Finally.... after 3 attempts to get an interview with the Band in the 80s where we got our stuff returned every time due to whatever reason we now made it - an interview with one of my absolutely favourite Bands. Thanks to Chris Leibundgut for support and to Dean Roberts (at least I guess he´s the one that replied to the questions) for taking the time to go through all of this.
Most important thing first – when do we get new stuff from you? When „The Henchmen“ was released in 2019 there was talk of a spring 2020 release of a new album. As with so many plans of Bands re new albums / tours bloody Corona has made that invalid I guess… So what´s the most recent plans that you have? I guess releasing a new album nowadays makes sense when being able to tour it afterwards only as Album-Sales aren´t relevant today anymore?!
A: Right, album sales are a long ways from what they used to be. Any band at our level still putting out new albums nowadays is doing it ‘to scratch that creative itch’, not to make money. It’s really a labor of love to be doing this. We do it for ourselves and the fans that care. The original plan was to release the new album in the spring 2020 and play a few festivals and gigs in Europe which Corona put a stop to. It turned out that we got behind schedule with the album for reasons that had nothing to do with Corona and so here we are in 2022. Randy Burns (Megadeth, Helstar, Kreator) who did our 1984 debut EP/album has mixed the new album which will probably be out sometime in the fall realistically speaking. If things go well and Corona doesn’t spike yet again, we’ll be in Europe this summer. Bang Your Head!!! just got cancelled but we will co-headline Day 2 at Headbangers Open Air on July 29, do a club date in Poland the next day, and hopefully a few more shows. Fingers crossed.
Don´t take this one seriously – watching the blistering Solos on your Facebook-Page, don´t you find it a bit unfair to give only such small portions of brilliance to long-standing / suffering / waiting Fans? This stuff and also the music behind it KILLS!!! (As well as the „The Wolfman / Kill and Kill again“-Video – lead guitars from Heaven..).
A: We put out ‘The Henchmen’ to let the fans get a taste of the band with our new singer Keith. The sporadic Facebook videos were just a way to let everyone know that we’re still at it working on the album which has taken a lot longer to complete than originally anticipated, for various reasons. As for ’Kill and Kill Again’: That’s a personal favorite of ours and it went well with ‘The Wolfman’ footage so we decided to turn that into a video. Glad to hear you like it.
What were the reasons for Michael Olivieri to leave the Band again? With Leatherwolf there is at least some stage of prominence I think. Was he sick of playing Metal or wanted to go on as a solo artist? You are missing the 3rd guitar now out of the Triple Axe Attack ϑ
A: Actually, the third guitar slot is being covered by Wayne Finday (ex-MSG) who also plays keyboards. We’re gonna try to have Wayne with us for as many shows as we can. If we have to - we can make it work with 2 guitar players as well. As far as Mike is concerned - he’s been in and out of the band before so this is nothing new. The thing that let to Mike’s dismissal/departure - whatever you want to call it - was really an accumulation of things, the details of which don’t need to be aired in public. Let’s just say this much: Mike liked the idea of being in Leatherwolf more for the glory of it rather than for the love of the band. He loved playing festivals in Europe but not properly rehearsing for it, for example. And he would tell us, “guys, I’m really not a metal singer!”, and when you listen to what he’s doing now, it’s hard to disagree. His musical heart is somewhere else these days. What a lot of people don’t know is: Mike only became the singer for Leatherwolf by default. When we first stated, we had 3 guitar players but no singer. Well, someone had to take over vocals and so Mike did.
Isn´t it a bit annoying that lots of people compare your singer Keith Adamiak with Olivieri, although a Song like „The Henchmen“ clearly shows what a great singer he is in his own right?
A: Comparisons between Keith and Mike will be inevitable and there is nothing we can do about that. Some fans will never accept Leatherwolf without Mike but hopefully the majority will keep an open mind and give Keith a chance and realize it’s no longer 1987 but rather 2022 so change is only natural. If you were a Leatherwolf fan almost 40 years ago, reflect on all the things that have changed in your personal life. Well, bands are no different. Every album is a snapshot in time and as time moves on and members change, so do bands. Our debut does not sound like the 1987 album, and ‘Street Ready’ is different from ‘World Asylum’ but they’re all Leatherwolf albums. The new album will be part of that tradition.
