Starr, Jack (April 2003)

Starr's Trek - An Interview With Jack Starr

Jack Starr (© Metal Mayhem) 20 years of epic stories and great music, that's what Virgin Steele offered to the metal kids spread all around the world. Well, we were able to do a friendly talk with ex-guitarist and founder of the band, Jack Starr, obviously chatting also about the re-issues of the first two Steele albums, something that has stirred a bitter debate between Jack and actual VS leader, David DeFeis. Start your engines, sirs, here we go...

Igor Italiani: Hi Jack. First of all, you told me in your first e-mail that you visited Italy back in 1980. Did you like it and are you planning on visit some more in the future?

Jack Starr: Yes, it's true! I had the pleasure of visiting Italy in 1980 and I loved it! This happened because my parents lived in France, in the town of Nice, and while I was there my father once said: "Let's go have lunch in Italy!" So we got in the car and we went to Verona, which I had heard of from the play Romeo And Juliet. Well, let me say that I was amazed at how beautiful Italy is, and how good the food is and, of course, how warm the people are! Later my father and mother moved to Milan and of course that was a beautiful city as well. You know, I would really love to visit all of Italy, especially Rome and Venice, and I hope to come there and play soon.

II: OK, let's go to music, now. Can you tell the audience what you have been through after your departure from Virgin Steele back in the eighties? The majority of metal fans lost sight of you! What are your next projects, too.

Jack Starr - Out Of The DarknessJS: After the demise of Virgin Steele I made a lot of solo records and I had a band called Burning Starr. The first record I did in 1984 was with Rhett Forester, who was also the singer in Riot. The album we did was called Out Of The Darkness and it was released on Music For Nations. This did quite well and after that I started Burning Starr. We were much more popular in the States than in Europe; in fact, in 1987 Burning Starr did a tour of the US, because a song from the No Turning Back album, Jack Starr's Burning Starr - No Turning Backcalled "Fire And Rain", was a hit in 16 American cities. Unfortunately the band called it quits in 1990. The music had changed a lot. It was the age of Nirvana and we were not appreciated any longer, because sadly in America, the music fans are very trendy. They can like and forget about you very quickly. After that, in 1992, I started a band called Smokestack Lightening and I got my old singer Dave DeFeis on vocals. But the real surprise was that we got the bass player from Foghat, an American band that had sold over 20 million records ... I was honoured that Craig MacGregor would be in a band with me and the band was quite good. We rehearsed for a year and did 4 shows, but we never succeeded in getting a record deal and eventually we broke up. All that remains are some excellent live tapes that I hope will be released one day. After 1993 I did very little, except play blues and write songs, until 1997, when I met up with my old band-mate Dave DeFeis and told him I had some metal songs that I would like to record, and would he would like to sing on them. The songs were what Dave refers to as the Sacred demos. "Rain Of fire," "The Chosen Ones," "Final Days" and "Hellfire Woman" were the 4 songs that I wrote and they are on the Noise release Book Of Burning that is coming out soon. From 1997 until now I have been playing metal again, and I have a new band. Yeah, I am ready to kick ass once more!

II: Considering that you began your music career in the glorious (for metal) eighties, can you compare the metal scene of the past to the one of today?

JS: I think that the music scene today is getting better, especially in Europe, where good musicianship is appreciated. I like a lot of the new bands that are out now. In America the kids like rap music, boy bands and girl singers like Britney Spears, etc. Of course I find this somewhat sad, but we have a saying that states: "What goes around, comes around," so maybe good music will come back in America soon.

II: Can you recall how Virgin Steele was founded and when David came aboard? I read that he gave an outstanding rendition of Deep Purple's "Child In Time" when he tried-out for the band?

JS: It is true that I asked Dave to sing "Child In Time" (by Deep Purple), and he did a great job on that song! I was very impressed because at the end of that song there are some very high screams and Dave was able to duplicate them. Also, it may sound foolish, but he looked like a lead singer and I thought: "This is good, he looks and sounds like a lead singer." The other people we listened [to] had one but not the other, instead David had both, so we were happy to find him.

II: Going deep in the Virgin Steele re-issues ... when they will be released to the public?

Virgin Steele - Virgin SteeleJS: The Virgin Steele reissues will be released to the public in January on Metal Mayhem Records. This is a new metal label in America! Well, I want to say something very clear to everyone: these 2 releases are of the highest quality possible and they will have tons of pictures, lyrics, bonus tracks and great sound quality ... and most important they are the real recordings by the real artists! These are not re-recordings by new musicians. This is the real deal, the real Steele. Virgin Steele I and Virgin Steele 2: Guardians Of The Flame. These are 2 records that had enormous impact on heavy metal and I'm proud that Metal Mayhem is releasing them the way that they were, and that they had the courage to do this, because there was a lot of difficulty, and lawyers, and problems, and people who tried to stop us; but we WON! And now these records will be released finally on CD after almost 20 years, and no power on Earth can prevent this!!!

II: But it's still unclear what recordings will be re-mastered ... [the quality of the] voices ranged from the vinyl copies of the albums to test pressings. Can you share more light into this?

JS: The quality of these records is great. They were made from the original masters and they were then remastered. On a couple of the songs on the first album we used test pressings because the masters I had were so old that they broke apart on the tape machine! Some of the other tapes we had to bake them in a convection oven so that the tape would hold together. We spent a lot of money and a lot of time, but we wanted to create the best possible product. I worked very closely with the owner of Metal Mayhem records and I supervised every detail of these 2 releases.

