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MM Works, 10/99

MMWorks - Hello David! Congratulations on "House Of Atreus Part 1" entering German charts at 58th position! My first question is the one that matters to me and American fans the most: are there any plans at all for US tour or a show?

David - Thanks! And to answer your question - no, not at the moment. Actually, there are no European dates either, because I'm still in the "studio" mode. After I finish with all the promotion, I'm going back to the studio to finish "The House Of Atreus Part 2", which is about 60-70% recorded already.

MMWorks - You are working fast!

David - Oh yeah, I've been totally on top of this and would have went back into studio even sooner, but the promotion of Part 1 has been extended more then I had anticipated.

MMWorks - Really? I think "The House Of Atreus Part 1" is an album which doesn't need ANY promotion and is your strongest release to date. Yet, I'm curious, which record is your personal favorite?

David - Oh God, I like then all :). For different reasons, for different accomplishments at the time. They all are like slices of life at the moment or a photograph, window on that particular year, time and place. But my head is very much into the "Atreus" project right now. I'm really, really close to Invictus and, I guess, Marriage Part 2. This is probably the closest to where my brain has been working lately.

MMWorks - Virgin Steele - where did it all begin?

David - It began on October of 1981. I think this is when we played our first note together on the week of Halloween. And few weeks later we went into the studio. So around the end of November, beginning of December we started recording what became the Virgin Steele 1. That was done basically in less then week, recorded and mixed. It was pretty much live in the studio. It came out in the beginning of 1982. Actually, before it came out, we sent the tapes of the album to various metal magazines and they all liked it. From the strength of that we said: "Hey, lets press this thing!" We pressed 5,000 copies. I basically sold them from the trunk of my car and brought it to different distributors on different terms, 30, 60 and 90 days. Those first 5,000 copies sold out fast and we pressed another 5,000. And before the second batch sold out, we had our deal with Music For Nations in the UK.

MMWorks - What does the name Virgin Steele stand for?

David - It stands for a fresh approach, a new lease on life, new metal forged in the fires of adversity and coming forth, cutting to the heart of the matter, slicing to the bone. It is a combination of those kinds of qualities, things that are hard and savage, things that are more delicate. It is a product of the time when we were formed by Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, those classics.

MMWorks - You already began answering my next question - who were your influences back at the beginning?

David - Definitely Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, UFO, a whole host of classical guys like Chopin, Debussy, Verdi, Bach.

MMWorks - Did you ever have a special musical education?

David - As a pianist I did. I started taking lessons when I was about eight until I turned about 11 or 12 and then I stopped. I started again when I was 15. And I went to a University and earned a Bachelors Degree in Theory, Harmony and Composition. I also started the Masters program but didn't finish that because I got real busy when Marriage 1 came out. So, on one side, I have this classical training in school, on the other side, as a singer, I'm completely self-taught. When I was 11, I joined my first band, and been singing since, just learning by experience.

MMWorks - The classical side shows greatly on the House Of Atreus.

David - Yeah, there is quit a bit of it. There is the song of Prophecy, which is a piano solo, and the Child of Desolation has some piano as well. There is also some organ there. And actually, all the things that sound like an orchestra is just me playing it out on the keyboards. It is all keyboard driven, and I'm simulating the various sections of strings, cello, viola, violin, contrabass, and then woodwinds, flutes, clarinets, French horn, trombone sounds, trumpets, even the gongs are actually me on the keyboards as well. Like in the "Day Of Wrath" or "G Minor Invention" nobody else is playing but me, as well as on the "Garden Of Lamentation". Even the acoustic guitar, the twelve string sound is me :)

MMWorks - David, how did you make it through all these years, consistently putting out distinctive metal albums, while the media and MTV went astray and the scene has changed so much?

David - I think, because I didn't get into this to be an over-night sensation. I was always interested in the music itself and I only wanted to play what I wanted to play. The music that I wasn't hearing, I wanted to create. I actually listen to my records, because its the music I like to hear. So thats really the thing. We didn't care for the success of the bands in the eighties, like Poison, we weren't interested in that type of success. We always wanted to play on our own terms, making the music that we like.

MMWorks - That explains the solid consistency of your albums. Which is even more inspiring knowing that the metal is not very popular in US these days. What is the metal scene like in your area?

David - The metal scene is slowly coming back to life here. We are releasing this album the first week of November, here in States. This is the first time in 2-3 albums that we are releasing it domestically. It is being released through Noiserecords USA. Chances are, it should be easy to find and will NOT cost $26-$30! It should be sold at a normal price, same as when things began.

MMWorks - David, your Opera was a huge success, congratulations! And now you are at #58 entering German charts!

