» David DeFeis - Virgin Steele
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Interview conducted October 02 2010
Interview published October 16 2010

By The Godz, Virgin Steele have triumphantly returned! Very soon these noble, savage New Yorkers will release their new album called 'The Black Light Bacchanalia'. By the Hammer Of Zeus and the Wrecking Ball Of Thor, given my average consent, this very well may be their best release since 'Invictus'.

Hailing from the metal city with visions of even more mystical mayhem, championing his burning hymns of victory, the Master Of Mystery - Dave DeFeis - himself, telephoned me to discuss the new album, and all things pertaining to the sacred guardians of the flame. For those well versed in his rich history, mettle initiates will also enjoy his comments on some other enticing tidbits from his well exorcised life among the ancient ruins.

  • David: Hello Michael, how are you this fine Saturday morning?

MettleAngel: I am well, and very excited to be speaking with you. I was raised Catholic, and as an honoured tradition, today is the celebration for the "Feast Of Guardian Angels". I assume given your love of Antiquity, you would also find this most propitious.

  • David: Indeed I do, as I share a very similar background.

MettleAngel: It is a true honour to speak with such a noble messenger of Metal and Mystery. Am I pronouncing your name correctly (Da Fay)?

  • David: That is right, it is French, and it does not sound like it is spelt.

MettleAngel: It was not until I purchased the remastered version of 'Guardians Of The Flame' with the bonus interview track that I heard your name pronounced correctly. I have been playing your new album, and I am very impressed. The lion's roar is back with your voice, and the music has a much more 'Noble Savage' meets 'Age Of Consent' feel. Why has it been so long since the release of 'Visions Of Eden'?

  • David: The easiest answer is that we had issues with label contracts. Just when we felt we had a strong deal with Sanctuary, they folded. Then we worked with Dockyard 1, and now they have also gone belly up.

MettleAngel: I noticed that Dockyard did reissue a bunch of the rare classic albums like the two 'Marriage Of Heaven And Hell' albums. I tried to find those, but they are already difficult to track down. I did get all the other remasters on Noise in the '90s.

  • David: Well, we have finally negotiated a binding deal with SPV. They have gone through some changes themselves, but we are confident they are the best label to now represent us.

MettleAngel: This is ironic, as my original copy of 'Noble Savage' was on Steamhammer / SPV Records. I understand you plan to reissue the whole back catalogue again next year through SPV.

  • David: Yes, you are right, we have come full circle with SPV. The reissues are in the works. Many people like yourself have had difficulty tracking down the Dockyard editions. Next year we will make the remasters worthwhile to fans of CD, vinyl, and digital technology.

MettleAngel: I know last year SPV bit off more than they could chew and swallow, and they lost many of their great artists like Alice Cooper, Whitesnake, Blackmore's Night, etc. Now that they have legally dealt with their insolvency issues, they have regrouped and are working with acts like yourself, Helloween, Freedom Call, and Sodom. I assume you are always writing and creating, so what made you come up with the concept for the new album?

  • David: Well, we are always evolving and creating, and the band is not the same as we were even seven years ago. Lyrically, and thematically 'Black Light' continues the areas explored on 'Visions Of Eden'.

MettleAngel: I really tried to get into that album, but it was so boring. I have been a fan of Virgin Steele ever since I heard the song "Metal City" on Metal Shop in 1983. I felt that most of your albums from 'Invictus' on became too Manowarish. Honestly, I prefer the Jack Starr material. Funny thing, is now his band Burning Starr have now also fallen into that vein, when they were once also Traditional Metal, and not so epic.

  • David: I find that our fans all have their favourite era of the band. One guy from Italy was so impressed with 'The House Of Atreus' albums, that he used them as a basis for his dissertation.

MettleAngel: That is awesome! Even if the music does not always move me, I love your appreciation for the Classics. Would you consider yourself to be a gnostic?

  • David: I dislike labels, but you can view me as an "insane pagan".

MettleAngel: I tell people that I have a mettle voracity for veracity. You have a great new song on the album called "Pagan Heart", so technically you also have an insane pagan heart.

  • David: You could say that...

