Sometimes an opportunity occurs to do an interview with someone, who has been a big influence in the rock and (heavy) metal scene of today. Dave Starr of LAAZ ROCKIT, CHASTAIN and VICIOUS RUMORS is a such great example. After playing in the aforementioned bands, it was time to spread his wings and start a band of his own. He teamed up with London Wilde, a very talented female vocalist, who really astonished me when hearing her for the very first time on their debut album “Arrival”. Their band is called WILDE STARR (got it?) and besides telling us everything we need to know about this new outfit, we also took the chance to ask a few questions about Dave’s days with LAAZ ROCKIT, CHASTAIN and VICIOUS RUMORS. OK, enough said. Let’s make room, because WILDE STARR has arrived and they gladly like to introduce themselves to you....
How did you both meet up and who decided the musical direction of WILDESTARR?
Dave: “London and I go back over twenty-two years, to my original time with VICIOUS RUMORS. She came to our shows and her boyfriend introduced us. I had an instant attraction to her. I even remember what she was wearing that night! As far as WILDESTARR goes, we started to exchange song ideas seven or eight years ago and things just snow balled into a full on musical partnership. We both have similar influences and ideas and wanted to make music together.”
London: “At the tail end of the session work I was recording for Dave’s bass tracks on the CHASTAIN album “In An Outrage”, Dave started showing me some of his song ideas. He was talking about putting together a band and wanted me to play keyboards for him. I hadn’t really been singing for a while, but something about the music inspired me to ask if I could be the singer. We recorded guitar for six of Dave’s rough songs ideas. Dave asked me to pick one I liked and add vocals to it. That first song was “The Chain”, which is the last track on the “Arrival” album.”
We all know about Dave’s impressive career moves so far, but maybe you can update us a little about London’s musical steps before joining WILDESTARR?
London: “I have mostly been a studio musician and recording engineer. I have contributed song writing, vocals and keyboards to various projects over the last fifteen years. I remember Dave came to my studio right after he left VICIOUS RUMORS in 1995 to do some work on his solo efforts. I always wanted to front an awesome metal band and just didn’t think it was ever going to happen. I am very pleased with the way things have turned out!”
If I want to cut corners and go short, then I would state that WILDESTARR sounds like EVANESCENCE mixed with VICIOUS RUMORS. How would you describe your music yourselves?
London: “I hear VICIOUS RUMORS in our music, as well as JUDAS PRIEST, QUEENSRYCHE and modern symphonic metal elements as well.”
How do you deal with negative reviews in general? Do you try to take learning out of them or do you rather like to forget about it as quickly as possible?
Dave: “I read all the reviews good and bad, but I don't let the negative stuff bother me, especially since there is so little of it. If nine out of every ten people tell you, that you are doing a great job... That’s good enough for me. People are entitled to their opinions and I am OK with that.”
London: “A lot of the bands that we love have had negative reviews; I don’t think there is any record that doesn’t have at least one. Most of the reviews have been positive, the negative are in the minority. They are subjective and you could drive yourself crazy if you tried to take lessons out of them, since every opinion is different. For example, reviewers, who admitted they disliked ballads said our ballad “Nevermore” was the worst song on the record. Other reviewers, who like ballads said it was the best song on the record. The only critic I want to please is myself. You have to express the artist inside you and let the chips fall as they may!”
Are you satisfied with the debut album, or what would you like to change, if you still had the opportunity?
Dave: “Looking back, there are a few minor things I would have changed. No album is perfect. Overall though, I'd say I am 99% pleased with the way it turned out. I think, it’s the best album I have ever been a part of and I have made lots of great records.”
London: “I love the record we made. No, I wouldn’t change anything on “Arrival”. I think, it has its charm and special magic, even if it isn’t perfect. The sound is unique and represents the best we could do at the time. Anything we learned from it will manifest in the next album and so forth. If someone told me that “Arrival” was the last album I could make before I died, I would die happy. I don’t like to go backward, only forward.”
