VIRGIN STEELE through Steamhammer SPV, will release a new studio album called NOCTURNES OF HELLFIRE & DAMNATION on: June 17th in Scandinavia, June 19th in Germany, June 22nd in Europe and June 23rd in the USA.
It will come out with three different covers as a standard 1CD version (the gargoyle cover), a 2CD digi-pak version…yes it is a double album (the snow angel cover), and a 2 LP gatefold version (the flute playing skeleton cover) and download.
Here below the Group discusses the new album and all things VIRGIN STEELE with Edmund Alscott.
INTERVIEW FOR the NOCTURNES OF HELLFIRE & DAMNATION ALBUM:
Questions by Edmund Alscott
Edmund: Greets guys, long time no see! How go things in the Land Of Steele?
David: Cheers Edmund! Very nice to see you again! All is well thanks for asking. The album is ready to be heard, so come in have a drink if you wish and have a listen.
Edmund: Ok don’t mind if I do. I am all ears!
“And so I listened and what can I say? I was overwhelmed. The new album is fantastic! Full of the power and fury we have come to know and love from VIRGIN STEELE. The new record has great songs, with memorable hooks, roaring and soaring vocals, pounding great sounding drums, wailing guitars, thunderous bass and David’s wild orchestrations. It is a winner in my book, a solid 10 out 10”.
Edmund: Guys the new album is incredible. I love the real natural sound you achieved. Please tell me something about the sessions and the recording approach.
David: Thanks very; very much for your kind words…I most certainly appreciate them. Yes we wanted a more organic, natural sounding album. We wanted it to sound like a live onstage album…I personally am a big fan of albums like Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti and well…all their albums especially the first 2, plus all the Queen stuff. I love the huge room sounding toms on those Works. I tried to get more of a live feel than a studio vibe for the album, and I wanted to capture the sweat and the noise that occurs when songs get royally fired up. I wanted to try and capture passion and a sense of urgency, and try to bring forth the essential essence of what these songs were saying. I wanted Burning Sword, Fire-Breathing Magick…
Edward: Sonically I think it does capture what David just described. All the takes were early takes and nothing was overly labored so the spontaneity shines through.
Edmund: Killer! It really shows. And your solos are great! You are on fire!
Edward: Thanks Edmund.
David: Edward played beautifully on the record…
Edward: And so did Josh. He did some really beautiful guitar work too.
David: I am very pleased with everyone’s performances and proud to share the recording tape with these gents.
Edmund: I love everything, and the vocals are outstanding, your best yet! Did you become a teetotaler or something?
David: Ha! Or something! Thanks a million for saying so Edmund…you’re making my day and night here….No I probably drink more wine than ever….But I did go into the project with the mind-set of trying to outdo myself, to work really hard, to get to know the songs, and to deliver every side of the various styles that exist inside my throat. I still have the drive and the hunger to try to top what I’ve done before. I really got into the emotions and I just gave vent to my gut instincts, and roared away without any thought or regard for life or limb.
Edmund: Fantastic! Tell me more about your vocal approach.
David: OK, I use my voice differently than what is normally done…I am referring to my thoughts and delivery. I think of myself as another instrument, like perhaps a guitar, or a violin or even as percussion…(which is why the songs often begin with those roars…I am a drum or cymbal smash with those)…more so than a singer, which is why I do all the crazy things that I do on there. The voice is used partly for; ok these are the words that I must express, and partly as…this is another color…this is an orchestration…this is Vengeance….to sum up my approach…I believe it is…The Voice As Weapon….
Edward: Which is why our acoustic thing works so well. My guitar and his voice wrap around each other and sometimes it’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
Edmund: I have heard you guys doing that and yes I agree and it is also the loudest acoustic show I have ever heard! OK more questions about the NOCTURNES album. Please tell me something about the lyrics, the concept if there is one and the overall message.
David: OK. It isn’t a concept album with a linear plot that you follow from point A to point Z, like THE HOUSE OF ATREUS was, it is more a collection of songs that work together well, and have a through line which does connect most of the tracks. The album largely concerns itself with relationship issues and what happens when one person comes into contact with another person’s orbit, chemistry, sphere...you know what I mean….also our connection with ourselves…our loves and hates….not only connections between people, but also places, and again ideas, passions, obsessions..... In addition the album is also about the connections between entities.... as in all sorts of beings, not necessarily human beings…but also Gods & Goddesses, Spirits, Elements, or whatever. But to be brief the album is mainly about connections between people. People and their belief systems, people and their Gods or Goddesses…people and their life philosophies and also the various substances we invest or inject into our daily or nightly rituals and our worldview, and all the complexities of what drives us, makes us who we are and takes us where we may…or may not be going. To sum it up this album is about.... the dark night of the soul and all the various ways in which humans can entangle themselves, or destroy themselves…so the album's title essentially encompasses what the vibe of the whole Work is about. The title relates to the album in the way that the title “NOBLE SAVAGE”, or “AGE OF CONSENT”, expressed each of those particular Works. The title provides a framework and connective tissue, but each song is really its own thing. The overall message is…beware…
Edmund: Great! And what about the cover art, why are there three covers?
Edward: 3 covers for 3 versions of the album!
David: Yes…that’s right. We didn’t set out to have 3 covers. That developed. Whenever we are making an album, I always want the artwork to connect with the music contained within the album, and to be natural or organic to my life, to our lives and to what the Work is about so… I always look around my place to see if I have anything that will leap out at me and scream out “hey that looks like the album sounds”. I did that with THE HOUSE OF ATREUS album, and found that shield that makes up the ACT 1 and ACT 2 covers, I did that with INVICTUS…etc., and upon looking around this time my eyes paused on the gargoyle…and my ears heard GLAMOUR, PERSEPHONE…THE PLAGUE & THE FIRE…etc.…so…I picked the gargoyle up took him out back and photographed him in a kind of autumnal haze…I had also done several winter scene photos out there and wanted to use them too. Our art/graphic guy Jens Reinhold, had a photo he had taken, of a stone “angel” from a cemetery nearby where he lives and he combined that with my winter scene…I loved it and I loved the gargoyle, so now one gets a DEVIL, an ANGEL and …the autumn dead tree look and the snow bound winter scene, and in addition…once I had explained to Jens what the new album was all about, he became inspired to draw and he came up with the “bone-flute” and bone-harp guys…. It just kind of escalated… These covers capture the melancholy and torment of the lyrics, as well as the Barbaric-Romantic vibe of the Group, and reflect the mood…the core of what is going on…A Nocturne is a “night song”…and these are dark night songs full of the fires of Hell or Hades, and the wails and cries and The Torture’s Of The Damned. We actually had 3 different covers for the last album too…It is becoming kind of a new tradition for us! I like it…it gives each configuration its own special character.
