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Plug in and hang on with Vicious Rumors Axeman Geoff Thorpe

By Michael Fischer, Writer, @toonsthatrock
Monday, August 20, 2007 @ 6:25 PM

"So as long as I have a decent

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The Mighty Vicious Rumors have been shredding the planet since they first invaded Santa Rosa California in the early 1980's. They have battled their way to the rank of Pure Rock Royalty thanks to their Fearless Frontman, and Axe Wielding Founder Geoff Thorpe. Geoff has been instrumental in producing VR's Phantasm like Metal Imagery for well over two decades on the road, and in the recording studio. Geoff has been hitting home runs with fans in the Bay Area long before Barry Bonds thanks to the supercharged sound of Vicious Rumors.

The first ten years, Vicious Rumors featured original band members Lead Guitarist Geoff Thorpe, 2nd Lead Guitarist Mark McGee, Bassist Dave Starr (Wildestarr), Drummer Larry Howe, and Singer Carl Albert who was sadly lost in a fatal car accident in 1995 just after the band had just returned home from their European "Word of Mouth Tour." In honor of Carl's spirit and contribution's to VR, remaining band members have continued to carry on the Mighty Vicious Rumors legacy like tribal warriors on a metal mission from hell.

Here in 2007, Geoff has resurrected the ghost of VR Past and reinvented new life for the band bringing back original Drummer Larry Howe, and adding Singer James Rivera (Flotsam & Jetsam), 2nd Lead Guitarist Thaen Rasmussen (Anvil Chorus), and Bassist Stephen Goodwin (Metallica Tribute). Vicious Rumors just released their latest CD Warball on GTM Worldwide Records, and they are locked n' loaded and ready to rock Europe this Fall.

When you first meet Geoff, he's one cool cat. He is the entire rock star package minus the homogenized super ego. On stage, he rips like an uncaged wild animal attached to a monster guitar cable and effects board. Off stage, he wears a friendly, devilish, laid back west coast attitude. Geoff reminds me of a friend you had growing up as a kid in your neighborhood jamming on Kiss Records dreaming of rock stardom. Ultimately, that's how being in a rock band should feel when your jamming with your real friends.

Lock up your wife and fasten your guitar strap kids as we "Plug in and hang on" with VR Axeman Geoff Thorpe as he talks about Mister Carl Albert, life as a Hollywood Kid Actor, autographing festival tents, and anything that goes up to 11!

KNAC.COM: Greetings Geoff! What's going on dude?

THORPE: Hi Fish, good to talk to you man.

KNAC.COM: What's new in your world?

THORPE: Well, we just got back from Germany and played the "Bang Your Head Festival." We opened for Heaven And Hell and played with Hammerfall, WASP, Girlschool, Nazareth and a lot of great bands. We were in Japan earlier this year and we've headlined some dates around the US. We have several shows in California in August. Then we take back off to Europe in September and headline a bunch of dates with Agent Steel and After All. It's been a great year for Vicious Rumors.

KNAC.COM: You are the Harry Potter of Heavy Metal!

THORPE: (Laughs) Yeah! I feel like a Heavy Metal Hogwart from Hell.

KNAC.COM: Now all you need is a broom stick dude. So where are you originally from?

THORPE: (Sighs) Oh, we are going way back!?!

KNAC.COM: Yeah! We're doing a new TV Show called "This is your life Geoff Thorpe!"

THORPE: Well, I'm probably older than the floor. I think some wolves and jackals had me during an indian smoke out, and that's how I appeared out of a cloud of blue smoke. (Laughs) Actually, I was born in Los Angeles, and then I moved to Hawaii as a kid, eventually ending up here living in Northern California where I started VR.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, I think we're all familiar with Humbolt County. I think you were born hatched out of the VR Ball.

    (VR's infamous Phantasm blade knifed chrome ball logo is displayed on every Vicious Rumors Album Cover has been the bands artwork, battle flag, and horror themed moniker since it was first introduced on their debut record back in 1985. In the beginning, the VR Ball originally had 4 knife blades up until the last record with Carl. Since Word of Mouth (And Carl's Tribute CD) the VR Ball now flies 8 knife blades.)

THORPE: That's it, and then I landed in Hawaii.

KNAC.COM: So your dad owned a famous Hollywood Acting Theater in Los Angeles when you were a kid?

