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Jack Starr's Burning Star

Guitarist Jack Starr belongs to one of the living legends in the long history of heavy metal. Not only has Starr been responsible for the fantastic compositions on the first two Virgin Steele records, but in the last decades he has also delivered many records with several bands. Now the guitarist has brought his biggest band after Steele, Burning Starr, back to life. This band delivered four fantastic albums in the eighties and last summer they returned with their first recording as Burning Starr, 'Defiance', in twenty years. Of course that's enough reason to let this legend do the word.

By: Nima | Archive under heavy / power metal

Well Jack, where shall we start? Let's go back in time just a little bit: in 2003 you released 'Under A Savage Sky' under the banner of Guardians Of The Flame and the album received a lot of positive feedback worldwide. How come Guardians Of The Flame never got a sequel?
Guardians of the Flame did have a sequel in the 2009 release of 'Defiance' on Magic Circle even though in someway it is quite different it still retains that mix of heavy and melodic and has a strong European influence which flows through all of my music and may be a result of the fact that I was born in France and lived there as a boy before coming to the U.S. We are now working on a follow up to 'Defiance' and it will continue the saga of Burning Starr.

But you did choose to breathe new life into one of your biggest bands from the past (so to speak), Burning Starr. When was it that you decided to bring Burning Starr back to life and why exactly was this band to be resurrected?
Burning Starr came back to life because I have always felt that this was a good name and many great albums and live shows were done under that name. By the way, you see some of these performances YouTube. So I must say I am proud of that name and the Burning Starr legacy and also since my current bass player, Ned Meloni, also played in the original Burning Starr in 1984! In the year 2000 we started to play together again and one day we were talking about the old days and I said to Ned that "Thomas Wolfe was wrong". I explained to him that Wolfe wrote a famous book called 'You Can't Go Home Again'. I told Ned I think we can go home again and “home” for me was going back to a great time in my life when Burning Starr was playing often and putting out great releases on a yearly basis, making a good living from music. Ned looked at me and said "Jack, it's time to go home. Fuck Thomas Wolfe" and we decided to put Burning Starr back together again. We wanted to get Mike Tirelli to sing but this was not possible so we decided to call the band Guardians of the Flame and in 2004 we started to record a new album for Magic Circle and we decided to call ourselves Burning Starr again. We thought of Mike but he had already joined Riot and was not available, so we looked for a singer who could sing with incredible power and range we placed many advertisements until we found Todd (Micheal Hall, current Burning Starr vocalist). He told us that he had been a fan and when he was seventeen he bought copy of 'Out Of The Darkness' on cassette, my solo album from 1984 that also features Ned. We liked Todd's attitude and his ability to sing in perfect pitch and pronounce the words very clearly. He has his own style and with his vocal power at our side we were ready to make great music again.

Todd has indeed done a tremendous job! Todd is not a very well known singer; at least not as much as Mike Tirelli or Shmoulik Avigal, whom you worked with before. What can you tell us about the choice for Todd and other vocalist you could choose from? I mean, I assume there was quite some interest for the vocalist position…
We picked Todd because of his great voice and his ability to enunciate also he is a magnetic performer who really loves being on stage as I do! I really love singers who can sing clearly and confidently. I want the listener to be able to understand every word of the lyrics in the same manner that singers like Eric Adams and Bruce Dickinson do. There was a lot of interest and the record company received over fifty packages from different singers all over the world, some sounding very much like other singers and this we did not want, even if they were similar to our previous singers like Mike Tirelli, Shmoulik Avigal or Rhett Forrester and of course David Defeis. We wanted some one with his own style and that is why we chose Todd.

Currently the hard core of the band are Ned, Todd and yourself. Were none of the previous Burning Starr members interested to rejoin the band?
As far as the other original members go, Burning Starr's original drummer Jim Harris left us in 1989 to join the band Dirty Looks and when he left that band he got married and got a job and a "normal life". I am not sure what that is myself! But we all wish Jim the best, but we haven't heard from him in many years. Mike Tirelli got sick a few years ago and was not available to play but we have heard he is doing much better and I am sure that his great voice will be heard from again.

