Virgin Steele – I enjoy bringing together concepts, ideas, ingredients, and such that are forbidden


David DeFeis takes us back on a journey to the magical world of Ancient Greek Mythology by releasing another studio album with Virgin Steele entitled “The Passion of Dionysus”. This time the focus is on the God Dionysus and the setting is transported to ancient city of Thebes. We get in touch with David so as to give us all the details and at the same time we renew our appointment via Skype to clarify what exactly we mean by the parallelism between “The Passion of Dionysus” and “Visions of Eden” in regards with the concept of the two albums.

Interview: Sakis Nikas David, let’s start from the basic stuff. How long did it take to write, rehearse and record the new album? When did you start writing those songs and do you remember which one was the very first that you wrote?

David DeFeis: I was writing the “The Passion of Dionysus” album at the same time that I was working on the last new albums that were included within the “Seven Devils Moonshine” box set, so it is difficult to say how long the writing process was, because I was working on so many different collections of songs simultaneously. I write all the time…there really isn’t a day that goes by where I am not writing something.

The first songs I probably wrote for the album were “You’ll Never See The Light Again” and “The Ritual of Descent”. As regards rehearsing we really don’t rehearse for the albums, because the other gentlemen really don’t have the kind of free time that they had in the past, so what happens is I sketch all the songs out with the piano and a guide vocal first. Then I bring in Edward and I teach him the songs and then I pretty much immediately start recording his guitar tracks. This is really nothing new for us…Recording went quite smoothly and we captured all the various tracks over the period of a month or 2 and then…I sat back and listened to it all, and thought about whether I needed to add any other orchestral touches, or vocals, or whatever instrument touches…and then mixing began. During the mixing process it isn’t always just mixing…because you get to hear the songs in another light, so sometimes I find that I might want to record another instrument or add a vocal part or whatever, and often the opposite happens…a great deal of the time I will mute tracks. Not use some things that we recorded, as I find that they are not really needed…so it is an ongoing creative process during mixing. We don’t operate like many bands do with say a limited amount of songs to choose from or think about…for us it is very different and it has always been that way. Some people might think that Virgin Steele had been quite inactive as the last studio album was released back in 2015 but the truth is that you had released also a box set (Seven Devils Moonshine) packed with new songs, right?

David DeFeis: Correct. Yes after the “Nocturnes…” album, inside the 5-CD “Seven Devils Moonshine” box set, we actually recorded & released 3 brand new albums along with the 2 re-issues found in there, but… the facts about those releases have not been realized by everyone. When we did the “Seven Devils Moonshine box set, people assumed that because we had included the 2 re-issues: “The Book Of Burning” and “Hymns To Victory”, that everything else on all the other albums included was all old material, when in truth…we had specifically recorded & included, once again I will say it… 3 new albums of brand new material. For those who don’t know, the three albums that I am referring to are “Ghost Harvest” (Vintage 1 Black Wine For Mourning), “Ghost Harvest” (Vintage 2 Red Wine For Warning), and “Gothic Voodoo Anthems”. I wrote brand new material for those albums, plus we also recorded several covers that I re-wrote and re-arranged, and on the “Gothic Voodoo Anthems” album we did some re-arranged, orchestral type versions of Virgin Steele material as well. So…those Works were all newly crafted for inclusion in that box set…but this was generally not understood at the time, which was quite unfortunate.

During that time period, in addition to all of that which I just mentioned, we also made several “movie”/documentaries. One movie was based on the “Seven Devils Moonshines” Box Set in its entirety, one movie was focused on the “Gothic Voodoo Anthems” album, (which was captured essentially live), and one movie was based on the “Visions of Eden” album. In addition to all of that we also issued several song video clips…I believe around 11 of them…And last but not least, as I mentioned earlier, I was writing what became “The Passion of Dionysus” album, as well as what will be the follow up to that album, and the follow up beyond that. So as you can see we were not idle.

(For those who don’t know about this stuff, and might have an interest, please find at the end of this interview the links for the documentary and the individual links). Getting back to the new album…once again you are dealing with one of your favorite concepts: the twin forces of control and freedom. As I see it, it also has a lot to do with the concept of being absolutely free to be yourself in a society governed by rules. I don’t know if you agree but would you like to tell us more about the concept of the album?

David DeFeis: Yes I can speak more about it. I do believe in personal freedom and the fact that with great freedom comes great responsibility. The album does discuss the idea of being free in a society governed by various rules…but that is not all there is to it.

