VIRGIN STEELE Through Blood and Fire

Virgin Steele are among those groups that have become more popular during 90s. They were in the group of the bands all together with Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, Grave Digger…So, it has happened that the band has issued several records just in a few years. Those albums today have earned a cult status among traditional HM fans.

virgin-steele-50c330f441eecAs a matter of fact you are just about to have one more re-release of The House of Atreus Act I & II. So, what could you tell us about this re-release. It will be digi-pack edition with 3 CDs if I am correct.

This is actually the first time that it has ever been re-issued. But yes that is correct, it will be issued as a 3 disc digi-pak. It has been re-mastered and it contains the Magick Fire Music EP as bonus tracks, plus two other alternate mixes of two songs from the Act II album, Wings of Vengeance and Flames of Thy Power (From Blood They Rise).

Could we expect in the future re-release of your previous records on LPs like Invictus, Marriage or The House of Atreus? I mean, there are many people who would like to own them as LP editions?
Invictus and The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Parts 1 and 2 were just released on vinyl LP over the past year or so. The Hause of Atreus is only being issued on CD. We also issued the re-releases of Age of Consent, Noble Savage and Life Among the Ruins on vinyl, in addition to the CD versions, which contain lots of bonus tracks.

Could you recall these years from The Marriage, over Invictus to The House of Atreus. It seems that these years were the golden age to Virgin Steele so to say. The band was indeed popular during this particular period.

I recall ever moment of every era. It has all been amazing…for me this has been an incredible journey. Every part, every period has its special moments, and it is best to understand that and love and enjoy each era when and while it is happening. I always tell people…remember this here and now…because in several years what you are living right now will be the good ‘ol “golden” days…so in short…it is all the good ‘ol “golden” days…Every struggle, every success…drink deeply of it all.

Virgin Steele, lyrical and visual wise, was always linked with Greek and ancient antic history. Though time it has become like a trade mark for the band.
It has always been who we are. We are very comfortable in that style. There is a timeless quality about the Ancient Myths…a beauty and a resonating power. There is much to learn from them. I grew up in a very dramatic, theatrical household…where the Theatre was God, Goddess and a way of life…I absorbed that and carried that over into my musical and personal life….

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Could you recall some moments from Virgin Steele past? What were the most important moments? Which albums were the most wanted so to say?
There have been so many important moments for us as a Group and for me personally. Coming to Europe for the first time, arriving in Greece by ferry for an incredible show…having had the good fortune to be able to translate several of our albums into a fully realized “Metal-Opera” Theatrical Presentation…not only once but 3 times…(Atreus…The Marriage/Invictus albums and the Visions Of Eden/Bacchanalia tales were all presented onstage in this Theatrical fashion)…receiving letters from Fans telling us that the Virgin Steele albums helped them overcome certain difficulties in their lives, or overcome their illnesses….some had cancer or other life threatening conditions, and listening to us empowered them….the list goes on….I don’t take anything for granted. I am thankful for the entire experience.
All the albums were and still are important and reflect the mood and attitude of where we were at during any given moment. I love them all…I am very pleased with how the latest album turned out…all 29 songs of it…it most definitely reflects the current state of mind and the emotional turmoil of where we are now.

Also, could you recall some memories when you have released your first 5 full-lengths. It was complete different time especially if we compare it to present times? Many times you were compared with Manowar during this period.
What was incredibly different was the mechanics of how music reached people back then…the way we found out about albums…heard them and experienced them…it was all quite different and I feel more magickal and maybe because of the difficulty one went through to get an album…perhaps more intense.
Every album had its particular story. The first two albums were what I call essays in they craft before it was fully sown…we were learning how to be a band, and how to work in the studio…there was lots of energy and the whole scene was alive. Noble Savage was born of strife. There were personal and business forces that were trying to thwart our ride…but we overcame them and that album reflects that. Age of Consent was a difficult album to make because internally there were beginning to be problems. Some members wanted the band to conform and be more like whatever was huge at the time…and I for one certainly did not want to become the next “Pop-Metal” guy…so it was a fight to continue…and we did continue, and now having re-issued that album and having added new material to it like PERFECT MANSIONS, SERPENT’S KISS, ANOTHER NAIL IN THE CROSS…UNDER THE GRAVEYARD MOON…etc…I really enjoy it again, even more than before. Life Among the Ruins was us gathering strength…going back to our Bluesy, Led Zeppelin type roots and finding strength in our friendship and a shared direction. Those fans that discovered us with that album…love that album…those who were expecting a Noble Savage part 2 didn’t quite get it…but over the years most of our Fans have found a way to it.

