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Arrival: Angel of a New Kind. Exclusive interview with WildeStarr

By Michael Fischer, Writer, @toonsthatrock
Monday, January 11, 2010 @ 3:45 PM

"If success comes your way, great... but don't hold your breath."

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Master of Metal “Dave Starr” is no stranger to the pure rock scene. He was the bassist and original founding member of the mighty “Vicious Rumors.” Dave’s body of work includes such records as Digital Dictator, Welcome To The Ball, and Warball in 2006.

It’s a new decade and Dave has returned on his own uniting forces with ripper lead vocalist London Wilde and drummer Jim Hawthorne to form “WildeStarr.” WildeStarr have just released their debut record entitled Arrival which some are calling a melodic metal masterpiece. What better way to rock in the New Year than to hook up with Dave and London to talk about their new album “Arrival.”

KNAC.COM: So talk about your new record!

WILDE: Arrival is the record Dave and I set out to make that we wanted to listen to. We’re really thrilled people are enjoying it. It was a very difficult record for us to make. We poured a lot into it, so it’s really satisfying to be getting all this positive response.

STARR: It’s been a real interesting experience making this record. It’s very rewarding reading the reviews, and hearing what the press and the fans are saying about it. It’s been a real epic journey for both of us trying to get this record done. A lot went into it, far more than any record I’ve ever done.

KNAC.COM: Is there a concept or theme behind the music?

WILDE: There wasn’t a conscious concept in the beginning musically or lyrically. But as time went on, I noticed a pattern started to emerge in my lyrics. And the message seemed to be death.

That is the theme of Arrival. That sounds morbid, but actually there’s a lot of positive messages in the material to. Songs deal with losing someone, or stories about people who want to live, yet they die. Or people who want to die, yet they live. The ironies of life.

KNAC.COM: You also just released your first music video for Arrival?

WILDE: Yes! The video concept was something I had an idea for long before the record was done.

I’ve been working on it for two years. I played it for a friend and it emotionally effected her.

That's a big compliment because as a musician and artist when you’re trying to move people or make them feel something. The video will remind you of Blade Runner sorta meets Underworld. We will have a video link posted soon.

KNAC.COM: London, is this your first record?

WILDE: Yes. I’ve been in bands that seemed to fall apart real quickly. I didn’t really get anywhere. So this is my first album with me on lead vocals.

KNAC.COM: Who are your vocal influences?

WILDE: Ronnie James Dio. He’s basically the guy that made me want to become a singer. Geoff Tate and Rob Halford.

KNAC.COM: Didn’t you see Halford at Starbucks once?

WILDE: (Laughs) Yes! He was playing in town with Two. I went to go see him in Palo Alto, California and got there early. I was in Starbucks with a friend and he walked in the door and just stared right at me. I about fell out of my chair. I wasn’t expecting that because Halford is such an icon to me. I didn’t have the nerve to go talk to him. I wish I would have. I thought he wanted to be left alone (Laughs). I did see some other fans gathered around him and I also observed he was a really down to earth guy. He had a lot of respect for his fans and he spent a lot of time with them which makes me admire him even more.

KNAC.COM: Did Halford inspire track four off your new record Rise?

WILDE: Yes. We had the music for that song without any vocals. We were actually almost finished with the record and I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with that song. I was feeling very ferocious and wanted to write something with a little more balls than some of the other material.

STARR: The song kinda reminds me of “Resurrection.” It’s got that insane over the top vocals on it. We just got another review in today from the UK that says, it sounded the closest thing to Halford anyone has ever heard. Rise has shaken up a lot of people. No one has ever heard a woman sing like that before. Rise was the very last song we wrote.

KNAC.COM: Dave, you played all the guitars and bass on Arrival?

STARR: Yes, (laughs) I’ve played a lot of bass with Vicious Rumors. But never done anything on guitar before. It was a lot of work and a personal achievement for me to do this. I had to play the rolls of two different guitar players and a bass player. Never having done anything like this before. It was quite an undertaking.

KNAC.COM: You play drop C tuning on this record?

STARR: It’s called “Straight C” or “True C.” I picked this up from working with guitarist David Chastain working on the In and Out Rage album. I was never a fan of low tuning, but had my basses set up for the album that we recorded in 2004. I started writing some songs on one of those low tuned basses, and ended up dropping the tuning down on the guitar to go with the bass. It just sort of worked. A couple of the other songs like “In this world” are dropped way down.

KNAC.COM: What was it like to make the full time transition from bass to guitar?

STARR: That’s a really loaded question because it wasn’t about just picking up the guitar. It had to do with quitting drinking. And that was a very profound thing in my life that happened four and half years ago. This album wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t stopped drinking. There was no way I could play on this level if I didn’t get my head together. I just quit cold turkey.

