Night Demon has unleashed one of the best albums of the year appropriately entitled “Outsider”. But not only this. They have come up with the most adventurous and diverse album of their career with a sensational concept that could have easily become a TV series or movie on Netflix or something. We get in touch with Jarvis Leatherby for all the details… Interview: Sakis Nikas
Rockpages.gr: Jarvis, it’s great to be talking to you after five years. You know, we did a video interview before this intimate gig that you did at the Remedy Club where you played cover songs.
Jarvis Leatherby: Yeah, I remember. That was really fun.
Rockpages.gr: Jarvis, many people think that you were inactive in between 2017 and 2023, the period in between the two studio albums. But the truth is that you’ve been keeping busy during the pandemic, right? And I must say that you gave us nightmares with all those 7” singles that you released man. I’m still missing one, you know.
Jarvis Leatherby: (laughs) Yeah, we had five 7” singles which we put them into a compilation last year. We’ve been touring again. We did 100 shows last year. You know, we did three world tours on “Darkness Remains”. We put out a live album. We put out a deluxe edition of Darkness in 2018. We’ve had 132 weeks of podcast episodes.
We’ve been busier than ever, you know. I mean, like if you look at the span between full-length albums. Might be how it looks on paper, but we’ve definitely been very active. We’ve been busier than ever.
Rockpages.gr: You have a new record out. Did you follow a different way of recording or it was more of the same for you?
Jarvis Leatherby: Same way of recording, really…it’s all live, but it’s different in the fact that it’s a concept record. And we’re dealing with a lot of different themes as we’ve expanded ourselves a lot musically, and it’s really just it’s way more progressive and more of a journey for the listener. You know, we just felt like we had covered anything we could cover in traditional heavy metal, there’s not a single riff or drum beat or vocal line or guitar solo that we left on the table. We thought, Let’s just write something more creative or nothing at all. You know, we didn’t want to be like AC/DC or Slayer. We’re just not that kind of band, you know, where you just put out an album and people say, Okay, I know exactly what it’s going to sound like, you know? And some people are good at that, you know?
Rockpages.gr: You know, by answering this question, you cover three more questions of mine, but I will expand. The first one is the concept thing. And I couldn’t help but noticing some, I don’t know, supernatural, mysterious things out there with the lyrics. Would you care to elaborate a little bit on this one?
Jarvis Leatherby: Yeah. So the story is basically about a young man who grows up in a very insular environment, a special town where nobody has…nobody can ever leave the town and nobody has ever come into the town. And it’s surrounded by this green supernatural kind of mist, almost like the northern lights or something, you know. But nobody, nobody really knows what it is. He grows up tending to the graveyard. His family runs the graveyard in the town, and his grandfather passes away. And he just kind of feels this need to leave. You know, we’ve all we’ve all kind of felt that need before. If you grow up in a small place, like I just need to get out, see the world so much against everyone’s advice. So, he decides to leave. When he does this, he goes on a long journey and kind of gets a little disoriented in this mist and finds out that he ends up in the same place that he came from, the same town. And so he’s kind of like, “What the hell is going on? I don’t know. I’m not going to question it. I’m tired.”…when he gets to the place, though, he realizes that everybody that he knows is different. They kind of know him, but he doesn’t really know them. He’s in some kind of alternate reality where people be everybody’s the same, but they’ve lived a kind of different existence. This is a bit jarring to him until he comes into contact with the other version of himself. And when this happens, he has to make some choices. Basically, bad things happen, and he has to kind of assume the identity of his other self, while the whole time he’s trying to get back to his reality. People sense that something is off, you know?
Rockpages.gr: That sounds amazing. That’s a great storyline… I mean, how about Netflix, man? (laughs)
Jarvis Leatherby: Yeah, well, to tell you the truth, this all started as a movie. I wrote a film script…like, a film equivalent. And so I spent a lot of time doing that. And then we tried. We adapted the story to the concept of the album and put some music to it, you know?
Rockpages.gr: It sounds very cool. Now that you elaborated on the whole story, and I have a clear picture of the whole thing, the album is the perfect soundtrack.
