Interview with composer and vocalist David DeFeis, Virgin Steele (September 13th 2006)

6 years has passed since David DeFeis & co. graced us with a Virgin Steele album. Now they are finally back with a new album 'Visions of Eden (The Lilith Project - a Barbaric Romantic Movie of the Mind)'. Why it took so long, and what the future might hold is some of things we wanted to know from them...

A 'Welcome back' is in order; it's been a while since the last studio album (The House of Atreus, Part II) in 2000. But knowing you as a workaholic you must have been other project in the 6 that has passed?
David - It was not really 6 years. It was somewhere between 3 and 4 years actually.
It did not take us long to actually record it. There was this gap between albums because of several reasons. First, I felt that we had released so much music between 1999 and 2003. We had issued THE HOUSE OF ATREUS, which was a 3 CD Set, then hot on the heels of that, we issued THE BOOK OF BUNING, which contained a full new album's worth of music alongside some re-recorded versions of older tracks, plus I also put together HYMNS TO VICTORY, (also containing a few new tracks), which we released at exactly the same time as THE BOOK OF BURNING, and then... I prepared the re-issues of the first 2 albums and the first EP, (again with many bonus tracks), quite soon after that, so... I thought perhaps we should take a year off from releasing anything new. Then next what happened was in 2003, I began composing my 3rd "Metal-Opera", which premiered that summer and took in over 50 performances. In writing for that, I became possessed and I composed over 60 pieces of music.  I simply never stopped writing, and I was working on completing all of those tracks for a box set, or a triple or double CD! The label was not interested in releasing such a huge project, so...I had to scale it down which was very difficult. So...that is why things took so long. In addition I also began putting a studio in my house, and became more active than ever before on the engineering side of the recordings, this also took additional time. Plus I had various calamities, issues and deaths to contend with. Once I finally decided what would be on this album, things actually came together fairly quickly. So you see I was not sitting idle at all. I am always going non-stop with something or other.

When did you begin working on the new album? I've read that you've composed (and recorded) in the access of 60 songs - any plans with the rest?
David - As I said above, I began composing like a wild man in 2003, and I still have not stopped. I am still going. Yes I do plan to issue all those other tracks I mentioned within the next year or so. I even have a full instrumental CD in there as well. There are more Epic tracks, straight-ahead tracks, acoustic many ideas...

The promo discs have a not so good sound to say the least - but once more the rumour has it, that the finished product will be totally different from the promo album. In retrospect - was that a wise decision? I have read a lot of reviews, where the main concern was the sound?
David - The Promo as I already explained many times had to be rushed out to adhere to certain specific deadlines we had. If anyone has further questions I suggest going to our Official site: and catching up on all that was said there. Yes the final finished version is much better sounding. However, the Promo though it may be weaker, is far from horrible sounding. It is still quite respectable. It was not a question of a wise or unwise decision. I had no real choice in the matter. Once I committed to a release date, I was caught up in the machinery and all had to unfold as it did. That being said...I would never do that again. It went out on the Internet due to some unscrupulous people, and caused a bit of a mess.

The album is entitled "Vision of Eden " - what is Eden to you?
David -
a place, a moment in time where and when we can all be who we are and who we are fully meant to be with no repercussions, no judgments, no explanations. A place where honesty reigns supreme and understanding and compassion are in abundance. It could be times it is. It is a matter of casting off fear and its entire attendant imprisoning characteristics. It is a Love that never dies...not even Death can stop it...

The subtitled to the disc is 'The Lilith Project - a Barbaric Romantic Movie of the Mind'. Your theatre play is entitled 'Lilith' - so who is she, is she a Goddess, Princess or... Could you tell us a bit about the story behind?
David -
Yes. She is the manifestation of the Great Goddess, the Great Mother, and the Primal Fount of Creation. I want to try to get people to think about our origins, and the origins of the World's religions, and all the propaganda that went along with their rise. Lilith was turned into a demon because the male God worshipping Patriarchal order that invaded the lands where she was worshipped, wanted to suppress her belief. So propaganda began and a smear campaign was launched to denigrate her...that is why we have myths portraying her as a demon. But originally... she was not. She was something beautiful, a pure emanation from the Divine fount of creation. Once the rise of the World's "organized" religions began...she was further suppressed, and finally eradicated, and made to live on as this vile demonic creature.

