first of all I guess I'd like to start by congratulating you on twenty
years of Virgin Steele! So how does it feel?
It feels great. I feel like I'm ready to go the next thousand years!
I know this is kind of a cheese ball type of thing that a lot of
people do when there's an anniversary, but I guess on looking back on
over twenty years of Virgin Steele is there any one event of highlight
that stands above the others that you often look back upon?
I think anything that's happened in the past from '94 on, has been
the most in my mind because so much has happened, with taking the music
from the records and crossing that boundary and going onto the
theatrical stage, doing the House
of Atreus Opera and The
Marriage of Heaven and Hell and Invictus
Opera. That's some of the shining moments, and all this touring we've
done in that time has been really positive, one of the most positive
things. There's been some great moments prior to that but my mind has
been focused really on the Marriage (of Heaven And Hell) forward to now.
So is the purpose of the release of The
Book of Burning and Hymns
to Victory basically to coincide with this twentieth anniversary?
much, yeah. We've done so much music in a relatively short amount of
time that I think a lot of people didn't get a chance to absorb it all,
or to even get it all or whatever, so it's a way for them to catch up
with us before we go out and explore other wildly different terrain, or
just have much more releases. So it's a way to kind of pause, check out
where we've been, where we are, and where we might be going.
So I guess a lot of people have probably questioned when will the
DVD be out with the documentary footage, lots of live performances and
that kind of thing. :-)
Yeah, actually we're thinking about it so we're actually exploring
those kind of possibilities. We're going to be doing more shows over the
next month and record them, and I already have stuff already recorded
from the last tour and so-on and so-fourth. So yeah, there will be some
kind of DVD thing, sure, absolutely, and a live album. The live album
I'm not sure if it's going to be the next release or after another
studio album but there will be, probably within the next two releases, a
Probably you can give me a little of the reasoning behind why you
decided to re-do some of the older Virgin Steele songs and why you
picked some of the unreleased ones to release.
Sure. As far as The Book of
Burning goes, I chose the songs from the past that I still felt
connected to, and felt comfortable singing and felt I could sing with
sincerity and the band could get behind and feel good about doing. Some
of the stuff wouldn't make sense re-doing. But the songs "Don't say
Goodbye" and "A Cry In The Night" we still do live, and
songs we felt we could achieve maximum velocity with and I think we did.
I think they're a 1000 times better versions like "Children of the
Storm", or "The Redeemer" or "Guardians of the
Flame" than what happened the first time around. The other songs
were recorded this summer along with them in the same kind of head space
so they make sense sonically. They're all basically recorded in the same
studio and around the same time. The songs themselves we had began
writing in '85. "Hot and Wild" was originally going to be on Noble
Savage. Stuff like "Conjuration of the Watcher" and
"The Succubus" was written around then, but then re-written
much later and recorded now. Things like "Hellfire Woman",
"Rain of Fire", "Annihilation", and the rest of the
album was written in '97, and drastically re-written this summer by me,
and recorded this summer. So they're all really fresh recordings.
Did you consider re-releasing some of the early albums as they
were, as opposed to doing re-recordings?
Yes we did, and we'll probably end up doing something like that at
some point in time. We're exploring the situation now and seeing what
can be done. I actually began re-mastering the first album from the
original tape and it sounds 1000 times better than the old vinyl. I'm
not quite finished, I'm about 85% finished with it. Once we sort out
some various legalities between us, we can get that stuff out along the
way I think.
Virgin Steele - The very early days
I assume you're referring to the situation that will remain
unmentionable which is all over the web and the Noise Records website?
Yeah, it's a whole lot of bullshit that I had to put a stop to, and
we're slowly sorting that out and I think we might be close to some kind
of closure on that, just in the past few days because I got myself more
involved with it and seeing what's going on and actually took an issue
in certain areas, so I think we might have closure to that situation and
everyone can be happy and go their merry way.