MettleAngel: I have a mettle heart, but I am always fascinated with how you approach religion, mythology, and history.

  • David: These ideals are very important to me. Lyrically I want people to connect with the message. I realize that some people just dig the music, and that is cool too. For those who are willing to dig deeper, I want to expose the problems with religion. I want to expound on spiritual concepts, and capture the imagination with food for thought.

MettleAngel: On 'Visions', you dealt with the Sumerian legend of Lilith, and the conceptual suppression of women in religion.

  • David: We we just scratching the surface to the themes we will now explore on the new album, and the next one as well, which is also written.

MettleAngel: Given the title of the new album, I assume it deals with the Roman God Bacchus.

  • David: To a certain extent. It is more like my interpretation of Dante's "Divine Comedy".

MettleAngel: I can see that, as well as a suggestion of the "Divine Dichotomy" Hell, even fans of the HBO vampire show "True Blood", if they followed the second season, which was the best, will understand the mythical Maenad, and how these voracious females who followed Dionysius (The Greek version of Bacchus), were frantic females who would rip a corpse apart limb from limb, in a mystical frenzy.

  • David: I have not watched "True Blood". I was not aware they were dealing with Greek Mythology.

MettleAngel: That show is all over the places with fairies, vampires, werewolves. etc. If you truly appreciate Greek Mythology, as much as I do, avoid the remake of "Clash Of The Titans", at all cost!

  • David: I did not care for the original...

MettleAngel: Neither did I as a kid, based on the syncretism of myth, but the new one is just awful!. When referring to the Maenads, in his play "The Bacchae", Euripides uses the Greek term "sarkazo" which is where we get the word sarcasm, which literally means to sever flesh.

  • David: Wow, you really know this stuff! Basically, with these albums we want to explore concepts of rebellion. The eradication of the female principle, and how yesterday's conquered deities become tomorrow's demons of the new religion. This is the great reversal, because nothing exists in a vacuum. People dwell in fear, even the adored elementals are subjugated to epitomes of myth and derision.

MettleAngel: All this deals with the misconstruing of myth, and the misunderstanding by the masses. People do not even realize that in Antiquity Socrates channeled his good daimon, and this term eudaimonos is where the term happiness originates.

  • David: For those fans who purchase the digipak version of the new album, I have included a spoken word oration which clarifies the whole concept. The label wanted me to do this in the liner-notes, but I had 25 pages, so we decided it was best for me to just vocalize the essence.

MettleAngel: I do like the cover art for the digipak version. It seems so authentic, and similar to what one would have witnessed at a Bachanailia Festival.

  • David: Actually, I am a collector of fine arts, and many of the artwork seen on our albums is taken from photographs of my private collection.

I can appreciate that. I want to switch gears, and step off our high horse a bit and approach a touchy subject with you.

  • David: UH-OH, here we go, what pray tell might that be?

MettleAngel: I am curious about yours and Edward Pursino's involvement with the band Exorcist, and the album 'Nightmare Theater'.

  • David: Oh that, I thought it was going to be something more personal. Honestly, I do not understand people's fascination with an album 25 years old, recorded in a few days, which seems to have attained such a cult status.

MettleAngel: Well, for one, the album has never existed legally on CD. For another, that album was so unique, and experimental. It has more in common with Imapler and Death SS, than it would with Virgin Steele. So, is it true that Exorcist is made up of members of Virgin Steele from that period?

  • David: It is not members of Virgin Steele, but Edward does play guitar, and I did produce it.

MettleAngel: So the affiliation with such a cult release is there? What about Pile Driver? I have to admit, that when I first heard the song " The Fire God" off the album 'The House Of Atreus Act I', I thought you were covering the Pile Driver song from 'Stay Ugly'.

  • David: In all fairness, our connection with Pile Driver is legitimate. Under producer credits I am listed as "The Lion". We did write that song for Gord "Piledriver" Kirchin. We actually wrote most of the album for him. We owed him a favour, and he flew in from Canada worked with Ed and I and some hired hands, and hammered out that album. Our version on 'Act 1' is a total different arrangement, and fits the concept quite well.

