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Coping With The Incurable: An Exclusive Interview With Ex-VICIOUS RUMORS/CHASTAIN Bassist And WILDESTARR Founder DAVE STARR

By Larry Petro, News Monkey
Monday, April 19, 2021 @ 10:15 AM

Guitarist & Bassist Opens Up About His Battle With Parkinson's Disease

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You may remember him from his days with metal mainstays VICIOUS RUMORS and the band's first 5 albums (Soldiers Of The Night, Digital Dictator, Vicious Rumors, Welcome To The Ball and Plug In And Hang On: Live In Tokyo) that he contributed to, as well as 2006's Warball which featured James Rivera (HELSTAR) handling the vocal duties. You might even remember his 4 year stint as the bassist for CHASTAIN and the 2004 album In An Outrage. Following his departure from those bands he went on in recent years to form WILDESTARR which featured Dave and his wife, vocalist London Wilde, and the 3 albums they have released to date (Arrival (2009), A Tell Tale Heart (2012), Beyond The Rain (2017)).

I was introduced to Dave through a mutual friend and fellow KNAC.COM contributor Michael Fischer a number of years back only to discover that Dave and London had relocated from the San Francisco Bay area to a small mecca just north of Houston where they live literally 15 minutes from me. I would meet Dave for the first time in person a year or two later at the first of only 2 shows he's ever attended since moving to Texas, an IMMORTAL GUARDIAN gig that featured as the opening act a tribute band fronted by his one-time VR bandmate James Rivera, whom he would join for a song or two for what would be his last appearance on a stage. More recently Dave has focused the majority of his time and energy in a new business venture, Starr Guitar Systems, where he provides high quality electronic upgrades for guitar and bass, something that keeps him busy 7 days a week when he's not working on the next WILDESTARR release.

Dave and I would keep in touch in the ensuing years and despite our close proximity to one another we wouldn't meet up again until a recent benefit concert in Houston this past March when Dave approached me about doing an interview with him because he had some somewhat shocking news that he decided was time to share with the world. A couple of weeks later we would meet up once again at a local restaurant on the shores of beautiful Lake Conroe north of Houston to conduct the interview you are about to read. It's fairly lengthy as we touched on a couple of different topics so grab a beer, coffee or your other beverage of choice and enjoy!

Thank you Dave for choosing me to do this, I am both honored and humbled to be the one to break this news to the world.

KNAC.COM: When we first hooked up a few weeks ago and you mentioned doing an interview you said that you had some news that you wanted to share with everyone.

STARR: Well basically I was diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinsonís disease about a year ago. Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra. The cause remains largely unknown, and there is no cure. It affects mobility, coordination, balance, and other things.

KNAC.COM: So you said it was 2019, when was your first indication that something was wrong?

STARR: I think I was lying in bed with my wife London and we're watching TV, and I noticed my right arm was shaking and I wasnít really sure what was going on. I'm a real procrastinator when it comes to going to the doctor, so it progressively got worse and finally she said 'you've got to see someone'. So I guess it was in February or March that I finally got to a regular MD, and he said you gotta go to a neurologist, so I went to the neurologist and he did some real simple tests on me and of course by that time it had gotten worse. The tests were real basic, he did some hand signs with his fingers and had me repeat them, and he would watch my eyes, and my first thought was 'stone age medicine' (laughs). Of course I didn't say that to him, and after about 15 minutes of doing the tests with me he said 'listen to me, you have early stages of Parkinsonís'. I said 'how do you know this?'. He said he could tell because he's been doing it for 30 some odd years. He watched me walk down the hall, my gait, watched my legs and my arms. Then he ended up having me do an EKG and a DAT scan. The DAT scan is where they stick your head in this high tech machine and the camera goes around you. I actually have the CD printout photos of the nuclear imaging of my brain, and of course it looked like a bunch of nonsense to me, but to the radiologist, they pointed out these areas here and there that are showing signs of degeneration in my brain and nerve endings, so that cemented it (the diagnosis).

I saw the neurologist again last week, just for a regular checkup. I know it's gotten a little bit worse since last year after the initial diagnosis and he said it was about 3% progression.