Yeah, I didn't really want to touch on that too much because
that's more, like you said, the "Bullshit" stuff and I wanted
talk about the more current stuff, so bringing it up to The
House of Atreus, can you give me a bit of background on what was
the inspiration for the whole story line behind it.
sure. When I was very small I was introduced to things like Greek myths
and whatnot, because I come from a theatrical household. My father was
into stuff like Medeea (sp?) and other things with Shakespeare and
whatever, so I grew up watching this stuff and having a fascination for
it. I started reading the myths and for some reason the Atreus family,
these series of myths, stayed with me. I think because of several
reasons. One, the characters, whether they are humans, Gods, Goddesses,
demons or whatever, they all behave in a very human like fashion. This
is true about most of the myths but especially this one. The other thing
is the feeling of timelessness. The story is as relevant today as it was
two thousand years ago, and will be two thousand years into the future.
So this combination of timelessness and the human emotional factor
really appealed to me and is always what I try to strive for in all of
my works. I thought I could tell the tale, make it relevant today, and
give it a feeling of ambiguity of time. It could be the ancient Greeks,
it could be today's Greeks, today's Americans, Canadians, or whatever.
So that was the inspiration behind that.
Is the second act the conclusion or is there a possibility for and
act three maybe?
no. It's done, haha! There will be another metal opera/opus thing for
2003 which I will also do a third time in a theatre that we use in south
Germany. It will be based on different subject matter though.
So the next studio album, is that what you are referring to in
No, I think there will probably be another album before that, and
will be a collection of songs more in the vein of Noble
Savage or Age of Consent.
There is a theme to those records but it's not like every song is a
story that you have to follow.
As I'm sure you're aware, and as all fans over here in North
America keep asking, when will Virgin Steele do a tour of North America?
Have plans been underway by either promoters or your label to eventually
get something lined up over here?
I think that is more of a reality now because of the merger with
Sanctuary. We're actually releasing the record directly on Sanctuary,
the two records The Book of
Burning and Hymns to
Victory. So if all goes well, I think it would be safe to say we
could start exploring the possibility and do what we do in Europe in the
North American continent. Why not?
Something that I've read about but obviously haven't heard but
you've been involved with some operas in Germany. Can you tell me a bit
about them and what your involvement entails?
Sure. The House of Atreus,
and with all three CDs, we took various selections, not every song from
every CD but we took an overall section of the music with eleven actors
and actresses singing live on-stage and I made special mixes of the
music minus my lead vocals, so that way the effect is when you see it
you think Virgin Steele is behind the curtain playing. There's a big PA
and there's music blasting out. It's not toned down, it's raw and still
heavy and still just what the record is, and it's an elaborate play
that's woven through that. The dialogue between the songs is in German
but the songs are sung in English as I sung them. The music is the same
music from the CDs. We did a similar thing with The
Marriage of Heaven and Hell records part one and part two and Invictus.
We dispersed all that stuff and made it. There's Mayan(sp?) mythology
which concerns people like Emalaith and Dyamon (sp? Ed. note: note
sure of the spelling of the name he mentioned here) and all that
sort of thing and that's the framework of the play. There's also Nordic
mythology in there. Odin is featured pretty prominently and what I was
talking about in "Twilight of the Gods" and
"Rising Unchained" and in Ragnarok.
These have only been done in Germany so far. Is there a reason why
that's only been done in Germany or do you think something like that
could go over well elsewhere in Europe or maybe even here in North
I think it could if you translate it. It's just a question of when
and how it's done. We've gone there because it's one of our very strong
markets in Germany, and I was actually approached by the theatre to do
something. The guy who directed the play called me one day. He was
introduced to Virgin Steele by a fan. This girl I know turned him onto
the Marriage album saying he really liked some tracks, and he called me
one day and said "I'd like you to compose something like an opera
for my theatre." As soon as he said this to me, my brain just went
"Boom! House of Atreus!"
I said "Yeah no problem, I got this thing called House
of Atreus I'm working on". Haha, I hadn't worked on anything
yet. He said "Uh yeah, Ok fine!". So that was the beginnings
of it all. Once it was done successfully I said to the guy "Look
there's another opera here, there's another play within this other work
that I've already done. Let's explore that before we do anything
else.", It might give another shot at people hearing those records.