THORPE: Yes. Ted Thorpe. My mom was a studio dancer so they were a perfect match. Actors like Goldie Hawn and Chad Everett used to come in and polish their acting skills. I remember Goldie used to pinch my cheek every time she saw me. My dad scored a gig working on the TV Show Hawaii Five-O, so we moved to Hawaii, and I landed a few acting parts on the show. I was kidnapped in a couple episodes. It was pretty cool.

KNAC.COM: Wow you got to hang with Jack Lord. How phriggin' cool. "Book em' Danno!" Hawaii Five-O was a big part of our early cheesy American Television History growing up. It had to be, we only had five television channels back then.

THORPE: Yeah, and I played rolls on Courtship of Eddies Father with actor Bill Bixby (The Original Incredible Hulk) and a show called Medical Center...a classic 70's program. I also worked with actor Michael Douglas in an episode. We were troubled teens of course.

KNAC.COM: There's a new hit TV Show for you. "Geoff Thorpe and the Streets of San Francisco." What was life on a television set like as a kid?

THORPE: I kinda grew up in the middle of it, so it was real familiar with me. My parents did it their whole lives and I was always around it. I was a natural progression. And then something happened. I caught my older sister and her friend listening to a Jimi Hendrix record and that was it!

KNAC.COM: Just like Danny Partridge...It was the sad end of an acting career. But the birth of a future rocker! Speaking of rockers, did you ever get to meet Don Ho while you were living in Hawaii?

THORPE: Oh sure! You have to meet Don Ho while your in Hawaii! Or they ship you back out! (Laughs) In fact he's at the airport greeting everyone that fly's in.

KNAC.COM: Really? Get the hell outta here?!?

THORPE: Well, not anymore at least, Don just died earlier this year with a drink in his hand, and his toes in the sand.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, he died like David Lee Roth. I bet Don Ho's a Polynesian Mummy now singing "Tiny bubbles" at the Hawaiian airport for tips.

THORPE: (Laughs) Yeah, Don Ho is a living legend over there.

KNAC.COM: When did you first pick up a guitar?

THORPE: I fooled around with it for a few years. But I didn't actually start playing until I was around 15 years old. I was a late starter.

KNAC.COM: Who were your early influences?

THORPE: Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, and Randy Rhoads.

KNAC.COM: Was there a particular guitarist you emulated when you first started?

THORPE: No not really. I always kinda set out to do my own thing. I always saw players that picked like one guy, and that was their favorite guitar player. I thought that's cool, but I would rather listen to some guitar players I admire, and take a little spark from all of them and combine it with what I do. Instead of copying one guys sound, I'm more interested in creating my own style.

KNAC.COM: What was it like to play the Bang Your Head Festival with Heaven And Hell?

THORPE: Incredible! 10,000 screaming Metal Maniacs going crazy in the hot sun of Germany! It was a great day, and a lot of great bands on the bill. We love playing overseas and we get such a great response over there. Those big festivals are just a blast.

KNAC.COM: Did you get to say hello to Ronnie James Dio?

THORPE: You know, I didn't. The other guys did. I must have been autographing a block of cheese, or a set of giant German circus tits or something. I've met Ronnie Dio before. He's a very nice guy. It's very encouraging and inspirational to meet him, because he's so cool. I'm sure I'll get another opportunity again.

KNAC.COM: Just like you, he's a class act! Unlike Ritchie Blackmore, Ronnie Dio will let you hug him.

    (*When Vicious Rumors opened for Rainbow in their hometown of San Francisco, Geoff was so anxious to meet his childhood idol Ritchie Blackmore for the first time. He tried to give him a hug, and Blackmore shoved him away and got pissed off and kicked everyone out of his dressing room.)

THORPE: I hear you. That's the last time I try to hug an old British National Monument.

KNAC.COM: I heard Vicious Rumors was the first band that day to earn an encore from the fans at the Bang Your Head Festival?

THORPE: Yes, that's true. I think we were the 6th band on, and played around 3 pm so we had a good slot first day of the Festival. By mid afternoon, the crowd was pretty well packed in and ready to get slammed. Everyone in the band that day played hard and rocked well. The next day, our other guitar player, Thaen and I got our picture in the local German newspaper. We didn't expect that. It was a great day for VR, we had a lot of fun!

KNAC.COM: Do you use Marshall Amplification?

THORPE: No. I use them in the studio. I'll combine a Marshall with a couple other amps. Live I use a power amp, and a custom pre amp called "Langner". They don't make them anymore. A friend of mine made them and designed them. I have been using them with Vicious Rumors for a long time.

KNAC.COM: Do you tour with your own gear?

