It is always a great pleasure and honor to do an interview with David DeFeis as he is a man with a wide knowledge of Greek (and not only) history but also a musician with an undeniable talent. Virgin Steele has already written its own, remarkable story in the last 30 or so years. Rockpages gets in touch with DeFeis for yet another exclusive interview whereas we learn a few things more about this great American band.
Interview: Sakis Nikas
Rockpages.gr: David, a few months ago you had told me that you were working towards the completion of three different records. As a matter of fact, two of them were based on a yet unidentified concept. What can you tell us about them and will all three of them see the light of day in the near future?
David DeFeis: Yes, Sakis, that is true we are working on the next 3 albums simultaneously. We do hope to have the first of the 3 out this year...(label willing)....And yes the first one we wish to release is conceptual, but not necessarily in the sense of a step by step narrative like THE HOUSE OF ATREUS...however that being said...there is an order, a progression and an evolution to the tale. I wrote the lyrics for this one with a very open style, so the listener can imagine themselves in the main role, and "feel" where the story is going. The "concepts" include ideas about duality, opposites, betrayal, hunter and hunted and how those roles reverse, the need for release, or letting go in a rigid society/world, ritual victims or scapegoats, masks...and all sorts of dying and resurrecting Godmen, Divine women, angels, & devils as usual. This album can be interpreted on many levels...I have my own specific thoughts concerning what each song is actually about, but like I said, I wrote it in an open fashion so the listener can really find their own personal meaning for themselves in there....For me it isn't necessary that the listener get my specific take on it. I think that everyone who comes to it will find something different within to relate to. Musically it does absolutely flow like a "concept" album...but lyrically the songs do relate to each other...and sometimes goes off on at first glance what might seem like tangents...but are actually all related on different levels.
The other collection of songs or...album (which is quite long)...has a more Autumnal flavor....and is related to what will be the first release, if that helps....And the third album is a collection of tracks that are not necessarily at all related lyrically. That one is more like a NOBLE SAVAGE, where yes the material relates or works together as an album...but is really a collection of different songs...If all goes well, the first one will be issued this year and the next one early the following year...or if we are super fast...I wouldn't mind having both out this year. We will also re-issue the next set of the catalogue...probably "THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL & INVICTUS albums...again with bonus material. So there will be all sorts of new sounds coming out either way.
Rockpages.gr: In the last 20 or so years, you seem more comfortable in composing under a certain concept; under a specific central idea in mind. Is it evident of your maturity as a composer and do you think that you will release one day again a more traditional, non-concept heavy metal album?
David DeFeis: Yes I think it is partially a case of development, and also....simply because I just like the large scale form...the symphony, the sonata...My mind has always worked towards organizing material into a unified whole. At least that has been my goal...whether or not I've always achieved it...is another story...But I do enjoy taking arms for or against a subject or an idea and trying to see it from as many sides as possible, and take the material on a trip to Hell or Heaven...and back. As I mentioned a moment ago...yes in our future, there will be an album that is simply just a collection of songs. But that being said...if songs are to be "bound" together in an album...I always feel that on some level they should relate, communicate, or have a thread that unites them in some way....
Rockpages.gr: Ancient Greece was always a great source of inspiration for Virgin Steele. What’s so special about the history and the mythology of our land regarding the making of a heavy metal record?
David DeFeis: It contains all the magical ingredients that I find exciting & enduring. Nothing has faded or died...for me the Gods & Goddesses are all still alive & well...plotting and scheming, warring & loving...what can I say...I feel them everywhere...I grew up in an environment that constantly put me in contact with your world, and the myths and philosophies contained within it. In my house growing up, I was surrounded by the Theatre...and the Theatre has much to do with Greece as you know. Plus the nature of how my siblings and I were raised within that house has something to do with it. The food we ate, the chores we were expected to do....I saw the Myths come alive in my daily environment...They were never far from my thoughts. I always loved the heroic quality, the tragic moments, the deep thought, the striving for knowledge... and all the passion of the culture....Some of my relatives also shared this interest in the land and concepts of Greece. My Uncle Freddie who was deeply into body building and the martial arts, (and who became a number 1 Mr. New York top bodybuilder & grand master of the martial arts!)...was also a devote of Greek Myth, and between him and my Father...I thought we were Greek! I suppose being of Italian descent doesn't put me too far away from Greece....(The Romans had similar Myths and such that they borrowed from Greece)....I do try to infuse our records with passion and all that I have learned, and am still learning. I want the albums to remain vital and alive for eons...like Greece & the glorious Myths...