II: But why have you kept your mouth shut about the controversy regarding Virgin Steele's first two albums and only now have decided to speak about it?

JS: The truth is, I'm speaking out now because I had a bad experience with Dave. When Sharon, my lovely fiancè, and I met Dave to discuss the reissues of the VS records, Dave did not want to share the money evenly with me and the other members of the band, and he kept looking at Sharon in a disrespectful way. When I said I would not accept his terms, he threw a temper tantrum like a spoiled child who did not get his way. He got up from the table and said "fuck you" to me and Sharon, and then he also ran out and did not pay his bill for food and drinks. The owner of the restaurant ran out after him, but Dave was too quick and ran off like a thief. It was then that I realized what a morally bad person he is, and I decided to finally speak the truth and not trust him any longer.

II: OK, Jack. Now I'll pose you some questions I also asked to David, so everyone will see both sides of the story. OK? Why did you part ways with David after the Guardians Of The Flame record?

JS: Dave was jealous of my fame and the fact that I was the most recognizable person in the band, and when I went off to do a solo album Dave convinced the other band members that I was going to quit the band and leave them behind, and that would be the end of their careers. So he asked me to leave before I could replace him as a singer. The truth is I was not going to replace him, because I am a loyal person and Dave is not.

II: Can you give me your take on the Sacred demos?

JS: The Sacred demos is what I call the reunion of Steele. They are 4 great songs which I wrote and completed before Dave ever heard them and they came out great in the studio. I believe they are superior to anything that Dave and the band he calls Virgin Steele have ever done. "The Chosen Ones" is a masterpiece which deals with a subject matter that has never been written about in heavy metal, and "Rain Of Fire" is one of the most breathtaking examples of epic metal, and I welcome all the readers of this [interview] and all metal fans to listen to my version which will be out soon on Metal Mayhem, and listen to the Dave version on Noise and let them decide! I know that perhaps it sounds conceited to say this, but I don't think the version that Dave re-recorded can be compared to the original from 1997.

II: The Sacred demos were part of the reunion you had with David DeFeis in 1997. Do you consider it an official Virgin Steele reunion or not? Why did this project fail?

JS: The Sacred demos were as close to a Virgin Steele reunion as we'll ever see in this lifetime. They did not fail, they just never came out. I was told by Dave that he would play these tapes for labels and he never did. He lied, so now I have gone to labels myself and I got a deal and it will come out, and when it does I am sure it will do quite nicely.

II: Can you give me three positive and three negative traits of David DeFeis?

JS: Three positive things about Dave are that he is well organized, he has good work habits, and he has a nice girlfriend named Lisa. And now for the bad stuff, Dave is a GAVONE [!?! - II]! I think this is an Italian word for someone who does not pay his bill at a restaurant, he is not above taking credit for other people's work if it will make him look good, and when people in his band complain that they have no money to live and they ask to be treated fairly he fires them and replaces them. This is not good.

II: Before the end, Jack, I read on one of your e-mails that the first vocalist of Anthrax, Neil Turbin, is a friend of yours. Will you be part of the new record he is releasing or not? Will you collaborate with him in the future?

JS: Neil Turbin is a great guy and a great singer. I have known him for quite some time and I am happy that he has signed to the same label as me (Metal Mayhem). I also hope that we can collaborate on some music in the near future. I am also happy that Metal Mayhem has just signed John Corabi, the former singer of Motley Crüe. I will probably play on his album on a couple of songs, as will another good friend of mine, guitarist Joe Stump.

II: OK. Jack. I think that's enough. There is something else you would like to say to the metal fans spread all over the world?

JS: I would like to end by saying to the Italian metal-heads that I hope this nonsense with Dave will soon be finished, and from now on I can only talk about the present and the future and not on the past. I am back playing metal and I love music. I am grateful to all the fans who have stayed loyal to me and have given me the strength to come back, we are all "keepers of the gate and masters of our fate," so let's stay strong and stay heavy. Jack Starr.

Igor interviewed David DeFeis in February 2002

Virgin Steele - Virgin Steele (1982)
Virgin Steele - Guardians Of The Flame (1983)
Virgin Steele - A Cry In The Night (ep) (1983)
Jack Starr - Out Of Darkness (1984) (w/Rhett Forester)
Devil Childe - Devil Childe (1984)
Jack Starr's Burning Starr - Rock The American Way (1985)
Phantom Lord - Phantom Lord (1985)
Phantom Lord - Evil Never Sleep (1985)
Jack Starr's Burning Starr - No Turning Back (1986)
Jack Starr's Burning Starr - Blaze Of Glory (1987)
Jack Starr's Burning Starr - Orange Album (1988)
Strider - Strider (1989)
Jack Starr - A Minor Disturbance (1990)
Before The Steele: Roots Of A Metal Master (LP only) (2001)
Jack Starr's Guardians Of The Flame - Under A Savage Sky (2003)
Jack Starr's Burning Starr - Defiance (2009)
Jack Starr - Swimming In Dirty Water (2010)
Jack Starr's Burning Starr - Land Of The Dead (2011)

Added: April 23rd 2003
Interviewer: Igor Italiani

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Language: english

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