DAVE STARR – Original VICIOUS RUMORS Bassist Still Soldiering On 30 Years Later
December 2, 2015, 2 years ago
These days, original Vicious Rumors bassist Dave Starr plays all the guitars and bass on CD's with WildeStarr along with his singer and wife London Wilde. While finishing up the new WildeStarr album Beyond The Rain, Dave took some time out to go back to 1985 and talk about the 30th anniversary of the Vicious Rumors debut album Soldiers Of The Night.
BraveWords: Is it hard for you to believe it’s been 30 years since the VR Soldiers album was released?
Starr: "Yes and no. It seems like yesterday in some ways because I have so many vivid memories of that time, but I'm 54 now so it was obviously a long time ago. The world has changed a lot since then, and my life has changed as well."
BraveWords: What was the recording process like for you, and what kind of gear did you use?
Starr: "I think we recorded the album that summer of 1985, it was at Prairie Sun Studio in Cotati California. I used my 1984 Gibson Explorer bass on all the tracks. The bass sounds pretty good, especially since it’s a 32 inch medium scale neck. I used a GK 400RB amp with GK 4x10" and 1x15" cabs, and went direct as well, so I used two tracks. I did this on all the VR albums, one track is the direct signal and the other track is a microphone on one of the speakers. This way you can blend the two signals, the mic is warmer and the direct has more of a crisp edge to it. I sat in the control room when I tracked, that’s the way I always did it. I was pretty well rehearsed on the songs, so I probably did very few (if any) punch ins. We played LIVE and concentrated on getting Larry Howe's drums perfect to begin with, then building up from there with the other instruments. Mike Varney had a pretty rigid deal back then for all the Shrapnel Records bands. We had only 100 hours to do everything in the studio, so we had to have our shit together and not waste any time. We were well prepared, so it was not really a big deal for us."
BraveWords: How did Vinnie Moore get involved?
Starr: "This was Mike Varney's idea, he wanted to sign Vinnie and we needed a 2nd guitar player. It was really a thrown together type of situation that we just rolled with. Mike was well known for discovering hot guitar talent, so we figured if he thought this was a good idea, let’s do it."
BraveWords: How did things work out with Vinnie?
Starr: "It’s all water under the bridge now, but there were lots of problems. He was young, I think 18 or 19 at the time. Away from home, away from his girlfriend, thrown together with guys he did not know at all. He was not happy with us, or the band, the music, the whole situation. I don't think he respected Geoff very much as a guitarist, which IMO was ridiculous. He actually wanted to quit the recording and go back home to Delaware, but Mike Varney convinced him to stick it out and finish the record. Once we finished the album and did the band photos, he flew back home right away and we never saw him again."
BraveWords: Did this cause any bad blood?
Starr: "At the time, yes. He said some bad things about us in the press after he quit and basically said the album was shit. It’s all good now, but at the time we felt like he was very immature and arrogant.... and he was. I'm sure he would agree with that today. The bottom line for us was that his playing on the album was a big boost for VR, so we did not really care about any bad things he said afterwards. If we had to do it over again, we would have done things the same way. He went on to bigger and better things after he left, and so did we."
BraveWords: Do you have any favorite songs on the album?
Starr: "Hard to pick a favorite, all of them are cool. I love "Domestic Bliss", it has such a haunting vibe to it, very dark. "March or Die" is a great one, I co-wrote "Ride" and "Blitz The World". "Ride", was a song I co-wrote with a friend of mine named Rik Richards. Gary changed some of the lyrics at the last minute without checking with me, I was very pissed off about that. "Blitz the World" was a tune that Geoff Thorpe had already written, but the verse parts needed some help and I came up with a few changes that made the song much better."
BraveWords: Many fans and critics say that Soldiers Of The Night was somewhat of a landmark for the USA power metal movement. What’s your opinion?
Starr: "The album got great reviews all over the world, and seemed to strike a nerve with lots of people. Even 30 years later, it’s still selling and some VR fans say it’s their favorite VR album."
BraveWords: Singer Gary St. Pierre only sang on this one VR album and left less than a year after its release. What happened with him?
Starr: "Gary had some issues that were really messing up his personal life, and role in the band. We tried to work with him and help him, but nothing was getting done, things were getting worse. We had to make a change. Geoff and I had some rather heated discussions about this. He thought it would be a disaster to lose both Vinnie and Gary after only one album. I basically took the bull by the horns and put my foot down. I went out and found Carl Albert and Mark McGee, and brought them into the band. This was the definitive VR lineup. I'm very proud of being the one to make this happen."
BraveWords: Do you still stay in touch with Gary?
Starr: "I have not seen Gary in 25 years or so. He came to a VR show in ‘90 or ‘91, and he got up and did a few songs with us. That was cool and a bit nutty at the same time. We emailed each other about 10 years ago, and that was the last I heard from him. I have no idea what he's up to these days. I still have fond memories of working with him, we made some great music together. I often think of him as the "Paul Di'Anno" of VR. Iron Maiden went on to great success with Bruce Dickinson, but lots of fans still love the raw early stuff that Paul sang on. I think overall Gary did a good job on the Soldiers Of The Night album, yes we did get a great new singer in Carl Albert, but Gary contributed a serious element and vibe to that record that still stands 30 years later."
BraveWords: What are your thoughts today when you listen to that CD?
Starr: "A flood of emotions. It was a great time, we were all young, making our first album, and it was very exciting to say the least. It’s still a very powerful album that holds up today. Having said that, the production could have been better but we were on a very tight budget, but it still kicks ass. To be honest, I don't listen to the CD's I made with VR very often, or with any band from my past. I just concentrate on the new music I write with WildeStarr. If you live in the past, you die in the past. I read interviews with lots of actors who say they hardly ever watch the movies they have made, so I guess as an artist it’s not that unusual."
BraveWords: Was there ever discussion of a reunion of the Soldiers Of The Night lineup?
Starr: "Not really. Vinnie would never do it, he has his own career with UFO and as a solo artist. I have no idea if Gary would or could do it, and I don't really have much interest in it. Maybe if Vinnie and Gary did it, I would consider it. I would not be interested in a partial reunion with only two or three guys from the album, I don't see the point. Actually, when Larry and I came back to VR for the 2006 WARBALL CD, Larry, Geoff and I played on the track "Cross Threaded", this was just the three of us (Geoff played all the guitars and sang).... so that one song was really a reunion of sorts of the original core VR members. It’s one thing to do an interview talking about an album you made 30 years ago, but it’s a whole different situation trying to get five guys together who have gone on to other things in their lives and music careers. I'm making the best music of my career now with WildeStarr, with our 3rd album coming out in 2016....so if I was ever to take a step back in time for nostalgic purposes, things would have to be done right and for the right reasons. I have never been happier in my life both personally and professionally then I am right now."
BraveWords: Any last thoughts?
Starr: "VR was a great band, and I'm really proud to have been a part of it. It’s cool after all these years that people tell me they still listen to VR. When we were making all those great records years ago, I don't think any of us thought what kind of an impact we would have years in the future. We were just struggling musicians living day to day, trying to make our dreams come true."
Check out Starr’s latest venture WildeStarr at Wildestarr.com.