Rockpages.gr: 14 years ago you released the first part of an album based on “Oresteia”. Why did you choose specifically this drama by Aeschylus?
David DeFeis: It was one of those tales that stuck with me from when I was growing up...I loved the tale for its timelessness, its savagery, its beauty and its profound effect upon human thought and judgments....When I was asked to write"something like an opera"...as the director of the German Theatre put it to me...my mind immediately flashed to...THE HOUSE OF ATREUS"...I had not thought of it prior...but when he said that to me...my mind reverted back to what was in there and I thought...yes...this could be over the top, monumental, powerful and moving! I did not second guess my instinct...I went for it, and it was an amazing experience to write and record and then perform that Work. We still keep a lot of it in our live show!
Rockpages.gr: You have brought on stage the “Klytaimnestra” musical gaining rave reviews and achieving remarkable success. Did you try to approach the Greek Department of Culture or even a Greek theater producer in order to bring this musical to Greece as it would be more fitting?
David DeFeis: No I personally never did try to approach anyone there about doing it. A friend of mine ...a Greek girl whom I have known for years, did try to get some culturally minded people involved...but nothing came of it. I would be honored to have that Work performed in Greece...that would be a dream come true....I also one day hope to perform with VIRGIN STEELE in an open air setting near one of your ancient sites...that too would be absolutely amazing...
Rockpages.gr: I think that the aforementioned musical would be ideal for a DVD release since there are many Virgin Steele fans that didn’t have the chance to see it. What do you think and will we ever see an official DVD release by Virgin Steele?
David DeFeis: I think it is criminal that we have not had a real DVD release thus far...I have wanted to do it for ages, but getting the label behind it to do it the way I envision it, has always been another story...I think though that this might actually now be possible with SPV. We will discuss this in our next meetings which actually begin next week. I want to do an entire historical perspective and include a chapter on the 3 "Metal-Operas". I would like to have this out at latest by the end of next year...if the label can agree. This will take an enormous amount of time to assemble, because there is a large amount of material that I would want included...It is a Work that I really look forward to doing, but I don't want to be distracted by making the new albums at the same time. I want to give each project my full attention...But one way or another...it will happen...
Rockpages.gr: You have played in Greece many time in the last 15 or so years. From your perspective, why do you think the Greek audience remains so loyal to Virgin Steele? I am sure that you realize that this admiration transcends the boundaries of the music itself and there are many fans that think highly of you as a human being...
David DeFeis: Eyharisto Poli!....I thank you sincerely for all your kind words...I am extremely honoured & thankful that VIRGIN STEELE has the love of the Greek audience. I can't say that I am entirely sure why it is that they feel so strongly about the band, but maybe it is because they recognize our passion and our honesty of approach. We have been true to what our vision is, and have not compromised our ideals. We have stayed steadfast and made the kind of music that we enjoy, rather than jump from bandwagon to bandwagon. I think the Greek audience appreciates that. One can be sure that if they pick up a VIRGIN STEELE album, regardless of whether or not they like it, it will be a true reflection and representation of where we are at, rather than an attempt to ingratiate or align ourselves with any particular sect or trend...And perhaps also because when we have visited, we have always been very approachable, and have delivered some of our longest sets to the Greek audience...I personally have always felt very much at home in your Country. I can't explain it, but whenever I visit...I feel the magick. It's where the Spirits meet...