I spent hours every night working on my chops. I had a lot of catching up to do. I had to live up to all these great people that I’ve worked with in the past. KNAC.COM: How do you develop your song writing formulas?

STARR: I was really fortunate to play with a lot of really talented Guitarists like Geoff Thorpe (Vicious Rumors), Mark McGee (Vicious Rumors, Luv Planet), Vinnie Moore (Vicious Rumors, UFO) and David Chastain (Chastain), and a phenomenal singer in Carl Albert (Vicious Rumors, Villain). Working with people like that making a lot of great records rubbed off on me. I couldn’t play one of Mark or Geoffs solos, it was not about that. For me, it was about absorbing all the energy of working with those people and being a part of some really wonderful experiences and great albums. I think much of Arrival had to do with my background, as far as writing the music. It gave London a nice solid palette to work with in terms of writing lyrics and melodies.

KNAC.COM: You guys are like The Carpenters of Heavy Metal!

WILDE: (Laughs) Well, one thing I really appreciated about Dave's song writing. It seemed like with every song. And we started clicking more and more. Towards the end, we wouldn’t have to change the arrangements. The songs Dave gives me are pretty arranged and thought out as is, which is a pleasure to work with.

KNAC.COM: London, you played all the keyboards on this record?

WILDE: Yes. I’m really influenced by film scores; simple things that evoke emotions. That’s the roll that keyboards play in WildeStarr. When I listen to music, it’s very visual to me, I feel like when you add textures like that. You can conjure images in people’s minds with the use of keyboards sounds to set a tone before the music even kicks in. Some of my favorite records start out that way, and it’s something I wanted to add to a couple of the tunes to kinda set listeners up for what were the songs.

KNAC.COM: There's some intellectual song writing on “Arrival.” Tracks like “Down of the Sun” and “Touching God.”

STARR: “Down of the Sun” is one of my favorites. It’s got a lot going on in there. There’s a lot of drama and coloring changes.

KNAC.COM: Most of the material is like “Rose in the Dark”, “Generation Next”, and “The Chain” is straight ahead, balls to the wall.

STARR: I guess that's who and what we are. I think there is a bit of aggression in all the songs, even the ballad “Nevermore.” Everything is heavy in its own way, yet all the songs are unique.

KNAC.COM: Track eight “Nevermore” is the only slow tune on the record. That high note at the end is kinda spooky.

WILDE: It’s a spooky song. “Nevermore” is another example of the themes on Arrival dealing with our own mortality, loss and fascination as a culture with the other side.

KNAC.COM: You dedicated track nine to Carl Albert called “Voice in the Silence.”

    (Vicious Rumors singer Carl Albert was killed in a fatal automobile accident April 22, 1995.)
WILDE: I was inspired to write “Voice in the Silence” after we visited Carl's grave. He’s definitely one of my vocal hero's and occupies a special place in my heart. Carl and I are both from the same town and I’ve seen him play with Vicious Rumors a lot of times. He embodies all the traits of my favorite vocalists. When we went to visit his grave I felt nothing. I felt sadness and loss. You see evidence of fans who had visited his grave and left things. His nickname “The Voice” is inscribed on his head stone. Carl was my muse writing this record.

I did feel like I connected with him in some small way through writing this music. So “Voice in the Silence” just came about from that experience.

STARR: “Voice in the Silence” is the only song on the record where I actually get a lump in my throat every time I hear that last verse.

KNAC.COM: Dave, what was it like to stand next to Carl on stage and perform in Vicious Rumors?

STARR: Carl had a lot of charisma on stage. He had a lot of humor on and off stage. He sang better live than he did on the record which is frightening. I have a lot of memories of Carl and moments on the road we shared. He’d walk up to me on stage and say funny things in-between songs. I miss the guy. I’m glad I had those years with him. I still have dreams about him. I think he’s still with London and I on this record because you can hear his presence and influence. Not in the fact that there's a song about him, but the force of his personality and his talent elbows his way into our psyche. So he refuses to go away. And that's a good thing.

KNAC.COM: Life back then must have seemed like a crazy dream?

STARR: Yes. When I think back on all that, it seems like a dream. I look at all those old photos and videos that I’ve got and I think “Wow did that really happen?” It was a real magical time. Nothing lasts forever. But VR was a big part of my life and made me who I am today.

KNAC.COM: Didn’t you and VR tour with Savatage Guitarist Criss Olivia?

    (Savatage Guitarist Criss Olivia and his wife were killed a fatal head on car collision after leaving a concert in Florida)
STARR: Yes, this was in 1991. Savatage & VR toured Europe together; it was an amazing time for both bands, lots of fun. All the shows were incredible. Criss was a great guy and a great talent. His death was a tragic loss to so many people. I am grateful that I got know him as well as I did in that short time that we toured together.