Edmund: That sounds like a lot of work! And speaking of a lot of work, the Digi-pak version has an extra full length CD. Can you please describe what that album contains?
David: Sure. This really is a double album…well actually in the sense of vinyl it would be a quadruple album…4 records and 8 sides. There are 29 songs in total…CD 2 contains new songs, plus a few re-arranged and in some instances re-written covers. It starts off with a 6 song set that I call “THE SAMHAIN SUITE”, and that is a medley of songs by Sabbath, Bloodrock, & Zeppelin, and starts with John Carpenter’s “Halloween” theme from the movie about Michael Myers the killer kid….and in the middle of all that there is a piece by the classical composer Vladimir Rebikov, called THE WITCH IN THE FOREST. As I said I have re-arranged these Works and in some sections re-written those tracks adding additional musical ideas or lyrics. It is very, very, very, veryyyyyyy over the top! The rest of the album is pretty eclectic…It has this new strain that has been creeping into our sound…. that raw Bluesy Metal thing going on, or what I call “GOTHIC BLUES”, represented by songs like HAUNTED WOLFSHINE…or RIDERLESS HORSE…it has a live in the studio acoustic track called A GREATER BURNING OF INNOCENCE…we already did a video for that one…It features just Edward and I doing our thing….
Edward: Beautiful song that one…the video we recently filmed for it is great too, just Dave and I playing the track. The footage is all at home archival stuff and shows a nice behind the scenes side. As you were saying Dave…
David: Yes…also on the second disc there is a somber kind of epic on there, called WEST OF SUMER. It is a huge track that I guess you could say could be considered to be our STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN…It starts somewhat subdued and builds to a climax…. before fading into the ether. There are hi-energy tracks like THE DEVIL DRIVES, ANGER NEVER DIES…hmmm…what else…two interesting companion piece tracks…in the form of FUNERAL GAMES, and THE PLOT THICKENS…and it concludes with a kind of “SKY HYMN” in the vein of something like “The Spirit Of Steele” perhaps, called THE BIRTH OF BEAUTY...very emotional track….that one…All the various aspects, moods and colors of VIRGIN STEELE are on display on the album. It is very well rounded.
Edward: I love THE BIRTH OF BEAUTY that one is really special.
David: Edward’s guitar solo on that one is superb! Soaring emotion!
Edmund: Well that is an incredible amount of music!
David: Yes it is Edmund
Edmund: Some people were asking me about the length of time between the last studio album and this one.
Edward: Do we really have to answer that? I mean isn’t it obvious what we have been doing.
Edmund: Just for the record please fill me in on all that has happened between the release of THE BLACK LIGHT BACCHANALIA and the new NOCTURNES OF HELLFIRE & DAMNATION albums.
David: OK…my pleasure. Since we signed with SPV in 2010, we have been on this campaign to re-issue the Catalogue, and we have been doing so in a very systematic and very timely manner. Each one of the re-releases we did contained a massive amount of bonus material. Some of the bonus tracks on those Works were specifically written for those albums, and other bonus material we included was re-arranged or re-written covers of songs by other people that we enjoy. All that took time to do in addition to actually re-mastering all the album’s original ingredients. If you look at all those re-issues, there is at least a full-length album of new material in there…. Unfortunately most people do not know about or realize this. It is my hope that now due to the new album being released shortly…our audience will then catch up with what we put out on those other recordings. I mean for example on the INVICTUS re-issue we had a full length live acoustic album included in there called, FIRE SPIRITS. That’s an incredible record!
Edward: Amazing album! One guitar, one voice...Dave and I let it roar. You can really hear the chemistry between us on that album. And it is truly live. We recorded straight to two-track stereo, no multi-tracking.
David: We even have some film clips from those sessions, which we will put out over the next weeks. So as you can see we have not been idle. The other thing that took up time and delayed this album a bit was that we were first working on putting together a DVD, then a box-set and then the plan changed to having a new album out…so our energies were diverted for awhile…running off on different tangents. Once we focused in on making the new album everything came together pretty quickly. And in addition to all this new music now coming out. I also wrote what will be the next 2 VIRGIN STEELE albums. We have in the pipeline waiting to be finished, two more over the top albums. One is a kind of concept GREEK TRAGEDY type of Work and the other is a concept piece concerning the Autumn….These albums are about 50% complete and will be completed in the days, weeks and months ahead as time permits. And please remember that just last year we re-issued THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 1, & THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 2, with bonus tracks, plus INVICTUS with the bonus FIRE SPIRITS album, so again we have not been on holiday.
Edmund: This leads me to my next question. When will we see the arrival of the DVD?
David: Your guess is as good as mine. I would love to have it out within the next year or so…it would be the jewel in the crown of the ending of the re-issue campaign….The next plans I still must discuss with SPV…
Edmund: OK. Getting back to the new album please describe the following songs to me:
LUCIFER’S HAMMER: David: As I believe I told you once before, this song is not necessarily about Lucifer or about hammers. It will appear to be about something different to each and every person who listens to it and/or experiences it, depending on their mind-set and depth of experience. For me…it is essentially about drugs like opium, heroin…cocaine…the white powders and such… but also about passion and desire in general. Come to think of it there are several other songs that discuss drugs of that nature…Anyway…LUCIFER’S HAMMER, is a charging; rip roaring song that works nicely as an opener. It makes a nice soundtrack for merging into highway traffic!
Edward: Killer opener…it sets the mood for all that follows.
Edmund: What about GLAMOUR:
David: Enchantment…this is one of those songs that at first glance you think…”oh he’s talking about a woman…some relationship he has”…and yes I am but if you look closer I am actually speaking about my relationship with MUSIC, what She or it has done to me, for me…the good, the bad and the ugly…And musically speaking that is a unique track for me…I don’t think I have ever written something quite like that before. It has several huge riffs, and almost thrash- like sections, plus these strange ethereal Gothic type breakdowns. I love that one. All during the recording process I never stopped writing, so some of the songs that appear on the album are actually 11th hour additions that replaced several other songs that were initially set to go on there. Songs like DELIRIUM, PERSEPHONE, GLAMOUR, as I mentioned and FALLEN ANGELS, were all just completed in the last phase of the production.
