NIGHT DEMON/CIRITH UNGOL “Emperor of the Night” 

By Dr. Abner Mality

Metal diehards love their heroes of the past, but rarely do they allow a newer band to share that kind of adulation. But one band of relatively recent times that has broken through that crusty barrier is Southern California’s Night Demon. These guys are tearing it up world wide with their super catchy NWOBHM inspired heavy metal. The man fronting the Demon is Mr. Jarvis Leatherby and you’d be hard pressed to find a more dedicated metalhead on the face of the planet.

Not only does Jarvis head up Night Demon, but he has also been instrumental in reviving one of the great “lost” American metal bands, Cirith Ungol, where he now has assumed the duties of bassist. He’s also joined another giant from the past, the NWOBHM standouts Jaugar. You’d think this would be enough, but for Jarvis, it isn’t. He promotes and curates North America’s premier festival devoted to “true” 80’s heavy metal,  the annual Frost and Fire gig.

I recently got to see Jarvis play consecutive sets with both  Night Demon and Cirith Ungol at the NYDM Spring Bash and madecontact with him. That resulted in the following interview, which I now present for your metallic enjoyment…

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: Hello, Jarvis! Not long ago, I saw you play 2 sets in a row at Spring Bash, one for Night Demon and one for Cirith Ungol. What kind of an experience was that and have you ever done anything like that before?

JARVIS LEATHERBY: I've done it quite a few times before.  I do prefer when both bands play on different days of festivals, but that's not always the most practical way, so I just gotta do what I gotta do, I guess.  It's definitely tiring on the body, but my mindset os always to focus on what I'm doing and playing at that moment.  The songs of these bands are so ingrained in my DNA, that I'm able to easily focus on each one while it's happening.

WC: Many bands are trying to keep the true metal sound alive, but it seems only Night Demon is making a big impact. Was it your plan from Day One to be the “torch bearer” for this style of metal?

JL: It wasn't our plan at all.  We still take the stance that we didn't come to compete, we came to inspire.  We want more bands to follow in our path and strengthen the scene.  We don't want to be the only ones doing this.

WC: When did you first fall in love with this music and what band made the biggest impact on you?

JL: When I was 11 years old.  Metallica, Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Danzig, and Black Sabbath were my gateway bands.  From there I discovered the New Wav of British Heavy Metal and found a sound and feel that I really identified with.  When I saw Metallica live, I knew that's what I wanted to do with my life.  That feeling has never left me.

WC: This skull-faced character in the monk’s robe seems to be your version of “Eddie”. Does he have a name and a backstory?

JL: Yes his name is Rockwell Augden Aldridge III.  We call him “Rocky” for short.  He is an ancient demon priest who can travel through time and take the form of a newly deceased body.

WC: How does the songwriting for Night Demon work? Do you break albums into components like “fast speed metal  type track”, “mid-paced anthem”, “creepy ballad” or does it all evolve in a natural way?

JL: It usually just starts with a riff and then goes from there.  It's that simple.  Not to say good songwriting is easy.  It's actually very difficult and is full on constant pressure from within oneself.  I usually write the lyrics after all the music is done.  When I come in with vocal melodies over the top, a lot ends up changing with the music to fit it better.  That's one advantage of being a singer who also plays an instrument.  I'm able to recognize when the music needs to change to better suit what the vocals are doing.

WC: You play with some weird vocal effects and synth on “Darkness Remains”? Will these eventually play a bigger part in Night Demon?

JL: Who knows?  I think we just try and experiment a little more and more on each album, but in the end a lot of those ideas get thrown away when it's just too much, or if it doesn't get the point across.. We are trying to create a mood, so if other non conventional methods are required, we are not afraid to go down that path.

WC: It’s amazing that you are a part of the revival of Cirith Ungol. How did this relationship evolve?

JL: We had been friends for a while before that and just knew each other through the local music scene.  I had many attempts through the years trying to reunite the band, but the timing was just off and they had no desire to resurrect the band.  They were completely done with the music industry.  When Night Demon took off and started doing a lot of things, it caught their attention in a much different way and they started realizing that if they did give it another shot, that there may be a chance at some redemption.  The rest is history.

WC: What does the legacy of Cirith Ungol mean to you?

JL: It means everything to me.  As the band's manager that's my main job, and I always say that I'm there to protect the band's legacy.  Every decision I make for the band requires me to ask myself that same question, so it's something I acknowledge daily.  Sometimes to the dismay of the original members.  I am fortunate enough to be able to look at everything from a fan's perspective, so I am able to keep the integrity of the brand that way.

WC: I was totally blown away by Tim Baker’s vocals when I saw him. How on Earth does he maintain that amazing tone?

JL: We've all been wondering the same thing.  We are blessed and so is he.

WC: Is Cirith working on any new material or is their current incarnation only to explore their past?

JL: Yes new stuff is being toyed with, but it's too early to say anything concrete.  Stay tuned...

WC: Who would you say is the most underrated metal band of all?

JL: There are a lot of them out there, so I can't say for sure.  I will say that all any band should strive for is being there for there hard core existing fan base.  We all need to appreciate what we have.  If more people get into the band over time, there's nothing wrong with that at all.  Often times people want to keep bands underground for their own pleasure.  That's a shitty way to be, but it;s often true.  If an underground band has a loyal following, they should be grateful for that and nurture it all the way.

WC: You are also the force behind the Frost and Fire Festival, which has been a huge success. How much work is it finding these bands and bringing them into the fold?

JL: Finding the bands is the easy part.  All of the other logistics are a huge pain in the ass.  It's not easy to put on a festival like this, but it's even harder to do it the right way.  I spend time on it every day.  That's what makes it somewhat less stressful.  I don't wait until the last minute for anything.  That's when huge problems arise that can be sometimes impossible to overcome.  It's a marathon, not a sprint.

WC: Your last F&F had such a fantastic line-up, how hard will it be to top it?

JL: I'm not worried about topping it.  I'm more concerned with just getting better each and every year on what we do as organizers.  There will always be complaints from the public about somehting, so perfection is not what we strive for by any means, but we do listen to what the patrons say and we try to make adjustments each and every year to cater to them the best we can, and to fix the things they don't like about it.

WC: What band do you want to work with for F&F that has eluded you so far?

JL: Armored Saint 

WC: Do you have any other projects or bands you’re involved in?

JL: I sing for NWOBHM legends Jaguar, and I manage Satan, Visigoth, and Bewitcher.

WC: If you could ask any 3 people from history to dinner, who would they be?

JL: Eddie Van Halen
     Ozzy Osbourne
     James Hetfield

WC: What was the last release you picked up just because you wanted to hear the band?

JL: Powertrip

WC: Have you ever had a “Spinal Tap” incident you could share with us?

JL: On our first tour we went out supporting Raven for almost 50 shows.  We crossed the Canadian border about an hour before they did.  The border agent asked if there were any other bands on the tour.  We said yeah the legendary “Raven”.  The guy had no clue who they were.  We asked if he had ever seen the movie Spinal Tap.  He of course said yes.  So we told him they were like the real life Spinal Tap and he should check them out.  Sure as shit, one hour later they pull up to the border and get the exact same border agent!!!!!!!  When Raven arrived at the venue they said “Thanks a lot assholes!  The border patrol said Night Demon just rolled through here and said Spinal Tap is right behind us!”  LOL!  So that's a literal Spinal Tap story for you!

WC: Any last words for the faithful?

JL: Do what you love people.  Life is short, death is sure.  Only YOU know who you are and what will make you feel whole.  Go and get it!