Rockpages.gr: I always divided the Virgin Steele albums in two periods: the first covers the albums up to “Life Among The Ruins” and the second continues to this day. In your opinion, which are the albums that perfectly capture the spirit and the essence of Virgin Steele?
David DeFeis: For me they all have their moments...and now with re-issuing...and the bonus tracks...so much is on display...but perhaps everything from THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL forward and including THE BLACK LIGHT BACCHANALIA...But that being said...I am now thinking about all the new bonus tracks on AGE OF CONSENT...I think each album is a reflection of what was going on at the time, and captures the spirit of that particular moment or age...That my friend is a difficult question...
Rockpages.gr: I loved the atmosphere of the video-clip for “Perfect Mansions”. I think that it captures the vibe of the band. Why didn’t you choose something out of “The Black Light Bacchanalia” so as to promote the album and yet chose a classic track of your back catalogue?
David DeFeis: Thanks so very much...I truly appreciate that. It was our intention to kind of summarize the Group from a kind of historical perspective...being current visually, yet doing a track from somewhat further back, rather than doing a brand new track. We actually wanted to follow that video up with some new videos from THE BLACK LIGHT BACCHANALIA...in order to promote it more...but... we got kind of derailed from our goal in that...My hope is to do more videos from the back catalogue, and...actually do a video for the entire new release coming up as well. I think each song could be done. We do wish to be more prolific in our visual output! Having to re-issue the back Catalogue has been demanding as not only am I re-mastering and sorting out the original tracks, but we have been adding all this extra material, and if you noticed....there is a lot of it, and... for all that we released...more was actually worked up or explored to some degree, in order to achieve what was actually used...so it all takes time and a whole lotta wine...
Rockpages.gr: Why don’t you do bigger tours like you did in the past? I mean, it’s been a while since we last saw a big Virgin Steele tour (quite possibly since 2000)...
David DeFeis: It changed probably because of lifestyles, and wanting to give other members of the group the opportunity to develop other aspects of their lives. We entered into a kind of pattern of doing shorter runs of live work, and "one offs", and festivals. But...we will get back to doing the longer tours at some point. It is something that we do enjoy....Right now though...our focus is on completing all the new songs that I have written...The studio beckons and once in there...it is hard to switch gears & come back out.
Rockpages.gr: Virgin Steele was formed in New York yet your style of music is more typical of a European band (maybe, with the exception of the album “Life Among The Ruins”). Do you agree with this and if yes, do you think in hindsight that the future of the band would have been radically different if you had started your career in Europe?
David DeFeis: I don't think it would have been radically different...Yes our style has always been more European...but...more from the Classical side of things. In terms of what a lot of the European Metal bands are doing...I don't feel like we have all that much in common. We also come from the "Blues", and that is an American musical form which permeates in a not so very obvious way, a good portion of what we do, and how we approach making records or write songs or perform. I think that balance is what keeps our sound definable as our particular sound. If we all had been born in Europe and then started from there...it might have been somewhat different as we would not have had that immediate immersion to what is, or was happening here in the States, but that "Classical" element would have been available. I don't know that we would have become more "Classical" than we already are...Had we moved to Europe in the 80's or 90's...we would probably be more well known...but that was never the real goal anyway...It has always been about making the kind of music we enjoy, and growing as artists and performers...and meeting new people and trying to turn them on to another view.
SPV / Steamhammer is proud to re-release Virgin Steele's "Life Among The Ruins" album. This 2 CD digipak re-release comes with massive bonus tracks, a huge booklet with new liner notes and many rare photos.
Release Date Europe: June 18th, 2012
Release Date: Germany: June 15th, 2012
Release Date USA/Canada: July 17th, 2012
Life Among the Ruins was the fifth full length studio album by the US heavy metal band.
