So allegedly the second Piledriver album was written by you and Edward Pursino, recorded by a band that was essentially Virgin Steele and eventually Gord ”Piledriver” Kirchin recorded the vocals.
- Some of that is correct. Yes, Edward and I wrote that whole record. I don’t think I ever hid that fact. That is not Virgin Steele playing. That is Edward on guitar, but the rhythm section is two friends of mine, Mike Paccione on bass and Robert Espizito on drums. We did that record in two days. I don’t know how long it took to write those songs, but it wasn’t very long. We sat in front of an old washing machine and wrote that record, Edward and I.
Why were you even doing an album like this?
- We were asked to do it. Our manager at the time was like “you guys owe me money, you have to do this for me”. It was one of those deals. It was creative and any chance I get to be creative, I take it, regardless of what the principle behind it may be sometimes. So yeah, we wrote the songs and then we were in the studio two days and flew this guy Gordon in from Canada to do the vocals. He was also working on some project called Convict. We picked him up at JFK airport, he did all the vocals in a couple of hours and we drove him back to JFK later that night. There was no budget or anything. Then we mixed the album the next day and that’s what it is. I guess it was inspired by … I was trying to get into the head of early Black Sabbath, just something completely thrashy and underground sounding.
It sounds like it was a very cost effective recording.
- It was very cost effective. It probably cost less than the first Virgin Steele album, which didn’t cost anything.
So this was done to pay a debt to your manager and you never got paid for writing and recording this?
- No. Some think we wanted to be Virgin Steele under a different name and it was a way to get rich quick. No, it was not like that at all. It was just a way to get people off our backs. “Leave me alone, I’ll give you this, go ahead and make money on it”. I never saw a dime from that.
Well I didn’t exactly think you became rich quick, more like maybe you were paid a half decent salary to quickly write and record an album.
- No, absolutely not. I thought some of those ideas were actually good enough to revisit later on. For example ”The Fire God”. We rewrote that later on and put it on ”The House of Atreus act I”.
Everybody thought Piledriver was a real band, what are your thoughts on that?
- It was a real band for a brief shining moment. The rhythm section was actually in a band together and they are still playing together.
Did you know Gord Kirchin has reformed Piledriver and is performing those old songs?
- I have heard. Good luck to him, enjoy. Why not. He was a great a guy I always got good along with. A real fun Canadian guy.
You must have had a field day writing those Piledriver lyrics?
- I had a great time, yeah. A lot of fun (laughs).
Did you sing any backing vocals on the album?
- Yeah, I did all the backround singing on that with Edward and Gordon. I think the three of us did the ”march!” part of ”Lord of Abominations”, that kind of thing. Oh, and I am doing the spoken narration on ”The Warning”.
So what about Original Sin’s album ”Sin Will Find Yout Out”?
- More of the same, well exactly the same. It was the same reasons why we did it. It was like ”you owe me money”. We did all these albums basically around the same time. This one was going to be female fronted so I got my sister on vocals. She had a fun time singing all those crazy lyrics. The music on that record was recorded in one day and then she came in, either the same day or the day after, did the vocals and then we mixed it. That was like two and a half days’ worth of work, but in a better studio. We were doing the vocals the night the Challenger shuttle blew up. That’s what I remember from those sessions, watching that on the news.
So it’s the same instrumentalists as on the Piledriver record?
- No, it’s not. It’s Edward on guitar, but it’s actually a guy named Mark Edwards as drummer. He is a friend of mine. The bass player was actually Joe O’Reilly from Virgin Steele.
So what’s your sister’s name?
- Danae. She sounds great on the record. She was in a rock band and sang Robert Plant, Black Sabbath, well everything under the sun really. She has a very versatile voice. She is still singing. There will probably be a reissue of the Original Sin album. We have recorded a bonus track called “Vikings” which will be on that.
Shame your first real musical collaboration had to be under pseudonyms, right?
- Crazy things happen you know. Whatever it is, I’m always up for a creative challenge.
So the Original Sin tracks ”Conjuration of the Watcher” and ”Succubus” were rerecorded by Virgin Steele on ”The Book of Burning”.
- Yeah, again we thought they were cool songs that if they were done by Virgin Steele people would enjoy them. I sat down by the piano and came up with that crazy middle section we put in ”Conjuration of the Watcher”, we recorded it and it turned out really well. I think we actually did that and Piledriver’s ”The Fire God” on the same day although they appear on different records.
There have been a lot of rumors about the Original Sin album and one theory is actually that the vocals were sung by you and some effect was put on your voice to make it sound female.
- (Laughs) I don’t know of any such effect that can make me sound female other than my own voice. Some actually thought that it was my other sister Doreen. She is an opera singer and lives in Europe. I did not sing on the Original Sin album other than background barking. It’s all my sister Danae. We have similar voices though.
OK, next album up is Exorcist with ”Nightmare Theatre”. Similar story again I guess?
- Similar story. Exorcist was actually supposed to be a real project, a real band, but yes it was one of those things with ”do this for me and I’ll forget your debt”. This all happened at the same time. This album was actually the second one, Original Sin was the third. We really took Exorcist more seriously than Piledriver. I got really, really into writing those songs with Edward. We really tried to come up with some interesting stuff and I wish we had just said ”fuck it, let’s do this as another Virgin Steele album” because it had a lot of really, really good things on it. Which again could be revisited further down the road, and might be. We talk about it all the time, so it might be the next thing we do.
