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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews

Vicious Rumors

Interviewed by Mike Korn

Interview with Geoff Thorpe of Vicious Rumors from 2011

MSJ:

Razorback Killers is a pure metal album. It's very fiery and passionate. How does a band that's been around as long as Vicious Rumors keep that fire in the music?laying for blood!

You know, it's great, man...I love getting that question and I get it in almost every interview. People seem to be shocked that after thirty-three years of heavy metal we can still put out albums like this. I'll tell ya, it's a real simple answer, man...we love it! We love the music, we love the action and when the metal's in your blood like that, it's got to find a way out.  We're old school guys who've been around a long time and we're just doing this from real passion. We're one of the last bands of our kind, man. We want to keep it really powerful, really melodic and we're holding the flag high!
MSJ:

In such a long career, there are a lot of peaks and valleys. Was there ever a time when you seriously thought about hanging it up?

Well, of course, there's times when you feel like your back's up against the wall. You're trying everything you can but things aren't going the way you want it. That's just part of life, man. Nothing really good, nothing that you really want in life, comes easy. There's always something around the corner for us to keep it interesting. Those kind of thoughts cross my mind, to be honest. There are points in my career where I feel down, but for the most part, the glass is half full to me. We got such a great fanbase all around the world, there's no reason for me to stop, man. There's no reason for me not to keep going and build this thing as far as I can take it.
MSJ:

The early 90s were a very trying time for many true metal bands. I wondered if somewhere around 93 or 94, there might have been problems. Those were the only two years where I seriously wondered if metal might have a future.