Edmund: All this is incredibly interesting to me. Please tell me about FALLEN ANGELS.
David: I think that one is Music to commit suicide by! The entity in this track can be thought of as either human or in fact His Infernal Majesty…or actually both existing in the same body…There is a room…perhaps an attic…a male and a female are together in a kind of belladonic haze…it is the end of all things or the start of something new and dangerous…That last line…”I’m closer now”, is not meant to be comforting…. Musically it is dark, very moody…not really a ballad but a nice closer to the album.
Edmund: Heavy stuff…
I think we have time for one more question right?
Edmund: Thanks. Again it is about the new album. I really like the sound of the album, the rough edges. Was this what you were going for? And how personal is this album?
David: That’s two questions actually. First yes I wanted all the rawness left in and I wanted to make the album sound like what the lyrics and what the emotional mood convey. I wanted the album to sound like people who are definitely a little more than out there, people who live, dive in deep and experience all the madness of life made it. The reason being that those are the kinds of people who did make it. I didn’t want gloss for the sake of gloss. And I guess this answer relates to your second question. No matter how Myth based or fantastical my lyrics have been…I have always been using Myth and fantasy as a jumping off point for what I want to say about life now…Even THE HOUSE OF ATREUS as much as that was about the Tragedy of what befell that family after the Trojan War…it was still also about what was happening currently. And on this new NOCTURNES album…more so than ever…yes these lyrics are personal…very personal sometimes…but…I write in such a way so that the listener can see him or herself in there and they will find their own meaning. It won’t necessarily be what I mean because they aren’t privy to the comings and goings of my world…but they will certainly relate and find their own way with the songs, which is what I prefer.
Edward: When I first listened to the whole album…we went out to dinner and David played me everything…I was amazed really. I think that the album perfectly captures where we are at this current place and time.
Edmund: And what is next for the STEELE?
Edward: More albums as Dave described, more videos, and eventually a return to the stage.
David: I live permanently on the edge of self-destruction due to my intensity, enthusiasm and exuberance for all that I get involved with. If I survive the madness…all that Edward just said will appear.
Edmund: I hope so! Thanks very much guys. I really look forward to getting thoroughly acquainted with these new Works and I wish you all the very best for the release.
Edward: Thanks and cheers Edmund!
David: Thanks very much Edmund! Beware the Glamour…BY THE GODS & GODDESSES!
We wish to announce that the title for the forthcoming new VIRGIN STEELE album due out between February and March of 2015 will be “HYMNS TO DAMNATION”. David DeFeis says, “The new album is a roaring collection of Metal tracks that work very well together and were recorded in a very straightforward, organic manner. It is full of passion, power, blood, fire, love, lust, death and drama”.
In this short interview here below, David discusses the album further…
Regarding the forthcoming “HYMNS TO DAMNATION” album, with questions by Edmund Alscott
1. Hey David, so the title of the new VIRGIN STEELE album is going to be “HYMNS TO DAMNATION”, yeah, heavy duty! Where does that title come from?
DeFeis: Thanks Edmund…well…There actually is a song on the album with that title, and even though this album is not really a concept album, recently when I took a careful look back at all the lyrics, I found that a lot of the lyrics do deal with relationship issues and all the various ways in which humans can entangle themselves, or destroy themselves…so the title essentially encompasses what the vibe of the whole Work is about. The title expresses the album in the way that the title “NOBLE SAVAGE”, or “AGE OF CONSENT”, expressed each of those particular Works. The title provides a framework and perhaps connective tissue, but each song is really its own thing. As I said it isn’t a concept album, but there is a certain kind of connection regardless.
2. Musically what can we expect for that song as well as the whole album?
DeFeis: That particular song is definitely Barbaric-Romantic…it is full of pathos, and has both the tender dark side of what we do, along with that over the top bombastic heaviness that we are about. And…well… to go along with the kinds of lyrics I just mentioned, the music is definitely heavy… dark… at times melancholy, and also aggressive or angry sounding, and alternately raw and grandiose. The overarching theme that comes to mind when I think about the album or listen to it is passion…raw passion. There are big monolithic riffs, moody chord changes, “classical” type bits, it retains the VIRGIN STEELE signature, but it adds new dimensions to it.
3. Lyrically is it a completely negative trip?
DeFeis: No not at all, there are tracks that celebrate life and lust and the beauty of the full experience of what one goes through in their time on the planet. It is empowering and it also has a sense of humor. The lyrics should make you think a bit…I hope. And as regards what I just said a moment ago about relationships, the album mainly concerns connections, connections between all sorts of beings and by that I don’t only mean worldly human beings…but also Gods & Goddesses, Spirits, Elements, or whatever, plus various creatures, animal, vegetable and or mineral, but largely it is about connections between people. People and their belief systems, people and their Gods or Goddesses…people and their life philosophies and also the various substances we invest or inject into our daily or nightly rituals and our worldview, and all the complexities of what drives us, makes us who we are and takes us where we may…or may not be going.
4. That sounds epic! Awhile back I know you had mentioned another song recorded for the album called LUCIFER’S HAMMER. What is that one like?
DeFeis: Well…it is not necessarily about Lucifer, or hammers! It is a really aggressive song that opens the album, and starts everything off in high gear. It is both raw and “classical” sounding at the same time. It’s very high energy, very kick-ass!
5. Well then what do the lyrics for that song concern?
DeFeis: It can be viewed from several different angles, as that is a feature of how I write songs, but you my friend would probably say that it is about drugs…
6. Pro or con?
DeFeis: That would depend on one’s own perspective and proclivities.
7. Do you have anything else planned for 2015?
DeFeis: Yes about 7 months after the new album comes out, we will finally issue the box-set that I discussed a whole lot over the past year.
8. What will be in that box-set?
DeFeis: It will contain the re-issues of both THE BOOK OF BURNING, and HYMNS TO VICTORY, and finally the bonus new Work, “GHOST HARVEST” (The Spectral Vintage Sessions). We hope to have that package out in October. It has already been discussed between the label and I and it is a go. That “Ghost Harvest” bonus album has new material, plus re-written and re-arranged covers of various things we like or rehearse from time to time.