David DeFeis comments on the re-release:
"We will shortly be re-releasing the LIFE AMONG THE RUINS album. This 2012 version will be in digi-pak form and contain not one...but 2 discs with a large amount of extra ingredients. On the first disc we include 5 rare & unvarnished acoustic recordings, plus a full band bonus track. On disc #2 we have a total of 20 tracks. These tracks consist of a large amount of newly recorded material completed this past month, as well as alternate mixes of some of the album's original tracks. And in addition we have also included a never released track from somewhere around that period of time. All the material has been re-mastered, and the package will feature copious liner notes, photos and unique packaging....we hope you will enjoy it"
A STRANGE INTERVIEW OF SORTS
… Edmund Alscott once again speaks with David DeFeis… (about fact and fiction)…
SOME SHORT PRELIMENARY QUESTIONS:
1. Hi David! How’s everything going?
ANSWER: Cheers! All is going pretty well thanks for asking. Back in February we played this 70,000 Tons Of Metal Cruise type thing, which was very cool. We met some great people the shows went well and the ship stayed afloat! And let’s see…a week or so ago we played the Ragnarokker Festival near Chicago, which was also cool. Over the last autumn and winter we were in Europe several times and we also visited South America. Those shows all went very well. We made it back to GREECE once again after several years which was really amazing…2011 was a great year and 2012 has been quite rewarding for us as well thus far!
2. Excellent! So…what new music or in general what music have you been listening to lately?
ANSWER: Hmmmm…let’s see…actually quite a bit of VIRGIN STEELE, as we just did all these re-issues as you probably know, and I have been hearing them in the car, plus I am working on new tracks trying to sort out what will be on the next album, and the next re-issue, which will probably be “THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL” so lots of VS these days… …(Incidentally the re-issue of “LIFE AMONG THE RUINS”, hits the streets on the 15th). I have also been hearing a lot of The Cult as usual, plus Queen, Zeppelin, Howlin’ Wolf, Grieg, etc…oh and a good amount of Infant Sorrow.
3. Infant Sorrow?
ANSWER: Yes Aldous Snow’s group. Apparently Aldous is actually quite a big VIRGIN STEELE fan, so I thought I should reciprocate and check out his band. I think it is quite brilliant what they are doing. Straight up Glam, Pop & Rock and other weird ingredients all mixed together. He was asking about my wardrobe recently, so I sent him over some items, which I’ve noticed wound up in some of their videos…Ha! Oh yes and Tom Cruise also borrowed some of our old stage clothes for his new video or movie or whatever it is exactly…a remake of “Risky Business”…or a bio about Axl Rose or something…And last but not least we have been invited to star in a remake of the BLUES BROTHERS MOVIE, which will feature Borat as an unscrupulous record label owner, and us cast as the last 4 surviving members of “The Dirty Dozen”. Filming will take place in both outer and inner space, and all in Hi-def I am told, with “6.2 engulfing” you’re all surrounded sound.
4. Interesting I will check them out. The” them” being the Infant Sorrow recordings I mean.
ANSWER: Indeed! Ha! And hey we might have a part for you as the intrepid reporter in our remake of “Godzilla” featuring Edward as Raymond Burr, and Josh as “Mothra”.
5. What about Frank?
ANSWER: Oh Frank will play “The Kraken”…he wrestles Godzilla and pins him to the ground.
(Some Questions About The New Video):
David laughs loudly& maniacally in my ear….
1. OK, great, great…excellent…and speaking of movies and videos…(on a serious note)…where was your PERFECT MANSIONS video shot?
ANSWER: It was shot where we live…on the Sacred Island Of Long… I love the place…I am a real believer in our island. Some of it was filmed on the North Shore, some around my home… We did it over a couple of days…it was a really nice experience for all of us.
2. Why did you make this video?
ANSWER: Well…we have always been aware that there is an interest and a demand for such things and we have always wanted to do more with video, and the time was finally right to get going on it. There are so many videos up on youtube that are just the album cover or one picture for the entire track…so we thought why not take a moment & present something a bit more interesting than that. We thought, “why not do something that represents a bit of our life here”. Edward was particularly interested in having that specific song filmed, as he is a big fan of it, and he kept reminding me that we should do something with it, so I made some arrangements and we began. It was all very organic…very natural.