David - Yeah! The stage production went extremely well, and it starts up again the 31st of December. So, we'll see how that goes the second time around. It did very well the first time. It was the most success in the regional theater where it was played in 38 years, they went totally crazy! It did 22 or 23 different German cities already.

MMWorks - Throughout your albums you develop various scenes from Greek mythology. They make up for fantastic lyrics. Is there a story behind it?

David - I have always been interested in myths and legends in general, and in Greek in particular. At the earliest age I can remember, my father was involved with a theater. He was always putting on a Shakespeare or some Greek tragedy, or even modern things. And I watched the rehearsals, and I watched the performances and I would get really inspired by these things. I would then go back, and ready further into the stories. They just really struck something inside me. And when I finally went to Greece, I was totally blown away. We came over from Italy, after doing a show there. So we took a ferry to Greece. The sun was just rising, and I was standing on the deck, seeing these mountains and these waters, and I just screamed out: "We are in the home of the Gods!" It was just amazing! It is actually a love affair that the whole band has with that country. And the fans there are really amazing. For us, it is like being the "Beatles" or Michael Jackson over there. They sleep in the corridors outside your room, they wait in the lobby all day, they follow you to the show. It is very cool place and very passionate fans. We played there quiet a few times now.

MMWorks - I find it very interesting to listen to your music and to discover new sounds, new twists every time. The changes of the keys are probably responsible for some of that.

David - Oh yeah, I do that all the time, on almost all of the albums. It will continue to happen. There is quite a bit of modulation, different keys going on within the same songs. Even the song like "Symphony Of Steel" - it starts out in B Flat Minor and then it goes into E Minor, it wonders quite a bit. This is something I'm real concerned with - the harmonic and melodic vocabulary, the kind of chords I use, the kind I don't use. This makes up a style of what the band's voice is, what the band sounds like. And of course, I'm very concerned with the actual song structure, the architecture with which the songs are built.

MMWorks - Do you write all the songs?

David - Yes, I write all the songs. For some of the stuff I have collaborated with the guitar player on here and there. But for the most part, I'm the main writer.

MMWorks - My God man! Where do you get all the inspiration?

David - Life, you know... Just observing life, living life, analyzing life. You have to let yourself absorb life and take part in it, enjoy it, live and feel and soak all that stuff in. And it comes out later. The songs are a product of my brain, my feelings and emotions, my spirit, you know, Mind, Body and Spirit. It all comes down to that, to trying to paint the picture in a coherent fashion.

MMWorks - Well David, your music comes out as a true work of art.

David - Thanks allot!

MMWorks - Speaking of mystic stuff, the sword sounds in the "Kingdom Of Fearless" are very majestic.

David - Thank you! I own those swords :) They are actually a pair of Spanish swords that I've been using for awhile. I used them for the first time on "Fight Tooth And Nail" from the Noble Savage album. Then I used them again on the "Burning Of Rome"...

MMWorks - So, it is the same pair of swords?

David - Yeah, the very same pair. This is the best recording of them, on "Kingdom Of The Fearless". When you hit them against each other they make this long lasting, clean sound.

MMWorks - Your most memorable show David?

David - Uh God, there is just so many... Getting back to Greece again, probably I think the last show on the Invictus tour in Athens went really over the top. I really enjoyed that show. And also, the last Wacken show we did, in August of 98' was really great.

MMWorks - If you had an opportunity to tour with any band in the world, who would you pick?

David - Queen with Freddie Mercury, or maybe Led Zeppelin.

MMWorks - You know, Zeppelin seems to have maid a huge impact on the metal scene. Many artists I speak with mention that band as one of their influences, if not the major one.

David - Yeah, when Zeppelin was still kind of functioning, you couldn't have been untouched by the shadow of Led Zeppelin as it flew over. It was just like the most powerful thing. They were the "High Priests" of every high school parking lot. At one point they accounted for 30% of Atlantic record sales! They were huge here, much bigger then in Europe, practically unchallenged. They just ruled.

MMWorks - David, when you have spare time, what records do you listen to?

David - The same stuff I grew up on: the Zeppelins, the Queens. These days I also like Type O Negative quiet a bit. I think they are quite good. I also enjoy these days The Cult. My tastes vary, I like all kinds of stuff :)

MMWorks - But the style of Virgin Steele will remain?

David - The band is very committed to what it is doing. We are not going away. We are not going to become what the flavor of the month may be. We are going to continue to do what it is we do, and hopefully improve all the time, and push the boundaries of what we think metal is. We will remain one in Mind, Body and Spirit and forge ahead throughout the new millenium. I always said that the metal will become the classical music of the 21st century, and I would like to be proven correct :)

MMWorks - I hope you are right!

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