KNAC.COM: So still pretty early stages then?

STARR: Yeah, but the thing about Parkinsonís and it being incurable is that it's not gonna get better and it will get worse over time. Iím taking medications called Carbidopa/Levodopa. One is to help repair the dopamine in the brain. The medication travels to your brain and helps connect the dopamine receptors that fire back and forth...(laughs) I have no idea what Iím talking about (laughs). So the medication does 2 things, it helps artificially replace the dopamine in your brain and the other one helps it get to your brain without dissolving. How they figure this stuff out is amazing but as the disease progresses Iíll have to increase the medication. They're actually doing new things right now, brain implants, similar to a pacemaker except instead of going to the heart the electrodes go to the brain and stimulate the area, but he told me we're not there yet. Obviously people know me as a musician, whether it's through VICIOUS RUMORS, CHASTAIN or with WILDESTARR for the last 10 years. It's definitely affected my guitar playing and I definitely have a new found kinship with Glenn Tipton (JUDAS PRIEST). (laughs)

He came public in 2018 but he'd been suffering with it for 10 years and I think that's one of the reasons KK (Downing) left the band, although he said he would never say why...he said the band's performances were suffering but he never said exactly what was going on and he said he wouldn't tell, and I think that had something to do with it. Glenn was, I think in his late fifties when he first started experiencing the Parkinson's symptoms , (which is how old I was) and it just progressed to the point where he couldn't play with the band live anymore. There's just really no way to stop it, there is no cure, and doctors are not sure what causes it. So it is what it is, and Iíve learned to accept it as I get older. Say a young kid gets a cancer diagnosis, there might be a tendency to say 'why me?, I have my whole life ahead of me'.... but being that Iím 60 now, I think as you get older you tend to be more philosophical, pragmatic and realistic about it, thinking about life and the fact that something's gonna get us one way or the other. Very few people die of old age at 95, peacefully in their sleep.

KNAC.COM: You mentioned the medication and youíve been sober for over 15 years now, but not just alcohol, you've sworn off caffeine and smoking and even drugs, like over the counter types, so it's interesting that you decided to go ahead and take the medication associated with this.

STARR: Well I really didn't have a choice and the medication actually made me really sick for about the first month or two when I started taking it. Iíve lightened up on the OTC medication a little bit (store bought) whereas for years if I had a cold or flu once a year I wouldnít even take any medication for that and I was real hardcore about keeping medication out of my body, but then I realized that I was just suffering too much so I ended up taking Nyquil or some other medication that was similar but didn't contain the alcohol. Carbidopa/Levodopa, the medications for this disease, are not a mood altering drug like alcohol, so it's more of a necessity to make myself able to keep functioning, not only as a musician, but as a human being really, to be able to drive, to be able to run my business, which is Starr Guitar Systems, where I build wiring harnesses for guitar and bass, and I might not be able to sustain the business, or other daily aspects of every day life without taking medication.

Interesting, Iíve had an ongoing issue in the studio, ever since I started making records I get real nervous in the recording studio. This goes way back to every record Iíve ever done, I always get really nervous. It was compounded with WILDESTARR because I play all the guitars and bass on the albums so Iíve just got ALOT on my plate and I just get really, really nervous. Now you take that natural nervousness and compound it with Parkinsonís disease and Iím just like this (lifts his arms up shaking) sometimes in the studio and it's very difficult. Now when I sit down and Iím building my wiring harnesses for Starr Guitar Systems Iím not nervous, I'm much more relaxed. It's working out okay with my business, but playing guitar in WILDESTARR...if Iím sitting on the couch like I do a lot at night, I write songs by watching horror movies and sci-fi stuff, and Iíve always got a guitar in my hands and I feel really relaxed when Iím playing. But I get in the recording studio...fuck, itís rough (laughs), itís always BEEN rough! Three weeks ago I was in the studio and I was shaking like a heroin addict going through detox. I couldn't get anything done. Last, week, things went really great. I felt good and played great. Every day is different with Parkinson's.

KNAC.COM: (Laughs) And itís weird for you to say that because youíve been a musician for decades!

