A Greek Tragedy Written in Metal
CoC chats with David DeFeis of Virgin Steele
by: Adrian Bromley
I guess you could call Virgin Steele's David DeFeis the Andrew Lloyd Webber of metal music these days. Much like the epic and vibrant creative process that I have only seen/heard with Therion's Christofer Johnsson (remember the brilliant _Theli_?), DeFeis is the master of initiative and control. He never backs down from a project and his work seems to flow with complexity, but at the same time shine with passion.

I'll admit that putting out a double CD that centers around a Greek drama, as the band's latest _The House of Atreus - Act II_ does, takes a lot of balls. This is a big concept for those in the metal community to take in. Will metal fans welcome it with open arms as they did with the solid predecessor _The House of Atreus - Act I_, or will it fall to the wayside as something "too hard to grasp"? DeFeis is banking that fans will once again be in awe with what has been put in front of them.

"I am extremely satisfied with this album and what I was able to do with this record", starts DeFeis down the line. "Every album I do, at the end of working on it, I want to go back and redo stuff. That is just my own insanity and the way I am. You are at the limits of your own imagination, the studio and the budget. I think I took this record as far as I could and I couldn't be happier with the end result. I think the fans of the first Act will be interested in seeing where this record takes them."

About the work going into _Act II_ and following the last installment, DeFeis reveals that both Acts were written all at the same time.

"I wrote all of this at the same time", he points out. "It just ended up being released like this in two parts. I did basic tracks for all of the songs at once and then I decided how I was going to split up the Acts. It wasn't until the final mixing that I realized that _Act II_ was going to be two CDs. I didn't think it was going to be this long."

Why wasn't all of this put out in one fell swoop? Why in two parts?

"I would have liked to", he admits, "but the record company [Noise] wasn't really into it. I wasn't sure if they were going to be into releasing _Act II_ as a double CD, but once they heard the final version they were totally into it being marketed like this."

Does DeFeis think metal fans will be able to embrace the magnitude and the overall size of material and ideas going on within _Act II_? Could it be a bit too much for fans to take in?

"I think this is a great deal for metal fans, especially that they are only paying the price of a single CD for a double-CD. I think it is a great value for fans to pick this up and experience the music of _Act II_. I think this record has something for everyone. There are a lot of moods and shapes to the music here. If you put on an AC/DC record, and nothing against them, but it is all the same groove throughout the record and that gets boring. You won't get that here", he acknowledges. "This is a real trip. This is a journey for metal fans to go on. Every song is built that way, so fans can get loads out of what we are doing here."

On the topic of where the inspiration for _Act I_ and _Act II_ came from, he states, "I was approached by a theatre in Germany to help write a play for them and I told them I would as long as I could use the material for my next album. I told them that so I wouldn't have to start up another project after the work I would be putting into the play."

With the amount of work that went into _Act II_ and the previous record, one has to assume that this was a large ordeal for the power metal trio to go through, right?

Says DeFeis, "It wasn't at all much different as it was to record any of our older records. Some songs are easier to get on tape than others, but that is the way things go when you work on albums. The more you work on records and gain experience over the years, the faster you get at doing all of this. It is also easier for you to know how to achieve the results you want. I have been in the studio for so many years that it all just flows for me."

"I like to work on songs and make them become a part of Virgin Steele. Very rarely will a song I am working on be cut", continues DeFeis about studio work. "There is also a lot of spontaneity and I like that too. I like to know what I am doing with a song, but I welcome spontaneity. I'm not afraid to change things at the drop of a hat if I know it will benefit the music."

Is it important for DeFeis as a musician to constantly evolve the sound of Virgin Steele?

"Absolutely", he comments. "I always liked that aspect of bands I grew up on. Every Led Zeppelin or Queen record sounded totally different and I want that as well for my band. I always try to make each record just flow with numerous mood swings and colours. I don't like to stay in the same place with my music and my moods. The music of Virgin Steele reflects my mood swings in life. If I was a one-dimensional character, you'd get one-dimensional music. Thank God I am not like that <laughs> or I'd even be bored with what I am doing."

"I think the reason why Virgin Steele has been successful and I am still making music is because I still enjoy it", the singer continues. "We [the trio is rounded out by guitarist/bassist Edward Pursino and drummer Frank Gilchriest] have never changed our sound and followed trends because we like what we like and I don't really try to stray from that. I guess you can say we are stubborn people. Sure I let things from pop culture creep into what we do, but I don't think you'd really experience it with what we are doing."

He ends, "We have never been into this for the money. We want to create music we like and live in a musical landscape that we are comfortable with. If people like it then that is great, and if they don't, so be it. Go buy a Limp Bizkit record then. <laughs>"

(article submitted 12/8/2001)

5/25/2000 A Bromley Virgin Steele: Metal Built on Tragedy
7/8/1998 A Wee 10 Virgin Steele - Invictus
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