Wasn’t it difficult for Dave to switch from bass to lead guitar?
Dave: “It all started with getting 100% clean and sober, I did that in 2005. After that, I was able to move forward. It was an insane amount of work playing all the guitars and bass on this CD. It took lots of practice and determination on my part to be able to pull this off and play with conviction, but I did it. I needed to play at a very high level and I think I did just that. And, I played every note of the guitar and bass myself. I think the results speak for themselves.”
Which of the guitarists from whom you worked with (for example Mark McGee, David Chastain, Brad Gillis, Geoff Thorpe and Vinnie Moore…) was the most outstanding and did you learn the ‘trade’, while developing your own style of guitar playing?
Dave: “Mark and Geoff were a big influence on me, no doubt about that. I spent so much time with those guys. Mark taught me a lot about melody and harmony and Geoff taught me a lot about aggression and thinking outside of the box. My solos tend to probably sound more like Mark as apposed to Geoff... but I never learned any of their solos or copied their lead licks. Brad, Vinnie and David are all amazing as well. Just being around all those talented people in my career has been a real bonus for me.”
How did you get in touch with Jim Hawthorne and did he play in other bands, before he joined WILDESTARR?
Dave: “Brad Gillis recommended Jim to us. We had a terrible time finding the right drummer. I think we went through about ten guys before Jim. He mainly does studio and session work, much of that with Brad Gillis.”
London: “Things starting going much smoother for us, once we had Jim in the picture. He contributed a lot to the record, since he helped mix and master it as well. A very talented guy.”
Who writes the lyrics for WILDESTARR and maybe you can tell our readers what they are about?
London: “I write the lyrics, melodies and keyboard parts. Dave writes the guitar and bass parts. We work as a team. Lyric writing is very personal though and that’s something I like to do completely on my own. Although “In this World” chorus and the first verse lines were Dave’s idea and I just filled in the rest. My lyrics are typically about the darker side of the world. The strange, mysterious and painful situations we deal with here on this planet, with a slightly philosophical or spiritual point of view, I suppose.”
What’s your favorite song on the album and why?
Dave: “It’s not easy to pick one, but I would go with "Rose in the Dark". It’s an epic song with a very powerful message. It’s also very orchestrated with lots of harmony guitar parts.”
London: “I really love the way “Rose in the Dark” turned out. “Arrival” and “Rise” are also among my favorites.”
How did you get in touch with Furnace Maximus Records, who released your album?
Dave: “Furnace Maximus is London and I, we own the label! So basically, we signed ourselves to our own record company. We have distribution deals with several other companies.”
London: “That was a lot of work. We had gone so very far with the record just on our own, that it felt right at the time to take it the rest of the way ourselves. It was nice to have complete control over the record artistically, but it added more challenges. Looking back, I can’t believe we pulled it all off!”
Will the second album also be released on this label?
Dave: “Not sure about that. Things did not go exactly according to plans with “Arrival” as far as distribution goes. For the next CD, we are looking for better distribution at least. And if the right record deal comes along, we will know it.”
What are the biggest differences for you between working with VICIOUS RUMORS/ CHASTAIN and WILDESTARR?
Dave: “VICIOUS RUMORS was a big part of my life and that is what most people knew me from until WILDESTARR. But I was the bassist in the band and never got to write many songs. Geoff was the band leader and he along with Mark and Carl did most of the writing. With WILDESTARR, it’s different on so many levels... I am doing all the guitars and bass myself and London and I write all the songs together. We work as a team and make all the decisions for everything. As for CHASTAIN, I only did the one album "In an Outrage", that came out in 2004. I was hired as a session guy for that CD. I just learned the songs and did my thing. It was interesting working with David Chastain. He is a great guy and very talented. London actually worked on that record with me. She engineered all the bass tracks for me and she has production credits on the CD.”