KNAC.COM: I heard Vicious Rumors tour bus crashed in Europe and Savatage came to your rescue?

STARR: Yes. Our bus driver fell asleep after we played a show in Paris. It was a bit scary but nobody was seriously hurt, just bumps and bruises. We were on our way back to Germany when the crash took place. Savatage was kind enough to help us out. We stayed on their bus for a few days until we got our situation worked out.

KNAC.COM: What was it like to be in a high caliber band like VR and not have the material success of bands like Metallica?

STARR: It was frustrating. I remember when we got signed to Atlantic in 1990, we were on cloud nine. And then things just didn’t pan out. We achieved everything we wanted except the huge mega selling record. It wasn't for lack of effort, song writing or performing. When we were firing on all cylinders, there was no one that could touch us. It’s just one of those things. I’m not bitter about it. There are no guarantees in life and in the music business. I’m proud of what the five of us did together. And we left a great body of work and we still have fans around the world and a lot of those fans are now WildeStarr Fans. That whole chapter of my life had a lot to do with forging who I am today as a guitar player and a song writer. I’m just really excited about what we’re doing now and what the future holds.

KNAC.COM: Is WildeStarr going to tour this summer?

STARR: I don’t know about that to be honest with you. Geoff loves the record and has offered to play guitar if we tour. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. We did get an offer a couple weeks ago to do the Headbangers Open Air Festival in Germany.

WILDE: Aside from touring plans, we are working on material right now for the next record, and I think we have a couple monsters on our hands. It’s hard to top yourself on a record like Arrival we worked years on, but I think everyone is gonna be blown away by our second offering.

KNAC.COM: Dave, would you like to go back and play Tokyo?

STARR: I would really like to go back to Japan. I told London if we did anything or one thing.

If we did a Japanese tour I’d be really thrilled. The best time I had in Vicious Rumors was when we toured Japan for the “Welcome to the Ball Tour” in 1992. We recorded that live record in Tokyo.

KNAC.COM: Do they have a Starbucks in Tokyo for London?

STARR: (Laughs) They have everything in Tokyo!

KNAC.COM: Some great bands have come from out of Northern California like Testament, Metallica, Vicious Rumors and now WildeStarr.

STARR: I’ve been around so long that Metallica opened for us when I was in “Laaz Rockit” at the old Waldorff in San Francisco in the early 1980’s. I’ve known Eric Peterson from Testament since he was fifteen years old. We talked to Eric about getting involved with WildeStarr but he got busy with Testament reforming with the original members.

KNAC.COM: Would you agree metal doesn't sound much like metal anymore?

STARR: (Laughs) I haven’t listened to anything over the last three years because I’ve been writing this music. I don’t listen to a lot of new music. London is more up on current stuff. I’ve never heard Slipknot before. But I read this guitar column poll asking, “Who’s the best guitar team in the history of metal?” Slipknot was ahead of Judas Priest, and I thought, “What?” I’m not saying anything bad about Slipknot, I think it’s just a whole new generation of younger people that may not appreciate the legends that have been around for a long time. I stay away from new music because I don’t want to be influenced by anything that’s current. If I’m influenced by something that took place twenty five years ago when I write a song, today that might be something new.

KNAC.COM: Dave, you have any survival tips for young metal musicians out there?

STARR: Stay away from drugs and booze! Never give up and never give in. Winners never quit and quitters never win! Seriously, just be the best you can be, and play for fun and the love of music. If success comes your way, great... but don't hold your breath. This is a very tough business, and many people burn out along the way from the hard life of a musician, so don't make it any harder then it needs to be.

KNAC.COM: Was it fate that you two made this record?

WILDE: Dave and I met in 1987 and have known each other for so long. We never imagined that we would be doing a record together. It does make you think, because people don’t always have chemistry together as a song writing team or in a band. You can take two talented musicians and they just might not connect. The fact that we did mesh is an interesting coincidence. Maybe it’s not a coincidence and something more divine.

STARR: Whatever we’re doing, it works! We didn’t know what the hell we were doing when we started out on this journey…and it just morphed into this life form. It’s interesting personally and artistically how this whole project just came together and it’s been a great experience.

KNAC.COM: Maybe you will get to tour with Judas Priest.

STARR: That might be something that would be tough to turn down.

KNAC.COM: You can take Rob to In n’ Out Burger!

WILDE: (Laughs) You got a deal!

WildeStarr Official Website - http://www.WildeStarr.com/

Visit Michael Fischer at www.ToonsOnIce.com.

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