MettleAngel: 'Stay Ugly' is a very thrashy album. This demonstrates how versatile Edward is on guitar. Pile Driver is also another very unique act. Since I am on a roll, I must act you what is your connection with Joey Buttafuoco and Amy Fisher?

  • David: Wow, there is a question that I have not been asked for ages!

MettleAngel: I recall back in the early '90s when Metal was not strong in the US, seeing an episode of "Hard Copy" where they mentioned Virgin Steele in the Amy Fisher case.

  • David: Here is the deal. We are good friends with Joey's brother Bobby. He owned a club, with a room upstairs where we rehearsed. Joey was doing everything to attract media attention. At one time he claimed to be our manager, which is not true. However, he did want to be part of the video shoot for 'Tale Of The Snakeskin Voodoo Man'.

MettleAngel: That VHS features Joey on the cover. Most of the songs like "Love Is Pain" are taken from the album "Life Among The Ruins'. The US version of that features the song "Snakeskin Voodoo Man". I have not heard this track, but I assume it about Joey.

  • David: Yes, and no, it is more about the scene at the time, but Joey used it as a way to get more media coverage.

MettleAngel: Many fans do not like that 'Ruins' album too much. They feel it it is too much like Whitesnake, and not representative of the "barbaric romanticism" which you promote.

  • David: I am very proud of this album. I do not get the Whitesnake connection. When we wrote that album, I was getting into my Zeppelin and Blues roots. It has more in common with Howlin' Wolf than Whitesnake. On an interesting note, the Amy Fisher movie with Alyssa Milano actually features three of our songs on the soundtrack.

MettleAngel: I have not seen any of those movies of the week, from back then. I even avoided the whole O.J. trial. I do not like Drew Barrymore, but I would be willing to watch "Casualties of Love: The Long Island Lolita Story".

  • David: We actually enjoyed a bit of success due to this media controversy. We had one of our songs put in a Martin Sheen movie, and we gained a wider audience in Europe.

MettleAngel: Thankfully, you followed the 'Ruins' albums with the amazing 'Marriage' releases. I am very impressed with Crystal Viper's cover of "Blood And Gasoline". Their new album 'Legends' is excellent.

  • David: The version they did is all wrong. When they contacted me about doing the cover, I had to show them how to play the song accurately. This is when Marta and I agreed to make it a duet. My version is in E-flat, whereas their interpretation is faster and more F-sharp. Joshua "The Sorceror" Block also added some guitar parts to their cover.

MettleAngel: They also do a great verion of "Obsession (It Burns For You)". Tell me about this Virgin Steele tribute called "By The Gods, A Noble Tribute To Virgin Steele".

  • David: I did not have much to do with that. This guy in Maryland contacted me, as a fan. he has his band on there and a few other unknowns.

MettleAngel: It was my understanding that Wizard and Iron Fire were also contributing.

  • David: Yeah, this may be the case, but it is really all his project, with my approval and blessing.

MettleAngel: I find the title "By The Gods..." to be a bit pretentious, and the whole name to be tautological.

  • David: Actually, this is a title which has commonly been associated with the band,, and me in particular. It is not pretentious, but more personal. It is a family saying, which my Uncle Freddy commonly used. I am very fond of it.

MettleAngel: It reminds me again of the saying by Socrates "Nai Ma Dia", which is roughly translated as "Oh My God". Dave thank you for taking the time to bring me up to date with everything in the VS camp.

  • David: It is an honor to converse with a fan such as yourself. For us Virgin Steele it is always a way of life, and not just a career.

MettleAngel: I would love to catch you live. My friend gave me a DVD which featured your Prog. Power performance. I have never had a chance to see you in a live setting.

  • David: We are planning some tour dates. Everything is in the discussion phase. You will be thrilled to catch us live.

MettleAngel: Indeed I would, and to meet you face to face. Dave, congratulations on a great new album, and keep up all the good work.

  • David: Michael thank you for this interview. I usually try to space them out to give the interviewer a wide window.

MettleAngel: We are both very loquacious, so this was a noble idea. I have really enjoyed getting to know you. All the best.

  • David: By the Gods, same to you my soul brother.

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