At a sunny afternoon I met David DeFeis in Hamburg to talk about The House Of Atreus Act 1. For the ones of you who haven't heard about Virgin Steele before..... A short trip through the history of Virgin Steele. David DeFeis founded the band back in 1981 and about a year later Virgin Steele I was released. The follow up Guardian Of The Flames been out in 1983 and additionally the EPs A Cry In The Night and Wait For The Night been released. With A Cry In The Night the band got air play in Europe. After a break the band released in 1986 Noble Savage which soon become a classical and is a must in every metal heads collection. Virgin Steele always liked to tour and in 1987 they been out on the road with Black Sabbath and Manowar. Soon the band got a reputation as a very good live act. In 1989 Age Of Consent got in the stores and it took 5 years until the fans got a new album from the New Yorkers. Life Among The Ruins brought the band back into the limelight and a year later the first part of The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell been released. The band toured in Europe with Uriah Heep. In 1996 part 2 of The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell been released and the band toured several weeks in Europe. A headlining tour where the Yankees been supported by the German Superior and the Brazilian Angra. The tour was very successful and the live ability of David DeFeis and the rest of the band smooth the way for entering the charts in 1998 with Invictus. Now David thought the time was right to realize his dream of a metal opera........
David, how you do you got up with the idea to do this ancient Greek metal opera?
Well, it began that way... I received a call from the gentleman of the theater, the director of the theater Mr. Walter Bayers. He called me because he heard The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell Pt. II and he really liked it very much. He said to me on the phone: "I be interested if you could write something for my theater, a piece based on an antic theme." When he said the word antic it triggered in my brain The House Of Atreus, because in all my time of reading the myths, especially the Greek ones, this story stuck in my brain. The details were very, very clear and very fresh and organized. I saw the potential in this work for a great opera, 'cause it have love and death and hate and pain and catharsis and tenderness and beauty and supernatural honest. And I thought that I can do something out of this which could be very interesting.
Cause I think it's very unusual for a metal band to started something like that. It was just shown at a few theaters in the South of Germany....
Yes, it been shown at about 20 theaters already.
... so many fans hadn't the ability to see that. Perhaps they expect that you'll tour with this one, but you can't go on tour with the whole theater company.
Well, this is possible. We won't be touring until the release of Act II. This is on the Act I. I'm still in the studio mood. Once I finished this promo trip I'll go back to the States and go right back into the studio. Cause it have to be done. It's written and it's half recorded - the 2nd act.
But I think when both are released you'll tour or will you go on and record the next studio album?
No, no, no.
Because I think Virgin Steele is a band who likes to play live.
Sure! We'll play live than. There is a possibility that..... But I'm not sure when we'll release it. That could be any time between January and mid-summer. So if it's later, it's mid-summer, maybe we come out and play some shows here and there, some usual stuff. And when the 2nd act is done we'll do a full blown-up production.
So there will be a tour, but the last tour was quite a while ago.....
August of 1998 was the last show in Germany.
I think people expecting you to tour, coz there is an album out in the stores.
Yeah, expect the unexpected in Virgin Steele.
Have you thought about making a video of the theater show?
Yes, I actually thought about doing a complete movie, the whole thing. Including films from the theater, this and other crazy stuff. Something like Fellini meets Hellraiser, something like that.
I think that could be something different, 'cause most bands do live videos and I think especially in this case it would make sense. And this musical tragedy thing would be perfect for a video.
I think so and I think..... We can be quite visual and I have a lot of ideas. This summer I've been taking all kinds of photographs and I really got a whole visual head. So.... I'm think a lot about a video. It's just a question finance and finding the time to do. The time is actually more important than the finance. I have to finish act II. And then we'll see.
Have you thought about bringing that to Greece and play it there?
Of cause! We have to play in Greece. I was on the phone yesterday, they had an earthquake.....
I talked to 4 different magazines and despite of the earthquake they still interested in having us come to Greece and do this. They are quite proud that we take something like this. I have a special love for the Greek country.
Have you played in Turkey?
No, but I have received a lot of ... Recently a lot of emails from Turkey. I'm discovering that there is a metal scene. It's close to Italy, it's close to Greece and they got to hear this music. It's got to cross the boarders, you know.
I think they would love to have Virgin Steele there.
Yeah, I would love to come! Why not?
Another topic! People compare you with Manowar, especially with the 2 last albums. What do you think about?
I think it's a very shallow, very superficies comparison being based on the sound of our voices. I'm singing like this since I'm 13 years old. When I get aggressive with my voice and when he gets aggressive with his voice, we both have very commanding voices that could knock down buildings. So... What can I say, we are both proud.....