Yes, those were hard years and on top of that in 1994 we lost Carl Albert. It was devastating...the music was changing, we lost an incredible brother, an incredible singer. Yeah, it was a tough time, but you know, that's when you find out what you're really made of. You've got to pick yourself up and believe in yourself, believe in the band and keep going further. I'm excited to be standing here today talking with you and very excited about the Razorback Killers album.
MSJ: Are the songs on Razorback Killers relatively new or have they been kicking around for a while?
They're all songs we've done since 2007. They're all new songs that were written for this record.
MSJ: You mentioned Carl Albert earlier. He had a one of a kind voice, but it seems you found somebody a lot like him with your new singer, Brian Allen. The minute I heard him, I could tell this was the guy for the job. What's the story on him?
He's been playing in some local bands up in Portland and he was in a Judas Priest tribute band. That's how we found out about him.  He hasn't had a lot of experience touring and recording on this level but he's got a lot of natural ability and we could see the potential in him right away. We started working with him pretty intensely, we did a show together with Death Angel to kind of try him out and that went really well. We kept working with him on the new record and everything fell into place. We made a great record together, we did a five-week tour and his voice held up really strong. The guy's got some great pipes. He's kind of an eccentric person and performer, so he brings some excitement to the show. We're just really excited to have him with us and to be working with SPV on the new record. I think it's going to be an exciting couple of years for Vicious Rumors.
MSJ: How did the deal with SPV come about?
I had worked with Ollie Hahn years ago on some other projects so I was very familiar with him. I knew he was a serious professional on the inside in Europe. SPV has also been a great long time label for metal. It came together pretty quickly. We went and recorded three songs off the album first and then shopped around for a deal. We got the deal, went back and recorded the entire album and that's how that went down. Ollie really liked it and that's what I was looking for. I wasn't looking for a lukewarm response from the label. I wanted somebody who would say, "Man, this is great! This is exciting, let's do this!" That's the kind of response I got from SPV so it was a real easy decision to go with them.
MSJ: They should get a lot more exposure for Vicious Rumors, especially here in the States.
Absolutely. They've got a division here in the United States. For the last four or five albums, we haven't had a U.S. deal. I've just been doing it myself. It's really great to be affiliated with a record company here in the U.S., it's very exciting. We're looking forward to getting back out in the USA, man, and tearing it up here in the States and letting all the metalheads know we're still here.
MSJ: Any sort of preliminary touring plans for over here?
The tour I've got going right now is a European tour. We've got a record release party on April 23rd in Santa Rosa, California and then we're going over to Europe on the 27th. We're playing the Keep It True Festival and doing a special tribute show for Carl Albert on April 29th. Then we tour all over Europe and end up at the Dokk'em Festival in the Netherlands on May 28. Between now and then, I will be continuing to work on US tours. We'll be going to Japan and possibly South America, so we certainly plan on doing an extensive amount of touring. So the ball is rolling...
MSJ: You guys played the Wacken Festival once upon a time. Was that the biggest crowd you ever played for?
I would say “yes.” That was the biggest audience we played for...very exciting.
MSJ: Europe seems more attuned to the Vicious Rumors true metal style. Do you agree with that? Do you think this kind of straight up metal has a chance to grab hold here like it has in Europe?
Well, I'd definitely agree with that. Trends come and go, they hit Europe also, but people there have a tendency to not completely switch gears. If some new style gets popular, they may like it but they still embrace what they used to like. Whereas a lot of people in America tend to get very trendy. As soon as something gets popular, they just jump all over it. To tell you the truth, I think it's a great time for bands like Vicious Rumors. If you look around right now, bands like Overkill, Death Angel, Testament, Vicious Rumors are putting out great records...old-school bands that have been around for years. I feel bad for new bands trying to get things going...it's so hard to get signed, things are so different now. But if you're an established band that's doing well and putting out great music, now is actually a pretty good time.
MSJ: I thought the last Overkill album was a career best.
I know what you mean! I feel Razorback Killers is one of our best records.
MSJ: Definitely! You know, there's a great old-school band that just released a killer album that I think would make a great touring partner for you...Helstar.
Absolutely! We actually have plans about doing some US touring with Helstar, Jag Panzer and Vicious Rumors! We know that would be successful in Europe, but we're trying to see if we could get some interest here in the US for that package.  That's like a real "kings of underground" type of package.
MSJ: Are you the mastermind of Vicious Rumors? How does the band's songwriting process work?
Well, I did write the majority of songs on Razorback Killers and throughout the history of Vicious Rumors, I guess I'm the main songwriter, the one thread that is consistent throughout the history of the band. One of the things I always try to do is surround myself with talented people, so I've got a bunch of really good, creative guys now. I'll bring a song to the studio and we'll all work on the arrangement and shape it together. Kyo also contributed a couple of parts on the album, I imagine if the line-up sticks together, we would gel together more as a songwriting team.  It's important for me to retain the sound of Vicious Rumors and that's kind of the reason I am that force in the songwriting.
MSJ: You've got some pretty interesting lyrics on the new album. The song "Deal With the Devil" seems to be about the evils of technology. Do you think technological convenience is killing the human spirit?
That's exactly what it's about. You hit the nail on the head. When groups of people are sitting around in a circle, from 20 or 30 feet away, it looks like they're talking to each other. You get a little closer, and find out they're texting somebody else. But it's all good. It's a double-edged sword. There's no way to move forward without technology. That's just one perspective, my friend.
MSJ: But this texting garbage has changed the concert-going experience. When people went to see shows in the 70s and 80s, they went to see the band. Now some people don't even look up from their phone. What did you pay for your ticket for?
I know what you mean, man. It's funny, because every now and then, I'll even catch myself doing that sort of thing. Oh my God...
MSJ: Could "Deal With The Devil" almost be considered a sequel to your album Digital Dictator?
I do revisit some of these concepts throughout the years. I would say that's a very logical follow-up. That's the Vicious Rumors, style, absolutely.
MSJ:

I was also interested in the song "Pearl of Wisdom.” What exactly was that tune about?