THORPE: I don't even travel with my own stuff bro. I go and I play what's there. I don't like having to use the power converters. Some guys are really finicky about "Oh I have to have my stuff!" I used to be that way. Over time, and especially coming back from major back surgery I just make things easy as possible. 90% of my tone is in my hands, as well as any guitarist. So as long as I have a decent amp and good quality gear, we make it rock. We keep things more simple and it's more effective for us that way.

KNAC.COM: Old school man. Plug straight in and go!

THORPE: That's it. We're animals, we're savages!

KNAC.COM: All you need is a little distortion and delay.

THORPE: Exactly. We don't need much. Just a few basics and the rest is wetting ducks.

KNAC.COM: Vicious Rumors recently toured Japan with Riot. What was that adventure like?

THORPE: It was amazing! Japan is such a cultural experience, it's so fascinating to go to Tokyo. The people there are so cool and we have a great fan base there. It was really fun to have Riot on the bill with us. We've played with them off and on over the years. It's been a few years since we've been back to Japan, so it was an amazing experience. All these trips to Europe, Japan and around the United States have just been incredible.

KNAC.COM: Do you get any rock radio airplay in Japan and Europe? Is that still existent?

THORPE: Yes, there are some long time Radio DJs that still play Vicious Rumors. Captain Wada in Japan, and Masa Ito with Burn Magazine are very famous rock personalities. They're still flying the flag high playing some VR, and keeping metal going. Those guys deserve a couple Warball Medals.

KNAC.COM: Tell us about your new VR line up?

THORPE: Well I tell you. We've been having a great year. The guys all get along well, and we travel well together. We're having a lot of fun, and I think fans can see that when they come see Vicious Rumors live. People see us on stage having a good time, and it makes them want to join in with us. We've also been getting great reviews. Our attitude is like "Man, let's just go for it!"

KNAC.COM: How did you discover your new singer James Rivera? (Vicious Rumors, Seven Witches, Hellstar, Flotsam & Jetsam)

THORPE: James and I have been doing shows for years in different bands, so I met him on the tour circuit. The first time I heard him was in Europe, both our bands opened for Judas Priest. He called me about doing some shows with his band Hellstar right at the time when I was looking for a new singer for Vicious Rumors. It felt like a message or something. James is just the greatest guy to work with. He's a really funny dude, and a very talented singer. We meshed well and it was a really smooth transition. Everything happened really fast. The next thing we knew, we had this incredible album called Warball we put out together, and we've been out on the road ever since.

KNAC.COM: It seems humble to say that your late great singer Carl Albert would be very proud of the direction Vicious Rumors has gone to and arrived at right now?

THORPE: You know. (long sigh) Man, (Pauses) I would like to think that Carl is smiling down on us still. One of the reasons James worked so well in Vicious Rumors was that really embraced the legacy that Carl left behind with the band. Carl was one of the greatest singers ever. Instead of fighting with Carl's vocals, James embraced it along with his style and made it feel like Classic VR. With that approach it really works for all of us. Hopefully God willing, we can stay together, and stay healthy and keep it going. I think the band feels really good right now.

KNAC.COM: If Carl were still alive, what do you think he would be doing tonight?

THORPE: (Laughs) This night exactly? That's an interesting question. That's a wide open chapter right there! Carl would probably be doing something interesting, and creative right now. (Staggers) And possibly something a little odd.

KNAC.COM: What was it like rocking next to a singer like Carl Albert?

THORPE: Oh it was incredible! Most of the time we roomed together on the road. He was like my best friend in the band. Playing with Carl live was fun because when you see bands live, and go and see a singer. They may have some melodies that might be hard to hit, so they make an adjustment to go lower. Where it still sounds good, they just altered it so they could sing it live. Carl would alter his part the other way. He would hit it an octave higher (Laughs) and it used to blow people away. There were certain moments in the set I knew he was going to do it, and I would just look at the crowd so I could see the looks on people faces when he hit the high notes. People were just floored by the guy. We has so much fun together. It was a great experience being friends with Carl, and one I'll cherish the rest of my life.

KNAC.COM: Amen. Carl was a good guitar player too wasn't he?

THORPE: Yes. He was a multi-musician. Vocals, keyboards, guitar, and he played some wicked harmonica on the bluesy intro for "Against the Grain" the first song off Word of Mouth the last album we recorded together in 1994.

KNAC.COM: How's is Carl's son Kevin doing? Does he play in a band?

THORPE: Yeah. Kevin's doing great. He's playing guitar in a metal band called Kaof. They just got back from Europe. He looks just like his dad.

