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29 Aug 2013

Virgin Steele

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.

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