Twenty years after the release the self-titled album 'Jack Starr's Burning Starr', the sixth album 'Defiance' became a fact in the June of 2009. Could you tell us something about the album's creation?
'Defiance' came about as a result of wanting to make a great album that would stand the test of time and not be influenced by trends or what is in style. It was also coming from my desire to blend the heavy and melodic styles which is something I have always been interested in the opposites like light and dark, good and bad etcetera. Even when I came up with the name Virgin Steele that is what I was looking for a name that symbolizes strong and soft, classical and metal things that most people think are very different but not in my mind. When Magic Circle Music contacted me in 2004 to record for their label, I agreed and the work on 'Defiance' was started which

Currently you are under contract with Manowar and Joey DeMaio's Magic Circle Music. Joey produces his own bands and he has given the album a great sound. But, as I also mentioned in my review, 'Defiance's production sometimes strongly reminds me of Manowar's 'The Triumph Of Steel' album. How much was Joey involved in the whole writing and recording process?
'Defiance' was indeed produced by Joey DeMaio, but he was not involved in the song writing and did not asked to be involved in that either. As far as it having some similarities to 'Triumph Of Steel', I can understand that some people will say this and it may be a result of Joey's unique production style and to forget the fact that Rhino played drums on both 'Triumph Of Steel' and 'Defiance'.

Something different then Jack; live performances are quite rare for Burning Starr! I mean, the only times the fans had the chance to see the band at work were during the last two editions of the Magic Circle Festival! Does the fact that your live band, the guys from Stormwarrior, living in Germany has anything to do with this?
We were happy to play the festivals in Germany and are friends with the guys in Stormwarrior but the next shows we do in Europe will be strictly with members from our own band, unless Richie Blackmore wants to jam and asks us nicely, haha.

Hahaha! So, you are putting a full band together?
After the next album comes out Ned and I will put together a permanent line-up that is self-contained, so we can go to Europe and play. We really do love playing and it is my hope to come over and do club-shows as well and not just festivals, because we would like to do longer sets where we can play material from all the classic Burning Starr tracks and even Virgin Steele songs from the albums I played on! There is so much material that, for me, doing a short set a festival does not make a good representation of our band or my guitar playing, When I do a show usually I am not even warmed up for the first fifteen minutes and only start playing to my capacity when I am warmed up, so this makes it important for me to have a longer set and not feel rushed like at most festivals and it also gives the sound man the time to get a good mix.

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Alright Jack, you've had a long career and the landscape of hardrock and heavy metal would have looked so much different without your contribution! How do you look back at your own – almost thirty-year – career?
My career in hardrock and metal has been amazing. I'm one of the few original guys left playing and putting out albums from the early days of metal, I have made some great music and have had releases in almost every country as well as endorsements deals from guitar companies. I am one of the first endorsees of ESP, ten years before Metallica and there is not a day that goes by where I don't receive a letter or and email from someone who has liked my music. A while ago I received a letter from a 43 year old fan in Norway, who wanted to thank me for putting out 'Out of the Darkness', which he said is one of his favourite albums. He told me that he played this album for his son who also likes it very much and he sent me photos of him and his family. It makes me feel proud that I have touched people's lives with my music and it makes me happy that my albums are still sought after in places like Ebay, where they command very high prices; often much more than very famous bands like Bon Jovi or Whitesnake. This makes me feel great because it is a triumph for me and proves that you don't have to sell ten million records to be loved and respected, but in closing I am also very proud to have done a great new release like 'Defiance', which is doing well and is introducing my name to a new generation of fans.

