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10 Jul 2015

Frank Gilchriest (RiotV) Featured

A bombastic show by Riot has come to an end and we meet Frank Gilchriest at the backstage area of the venue where the band was playing in Athens. Due to the fact that there was little time and the questions were far too many, we suggested sending the rest of them via mail and Frank was kind enough to answer them all back. Much to our surprise, we found out that Frank was no longer part of Virgin Steele (after 20 years in the band) and as a matter of fact he shared with us many details regarding his relationship with David DeFeis…Interview: Sakis Nikas “Unleash The Fire” was a great comeback record for Riot and everybody loved it. Did you expect that it would be so successful all around the world?

Frank Gilchriest: No, I did not expect it. We made the music from our hearts. I'm very glad that people are enjoying it. Are you thinking of keeping the momentum and coming up with a brand new album with Riot in 2016?

Frank Gilchriest: Yes. We are already in the early stages of working on the next CD.

RiotVYD You told me a few days ago that you didn’t play on the new Virgin Steele album. Would you like to elaborate a little bit more on that? Why did David DeFeis decide not to use your drumming skills this time around?FrankGilchriest01

Frank Gilchriest: This is a question more for Dave than for me. I haven't recorded anything with them in over five years. As talk of the new CD began, I was told I would take part in the recordings. At the last minute, Dave decided to play the "drums" himself using his midi keyboard. I tried to persuade him not to because in my opinion, heavy metal sounds the best with a real drummer. To completely replace a live drummer is not good for the art form. As an alternative, I offered to record all or at least part of the CD in my studio (for free even) where I recorded the RiotV CD and other projects, but he was not interested. I was really disappointed in his decision. When I pressed him further, he told me that because of recent advances in technology, a quadriplegic could play the drums as good as anyone else these days and that he wanted to do all the drums himself so that is the CD was a success he can take all the glory or if the CD is a failure, he can take all the blame. Once I understood that Dave had no intention of including me on this or any future CD's I instructed him not use my name or picture on it, nor on any of the promotional materials. I asked the record company to do the same. Obviously, this did not happen. Dave already has the next three CD's completed with programmed drums. He wants to concentrate on doing mostly acoustic shows for now on. Apparently, the fans like the acoustic shows as much if not more than with the full band. After these and many other revealing conversations that I've had with Dave recently I realized that my time with Virgin Steele has ended. I don't want to go backwards and I have no interest in becoming a tambourine player for this once glorious heavy metal band. It was time to say goodbye. Looking back I wish I would have gotten the chance to record at least one CD properly with Virgin Steele. On the classic albums, they recorded in a professional studio with a reputable engineer and an independent producer. The drums sounded as they should. By the time I joined the band they were using a small studio in the back of a pizza shop. The owner was the engineer. He hated heavy metal and double bass drumming! He was a hip hop engineer and had no idea what to do with loud pounding drums. We argued all the time. Virgin Steele was the only heavy metal he ever worked with. There was no independent producer. I remember when I was cutting my very first song with them. The pictures on the walls literally began falling off and crashing to the ground. My drumming was destroying the place. The guy freaked out, sat on the drums and asked me to play like a lounge band drummer. It was ridiculous. Dave tried teaching him about heavy metal but it was useless. I was forced to record on an electronic drum set that was crammed in a bedrooom closet in Dave's house. Not only were they were awkward as to hell to play but the module would constantly misfire, double trigger, or not trigger at all. The results were not good. People began accusing me of lying about my performances and claiming that it was a drum machine. I couldn't blame them, those recordings sounded like a machine and are unacceptable but, none of us could persuade Dave to go to a real studio and have me use real drums. It was very frustrating and sad. I would have paid the studio myself just to make the drums right. How did you get the job with Virgin Steele back in the '90s?

Frank Gilchriest: I was recommended by a friend named Bill Briones. He was a very nice guy and an excellent guitar player. He knew Dave because they gave lessons at the same music store. Bill desribed me as a caveman but a "refined caveman with skills". That got Dave interested in me. We jammed and hung out and everything just clicked. I am sure that you didn’t see it coming when David DeFeis suggested putting full face make-up for the photo shoot of the EP of “Magick Fire Music”…

Frank Gilchreist: No, it's funny because when people see these photos they think I'm in some kind of KISS tribute band. I know that David DeFeis is the absolute leader of Virgin Steele but I was wondering if the whole thing works as a democracy…I mean, did he ask for your opinion when it came to a new album or were you free to add your ideas in the studio?

Frank Gilchriest: No. I was there strictly to play the drums. It was a very limiting situation. I'd get hours of material a few days before I had to record it. Most of the time, it was just piano and guide vocals. There are usually no guitars, or bass. I'd have 2-3 days to listen to the demos and then 2-3 days to cut all my parts. To my credit, I always showed up to the studio with the arrangements mapped out and memorized. Otherwise, the entire recording process would have been a disaster. I always used to wonder how good we could have been had we prepared like a normal band. We never worked on songs, riffs or ideas as a band. We worked independently only on Dave's songs which were never up for discussion or evaluating. The jams I did with the other guys had great potential but were never developed into songs. I thought Dave would eventually loosen up and let us write as a band but, he never did. Every time we brought it up he'd say: "it's too late... I've already written the next 3 CD's".

VirginSteele You had played drums in all the Virgin Steele records in the last 20 years. Did you feel like a permanent member of the band?

Frank Gilchriest: I worked my ass off to become and remain a member. I respected what the band accomplished before me and became the backbone of a complete resurgence in the band's career. We'd have dinners, drinks and great times together like we were brothers. I was made to believe that we were building something together as a band. But, as the years rolled by and I was kept from participating in any of the band's business dealings or in its creative direction, I realized that it wasn't a band, it was the antithesis of a band. You are also a certified drum teacher. I guess in a way it’s more fulfilling to share knowledge and refine the skills of all the young drummers out there…   

Frank Gilchriest: Teaching others to drum is one of my greatest passions. I am very good at it and have taught students of all ages and still continue doing that to this day. I love it!

FrankGilchriest02 Who were your drum heroes and musical influences as a teenager?

Frank Gilchriest: My biggest drum heroes were John Bonham, Neil Peart, Keith Moon, and all the crazy fusion rock drummers from the 60's through the 80's. Too many to list! One of my favorite bands is The Good Rats. The late Peppi Marchelo was surely one of the most talented musicians in the world. I know that you have some history with them…what can you tell us?

Frank Gilchriest: Wow, I can't believe that you know the Good Rats! That makes me very happy. I played with them full time for about five years. Peppi was a mentor and like a father to me. He is largely responsible for making me the drummer that I am today. We need to do a separate interview about my time in the Good Rats. That could be a novel! Our last question: last year you were here in Greece with Riot; you are now here again with them and in a few months you will be visiting once more our country with Virgin Steele. Are you thinking of becoming a Greek citizen (laughs)?

Frank Gilchriest: I was also there with Liege Lord recently as well. Yes, I am ready to become a honorary citizen, but I don't think there's enough room for 2 Krakens (laughs)! Everyone who knows me knows that I love Greece. I am sure that I will return again to your beautiful country, however it will not be with Virgin Steele.
I want to thank all the Virgin Steele fans for their decades of support. I'll never forget the great memories we made. There was a time when I thought that I would never leave this band. Even with all the misgivings I had about it, I would have gone through hell with them. Alias, it was not meant to be. I wish them and their fans the best of luck! Adieu, the Kraken has left the building!


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