So that's what we did with Hell or "The Rebels", and
that's The Marriage of Heaven
and Hell, Invictus saga. The next one was actually going to be
about the first wife of Adam. Not Eve, it was a person called Lilith and
she was too much of a woman for poor old Adam, she got kicked out of
Heaven and was like the female version of Lucifer. Interesting stuff.
So has any of this been either recorded or videotaped for a
possible future release or something?
The plays themselves have all been videotaped. There was some sort of
artificial cast recording made. I would use some of those things on DVD
at some point I think. The making of, and behind the scenes things and
clips from that so people would have an idea what went down.
I remember reading about that on the Noise page earlier this year
when it was happening and was thinking "Why can't some of this
happen over here?"
Yeah eventually, I would like to see it cross over to other
countries. You need a theatre group that's willing to first translate
the actual text of the play to whatever language of the country. The
songs remain the way they work in English. They don't really translate
well because of the melodies are different and all that.
So did you actually perform on-stage or were you more of a behind
the scenes role with this?
I didn't take part in the actual stage production, no. My voice, my
keyboards, my productions, my mixes were there, and my background vocals
and stuff like that. The only time that we actually shared the stage
with the opera was in Munich in 2000. It was October that we did the
premiere of THE House of Atreus
in Munich; and at the end of the performance I got up and sand
"Great Sword of Flame" with one of the main characters. And
then Edward and I did forty minutes of an acoustic program.
So did you find it at all disappointing that the American metal
audience is not quite as strong; in terms of numbers I guess, as Europe
is and why do you think Germany is more open to something like that?
I do find it disappointing yes. Why that is? The only guess I could
say is because their culture is more wrapped around such things and
their schooling is more open to such things than in the states. I really
can't speak for Canada because I'm not quite sure. I think it could
happen here, but it has to be treated with the right amount of respect
and a different slant on it. I mean if you throw it out there like it's
going to be some Dio/Iron Maiden thing it's going to appeal to those
kinds of people who like that. It will appeal to people that might think
you know beyond the day is come and gone, will be put off by that, and
it's not like that at all. Virgin Steele music is not anything like
those kinds of things. It's a more different harmonic, vocabulary
structure; it's it's own thing and I think of it as modern metal and
it's pushing the boundaries of metal in a different way. As modern as
anybody who is doing hybrid rap metal. It's following a certain line of
tradition like from Led Zeppelin forward, but evolving into quite a
You just mentioned how you're pushing the boundaries of metal, so
how do you think that the metal of today, or what your playing today, is
compared to the scene or what you were involved with in the earlier
That was an interesting time because it was the beginnings of the
whole thing. I just think it's gotten more sophisticated, more mature
and the songs have evolved. It's really become the classical music of
the 21st century. I think bands like us and other bands are doing
equally nice things; like Gamma Ray or Rhapsody. Their kinda pushing the
envelope and trying to bring in classical types of elements, stretching
out harmonically, structurally, melodically.
This also brings to mind the Avantasia project from Tobias Sammet
from Edguy. You were involved with that and I was wondering what the
experience was like and if you could just tell me a little bit about it
and what your involvement was with it beyond the singing and did you
have any control over the parts that you sang?
It worked like this; he sent me over little snippets of music, and he
was doing a rough guy vocal and said "do your own thing with
it". So I did my own harmonies and stuff like that. I just sang,
from beginning to end, from as soon as the tape ran until it ran out
hahaha. I threw in all kinds of extra screams and a couple of vocal
accelerations and stuff, and he used them all. So yeah, he phoned me up
and asked if I could do it and I said "I wasn't sure because I am
in the middle of House of Atreus
and I am really bogged down with work. Just give me a long time frame
and maybe I could get it done for you, so send it over as quickly as you
can". So I just scheduled in one day where I wasn't going to
be working on the ATREUS album. And I did it in one day and sent it off
to him and he used it, so I guess he liked it.
If there is a sequel, will you be involved, or would you like to
be involved if possible maybe?
I think I am on the second one because it's in two parts and I think
I did four or five pieces, and some of them are on the first one and the
rest are on the second. The single has this piece called "The Final
Sacrifice" which is one of the heavier tracks and that is going to
be on the second part; "Seven Angles" I think it's called,
with Deep Purplish keyboards and I sang that one too.
