Posted on August 23th. 2016
Questionnaire by Stefan on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM
US Power Metal legends Vicious Rumors will launch their new album through German, equally legendary label SPV/Steamhammer. Mark the 26th. Of August as the official release date of “Concussion Protocol”, awaiting this glorious moment it’s my pleasure and honor to have a conversation with founder/guitarist Geoff Thorpe. I would like to address the past, present and future to give a better overall picture of this legendary band. Let’s get started…
Q: Hi Geoff, thanks a lot to contribute to this conversation… how are you brother?
I’m doing really great. I spend 5 weeks in Germany, went to several festivals did over 75 interviews and now I’m back in the States rehearsing for the Autumn Tour with Dirkschneider. Can’t be better!!!
Q: May I take you back in time, actually to the period where it all began for you as guitarist/composer? Give us a little background history with regards to your very early musical career.
My first band in Hawaii, where I grew up, was called Berlin. But then the band from LA got famous so I changed the name to Vicious Rumors. Wow that’s 37 years ago….unbelievable.
Q: What were the ambitions those days?
During the late 70s in Hawaii we played house party’s…these were my first gigs. The first Vicious Rumors gigs happened at local high schools in Northern California. We thought this would be a great way to build the following. We never thought of all the things which came afterwards..:-)
Q: Vicious Rumors was born when many other Bay Area Metal acts marched on as well, what about the competitiveness during that period of time? Name a few bands you really liked back then.
Definitely there was a competition….when I came from Hawaii to Northern California in the beginning of the 80s everything exploded when it comes to metal. We were there very early……we were part of the San Francisco scene…..played with Metallica when they were a garage band. Very exciting times and I liked bands like Exodus and Legacy (later Testament).
Q: Was it a difficult task to find the right fellow musicians to create a stable line-up? How the very first group occupation looked like?
It was tough finding the rights guys. But the scene at that time was huge and every day a new band came up with good musicians. The first I found was drummer Larry Howe and he is still in the band…nearly 37 years later….!!!
Q: Vicious Rumors’ debut album saw daylight back in 1985 – entitled “Soldiers Of The Night” was released through Mike Varney’s Shrapnel Records. What’s your story on the success of the effort? How did you get in touch with this legendary producer/musician?
I sent a tape to him and he immediately contacted me. He liked the band but to be honest more Vinnie Moore as a guitar player….:-) But we did the album and it paved the way of the thing to come.
Q: The good common, musical relationship of yesteryear remained intact through the years or not?
Like I said..Larry is still in the band, I have still contact to Vinnie Moore..all good except of one guy…our old bass player from back then. I have no idea what’s going on with him. But I really don’t care about his rants and posts….time is too short.
Q: Second VR album “Digital Dictator” conquered the world of Metal in no time, would you dedicate the success of the album to the arrival of Carl Albert who teamed up a while before?
Yes but not only to him..also Mark McGee and me were a great song writing team. And together with Carl’s voice we created songs like “Lady Took A Chance” and “World And Machines” which we still play live today.
Q: In my opinion, Carl Albert will forever be one of the greatest singers in the history of Power Metal music. What he did with Ruffians, Villain and Vicious Rumors will be etched in my memory forevermore. What kinda guy was he in both everyday life and as musician to work with?
He was a total down to earth guy. On stage he was a madman but in real life he was a pleasure to work with. We were like brothers at that time and there is no time since the last years when I don’t think about him.
Q: Carl also contributed to following VR records like “Vicious Rumors”, “Welcome To The Ball” and “Word Of Mouth” – we had to say goodbye to this over-the-top, full quality skilled singer on April 22, 1995. Carl was killed in a car accident as he returned from a European Tour with Savatage, how you have heard the tragic news Geoff?
I got a phone call, to be honest I don’t remember from whom. Strange that I forgot that…anyway….when I heard the news I couldn’t believe it. It was so surreal…but it happened. It was such a loss and it took some time before I could continue or even think about the future of the band.
Q: ”A Tribute To Carl Albert” has been recorded as a heartfelt gesture and honor – how the songlist looks like and like to know if the album is still available these days?
No…..it was recorded live on the 1994 tour, the last one Carl did, and it was only available in 1995 for a very short time. To be honest could be a good idea to do another run…it’s over 20 years ago…..hm….!!