So in what sense was Exorcist supposed to be more of a real band than Piledriver and Original Sin?
- It was one of those things where the band kind of fell apart during the recording. So I had to gather my guns and get something together in three days again. But originally it was actually going to be a real thing that was going to get out there and play. It disintegrated like immediately.
Were you and Edward Pursino going to write the whole record for this band even before it disintegrated?
- We wrote all the material, yeah.
So why did the musicians bail out?
- The guy that was supposed to sing on the whole thing was actually the bass player on the Piledriver album. The day before going to the studio he decided he just couldn’t sing those lyrics. He thought they were too satanic or whatever, which they weren’t, it wasn’t anything he thought it was. He kind of freaked out and had like a mental breakdown over it and said he wouldn’t do it. That was like the major thing. So Edward played guitar and the drummer was Mark Edwards, the same guy as on the Original Sin album. The bass player was supposed to be the guy that played on the Piledriver album but again he thought it was too satanic for him, although it wasn’t satanic. He was supposed to have done both bass guitar and vocals.
Were Edward Pursino and Mark Edwards replacements or were they originally supposed to play on the record?
- They were going to play together and do some things and whatever and they actually have. I have put this thing together called Carnival of Souls. That’s kind of what Exorcist was in a way, or would have been. Mark and I have been friends a long time. He did those two records for me and then I got him the gig playing at Jack Starr’s ”No Turning Back” album which I produced. So he did three records in a matter of like a month or two. I had known him a while and we always wanted to do something together. We do occasionally play together as Carnival of Souls and Edward is part of that as well.
So who played bass on the record?
- The bass was a combination of myself, Edward and Joe O’Reilly from Virgin Steele.
So I gather the vocals are yours?
- Aaah … I have never admitted to that. The vocals, truth to be told, yeah I had to do it. I was at a point of “who’s gonna do it, who knows the songs?”. I had rehearsed them. We rehearsed well for that record. I had a big bat that I would bang against a metal pole in the rehearsals. I got them all in time and in shape. I had to of course disguise myself in some fashion so I used some bizarre method of doing the vocals. I had a beer can in front of my face and mouth the entire time I was doing the vocals. I was trying to be a cross between Lemmy, Cronos and, I don’t know, a pirate or something. That was the inspiration.
You probably succeeded. I don’t think it’s possible to tell that it’s your voice.
- Some people swear that they can hear it’s me. I have never admitted to that, this is the first time I have said that.
So ”Call For the Exorcist” on this album also appeared later slightly rewritten and recorded by Virgin Steele?
- Yeah, as ”The Fire of Ecstasy”. We put the Exorcist record on and felt there was some really great shit on there, some great moments we really ought to revisit. I think it turned out rather well. I would really like to revisit a lot of that record in that way and rewrite it. I would actually like to put out the original record like it is but as a bonus cd have it reworked to show what it could have been. Like, this is what we could have made after ”Noble Savage”, between that and ”Age of Consent” if we hadn’t been pressured by the ”you owe me money” guy. ”Age of Consent” could have been really different if we had used all those bits and pieces we came up with. I actually enjoy the Exorcist record a lot. By the time we came to Original Sin those were some of the leftover ideas that wasn’t probably as creative or as good, but they has its good moments. In Carnival Souls we still do Exorcist’s ”Queen of the Dead” when we perform live.
Why did you feel you had to disguise your voice?
- That was the manager. He was like ”you can’t be involved with an accessory”. I had to call myself ”The lion” as the producer. He wanted me to set me apart from the whole thing. So yeah, I could have just song those songs like I normally sing and it would have been cool but I guess at the time it was written he wanted something that was really underground. I have been told by black metal musicians that record was kind of inspirational for them, which is nice. I enjoyed doing it and got really into the character. As long as it takes to hear the vocals that’s how long it took to do them, basically.
When did the bubble sort of burst about these records and people realized they weren’t done by proper bands?
- I don’t know exactly. There actually was a photo shoot for Exorcist. There are some interesting photos around but with nobody that actually played on the record. Actually one of them played on it. He’s in a hooded cloak. It was all our old manager’s idea. He knew best and this was how it was going to be. We pretty much just did the record and then just forgot about it from any kind of business standpoint. I didn’t get any money so I just dug the record from a musical standpoint and went back to it from time to time.
Were you involved in any other kind of projects like these?
- Not quite that secretive. There was a thing with Mark Edwards, the drummer, he had a band called Fox and I produced a really good sounding demo. He went out to L.A. and his band basically blew up and he also lost his girlfriend. The only thing I was involved with that made some noise was Damien Thorne, and I just mixed that record. They flew in from Chicago and we mixed it at my house. That record came out really good.
There are other records from phony bands on Cobra Records, do you know for example who recorded the album by Lords of the Crimson Alliance?
- I don’t know that one. I know Jack Starr had done a thing called Phantom Lord but I don’t know if that was on the same label. Convict I think was a drum machine, one other guy and then Gordon from Piledriver. You know, it was organic, all those records. It was a band for a time. I did rehearse them. We did get together and we did the material. So for a brief shining moment they did exist as bands. I don’t regret doing them, I’m happy that we did. I would have liked to make some money from them, but that’s always possible in the future if we put them out again. I own all the masters. I wouldn’t put the Piledriver out though, that’s Gordon, whatever he wants to do with it, just go for it.