Okay, sometimes I got the idea that it sounds a little bit like Manowar, but I think that Virgin Steele have their very own style. I won't compare them.
Both bands are quite different.
I agree. Another thing is that the story contains different characters. On the album you are singing all parts. have you thought about working with different singers?
We thought about it. I think at some point we'll do the show several ways. We'll do the show with the band, of course, and we'll do some with guests. But I didn't want to do the album that way, 'cause I wanted the album ... I know it is a very ambitious work and I wanted it to succeed on the strength of the band. If it succeed we take the credit and if it fails we will take it, too. But... No, no guests.
Not this time.
No, not any time. No one ever played on a Virgin Steele album.
Yes, but I think in this case it probably would make the most sense, because of the different characters...
Yeah. but I wanted it to be a Virgin Steele record. I didn't wanted it to be the cast of a thousands.
Yes, or you could have used a different name for it. As a kind of a side-project.
Yeah, I could have done it, I could have hired a orchestra, a choir and guest people and could have done, like you know, a David DeFeis solo album. But I wanted a Virgin Steele album. I'm in Virgin Steele.
You are working for such a long time with Virgin Steele, it's 100% of you.
It's my home, it's who I am!
But sometimes you want to leave your home for some holidays..... Isn't working with the theater a different kind of work?
Sure, this is different, 'cause we got to bring a new inplugs of other people in. Regular theater audience and the upper audience came. ...so the production that was presented, but right a long side the heavy metal people came to the regular theater audience. At the end of the show they all applauding and going crazy and really enjoying it.... So, I don't know, if all those people will go and buy the Virgin Steele record, perhaps in the lobby of the theater. I don't think they'll find it in the shops, but for that night they were exposed to metal and they have a different outlook and perhaps next time they come across the world order. It's my ambition to not only increase the level of Virgin Steele, but to raise the awareness of the genre of metal itself and try if they would respect it.
Perhaps a few of your fans got a little more into this history thing and also classical music. And perhaps read something about the Greek history... I know that many younger people are not interested in what happened in the past.
Sure, if you don't know your past, your demons will make the same mistakes. History repeats itself! I think, if ... In doing this the bonus is that people get turning on and discover this story and this welfare material which is there and that's a positive thing. The stories are great and I think they are timeless. I could have set those tale in New York or Hamburg or anywhere. Or in modern day Athens.... It's timeless!
I read this stuff when I was a teenager, after a while I got into other historical themes. I think everything from the past is interesting. It explains a lot of what happens today.
You have to know where you are come from to know where you are going to.
I think people forget about this!
So it's nice to be reminded by something like this or whatever.
People don't have the possibility to listen to the whole album before they'll buy it. So please pick one or two songs which represent the album the best in your opinion. Recommend the ones which give the people an idea what it's all about.
It's difficult. I guess I would say if you had to pick just 1 or 2 songs to get a taste of it, I would say Kingdom Of The Fearless and Through The Ring Of Fire. Because you have all the bombastic and tender classical moments as well.
People probably didn't know what to expect when they read about in the magazines.
It's metal. For those who haven't, hear it's still metal! It's bombastic. It's aggressive, but there are very tender parts as well, but at the end of the day it's still playing with the musical vocabulary and harmonic framework of what I consider to be true metal!
You never really changed your style.
No, just improve it in terms of getting more mature and just explore in a new style and push the boundaries, but still remain true to the line that was began way back when.
You always been in this myth you said earlier....
I've been involved with the myths all my life and in The Marriage Pt. 2 we did something which has to do with Prometheus from the Greek myths. It's a jumping-off point those myths. Then I take my own life, my own ideas about the world. It's a current statement. It's not a through back thing. Not presenting an entire lesson in Greek history or ancient history. It's using those points of reference as a jumping-off point for what I have to say today, a modern day, 21st century . That's what should be understood.
I think for a few people it's something to think about and get them a little bit deeper in this.
Yeah! Of course go backwards to go forwards. Coz 2,000 years ago we been highly evolved beings, the human race has not really progressed any further. We have MTV, we have Viva and we have computers, but nothing in our humanity has really changed.
Still the same things concern us as a person, as a human being. Still the same feelings...
The same questions, yeah! Myths are an answer to a lot of the questions that troubled humans. And the same questions still searching the same questing.
Right now the people are a little more into it because of the end of the millennium. And perhaps get a little bit more superstitious and more into supernatural things.
