Hi David. First of all congratulations with Virgin Steele 25th anniversary and of course with the new album 'Visions Of Eden'. How would you describe the band's career during the past twenty five years?
Thank you very much! Well, I think during the years we managed to get our own little place in the universe and the people who listen to us know what Virgin Steele is and what we do. They know that we're a band who are willing to experiment and always come with new things and I think that's a positive way of thinking. Because we've always been an honest band and the music has always been honest. So yeah, I think we have achieved that!
Do you think you have managed to build up a loyal fan base?
Of course, because usually the people who get into Virgin Steele, stick with it you know? Every Virgin Steele record is different and so far I think with every new album we've gained new fans and got more people to listen to our music. I think we definitely have loyal fans.
It took the band six years to come up with a completely new album.
You could look at it that way, but it's not really that long because we released some stuff 'till 2002/2003 and of course I had written these two opera's. We've done some festivals and other shows in the meantime and I was also writing music all the time during these past years. I mean theses eleven songs on the album are not all that I've done. I think I've written about fifty pieces and recorded them, which are as good as done as the songs on the new album.
But why did it take so long to release them?
Because I was writing all the time. I wanted to release a double-cd or maybe even a three double-cd at first and I constantly thought of new songs and kept writing. But unfortunately the record company didn't like that idea very much. I managed to make a double-cd for 'The House Of Atreus Part 2', but the people who worked with us back then are not there anymore so we had work with new people. Eventually they didn't feel anything for a double-cd. But anyway, I also built a studio in my house to be able to work at home. So I could just keep working and working without being interrupted and worrying about studio time or someone ticking on my shoulder that it would cost much money. I could work on new songs in all peace and kept writing.
So what you're saying is that we can at least expect three more Virgin Steele albums in a short while.
Hahaha, well to be honest yeah, there is definitely more to come. I don't even have to write new songs because I have so much already. But I'm already working on new songs. I even finished one today hahaha. But the point is that a break is also good. If you keep releasing album after album it might become too much, even for the fans.
So we can expect the next album somewhere in 2008?
No, 2007!!! But before I release another studio album I would like to release a live album first. Because that's already way over time. But I want it to be a complete product. During the years the set list has grown so much that we can't just put it on one cd. We've done so many different things and I want it all on the live album, like for example the acoustic stuff we've done. So I'm thinking about a double live cd and in addition of that also a dvd. But the dvd must also be complete. I want it to be a historical thing for Virgin Steele and for the fans. I don't want it to be a cheesy concert registration with some backstage footage or something like that. I have so much material here like backstage, on-stage and home footage that it would cost me at least six months for the editing. As I said, it has to be a historical thing, which gives the fans a complete vision of the band during the years.
Do you see yourself as a workaholic then?
Yes, as a complete lunatic. I usually have trouble to make a start with writing songs, but once I get started it's exactly the opposite way and just can't stop. It's like being possessed hahaha.
Let's talk about 'Visions Of Eden'. In my opinion it has become one of the darkest Virgin Steele albums ever.
Yes I can agree with that. The album is dark because the subject and the concept are also dark. I mean, it's about a woman who has been raped. How much darker than that can it be? Most of the stuff is also written during the autumn and the winter. You know, you see these dark clouds and everything. That atmosphere has also been captured in the music.
The album is based on the destruction of Paganisms, Gnosticism and the eradication of the Goddess Principle. It's about Lilith, the raped mother turning into the evil mother. But it's also about a 21st century woman. It's about relationships in general and to understand that from different cultures you need to get to the roots of it. So I started doing a study on that to know more about it. It hasn't always been this way or that way and organised religion has had an influence as well. It doesn't matter what religion you have and even if you're a total pagan, the story of Adam and Eve has had a great influence on everyone. A part of what I tried to do was to show the people what happened before the birth of the Catholic Church and its propaganda. Way before the foundation of the Catholic Church people were also worshipping the goddess and practicing paganism etcetera, but organised religions don't pay any attention it that you know?
Did the political, and of course the religious, developments in the world during the past year have an influence on the writing process?
