Interview: Night Demon rise up through the power of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal

night demon

Jarvis Leatherby was swept up by the bat wings of metal as a kid, fascinated by the powerful riffs and imagery of old-school British bands like Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath and Diamond Head.

While most of those kids grow up just content to just to rock out at shows in the audience, Leatherby is chasing his true metal muse as vocalist and bassist of Ventura, California’s blazing Night Demon.

“All roads lead from Metallica, Black Sabbath, Van Halen and Iron Maiden,” Leatherby said, during an email interview (the band is currently on the road, playing festivals and shows in Europe).  “Those bands made me feel like anything was possible in my life. I really felt a certain sense of power when I got into those bands.”

A power trio, —  with Leatherby, Armand John Anthony (guitar) and Dusty Squires (drums) — Night Demon have been making waves in Europe on the strength of the just-released “Darkness Remains” and 2015’s “Curse of the Damned.” The band has shared stages with NWOBHM legends like Diamond Head, won praise while touring America with extreme metal masters Carcass, took their show to South America, and have been nominated for the “Up and Coming” metal band award by Metal Hammer Magazine.

Musically, the band pulls off a neat trick, channeling  the driving force, riffs and soaring vocals of “Killers” era NWOBHM, with an injection of thrash, Motorhead-style swagger and the grandeur of classic Dio, while never sounding stale or like an 1980s metal homage.

Its fun music — tough-as-nails, hard-charging and totally a ready to knock heads. See for yourself.

 

The band came together as a three-piece because there weren’t any other musicians in the Ventura scene who wanted to explore classic metal, Leatherby said.

“We had always talked about doing a NWOBHM inspired project, and one day we finally decided to pull the trigger and get together and see what happens,”Leatherby said. “We did always have the same interest in classic metal, hence the reason why the band started as a three piece … The hardcore punk scene was very strong in our area, but growing up in white suburban southern California, there wasn’t a heavy crop to pick from as far as musicians who really understood this style, or like us, people who really grew up on this and loved it so much. There were the three of us and that was it.”

The band was very interested in writing music that captured the spirit of bands like Maiden, Saxon and other members of the NWOBHM pantheon.

“Initially when we started, we were intentionally trying to capture that vibe,” he said.  “It came easily because the fact is that this music is in our DNA by now. I started Night Demon at thirty years of age, so (I had) almost twenty years under my belt of listening to this music on a daily basis.”

The music was in more than just Leatherby’s DNA. Metal, he said, got him the way it gets a lot of other kids — by appealing to him from the dark side.

“I grew up in Christian school, so I wasn’t exposed to that stuff on a daily basis, besides whatever I saw on MTV at home after school,” Leatherby said. “When I was twelve years old, they showed us a Christian documentary film title ‘Hell’s Bells.’ This film went on for three hours, breaking down the evils and dangers of rock and metal — everything down to Ozzy, Judas Priest, and Metallica lyrics and the hidden meanings about these bands worshiping the devil and influencing their fans to commit suicide, back masking Zeppelin records, etc. ”

Of course, as anyone who once had W.A.S.P. cassette or Slipknot CD confiscated by a concerned parent can testify, all that parental and teacherly preaching about the dangers of metal just makes the already-exciting world of metal that much more intriguing.

“The following day, most of my class mates brought their tapes and CD’s to school along with hammers to smash their music in the name of god,” Leatherby said. “Myself and my two best friends took the other route and were completely mesmerized by what we saw.

“At that moment, I knew what I wanted to do with my life, and I never looked back,” he said. “… We all know as metalloids that initial feeling of discovering this music and knowing your life’s purpose. It’s much like a drug.”

Music based on a classic ’80s style might not seem to have much appeal to younger generations of fans. But Leatherby said Night Demon is reaching across the generational and musical divide, even making headway with fans of extreme tech-metal pioneers Carcass.

“The thing I realized is that the old school guys who are into extreme metal, cut their teeth on bands like Metallica and Maiden, so they definitely understand what we are doing, and it can sometimes be a break in the monotony of a very aggressive and extreme scene,” he sad. “The young kids don’t see us as a throwback at all. It’s a totally new thing to them … Girls who get dragged to these kinds of (extreme metal) shows with their boyfriends often latch onto us as well because of the melodic sense and catchiness our songs have.

“Actually that was one of the most successful U.S. tours we have done to date,” he said of the recent Carcass tour. “(I)t doesn’t hurt to tour with a legendary band like Carcass. (They’re) such a really great technical band, and even greater guys as people.”

The band is in Europe playing festivals through August, which Leatherby said is the band’s prime territory.

“(T)ouring in Europe is a really great thing for Night Demon. We do have more fans here per capita than say the States or Canada, but I find that there are true metal fans all over the world,” he said. “No one (set of fans is) better than the other. I think people just celebrate and show it differently.

“I will say that Europeans have a genuine appreciation for Night Demon in the way that they really respect the work ethic that we have, and are very engaged at the shows,” he said. “I  know that we (give) them one of the most energetic shows they see all year.”

Some of the enthusiasm for the band’s sound and shows is not nostalgia, but relief from classic metal fans who are happy to see the genre is not dead, Leatherby said.

“We have had the luxury of touring with some of the greats who influenced us — I’m talking about Raven, Diamond Head, Anvil, Satan, and Saxon,” he said. “Those shows have done well for us, as that’s how the older audience has discovered us … In a way, a lot of them are excited that they see a future for the genre in Night Demon, and they don’t have to have their kids tell them that they listen to dinosaur rock. ”

Being in a professional band is difficult, with a lot of hard work, sacrifice and not always a lot of money (a subject we’ll delve into more fully in the future, I think). But Leatherby said he’s absolutely happy with what the Night Demon has been able to accomplish so far.

“This band as a whole has been my favorite memory,” Leatherby said. “We do this every day and have for the last four years. It’s all baby steps, but the progression has shown and the success is obvious and can be traced back to everything we have done to get here.

“I’ve played in countless bands throughout my life and told myself that I’m not gonna be the guy in my thirties still trying to make it in the music industry, but here I am and I couldn’t be happier about that:” he said. “There is something to be said about being experienced — being ready for the opportunities when they come your way, not believing in luck but believing you can create your own fate, and that is exactly what we are doing.  If it ended today, I would have no regrets.”

On the Web: http://www.nightdemon.net

 

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