Do you play any covers during your live shows and if yes, which covers do you play then and why? (Mind you, I also consider VICIOUS RUMORS stuff as covers!)
Dave: “Once we start playing live, we could throw in a few VICIOUS RUMORS tunes if we wanted to, since I co-wrote some great songs like "Digital Dictator".”
London: “We have rehearsed a couple of VICIOUS RUMORS tunes to play live, so they are an option. We have enough material including the second album to not have to do any covers if we don’t want to, so we shall see.”
Do you use any show elements during your shows and what can people expect when they come to see a WILDESTARR show?
Dave: “Lots of energy, great music, incredible vocals.”
London: “I enjoy visuals and theatrical elements in a stage show, but I think the most important thing is the music and performance, and that will NOT disappoint!”
What’s the most difficult song to play live and why is that?
Dave: “Some of the guitar work is very demanding, and it’s one thing to play and record in the studio and another thing to play live. I will be working with another guitar player for touring. It would not be possible to have just one guitar player on stage with WILDESTARR. Some of these songs have four or five different guitar parts in them. I am really looking forward to playing live!”
London: “For me the most challenging songs are the ones with overlapping vocal parts and I have to pop in and out of backup vocals and lead vocals in a split second. One of the most difficult songs to sing vocally is actually on the new album.”
What’s the metal scene like in your hometown and are there still many clubs where you can play live shows?
Dave: “It’s not like the old days, when there were lots of clubs around. Times have changed, most of the clubs that I played at with VICIOUS RUMORS are long gone.”
London: “There is a bit of resurgence in the live scene, which is great to see. It’s not near the amount of venues as the glory days of the 80’s-early 90’s, but I see it growing.”
Which other well-known metal bands come from your area?
Dave: “METALLICA, TESTAMENT, JOURNEY, Y&T, to name just a few!”
London: “DRAGONLORD, ALL SHALL PERISH, EXODUS and VICIOUS RUMORS of course!”
I guess, that a lot of funny things might happen, while being on the road and on tour. Maybe you want to share some of these hilarious moments with us here. (This may also be from your VICIOUS RUMORS / CHASTAIN days of course)
Dave: “The WILDESTARR "Live" era is yet to be written, but as for VICIOUS RUMORS, there are so many memories! My bass rig went out onstage in Tokyo and I freaked out and smashed my bass into a million pieces at the end of the song. I fell into the crowd at a show in Germany once. I stood up on a stage monitor and lost my balance and went right into the crowd. I think that happened to me in Boston as well. Playing in Mexico City was crazy and those fans were insane. We all got really sick on that trip, that was not fun at all!”
Are there any interesting shows on the agenda for you right now?
Dave: “Stay tuned!”
Do you have any plans to tour over here in Europe?
Dave: “Most of the CDs we have been selling are in Europe and Japan, so we hope to go where the love is!”
London: “Right now we hope to do some power metal festivals in the mid-west and east coast, as well as hitting some festivals in Germany and Europe. We would love to do a few dates in Japan, if possible.”
With which band would you like to go on tour, if you could pick any band of your choice?
Dave: “JUDAS PRIEST!!!”
London: “JUDAS PRIEST.”
I guess, that you’re working hard on the new album right now. What can we expect from the new material, when comparing to “Arrival”? Does the balance move towards the melodic side or does the wild and exciting VICIOUS RUMORS influences take more control of the new material (to get an idea)?
Dave: The new songs are taking shape really well. I think, the new CD might be a bit heavier sounding overall then “Arrival”. Yet it will still maintain the cool melodies and hooks.”
London: “There are a few more fast tempo songs on the new record, but we still have a good amount of dark and moody pieces, which are my favorite. The new record is probably a little grittier, but we will always have good melodies and hooks, that’s what Dave and I like. Our new drummer Josh Foster has a lot to do with our heavier sound. He’s a maniac!”
What are the future plans of WILDESTARR (short and long term, please)?