KNAC.COM: Does Carl's girlfriend Kathleen still work with you guys?

THORPE: Yes. She's been working with VR since before Carl was in the band. She actually went to Europe with us for the 10th Anniversary of the Bang Your Head Festival in 2005. Kathleen rocks and is a very sweet girl. It's great having her as part of the team.

KNAC.COM: Didn't you and Carl write the song "Thunder and Rain" about late great Savatage Guitarist Chris Oliva?

    (*After returning home from a European Tour with Vicious Rumors and Savatage in Europe. Savatage Guitarist Chris Oliva and his wife were killed in a fatal automobile accident in Florida while driving home from a concert in a thunderstorm.)

THORPE: Originally yes! And isn't it ironic that "Thunder and Rain" turned out to be about Chris and Carl. You know, when your in a rock band for over twenty years such as Vicious Rumors, that's just part of life. Your going to see birth, and your going to see death. Your going to see ups, and downs, and it's just been the roller coaster of life. The only thing you can count on in a twenty eight year career is for things to change. Luckily I've been able to roll with the punches. After all this time, I feel very fortunate to have been able to work with all the talented people that I've hooked up with over the years. Carl Albert along with the original Vicious Rumors line up certainly laid the legacy down. Our first five albums really paved the way for me to continue. You know it's just been an incredible ride.

KNAC.COM: How has the loss of Dime Bag Darrell fueled your fire?

THORPE: Oh man. That was so unbelievable wasn't it? You hear about famous people getting killed, and things like that happening. But that particular one is so hard for me to swallow. Dime was truly one of my favorite guitar players. I met him a couple times, but unfortunately never got to play any shows with him. I always thought he was so great. Losing Dimebag was one of the worst things that's ever happened to Metal. I'm proud to be endorsing his Razorback Guitars. It's a real honor to be playing the guitar Dime designed in spirit of him.

KNAC.COM: What was it like to return to the recording studio on Warball with your original VR Drummer Larry Howe and Bass Player Dave Starr?

THORPE: It was great. It felt really good and it was a lot of fun. It was too bad Dave wasn't able to join us on the road. It was great to get those two together again. After all the years that we've played and recorded together, Larry and Dave just have that thing. When they get together, it's just real solid like that. It was refreshing having the original guitar, bass and drums in Vicious Rumors together on the new album. It really comes through. Larry's just a mad man drummer, he's old school power, and plays with a relentless beat. It's fun to play with thunder!

KNAC.COM: It's time Larry reaps his claim to fame like Lars from Metallica.

THORPE: Yes! Larry is an amazing drummer, and we've got a lot of talent in the band and people are still recognizing it, and finding out about it. You know, I think Vicious Rumors in general is a pretty underrated band if I might say so myself (Laughs). But that's OK. We've had so many great things happen to us, and we've made so many great things happen that I can't complain. Larry and I have lasted all these years and can still get together. We've got a really great following from the past, and we're building a great new following.

KNAC.COM: How did you hook up with Guitarist Brad Gillis? (Ozzy, Night Ranger) He played some guest solo's on your new record.

THORPE: Brad and I have been friends for years. He lives up here in the Bay Area and I caught him at the right time. It was great working with him. He's one of my close friends, and I look up to him as a great guitarist. When ever I think about him taking over in The Blizzard of Ozz for Randy Rhoads, man it just blows my mind. It was fun having him play on the record because he always plays with a lot of fire. Brad definitely rips it up!

KNAC.COM: I heard he still has one of Randy's leather stage vest's?

THORPE: Yeah. Brad's got a few things that Ozzy gave him. He still has his black Gibson Les Paul with the Whammy Bar that he used during the Diary Tour.

KNAC.COM: How's your back doing?

THORPE: I'm doing well, and I thank you for asking. I've made a lot of progress over the last year. It's one of those types of injuries that once it happens, your kinda stuck with it. I'm prepared to deal with whatever I have to deal with. And I've decided that whatever the case may be, I'm going to try to live my life to the fullest. That's all I can do. If I have to deal with obstacles along the way, then I'm prepared to do it. But I've gone to far to stop now.

    (*One week before Vicious Rumors was to open for Dream Theater and Queensryche for their home town crowd in San Francisco. Geoff was seriously injured after a road case fell on him and broke his back. In true spirit, Vicious Rumors played on as a four member unit without Geoff.)

KNAC.COM: Your a Terminator dude!

THORPE: I'm destructible. But I'm part of something that's indestructible. You just can't kill rock n' roll!