9. Great! I am looking forward to the new HYMNS TO DAMNATION album and then later the box-set. In all the re-issues you did over the past two years you managed to put in tons of bonus material, and the recently re-issued INVICTUS CD has an almost 60 minute bonus album called FIRE SPIRITS, featuring acoustic versions of some VIRGIN STEELE classics, as well as some new material. How do you manage to make all that come together?
DeFeis: I am glad you noticed. Not everyone does. Yes we have tried to make each re-issue as special as we can, and we have gone out of our way to add as much as possible. That particular FIRE SPIRITS album came about because I wanted to add something that was intense but unlike the actual INVICTUS album…and we began recording live and really liking what we were hearing back, so we thought why not…Those tracks have the intensity of the full band and the listener can get a sense of the interplay between the voice and the instruments, and also a sense of the ingredients of the songs…what makes them tick. We are always working, so there is always material, and I am happy to unleash it in whatever form it takes…hence…all these extra tracks on the re-issues.
10.If you look at all you have released with the extra stuff on the re-issues, you probably already put a couple of new albums out! Getting back to HYMNS TO DAMNATION, how long is that album going to be?
DeFeis: Yeah…thanks again for noticing that Edmund, I really appreciate it. As regards the HYMNS TO DAMNATION album I am not quite sure yet as we are still deciding on which tracks will ultimately end up being included on there. It will be fairly long, but probably not necessarily 80 minutes. We shall see. Check back with me in a few weeks.
11. OK. And a last question David about the studio methods. I know you mentioned that you went back to some earlier styles of recording. What did you mean by that?
DeFeis: I meant that we started using some of the original analog gear that we used to use, and we even did some things on analog tape. I think it has made the album as I said earlier…more natural or organic sounding. It has that classic “we recorded it live in a large room” kind of sound that we really like. It has been nice to approach the album this way, and we think that it really suits the material.
Killer! Thanks very much for the chat David I can’t wait to get my hands on a finished copy.
DeFeis: Cheers Edmund and thanks a million for all your Noble support!
29 AUGUST 2014:
VIRGIN STEELE is currently completing work on 2 new albums. Said vocalist David DeFeis, "we are in the process of finishing all the recordings for a second disc of music which is to be part of a double CD set called, GHOST HARVEST (The Spectral Vintage Sessions). The first disc has already been completed, and we are deep into the recording of the second disc. These Works are extra recordings outside of what we are expected to deliver to our label. They are a kind of pre-Anniversary celebration...our way of saying cheers and thanks very much to all of our Friends who have shown us such strong support, great belief, and honor throughout the years. We raise our glasses to you All, and we look forward to seeing you once again when we return to the live arena".
In addition to the GHOST HARVEST recordings (which they wish to issue this October through the excellent Steamhamer SPV label), the Group is currently also recording new music for a full length concept album that they hope to issue next Spring. And in addition to that, various videos have recently been filmed. The song HOUSE OF DUST from THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 1 album was filmed a short while back, and a song called A GREATER BURNING OF INNOCENCE from the forthcoming GHOST HARVEST album was also filmed. Also some of the sessions for the FIRE SPIRITS album, (the bonus disc included inside the current INVICTUS re-issue ), were filmed and some of those clips will be finalized and issued over the next months.
We thank you for all your faith and support and we wish you a great rest of the summer and a magical autumn.
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REVIEWS for THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL and INVICTUS Re-releases
Edmund: Hello David long time no speak. How are things going?
David: Cheers Edmund it is a pleasure to talk with you once again! Things are going very well thanks for asking.
Edmund: What is the latest with VIRGIN STEELE and life in general?
David: Well on June 13th and 16th in Europe, and a week later in the States, we will be re-releasing several albums. We have THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 1, THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 2 and INVICTUS all coming out at the same time. There are some bonus tracks on the “Marriage” and inside INVICTUS there is a full CD of live acoustic tracks, plus another new song to close out that album which to give it its full name, is called “FIRE SPIRITS”.
Edmund: Some people were asking me, so I ask you. Why re-issue these albums?
David: Well…the main reason we are slowly, surely and steadily re-releasing the catalogue is because we signed with a new label called SPV, and they wish to have the Catalogue in circulation. What happens when a group or an artist changes record labels is that the original pressings of the records are eventually sold out and new fans then don’t have access to the older material…so the way to avoid that is to re-release everything. And since we are putting the albums out again the interesting thing for us (in addition to the new packaging, photos, etc.), is to try to add some new special bonus tracks and often re-master and occasionally also provide a new mix or an alternate mix…or new songs….or whatever…something…anything… to keep it interesting both for the audience and for ourselves. Believe me…we certainly are not demanding that people who already have these albums buy them again and again and again. These albums are made available of course for any long time fan who wants a new copy because theirs got destroyed, eaten, or lost in a custody battle or whatever…but as I said our label is kindly putting them back in circulation again so that those who never had them…(should they so desire)…can easily find them. We aren’t re-issuing stuff because we don’t have any new material…we have tons…(in fact we are already recording the next several albums)…but this is one of the obligations I have and I am enjoying doing it. Brand new material will also be forthcoming again quite soon. The thing to remember with us is that there are so many albums in the catalogue…so as soon as we finish one re-issue…another one is due to appear…but we are nearly there with having them all out once again.
Edmund: How do you choose the bonus material?
David: It’s always a different scenario. Sometimes certain songs are specifically written for a re-issue, as was the case with both PERFECT MANSIONS (Mountains Of The Sun) and SERPENT’S KISS, for the AGE OF CONSENT album. Other times it is a question of what we might be working on at the time that feels right for the particular re-issue in question. With INVICTUS…we were originally going to issue these new “GHOST HARVEST” recordings that we did over the summer…but then we did an abrupt about face and decided to go with something completely different, and save those recordings for the box-set that we plan on issuing in October. INVICTUS is a pretty aggressive, heavy album and we thought…” lets go the opposite way and do something that has the same intensity as that album…but do it with a different color”…so we came up with these acoustic versions, that really do have the same energy, intensity, power and commitment that the full on electric songs on the INVICTUS album have. There is a certain chemistry that manifests or happens when Edward and I perform in that stripped down type of setting. It becomes a real dialogue between the guitar and the voice, and I think you can hear our history in there…our years of performing together, and our lifetime of friendship.
Edmund: Speaking of lifetimes and friendship don’t you have an anniversary coming up?
David: Yes we do actually. We will be celebrating 35 years of VIRGIN STEELE History!
Edmund: But is it really 35 years now?