Right, especially at the end of any millennium. If you study the art of that time and study the writings, it's pretty much the same. We are the same creatures.
We didn't changed, not at all.
We could have had this conversation at the Acropolis about the last millennium.
Even this time it would be a nice surrounding...
It would be gorgeous, yeah!
I think it's fantastic what this people built in these days without the technic of today.
Amazing, amazing! They had an incredible advanced civilization and beautiful thriving culture.
In certain things they have been more civilized than we are now.
Absolutely, they were more advanced than we are now..
Back to the theater in Memmingen. Have you been there to see it?
Yes, I was in the theater for the entire first week of rehearsals and the premier. Than I had to go back to the States to finish the mixing and get the record ready, so.....
How was it for you being there for the premier? See this on stage without being involved I the show actively.
It was great. It was the first time that I heard anybody other than myself really singing my songs. So being bombarded the first day I got there, singer after singer and character after character and really getting into it was an amazing feeling. I realized that this music could live on after I'm dust.
Perhaps this is the classical stuff of the future.
As metal as a genre survives which I hope it will and I think it will, than perhaps this will be like an early opera like Monteverdi and the classical thing. And I'm sure somebody will build upon this and will go further many years from know.
Wasn't it a little surprise when the director of the theater called you?
I was quite surprised. I still have the original message! And it's classic! What happened a girl, a Greek girl who lives in Germany was friends with him. And she was going to school in Trier and Walter, the director, was stationed in Trier. She turned him on to The Marriage Pt. 2. Those big tracks like Emerald and that stuff. That's why he called me to do it. He was inspired. He said the word antic to me, ancient because of the ruins in Trier. Since then he moved to Memmingen and so it was presented in Memmingen. That was the inspiration behind it. I think I would have done this anyway. This story is like burning a hole in my pocket for a long time. It's the kind of story which stuck like glue.
Perhaps this was the push you need to do it now. That someone from the outside force you to do it.
Yeah, I think every step I'm taking in my life was lead up to that specific moment. That's a record I had to make, we had to make. I'm not compromising in the song writing. Something is delicate and tender, so be it. Something is really aggressive, so be it. No compromise!
I think that's the right way to handle it.
I don't like to compromise, especially on this record I didn't listen to anybody. This is what I wanted to do and tell me I can't, I'm gonna roll right over you.
And now you’re satisfied with the whole thing.
I'm happy with the writing and I'm happy with the whole thing, but I thing the best is yet to come with Part 2!
So we have to wait for it!
Yeah, but... All I have to say I'm thankful for all the fans in Germany, Greece, Turkey and everywhere else in the world. Everyone who's writing letters or emails it's been really, really positive. I'm that keeps me going! I would do it to myself, but I wouldn't have this kind of burning ambition perhaps if none would really listening. I would do it anyway so that I can listen to it, but it's really nice to know that other people as well. That makes me work so much harder and more consistently.
I think through this new media like email you got more response from everywhere than in the past.
Just before I left I was reading emails from Turkey, Israel, Russia, all kinds of stuff is coming in. It's pretty amazing to me. Even if I still got letters, but it's faster.
It gets the metal community a little bit closer together.
It's a small world. It really is, you hoop on a plane and a few hours later you are in a completely different place, in a completely different culture. You can send faxes, email. The next thing is gonna be emailing humans somehow through the com&puter.... Like Star Trek was there.
Science-Fiction become true in one way or the other.
Yeah, I think Star Trek will become true!
Without people who work out their ideas which perhaps sound strange, we wouldn't have most of the technology we have today!
Of course, without there would never be a person on the moon. What you mean the world is round, it's flat! You can fall over and it could be monsters there.
Yes, we have to learn a lot.
Some people still think the world is flat. There will always be some ignorant who want believe. There is always a lunatic fringe.
The metal fans get more open minded.....
I mean it's important in metal to keep an open mind, but it's also a matter of growth. Some people who are very young have open minds and some people take a while to mature.... About life, music, whatever. It's life experience and it depends on the people you are surround you. If they say the world is flat, you'll belief until you'll meet someone very different, very powerful who shows you a different way.
Sometimes the music gives people the power to go on! Not just for the one who wrote the music also for the one who listen to it.
Absolutely, I couldn't agree more! Music to me has always saved me at the worst points of my life. I rely on music. Not just my one, but..... Growing up before I written any music, I rely on my favorite bands and composers to get me through my day! Those are my Gods. My religion.
There is nothing more to say. I think every music maniac feels the same about this, perhaps Virgin Steele is God to one of you. Support them and let them know that you are out there and help to bring David and his mates to Turkey!