records and End Records here in the States, for which I canít say enough about. Weíre all just super lucky, thatís all that I can say. Iím sitting here with my third international album thatís coming up, you know! With the line-up that we have...this is really incredible, I pinch myself sometimes - I canít believe whatís happening one more time.

Itís nice to be able to listen to your voice one more time!

Wade: Thank you very much, we appreciate it. How did you rate the album on a one to ten, or do you guys do that?

On a scale one to five, I gave it four actually.

Wade: Wonderful. Itís always so hard to sit back and judge yourself, as a musician. Being in a band yourself, because youíre your own worst enemy. Do you sit back and say that this song was great, or pat yourself on the back for a job well done! You cannot do that, cause the music business is so fickle right now. Itís like here today, gone today. People can tell whether youíre putting forth your best efforts or not.

Leash Law

Itís also good for people to understand that music journalists like me are nothing more than fans of this music as they are. Itís not like my word is gospel and everyone has to agree with me. Thatís only just another opinion.

Wade: We had a couple of people saying not nice things about the record, but you know, youíre going to get that everywhere - youíre not going to get everyone happy. We do the music for ourselves, we write the songs for ourselves. To get somebody like yourself and the fans that are out there understand where weíre coming from, well thatís the real blessing of the whole thing.

I would assume that the creation of the lyrics was your responsibility. Is there a main story behind them? Can you make something like a short introduction/presentation of every song?

Wade: I have actually grown up in a military atmosphere. My dad and my grandfather were in the army. I watch CNN constantly... I see everything thatís happening around the world. You need to have some sort of ...compassion for whateverís happening out there. People are losing their lives, not just Americans - Iím talking about people around the world! The song "Stealing Grace" is simply what itís about. People are giving their lives because their land is being stolen over there. Itís so political.

Even the title track "Leash Law"...I think that there must be someone that polices the political leaders. There has to be something, cause things are so crazy right now. Thereís have to be a Leash thatís put on their heads, there has to be some sort of control! Itís so terrible right now. I want to go to Greece really soon, and with the things that are happening, I donít know if I really want to go.

Being a huge Judas Priest fan, I couldnít fail to detect their huge influence in your music, especially in songs like "Dogface", "Martial Law" and "Hellhole".

Wade: I love Rob Halford, heís the best. I donít think that thereís anybody out there whoís better. I love Ripper, I love Nevermore, I love Bruce Dickinson, Ian Gillan. I think that that form of flattery is your interpretation of what you think is good. I grew up listening to this style of music all my life.

These bands built the foundations of the music that we love and listen to!

Wade: Thatís absolutely true! I think that there should be a rule that every kid that picks up the guitar should have to listen to "Sad Wings of Destiny" (the second and also excellent Judas Priest album), or something older. The kids these days have no schooling. Thatís where all this new crap is coming from.

Donít get me wrong, I want music to push itself and itís boundaries, but thereís a few certain bands out there that keep on re-creating themselves, something like a safety net. I donít agree with that! If youíre going to do music, you need to do it to the point where you want to change. You have to try different steps...thatís what being in a band is all about. When the point comes that you stop having fun in this business, then itís time to hang it up! Thatís where you really need to concentrate on: the reasons why you originally started to play music for. You love to get out there and perform in front of an audience and stuff.

Since we have started this conversation, how do you feel about Priest being re-united with Rob Halford as a vocalist?

Wade: I think that this is the best thing that could happen to Metal right now. I think that theyíre reuniting and the whole Metal scene is coming around again, which is always in the hands of the fans. Itís the fans that keep this music alive by buying the records.

And thatís probably the only style of music where the fans are so devoted.

Wade: I listen to a lot of different styles of music. Metal music, and heavier style aggressive music is what I choose to do. I listen to a huge range of different music. You cannot listen to one style of music, because youíll sit there for so long, youíll start growing old on yourself. Now, listen to a song line "Banion": Iím getting a bit older, Iím getting more mature. What I have going on my life right now, is more heartfelt. I see all the colours of the world through my eyes...itís very beautiful, and thank god that Iím mature enough to see that - my three children that I have, my family! This is the most exciting and beautiful time in my life.

What was the atmosphere in the studio during the recordings of the album? Was it easy to work with musicians of the status of Richard Christy and Emo Mowery?

Wade: Completely natural. Weíve all been doing this for so long. Emoís attitude and all the other memberís attitude is just amazing. Itís so easy to work with these guys. You come in with an idea, we blast it down, we do the pre-production, we write the songs and the rest pretty much just goes really smooth - I canít believe it.

Where was the album recorded, and who handled the duties of the producer? Are you satisfied with the final result?

Wade: Yeah, we produced the album ourselves, me Rick and Emo. We recorded it at Era studios in Orlando, and we had the album mastered and mixed at Athens Mastering in Greece.