STARR: Well the first VR record came out in late '85 so Iíve been at this for, well, as far as records go, over 36 years but doing this for over 40. I think what we're gonna have to do on this new WILDESTARR album is...and Iíve heard bits and pieces about Glenn Tipton having to do the same thing, with digital editing you can do a lot of things and Iíve never done this before... on the previous 3 WILDESTARR albums, I would basically play each song on the guitar, left and right, so I play two guitar parts (sometimes more) and then I play the bass. Iíll play a song fully 4 times and London (Wilde), my wife who's the singer who does all the engineering and editing, she'll take this part from track one and she'll piece it together, like 'you were a little weak on this part so we're gonna bypass this part and take it from track 3 which is the best one you did there on the bridge' and so on. In order to get through this album Iím literally going to have to probably just play each riff part over and over about 20 or 30 times and then sheís going to have to edit and piece it together. I don't know how else Iím gonna be able to get through finishing this record. Maybe not all the songs will be like that, but some of the more complex ones will.

KNAC.COM: And weíre going to get to the situation with your recording studio here in a minute because youíve actually had a setback on that as well which we'll get into. So once you got the diagnosis when did the enormity of it actually hit you?

STARR: I donít think there ever really was a time because I knew, by the time I got into the neurologist I knew something was wrong and I had done like a lot of people do with the advent of the internet, we've become medical experts (laughs). I did a lot of research on Parkinsonís and also other things that may have Parkinsonís-like symptoms, so I knew in my heart that it was probably Parkinsonís Disease. When I went to the neurologist I thought 'Iím gonna have this moment where I get a sharp pain in my chest' when the verdict comes down, because he told me when he tells people they have Parkinsonís Disease sometimes they freak out, yeah like half the time. It's like 'you must be mistaken, there's no way because nobody in my family has Parkinsonís', which by the way, it's not really hereditary. Nobody in my family has Parkinsonís as far back as my sister and I have been able to dig. But when he told me I had Parkinsonís it didn't really hit me because I knew I probably had it and he just confirmed what I felt. I remember when I walked out into the parking lot I went and just sat in my car and thought 'well, youíve got Parkinsonís.... alright, let's go home and break the news to the wife'. So I went home and I told my wife and called my daughter in New York City, and I told my sister. I was kinda low-key, I didn't feel like curling up into a ball and crying or drinking again, I just kinda felt like 'time to man up'.

KNAC.COM: And it could have been easy to fall back into the bad habits of old when something like that happens.

STARR: I just felt like it was 'here's my situation, this is my story, Iíve got an incurable disease and I can either just face it head on, or I can be a pussy and a total douchebag about it'.

KNAC.COM: So how did they react when you told them?

STARR: My daughter Tawny broke down and started crying, she knew what was going on because I had talked to her about it, she was actually out here, I picked her and her boyfriend Nick up from the airport and we were driving home a couple months back before I got the actual diagnosis, and she just goes 'dad, what's going on with your right hand?' I said 'well, I need to get to the doctor and it might be Parkinsonís Disease' and she was really upset. I think it's tough for kids to see their parents get old and falling apart when they think we're indestructible and always gonna be there. She was upset but she is cool about it now, so was my wife London and my sister Tracey, everyone has been real supportive which is nice. My sister lives here in town and unfortunately my daughter lives in NYC but she still comes down a couple times a year, so between my sister and my brother-in-law Mark, my wife, my daughter, everybody's been real cool about it. I've always been, especially since Iíve been clean and sober, Iíve always been one of these people that gets up every morning and is just thankful to be alive. In kind of a weird, abstract way... having Parkinsonís Disease, Iím not thankful for it, I wish I didn't have it, but it also makes you MORE appreciative because I know that as the years go by, the problems are gonna worsen. Iím already feeling some problems in my left hand, I won't be able to ride my Harley, I won't be able to play guitar, I wonít be able to drive, walking will become difficult, I'm already having trouble with my handwriting, using a computer mouse, cutlery, etc. It's a pretty grim picture down the road but it just reinforces what I said a second ago, it just really makes you appreciate every day that youíre alive and able to breathe and walk and talk and do the things that we all take for granted.

