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Leatherwolf's Dean Roberts: "…it has to do with self-reflection and growing up and discovering the inner woundedness within all of us and finding a better way of resolving it. Finding the goodness and kindness in all of us"

Interview with Dean Roberts from Leatherwolf
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 27 January 2023, 9:17 AM

Getting back together as a band doesn't always mean that the whole pack is going for it. Like everything in our lives, there are these inner politics within people, at times resulting into partnerships to be dissolved. The legendary old schoolers Leatherwolf, similar to a handful of bands that have been coming back, suffered from the same thing, but eventually returned. Luckily for the world of Metal that their music triumphed. Recently releasing their new "Kill The Hunted", the knives are sharper then even, as well as the band's precision. Steinmetal had a good talk with the veteran Dean Roberts about the new record.

Hello Dean, it is a mighty big pleasure to have you for this interview with Metal Temple online Magazine, how are you doing sir?

Still getting some physical therapy after breaking my hand last summer and having to undergo surgery but otherwise I`m doing alright. Thanks for asking.

It has been many years since the last I heard from your band Leatherwolf. You guys made quite a big name for yourselves earlier in the 80s, disbanded then returned, and afterwards another chunk of silence. From what I understand, it had been pretty hard to sustain a stable lineup wasn’t it?

It was just hard when we got back together to get everyone to put time into working on the project around planning shows and writing an album. And at that time, it was easier to get shows than now. Anyway, when it came time to writing a record it was only Geoff and I that were interested in putting the time into doing something that was legitimately Leatherwolf music which turned into `World Asylum`. The original guys had day jobs and other interests so, yeah, it was a little tricky trying to keep the same group of guys around to play live and write music.

With the lineup sorted, lastly by the addition of a new vocalist, if it wasn’t troubling enough, you also endured the Covid pandemic, not really letting you hit the stages as you would have liked. How did this pandemic affect the integrity of the Leatherwolf lineup? Personally, what kept you going throughout this ordeal?

The Covid pandemic was just another hiccup in playing live shows. Dealing with some of the original guys was just a headache and we could not resolve our differences, so I moved on. Obviously, the line-up is different now but the new guys are all very good players that can do the catalogue justice, so I don`t think the integrity of the band has been compromised. What kept me going is I just have always loved the Leatherwolf music the Leatherwolf vibe. And I like playing drums and writing and recording.

The last time you put out an album with fresh material was back in 2007, with "New World Asylum". That is 15 years. Finding the motivation to write new songs, in particular since you probably started in the pandemic, well, that is quite something. What gave you the urge to return to writing new songs after so many years? What contributed to that itch?

‘World Asylum’ was the last legit record I worked on and one I hold close to my heart. There was just too much drama between the original guys to get any songwriting or recording done so it ended up being just Geoff Gayer and myself. This record, ‘Kill the Hunted’, came about because Nuclear Blast showed interest in signing us but once again too much drama with the original band members to get anything done.  So just like on ‘World Asylum’, Geoff and I started working on new material but ended up having a falling out so and parted ways. So Rob Math and I finished the music with our new vocalist, Keith Adamiak, and Barry Sparks (MSG, Yngwie, Dokken) who played bass on the album.

Titled, "Kill the Hunted", your sixth album, was recently unleashed. In Europe, the band shifted to a new home, finding itself signed with the Greek / German effort named Rock Of Angels Records. With your name already sailing across Western Europe, due to your history, what forms of advantages did you find in this signing?

Really the best thing about the deal with ROAR is that it allowed us to retain a lot of freedom. We are not directly signed to them and have no further obligations to them. It’s more along the lines of a P&D (pressing & distribution) deal we have with them. We had tried to get direct distribution through Soulfood but that didn’t happen. But, the head of Soulfood ended up talking to Akis from ROAR about us who then got in touch because he wanted to work with us. So we worked out a deal with him that allowed us access to Soulfood distribution and hired CMM to handle our PR in Europe. It's very much an independent way of doing business but we were ready to try something new after how Massacre mishandled ‘World Asylum’.

Like the music, which is swift and straightforward, so is the lyrical content within "Kill the Hunted". In your opinion, since we are all living in the present, and there is enough shit to go around, enough issues that have been suffered, what does the record deal with, as a matter of expression?

That is a very good question.  I was talking to Keith about that because he wrote a majority of the lyrics. He said that it has to do with self-reflection and growing up and discovering the inner woundedness within all of us and finding a better way of resolving it. Finding the goodness and kindness in all of us. In the two songs that I wrote, ‘Kill the Hunted’ and ‘Only the Wicked’, I was looking at my past and finding a better way to do the right thing.

Marc Sasso, who was behind some great artworks for amazing Metal icons, made you a powerful front to be proud of, a strong suited piece of artistry. In your view, what does this artwork reflect? How does it live up to what the album’s title represents?

In a nutshell, Marc’s artwork represents defending the truth And the willingness to go all the way.

Being on the border between the legendary US Power Metal, and Traditional Metal, Leatherwolf maintained its position, nonetheless, it became heavier, taking the listener down the path where headbanging is a must, and sing-along is more than allowed. From your perspective, since you have been there, is Leatherwolf back to its past 80s image music wise?