Jarvis Leatherby: Thank you very much.
Rockpages.gr: Okay, the second part of your previous answer is the progressive elements. You know, I noticed some progressive stuff there. Maybe it’s not the right word, but you know, for the sake of it, you use some cool breakdowns after the solos. You put the mid-tempo stuff. The songs are very much more enjoyable, the whole listening experience, you know what I mean? So was it a conscious effort or did it come out spontaneously in the studio?
Jarvis Leatherby: I appreciate that. Well, the thing is, the music follows the storyline, so when something happens in the story, you have to make a dramatic switch to that, give that affect, you know? For instance, You have to start a chase scene. If somebody is lying in their bed and pondering their existence, you have to make a soundtrack for that. You know, the album was written to be played from front to back in its entirety. So we can we play it live with no stops, You know, there’s no breaks. It’s really one big piece broken up into eight chapters. As far as the progressive elements, I’m going to agree with you because it’s kind of half way like when you think of progressive, you think of prog rock kind of stuff…
One thing that we are still conscious about is, you know, when people hear we’re doing a concept record, it’s like, yeah, it’s still under 35 minutes. You know, it’s not like you a double LP. Here comes “Nostradamus”. You’re going to have to invest like a year of your life trying to figure this thing out, you know? I think with progressive rock as a genre, the thing that I always disliked about it is that you get some really good music, and in a certain section, they bring you about 90% of the way. And then the last 10% goes off on some crazy fucking thing that it’s almost like, Hey, let me impress my musician friends, right? For us, we still want to write. We want to connect with the listener. So we go 100% with it. Like we’re not going to write something progressive that’s going to sound like there’s a certain formula of notes, right? That’s satisfying to the listener. We want to have the payoff at the end. We want the listener to be satisfied and go, Wow, there’s still some really good hooks here. There’s still some catchy stuff that I could sing along to. There’s still some emotional stuff that I, you know, I could drive my car, I could go for a jog and not be like, Oh, fuck, I’m out of rhythm. You know, It’s not that’s not our goal. Our goal in the progressiveness is to follow the story and make things more interesting.
You know, there are a bit of surprises in there musically but not in a distasteful way, not in a Frank Zappa way that makes you scratch your head when you listen to it. I appreciate all that stuff as a musician, but I’m not in the world of that. I’m in the world of trying to write the best songs that I can. I mean, we all know that we can play, you know? But like our big musician moments in Night Demon, we have always been very quick. We try and make them very quick so that the listener would want to go back and hear it again because with some of the modern music, whether it’s like the technical death metal stuff or whatever, the musicianship is off the charts, I’m not going to deny that. It’s incredible the way these guys can play. However, when you get into an album of one of these bars after the first 30 seconds of the first song, you’ve already peaked. You can’t go anywhere from there that’s going to impress me any more than the way you just started in the first 30 seconds.
And then after a while, you get used to all those notes…and the drumming. Crazy everywhere…you get used to it. You get desensitized. And by song five, you’re like, Oh, you know, on this album, we don’t peak until about 5 minutes to the last song.
Rockpages.gr: Some people might say that the album is only 37 minutes long. But if you think about it, all the classic records, all the classic heavy metal albums of the 80s were that long, you know, 35 or 40 minutes.
Jarvis Leatherby: Exactly. I think it’s a positive thing, not a negative thing.
Rockpages.gr: I mean, how much more do you need? I think eight songs. It’s good. Like I said, a lot of people that I’ve talked to already, they were kind of surprised by it when they first listened to it because it wasn’t what they expected…you know…only 37 minutes. They were able to listen to it three or four times and say, okay, I get it now.
Jarvis Leatherby: I get it. Because if it was 80 minutes or a 78-minute record, I think somebody would hear it once. And if it didn’t grab them right away, they would just be like, okay, I heard it and it is what it is. My favorite records of the eighties have eight songs. Some are like, you know, like Megadeth’s “So far, so good, So what?” It’s like eight songs, 30 minutes. It’s fucking great. I listen to it over and over again. You fucking love that stuff. You know, a lot of pop records are like that too, or like 22 minutes or something, you know? You don’t need more than that, I think. I gotta tell you that for a band like us, that always played a traditional style of music, you know, you’re always trying to find your own identity in that, right? Because somebody could easily say, Hey, they’re just like sounding like a band, Any old school band, right? But I think after making a few albums, you kind of you realize who you are and you have more of an identity. So now that we have a few albums out and an EP and a compilation out, I’m hoping that Night Demon has its own sound.