Q: You took over the vocal duties afterwards and Vicious Rumors brought on next cut entitled ”Something Burning” (1996) including the song ‘Perpetual’, last work written with Carl Albert. What does your inner feelings say about this album?
I said to myself Carl would like to want us to continue so I checked different singers. But nobody really could sing the songs like Carl did. So I said..okay I will do it. Now I would said that I should have waited to find the right singer but at that time I thought it was the right thing to do. I mean the album got mixed reviews but we toured through Europe on a massive tour with ACCEPT which also helped us to bring the name Vicious Rumors back to the fans.
Q: Finally you decided to focus yourself on the guitar duties only and new vocalists teamed up as years passed by. Brian O’Connor, Morgan Thorn, Brian Allen, Kevin Albert (son of Carl), James Rivera and others joined forces but called it quits after a while… for what reason?
All singers we had after Carl were great guys but it was always hard because everybody competed with Carl and for some of them it was hard to take. Now with Nick we don’t have this anymore.
Q: In between this entire VR story, I’ like to mention the fact that you’ve played tons of concerts and festivals. According to yourself, which gig you will never forget?
There is no certain gig but festivals like Wacken, Bang Your Head, Graspop etc…..give me goosebumps. The best tour we ever did was in 1991 when we supported Savatage in Europe. We released “Welcome To The Ball” and Savatage “Streets”. It was the perfect package for that time….I would do it immediately again!!!
Q: Vicious Rumors played a few times for the Belgian Metal organization called Alcatraz, a few club concerts were done, also you delivered a brilliant performance at two editions of Alcatraz Hard Rock and Metal Festival. May I ask for your experiences on Belgian soil?
I always enjoy playing in Belgium. The fans are awesome and the organization at this festival is superb. I hope that we will play also this Autumn with Dirkschneider in Belgium again. If not we definitely will do a headliner gig.
Q: Will you be present at this years edition of this festival ? http://www.alcatraz.be/en
Sorry that I answered this interview so late and I figured out that the festival is over. I loved to be there..what a great line up..hopefully we can play there next year.
Q: Back in 2002/2003, it looked like VR was fell of the radar… it became very quite in the camp and I was wondering what happened Geoff?
Between “Sadistic Symphony” and “Warball” it was a very dark time for me. There were no real success, I struggled personally and also I couldn’t find a great record company which I now have with Steamhammer/SPV. With “Razorback Killers” everything turned to better things.
Q: But VR returned with full force after these years of absence, you were back with a vengeance and new ambitions, right?
Correct…with Brian Allen as the new singer we returned to old form. Everything came together.
Q: You signed a deal with SPV/ Steamhammer and recorded “Razorback Killer” and “Electric Punishment”… how the collaboration between VR and this German label came to be?
I know our A&R Olly Hahn since 1994 when we played the “Ultimate Power Force Tour” with Metal Church. He also was our PR person for “Word Of Mouth”. We never lost touch and in 2011 I send him a mail with some new songs and he immediately wants to sign Vicious Rumors.
Q: Including the new album, you’ve released three studio albums and two live recordings from which I conclude that the cooperation runs smoothly. That opens perspectives for the future, right?
Definitely…very smooth. The label believes in us and is doing a great job. For the new album “Concussion Protocol” Steamhammer/SPV did so main things which is unbelievable. And yes another live album for next year is also on the horizon…:-)
Q: Now I would like to talk about your upcoming new album entitled “Concussion Protocol”. I had the opportunity to listen to the full album in advance and man; what a brilliant piece of US Power Metal ! Let’s take the album in detail under the magnifying glass, first on I’d like to know who’s responsible for the outstanding production?
We are working soundwise with Juan Urteaga since the last 10 years. Together we established a production team that just keeps getting better and better. I don’t think of working with another producer. He’s the sixth member of Vicious Rumors.
Q: Where “Concussion Protocol” was recorded – how long did it take before everything was finished?
This time we did the writing as a team . We rented a house in the NL for 4 weeks to be together… no emailing parts!! Then Nick and Tilen came to California to record together!! Everything was so natural and easy this time. All in all it took 8 month but it was definitely worth the wait.