KNAC.COM: Knowing that this progression is only going to get worse, are there some things that you feel like now there's an urgency to finish or do?

STARR: This will be the fourth WILDESTARR album and it will be the last that we'll do. Itís going to be hard enough to get through this and I don't think I can go through it again. Does that mean Iím gonna quit playing? No, when I die Iíll have a hundred songs unrecorded that are gonna disappear and I think that's how most musicians would wanna go, because that'll mean theyíre just continually working.

So, Iíve talked to London about this and I said 'this will be our last album because I just don't think I can deal with this workload again'. Iíve done it like this for 4 albums in a row and itís an incredible amount of work. Combine that with the fact that I write all the music and play all the guitars and bass, I just don't think I can deal with all the stress that goes with that anymore. Stress and anxiety and depression, which are 3 other things Iíve battled with for most of my adult life, complicates the Parkinsonís so it's very difficult doing these WILDESTARR albums. And Iím okay with saying that this will be the last one. Now having said that, I told my wife that Iím okay with it but I wanna keep writing and playing so we just might maybe release singles which will be a lot easier to deal with, you just have to worry about one four minute song, we can take our time doing it. I also haven't ruled out maybe collaborating with others eventually...Iím having trouble playing lead guitar so I kinda envision this progression where I eventually I won't be able to play lead guitar anymore, and Iíll be playing rhythm guitar and bass, then I probably wonít be able to play rhythm guitar anymore, and then Iíll just be able to play bass, but as long as I can keep playing and when the day comes that I can't play anymore Iíll look back and say Iíve made some pretty cool albums and made some really great music, and Iíll be okay with it. Maybe at the end..... I will be sitting in a wheelchair playing cowbell! (laughs)

You know I did a lot of touring with VR, I quit touring years ago when I left the band in '93 but between '86 to '93 I did extensive touring all over the world so I have seen a lot of things and Iíve done a lot of things that not many people that pick up the guitar and dream about doing, ever get to do, so Iím really grateful for the career that I HAVE had, especially as a studio musician for the past 25 years or so, that's just a choice I made, I just got burned out on all the touring and traveling. I got offers to go back to Europe and stuff with VR, but it would take a lot of money to get me on a plane again.

KNAC.COM: How recent was that, the offers to tour with VR?

STARR: Well when I went back to VR and did the Warball album in 2006, I wasn't real happy with the situation with that album and with Geoff Thorpe, the founding member. Larry Howe, the drummer and I came back to the band for that CD. Geoff wanted me to stay in the band and tour, but I was really unhappy with the situation. Iíd been clean and sober for going on 6 months then, and there was a lot of drugs and booze in the studio and I just made a decision the day I finished the bass tracks that I was going to leave the band and get to work on WILDESTARR with London. Geoff wanted me to stay and wanted me to go back to Europe. And he's asked me a couple times since then, I havenít talked to him in a long time now, maybe the last time he asked me was 2011, or 2012 maybe? A lot of musicians really live for that but not me, Iím just really happy being a homebody, living at home with my wife and my dogs, and Iím fortunate in that once I stopped touring, most guys my age that are touring still and with bands that have had moderate success, they're all broke! (laughs) They're all broke and living week to week and Iím not broke, Iím not living week to week, Iíve done really well financially, and I donít think that I would be if I had kept touring, that I would have had the business opportunities present themselves, whether it's investing in real estate (we own multiple rental properties on Lake Conroe), the stock market, or my company Starr Guitar Systems that I run out of our home. So I have no regrets about stepping away from touring, Iím making alot of money, London and I have a beautiful home on 4 acres here in Texas, even with Parkinsonís I really don't have much to complain about.

KNAC.COM: When I saw you last I could tell that something was wrong because I noticed right away that your right hand was shaking inside your hoodie pocket.

STARR: Yeah I was trying to hide it.

KNAC.COM: You can't really hide something like that.

STARR: And it goes back to what I was saying about being stressed out and having anxiety, I was a little stressed out because Iím not used to being in the clubs anymore so it kind of triggered it.

