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Interview with David DeFeis | «Virgin steele's music is a ''barbarus - romanticism''»

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David, we are very pleased to be able to discuss with you and we would like to welcome you on Black Velvet Radio. You are a founding member of the legendary band “Virgin Steele” and therefore we would like to take things from the beginning.

 

You had been auditioned back in 1981 by Jack Starr (guitar) and Joey Ayvazian (drums) and they chose you among other 40 singers. How came and you have performed "No Quarter" by Led Zeppelin, "Child in Time" by Deep Purple and "Catch the Rainbow" by Rainbow and how did you felt during the audition?

David DeFeis: Greetings Chris and Stamati, Cheers & Hail! Thanks for inviting me on! Nice to speak with you! OK let’s begin.Well…those were some of the songs that I was either rehearsing or performing in the various Rock Clubs at that time, with all the various bands that I was putting together in those days. Those tracks were very close to my heart at the time, and I felt that they provided a nice vehicle to showcase what my voice was capable of. It wasn’t so much an audition it was more like a private concert. I felt quite strong & confidant and those emotions carried over to the two gentlemen who were watching & listening…that being Joey and Jack.

 

 

Virgin Steele’s debut song was “Children Of The Storm” included in “U.S. Metal Vol.II” compilation, released in 1982 and later on the same year you had released your first eponymous LP. Is it true that unknown bands at that time like “Queensryche” and “Metallica” had sent you letters expressing their admiration? What do you remember from the first days of the band?

David DeFeis: Yes that is true. Metallica told us that they really liked Children Of The Storm. And Queensryche was also very complimentary. The early days were filled with an intense chaos and camaraderie…we were wild and uncontrollable, and that carried over into everything we approached, from the music to our lifestyle. After every rehearsal we descended upon the Rock Clubs and made our presence known…once the album was out we began performing everywhere and that increased our reputation. We wanted to make our mark clearly and quickly and we wasted no time in doing just that. We rehearsed for about 3 weeks…made the first album in less than one week, and had it pressed up and sold out within the first few months…I had a second pressing made and before that batch was sold out we had our first two record deals. One in the USA with Mongol Horde, and one in the UK with Music For Nations, where we were actually their very first release!

 

 

In 1983 after the release of your second LP “Guardians Of The Flame” supported also by a mini LP “Wait For The Night”, Jack Starr (guitar) started his own project, recording his first solo album “Out Of Darkness” and eventually left the band, resulting to a lawsuit regarding legal rights on the name of “Virgin Steele”, what had happened, why did he left the band?

David DeFeis: Jack wanted to get more into the “Guitar Hero” thing and began working on a solo album, (on which I sang background vocals on several tracks)...I got along very well with Rhett Forrester so it was a whole lot of fun actually. While Jack was busy doing his album the rest of us were busy working with Edward Pursino. I knew Edward long before I knew Jack and we were always jamming together and we both knew that we would one day join forces in a serious project, therefore while Jack was busy elsewhere I began teaching Edward all these new songs that I had written like NOBLE SAVAGE, THE ANGEL OF LIGHT, DON’T CLOSE YOUR EYES, etc.., and he and I started writing together, coming up with tracks like THE EVIL IN HER EYES, OBSESSION (It Burns For You), etc., and it just felt incredible. The other two guys Joey and Joe O also really enjoyed working with Edward so we decided that we should install him in the band and we even went so far as to try to make the band work with 2 guitar players…Edward and Jack, but that clearly wasn’t going to work at that time, so we approached Jack and told him that we wanted to continue with Edward and since he had his new thing going with Rhett we thought that everyone would be OK…and it could all amicably work out…but Jack wasn’t very happy about that and the tensions grew….so we parted company. Yes we fought for quite a bit but we eventually buried the hatchet so to speak and Jack in fact asked me to produce, arrange, & write songs with him for his third solo album No Turning Back, which I did, and that record turned out quite well.

 

 

Two years later in 1985 “Noble Savage” is released with Edward Pursino on guitars, an album that is trademark of the band, leading to a different musical style, containing grandiose compositions with multi-layered keyboard sound and more sophisticated arrangements. Can we consider this 3rd album as your music “manifest”? One more question, do you feel that Pursino’s playing fitted better to your music than Starr’s one?

David DeFeis: Yes for me that was really the first album, as it fully expressed the ideas I was working on and was closest to the sound I had in my head. Edward’s musical approach has always been very sympathetic to my writing. He loves the music I compose and he is always very serious about performing it the way I envision it. Edward plays for the song. He isn’t interested in just pushing a guitar shredding agenda, he’s all about the mood of the song and this is very important to me. So yes he fits in better with where I am at musically. Jack is a very fine player as well and we have done very nice work together, but for my compositions Edward’s playing style works more for what I need to achieve.