How come you chose Greece as the location for mixing the album?

Wade: For the mastering? Actually it was our record label that had got us in touch with a certain gentleman, whoís name I cannot recall. But this guy had some of the most amazing equipment that Iíve ever seen in my life! We could go anywhere and master the record, but Black Lotus insisted we did it in Athens Mastering. We were already coming over there for the listening sessions with journalists and stuff, three or four months ago, and thatís just how the things happened.

"Dogface" has quite an interesting artwork made by Seth. How did you get in touch with him? Was it through Black Lotus, or by any mutual friends/acquaintances?

Wade: I love it! I loved it since the first time I saw it. I canít believe it, I mean, somebody that has this amount of stuff floating around his head, managed to put this all into a picture! I mean, heís really a worthy individual. Seth is amazing. Have you seen any other of the artwork that heís done for Black Lotus? The kid has a really true talent for art, drawing, oil paintings, pencils, pastel...all kinds of stuff - heís definitely a true artist. Seth does all the covers for Black Lotus, along with a couple of other ones, but yeah, it was through Black Lotus.

If you had the duty to promote Leash Laws music, how would you present the band to a possible buyer? Why do you believe that people should invest in "Dogface"?

Wade: I think that the members, they speak for themselves, and as far as single units we can all survive on our artistic abilities. You know, when you put all these people together, itís just amazing of what you come up with music wise. The band is incredibly strong. This is a live band - when you see this band when we come on tour, you will just feel like "oh, my god", itís like a true wall of power, it really is. Itís so natural for us. Weíve been doing this for so long, that we got the hang of it by now. Now we start to do really good things for the band, really good business and the more you learn, the more experienced you get, the further youíre going to be able to go.

Which would you name as the key elements of the characters of your fellow-musicians?

Wade: Thereís no one particular person that I can pick. Everybody has a huge character about them. Emo is so funny, heís so easy to work with. He has a great mind and so many ideas that he puts in that it makes it good. Heís also an amazing producer. He will show me different vocal lines and stuff that I can sing, different lyrics. The way that he composes on his guitar... this kid is truly a star.

Stephen, he comes in and he plays his heart out - he comes with this great attitude every time. Itís not a problem to him, because he loves doing the music. And what am I supposed to say about Mr.Christy: I have never played with anybody thatís so humble. Heís the best drummer, he has the best attitude. I donít really think that I had met anybody quite like him. I hope that he gets everything in his life that heís looking for, I love that dude.

Leash Law

You have played with many different bands, some of which are Crimson Glory and Seven Witches. Can you name the similarities and the differences between Leash Law and these bands?

Wade: I think that in Crimson Glory, I had the chance to play with some of the most incredible musicians in my life. As far as the writing went, and as the writing was going, I was learning how that style of music, how it worked. Hearing different melodies in my head that I was always soaking in like a sponge.

The music, the melody, the placement of the vocal lines and everything. It helped me to be able to go on from Crimson Glory. I hope that these guys do the greatest, I heard that theyíre going to re-unite. I wish them nothing but the best of luck, you know? It was a stepping stone in everybodyís career, what happened happened and...what can you do?

Being in Crimson Glory allowed me to be able to write more than forty or fifty percent of the lyrics and melody lines that are on the Seven Witches "Xiled to Infinity and one" album. If I didnít do the Crimson Glory album, I never would have had the knowledge to know how to apply it to Seven Witches. Now that Iíve done the Witches thing, I proved to myself and to the industry that I can write, that I can produce that I can arrange that I can do all of this. And now that Leash Law is here, everybody brings all of their writing skills and talent and everything, Thatís why weíre able to tone up so much stuff into the songs, everybody puts their work into it.

What are the bandís plans for promoting this album? Are we going to see you touring Europe this summer?

Wade: I think that there is a huge promotion going on through CMM promotions right now, in Germany. I think that itís our fair shot. For the rest of Europe: weíre going to come over and weíre going to tour. We need to play for these kids, you know. I want to get over here, I want to show people that this band is not just a project, but a very gracious band. What we play is music that we love for so long. Itís a true thrill for me to come once again to see these kids and to see the look in their eyes, because itís a beautiful thing. The back of the top of my head is standing up when I talk about Leash Law - I get Goosebumps. I am truly excited about this.

"Dogface" is released through the Greek record label Black Lotus. How did they get in touch with the band in the first place? Are you happy with the way they promote the band in general?

Wade: Black Lotus got in touch with us, we had a mutual friend whoís name is Dimitrios - heís the webmaster of Metal Invader (famous Greek e-zine that used to also be a magazine almost four years ago), and also helps Black Lotus now and then with certain things.