So besides being involved with Avantasia, is there anyone else or
another type of project you would like to work on (time permitting)
outside of Virgin Steele?
Sure, I'm always open to such things but a lot of people don't think
I am because some of the things with Virgin Steele; I guess the
reputation I have for such things. But I am open to a certain degree but
if I like the people and the music I would venture to do something. I
would actually like to a production of the ATREUS work on-stage live
with other people singing the other parts that I sang on the album.
Maybe Pete Steel, maybe Kai Hansen, maybe Doro Pesch.... That's just one
of the things I've been kicking around that I'd like to do.
I guess they would play the different characters in the story.
Yeah they would.
Something you mentioned earlier on; I know you come from a musical
background in your family, and I was wondering if you could tell me
about what your other family members are involved in, in terms of music.
And I guess what they all think of Virgin Steele?
My father is involved in theatre, and is still doing it; he
originally wanted to be an opera singer. He really likes the deep voice
and singing and whatnot. And I think he's quite happy that me and my
sister are off doing singing. My mom has a good voice but she never got
that involved. She was singing around home and she was an English
teacher. My sister Doreen has a career in Germany. She makes CD's and
does all kinds of concerts. She's an opera singer who does various
requiem and she's done an album of Rigoletto (sp?), Schubert songs... a
bunch of different things. That's her thing, opera singing, but she
likes Virgin Steele. She's been to a few gigs and whatnot. My other
sister had a rock career for a while and raised a family. But they're
all quite keen on the band and are very supportive. In fact, for the
very first time in Virgin Steele history, no-one has ever sang on a
Virgin Steele record except me; on the track "The Chosen One",
the first 20 seconds of the introduction is me with my 2 sisters and my
opera singer sister's fiancé are all singing there for the first time.
Twenty seconds of other people besides me, singing....hahahah. I really
like the sound of it and we might do more in the future but it's always
been a closed society with Virgin Steele, and that's why I've always
done everything myself. I've been the orchestra, bass player, the singer
of all the parts and whatnot. We've always wanted to push the boundaries
of what a band could do without a cast of thousands.
I remember when I first heard it I was looking at the liner notes
and thinking "who's playing these parts"?, and it said Virgin
Steele, Virgin Steele they did it all. So that leads me to my next
question. What other instruments do you play and what do you play on the
recordings? What other things besides your voice has been recorded?
I do all the keyboards and all the orchestration whether it's
acoustic guitar, bass guitar, violin, cello, violas; I'm doing that with
basically just keyboards. I do play bass guitar as well and I played
violin growing up. I played very little of real guitar, but I can do all
those things that I do with the keyboard. There's amazing samples today
of that. On "A Cry In The Night" and "Spirit of
Steel" I'm playing everything you hear. I've always done all the
When you play live do you break out the keyboards or is it usually
Yeah we bring them out. I try not to be tied to the keyboards for an
entire show but I do play a great amount of them. There are various ways
to solving some of those things. Sometimes we're stripping things down
and making them a little simpler. We can, and we have briefly worked
with things firing off, drummers playing to and wearing headphones but
if we need extra parts firing off we can do that. We've experimented
with that here and there.
One thing, I think I know the answer to, but I just want some
confirmation on; and that is a lot of the time when I see you post on
your web site or to the Noise website, a lot of times you might
end it and you'll say "Stay Invictus". I was wondering what
does that message mean? I kind of think it to mean "Stay
Yeah, unconquerable is what that word means. So yeah, stay strong,
stay proud, stay undefeated by the bullshit in society today of which
there is much. There's always somebody trying to tear you down as soon
as you acquire any notoriety or fame; there's always somebody gunning
for you. It's like an MC Hammer story haha!!! Just in the past year
alone I've encountered a lot of bullshit like that with a lot of people
coming out of the woodwork trying to put their hand in my pocket, trying
to get away with shit. And well, I'm the wrong guy to do that with.
Another interesting thing that I've always pointed out and a lot
of my favorite songs by Virgin Steele have this....and this is the word
"fire" in the title. So what is the fascination with fire?