 

 

Could you please explain exactly what you meant with your statement, describing your music: "From a whisper to a scream, barbaric, romantic, bombastic, yet subtle, grandiose, yet earthy. A call, a shout, an invocation to Freedom and the continual awakening to the awareness that every moment of life is lived to its fullest potential. It is a force, a sacred quest which drives Virgin Steele on”?

David DeFeis: I think it is quite accurate to how the music sounds and/or what it contains, and what it and we are all about. I am not a huge fan of labels, but if I have to label what the type of music we do in VIRGIN STEELE is called, then I would say, invoke it under the label “Barbaric-Romanticism”. This music can be extremely subtle…like a whisper or erupt in full on battle rage…the scream! It is over the top, yes…bombastic…epic but also cerebral, introspective sensuous and earthy…we don’t shy away from either the Flesh or the Spirit…and indeed the music and the lyrics speak of and for that personal search or quest for freedom, nobility, and passion…The full on passion of living life head on and to the fullest before the final curtain comes down. That is what keeps me going, makes me want to rise from my crypt and write, compose, record, live, breathe, love and rage forever onward….

 

 

Many “Virgin Steele” songs are mythological, often dealing with subjects from Greek and Christian mythology. Most of your albums are concept ones, while later albums tend to be more epic and mythological while, on the early albums (up until Life Among the Ruins), many songs are more real-life based stories of love and sex. Please talk to us a little bit about your influences and your style of writing lyrics and music. You are the main songwriter of the band, right? Do you first compose the music and then write the lyrics or vice versa?

David DeFeis: Yes I am the main composer and author and yes there are songs and albums that invoke Greek Myth, Sumerian and or Nordic Myths and such, but I am not necessarily giving a History lesson…I often use these Myths to express what is actually happening in the world today and what is happening in my own personal life. Some people get the wrong impression and think that everything is all fantastical or mythological but that isn’t the case. Especially on albums like “NOCTURNES OF HELLFIRE & DAMNATION”, “THE BLACK LIGHT BACCHANALIA”, “GHOST HARVEST 1 & 2”…and yes LIFE AMONG THE RUINS as well, but even on THE MARRIAGE OF HEAVEN & HELL albums…I am also discussing modern day life and my place and the Group’s place in it. For example BLOOD & GASOLINE, HOUSE OF DUST, FOREVER WILL I ROAM, CROWN OF GLORY, etc. to name just a few are real life experienced based tracks. I try to write in such a way so that the listener can envision his or her own life inside the songs.

No two songs are born the same exact way. Sometimes I begin with lyrics…a poem…or a title and at other times I begin with a musical motif, a riff, or a chord progression…or a melody and other times I achieve both the musical and the lyrical idea simultaneously. What happens next after the initial inspiration is serious work. I explore, I try out every idea I have, I emote, I improvise, I record everything on a cassette…I listen…I feel…and I evaluate. I do what I call “wrestling with the universe”,in order to give birth to the idea in its most complete form…and then after that…I have to stay on top of my game to make sure the recordings become all that they can be from the initial tracking to the final mixing and mastering. My influences are mainly life experiences, and nature…I look outside I observe and feel the seasons, the earth, sky, sun, moon, trees…and I try to create something as moving, as lasting and as monumental as what nature evokes in my soul.

 

 

Later on the next five years, during 1995-2000, you have released 5 albums, “The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part I
(1995),“The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Part II” (1996), “Invictus” (1998 - third part of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell saga), “The House of Atreus Act I” (1999) &“The House of Atreus Act II” (2000), that are legendedary and beloved by your fans, epic metal full of melodic and symphonic influences, very progressive oriented, concept albums all of them. Please talk to us about these releases and your efforts to produce a metal opera.

David DeFeis: Thanks very much for your kind words…Those albums are indeed all conceptual, but I also constructed them in such a way that one doesn’t need to follow the whole story to still understand and get into the Works…every song can be extracted from the whole and still make sense. I wanted to push the envelope both on the musical, song construction level, as well as the lyrical side and the performance side. I wanted to max myself out and max the talents of the Group out…to increase our depth, range and scope on all fronts, to come up with Works that were unique, passionate, driven, heartfelt, &progressive in the full meaning of that term…forward thinking and reaching, to carve out our own space in the Rock/Metal firmament and leave our own distinct mark.

 

On 2006 you had released your 11th LP “Visions Of Eden”, subtitled “The Lilith Project - A Barbaric Romantic Movie of the Mind”, which was another concept album, supposed to be the soundtrack of a motion picture. I quote here your statement: “What it really is, is the soundtrack for a major motion picture that has yet to be made! And by the hammer of Zeus, I will make this film one day. I call this work a Barbaric Romantic movie of the mind”. Our question is, if we will be ever able to watch this long time expected movie?