Contrary to what the title might suggest, "VISIONS OF EDEN" is not about happiness, peace, contentment or Eternal is the opposite. It is about disorder, strife, struggle, dominance, and the annihilation of a culture, a way of Life, and the violation & annihilation of a human being. It is a Work based on the destruction of Paganism, Gnosticism and the desecration & eradication of the Goddess Principle that once dwelled so freely within Divinity. The album is really about today...modern times and how we might have arrived here to this strange place we are now in...

Lilith is a rebel. Should you need a frame of reference from the male perspective, perhaps something akin to a female Prometheus if you will? However...She is actually something infinitely more powerful. She is the manifestation of the Primal Energy, the Life force, and creativity, indeed the Origin of All Life itself. Due to the tremendous appeal, power and popularity of the Great Goddess within early "Pagan" Society/ Religions / "Mystery Cults", etc., Patriarchal, Male God worshipping Societies felt their status threatened, therefore they enacted laws and actions in which the worship of the Goddess was made illegal. She was demonized, and attempts were made to make her become hateful to women. These attempts were only too successful. My story seeks to parallel what occurred long, long ago, concerning this shift and destruction.

One of the first times that we hear about Lilith is in the Ancient text "The Epic of Gilgamesh". There She is described as an unpleasant squatter in a Tree. Lilith is often equated with the Egyptian Isis, Inanna, (sometimes called the hand of Inanna), also Astarte, Hecate, Sophia, Mary, and all the other powerful feminine deities. She represents the primordial fount of all Mother/Goddess figures. And yes, according to legend she was actually the first wife of Adam, prior to Eve. From earth / mud / clay, she was created, just as Adam was. Lilith felt that She was Adam's equal, a true mate & match for him. In the early Legends it is said that She & Adam were created as a dual being...joined back to back. As such, Lilith wanted to remain independent, and did not wish to be subservient to the male personality, Will and ego. Adam, however, considered himself to be the Supreme Power. He claimed that it was decreed to him by his God, that he should be the master over Lilith. And friends trouble in Paradise/Eden began.... anyway...

Let's go back to the beginning. God gives "Birth" (or thinks he does), to Lilith in the Dark of Night, through the miracle of...nocturnal emission,  (this is discussed in ADORNED WITH THE RISING COBRA), and forever lusts after her. (He's got a great passion for Flesh!) However, she is not his child. Again what Lilith really is, is the exact other "side" of True Godhead...the Goddess, or female half of Divinity. This God...we are discussing is not a true God...He is a demi-urge or half-maker. Lilith is part of a higher Authority/Energy/Emanation, an equal part of the True...Oneness or God Above God. Anyway...Lilith has awakened this particular God's Dark, sensual Nature. However... this God is really very afraid of Lilith. He finds her ... "uncontrollable", wild, untamable and far too difficult to understand, so... he creates Adam in the Light Of Day, to be the mirror of his own image, thus IMMORTAL I STAND (The Birth Of Adam).  Adam & Lilith meet ... they try to have ... a Magick, Romantic Evening ... but everything goes horribly wrong. Oh yes... very wrong. Adam wants to be on top ... (sexually & otherwise), and Lilith wants the same so... they have an enormous fight! She pushes him off her and screams out "bastard", he calls her, a "bitch", and She flies off on her Glorious Green Wings! She is able to do this because she is in possession of the Power/Knowledge of the True "Name" of God. Lilith knows THE INEFFABLE NAME. She has found out that which was supposed to be forbidden and unknowable. In anger, rage and fear...God & Adam curse Lilith.... and Adam demands that God create him a new partner.... Someone perhaps a bit easier going...