Let's dig back a little bit and look at your previous bands and projects, shall we? I guess Virgin Steele is a well-discussed band and everybody knows the story, so – unless you're ok with it – we leave Virgin Steele out for now. So here we go, please comment on the following bands and your memory from that period of time:

Strider:
'Strider' was basically a Burning Starr record, but because Jim Harris was no longer in the band we decided to come up with a new name, which was a mistake and confused some fans. But it was a great record and Mike Tirelli sang great on it. It was also our last record together.

Phantom Lord:
Phantom Lord was in the early eighties and was a thrash project that I did with Joe Hasselvander (drummer, who also played for Guardians Of The Flame' and Ned. It was a lot of fun to record with Phantom Lord and what I liked is that we were free to play what ever we wanted. This gave us a chance to get very heavy and fast, which is something that I rarely did.

Devil Childe:
This was another project record with Joe Hasselvander. It was a darker record because Joe liked a lot of gloom and doom music and he was very influenced by Black Sabbath and a band called Pentagram, which he later joined.

Guardians Of The Flame:
'Under A Savage Sky' was a great album and I always wanted Shmoulik (Avigal – Nima) to sing with me ever since I heard him in Picture and I was happy when he agreed to sing for us. What I remember most about this record is the high quality of the songs. I was pushing myself more and more and when I wrote 'Anthem For The Nations' I even thought that this song should be used for the Olympics because it was majestic and triumphant! When I listen to this song today I think to myself what a great song it is and also 'Conspiratos Sanctos', which I think is one of the best metal songs of all time.

Thrasher:
It was cool playing a song with Dan (Spitz – Nima) from Anthrax but I never met him as we were not in the studio at the same time.

Your solo albums 'Out Of The Darkness', 'A Minor Disturbance' and 'Soon Day Will Come':
'Out of the Darkness' is a great album, which has very powerful vocals from Rhett Forestter (Riot, who was killed in January 1994, may he rest in peace – Nima). This album received great reviews all over the world and was released on many different record labels such as Music For Nations, Roadrunner, Passport in the U.S and King Records in Japan. Original copies are major collectors items and very hard to find. I only have two copies left myself! And it is too expensive for me to buy other versions, just like the Burning Starr Orange album from Japan, which was sold last year for $ 300,00. I think it's crazy.

'Minor Disturbance' was an instrumental record that I did in 1990 and it had great musicians on it including Randy Coven – who later went on to play with Yngwie Malmsteen – and John Reilley – who later went on to play with Richie Blackmore on one album.

At the time of 'A Minor Disturbance' I had a manager named Frank Carioa who owned some big clubs in New York. He started a label, signed me and we got a distribution with Important Records but after our record came out they sold their business and became Relativity Records, that stopped distributing the CD. That was sad because it was a great and it and was starting to do well.

'Soon Day Will Come' is a very unusual record and does not sound like metal. It is actually a Latin sounding Santana-inspired piece of music, which I am very proud of. I have always loved Carlos Santana and this was my tribute to him. Now I don't do tributes to anyone anymore; just to myself and that is difficult enough! 'Soon Day Will Come' was never released anywhere and very few people ever heard it, but it is good and maybe one day will see the light of day.

As far as I know all the albums by your previous bands are hard to come by! Of course in, my opinion, these are important chapters in the history of (eighties) metal. Are you planning to release (some of) these albums someday?
I'm very happy to say that Magic Circle Music is planning to reissue my past catalogue. In fact, Joey has told me that he would like to make a box set for all the fans that have stood by me and supported me for the last thirty years!

I guess the only question that remains for now is; what can we expect from Jack Starr in the near future?
In the near future I will be finishing a great new album to follow up 'Defiance' and when it is ready, Magic Circle Music will announce further details.

Alright Jack, I guess we can wrap it up for this time. Unless of course there is anything left that you'd like to mention…
I want to thank all the metal fans in Holland and all over the world and hope to come there and meet you all in person! Keep the metal burning!

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