You’re a heavy metal fan right? Yet, and this is no fault of yours, there’s a chance you won’t have heard of Jack Starr. That’s clearly a travesty, and we here at Metal as Fuck are taking it upon ourselves to get this unassuming guitar god’s name back out there this year. Man alive, he’s been churning out the good stuff for nigh on thirty years since his first ‘proper’ band, Virgin Steele, erupted out of the States in the early eighties, releasing a series of top notch classic heavy metal albums along the way culminating in last year’s staggeringly brilliant Land of the Dead opus which was, to quote this very organ’s own words, ‘a great heavy metal album’.
But that’s enough time wasting, let’s speak to the man himself about his take on the world of heavy metal... Jack, Land of the Dead has a classic American power metal sound, a sound that you were instrumental in developing in the early eighties – is it important for you when you make a record under the ‘Burning Starr’ imprint that you stay true to those roots you laid down a quarter of a century ago? “First I want to say hi to the readers of Metal as Fuck! For me it just comes out of habit to stay true to the early metal roots, as they are who I am and I feel that I did play a role in developing that sound with my first band Virgin Steele so it really is a natural fit to continue the power metal blueprint that I helped formulate all those years ago.”
When you started out in Virgin Steele, the band as a whole had a sound that was years ahead of its time – how did you come about establishing that almost neo-classical sound when most other bands were happy to ape Sabbath or just churn out bluesy hard rock? “The fusion of the neo classical with the blues and hard rock was something born of the two influences in my life which were, first, I grew up in France and was exposed to a lot of classical music growing up, and secondly, when I moved to America at the age of ten , I discovered blues and rock. Also it would only be fair to mention that working with Dave DeFeis in Virgin Steele was also a big factor in the blending of classical themes in the music, as Dave learned music theory and piano by studying the great composers and these influences were also brought to the table and woven into the sound we call power metal which in 1982 was almost unheard of.”
And then with Burning Starr you again had a sound that the World seemed to catch on to a couple of years later! It’s a much harder sound than Virgin Steele – was that the original intention for Burning Starr? “I think that some of Burning Starr’s music is harder than Virgin Steele post- Jack Starr (he left VS in 1983) but I also feel that they have their moments of intense heaviness as well. I can say this, that many people equate heaviness with guitar and since Burning Starr is more of a guitar driven band than today’s Virgin Steele, its fair to say that those that prefer more guitar in the mix will be into Burning Starr more, (especially the new album Land of the Dead!)”
Yes, now in 2012 you have an album that picks up the legacy admirably – tell us a bit about how you came to record another Burning Starr record – Had you been stockpiling these songs for a long time? “The new release of Jack Starr’s Burning Starr entitled Land of the Dead came into being around six years ago when I got together with Ned Meloni (JSBS bassist) and started writing songs as well as jamming on various parts of songs that we arranged until they became finished songs, some of the riffs like Twilight of the Gods I have had for at least 20 years and finally the riff found a home in the ...Dead album.”
Heavy metal in it’s purest form, like the music you make, seems to be going from strength to strength and enjoying a resurgence in popularity again – why do you think that that is? “I am happy to hear that metal is back but as we all know that has been said countless times before and usually it may be true for a short period of time but then what usually happens is that it reverts to being a cult art form and never quite becomes mainstream; So I am not holding my breath with dreams of becoming as big as Lady Gaga! Sorry for bringing her name into a metal interview! But as far as your question goes, if it is coming back then partly it is because people always miss things from their youth and metal for many of today’s boomers was an important part of that. For instance Burning Starr receives a lot of letters asking about CD reissues etc because back then in the very early eighties many of the original releases were only available on vinyl and people want to update their record collection with compact discs and mp3 or whatever technology is out there.”
You are obviously more than capable of cutting it in the modern world of metal – this new record certainly doesn’t sound dated at all. Was that something you wanted to avoid, the classic thinning hair, bulging waistline nostalgia album? “I think that Burning Starr made a very cutting edge album with Land of the Dead and this is partly because of the great production work of Bart Gabriel and his studio in Poland. It was important for us to make a record that all of us would be proud of and that would not sound dated and this is what was done.”
Any plans for touring this album? How hard is it for a band like Burning Starr to get out on the road? “There are plans to take Burning Starr on the road and already one festival has been booked for 2013. We are looking into others but for now the only one confirmed is the Keep it True festival in Germany next year; We will be posting others as soon as they are confirmed.Yes, it is extremely difficult for any American band to come to Europe and play because of the very high costs of touring, so the numbers really have to add up and the promoters have to pay the acts at least enough to break even.”
And will there be another album with this lineup? “There will be another album with this lineup and the material is being written. Since Land of the Dead is the most successful Burning Starr album yet it would be a shame to not continue this great formula and also we are truly blessed to have great talents like (former Manowar percussionist) Rhino on drums and Todd Michael Hall on vocals as well as Ned Meloni, it is something that needs to grow and develop and I feel that we have more to offer!”
In our review of the album we stated, rather enthusiastically, that we felt the instrumental Twilight of the Gods would be even better if it had some vocals on it. What about that ‘vocal version’ of TotG? You mentioned you might have a stab at? “Well I agree that a vocal version of Twilight... is a great idea , this is something that I will talk about with Todd, Ned and Bart and see if it can be done, but I personally think it is a great idea!”
Anything else you’d like the readers of Metal as Fuck to know? “Just that they really need to check out Land of the Dead on Limb Music and listen to it carefully, because it really really is a great album!”
Jack Starr – he’s not lying you know.