KNAC.COM: So your heading off to Europe this Fall with Agent Steel and After All. What can fans expect from Vicious Rumors when they come see you guys?

THORPE: Metal Fans can expect an amazing night! We want this to be the kind of show where you just come in, bash heads with us for a couple of hours,and forget about your daily life. We're going to tear it up big time! We're playing a ton of old and new songs. We're busting out some tunes from the first record we haven't played in years. We've got a really hot triple bill together with "Agent Steel" and "After All" this Belgium Band that's really good. I'm looking forward to that. We are playing fourteen countries and twenty two shows so it's really going to be a killer tour.

KNAC.COM: What's beyond the horizon for Vicious Rumors?

THORPE: We are going to be promoting Warball through the next year, and then hopefully hit the studio sometime next year. Warball is still gaining momentum. We want to make the next record good and if not better, so we don't want to rush into making a new VR record.

KNAC.COM: Are you planning to release a new DVD soon?

THORPE: Yes. We've got some great video footage of the recent show with Heaven And Hell and other concert footage from the European Tour. For now you have to check out what the kids have posted on You Tube with their cell phones.

KNAC.COM: What do you credit to the longevity of Vicious Rumors?

THORPE: Well I think the main thing is. The guys that are doing it now are people that love to do it. Like me, they live for the reaction. For me personally, there's always been something around the corner that was interesting enough to make me go around that corner. I love the traveling, and meeting new people. I love the action and I've always believed in our music. I try to surround myself with really good talent. We've had a lot of versions of the band, and we've had a lot of very talented people in and out of the group. Currently, we have one of the best line ups we've ever had. I got to see the world without joining the Army! And I tell you man, I'm just enjoying life. I'm not planning on slowing down anytime soon.

KNAC.COM: What's the funniest thing you've ever had to autograph?

THORPE: One time, we played the Dynamo Festival in Germany and I missed the last shuttle from the show to the hotel. So I wondered around the camp site and met some rockers. These VR Fans let me crash in their tent with a few of their friends. When I got up in the morning before I left, they made me autograph their tent. To top that, I had an interview that morning with Metal Hammer Magazine, and dragged in late looking like hell. I have leaves in my hair, and dirt all over my shirt and stuff. I looked like a rock n' roll weekend. That was pretty funny.

KNAC.COM: Is there anything else you wanted to say before we venture "Out of the Shadows and into the Night", in the immortal words of Carl Albert?

THORPE: I wanted to wish a special get well to the "Leather Nun" Tawn Mastery. Get well soon Tawn! A big high five to KNAC.COM and all the Pure Rockers out there. Thanks to you, Vicious Rumors is going strong and the Warball rolls on! We'll see you on tour.

KNAC.COM: When you retire Geoff, you can become the new Don Ho!

THORPE: (Laughs) Sure! I've been called a Ho before. I can greet visitors at the Hawaiian Airport with "Down to the Temple" on the Ukulele. I wonder what it pays?

Vicious Rumors - August 2007 US Tour Dates:

  • Aug 5 2007 8:00P - The Jumping Turtle / San Marcos, California
  • Aug 16 2007 8:00P - The Phoenix Theater / Petaluma, California
  • Aug 18 2007 8:00P - Brittania Arms / Cupertino, California
Vicious Rumors - European Tour 2007 with Agent Steel and After All

  • Sep. 04 - Dortmund, Germany - Tarantula
  • Sep. 05 - Frankfurt, Germany - Nachtleben
  • Sep. 06 - Weert, Netherlands - De Bosuil
  • Sep. 07 - Eeklo, Belgium - Meetjeslands Metalfest 4 (CC De Herbakker)
  • Sep. 08 - Noordwijk, Netherlands - Join
  • Sep. 09 - Rijssen, Netherlands - Lucky & Co.
  • Sep. 10 - Pratteln, Switzerland - Z7
  • Sep. 11 - Lyon, France - CCO
  • Sep. 13 - Madrid, Spain - Ritmo & Compas
  • Sep. 14 - Palencia, Spain - Carabel
  • Sep. 15 - Bilbao, Spain - Santana 27
  • Sep. 16 - Barcelona, Spain - Salamandra
  • Sep. 18 - Treviso, Italy - New Age Club Roncade
  • Sep. 19 - Montegranaro (Fermo), Italy - Tana delle Tigri
  • Sep. 21 - Athens, Greece - [to be announced]
  • Sep. 22 - Thessaloniki, Greece - [to be announced]
  • Sep. 23 - Skopje, Macedonia - [to be announced]

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