David: Yeah, pretty close….or “close enough for Rock & Roll”, as the saying goes. If you really want to be technical about it…we are starting the celebrations just a little bit earlier.
David: Why not! The truth of the matter is…for some reason…we never really got around to any over the top celebrating for any of our other anniversaries, which is a shame. Therefore we didn’t want to make the same mistake and forget or get sidetracked again. VIRGIN STEELE really lives in the moment and we are still… like always…planning new music for the future and we don’t look back very much…and with the day to day business of living…and all the wine perhaps…I unfortunately overlooked those milestones, and rather than have this one pass us by…the group and I and our label are starting early. One of the guys at our label, Olly Hahn actually brought it to my attention that we would be coming up on an anniversary, (you see it almost passed us by once again...thanks Olly!) and he was really excited about it…(hail to him!!!) So I am glad to be able to kick off these celebrations with the current re-issues for June with the various new bits we’ve included, and I am looking forward to the October box-set, and then after that we will put out a brand new…. I guess you could call it…a full on Epic-Barbaric-Romantic album in the tradition of perhaps a “Marriage”, or an “Atreus”. It will have a concept of sorts and it does hang together musically like a fully integrated Work of that type…And if truth be told we are also issuing new material inside October’s box-set. The Ghost Harvest Collection will feature new material, and we are also planning on adding a second new album along side that disc for October.
Edmund: How is it possible that there is so much material?
David: A whole lot of writing, and a few re-written/re-arranged covers…a lot of recording goes on here. In addition to these 2 box set new albums, we also actually already have a fair amount of the next 2 Epic style VIRGIN STEELE albums recorded. We’re currently hunkering down and trying to get a lot of work done and it is coming together. And through it all we will be celebrating our history and our friendship. Edward and I have been performing and working together since even before VIRGIN STEELE formed. Frank Gilchriest has been with us since “The Marriage” Era, and Josh Block has been in the band since The House Of Atreus Tour…so it has been quite a long time of being in the studio together, and lots of great times both onstage in concert and offstage at home with these gentlemen.
Edmund: Most groups and artists really exploit anniversaries and or any angle at all to keep in the public eye.
David: Yeah I know and that is perfectly fine. Everyone needs to eat and be able to pay their bills, etc…But VIRGIN STEELE has never really been about doing that kind of non-stop promo thing. Fame for its own sake has never been our thing. Our focus has always been on writing, creating, trying to learn new things, trying to achieve magic onstage and in the studio. None of us are really the type of people that jump up and down and say, “hey look at me”. We sort of find that…hmmm for lack of a better word or phrase, show-offy. Sure we want people to hear & like the music, so we do need to make people aware of it by doing some type of promotion, but we really prefer that people come to the VIRGIN STEELE Experience in their own way, in a kind of non-forced situation. I personally think it’s a lot cooler when either you stumble upon an album, an artist, a film…or whatever and go…”wow I really like this where has this been all my life”! , or someone else turns you on to something new. Speaking of that someone else, I believe our label has some nice plans to alert everyone to the forthcoming Works.
Edmund: And didn’t you recently sing on someone else’s album?
David: Yes. I just did a track for Timo Tolkki’s new Avalon album. The song he sent me is cool. It is called The Rise Of The 4th Reich.
Edmund: Great! I also heard something about a book. What’s that about?
David: That’s not etched in stone….but time permitting of course…I was asked to contribute a type of book for the box set. I never said that I was “Stephen King”, but I am always writing and I hope to deliver something that will be both illuminating and fun to read. The music comes first, so no promises on the book, but if the time is available I do hope to make it happen. And currently it does seem possible that all will work out.
Edmund: I know you guys are doing a lot already, but is anything else planned?
David: We are also filming various songs and rehearsals or whatever, so yes there will eventually be an Historical type of DVD and most likely we will issue a few videos to celebrate the June re-issues and also the box set material. There will probably be a mixture of clips from both the newer material and also some of the original tracks from the albums that were re-issued. Film is a whole new area that we find interesting, so we are exploring it a bit. A lot of the live stuff that appears on the (Bonus INVICTUS Disc) “FIRE SPIRITS” was also filmed and we hope to do something with that material as well. And speaking of film I recently made a small appearance in a movie that was made by a Danish filmmaker. The film is called “Songs For Alexis”. It is a documentary (no not about me), and I just play my usual drunken self in there. I have not seen the film yet, but I was told that it is quite extraordinary. I know the family that the film was made about and in particular the artist in the film (who is the main character), is a former student of mine as well as a good friend. I believe that movie made its debut at the Toronto Film Festival.
Edmund: That’s interesting I look forward to seeing that. Back to the new “FIRE SPIRITS” release, I heard the new song you wrote called, DO YOU WALK WITH GOD, and I think it’s a great track. How did that come about?
David: Hey thanks very much! I really appreciate that. Once we decided to do this kind of acoustic album for the bonus disc…I was listening to various takes of things that we had done and I thought that in addition to the various live tracks and such that it would be nice to have something new on there to close out the album, so…I started playing and singing what became the version that appears on FIRE SPIRITS. It is a pretty melancholy piece that I think anyone who has ever lost someone that was very close to them can relate to. It’s sad but it is also defiant and angry. The performance on there is pretty sparse. It was done with just piano, the vocal, a tiny bit of acoustic guitar and an electric guitar solo. I think it makes a nice closer for that album. Most of the rest of the other material on FIRE SPIRITS is pretty aggressive even though it is just one or two acoustic guitars and a vocal. You can hear that we are still a couple of maniacs going for it! There’s something about recording totally live that way that captures a certain dynamic, an ambience that is way different than what normally happens in the studio. And these days with all the technology that is happening both in recordings and in life in general…we thought it would be nice to present this kind of moment that is very direct, and passionate, and that did not require tons of extra ingredients of any kind.
Edmund: OK great! After all this talk I’m really looking forward to the October releases. I thank you for your time and I leave the last words to you.
David: My pleasure…I thank you for your questions and I hope you will enjoy all the forthcoming tracks.
And on behalf of Edward, Frank, Josh & myself, I wish to send forth many cheers and royal thanks to all the VIRGIN STEELE Fans out there around the world! And… I want to say that we are really looking forward to celebrating our music, life, and friendship with you all!
So…Cheers, Hail & BY THE GODS & GODDESSES to you All!!!