KNAC.COM: And you also mentioned that sometimes you even have trouble keeping food on your fork...

STARR: (Laughs) Yeah, at least I can laugh about it and have a sense of humor, you know?

KNAC.COM: And your wife is resigned to the fact that at one point she may have to feed you?

STARR: Yeah, yeah, she knows what's she's in for, you know the old saying 'for better or for worse'.

KNAC.COM: Of course the actor, , he came forward with his Parkinsonís diagnosis years ago now, he's been living with it for I would say 20, 30 years at least. But even with that I think that the rock world has been pretty well spared from that showing up until really the last few years. I know Pat Torpey, the drummer for MR. BIG, passed away from complications of Parkinsonís about 3 years ago, and then of course Glenn Tipton (JUDAS PRIEST), probably the most famous of all coming out with it, and recently Ozzy even coming out that he has stage 4 Parkinsonís, but for him, it was probably hard to tell that he had Parkinsonís or not (laughs).

STARR: Glenn can't hide it, Ozzy can incorporate it into his 'shtick' (laughs), but with what Glenn does there's zero shtick involved.

KNAC.COM: So what made you finally decide to come open with this for everyone?

STARR: You know, I think it was something I wondered about.... when I would talk about this, because Iím not in the public eye as much, Iím not touring anymore. Iím in the public eye but Iím not IN public as much nearly as I used to be when I was touring heavily. Iím mainly an internet presence with the band and the music and Facebook and whatever. I started thinking about it, I originally was gonna wait until this album (WILDESTARR) was done but then I thought, when I found out I was gonna go to this benefit (concert for our mutual friend Tonya Eaton who has cancer) and then you texted me and said that you were going and asked if I was going and I thought, huh, Larryís been pretty good to me over the years....and so when you told me you were gonna go my mind started thinking 'Larryís been cool to me, I don't know him all that well but he's been good to me, he's local, he knows about my music career', so then I thought well maybe I can sit down with Larry and talk about it. Thatís when I texted you and I said 'hey, Iíve got something I want to talk to you about'. I didn't put a lot of thought into it, just maybe this is the time to talk I could have waited, I could have never said anything, I donít think anybody really wants to say 'hey, look at me, I have some really horrible news to share' but I think itís an opportunity to educate people. It's easy to sound self-serving about this but you know Glenn Tipton has gone out of his way to...I think he's educated a lot of people about Parkinsonís, he's such a legendary figure and a lot of people think these metal gods are indestructible and obviously I donít have near the global profile that Glenn Tipton does but Iíve sold a lot of records, toured around the world and Iím still making great music so if I can use my platform to help educate people in any kind of way and let people know what's going on, I can just let things kind of flow.

KNAC.COM: I find it somewhat cruelly ironic, especially in your case, given that you made the decision years ago to clean yourself up and live a cleaner, healthier lifestyle and then have this happen to you.

STARR: On the other hand there's a lot of people I know who are not here today because of that lifestyle and Iíve lost a lot of friends and fellow musicians who've died from drugs and alcohol, drugs and alcohol-related behavior, suicide...I remember thinking once a couple of years ago that everyone I know who died, every one of them died from drug abuse or suicide and that's fucking crazy. Yeah, you could say it's kinda ironic but if I would have kept drinking and going on I would not have lived long enough to get Parkinsonís! (laughs) I would have died from substance abuse, I would have been another casualty. I don't want to name names but there's plenty of them out there and plenty of people who are HEROES of mine that I didn't know, like Phil Lynott of THIN LIZZY, who is probably my single biggest inspiration, to die at 36, that's just horrible!

KNAC.COM: Going back now, you had alluded to working on this WILDESTARR album and if it wasn't enough that you had to deal with the Parkinsonís, you also had something literally hit home recently that also impacts any recording that you might hope to do.