Oh definitely, we live in a dark period and everything that happens around us has had an influence on the writing process; the stages of WWIII, doing resources to take over this and that and my god is better than your god and all the shit that is going on. And of course what happened on 9/11. I have lost some dear friends and there is a lot of heartache of course. That feeling is also captured in the cover. We flew over to Germany to do some photo shoots and it wasn't at all the plan to make a shot for the cover. I had just had an awakening of a friend who had passed away, so I wasn't very happy of course and once I saw that shot I knew it had to be the cover. I mean, it looked like a painting somehow, but it's not a painting. That's me standing there with the horse and looking over this landscape, having a “Vision Of Eden”. You see the grey clouds and the dark atmosphere; that was exactly as it looked and that's exactly my mind.
Even though 'Visions Of Eden' is a very dark album, it doesn't have a negative message! Music can be very helpful for the listener and on a personal level, the Virgin Steele albums have helped me through some hard times. Did you try to make people open their eyes at some point?
I agree with you on that point and I'm glad that our music can help people. That's also what I want. As you said, music can be very helpful, but it can also fuck you up totally. With this album I wanted to get people to think.
Wasn't 'Visions…' supposed to be your first solo-album?
Well, yes I had that in mind and there were some people who showed interest. But we played the songs with the band so it became Virgin Steele. I mean, I don't have to urge to make a solo album and put my name on it. For Virgin Steele I write most of the material. I'm not saying that it couldn't happen though, but still. Maybe if people show interest I would release a solo album of all my piano-pieces. Although I don't know if the Virgin Steele fans would like to hear sixty minutes with only my piano stuff hahaha.
A new opera perhaps?
Yes of course, I have some ideas or it and I might do that as well somewhere next year, but I'm not sure yet. Ah, what the fuck, let's do it hahaha.
Do you do anything else next to Virgin Steele?
No, not anymore, I'm done with that.
So you can say you're living your dream?
Yes, Virgin Steele for me has become a way of life and you can say it's living on the edge of a dream.
Something else then; since the band started you have always had a association with Manowar. Some people say that Virgin Steele has much similarity with that band. But if you look at both bands, there is a clear difference. What do you think about these accusations?
Of course we've had an association with them and we were very friendly with each other in the early days. We've done some shows together in the eighties and they're really nice guys. But I don't see the musical connection. I mean, Eric is a really great singer and the whole band is great and we've always had enormous respect for them. But it's not like I go home and put their records on and think I need to do the same. I don't really know what to say about the people who think this way. I think people who listen to us or to them or both, know exactly what both bands stand for. If you don't know it by now… hell, I don't know hahaha.
You've also toured as support for Hammerfall several years ago. Virgin Steele had been around for twenty years, while Hammerfall had just released its third album. How did that make you feel as a musician who had been around for so long?
Ah yes. Ok, here's my side of the story. They asked us about three times for that tour, but I kept saying “no”, because we wanted to do our own headline show and everything, but they insisted that we took part, so we said “ok, let's do it”. They looked very interested and it seemed they had a great admiration for us. And at first it was the plan to do a co-headline show or a special guest appearance. But once we came over we found out that things were different. Not by Hammerfall of course, they're really cool guys and we had a lot of fun, but from the people behind the scenes you know?
I don't mind having done it, because we played for a crowd that didn't know the band yet and got more people into Virgin Steele, so it was helpful. And we played in good places with good sound check and everything. The problem I had was with the playing time. When we headline a show we play for about three hours, you know? So I had problem with the limited playing time! I think one time we played even an hour longer than we were supposed to. Once we get started, it's hard to stop. I'm only happy when I'm playing and writing and there is a lot of magic happening.
Speaking of tours; you will hit the road in October/November to support the album.
At least that's the plan. I'm taking with the promoters and the booking agency and hopefully we can get on the road around that time. I'm really looking forward to be back!
What can we expect on this tour? Both musically and visually.
We will do some highlights of the new album of course and some highlights from the previous albums, because that's what people want to hear as well. But we might also play songs, which we've never played live before. We never had that much show elements in the past. Of course we've had pyro's and bombs and of course the burning sword which I use during all of our shows. But this time I really want to do something more. Let's just wait and see.
Thank you David and good luck with everything.
Thank you and hopefully see you on tour.