I've been very lucky in my life. I found out very early on what I wanted to do and the direction I wanted to take my life. I've been on that path my whole life. I feel so lucky to have had this incredible long career with Vicious Rumors. I've been living my dream the whole time. Sure, we didn't make it as big as Aerosmith, but we've been very successful for thirty-three years. I consider myself fortunate to have found that early in life. I see so many people that are going through life not so sure about what they want to do, constantly searching for something, not having a passion. The "Pearl of Wisdom" is about finding that path, finding that pearl for you. That thing in life that gives you purpose, that gives you your drive. Sometimes it can be right in front of you and you don't even notice it.
MSJ: Thirty-three years is a hell of a career. Even Led Zeppelin's career lasted just twelve years. That really puts perspective on it, right there!
You know, the one that kills me, that I use a lot, is Jimi Hendrix's solo career. From beginning to end, it was four years. Four years, man, and he'll be immortalized forever, the way he changed electric guitar with what he did. Four years is such a short amount of time. I been doing this for thirty-three years and I feel I still have so much more to do - so much more great music to make. I feel so blessed and so lucky to have had this long run.
MSJ: That comes out in your music. There are many young prodigies who would be lucky to have as much fire as you put in your guitar work.
Thank you very much.
MSJ: Are there any musicians you'd like to collaborate with that you haven't had a chance to so far?
Whoa, that's a very interesting question. You know, I always wanted to do something with Jimmy Page. I know that's quite a long shot. He was somebody I always admired, the way he worked in the studio. If I could ever get him to produce a song with Vicious Rumors, I would be so blown away. I'm really old school, so guys like Tony Iommi or Neal Schon would be incredible. Even David Gilmour, I'd like to do a really atmospheric Vicious Rumors song with David Gilmour as guest. That would be amazing.
MSJ: Have you ever considered doing a project outside of Vicious Rumors or maybe even a solo album?
Actually, I have been kicking around the solo album idea for a while. You know, I put so much into Vicious Rumors, those albums are almost like solo albums. I have thought about doing it. I'm open to doing other projects but I get very focused in what I'm doing, keeping the band rolling and keeping my personal life rolling. But I'm certainly open to those things and I look forward to those opportunities.
MSJ: What was the last CD or album you picked up just because you wanted to hear the band?
I think it was that last Heaven And Hell CD.
MSJ: Isn't it amazing that they could still put out a record like that? It's pretty melancholy listening to Dio's vocals on that album.
I was so glad I got to see him with Heaven and Hell on the last tour with Judas Priest and Motorhead. He was such a gentleman.
MSJ: That  guy's musical career got started in 1958.
I know. It's amazing. I actually got a little upset the other night. I was watching the Grammys and they were doing a memorial, they were showing all the famous musicians that we lost last year. When they showed Dio's picture, they also showed the guy from The Knack, who died too. They played "My Sharona" while they were showing Dio's picture and I was like, “what?”
MSJ: I wouldn't expect anything less from the Grammys.
I know, I know, but it just rubbed me the wrong way. I'm aware that Dio's been a recording artist since the 50's. All the music this man has done and the contributions he's made and then this guy from The Knack...they had one song, "My Sharona!” Or maybe I'm just unaware of The Knack's popularity.
MSJ: I give them at least a little credit for showing his picture. On a mainstream news show, I don't expect to see his picture. But on the Grammys. there should be something. Now, what was the last band you saw just because you wanted to see them in concert?
I went to see Slayer, Megadeth and Testament. The main reason I went is, I'm close friends with the guys in Testament.. I went to see them at a big arena putting on a f***in' monster performance and they totally kicked ass. And I was also totally blown away by Megadeth, too.
MSJ: In the thirty-three years of Vicious Rumors, is there any kind of Spinal Tap moment that comes to your mind that you'd like to share with the readers?
Only like the first thirty-two years! (laughs) God, there's so many. That's why every band cracks up at that movie. It's a spoof but it's so true. It's just a crazy business, rock n' roll. It's not like any other business. If you're in the mindset that you need a perfect business environment, then heavy metal rock n' roll is not for you!
MSJ: A lot of bands will tell me they got lost on the way to the stage, just like in the movie! Any last words for the faithful out there?
I'd just like to let all your people know, man, that Vicious Rumors is playing for blood. If you've ever been to one of our shows, you know we're not just going through the motions. We're one of the last bands of our kind so I hope the fans will come out and support the new record, support the band live. Pretty soon, the Scorpions and Judas Priest are saying goodbye, but you still got Vicious Rumors, everybody, and we're gonna kick a** until there's no tomorrow. The Wrecking Ball is back and we're playing for blood!
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2011  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.
 
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