Dave: “Get the new CD recorded and out there to as many people as we can and finally have WILDESTARR play "live". I just want to keep making music with London. I can see doing this for the next ten years or more!”
London: “Right now we are focused on making the best record we can to follow “Arrival” and we would like to do a couple of videos for it as well, including a live video, if possible. Tour plans to follow that and just keep making incredible music!”
Why did you leave this band and who brought you in contact with the guys of VICIOUS RUMORS?
Dave: “I was fired in 1983. They had a bass player they wanted with a rich dad. It was pretty shitty of them to do that to me, but that's the kind of people they were. Zero Loyalty. I was really upset at the time, but I obviously went on to much bigger and better things in my career. I met Geoff Thorpe at a club in SF around 1982 or ‘83. I just walked up to him and said hello one night. We stayed in touch and the rest is history!”
Who was in the line up of VICIOUS RUMORS, when you joined the band and did they still use the black and blue stage outfit, which became their trademark back in those early days?
Dave: “The black and blue thing was back in 1982/1983, I saw that band! That's how I met Geoff. I joined VICIOUS RUMORS in late 1984. When I joined, it was Geoff, Gary St. Pierre and a drummer, who's name I can't remember.”
If my information is right, you also played in a band called BLACK LEATHER with Jim Wells on drums and Rick Richards on guitar. What kind of music did you play and did you actually record something? (I’d love to hear some of these recordings one day!)
Dave: “BLACK LEATHER was a three-piece power metal band I put together, after I left LAAZ ROCKIT. I sang and played bass. We did about fifteen shows around the Bay area, but it just wasn't working out and I was not real happy with it. We did a few demo tapes, but nothing survived that I know of. I have a few pictures from those days, but that's about it. Rick Richards ended up co-writing some tunes in VICIOUS RUMORS on our first two albums.”
I also read, that there are recordings of the time that Don Seizer was the drummer of band. These recordings were made by VAIN guitar player Jamie Rowe (a.k.a. Chuck Mooney). Can you recall which songs were recorded, and will these pre-VINNIE MOORE recordings of VICIOUS RUMORS ever see the light of day?
Dave: “Chuck was in the band before I came in. I think, he played on a track, called "One way Ticket" from the “US Metal 4” compilation album. I have a bootleg "Live" show recording we did with Vinnie Moore in 1985. It has never been released. I think Vinnie would kill me, if I put that out!”
London, have you ever been in Holland and if yes, what do you think about our small but ever so sweet country?
London: “I dreamt of moving to the Netherlands at one point, since I am obsessed with Friesian Horses. A beautiful and charming country and I look forward to visiting one day.”
Back to Dave again... Why did you actually leave VICIOUS RUMORS and is there a chance that you might return to this band in the (near) future? After all, you played on every album they have released so far, so they must have a very special place in your heart or am I wrong here?
Dave: “I left VICIOUS RUMORS twice in 1993 and 2007. I did not play on all the VICIOUS RUMORS albums, but I did play on the best ones, the ones that sold the most, the ones that are most loved by the fans. In 1993 I was fired from the band by Geoff and Mark. None of it really made any sense, but that was their decision even though it was wrong and it hurt the band and me. Shortly after I was fired, Mark quit and Carl passed away. So firing me was the beginning of the end of that glorious time for VICIOUS RUMORS (1985 to 1993). Shit happens. I was really upset and it hurt a lot, but that's life. I was somewhat vindicated years later, when Mark told me it was a mistake to fire me and so did Larry. In 2005 I came back to play on the “Warball” CD, but that was it. I was already working on WILDESTARR at that point and knew that was my future. VICIOUS RUMORS was and is a huge part of my life and I am OK with that. But it was not the same without Carl and Mark. Geoff wanted me to stay, but I could not really do both WILDESTARR and VICIOUS RUMORS at the same time. I have left the door open with Geoff and he may end up playing with WILDESTARR at some point.”
