Virgin Steele – Hellfire ReignsMonday, 6th July 2015
Dead Rhetoric: You’ve really placed special care in the treatment of re-issues when it comes to your back catalog. Are you conscious of long-time followers and collectors who want to feel that they get as much bang for the buck as possible if they have to purchase multiple versions of a record?
DeFeis: Yeah, of course I don’t expect people to purchase multiple versions of the record- but if they so desire to do so I would like to make it special for those people who have bought this once or twice by giving them extra stuff on there. The re-issues are really for keeping the records in circulation – every time you do a new album like we are doing now, you make new friends and fans who have never heard of you and their first introduction to you is with that new record. They want to go back and get the history of our catalog- and if it’s not there, what do you do? We try to keep it out there for those people, and of course we try to make it as interesting as possible.
Dead Rhetoric: When looking at your catalog of records, which do you hold in the highest regard- and what do you think is one that possibly is overlooked that you wish fans would dig a little deeper into?
DeFeis: I like them all, Matt, for different reasons. It’s a tough choice, but I guess one of my favorites is perhaps Visions of Eden. That was a record that was not so well loved when it first came out, but now 4 or 5 years later, those very same people who didn’t get that record love it. That was a very special one for us, we all loved that album as a group.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about SPV in relation to the other labels you’ve been a part of through the 80’s, 90’s, and 2000’s?
DeFeis: It’s been actually quite nice, especially on this release thus far – they’ve really been behind it. I have no complaints, it’s been quite a good working relationship with everybody there. The other labels we’ve been with have been quite nice – there were a couple of labels in the early years I wasn’t so happy about, but the main ones where we’ve had a long term relationship- Noise was a really good label to work with.
Dead Rhetoric: In a previous interview I read online, you mention that you believe life should be a work of art, and that you don’t see the two as being separate. Would you care to elaborate a little upon this?
DeFeis: Yeah, your life should be like a work of art. If you think of making a sculpture or a painting or an album, whatever- you want to put everything in there, everything you’ve learned that you want to keep learning, keep exploring, and keep experiencing. I know too many people who numb themselves to life- you can’t medicate yourself from life. They don’t want to feel any discomfort or pain- I’m not about that. I say dive in headfirst and whatever happens, happens. All the things that bruise you – the good, the bad, and the ugly- make you who you are. If you are going to be any kind of a serious artist you have to live to the extreme. And then write about it, and when you look at it you can see this is the beginning, this is where things went, a mighty tree with many different branches on it.
Dead Rhetoric: You are a very accomplished keyboard player as well as a vocalist. Did you ever have any worries incorporating this instrument into Virgin Steele, especially given the views on keyboards in the 1980’s?
DeFeis: That was more in the beginning, keyboards were frowned upon. I personally didn’t get it, you had Deep Purple, and Jon Lord’s organ was much heavier than Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar, any day of the week. He was holding the fort down with his distorted Hammond organ, forget it. Not taking anything away from Blackmore, he is a great guitar player and I love him to death. It didn’t stop us from using them, and we used them the way we wanted to, and we still use them. Other people have gotten hip to what keyboards can do now, most of your symphonic metal bands use keyboards.
Dead Rhetoric: Thanks to the proliferation of blogs, websites, forums, chat rooms, social media- it seems like there is plenty of metal for the listeners to learn about and consume. Where do you see the state of the scene these days- are things improving for Virgin Steele in North America in comparison to foreign territories?
DeFeis: Little by little they have gotten better in the states, yeah. I think with this record it’s getting better, and the record hasn’t even come out yet. This is a plus, with the re-tweeting, blogging, and so forth.
Dead Rhetoric: What is left to accomplish for Virgin Steele? If the history books were to write a chapter about your endeavors, what are some of the things that you hope they would say?
DeFeis: One, that we are honest to our vision of what metal is to us. We didn’t compromise or sacrifice our sound for any sort of fame or financial gain. We did things on our own terms, and that to me is true metal. Not trying to be flavor of the month and try to do what everybody else is doing – we stood tall and did our thing. We might be the only metal band that was able to take to the stage three metal operas in Germany. I’m proud of that.
Dead Rhetoric: Everyone has been wondering what the status of a DVD for Virgin Steele is at, as you’ve mentioned it in a lot of previous interviews…?
DeFeis: Yes, yes! Good question! I actually started working on that last year. It was a crazy year last year… actually a crazy five years since I signed with SPV. We’ve been on this re-issue campaign, in addition to putting out the records, extra stuff with bonus material. SPV asked me if we could do a DVD – I said sure, and as you can imagine I have over 30 years of footage – different formats that you have to convert to a digital domain so you can work with it. I started doing that, then they wanted to do a box set, then they wanted a new record – so at some point in time when time permits I have to start putting together this DVD. I want to do it, a labor of love I’ll be happy to do. I want to have this out within the next year or two, but I still have to contractually do the rest of the re-issues which we are now on The House of Atreus albums. There is always a lot of work to do, we have never been on holiday. It will be a historical thing, at home behind the scenes footage, in the studio, live shows, interview stuff. I just did a cooking show called Brutally Delicious, the link just went up today! I prepared a thing called Rigatoni of the Fearless, but then at the 11th hour I realized I didn’t have any rigatoni so it became Penne of the Fearless! (laughs). I cook and drink a lot of wine.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next year playing out for Virgin Steele – any special tours or festivals on the horizon?
DeFeis: Yeah, we booked Athens, Greece already and there will be more shows that we are going to announce shortly. Things on the live front and on the recording front. I’ve already written what will be on the next two records, and we have started recording them- we have the bulk of the keyboards done, a large amount of the guitars are done, and I’ve started doing some of the vocals. As time permits I’ll be working on the next couple of records, in addition to the re-issues, box set, and DVD. I really want to get back to playing live with Virgin Steele.
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