15 October 2013
Breaking The Silence an Interview with David DeFeis & Edward Pursino of VIRGIN STEELE
Edmund: Ok let’s get started. So tell me…what’s happening in the VIRGIN STEELE camp these days, and what was the reason for the long period of silence?
David: Let me just start out by saying that everything is going very well right now, and many interesting things will begin appearing, as we have many irons in the fire as we speak.
As you know we have been busy, and have managed to get new sounds out inside each of the 3 re-issues that we released these past two years, so we have not been idle, we are not idle, and we are currently sitting on a huge stack of new material, some of which you my friend have actually heard this evening. But anyway… to answer your question, well…there are several reasons why not much news was forthcoming these past few months. I think that one of the main reasons is that we have never been the type of band to just post random things. We prefer to update our sites when we have something concrete to announce, and since we did not have a clear idea of what we were going to be able to release through our label SPV, we had nothing new to add to what had already been said. It made no sense to keep rehashing the same information or to post confusing what ifs....…. In our last interviews we did discuss what we were planning, and we did begin work on all that I had mentioned, and the work continues. As regards all those projects that I had discussed, well…the difficult part of making sense out of all those various projects was simply that there were and still are so many of them! The year started out with discussions with our label about doing a DVD from the Historical perspective, and I began compiling footage and organizing it so that it could be edited in a coherent chronological manner. Also discussed with SPV was a brand new album…and we have been working on it. In fact as I announced several months ago…we really did begin work on 3 new albums…but more of that later. Anyway…then the plans changed…
Edmund: Why was that?
David: Probably because SPV realized that the DVD would take much more time as well as expense, because I have to go through over 20 years of footage. Therefore it was decided that perhaps next up should be the next 3 re-issues…so for me it was a case of… OK…I’ll put the breaks on…and I’ll put the DVD mission and new album on hold for the moment, and go full speed ahead with re-mastering the next re-issues and sorting out all the bonus tracks for them. And over the summer I began doing just that, and together with SPV we decided that we would release this coming October, THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 1, THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 2, and INVICTUS, all with bonus tracks. We are absolutely going to issue all those albums I just mentioned, however… the schedule has changed once again. It has now been confirmed that we will issue those discs in February. And the good news is that not only will there be some bonus tracks…but that we have actually managed to create a new 79 minute bonus CD, which will be included inside the INVICTUS re-issue. Yes! I am happy to say that we will be getting a whole lot of new material out! While this bonus album that I am speaking about is notone of the 3 new albums that I mentioned earlier and discussed in other interviews, it nevertheless is a new album. An unexpected new album you might say…I call it GHOST HARVEST (The Spectral Vintage Sessions), and I can tell you that it contains new songs that were written specifically for it, plus re-written and re-arranged material from various artists that we enjoy. While sorting everything out over the summer, we found ourselves going off on tangents and this album quickly grew and grew until it developed into this new collection of songs, which we have now completed. Since we did want to immediately release something new, rather than again switch gears, and since we were already in the moment, we decided to stay on track and finalize & give birth to this particular crazy record, which contains 19 songs. And again I have to tell you that it really came together quickly and unexpectedly. It was very magical how it all happened. And now that we have completed it, we are already back into recording what we originally intended to be the next brand new single-standing VIRGIN STEELE album, which will be released this coming September, seven months after the 3 re-issues and this other new bonus GHOST HARVEST album that I was just discussing hit the streets. I know that sounds more than a bit confusing, and I apologize for that, but it is the truth and I can explain in more detail about the various new collections of songs, and will do so in the moments, days and weeks ahead. The good news is that everything for the 3 re-issues and the new bonus GHOST HARVEST/Spectral Vintage album is almost 100% ready to go and will be finished within the next week or two, as we do need to deliver everything well in advance of the actual release. SPV will receive the final versions of everything shortly.
Edmund: So we will actually be getting new VIRGIN STEELE recordings over the next few months.
David: Yes that is correct. At the risk of being redundant, but to be perfectly clear, while this is not the album we had originally planned to release first, and while it is musically different to what we are currently preparing for the new album for next September…it is nevertheless a new album hidden...or should I say bundled inside the INVICTUS re-issue, and again...it will appear in February.
Edward: This GHOST HARVEST release that he is talking about is a really interesting album that has so much depth to it. There are so many different layers and moods to it. And it has that natural, organic sound. The rawness of it reminds me of the first Led Zeppelin album.
3. Edmund: I look forward to hearing the rest of it. What you did let me hear sounds outrageous. Can you tell me more about the VS “all quiet on the western front approach”?
David: Sure. As I said earlier we do not like to announce things unless we are really sure that they will happen. Because once you do announce something everyone gets all excited (including us)…and then if it doesn’t happen for whatever reason…everyone gets really upset and that sets up a whole chain reaction, where people start thinking that the band is breaking up or whatever…and that is never the case…Life just takes very unexpected turns, some comic…some tragic, and this year has had its ups and downs. But anyway…I have so much to do in my daily & nightly life, that I rarely think about or go on the Internet. I’m probably one of the last people in New York who doesn’t have a cell phone…. We have a person in our office that normally handles all the Internet things…but unfortunately he had a Family tragedy this past summer, so he has been the complete opposite of “on top of the world” these days as you can imagine…we hope to have him back with us on a more regular basis soon. That's another reason why things were so quiet...
Edward: We know that it can be frustrating for people to not know what’s going on all the time, but I think David explained it pretty clearly, and I want to add that we are very private people to begin with. Our focus is on the music and when we feel like we have something worth talking about then we do. We are not the Kardashian’s. No offense to them or anyone else, but we aren’t into fame for fame’s sake.
Edmund: So you are not going to start tweeting about some great new coffee you found at Starbucks, or how often you change your strings?
Edward: No! Absolutely not.
David: He rarely changes his strings! He likes them worn in.
Edmund: Perfect! I know that in addition to the various VIRGIN STEELE goings on, David you have also been involved in a few other projects.
David: Yes that is correct. I have recently written music for Kiara Laetitia, the former singer from SKYLARK. She wanted to do an Ep or mini album, she had come up with various lyrics and melodies, and I wrote the music and also performed on this Ep for her playing various instruments and such. We recorded everything in my studio. Edward played guitar on it. I believe it is coming out in November. The record has a very English feel to it. Our chemistry sent the songs into that type of direction. In addition to that I also mixed an album for the former drummer from EXORCIST. His name is Mark Edwards…(but he is known as Geoff Fontaine on the Exorcist album)…he is a long time friend of mine. His new band is called TANG, (and features two Long Island legends…Bonnie Parker on bass and Denny Colt on guitar)…the music varies from straight up metal to a more gothic type of approach. It’s very cool stuff.