3. How do you feel about the outcome, and what is the reaction so far?
ANSWER: I am quite happy with how it all turned out. It was an extraordinary couple of days…there was a real Magick in the air for all for us, and I think our bond…that feeling of togetherness can be found within. We intentionally did it very inexpensively, and yet it still captures a real cohesive Group vibe, has grace and makes a statement. It looks like the kind of things that were once shown on MTV long ago. Some people approach video to only express the songs lyrics, or to present the artist’s stance…or market a particular album, or whatever…Our approach with this was to show both the attitude of the band, as well as express the lyrical content and also capture a particular mood & moment, and place in time. With this clip we succeeded in doing so for ourselves, and we are all quite jazzed up about it. It is kind of like a visual “overture” to the VIRGIN STEELE Experience. It contains a lot of the elements that are in our live show…like the burning sword, etc…it’s raw and yet graceful & majestic. It has a heroic quality to it…The song is all about facing death with Dignity & Triumph…not fear, so we didn’t go for night filming or some kind of Doom Metal approach, we went for a very raw, rather close up and intimate moment. It is real and it is us.
The reaction has been mostly positive! Some people said…”oh it’s low budget but we love it anyway”…which I think is fine…When any video is placed on youtube or wherever, it gets compressed, so the quality goes a bit astray…but I think it held up pretty well regardless. If you see it direct on a DVD it looks much better, as it is quite a large file. Yes it was not done with a huge budget as I mentioned a second ago…and I specifically said just that in my preview for it on the VS Website…we’ve always been very honest about our approach. The clip is a good will gesture. It is a gift… It’s meant to be enjoyed. If you like the song and the Group, then chances are you’ll appreciate the video.
4. Will there be more?
ANSWER: Oh yes! We are very anxious to get going on the next one as soon as possible. (We actually have plans to start shooting next week)…I am not 100% certain which song we will do next, but it might again be something from the new re-issue of AGE OF CONSENT, or maybe something from the new “RUINS” re-issue…. Possibly one of the new bonus tracks…I would like to start doing something from each of the albums. We would rather not put up all kinds of random things. We hope to keep progressing with the making of videos and occasionally post a proper sounding live performance. One in which the stage sound hasn’t blown up the microphones too much! Ha!
5. What about a DVD?
ANSWER: Again yes. We hope to get serious about that before the year is through. It looks to be quite a busy year, as we want to do more videos, plus a new album…plus more re-issues, (THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL Parts 1 & 2 should be next as I said before…with rare bonus tracks), more shows, a DVD, etc…We hope to get everything completed before the Mayan Calendar brings on the end of life as we now know it.
6. Would you ever like to make a feature film?
ANSWER: Sure, absolutely! I think that would be amazing. I am very much looking forward to completing our historical DVD. This will be another step towards the ultimate direction of a feature film. Spielberg if you are reading this…we are ready!
7. Do you always burn swords indoors?
ANSWER: Yes as often as I can…there’s nothing quite like a burning sword with your morning coffee! It keeps the neighbors at bay…
ABOUT THE LATEST PLANS:
1. What is on the agenda for VIRGIN STEELE at the moment?
ANSWER: We are recording what will be the next new album, which hopefully will be issued before the year is out, and we are also recording the various bonus tracks that will be released on the next re-issues. And in truth we are really working on what will be the next 3 albums, because there are quite a lot of songs…We are trying to capture everything as the inspiration comes…As regards what the new album will be all about…I prefer to wait a bit to give you more information, as I am still writing, and I am waiting to see how the latest music develops. Once I know exactly what tracks it will contain I will then be in a better position to describe it to you…But…I can tell you that at the moment there are 3 different…let’s call them “Song Cycles” or Song Collections. Two of them could be conceived as conceptual, while the third consists of separate unrelated material. We are essentially trying to record everything before committing completely to what we will release first. It will all come out…it’s just a question of what will be first.