STARR: Yeah...six months ago...you know, 2020 was a bad year for me, Covid hit, and everyone knows what all that entailed of course, I had bilateral hernia surgery, diagnosed with Parkinsonís and then a couple months after the Parkinsonís diagnosis we had a really bad fire at our house, which is where our recording studio is among other things, and the fire actually originated in the studio so our recording studio was completely destroyed, I lost a lot of my prized instruments so yeah, it was pretty crazy. Our neighbor Mark Denham, he saved us, we were waiting for a pizza to show up and all of a sudden he comes up and he starts pounding on the door and I thought it was the pizza guy and it turns out it was Mark yelling and screaming that our house was on fire and we didn't even know it! I ran down the hall to the recording studio and I opened the door and it was just like a 'whoosh' of smoke, and my wife got all the dogs out of the house, we have 7 dogs, got 'em all in the backyard, our next door neighbor called the fire department and I didn't know what to do. The scary thing is there's actually a photo of this, one of the neighbors took a picture of me, I actually grabbed a garden hose and ran up the stairway to the studio which is above the garage, there's a photo of me aiming the garden hose at the flames (laughs) just billowing out of this door out to the balcony! And it was like trying to put out a forest fire by pissing on it. (laughs) The firemen when they showed up were like 'get the fuck out of there!' I literally had heat blisters/burns on my face and arms!

By the time everything was said and done I lost my two main guitars that I used in WILDESTARR, we lost all of our recording gear and we lost the masters we were working on for the new album so we had to start from scratch, all the digital recording gear and everything. The water and smoke damage throughout the rest of the house was just catastrophic. We have insurance so basically our entire house is being rebuilt as we speak. There's just some things you canít replace but Iím okay with that, we all got out, like I said, 2020 was a bad year. I had never been through, well I had never been through Parkinsonís, but Iíd never been through a house fire before, it was terrifying.

KNAC.COM: And you had said that there was more damage from the firemen putting the fire out than there was from the fire itself.

STARR: Yeah and Iím not blaming the firemen you know, they were great (2 of them were actually injured fighting the fire and had to go to the hospital). They gotta put the fire out with something and it's water, but the water damage ruined the floors throughout the house and the moisture caused mold to grow on all the walls and ceilings. I had never seen anything like this before. About 15% of the house was destroyed by the fire, but another 70% of the house was destroyed by smoke and water damage. They literally had to pull up all the floors, knock down all the walls, the ceilings, the HVAC system, the water piping, you name it. If you walk into the house it's just a sea of 2x4s and beams, there's no walls, there's no ceiling, the nice hardwood flooring and carpet has been pulled up, it's almost like getting a brand new house. We actually took this time to...my wife said 'you know what, let's open up this first floor a little bit', so we told the contractors 'knock this wall out here, knock this wall out there' because it's not costing any more in the reconstruction of the house, it's actually costing probably a little bit less so we've been doing some remodeling. But I mean everything, all the appliances, the kitchen, everything was toast just by water and smoke damage.

KNAC.COM: Did they ever determine how the fire actually started?

STARR: I think they said it was electrical. We had a talk with the Fire Marshal who was one of the last people on the scene, but I don't think they really investigated it because unless someone was killed or injured they donít really get too deep into what happened. The guy said they think this is where the fire started and it was probably electrical. We sat and talked about it for a while, about 15 or 20 minutes, and that was the extent of it. Now if somebody had died then it's a whole different ballgame, but itís a different story when it's just property damage. Unless it was insurance fraud, and the insurance people did come out and they went through everything with a fine tooth comb and there was some give and take back and forth, it was kind of a battle with the insurance company but we got what we needed out of them, 95% of what we needed.

KNAC.COM: How far along on the new WILDESTARR album were you when this happened?

STARR: I canít even remember, maybe 25 or 30%

KNAC.COM: So it wasn't like an 'oh shit, now we gotta start all over' moment then?

STARR: Not really, it could always be worse, like I said, we all got out, the dogs got out....one of the dogs was missing and it turns out that she made a beeline towards the front door and one of the neighbors found her down the street. I was more worried about my wife and the dogs than I was the house and the dogs donít understand what's going on. When I found out that one of the dogs was missing, because we had corralled them all into the back yard, even though the firemen had told me to stay put, I grabbed a towel and ran into the house trying to find her. Man, I couldn't see a damn thing in my own house, Iím running up the stairs blind and Iím choking to death and I finally had to turn around and run out. I yelled at the firemen who had breathing apparatuses on that there might be a dog in there and to keep an eye out for her, thatís just fucking insane.