Edmund: OK interesting thanks for that bit of news! Getting back to all things VS, and jumping forward a bit to what you said in your answer to my first question about “more of that later”, what can you tell me about the 3 new albums that you are currently working on?
David: Well…let’s see…hmmm…the first one that I wrote and which will probably be the one to be issued next September, musically unfolds like an “Opera”, in the vein of THE HOUSE OF ATREUS, or THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL/INVICTUS Saga. There is a central lyrical theme that binds the music, and speaking of the music it is very heavy, over the top, and full of those “classical” nuances that people have come to expect from a VIRGIN STEELE album. The second “Collection” of tracks that I wrote musically and lyrically do relate to each other, but that album is not necessarily a full on “Metal-Opera” per se. The songs relate to each other more in the way the songs on NOBLE SAVAGE or AGE OF CONSENT do, where there is a connection, and a through line that binds the Work together, but each piece is its own particular world. And… the third album or “collection of songs” that we are currently preparing, features many tracks that Edward and I wrote together, and this one is not a concept album or “Opera”. It is simply a collection of songs that work well and sound like they belong together. All 3 “collections” or albums do have titles and the lyrics are finished, but we won’t reveal the titles of the “albums/collections” or any of the song titles just yet, but in terms of where we are in each album’s development, I can tell you that for “Collections” 1, 2& 3 we have completed a massive amount of the work, and we are now diving back in to finish all the remaining tracking which is still considerable, as there is so much music because the albums are all pretty long. And then of course mixing and mastering will follow. We will probably finish 2 out of the 3 “Collections” in one go. Meanwhile we invite you to enjoy the fruits or the “Spectral Vintage” of our busy summer, with our GHOST HARVEST album.
Edward: I can tell you that I have finished recording most of the guitars for the 2 “collections” that David wrote, and the songs are incredible! They’re not completely finished and they already contain some of my favorite tracks in the Catalogue!
David: Edward has done a masterful job of performing on these tracks. I think these albums will showcase some of his finest playing ever! There is a whole lot of guitar playing on these albums. This time, instead of orchestrating everything with various strings and organs and such, we have the guitar playing all the intricate harmonies that the piano plays, and together with just the piano and the guitars, the whole sonic scope of the progressions is clear and the music wails into life.
Edmund:Excellent! OK moving back on to the current moment and what you will shortly release, please tell me more about the 3 re-issues, and more about these “Spectral Vintage Sessions”, this new GHOST HARVEST bonus CD. What does the title mean for starters and what can we expect to hear on it?
Edward: It is ripping! It is emotional and highly charged & everything kicks ass! It’s heavy, it’s energetic, has dark moments. It’s got Metal, Hard Rock and Blues type sections, and that “classical gothic element that makes a VIRGIN STEELE album a VIRGIN STEELE album. But it reveals another side to the VS sound. I always loved bands like QUEEN or LED ZEPPELIN, where every album was different and they kept unfolding more and more of their various sides to their audience as time progressed, and I feel that we have been able to do this with our albums, and this is yet another view. You will still absolutely hear that it is VIRGIN STEELE, but you will come away with even more of the impression that there are still more strings to our bow.
David: Before I start talking about the new GHOST HARVEST album, I want to say a few words about the re-issues themselves if I may.
Edmund: Sure. Go right ahead.
David: Thanks. I think Fans of THE MARRIAGE PART 1, PART 2 and INVICTUS will be very pleased, as I was able to go back to the original master mixes of all 3 albums, and re-master directly from the original sound source. Back when those albums were first released, I remember hearing the finished pressings and thinking, …”yeah this sounds very good, but it doesn’t sound like I remember hearing it in the studio". Whatever mastering was done on them at the time had changed the overall sound. Yes it still sounded fine, and the songs came across, but to me these new versions sound much more alive, and there is much more detail in them. I am really pleased with how they turned out. The punch is there and the clarity comes through.
Edward: Agreed! They sound so wide-screen and alive! I can hear and feel every bit of attack in the guitars.
David: I am glad that I always went out of my way to preserve the various mixes and make backups, etc…as it has really come in handy. Due to this new mastering…THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 1, THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 2 and INVICTUS, all seem like new albums to me again.
Edmund: And what can you tell me about the bonus tracks for them?
David: THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL Part 1 & THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL Part 2 will be issued together in one double CD package. Since the two albums are already pretty long, and since SPV did not want to include a third disc, we were not able to add as many bonus tracks as we did on the LIFE AMONG THE RUINS, the AGE OF CONSENT or the NOBLE SAVAGE re-issues. However, we were able to still add some very nice things. On THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 1 album we have included the tracks THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES, and ANGELA’S CASTLE. In going through the archives, I came across various bits of acoustic guitar soloing that we had recorded Edward playing with the possible intention of turning into another song later on or using in some fashion somewhere on the "Marriage 1" album. These ideas were never used, and in the process of unearthing them, I discovered how incredible they were! I listened through, sorted out the different takes he did, got the mix together and then presented the finished version to Edward, who promptly fell off his chair! He had forgotten about them, and was able to hear them with fresh ears and I believe he was more than a little pleased.
Edward: That is the understatement of the year! I was absolutely floored and really happy that we had these recordings after all this time, and I am really looking forward to unleashing them on the VS audience.
Edmund: Which song are you talking about?
David: The one called “ANGELA’S CASTLE”.
Edmund: Curious title. Who is Angela?
Edward: As the English say…”me Mum”. She’s been gone for a very long time. David had said, “I have this track that I want you to hear, and I’ve been calling it this for about a week now…you can of course change it to whatever title you want as it is your track”, but after hearing it, it made perfect sense to me and I understood why he began calling it that.
David: It is a really beautiful bit that Edward came up with, and his performance on it is wonderful. While I was sorting the piece out-setting up the mix, in my mind I began calling it “Angela’s Castle”…because while listening to the music, I immediately had a vision of Edward at age 15 in the house that he grew up in playing guitar, and I sensed the presence of “Angela” taking care of house business nearby, as she would often be doing while he and I, and/or other musician friends jammed in this kind of den area that they had over there at the Pursino residence. Edward’s mother was a great supporter of the musical paths of both Edward, and his drummer-brother Fred, and all the various musical incarnations those two and their fellow musical compatriots went through. We think it is a nice way to honor her.