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Since there were some albums that has become a sort of cult records of all time please could you place some words about them, present them from your point of view and add some memories about them:
1994 The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell – Part I
After completing the LIFE AMONG THE RUINS album, I looked around and said to Edward…OK we got that out of our system, now let’s do something really over the top, bombastic and heavy…and so we both said…indeed let’s go! So I started writing songs like I WILL COME FOR YOU, BLOOD & GASOLINE, HOUSE OF DUST…etc….and he and I together started working on songs like WEEPING OF THE SPIRITS, and THE RAVEN ONG and several other…and in no time at all…we had enough material for not one but actually two full length albums….which is why we ended up doing the PART 1 and PART 2 thing.
1995 The Marriage Of Heaven And Hell – Part II
We recorded almost everything for PART 1 and PART 2 at the same time, because almost everything was written and ready to go when we began tracking…During the PART 1 writing sessions I had already written songs like A SYMPHONY OF STEELE, TWILIGHT OF THE GODS…TRANSFIGURATION…etc…but I knew that I wanted more…I thought that what we had was great, but that the album wasn’t quite complete yet…so I kept on working and for the MARRIAGE PART 2 album I came up with CROWN OF GLORY (UNSCARRED), and the mammoth EMALAITH. I recall having written the parts out for that and having them taped all over the studio walls…oh yeah…and then a bit later Edward and I came up with the track PROMETHEUS THE FALLEN ONE…that was added to the album later on. Those three additions rounded out the PART 2 album and made it that much stronger.
1998 Invictus
We wanted something even more aggressive, and we had just learned that our studio engineer had found a new studio space and had moved the gear into it…so we were eager to try it out. The sessions again went very well, and we wrapped up the album in record time. It was meant to be the third chapter of the “Marriage” Saga, and the tale ends with that Work…All those songs really translated well to the stage, and we still perform many of them to this day.
1999 The House Of Atreus – Act I
I immersed myself in the Ancient Tale and wrote for hours on end. We tracked everything for ACT 1 and ACT 2 at the same time…so we were in the studio quite a bit. I remember that I recorded all the guide vocals for both albums in one day, and after doing that, later that evening I met up with Peter Steele, and I happened to mention that to him…and very funny guy that he was, he said to me….”the whole two albums ?…man I get tired after one song”. I remember also explaining the concept of the album to him, and saying how the Ancient Tale comes from Aeschylus and Euripides…and again funny guy…he said to me….”hmmm Euripides…Euripides…You rip a dees pants and I break a yo face”. And with that we had a good laugh and poured the wine.
2000 The House Of Atreus – Act II
We completed and put out ACT 1, and we had recorded most of ACT 2 already so it was just a matter of finishing whatever overdubs remained and mixing the whole thing. ACT 2 is even longer than ACT 1…so it was endless days…but we still managed to make our deadlines and get the album out on time. ACT 2 is perhaps a bit more…”Operatic” in scope and style, but on both albums I used the idea of recurring musical & lyrical themes to represent each character and to show the changes they go through during the course of the Work.

When you were releasing Invictus also bands like Blind Guardian, Iced Earth, Grave Digger and alike were become indeed popular. So, the same has happened with Virgin Steele in a way during 90s. Any comments about this?

I can’t really say why it happened except that we were actively working together on a nice schedule with our label and our booking agency. They understood the band and were helpful in providing budgets for the recordings and in getting the albums out to the shops in a timely fashion, promoting them and organizing concerts. At the time that one is living in such a moment it often doesn’t seem like anything major is going on…you tend to think more should be happening…it is always with hindsight that the full picture emerges.

There are some countries where Virgin Steele is still very popular like Greece or Germany. Any comments?
The band has achieved a kind of cult status and that is quite nice. Europe in general is still quite strong for us and if we toured more often the band would become bigger. With each new release we make new Friends and Fans and they then find out about the rest of our Catalogue and explore that. The Group is continually growing and that is really nice…we never wanted to be the most famous band on the planet…what we wanted to do was create a way of life that was rewarding and sustainable, and that is what we have done.

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What could you say us about the influences when it comes to Virgin Steele? Of course, Dio is the major one, but also there are some other bands as well. Could you name them?
ANSWER: As a Group collectively we were all into LED ZEPPELIN, QUEEN, BLACK SABBATH, DEEP PURPLE…RAINBOW…so we did have some common ground. I still love LED ZEPPELIN, QUEEN…THE WHO etc, and I was also and still am into classical music…people like CHOPIN, DEBUSSEY, GRIEG, VERDI, etc…and lots of old BLUES artists like SUN HOUSE, MUDDY WATERS, HOWLIN’ WOLF…ROBERT JOHNSON, etc…

Last time that I have the chance to see you it was at Metal Camp. Can we hope for some live show here in Europe in the near future. I think that most loyal fans are indeed hungry for some concerts.
Yes. We just played in Greece and we are doing Graspop in Belgium in June and other dates will follow.

Virgin Steele has indeed rich history but what could you say us about your future? Are you attending to conquer us with new records and concerts as before?
In case you are not aware, we did just release a huge new two-disc album called NOCTURNES OF HELLFIRE AND DAMNATION. It has 29 songs on it, and features all the various sides of the VIRGIN STEELE style. And yes we are working on more new material and we hope to issue a new large-scale album within the next year.

  • David DeFeis  May 3, 2016
  • Interview by Marko Miranovic
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