Before we kick off – for the benefit of our readers, please identify yourself and tell us what you do in Iron Kingdom. “My name is Leighton Holmes and I play bass guitar for Iron Kingdom; I also write the majority of the lyrics”.

It’s a pleasure to have you on board! Here you are then – entering the world of metal, probably in your early teens, mewling about the unfairness of it all and puking on cheap white cider… Which band was your introduction to metal? How did you find out about them? And which bands generally do you think make the best ‘entry-level’ metal music? “I was first introduced to metal around the age of nine by my older brother. We were playing video games and he put on Glory to the Brave by HammerFall. I think it only took about ten seconds before I was hooked and wanting more. I think what bands make the best ‘entry-level’ metal depends on the person making the entrance but for the most part, I think it’s easier to get into some of the older/ somewhat lighter bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, et cetera. I’m sure it’s possible for some people but I can’t imagine many people start off on Bathory“.

Haha no – but the ‘Fall isn’t a bad place to start. Does make me feel old though – I was at the launch show for that album! Right – You’re in! The magical and bewildering world of metal lies at your feet… you’ve assembled a small collection of records and tapes – or CDs of course, if you’re a youngster – but you’re still very much a School child, whining because the olds won’t let you go to a gig – until the scales fall from their eyes – and you’ve got the Golden ticket in your sweaty little palm! Who were the first band you saw in the live arena? Did it confirm your suspicions about just how massive this hidden world was, how inspiring? Or was first ‘in the flesh’ contact a little disappointing? “I went to a couple of rock shows growing up but the first act I saw that you could call metal would be the Scorpions. It was absolutely awesome and totally confirmed that I wanted to do this, touring and playing shows. I’ve seen the Scorpions more recently and they still kick ass. Their command of the stage and the construction of their show is mesmerising and truly worth admiration, and the fact that they are still doing it after fifty years in the craft is remarkable, to say the least”.

You’re now a full-grown acolyte, a full-fledged lover of the dark arts, as it were. But listening and watching isn’t enough. You need to consummate your love, by forming or joining your own metal band – tell us about your formative bands and what life was like on the bottom rung of the ladder… “Coming up in high school we played a lot of battle of the bands which I think helped when it came to teaching us about quick set up and take down times as well as packing as much energy and excitement into the set as possible. We learned a lot of lessons during that time that we carry with us today”.

Mission accomplished – you’re in a band. A Soldier of metal mired in the trenches fighting for our way of life, possibly on a tour of the toilet venues of your home locale – what was your first tour like? What valuable lessons were learned? Or was there just too much fun to be had to worry about tedious life craft? “The first tour was awesome and it’s crazy to look back on it now and think about how short it was and realise that we really didn’t go that far compared to the tours we do now. On that tour I learned to sleep when you can because you can’t always sleep as much as you want in a night and it was on that tour that I first started to glean some things about crowd dynamics and how to win over a crowd in a completely new place that might not have heard of you”.

Away from you now – your career is in full bloom. But what of the elder Statesmen, the justices who still reign, Saturnine and all-knowing? Which of the old-but-still-living Gods still command
the most respect in your eyes? And why? “I’ve always had a lot of respect for Iron Maiden considering how their rise to the top was for a large part due to themselves and not so much due to the mainstream media pushing them. They didn’t necessarily get as much press as some of the other bands yet have enormous amounts of staying power. Years on and they still put on huge tours with massive stage shows and don’t seem to have really slowed much at all”.

And what about those who’ve maybe pushed it a little too far, those bespectacled and pantalooned ‘legacy’ artistes on their nth farewell trip across the globe? Is there anyone on our world you think might like to think about hanging up the old Les Paul and giving themselves and us a rest? “For rock, in general, I was amazed to see the other day that The Who are still playing. I wonder what actual number of farewell tour they are currently on. For metal that’s a little harder but I would probably say, Slayer. It seems to me that they have become somewhat of a caricature of themselves”.

And the final age, of course, is death. We’ll all be left Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything eventually. Which deceased metallian do you miss most? And what are your happiest memories of them? “It is one of my biggest regrets that I never saw Dio live and in concert. I skipped the last time Heaven and Hell came through my city thinking that I would see them next time and shortly after it was announced that Dio had stomach cancer. And then he died the day after my birthday. Dio was such a huge inspiration to me in so many ways, from his positive messages to his awesome lyrics. I love so much of what he did and the fact that he didn’t let cancer stop him until the very end. I remember hearing one story about how he didn’t want to stop signing autographs and taking pictures with fans despite the late hour. When he was asked why he didn’t want to go back to the hotel and sleep he said something along the lines of “I might not remember these people tomorrow, but they will remember this for the rest of their lives” that’s always stuck with me and informs how I treat the people I meet on the road”.

The funny thing is, he nearly always did remember people years later! But it’s a nice story to end with – thanks a lot for taking part!