In the aftermath of her dramatic flight, God creates Eve for Adam, to be Adam's subservient, docile helper. Lilith then momentarily reappears, confronts Eve & Adam, and rages at them... BLACK LIGHT ON BLACK. Here is also introduced the idea of what might have caused the real "FALL" from Grace/Paradise. Not the eating of any worm-ridden apple, but...Adam's ultimate defection from Lilith. He prefers to cling to his idea of superiority, with himself as "Master" to the submissive Eve, rather than explore the potential of equality with Lilith...Anyway, next our heroine winds up in the Red Sea where it is said that she cavorts with Demons and has numerous children with them. (This is the beginning of a smear campaign against her). Then along come Three Black Angels who begin to torment & abuse her. This is essentially the idea behind...BONEDUST.  The Black Angels (sent by God), attempt to force her to come back to Adam. They tell her, "for this unlawful flight, this transgression, as punishment 1,000 of your children will die every day unless you return, we will kill them". Lilith says ... "No! I am beyond your control. I know the Ineffable Name of God. me Power! I do not have to come back, I will not come back, and your God knows this"! The "Angels" are in confusion, as they were not aware of this arrangement with God. They however are great tricksters and of course with a God such as this, there must be punishment, so these crafty "Angels" contrive something truly dreadful. They devise a way to convince her that in return for her wilfulness, stubbornness, independence, pride and femaleness...She must in fact be the one to do these killings of children. And thus the process begins where she is dramatically transformed, turned from the Beautiful, Noble idea of the Great Goddess / Good Mother ... into the Terrible Mother / Evil Demon, repugnant to all women. (ANGEL OF DEATH)...Lilith in rage and madness...takes their poison bait...Later She comes to her senses and laments her Fate, but... the damage has already been done. Infection sets in...However, Her Pure Essence, her Divine Core cannot fully comprehend why She must become this dark, vile, hideous thing. She questions, she cries out, She begs, She implores the GOD ABOVE GOD, to deliver her from this tragic fate...And thus the Nobility in her Nature requires still further corrupting to be up to such killing, so She, (or is it the "Angels" again), conjure Samael...THE HIDDEN GOD. Unbeknownst to her, Samael is actually Adam in disguise. With his influence and trickery The Feminine Divine is finally overcome, seduced, perverted, corrupted and She... becomes the CHILDSLAYER...Eve and all Women of the World begin their Eternal Lament...WHEN DUSK FELL...and...the struggle begins/continues...VISIONS OF EDEN ...

Once again...remember...regardless of any Ancient, Myth-like qualities the nature of this Tale may invoke, everything that occurs is actually going on now in real time, in the mind of a specific Woman while she is being raped...and...this Story is not over yet...

Speaking of your theatre involvement - do you see yourself more of a multi-artist today, or are you still a rock 'n' roller?
David -
If someone steps out of their usual role now and then it does not mean that they have forsaken or, forgotten how to do what they have previously done. Why can't one be both? I of course am still a Rock & Roller. See me onstage or come to my house and this will be obvious. But that is not the only thing that I am...I refuse to be kept in a box and made to conform to doing the same thing over and over again. I will continue to do whatever I feel like doing, and be true to myself, and my Art.

Next year Virgin Steele can celebrate their 25th anniversary, will you celebrate that in any special way with the fans, and are there plans for something special?
David -
We would like to do something special. Exactly what form that might take still remains to be seen.

What do you reckon to be the biggest accomplishment for Virgin Steele looking back? Not necessarily sales wise...
David -
Being able to keep going, and keep progressing musically. Every year we reach new people, and the band becomes brand new again. For me it is all about the compositions, and how they progress.

Your music has always been very symphonic and powerful - how big an influence have classical composers like Wagner had on you?
David -
Classical composers have surely left their mark on me. I have been influenced by the likes of Chopin, Debussy, Verdi, Liszt, Beethoven, Berg, Holst, and yes also to some extent Wagner.

Do you have any touring plans for 2006?
David -
We are sorting that out at the moment. Hopefully we will be able to announce something soon.