This record represents my perception of Leatherwolf and what the band should be. There's no original members here but me although Geoff wrote a lot of the riffs and arrangements. But Rob Math and I had to finish all the guitar parts. Which was fun for me watching Rob do his magic. We just wanted to make a classic heavy metal record – sort of an update on our 1984 debut album in spirit, before commercial considerations came into play once we signed with Island Records.

Two new members of the lineup made their debut with this new album, meaning being part of the new material. Let’s start with your young guitarist, Luke Man. You found yourself a shredder right there, playing in such a manner that it created sparks in nearly each song. Man, he is quite the energetic type when he is playing. In your view, how did his skills contribute to the recording  in general?

Just to set the record straight: The main players on this album are Rob Math, Keith Adamiak, Barry Sparks and myself. We did the majority of what you hear on ‘Kill the Hunted’. Luke came in a little bit later towards the end of the recording process and played 3 leads on the album. He is on ‘Hit the Dirt’, ‘Medusa’ and ‘Road Rage’ which he really nailed. But, at the end of the day Rob Math is the main guitar player on this record; he played all the rhythms and a majority of all the leads.

Second, there is a new frontman in town, Keith Adamiak, and isn’t really known to be honest. Nonetheless, he proved himself to have awesome pipes. For me it was to listen to a new version of Jon Oliva, right there. Tell me, was it one of those fan related stories that brought in Adamiak to the band? How do you find the former’s contribution to the writing of the songs of "Kill the Hunted"?

After the split with Mike, we were looking for a singer. I have an engineer friend that knew a couple singers and he turned me on to Keith. I got in touch with him, and he came over and sang ‘Only the Wicked’ and just nailed it. So, it was kind of simple. We got lucky that we found such a good singer literally in our own backyard. And Keith came up with a lot of good stuff lyric-wise so he was definitely a valuable contributor.

Earlier we discussed it briefly, but it would be better to dwell on it for a little further. Other than behind heavy, I was glad to notice that there are songs that aren’t aimed for the sake of hook but displaying great musicianship. What can you tell about the songwriting process of "Kill the Hunted"? I wonder, how was it possible, in particular due to the pandemic, to rehearse everything, simply to get together for it?

You know, we never rehearsed the songs as a band. Most of the stuff, at least in the beginning, was done over the Internet. Barry (Sparks) did his bass parts in Texas, Joel (Hoekstra) who guests on ‘The Henchman’ also did his solos at his home studio and sent us the files. Keith did his parts with me and Rob. Luke also recorded with me. Me ending up as the producer basically put together all the parts of the puzzle, the various guitar parts and the leads. I just went over everything to get it to where it was completed before we sent the files off to Randy Burns for the mix.

To know that the album’s sound was made by two iconic engineers, that is quite a chip to go on. First, there is the man and the legend, Randy Burns, and then Tom Baker. The measure of the record’s quality of sound became something else. What is your appreciation of how Leatherwolf sounds in 2022?

I think Randy Burns and Tom Baker are more higher level music people from years of experience. I think that added an element to the recording in the mixing and the mastering of it that makes it what it is - just an awesome sounding piece of work.  Tom has been our go-to mastering guy for years and Randy, of course, engineered and mixed our 1984 debut EP/LP. It was a lucky coincidence that we found out he was back in business after a long break but when he did those test mixes for us, we knew he was our guy.

To be honest, it was hard for me to pick a specific track, yet I am going to follow a certain vibe that I noticed. Listening to “Nobody” and “Only For The Wicked”, a new story unravels, and it isn’t practically that heavy, yet more showing the worth of great musicianship and good songwriting. What is your take on these two tracks?

‘Nobody’ is a song that came for Carey, myself, Rob and Keith.  ‘Only the Wicked’ was a riff from Geoff that I arranged, and Rob wrote the verse to. Rob came up with the vocal melodies, I wrote the words, and Keith wrote the last verse of the song. ‘Only the Wicked’ kind of sums up the journey of making this record and some of the drama that went on trying to finish it.

Heavier punches aren’t missing from "Kill the Hunted", and there is the title track along with, “Hit the Dirt” and “Madhouse” for instance, just to name a few. There are Thrash Metal driven songs, with a touch of finesse. What is your appreciation of these three tracks?

The songs on ‘Kill the Hunted’ were performed by some extremely talented guys and I think that that talent level just created its own vibe. I personally think it was a great job by everyone involved with the songwriting and performing. It was interesting sitting around with Rob and creating all the pieces to all these songs and to finish them.

Last year, I think it was your 40th anniversary as a band, and I can assume that it wasn’t too possible to go on a tour to celebrate the anniversary. Now, with “Kill The Hunted” out, what are your plans to support it?

Yes, we wanted to play shows but then we realized pretty quickly that 2021 would be another lost year on the live front. So, we just concentrated on finishing the album. The new line-up has already played a couple of shows and we hope to keep on going. We have tentative plans to release another record in 2023 of stuff that we've already recorded and hopefully we will start writing a new record this year or next.

Dean, it was a great pleasure to have you for this interview. I wish you all the best and don’t let another decade pass by. Cheers

Thank you very much for the opportunity to talk with you, Lior. We appreciate the interest in Leatherwolf.



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