What Dionysus embodies and what our tale here concerns, is an epic struggle to the death between the twin forces of control/restraint and freedom/release, …and whether or not there is room in society for the irrational, the wild…the “letting go” aspects of ourselves. Ultimately it concludes that a space or a place for the irrational must be allowed in order for society to exist, function properly and continue to thrive. When one opposes or denies a place for the irrational like King Pentheus does in our tale, then the person, place, thing or society will be ripped apart…exactly like what comes to be the ultimate fate of Pentheus.

Science has shown us that even rats need escape from absolute reality!

In addition to this freedom/restraint idea, “The passion of Dionysus” album depicts the passion or suffering of the God…his struggles, his great betrayal at the hands of those he trusted…his rage, his frustration, his death, & his resurrection, and on another level this Work also portrays and expresses what the God dearly loves…or is most “passionate” about. That being said, embedded within this offering lurks another duality…something else is also simultaneously going on…

I will add this…here is something I wrote for the synopsis that appears in the booklet:

The God’s ambiguity is the key to his nature. When he is in the form of “The Stranger” he says, “ Dionysus is a God in perfect essence, a terrible one but to humankind most gentle”. In this Work Dionysus is both inside and outside or above all of the action that takes place. He is divine and human, physically beautiful and intensely fearsome and intimidating. He dwells at the cusp of empires/civilizations, as his origins are both Greek and Asiatic. His various cult names do give a bit of insight as regards his relationship with humanity. He is sometimes called Bromios-“The Roaring One”, and Lysios-“The God Of Letting Go”. Dionysus brings the gift of wine, which in moderation allows mortals to let go…leave off their troubles their worries…relax and renew. With his festivals, Theatrical spectacles…and the various celebrations of his rites, humans can let go of their individuality and find a communal sacred “oneness”, ultimately realizing that they too can become the God…the God lives in all his followers and what Dionysus can do his followers can do…ultimately live better and triumph over death…resurrect. But on the flip side…there is a potential dark aspect…for with loss of self-control and gratuitous excess…(one sip too much)… the festivities can become destructive…murderous…where “The Roaring One” overpowers…judgment is not only impaired, but suspended…insanity triumphs, possession or “madness” ensues and mere mortals cast off, or “let go” the very essence of their humanity.

I think that this Work is very relevant to where we are at in the world today at this specific moment.

I enjoy bringing together concepts, ideas, ingredients, and such that are “not supposed” to be brought together, that are forbidden if you will. I am interested in what happens when you do bring 2 opposing elements together…fuse them…and find out what third new element can be born from such a union. The album explores this as well… Personally, I can trace a common conceptual ground with “Visions of Eden”…

David DeFeis: No I don’t see that at all. “Visions of Eden” was about Lilith the first “wife” of Adam, and the desecration and destruction of the female principle of divinity and its eradication and the subsequent degradation & demotion of women in general, and how that all came to be. It is a very different concept to what is happening on “The Passion of Dionysus”. “The Passion of Dionysus”…was it right from the very beginning the album title or were there any other ones floating around?

David DeFeis: The title and concept was there right from the beginning. Ancient Greece is once again the epicenter of your inspiration. Why do you draw so much inspiration from our history? Do you think that the history of Greece blends perfectly with the epic/barbaric-romantic style of Virgin Steele?

David DeFeis: I do enjoy merging my interest in the Greek Myths with this Barbaric-Romantic music that we do. I believe that all the ancient Myths be they Greek, Nordic, Sumerian or whatever, are totally relevant and resonate with what is going on in the world today. These Myths are timeless because they speak of the human condition and that never changes…but once again I am not giving a history lesson here, I am dealing in emotions and in addition to the obvious tale here something else is going on. From a compositional standpoint, it seems that after “The Black Light Bacchanalia” you tend to follow a similar path –more or less- with songs based more on the piano while at the same time the songs being more complex with many themes inside them…it’s like having another song into the same song. What do you say?

David DeFeis: I have been working like this since I started writing. All of my songs are written on, and based around the piano and then transplanted onto the other instruments. If you re-listen to songs like “Emalaith”, A Symphony of Steele”, “I Will Come For You”, “Kingdom of the Fearless”. etc. You will find a similar way of working. I believe in the philosophy of the “rave up”…this is what bands like The Yardbirds or Led Zeppelin or Cream, etc., would call their long jams in the middle of a song…where you light out for the territories and pull the music in another direction before arriving back to where you began. Western civilization’s music is all about this…it is how our harmony/progressions work. You start from home per se…go off and have adventures…and then return home with the new knowledge you have gained on your travels. This is how “classical” music works and I am a student of that genre as well. It is closely related to how life itself unfolds. When you were last here in Greece for a show, I remember that you told me during one of our conversations that you can’t understand all those people who complain about the production of an album and you said that what really matters is the quality of the songs and not the production itself. Do you still share the same view? I am asking because some people are still complaining about the production of the new album…

