In this second part of our exclusive Virgin Steele interview, founding member and frontman David DeFeis talks about the writing process behind the album, as well as the layout of the massive bonus disc, which is more or less a brand new recording in itself! He also talked about his hobbies, as well as one of the most insane tour stories that I’ve heard from any band that I’ve interviewed to date! Trust me folks, it gets very interesting here…
This album is simply massive. It’s also one of the most progressive works you’ve done since The Marriage of Heaven & Hell. I’m reminded much of Queensryche, in all honesty. Tell me a little bit about the writing process and what the atmosphere was like in the studio. Where did you record this record and how long did it take to write and record? Are you happy with the final product?
Again many thanks for your kind words. I am very glad to hear that you are enjoying the album! Everyone who hears an album by an artist, always comes to the record with the personal history in their ears of their own record collection, so they will assume, presume or hear things in their based on their own reference point, and this really more often than not has nothing to do with what is in the artists mind. But I digress…
I usually sit down at the piano and begin playing, or playing and singing, or other times I am writing lyrics, poems, whatever and a song develops that way. It is always different. Sometimes I start with a title or a line of lyrics, sometimes the music is first and sometimes the music and the lyrical idea arrive together in my mind. Then I teach the other members the song and we eventually go in and start recording. I don’t like to go anywhere near the studio until I know that I actually have a song. I play and sing into a small, inexpensive cassette tape recorder that resides permanently on top of my piano. I record all of my ideas on it, and try out various arrangements on it. Once I know that the song is complete I will show the others and then we’ll go into the studio. The atmosphere in the studio was energetic and the music came together quickly and naturally. The majority of the album was recorded in my studio. From start to finish it was captured over a period of several months. We are always recording something, whether it be new tracks for re-issues, or songs for the next two albums which are already in production. We had actually begun recording for what are going to be the next releases, but we went off on a tangent and this album was born quickly and rather magically. Yes, I am pretty happy with how it all turned out. I am never completely satisfied with anything I do or that we do, but on this one I came pretty close.
Another disc was recorded that contains several covers ranging from Black Sabbath to Led Zeppelin and even the Halloween theme. Tell me a little bit about how this idea came together. I personally think it’s marvelous to give the fans a completely new musical experience, rather than four or five extra songs on another disc like most bands do.
Thanks again for all your kindness and for appreciating that. We try to always present different sides to the Virgin Steele experience, and some people really get it, while others would prefer it if we just remade another version of whichever album is their favorite. But that isn’t our lifestyle. We are always trying to push the envelope and bring in new ideas, so when someone like you gets that, it is very gratifying for us. Anyway, the second disc starts off with a six song set that I call The Samhain Suite and that is a medley of songs by Sabbath, Bloodrock, and Zeppelin, which starts with John Carpenter’s Halloween theme from the movie about Michael Myers the serial killer. (I always loved that bit and I changed it around and Virgin SteeIeized it) and in the middle of all the insanity, there is a piece by the classical composer Vladimir Rebikov, called “The Witch In The Forest.” I have re-arranged these works and in some sections I have re-written those tracks, adding additional musical ideas or lyrics. It is very 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.” There is a live in the studio acoustic track, called “A Greater Burning Of Innocence.” We already did a video for that one, which features Edward and I doing our thing. The footage for that is all at home archival stuff and shows a nice behind the scenes side. Also on the second disc there is a somber kind of epic 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 has nice tasteful drumming from Frank, along with a massive amount of guitars both acoustic and electric from Edward, as well as a fat bass from Josh. It starts somewhat subdued and builds to a climax, right before fading into the ether. There are hi-energy tracks like “The Devil Drives”, “Anger Never Dies” and two interesting companion piece tracks in the form of “Funeral Games” and “The Plot Thickens.” The disc concludes with a kind of “Sky Hymn” in the vein of something like The Spirit Of Steele perhaps, called “The Birth Od Beauty.” It is a very emotional track. All of the various aspects, moods and colors of Virgin Steele are on display for the album. It is very well rounded.
Some say that the end of days is nigh, at least for mankind. What do you think awaits us in the future? Will we ascend to something else, or will we perish on this planet? Is the fabled doomsday predicted by the Bible possible?