I think of fire as many things. It can heal, it can kill, it's the
primeval fire; the gift from Prometheus to humanity. It still burns and
it hungers to do this for a thousand more years. it's that concept and
the concept of the cleansing aspect of fire burning away the past and
bringing something new. Burn them to ashes and then burn the ash. Also,
I've had experiences with fire; my brother died in a fire so maybe that
has some kind of a thing. He was a musician and a singer and organist,
and the club he was playing burnt down, and that was in 1974, so things
like that stay with you forever.
Two quick questions about the past if you don't mind me asking.
The first is do you have any funny stories about the PileDriver [HA!]
project which you were part of. You did help write that didn't you?
second PileDdriver album I totally wrote with me and Edward, we wrote
everything. I'm actually on that record. The spoken thing "The
Warning" is me, and all those weird sound effects and stuff, that's
me. The drummer was a friend of mine who's actually my next door neighbor,
and so is the bass player, he's another neighbor from the neighborhood;
two Italian guys who live in Florida now, haha!! What happened was,
Edward and I, and the drummer and bass player went into the studio and
we recorded everything, all the music, with me guiding them through the
vocals one day. The next day we flew Gord in from PileDriver, from
Canada. We brought him into the studio, he sang the entire record, then
the same day brought him back to Kennedy Airport and put him back on the
plane and he went home! And I mixed it, so the record was done in two
Wow. That record or those two records are still, in some circles,
It was kind of cool you know. Edward plays guitar in PileDriver and
we wrote the stuff . We had fun doing it. I think they could have turned
out quite differently if we were doing then as Virgin Steele songs. We
thought there were some good ideas there so we wrote the "The Fire
God" for House of Atreus
And regarding another band that you produced called Exorcist. They
only did the one album. Was there a second album that was worked on that
There was a second album that was partially written and worked on. It
never saw the light of day.
And with your involvement back then in producing a few of these
bands, do you still have any involvement in that besides your own band
now, or is there really no time for that kind of stuff?
I would like to do it but I haven't really had time. At some point
So that's pretty much all I wanted to ask you about. Is there
anything else regarding your new releases that you'd like people to know
about that we didn't cover?
I'd just like to mention a little bit. Hymns
to Victory was a collection from Noble
Savage forward, and there's a lot of rarities on there as well.
Re-done things and bonus tracks and whatnot. It's good is somebody is
interested in Virgin Steele and has never picked up a record, pick that
one up first and explore it. If you like that, then go ahead and explore
So I guess that's everything. Hopefully we'll get to see some DVDs
if not concerts here, haha.
Oh yeah, there will be a lot of plans for the future. We're not going
away and there's a lot more things to come.
You played at the Metal Meltdown. Was it '99 or 2000 or something?
Yeah, 2000. It was a weird show because we were in the same room, a
big giant room divided by curtains with another band playing at the same
time as us. We were playing "Defiance" which has all these
breaks in it, and every time there was a break you'd hear "ARRRRRGAAAHHHHH",
because there was like a Death Metal band playing at the same time. Haha!!!!
Quite strange, but it was a cool gig. People liked it.
Has that been the only gig you've done in recent years in America?
No, we did a few in New York here. Not many, but we did a few over
the past two or three years. And they weren't really advertised but more
hidden, surprise gigs.
Are you able to, on your own, set up a gig in New York where you
live in the area?
Yeah, we could do that. We'll probably do more of that at some point.
We're going to gear up for Europe and will do some shows here probably
before we go, or when we come back.
So there will be a tour for these two CD's then?
There will be sporadic dates because the way our schedule is this
year we will probably go back and forth to Europe about two or three
times rather than one long run like we did earlier this year. We're
going to end up doing like eight weeks, or two months in the beginning
and now we're going to do like a week and a half and do other stuff and
then do another two weeks and come back and like that.
Well I guess that's everything so good luck with the future and
the music to come.
Thanks man, thanks a lot. Nice talking to you.
Cool, nice talking to you too.
Official Virgin Steele site
Noise Records Virgin Steele Page
Thanks to Ronnie and Joel for the transcription!!