Talking about your days in VICIOUS RUMORS, could you please point at your personal favorite song from each VICIOUS RUMORS album?
Dave: “From “Soldiers of the Night”, I would say "March or Die"; from “Digital Dictator” the title track; from “Vicious Rumors”, I really love "Ship of Fools"; from “Welcome to the Ball”, that's tough... There are so many great songs, but if I had to pick one it would be "Ends of the Earth". “Live in Tokyo”... I don't care for that CD at all and I never listen to it. From “WarBall”, the title track is great, but so is “Cross Threaded”.”
If you could put the ultimate VICIOUS RUMORS line up together, that could consist of every musician that ever played in VICIOUS RUMORS. Who would play in this ultimate line up?
Dave: “If you ask any VICIOUS RUMORS fan.... They will tell you there is really only one true VICIOUS RUMORS line-up and that is Carl, Mark, Geoff, Larry and me. I will agree with that.”
Please tell us a bit more about your time with CHASTAIN here as well. What was it like to work with him and maybe even more important, how was it to work with Kate French (who actually is a very good friend of ours)?
Dave: “It was an interesting CD to make. Larry, Kate and I worked on and recorded our parts out here, while David was back in Georgia. I never actually met him, until after the CD was recorded. We talked on the phone and through e-mails, working out my bass parts and going over the songs. Not the most intimate way to make a record, but that's how it was done. Kate was the one, who recommended Larry and I for the bass and drums. David Chastain is a first class guy and he has been a big supporter of WILDESTARR. Kate is an interesting lady. She is a bit hard to figure out and we clashed and argued a lot, while making this album. I'm not sure, what Kate is doing these days, I have not heard from her in a long time [Note from the editor: Kate French is with VAINGLORY these days!!!]. She's not the easiest person to get along with, but some people say that about me as well.”
You took drummer Larry Howe with you to CHASTAIN. You must have a very special relationship after so many years? What’s so special about his playing?
Dave: “I will give Larry credit, where credit is due… He is a great drummer and we played together really well in VICIOUS RUMORS and CHASTAIN. I will leave it at that. I have not spoken to him in over four years and I have no desire to anytime soon. I won't get into Larry's numerous personal issues and problems, that have ruined our friendship.”
Thank you very much for wanting to answer these questions from the old days. Are there any special memories that pop up right now and you’d like to share with us before we’ll continue with the WILDESTARR interview? Things that come to mind that nobody will know except yourself?
Dave: “VICIOUS RUMORS was a great band, lots of great music and memories, great fans all over the world. Hard to define anything in particular over such a long time, but it was lots of fun and rewarding as well. We never broke through to the big time like we should have, but that’s the way things go.”
Do you have any hobbies or special interests besides playing music in a heavy metal band?
Dave: “Music takes up most of our time, but London and I have four Russian Wolf hounds, that are a big part of our life. We also have yacht called "WildeStarr", that we take out as much as possible. I love the water! I read a lot as well, mostly WWII history.”
London: “I have a lot of interests and hobbies. I try to live life on maximum overdrive and leave no stone unturned. It’s great when my interests can overlap what I am doing in WILDESTARR, such as my interest in film, video and visual arts, which I applied into making the “Arrival” video, which can be seen at You Tube
My favorite place to be is the studio, creating music.”
Do you have any personal message for our readers?
Dave: “Thanks everyone for all the love and support!”
The last words in this interview are for Dave, London and WILDESTARR...
Dave: “We thank everyone out there and hope to see you on tour in 2011!!”
London: “We appreciate all the fans who have supported us, and we love hearing from you! We can’t wait to meet you all in person out on the road, and look forward to delivering more WILDESTARR magic. Come visit us on My Space or our official website or email us at: email@example.com. Stay metal everyone!”
Interview by: Toine van Poorten for http://www.truemetal.org / Summer 2010.
Visit their official website at: www.wildestarr.com/
or go to their My Space site at: www.myspace.com/wildestarr