OK great! And what about the current re-issue of LIFE AMONG THE RUINS?
ANSWER: Well…it will be issued in Germany on June 15th, in Europe on the 18th and in North America on the 17th of July. It features an extra disc of new material. Some of the new recordings are covers…we did a crazy version of WHEN THE LEEVE BREAKS, and also some T.REX tracks…”BALLROOMS OF MARS & MAMBO SUN, and a few others…and there are new compositions on there as well…my favorite is a new track called “MY MOURNING CLOTHES”. That one has a very Bluesy feel combined with the more “classical” type mood of THE BLACK LIGHT BACCHANALIA album. I think this re-issue is very appropriate for the upcoming Summer Season, as it has a whole lot of sweat in it, and it already sounds quite suitable for listening to on your favorite beach.
Thanks very much for the news and the talk!
ANSWER: Cheers…my pleasure…Keep well and remain…INVICTUS!
BY THE HAMMER OF ZEUS…(And The Wrecking Ball Of Thor…of course),
DUST FROM THE BURNING
IMMORTAL I STAND (The Birth Of Adam)
BLACK MASS BLUES
WINE OF VIOLENCE
IN TRIUMPH OR TRAGEDY
RETURN OF THE KING
A SYMPHONY OF STEELE
VOW OF HONOUR
NOBLE SAVAGE David's Champagne Toast!... a salute to 3 birthdays
SNAKESKIN VOODOO MAN
KINGDOM OF THE FEARLESS (The Destruction Of Troy)
VICTORY IS MINE
CROWN OF GLORY (Unscarred)
BY THE HAMMER OF ZEUS (And the Wrecking ball Of Thor)
THE BURNING OF ROME (Cry For Pompeii)
THY KINGDOM COME INTRO
GTR SOLO-"The Burning Of The Sword"
“The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell Theme”
VENI, VIDI, VICI
10 January 2012
Happy New Year!
Virgin Steele Launch Virgin Steele TV
VIRGIN STEELE is finally unveiling a new video and a new Official Youtube Channel. The name of the new VS Youtube page/site is: "THE ONLY OFFICIAL VIRGIN STEELE VIDEO CHANNEL", or for short...VIRGIN STEELE TV.
New Virgin Steele Video, "Perfect Mansions (Mountains Of The Sun)
Now on Virgin Steele TV.
We welcome all fans to check out the debut of our official video for "Perfect Mansions (Mountains Of The Sun)". It was shot entirely on Long Island a few short weeks ago. We caught up with David and he had this to say regarding the new video:
"As you may or may not know the new AGE OF CONSENT re-issue has just come out, and we have put together the first video from it. The track we completed is PERFECT MANSIONS (Mountains Of The Sun). It is not a huge massive budget production. It is more of a simple home movie type experience. It was shot by our longtime friend and engineer Ed Warrin, with one camera in several locations. I then spent several days learning how to edit. We have come up with something that I believe represents the attitude and the feeling of what the Group is all about. It has a strong live energy about it, possibly because it was shot just a few days after we returned from our latest European performances. It is a kind of guide or overture to the VIRGIN STEELE Experience, as it has all the various Barbaric-Romantic elements that you've come to know & expect from us over the years. There is a really nice ambiance about the clip. It captures a very specific mood and moment in time, and shows a nice part of our Island where we live...I hope you will enjoy it"
Here are other official clips found on Virgin Steele TV:
Virgin Steele Statement on Tony Iommi
The band were all saddened to learn about Tony Iommi's illness. David had this to say: "We toured with Black Sabbath on their Eternal Idol Tour, and they were just so very gracious to us. Tony was exceptionally kind and supportive of all that we were doing. All the guys in the Group & I wish him all the absolute best, and hope that he will beat this illness and be back to top wailing and roaring form as soon as possible".
2012 Confirmed shows:
January 14, 2012
140 Merrick Road
Amityville, New York 11701. January 23th - 27th 2012