Jarvis Leatherby of Night Demon: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview

Jarvis Leatherby Interview

Feature Photo: courtesy of Breaking the Law PR

Since bursting upon the scene in 2011, Ventura, California-based outfit Night Demon has perpetually found ways to make “traditional heavy metal” new and exciting.

Fronted by chief songwriting, bassist, and vocalist, Jarvis Leatherby, Night Demon has unleashed one EP, a live record, and three skull-crushing full-length affairs to critical acclaim. Every inventive and always forward-thinking, Leatherby has once again sought to push the boundaries of Night Demon with the group’s latest record, Outsider, a concept album.

And so, if you’re the cerebral type or the sort who endeavors to get lost in the music while still managing to band one’s head, Outsider is just what the doctor ordered. In an age where heavy metal is at times relegated, Leatherby and his cohorts – Armand John Anthony (guitars) and Dusty Squires (drums) – are pushing the envelope, proving doubters and naysayers wrong in the process.

On the precipice of yet another triumph, Jarvis Leatherby beamed in with ClassicRockHistory.com to recount the origins of Outsider, his approach to the bass, his love for vintage basses, and his thoughts on the state of metal in 2023.

Tell me about the origins of Outsider.

During the first lockdown in the spring of 2020, we had begun writing for this record. With already five singles scheduled for release that year, we d were forced to cancel tours (like everyone), so we had what many would call a “forced break” from the road.

Our intention was to keep releasing singles, but the songs we were writing started to expand into one big piece of music vs. random songs, so the idea to start on another full-length was born. Although everyone in the world was “isolating” themselves from each other, the three of us in the band were together every day, working on new material.

How do you feel Night Demon has progressed from its last record, if at all?

It’s light years away from the last record as far as progression goes. Outsider is a concept album from start to finish, and the musicianship was expanded tenfold while still keeping it true as a three-piece band.

What is your compositional process like? Do the lyrics come first, and then the bass tracks?

Everything usually starts with a bass or guitar riff or sometimes even a vocal melody. Since we had a rough storyline and concept for this album, there were a lot of parts where the lyrics and themes came first and the music to fit around it. That’s a huge challenge, but we had the time to focus on it.

Which songs from Outsider are your favorites, and why?

It’s hard to say because it’s meant to be played as one piece in its entirety, but if I had to choose standout tracks which can stand on their own, I would say “Outsider,” “Escape From Beyond,” and “The Wrath.”

What themes are you exploring on this record? Does the title “Outsider” hold a deeper meaning?

I think Outsider holds a universal meaning to anyone into metal or any kind of underground subculture. We’ve all felt like outsiders at some point, but the core of it all is really a story about a young man who grows up in an isolated village surrounded by a supernatural force that doesn’t ever let anyone leave nor allow any newcomers in.

Against the advice of his family and friends, he decides to flee, only to discover that he has ended up in an alternate reality of his own town where the same people are there, but life as he knew it is completely different. He even runs into an alternate version of himself that he must deal with to hide the truth; all the while, he is trying desperately to get back to his own reality he once took for granted.

Describe your approach to the bass. Are you one to play from the heart or the head?

The heart, for sure. I’m not musically trained in any way, so I don’t think I would even know how to play from the head, even if I tried [Laughs].

Do you use pedals and effects, or are you more traditional?

I have three basic sounds: my clean sound is very clean with some chorus and reverb, my main rhythm sound is dry with a lot of distortion, and my lead sound has even more distortion with a little bit of wetness on the top.

Are you one for vintage bass guitars or new ones? How about amps?

I have owned some vintage Fender basses that I love, but at the end of the day, I always go to my Flying V basses. I have quite a few of them. They are vintage, too, I suppose. They are made by a Japanese company called Vantage, and the model I play was only produced in 1981 (the year I was born).

For the past few years, I’ve been playing a version of my signature model from Jailbreak Guitars – the JL-81. It’s modeled after the Vantage basses but has some much-needed modern upgrades. For amps, I’ve always relied on 1974 Traynor YBA-3 Master Volume tube heads. They are like the Canadian Marshall and sound amazing.

Is there one bass that means the most to you? What bass did you use on the new record, and how did it best affect the sound of this album?

I would say the prototype version of my signature model. I used it on the entire record, and it just feels so comfortable to me that it makes playing actually fun vs. frustratingly challenging.

What’s your secret to the perfect heavy metal bass riff?

It’s all about your picking or plucking hand attack. A lot of players worry about the fretting hand, but the foundation comes from the solid rhythm. I never use compressors. I like to think of my picking hand as the compressor that controls all of the dynamics. Some say I have a very distinct bass sound, but I feel it all comes from my hands. I’ve played many different rigs over the years, and I find that I can always get the sound I want out of almost anything.

What about today’s metal scene excites you most, and what concerns you most?

The most exciting thing is seeing bands take classic sounds and make them their own to create a familiar sound with a new flavor. Not everything needs to be completely brand new, but a slight stretch of what is new and familiar is how we incrementally grow into the future.

The thing that concerns me the most is mainstream media continuing to only cover the big bands that have been around forever and have been on the decline now for longer than they were on the ascent. This creates a huge problem for the future because of the gap between the smallest legendary band and the biggest new band. This creates a big problem for the future of our scene.

If newer bands (who currently outperform the old bands) are not championed by the press, then what we will see when the old bands are gone will be tribute bands headlining the festivals, and all the great young talent will always be held back.

Jarvis Leatherby of Night Demon: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023

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