David DeFeis: Yes I still hold to that belief. A lot of albums are recorded very well, yet say absolutely nothing…it’s all cosmetics…People who say such things have always said such things…every album has had its share of detractors. And what does that even mean regarding the production? If you played me some albums from your record collection I would probably not like many of the production values on them, but I would be more interested in what the artist was trying to say and how well the songs were put together, and what the emotional content was. If a record doesn’t have the guitars outrageously loud some people will say they don’t like the production, if the vocal is louder than they expect then some people will say they don’t like the production…If that is the only thing someone has to say…it reveals a whole lot to me about their mindset. You know that I’ve been a longtime fan of the band and I gotta be honest with you, David…I really miss Edward’s input on the last few albums. I know that he’s still right beside you but I miss his more heavy involvement and collaboration with you. How’s Edward doing and why don’t we get to hear more from him?

David DeFeis: He’s doing fine and living his life they way he wishes to live it, as we all do. He knows my door is open and if he wants to come by and do some writing with me, he knows that he is more than welcome. He has been content to simply play on all the songs that I have written. He’s always been this way, which is a rather nice aspect of his personality. For example, I remember when I had written the song “I Will Come For You”, I played it on the piano for him and he was extremely excited and wanted to learn the riffs right away and record it immediately! He is still this way. He has always been a real champion of the music that I compose, and I love him for that and for a million other things. After I had written all the songs for “The Passion of Dionysus” album, I recorded a basic piano track, and a guide vocal, and I had Edward over and I played him the entire album. He was totally blown away and kept asking me…”when are we going to record the Dionysus album, come on Dave let’s do it”…So I wrapped up the various other things I was working on and we went for it. When I played him the final mixes he had this to say about the album…” there is great separation between the instruments…well done. I can see your brain in this music. I love all the eerie moments…there are lots of great hooks, and I love the different throaty vocals you are using and the angel voice. You have broken new ground…I’ve never heard anything like this! You’ve outdone yourself David.

So in conclusion I think you can see that he is still very much involved in what we are doing. For the record, all the percussion and the drums are programmed by you on the computer…?

David DeFeis: False. No. There wasn’t any programing done on the album, no computer programming. All the drums were played in real time, not penciled in with a mouse. I do not work that way. We don’t work that way. Why do you decide to work without a permanent drummer in the studio? Is it easier for you?

David DeFeis: We haven’t really needed one for the studio, but live we obviously do, and we are using our friend Matt McKasty now. In the studio Edward & I and Josh like the camaraderie we have achieved together, and we prefer it this way at the moment…this might change in the future. I know that you have lots of live archival footage stored somewhere in Long Island! Have you ever thought of releasing some of them as “official live series” or something?

David DeFeis: Yes I think about it often, and we eventually will do something like that. I have a two-fold question for you right now! If you had a time machine, where would you return in the Virgin Steele history and which concert –not a Virgin Steele one- would you have liked to revisit and experience once again if you had the chance?

David DeFeis: I would not return to any particular past period in VS History, I will stay in the present, as I have tons of songs that I wish to capture fully on tape still. Regarding part 2 of your question, probably Queen at the Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. That was a wonderful show… Last but certainly not least, you’re gonna return to Greece this summer for an one-off show in Crete. What should we expect from it? I am asking because it’s been a while since you last played live on stage…

David DeFeis: We will be playing a bit of something from all the various eras of Virgin Steele, and depending on how long we are allowed to perform for, that will influence how deep we can dig into it all.















“VISIONS OF EDEN” (The Lilith Project-

A Barbaric-Romantic Movie Of The Mind)

“Plus” the individual video clips for the songs:




AND the huge>>>


VIRGIN STEELE: “IN THE DEVIL’S GARDEN” An Audio/Visual Sampler or Psychodrama… Above, below, behind, and inside The Music…An intimate look deep inside the Pagan Heart of the SEVEN DEVILS MOONSHINE 5 CD BOX SET Featuring the albums: GOTHIC VOODOO ANTHEMS (the Not exactly Acoustic Sessions) GHOST HARVEST (The Spectral Vintage Sessions) VINTAGE 1- “BLACK WINE FOR MOURNING” GHOST HARVEST (The Spectral Vintage Sessions) VINTAGE 2- “RED WINE FOR WARNING” THE BOOK OF BURNING HYMNS TO VICTORY