Edmund: That's great. And the other song for Part 1?
David: THE SWORD OF DAMOCLES is a new song that was born via collaboration between a guitar player/engineer friend of ours named Ed Warrin, and I. It is definitely a metal track, and it sounds perfect coming after ANGELA’S CASTLE. It starts with a big vocal choir, and then stays raw with mainly the instrumentation of guitar, bass & drums, and ends with an acoustic guitar and vocal…so it flows nicely with the earlier piece.
We would have liked to include more stuff but there really is no more room on the disc. In unearthing the original mixes and such, I came across the early demos that Edward and I did for several of the songs from “Part 1”, such as I WILL COME FOR YOU, SELF CRUCIFIXION, I WAKE UP SCREAMING & LIFE AMONG THE RUINS. These were done with just, guitars, some keyboards and the vocal…no drums except maybe a bass drum hit now and then, and no bass or elaborate production, but they sound amazing! They are huge & raw and would have been nice to include…but perhaps we will be able to issue them with something else further down the line.
Edward: Those versions rule the night. I have a cassette of them that I have been listening to for years!
David: I had not heard them in ages, but I remembered them and I always remembered Edward telling me that he thought those versions were great, and now after hearing them again after all this time…I have to agree with him that they definitely do have some kind of magic.
Edmund: Great news! And what about the bonus tracks for THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL PART 2?
David: This may sound confusing, but for the "PART 2" album, we have two very cool live versions of a couple of tracks from the “PART 1” album…The songs LIFE AMONG THE RUINS & I WAKE UP SCREAMING from "PART 1", are on there performed absolutely live from somewhere in Germany. I don’t know where exactly as the labeling was not too helpful on the cassette that they came from, but they sound quite good and they have great energy. Frank Gilchriest wails like a God on them! He’s always been an amazing, extremely musical and incredibly gifted drummer, and his playing has only increased by the thousandth fold, like a vintage wine, over the years. Edward, Josh and I are really looking forward to getting all his tracks completed for the next several albums.
In addition to those two live tracks there is another new song on there that I wrote, called A GREATER BURNING OF INNOCENCE. This is kind of an “acoustic” track. Only Edward and I are playing on it. It was recorded live in the studio with just he and I, and then we added another guitar or two afterwards. It is a very emotional track, and could easily be re-recorded with the full on heavy treatment with electric guitars, bass and drums, but there is a certain charm and magic to how we do it in this version. It has the feel of those live recordings that we included with the new LIFE AMONG THE RUINS re-issue CD, because it was done live.
Edward: I love that song. It is really, really special. I am already calling it a classic.
David: Again…we would have added more…but there is no more room on the disc.
Edmund: But you did add more with the almost 80 minute new “GHOST HARVEST (The Spectral Vintage Sessions) bonus CD to be included in INVICTUS! Please tell me something about the tracks on that.
David: OK. I am ready now. Regarding the question you asked me before, the title refers to the way in which it was captured. I mentioned earlier that while sorting out bonus tracks for all 3 re-issues, we went off on this tangent, and quickly discovered that if we kept on going down this path that we would have a large album’s worth of material. Since the music was coming together so quickly we decided to go for it and see things through to their conclusion and this is the result of our long, hot summer. These songs are a harvest…a collection of spectral moods, or ghosts that were born, died or unearthed during these past few months. Under the influence of various “spirits”, both corporeal, & metaphysical, liquid, vegetable, animal or mineral, we managed to conjure these 19 tracks into being. The album starts off with a section I call the “Samhain Suite” which is a medley, and features various tracks of an “All Hallows Eve” type of nature, including the theme from John Carpenter’s movie “Halloween”. Also included in this suite is DOA by Bloodrock, the song, Black Sabbath by Black Sabbath, the Immigrant Song by Led Zeppelin and “The Witch In The Forest”, which is a classical piece by the 20th century composer Vladimir Rebikov. Josh plays some wicked 8 string guitar on here and Edward wails as always. While I do understand why our label wants to wait until February to release all these Works we are discussing, I am impatient to have them out. I really wanted them out by October to co-inside with the holiday…but unfortunately it is not to be. However, we do hope to have a pre-release video of something from this “Suite” or if not that, thenone of the other tracks, ready to go for sometime next month. We do want to preview some of the material in video form well in advance of the releases.
To continue, there are also several new songs that were written specifically for this release, and a few more songs by other artists that were re-written and re-arranged, for this album… Oh yeah…also included on there is a piano/vocal version of the song THE EVIL IN HER EYES, from the NOBLE SAVAGE album. That one roars. I will give the full track listing and more details about these “Spectral Vintage Sessions”, over the next weeks…. As discussed with our label, our current timetable or operating schedule looks like this:
The Re-Releases of The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell Part 1, The Marriage Of Heaven & Hell Part 2, Invictus & the new GHOST HARVEST (The Spectral Vintage Sessions) CD are set for February.
The Release of a new single-standing studio album is set for September.
Then next we will Re-Release The House Of Atreus & Visions Of Eden albums. And then …there will be the Release of the historical DVD. And quite possibly there will be some unexpected other releases in the midst of all that, because there are several more irons in the fire…
Edmund:So the DVD will eventually see the light of day?
David: Oh yes. With it, I want to take the audience on a journey through our past, the present and future, and invite them into our environment. I want to take the camera deep into Frank Gilchriest’s lair so people can get an understanding of his incredible musicianship and knowledge, I want people to get to know further the full range and scope of Josh Block’s massive talents, and I want the audience to come away with a greater understanding of the dynamic between Edward and myself and how our friendship has helped us stay the course in this crazy business of music.
Edward: The DVD will be incredible. I’m sure that it will be more than entertaining. It will be Epic! Meanwhile getting back to the next releases, I think all true Fans of VIRGIN STEELE will really appreciate this GHOST HARVEST disc and all the re-issues. For me coming in fresh from being away from the tracks for awhile…I am blown away. The fire rages on!
David: Indeed! Well...I think that is all for the moment. Hail, thanks, cheers & see you again soon Edmund!
Edmund: Thanks very much for your words and thanks very much for the sneak preview.
Edward: Our pleasure. Let it Roar!
David: Cheers, Hail & a loud BY THE HAMMER OF ZEUS! (And the Wrecking Ball Of Thor...of course)....
1 May 2013
Rock Pages Interview
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.