The internet is a very important source for many music fans - how do you use the internet and how important is it for you and other bands, and what's your opinion of Napster, file-sharing and so on?
David -
I cannot speak for other bands, but for me, and VIGIN STEELE, it has been both a help and a pain in the ass. It has helped enormously because we can do interviews like this one, and Fans can get instant access to what we have to say. It is a pain in the ass, when someone makes your music available to the World, when it is both unfinished and has not even been officially released yet. This is a drag. It is a double edge Sword...

Name an album, person or event that has had a huge influence on your life - and why?
David -
QUEEN II. I think it is just amazing compositionally and performance wise. I listen to the MARCH OF THE BLACK QUEEN, and I the fuck did they do that! Brilliant!!! It made me want to compose huge Epics and create an alternate Universe with sound. Songs like OGRE BATTLE, WHITE QUEEN and FATHER TO SON, are excellent examples of the genre. They are powerful, well crafted gems, filled with intricacy and true development, yet always accessible and never bogged down in technique for technique's sake. They are always melodic and from the heart. The performances are stellar, filled with power and precision far beyond those of mortal men! But even more amazing, is that behind all that is the brilliant creative "Mind" at work. This is the true Mastery, to be able to envision the ideas...and then...execute them. There would not be many Power Metal or Symphonic Power Metal Groups working today if not for this album. The other one for me was LED ZEPPELIN 1. I wanted to sing the way Jimmy Page played guitar. I wanted to become a Human Guitar, and I guess in some way I have. That album had power, glory, and mystic Viking attitude plus total sexual drive. It should be remembered that QUEEN'S Freddie Mercury was very passionate about the work of Jimmy Page, and the incredibly full sound that he achieved both live and on record. ZEPPELIN I, is full of raw power, hunger, virtuosity and Nordic fury. They managed to capture the true sound of a band in total heat. Plant's voice is the wailing of the north wind. It can plunder or seduce.  Bonham's drums are the implacable elemental forces of Nature, John Paul Jones's bass and organ are the sinews and life force webbing that enfolds and enables growth, and Page's guitar is the lightning from Zeus and the power of Odin. This was a sexual album as well as a mystical and warlike effort. Passion oozes from every groove. The arrangements were well thought out and a great sense of dynamics. Light and shade permeates the work. Also one of the greatest things about the album is the spontaneity. They did not spend 100 years recording it. They rehearsed a bit...discussed and then went for it full bore hardcore. And now today so many years later, it is still fresh and vital. In this day and age, many are still trying to achieve what they achieved in 30 hours of studio time. For me both albums and both those groups in general, crystallized what Metal should be in my mind.

If you want to kick back at home and relax, do you put on music, turn on the TV, read a book or?
David -
I might do all of those things, also drink Wine or have some Scotch...or make love, have sex...the usual...or all of the above at once.

I thank you very much for participating in this interview and sharing this information and your thoughts with us - these last lines are entirely for you. Any final words you would like to round off with?
David - I thank you for your questions and I thank your readers for their time. I wish you all the very best and I look forward to seeing you all again soon...Thanks for listening.

One last note...someone over here asked me about the Sword and why I set it on Fire, so OK...I will answer...well this is what the Sword means to me... I set it on fire and sing a vocal solo with it. The Sword is our symbol of sorts. It is the physical manifestation of the Music. We all take part (Group and Audience), in the healing of the crucified Earth with it. We are avenged; we are made new and whole again. I bring it out and it invokes a primal impulse from the audience that can be quite cathartic. It is part of the Ritual and Spiritual development of the performance. It is not a shtick. It has a presence and majesty to it. There is Magick in the Air... 

David DeFeis

Interviewed by Kenn Jensen

Virgin Steele - Vision of Eden

Album available on T & T Records.

For more info on Virgin Steele - click on the album cover.

Editor's note: Now I have listened to the final version of the album and it does sound better and more powerful, than the promo version. The guitar sound is still a bit laid back, but the overall sound is good. September 18th 2006.