He got us in touch with them one day, and it was the weirdest thing in my life once again... crazy stuff. He talked to me, we discussed a couple of prices, things about the band, the recordings. A couple of weeks later we had a contract, which we took to our attorney, we signed it and we have a world-wide album deal. I couldnít believe it how smooth it went. We had no snag whatsoever, itís like it was meant to be.

Black Lotus is one of the best labels because they donít necessarily go for the commercial stuff. They have a Metal vision of how the music is supposed to sound like. Itís really cool to be with this kind of label. They just donít sign a band because they think that theyíre going to sell a lot of records. Theyíre willing to put that work into their bands, to promote their bands and make them strong - I love that. Thatís great work, thatís pro people.

It makes me really happy to listen to something like that, since I am Greek.

Wade: Really, I see! When you go down there, tell them this that Iím really sure that theyíre going to understand and appreciate: The Greek people have an incredible sense of who they are. I wish that I could with my background, cause Iím German and French, that Iíd be really proud of where I come from the way that the Greek people are. Greek people stand tall with their head on the air, cause they have such a glorious past. I love that about Greece.

Last time I saw you were in Athens, while touring for the promotion of Crimson Gloryís "Astronomica" album. What happened with them by the way? "Astronomica" was a really good album - how come we never saw a second release from that band?

Wade: I think that what happened was internal. I believe that when youíre in a band with members that you think that youíre not getting their respect that you think you should...it was kind like that, it was like I was hired on, which I wish I was. I was never really taken seriously in that band, as far as being contributing song-writing member or anything of that nature. I was always being told what to do. It was kind of weird for me, and it made me feel really uncomfortable.

The music was great, I cannot deny that I spent many, many nights that I thought about quitting the band. The band was practising about two and a half months without John so as to be able to go on tour, he comes in the last two weeks and he doesnít even knows his guitar parts! Thereís too many aspects more so than just the fight between John and me.... there are many other reasons.

I donít want to wake up on the wrong side of the bed, thinking that I want to be an ass h*** all day, because I just want to. It has to do with the fact that I didnít get my money, I wasnít involved in the writing process of the music, I wasnít truly accepted as a member of that band, which made me feel uncomfortable, and not wanting to be a part of it.

The same thing happened with Witches: bad business decisions, bad things go on in that band. Thatís why thatís a revolving door: everybody comes in and out, so many member changes. Fans donít want to see that. They wan to see a band that sticks together, they want to see a band having two, three, four albums...having the same members, not different ones in every album! This was a beautiful part of my live though, donít get me wrong. Being with those guys and being on that album is probably my fingerprint on the world, thatís my trademark album.

Especially your vocal performance on songs like the "Edge of Forever" was quite unique. I cannot find the right words to describe it!

Wade: I thank you John, I really do. We try really hard for what we love. When I recorded that album I was going through the worst period of my life. I was going through my divorce with my ex-wife, I tried to record that album, I tried to tour and to keep my head on straight. It was all really difficult, it all depends on how much determination and drive you have.

You have quite a unique way of singing. Do you believe that you were not treated fairly by the fans of Crimson Glory?

Wade: Not by the fans. They have open arms for "Astronomica". Some people donít like it, but once again, you canít please everyone. For the most part that I played with Crimson Glory, the kids they would stay back, they would listen to a couple of songs, and theyíd move up a little bit. By the fourth, fifth song theyíll move a bit closer. By the end of the show we had everybody in the front row banging, fists in the air. We got to beat them into submission. You got to let them know that youíre willing to get up there and work for it.

Is there any chance of you singing in another of their albums in the future?

Wade: For Crimson Glory? No, never, that will never happen. The only release that youíll ever going to see from that band will be from Midnight, but I donít really see that happening. I wish them the best of luck, but Iíll never record with that band again.

Being a frontman of a band is maybe the most demanding and difficult role. What made you decide to become one, and which are the basic things that a singer needs to have in order to be considered successful?

Wade: Iíve always had a natural singing voice, taken lessons and stuff like that. I think that you need to have experienced stuff like that, I think that you need to have stage fright. You also need to have studio experience, you need to be able to do all these things.

You have to be able to sell your band, to promote your band and to be what we call a total package, and remember that nothing can take the place of experience! You have to get out there and do it. The studio is really important to.

You need to have plenty of time inside there, to learn how to do things. Itís all just a learning process, Iím still learning stuff you know. Believe me when I say that noone is going to tell you where the money is, because they have their hands in the pie and they donít want you to get it. I have been scr**** arround many times. If you donít take care of yourself, if you donít watch your back, youíll get scr**** - thereís people out there whoíre scr***** bands every day. Shame on them, cause thatís not what the music business is all about.

You have played with many different musicians and you have also toured extensively during your career. Which collaboration did you enjoy the most, and which was the most memorable gig that you have played?