Q: The new album has been recorded with new singer Nick Holleman (Powerized, Methusalem), a FANTASTIC vocalist who joined forces since quite a while. Vicious Rumors always had well-skilled vocalists within their ranks but with Holland based N. Holleman, you definitely won a prize of inestimable value. I consider him as a tremendous asset to the band… in what way, you met each other?
A dear friend of mine in the Netherlands who plays in a band called My Big Brother Jake recommended Nick to me. I saw his natural talent and ability right away. After he send in two songs on video he became the first member of Vicious Rumors which I hired immediately without an audition. Now he’s our lead singer for three years and with this chemistry we made one of the most powerful and exciting albums of our career.
Q: Nick lives in his homeland Holland I suppose, how the cooperation with a Californian band like Vicious Rumors happens.
Mostly on Skype, Phone and Mail….but last year Nick also came to the USA for 4 weeks and this year I stayed some weeks in Holland at his house. It’s easier than it seems..:-)
Q: Besides drum legend/veteran Larry Howe, please introduce us to the other members as well.
We have the youngsters Tilen Hudrap from Slovenia on bass and singer Nick Hollemann from Holland. Both brought fresh air into the band and I can count on them 100%. Thaen Rassmussen on the second guitar were already in the band from 2005-2007 and I’m glad that he is back in the band. I know him since the 80s when he played in a band called Anvil Chrous.
Q: Who was chosen to write the lyrics, what about the textual content? Do you mind to guide us through some of the new tracks?
When I have to compare the new album lyricwise with one of our older ones I would chose “Digital Dictator”. It was the begining of the digital age. With “Concussion Protocol” we are looking at the age of disasters. These ar ethe topics on our new album.
Q: Listening to the entire and in my opinion, “Concussion Protocol” is Vicious Rumors’ best album since your debut “Soldiers Of The Night”, follow up “Digital Dictator” and “Vicious Rumors”… agree or disagree?
I agree….many journalists said that this album should have come after “Welcome To The Ball”. It definitely breathes the Vicious Rumors legacy but also include some new elements.
Q: The musical diversity throughout the whole record is a remarkable fact, ach songs has its own character… a real pleasure to listen at. Based on the musical aspect, how would you describe the new album.
For my point of view the whole record takes you on a ride. Vicious Rumors has never limited ourselves to one sound. We have some really fast songs on the album like “Chasing The Priest” or “1000 Years” but also rockin’ songs like “Take It Or Leave It” and “Last Of Our Kind”. And a complete new sound in form of “Life For A Life”. No two Vicious Rumors albums sound alike. We always strive to give you something new as well as the classic elements of Vicious Rumors. This album has it all!
Q: Which songs you want to give preferential treatment and why?
It’s the first time that I don’t have any preferred song. I like them all…sorry:-)
Q: Some longtime friends let brighten up the list of guest appearances, please tell us about.
We have Brad Gillis of Night Ranger and Steve Smyth (ex Nevermore, ex-Testament) as special guests, Brad did middle solo on ” Last of our Kind” amazing and totally a Brad Gillis solo!! Always honored to work with him!! Steve ripped the first solo on ” Chemical Slave ” shredding and melodic harmony! It’s just badass!!
Q: In what formats will the new album commercially available?
It will come a digipak including a great poster, a fantastic double gatefold LP with blood red vinyl and download.
Q: When will the new album on the market for the general public?
The worldwide release date will be August 26th, 2016.
Q: I eagerly look forward to seeing you guys live on stage in Belgium, offering the new songs, as usual in the typical Vicious Rumors style… dynamic and explosive to the core! What are the Touring plans Geoff?
The next step is the Autumn European Tour with DIRKSCHNEIDER. In between we will do some headliner shows but all in all we will be in Europe for three month. Can’t wait for this tour…..what a great package and Udo Dirkschneider invited us personally…so another treat!!!
Q: I’m running out of questions so the time has come to say goodbye, although I still have one last question in mind. How does the future of VR looks like in the short and possibly longer term?
In 2017 we will tour in the USA and South America and return for the summer to Europe to play festivals. Bang Your Head in Germany is already announced.
Q: Many thanks for the willingness to answer my questions Geoff – I’ve always been an ardent fan of the mighty Vicious Rumors and will always remain that way. Do you have one last word to our readers, go for it brother !
It was a pleasure for me…thanks and hopefully we see us on tour in Autumn 2016.
Geoff Thorpe – Vicious Rumors