Rockpages.gr: From my perspective, you had your own sound even from your debut. Night Demon is part of the so called New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal. As a musician, uh, how far can you go playing that kind, that style of music? You said before that you wanted to include stuff so you can make it more, you know, adventurous maybe, but yeah…is it restricting for you to be part of such a genre?
Jarvis Leatherby: I know what you mean…First of all, I’m okay with whatever anybody wants to call us because if somebody hears us and they say, this sounds like this to me, then it’s true. You know, I mean, you can’t deny that. But yeah, it can be very limiting because certain press outlets, they just see, oh, it’s a traditional heavy metal band. They think that they know what that is, you know, But if you look at the record, it’s quite the opposite, you know? So there’s elements of it in there for sure but it’s much more than that, you know. And the scene is small. You know, the good thing is there’s a lot of new bands coming out, which I like, but I think that what we’ve always tried to do as a band is just be ourselves.
And as much as we love heavy metal, fashion and stuff and the way the albums sounded back in the day and stuff, we realized that that’s not our era. We’re not in that era; we live in this time. You know, we try and celebrate the good stuff about the old while still being authentic to ourselves. And I think the downfall of what you would call the new wave of traditional heavy metal is the fact that a lot of people are just trying to straight up copy what already happened with the way that they look, with the way that they write, with the way that they sing, and the way that they play with their artwork…with everything really. I mean, some bands are even trying to have bad artwork (laughs) When some of these great albums in the 80s had bad artwork…they didn’t want that. Simply, it wasn’t as easy as today to get great artwork, you know, So I think that’s what held those albums back, to be honest.
The artwork had so much to do with the classic status of that band, you know? And so so, you know, much like Iron Maiden. Maybe they would be as big as Iced Earth or something if they didn’t have a theme, a great artwork and a mascot that they stuck with, you know…it helps the music so much. So I think with the young bands, just be yourself. You can love old school music and you can play like that and you can inject that into what you do. But once you try and dress like it’s 1985 and you were born in 1995, what you’re doing is you’re making a mockery of yourself.
Rockpages. I agree. You know the key element to what you say is to try and celebrate that era and not copy or recreate that era. That’s the secret of the success, I believe.
Jarvis Leatherby: Yeah. I mean, we can’t recreate it, you know. And especially if you weren’t there, how would you know?
Rockpages.gr: Yeah, exactly. The coolest thing about the album is actually the video clip. You know, for the title track. I absolutely love it because I I’m a big fan of the white background. And what I really like is that you’re under the impression that you’re in the middle of a concert because you’re all sweaty, you know, and stuff like that. And you bring out the energy! It’s right in front of you, a concert right in your face.
Jarvis Leatherby: You know, when we talked to the label about doing music videos, I said, look, unless we do a music video for every song and tell the story as a concept album, you know, like there’s no point. And so they said, We’ll just do performance videos. So that’s what we’re doing for all the videos we’re doing here. And I just said, okay. I said, Great first video. We’re going to wear all black our equipment is all black, and we’re going to be in an all white room. Like if you want a performance video, that’s all you’re going to get. It’s a straight performance. The story was written in a cinematic view as a film, that’s how the songs are structured.
Rockpages.gr: So I guess you’re gonna promote the album with a European Tour and hopefully a Greek gig…
Jarvis Leatherby: Yeah, we’re going to come back in the last two weeks of July and then the entire month of September. Hopefully we will play in Greece. We’re still trying to work some stuff out with that. But if not, you’ll see us next year. We’re going to head out on a big European package next year. We’re trying to put something together that’s really special with some of the kind of top like newer bands. You know, something that I like to call…The Next Four.