Wade: I would have to say that it was probably the Witches tour, which is kind of weird, because we played to a sold-out crowd in Paris. Just to see all the kids and the sold-out sign outside the venue was an incredible thing. As far as my most favourite album/artists, I think that it will be the Leash Law album, simply because I think it has a lot of style, it has a lot of attitude, it was a lot of what we consider to be good stuff/music. Thank God that everybody out there likes it too , thatís what we want. We want to get out there, we want to sell that album. If you cannot do that, you cannot sell your albums - itís all a hand on hand kind of thing. If the fans believe that the album is good and honest, they will go out and buy it - theyíre going to come and support you when you come to play.

Apart from Leash Law, are there any bands or projects that you are involved with, as we speak?

Wade: Thereís this band that I mentioned earlier called Tiwanaku which has almost the same members, it has Emo, it has Richard Christy. The only person thatís not there is Steve. This band is super heavy and aggressive, kind of like "Lamb Of God", like "Morbid Angel". There you have Death vocals in general, with clean vocals on the top.

Donít tell me that youíre doing the aggressive vocals too then!

Wade: I have a super aggressive side that when you hear it, you will say "oh my god". I donít want to pat myself on the back, but there is much talent out there, and weíre happy to be able to be there.

How is anybody going to be able to find stuff from Tiwanaku if they want?

Wade: They can get a hold of me at wadeablack@aol.com. We are pretty close in closing a deal with the band too, so you will probably be doing an interview about this band really soon, itís only round the corner.

Excellent, give me more please (laughs)

Wade: I know, donít worry, weíll give you as much as you can handle!

You are quite a skilful lyricist. Where from do you draw your inspiration? Do you like reading in general?

Wade: Itís pretty much the scenes that I mentioned earlier. Growing up around the military atmosphere, watching the news. Being mature definitely helps you with your lyrics. You know exactly what youíre talking about. As far as being an experienced lyricist, thatís again because of the experience that I gained throughout the years. Thank God that I have the talent to do it, cause I never thought that I had it in me. When I started writing full songs, it was also a surprise to me, but I also think that if you push yourself the correct way you can do just about anything.

Heavy Metal music has been around for the last 34 years. Is it still as "dangerous" as it used to be in the 80ís? Do you like any of todayís leading Metal Bands?

Wade: Absolutely! Look at Metallica, look at all these bands - look at Black Label Society, look at how crazy these guys are, or even Deicide! I think that Metal is just as rebel as it has ever been. When people are seeing Metal bands out there, theyíre expecting to see something more than a Rock show. This is an extreme music.

Do you listen to other styles of music outside Metal? Which album will we find in your CD player nowadays?

Wade: Well, I love Peter Gabriel, I love Tori Amos-I like all kinds of different stuff, I like Blind Melon, I like Coroner-Just because I listen to different styles of music, that doesnít mean that I also want to record those things too. I just can appreciate what they are and what in them is artistic.

See Judas Priest for example: most of their best covers like "Diamond and Rust" are not Rock songs. I think that thatís really amazing, to be able to see where all these influences are coming from.

Wade: Judas Priest, I love that band. I cannot wait to see them. I think that Iím just going to fall down and go into a flipping control (laughs). If I ever get the chance to meet Rob Halford, I really donít know what Iím going to say to him.

Heís one of the best people that youíll ever meet in your life, I guarantee that.

Wade: His voice was a big influence to my developing style. I would love to be able to meet him - I want to see if he knows who I am. It would be nice if he did, it would make me feel good anyway.

Which are the highlights and low points of your career so far?

Wade: I think that the downtimes are when Iím not playing in the band, this is the worst time in my career. Of course youíre going to be more happy when you record an album. I think that the business part of that stuff can sometimes get you down, and if you donít have enough drive, you will never survive in the music business - itís so ruthless. There are so many people out there that are trying to knock you down. I tell my band all the time that there will always be people that will try to tear us apart. We will really have to be strong and stand up for ourselves.

What would you like to have done if you had not become a musician? Any regrets?

Wade: Actually, I havenít put too much thought into that. I like to work with my hands, woodwork. I own a business here in Florida, I fix classic cars, Barracudas, Mustangs and stuff.

Why did you have to mention the Mustangs now? I love these cars!

Wade: (laughs) Aha! I love those cars, and I grew up with them.

How is Wade Black in his every day life?

Wade: Iím probably pretty hard to deal with, because Iím really passionate about what I do. I like to do what I want to do, maybe I donít like to take directions so much, I got a great heart and Iím respectful, Iím reliable and Iím a very strong-willed person.

Whatís the last thing that you would like to say to all the fans of the band, and to people that like your voice specifically?

Wade: I just want to tell everybody out there "thank you so very much for your good Metal ear, thank you very much for keeping the Metal faith alive, for the music that we all love!".

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Interview © 2004 John Stefanis


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