David DeFeis: Thanks for remembering…Yes…it is a dream of mine…I would love to visually create for the eyes and the screen what I created for the ears with that album. The music business and life always drag one off into various tangents…but I have not forgotten that idea and at some point I hope to go back and do that…We just did a massive visual documentary type thing for the 5 CD BOX SET called SEVEN DEVILS MOONSHINE that we just put out, so in a way I am closer than ever to such an idea, as I now have a greater understanding of what is involved.

 

Since then you have released some more, highly interesting, works, what are your plans for the future, what should we expect from you in the near future?
ANSWER: As I just mentioned we recently issued a massive Work called SEVEN DEVILS MOONSHINE. This features 3 new albums inside this 5 CD box set…I also completed a one hour and thirty-six minute documentary about the whole thing. Perhaps my wordshere below will explain a bit more about what that is all about:
The SEVEN DEVILS MOONSHINE BOX SET featuresthese 5 albums:

1.GOTHIC VOODOO ANTHEMS (the Not exactly Acoustic Sessions)

2.GHOST HARVEST (The Spectral Vintage Sessions) VINTAGE 1- “BLACK WINE FOR MOURNING”

3.GHOST HARVEST (The Spectral Vintage Sessions) VINTAGE 2- “RED WINE FOR WARNING”

And the re-issues of:
THE BOOK OF BURNING and
HYMNS TO VICTORY…and as regards the “Movie” we made….
Using cool bare bones old school technology, informal personal at home footage, live rehearsal footage, both moving video clips, & still photos, plus musical excerpts/samples and narration, we have crafted & assembled what we call: an Audio/Visual Symphony. Something like a Radio-Play (think H.G.Wells “War Of The Worlds” for example….) or perhaps more accurately what we have created is a “Psychodrama” describing, detailing and providing an above, below, inside &“behind the music” view so to speak, of what this SEVEN DEVILS MOONSHINE BOX SET contains, and what it is all about. This Work is raw, wild and untamed, bruised yet beautiful and reveals an intimate portrait of the Group and the Music…

You can watch the full movie here:

 

 

Like the albums found within the SEVEN DEVILS MOONSHINE Box Set this “Movie” or “Psychodrama” also takes one on a trip…a journey through the Kingdom of Steele,offering a behind the scenes look into the 5 albums contained within…it is a sort of “Photo-Essay”, part documentary, and part audio sampler…it works strictly from the aural perspective like a Radio broadcast,(which I am sure you are quite familiar with)…containing voiceover details and musical excerpts/samples from about 40 or so songs out of the 88 pieces found within the collection, but…with the inclusion of all the visuals it has become something even more descriptive and revealing. I originally thought it would be about 8-10 minutes long…but like the Box Set, it grew and grew into this monumental, Epic “Road-Trip” we now have. This Audio/Visual sampler is an anniversary celebration of our History, as well as a glimpse into some of what we have been doing for thepast year, and it is also a real depiction of what life is like for us. Here you will find energy, passion, drama, a whole lot of darkness, as well as light (the Danse Macabre is ever present…) and yes within all that turbulence there is also a sense of humor as well…

The visual imagery gets more & more elaborate as we delve deeper into the various “Chapters”…and like some of our more “Operatic” musical moments there are recurring visual themes that are introduced…and which develop and morph throughout this “Movie”. In the weeks ahead we will select and prepare certain songs from each of the 5 discs, and present their full-length video versions.

And as regards what we are currently doing right now as we speak, well…we are already deeply involved in what is going to be the next full scale epic VIRGIN STEELE release. It is a “concept” type album based somewhat on a Greek Tragic Myth, but it really concerns the current state of affairs of the world…It is very heavy and more along the lines of perhaps something like THE HOUSE OF ATREUS, INVICTUS or MARRIAGE or VISIONS albums, but that being said it is still pushing the boundaries and we are creating very new ideas, moods and sonorities that we have not unleashed before. If it comes out the way I hear it in my head…then I think it will be one of the best albums we have ever done. Edward keeps telling me that these are some of the best songs that I have ever written…which is very encouraging.

 

You have a very dedicated fan base in Greece. What would you like to say to them and when would we be able to see you live in our country again.

David DeFeis: Our last appearance in Greece was actually in 2016 so it wasn’t quite so long ago. We all love Greece and I personally would be extremely happy to visit your Glorious Country once again! The Greek Fans have always been outstanding, passionate, loyal and absolutely wonderful…so for me it would be a great honor to visit you all once again!

 

Hail, Cheers &EtharistoPoli to you and to all your Readers and Listeners!!! Keep Roaring and remain…forever…INVICTUS!

BY THE GODS & GODDESSES,

David DeFeis
April 6, 2019

 

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Chris Mouskos, Stamatis Bourdos

 

Black Velvet Radio

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