White Wizzard’s Jon Leon
Interview by: Todd Naevestad
TN: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us here at Damnation… As an introduction, how would you describe White Wizzard to someone whose never heard of you before?
JL:Like the sound you would hear when a dragon spits fire into a vortex of molten steel.
I think we can all hear the big pillars of your musical inspiration: groups like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. In previous interviews, you’ve mentioned Rush as a favorite band; how does that influence your music? Are there any weird influences you have that fans might not expect?
Without question RUSH, Iron Maiden, etc. are the reasons (why) I became a musician. I have a very wide sonic palate and listen to everything in all genres… prog, psyche, Mo-town, jazz, blues, world music… Alt and post-punk, 80’s pop, 90’s grunge – the list is vast… I could be listening to Jeff Buckley or Cocteau Twins or The Cure, then next be listening to Black Sabbath or (Judas) Priest… Then Curtis Mayfield then Camel… It is never ending!
In writing for White Wizzard, in a lot of my rhythm guitar playing – aside from the obvious – one guitarist that I always cite, that deserves WAY more credit, is Tommy Baron from Coroner. His mastery of tri-tone rhythm and tight chord-ing on ‘Mental Vortex‘ is a bible for me on how to approach metal rhythm guitar. Him and (Tony) Iommi are gods of metal rhythm guitar… Along with (James) Hetfield. The 3 of them are the “Holy Trinity” for me.
Why more metal guitarists don’t know the ‘Mental Vortex‘ album by Coroner blows my mind – it should be as revered as ‘Master of Puppets‘ and ‘Sabotage‘, in my opinion… Such an underrated masterpiece… On pure musicianship I rate it above any thrash album of the 90’s – yes, including Pantera, etc… It’s musically just, really, a special record. Everyone should hear it ten times and tell me if its not one of the greatest metal albums ever recorded. The rhythm playing: study it… As good as it gets.
On bass its, of course, Geddy and Steve Harris, Bob Daisley, Geezer (Butler), James Jamerson, etc….
You have an old-school metal sound. Do you think fans new to metal can still appreciate your music? Or, is it more for the “experienced”, long-time fans?
I think we connect to anyone… beyond being genre-specific. I feel we cross over well – as do many of the bands that influence us. If someone is close minded and only likes dark death metal, we’ll never please them. And you can’t worry about people like that -you just stay true to the heart of writing what you feel and hope people connect. I feel we have connected; the more people (that) discover us, the more we grow.
White Wizzard originally started as a push-back against the screamo-dominated scene of the early 2000’s. How do you feel about where metal is now and where you fit into that?
Well, I barely listen to metal when I’m not writing White Wizzard music – except for the things I love from the past. The only new act of the last fifteen years that consistently excites me is Opeth. Other than that, I’m not keeping up on the scene. I would rather listen to Pink Floyd‘s ‘Animals‘, 13th Floor Elevators, etc.
After a three-year hiatus, what sparked this new album? What said, “Now is the time to get this out there?”
There was a lot of serendipity in it… As I was writing songs that were undeniably White Wizzard songs – and that I knew were next level – LaRue and I were wanting to work together again… and, once Wyatt was on board, it was full go.
I think a lot of fans are glad to see Wyatt Anderson back for this album. How has it been reuniting with him?
Amazing. He’s the best singer of the last 20 years in metal, in my opinion, and I feel his performance on this album is as good as any of his heroes. He deserves to be looked at in a much more respected light on the mountain of the greats. He’s the real deal. It’s a pleasure as a songwriter to write songs he sings.
How do you think Infernal Overdrive stacks up with your other works? How have you stayed true to White Wizzard’s roots with it? How is it different?
It’s our best album to date. It’s deeper musically and lyrically, and everybody brought it to another level. We are all very proud of it.
What was different about producing this album?
The positive energy and how everything just elevated without us trying to hard.
I’m sure a lot of East Coast fans are excited for the upcoming tour for ‘Infernal Overdrive’. What can fans expect to see?
Dragons… magic… stardust… and maybe a monkey…!
What are your plans after the tour is over?
Drink wine and listen to Psychedelic records.
How do you like to decompress after the insanity that is album recording and touring?
Fullers, ESB and maybe snort a Vicodin.
How can fans keep up with you and your work online?
Any last words you’d like to say?
Don’t follow leaders and watch the parking meters.