KNAC.COM: Given everything that youíve gone through this past year you have an amazingly positive outlook about everything.

STARR: I think it comes with being older and like I alluded to earlier, just being pragmatic and realistic about things and philosophical as you get older. You know, I used to be a hothead and I used to get angry about stuff but it literally just doesn't do any good, especially at my age with all my health issues. And the fact is, I mean what if my wife had died in the fire, or even if one of the dogs had died, it's already life changing dealing with Parkinson's and surviving a house fire, but I still have good days and bad days, you know, I might get irritated and annoyed but you gotta temper it, you gotta keep those feelings in check or it will consume you OR put me back into bad habits that nearly killed me in the past. I just donít have the desire to do that anymore, been there, done that.

KNAC.COM: And you're what, 60 now right?

STARR: Just turned 60 in February KNAC.COM: So you've lived a pretty full life and you don't really have any regrets like you mentioned earlier...

STARR: I have a few, anybody who says they donít have any regrets is lying. Iíve made mistakes in my life like everybody has but overall I think, considering, Iíve done a pretty good job. Most people know me as a musician and with my other company Iíve become known in the guitar industry with Starr Guitar Systems building my custom wiring harnesses. I think everybody wants to have some kind of legacy when they leave, and my legacy is my music and my daughter Tawny Lara, who's gonna be here when Iím gone. Sheís a real smart cookie and she wants to change the world, she's real politically active, not always in the political end that Iím interested in (laughs), but she's passionate about what she does. I also think Iíve left a pretty awesome body of musical work, I mean hell, a lot of the music I listen to is from people who aren't even here anymore so that shows you the power of music. I listen to a lot of music from the 60s and 70s, not necessarily metal, the RASPBERRIES, BADFINGER, I love BADFINGER! Everybody that picks up the guitar does so for different reasons, some people may want to get girls, some want to become famous, and it's funny because a lot of guys I knew wanted to set time limits like 'if it doesnít happen by the time Iím 22 Iím selling all my gear and going back to college' and I never did that, I just kept plugging away at it and I felt like this is who I am and I kept at it without really a lot of financial reward. Iíve always done guitar repair work or other things for income. I still make money from music but it's not as much as people think...I remember when the guys in METALLICA were...Iíve know those guys so long that they were actually opening for my old band in San Francisco back in '82 and then they went on to become mega-millionaires selling a trillion albums. Hey man, that's cool, whatever happens, happens (laughs).

KNAC.COM: Before this interview there's really only a handful of people that actually know about this diagnosis so I would assume that this includes your former bandmates as well?

STARR: Yeah, nobody really knows aside from my family, Iím not in contact with anybody from VR. The horrible way those guys have treated me over the last 27 years, I'm sure they will laugh and high 5 each other when they hear about this, but I don't care. I do talk to David Chastain periodically but I haven't told him. I did tell Vinnie Moore I was having serious health issues, but left it at that. I would like to work with David and Vinnie again at least once more, they are both amazing! Obviously my wife knows and our drummer Josh Foster in WILDESTARR, but I haven't really told anybody else. I told a couple of friends and told them to please keep it to themselves and to my best knowledge they have. I kinda dropped little hints last year when I was recording the album, before the fire I told people that it was going to be a difficult album to make because I was having some serious health problems. People would contact me and ask what's going on but I just said 'I didn't want to talk about it right now, maybe next year', so for the most part Iíve tried to keep my mouth shut about it. I didn't want to come off as 'oh, woe is me, woe is me, I want everybody to feel sorry for me', I don't feel that way at all. I have money and I have health insurance, and the support of my family, there are others who are far worse off than me. Feel happy for me that Iím alive and able to talk about these things where like I said earlier, Iíve lost so many friends along the way itís sad when I think about it. Iím optimistic, do I think thereís going to be a cure for Parkinsonís in my lifetime? Probably not, but Iím okay with that, Iíll just keep taking the medication and power on and fight on as long as I possibly can.