The world seems to be speeding up and racing to some type of conclusion. Technology has outpaced our capacity for understanding and loving each other, and the communications network I think actually stifles real communication and connectivity. We are children playing with dangerous toys that we don’t really comprehend. Sure, the end could happen. Or we may get so confused that we say fuck it all and go back to basics and start enjoying each other in the original manner.
What are some things that you consider enjoyable hobbies outside of music, and what is something about you that no one would ever guess? What are some things that you might suggest to our readers out there in internet land?
Music is my main thing, so my life revolves heavily around that. But I am also into literature, books, poems, etc. I love reading. I will read the toothpaste tube if nothing is available. I am into film, ancient history, Paganism, the occult or Wiccan type things. I adore being outdoors and in Nature…the ocean…the woods…dark and deep… I enjoy wine and dining with my friends and loved ones, and I am deeply enamored with the female form. I would suggest to those out in internet land, to shut off their cell phones and come visit our Island. It is quite Magickal and has healing properties. The Sacred Island Of Long is the Garden of Eden for me. I love this place. We have the glorious ocean, we have woods…we have great dining, wines, beers, clubs…It’s all here.
Tell us the dirt. What are some of your most memorable and least memorable tour stories? What are some of the absolutely craziest things that you guys have done on the road?
One of the most memorable touring moments for me was arriving in Greece by boat from Italy. What was supposed to take ten hours actually took eighteen, due to a dock strike on the Greek side. So we had to land elsewhere than planned. When our ship finally appeared in the harbor I caught sight of the land just as the sun was rising. I was on the deck outside…and I felt the Magick. I screamed out, ”We Are In The Home Of The Gods!” It was a special moment for me. I felt like I was coming home. Regarding the concerts themselves, they were incredible. Whenever we played there, the promoters wouldn’t let us off the stage! They were usually onstage with us screaming, “More! More!” It’s always absolutely fantastic!
But on that very same tour I went completely berserk in Greece. This was after the last concert. I had stayed up until the morning drinking and drinking, and then I wanted to have breakfast. I wanted Edward to join me but he was in a dead sleep, (for that part of the tour I was rooming with him, we usually all have separate hotel rooms) so I took out the sword and destroyed his bed. Yes, while he was still sleeping in it. (That guy can sleep through anything…it’s amazing)! I then proceeded to chop up everything else in the room with the sword, including myself! And then still crazed and dripping blood, I found my way up to the hotel rooftop, where the open-air breakfast buffet was going on. Mind you I’m shirtless, with no shoes and I’m wearing ripped leather pants, while still dripping blood. Zeus bless the Greeks…They stared, but not one person there suggested I should leave or even said anything at all to me during the entire episode! So I then attempted to sit down and either eat or drink…I wasn’t sure what I wanted at that point, and my sound engineer who over those past several hours had been continually annoying me finally said something that was the “straw that broke the camel’s back” so I lunged over the table, grabbed him by the neck and screaming at the top of my lungs, I started to strangle him and then behead him with…what was fortunately only a very stylish butter knife. (I had left the sword stuck inside a chair back in the room, spewing stuffing). Our bass player at the time at first encouraged me in my execution of our sound guy, but he soon realized that he had better intervene and he managed to calm me down somewhat. Somehow I had made it back to the room to have a shower and begin that day’s round of Interviews (with a splitting headache which only more wine could cure…and it did!) Then later that Evening we all went into town to the old city under the Acropolis… But that is another story.
There have been so many crazy things over the years. I have been stalked by possessed people who sent very bizarre items to the mailbox, one of which was a dead animal…and this was because they were into the band! There was also this girl who insisted she was “Emalaith.” She came a long way over to the states, where she found my home and decided she was going to live there with me. It goes on and on…
Thanks for a wonderful new release and I’m sure it will be well received by true heavy metal fans. This record sounds like the classics and it’s extremely vibrant and highly well-crafted. It’s been an honor and privilege, so I wish you all the best of luck with this album and in the future. (Eric May)
Thanks so very much for all your kindness and your thoughtful questions Eric. It was my pleasure to converse with you in this manner. I wish you all the very best and I send out my Greetings & Cheers to all your Readers!
Hail & BY THE BLACK SUN & MOON,