By the way, big compliment to you guys, you know already a few seconds in that this is a Leatherwolf-Song! Noone let the guitars shine like you guys do, noone can bring melody and heaviness together like you did and still do! So how much do the 3 longstanding members keep the Band in line to keep the beloved Leatherwolf-Sound?
A: Thanks for the compliment. Yes, there are certain trademarks that make Leatherwolf distinctly Leatherwolf and we’ve retained that even as the line-up has changed over the years. None of the original Triple Axe Attack is part of the band anymore but Rob Math and the other guys all have the technical ability to re-create the original blueprint. Geoff (Gayer) actually had a significant part in co-writing the new album but, unfortunately, we had to part ways during the recording process because Geoff has some personal issues he needs to get a handle on first if he wants to be in this band. It sucks because Geoff is such a talented musician but at the same time his own worst enemy and very (self-)destructive. And we can’t have that and let it affect Leatherwolf. He hates us right now but we wish him all the best.
Which brings me to past times…to this day I cannot believe you remained to the Underground with albums like the first 3… We were there in the 80s and enjoyed the Classic Albums from way back then and I think we can judge this - these albums are up there with the best of them, even though we mostly were Fans of the Thrash Metal-Movement – so was it just a case of Major-Label disinterest / lack of support from their side? What happened after „Street Ready“?
A: In hindsight, signing with Island Records probably wasn’t the smartest move on our part because they weren’t a label that dealt with a lot of metal at the time. They gave us a certain level of support but it wasn’t enough to break through to the next level. And we should’ve played in Europe a lot more in the 80s - the response over there was amazing when we played Aardschokdag and toured with Vow Wow and Zed Yago in ’89. What happened after ’Street Ready’ was that I was kicked out of the band and Paul (Carman) followed shortly thereafter. The rest of the guys got a new rhythm section and eventually changed the name to Hail Mary and altered the sound. I believe they recorded some demos but couldn’t get signed, also because grunge was starting to take over at the time and anything ‘80s was now frowned upon by the U.S. music industry. We got the band back together in 1998/’99 when we recorded the ‘Wide Open’ live CD and played the Wacken Open Air.
In case of our Mortal Sin we tried 3 times to get an interview with you, we sent our mag with accompanying letter / interview to addresses that have been stated on the albums but always got them returned which made us deeply unhappy as we would have loved to have you inside our (the printed) mag. Have you been informed about any difficulties like that from other sources from way back then?
A: No idea why your mailings were returned - very strange. Maybe our P.O. Box address had changed at the time - I really don’t remember. Too long ago. I don’t recall hearing from other magazine people later on that their mailings were returned.
When you came to Germany finally after „Street Ready“ you played some 80km from us in Rockfabrik Ludwigsburg, scene of many many concerts we attended. On the day of the gig I can clearly remember it was raining heavily, so we decided not to go as we were sure to see you on the rise and therefore in Germany again very soon where we would grab our 2nd chance. Which is one of the biggest regrets that we have to this day not having gone and see you play…how stupid can you be… what were your impressions of Germany and the gigs you played back then?
A.: My memories of those European tours with Vow Wow and Zed Yago are pretty hazy. I don’t remember much of anything in detail. We must’ve made a pretty good impression though because fans that saw us back then still bring up those shows in comments online or when we talk to them at the shows. Germany is one of our best markets to this day otherwise we wouldn’t be asked to play festivals like Bang Your Head!!! or Headbangers Open Air. We are really grateful for that.
How frustrating was it to see your Videos being played on MTV and not getting the attention that you deserved by the mass public? Would a Tour opening for some bigger bands have helped? I guess Island wasn´t that supportive, something I will never understand as you invest in a Band and then letting it fall, especially when in your case there were such brilliant melodic and yet heavy Songs… Always imagined you in front of a big Maiden-Crowd, you would have gone down a storm…
A: A Maiden or Priest tour would’ve been a dream come true. Still would be! But, being in the music business is a bit like playing the lottery - there is no guarantee you will be successful no matter how good you are. As they say: “There’s no justice in rock’n’roll.” It’s very frustrating when you’re young and hungry and ready to conquer the world but you’re not making the progress you envision. And Island definitely had a part in that. They had Anthrax and one or 2 other heavy bands but they really weren’t a metal label like some of the other majors. And no matter how much they love you at the label when you’re first signed - if your album doesn’t perform and sell well, labels tend to lose interest pretty fast. The new toy loses its luster and they move on to the next thing. But that’s the music business.