Several of the main causes of death with Parkinsonís is getting fatally injured in falls, I assume from the brain damage/head injuries, or choking to death because you can develop problems swallowing food. They say Parkinsonís isn't a 'terminal' disease, but I don't really agree with that.

KNAC.COM: And that's what happened with Pat (Torpey), he didnít die from Parkinsonís, he died of complications associated with it.

STARR: And I don't know exactly what happened to him but he was only 64 and he was about my age when he started developing symptoms, in his mid-to-late 50s and then he was dead in 4 or 5 years. Thatís kind of frightening because 64 is only 4 years away for me so thereís no timeline on this, it's all over the map. I may have a rapid progression and only have 3 or 4 years of life left, or it could stretch out for 10-15 years. Nobody knows. The only sure things is that there is no cure, and the problems get worse over time.

KNAC.COM: Right, when you have someone like Michael J Fox, whoís lived with it for decades and really hadnít progressed as far as some others.

STARR: Thereís 5 stages to Parkinsonís, Iím in stage 1 and I think Michael is in stage 4. I watched an interview with him recently where heís obviously having difficulties but he's coherent and able to carry on conversations and answer questions. The situation with is very unique. His symptoms began at a very young age, and he's still alive 30 years later. Most people develop symptoms in their 50's. I don't know where Glenn Tiptonís at right now, he's not able to play live anymore but he's supposedly still doing stuff in the studio.

KNAC.COM: I caught the tour a few years ago right after it was announced that he had Parkinsonís and that he was going to have to give up touring with the band, but on that tour though he did make special appearances at certain shows just to play a couple of songs. I caught the show in Dallas and you could feel the emotion in the arena when he came out onstage during the encores.

STARR: Ok, so he WAS there, it was just few shows here and there.

KNAC.COM: He could only do a couple of shows. I think he did a couple on the West Coast, a show or two in Texas and a couple of others.

STARR: So did come out and say what was going on?

KNAC.COM: No, there was no mention of it at all, the news had hit and so everyone in the world knew what was going on with Glenn and I think that anybody that attended the shows on that tour were hoping that Glenn would make an appearance. It was almost a tear-jerking moment to see him come out onstage.

STARR: Well I can tell that it's spread and gotten worse (for me). It's been almost a year now since Iíve been diagnosed.

KNAC.COM: But all you can do is keep taking the medication and keep it under control to a certain extent.

STARR: Yeah. All in all, I try to get up every day with a smile on my face. One of the important things in life and how I deal with it is just keeping busy. With Starr Guitar Systems, Iím building wiring harnesses 7 days a week, business is just going crazy, I have 6 on my bench that I have to build when I get home today. I haven't had a day off in years (laughs), so I don't have time to sit around and mope. Business has been so good that I am going to have to eventually hire on one or two extra technicians. I will need the extra help not just because business has exploded, but because at some point I wonít be able to do the detailed electronics work anymore due to Parkinsonís. The only time it really starts seriously bothering me is when I try to play guitar in the recording studio, then it hits me. Of course, there are other times as well, but my music is obviously a really tough situation for me to deal with because its such a huge part of who I am.

KNAC.COM: When everything is all said and done how would you like to be remembered?

STARR: Iíll tell you the same thing when a magazine from Japan asked me that after the first VR album came out. Three things I want to be remembered for are: a good husband & father, a good person and a good musician. I think it rang true then and it still rings true today. Do you have kids?


STARR: Well then you know what itís like, it's the hardest job in the world and the most rewarding. Our children are the most important thing in the world. It's like I tell my daughter, 'you're the one inheriting this mess, it's up to you to fix it because Iím not going to be around here forever'. Those who donít know me personally and only know me for the music might say 'you know Dave did some amazing albums' and that's great, I really appreciate anybody who likes anything Iíve ever done in my life with my art but Iíd like to think that if I lost my hand in an accident when I was 20 that Iíd still make some sort of contribution to society (laughs) without it having to be music.

Check out Dave Starr on the web:


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