How was it recording on the Bahamas? Was it hard to keep the discipline when recording in such environment? How can we imagine the scenery there having been there 2 times?
A: It was fun being there making a record and meeting all the people at the studio. And we met the late Robert Palmer (‘Addicted to Love’) who was also signed to Island Records and actually lived in the Bahamas at the time. Who wouldn’t want to go to a Caribbean island and make an album in sort of a work vacation environment? We definitely enjoyed ourselves and pulled a few shenanigans but we also got the work done when it was time to deliver. Too bad Compass Point Studio shut down about 10 years or so ago. That place has some serious history - AC/DC and Maiden recorded some of their most classic albums there. So we’re in extremely good company there.
From reading on your Facebook-Page I learned that Island don´t seem to be keen to get you on Online-Streaming Services despite not having any costs – isn´t there a chance to maybe get the rights for your songs back? They don´t seem to be interested anyway, so why not giving it back to the Band?
A: Ha, don’t we wish! There is no way we’ll ever get the rights to the 2 Island albums from Universal Music. They’d rather sit on these albums and do nothing with them than turn the rights over to us. Actually, Universal Japan recently re-issued the 1987 album on CD and the Music On CD label out of Holland has just put out ‘Street Ready’ on CD. So both albums are finally back in print. Which is great because there are fans looking for those discs. As far as digital goes - Universal did put the ’87 record on Apple Music, Spotify and the other platforms a couple of years ago. We always wondered why not ‘Street Ready as well. It made no sense. Well, a couple of weeks ago we finally got in touch with the right person at Universal in New York. The guy had no idea about ‘Street Ready’ and said that he would see to it that it to would be put on the streaming services soon. That’s major labels for you: They sit on a lot of catalog they’re not doing anything with. Bands like Leatherwolf that weren’t super successful back in the day are ‘off the radar’ at these big companies.
Your CDs are really hard if not impossible to get…the 1st one I have and only know as a cheap Roadrunner Price Killers-CD..how nice would it be to have them with nice Booklets and remastered..there surely would be a market for them.
A: Good news! We’ve actually gotten the rights to our 1984 debut back from the owner of Tropical Records so that one will be re-issued in the foreseeable future. Probably in conjunction with the new album.
In recent years I stumbled upon the Songs from the Keep it True-Festival 2015 being available on youtube – how did the contact to Chris Tsangarides happen? This seems to have been recorded, wasn´t it possible to do a complete live-album? This sounds so good.. would buy a CD right away..weren´t there any more songs available or didn´t Chris have any more time to mix them? By the way, starting with the Intro of „Wicked Ways“ and then changing to „Spiter“ is brilliant ϑ
A: Yeah, ‘Wicked Ways’ into ’Spiter’ works quite well - we may have to do that again. Chris Tsangarides’ name came up when we were looking for someone to mix a few songs from the Keep It True set for video proposes - I think it was our manager, Chris, who mentioned him. So we got in touch with him and his rates were reasonable enough. He did a great job and we would’ve loved to continue working with him and have him mix the new album but, unfortunately, he passed away in 2018. We never really thought of releasing KIT 2015 as a live album since we’d only just released ‘Unchained Live’ a couple of years earlier.
Are you all doing music full-time or are there any jobs you do besides? If yes, what do you guys do for a living?
A: Nah, we all work various jobs - Leatherwolf does not pay the bills since we are not a full time touring band, unfortunately. I have had my own roofing company since the 1990s and all the other guys have music related jobs. Keith (Adamiak) is a vocal teacher; Luke (Man) teaches guitar; Rob (Math) works for some gear company. No idea what Wayne (Findlay) does for extra cash when he’s not out on the road with someone.
Let´s finish this as we always did way back then – any final words from your side?
A: First of all, thanks for the interview - always appreciated. And a shout out to our German and European fans for the continued support. Hopefully we’ll see some of you at HOA and other gigs in 2022. And don’t forget to keep an eye out for our new album in the fall. Stay safe and keep it metal!
There you go - look out for the new Leatherwolf-Album which hopefully will make it to the (Online-) Shops in the fall!! The Band is also very active on Social Media, so check out their official Facebook- / Instagram-Pages for news related to the Band.