By Andrew Catania
Vicious Rumors came out at the same time as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Exodus. Vicious Rumors are known for killer guitar riffs and head banging music. It’s been 37 years since Geoff Thorpe formed his iconic brand. I recently caught up with Geoff to discuss Concussion Protocol and other happenings of Vicious Rumors.
Man last time I saw you were in Windsor, Connecticut at a dive bar in 1990. I was disc jockeying at a college radio station in Hartford, Connecticut. McGee was with you guys, and all of us got on your tour bus and went to see Total Recall.
Yeah Man! Well, when you mentioned that about going to the movies in the tour bus, you know, I remember that because we’ve never done that before, just taking a bunch of fans, jumped on our bus and went and did something on our off day, so yes, I completely remembered it. Also, it was hilarious; you were like how did you remember that? My God!
I know 26 years, like five albums for you guys.
Yeah, Incredible man!
Are you touring in Europe?
Yes! We’re not on tour right now, but we’re doing a big tour with Dirkschneider.
Yes, I saw that! Is he done with Accept?
Yes, he is doing a tribute to Accept where I think he just sees how popular Accept is and so he’s cashing in on it and it’s working. When he does the Dirkschneider thing, he plays to packed houses, and so it’s a big tour for us. We’re kind of excited about it.
Good! That will lead me to my first question for you. You guys are trendy in Europe. You guys are playing festivals 40,000, 50,000, 60,000 people and your counterparts, I mean everybody Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, everybody goes over there, seems like they’re making more money than they are in the States. Do you think the market is pretty much dried up here in the states for metal? Could you come back and play a thousand seat clubs? Then you guys go over for the Wacken Festival or whichever festival you guys are at —
Well you know, I don’t think that it’s ‘dried up’ but there’s just, I say the difference between the European audience and the American audience is that you know trends come and go and the European audience tends to, they might embrace something new but just because they embrace something new they don’t reject stuff that they liked before, and I think that the American audience like fads come and things change, and then all of a sudden people might think like, I mean I’m not like you know I’m just thinking out loud what is the possible reason for that? I just feel that European audiences are more open to still loving what they used to love and then embracing new bands that were sometimes American audiences tend to go with new fads and just move on from what they used to do to something new. I don’t know man, you know the bottom line is there are great metal fans all around the world but there’s definitely something special that goes on here in Europe, and we were lucky enough to start in the 80’s and we were embraced here by the fans here and so you know we just went where the opportunities were, and we’re just really thankful that we have this incredible European fan base here and I always love being in Europe. I love the people. I love the way that they can get together in large numbers and they know how to behave you know. People aren’t getting robbed or beat up or vandalized. You know they get together, somebody falls, and someone gets picked up. You understand me? They don’t get trampled on. So it’s just a different vibe out here man, and it’s very cool especially for us, we’ve just been fortunate to have this incredible fan base that’s been with us from the very beginning and here we are on our twelfth studio album 37 years later it’s all going strong so it’s just – you know we’re humbled by it and at the same time we just want to give the fans the best possible metal experience we can deliver, night after night. We just want it to be a metal party that you can remember for all time and that way if we just give our best every time, you seem to be invited back.
Going back to Soldiers of the Night which is still considered a Metal classic is going up with the Carl Albert Fronted band 1988-95 RIP Carl –When you’re doing pre-production for your records, and all are you primarily the one doing the writing of the music and the lyrics, is it a band effort? Because I know Vicious Rumors is, you see, you found it, how do you dispense what the duties are?
You know I am the primary writer, and if the guys don’t do exactly what I tell them, they need to get the fuck out and if we don’t do it my way we don’t do it anyway but really, I’m easy to work with. I’m just kidding bro!
I was going to be like; you sound like Mr. Malmsteen!
No shit huh! That was insane; it felt excellent to say that though. No, I’m just playing with you man. I lead the direction, and I write most of the music. I do write a lot of lyrics and melodies, and I always have. When we had Carl, we worked together in that way too. Vicious Rumors has always been a team, and we work together much like a sports team. I’m the leader of the team, maybe I’m the driving force, but I like to surround myself with really talented creative people, and right now we have a unique combination. I never intended to have this worldwide line up this international lineup with guys in Europe and guys from California it comes down to chemistry, the most important part of having a band is the chemistry within the group, and that’s what made bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and Metallica they have chemistry together and when you find that kind of chemistry, luckily we live in a day and age we’re just a flight away and with the internet it’s possible to have these guys half way across the world and we can still do it and like I said, I never intended to do it but when we got together and when I found Nick and found Tilen they just brought so much to the table in every way they’re super creative; talented, they got a lot of great ideas. So to me, chemistry is number one, and if you have that, then the rest will follow. So yes, I do a lot of the writing but we work together as a team, and I’m entirely open to all the guys’ great ideas. We don’t always use them because I do so much of the writing, but they help me shape it. The one thing that we’ve had with all the different lineups is my songwriting, and that is sort of like the thread from the beginning to now that’s kept up Vicious Rumors, so I don’t want to lose that but at the same time, I really value the talented guys that I work with.
When did Nick come along? Was he on the last album or come on the tour?
Well what happened was we had a big US tour in 2013 and then Brian Allen was becoming more and more unavailable you know understandably, he’s got, three kids, he’s a single dad with 3 children, so you know that’s a huge responsibility and so he started looking at, he just became unavailable and the problem was when he decided that he was not going to be available it was four weeks before a giant tour that I had already spent four months working on and so I was just lucky that I found Nick off a recommendation of a good friend of mine in The Netherlands from my brother Jake’s band in The Netherlands he recommended Nick to me and we had just gotten Tilen in the group, and I was just lucky to find him in time, and he came in we did the US tour together and he did the last live album Live You To Death 2: American Punishment and he had only just joined the band and just crammed in to learn like 20 songs and did a fantastic job and now we’ve had three years of chemistry behind us so if you listen to the last live album and the way he sounds on the new album you can just actually hear in percussion protocol the growth that’s taken place and the way his voice has evolved, you know he can sing
high and clean all day long but we worked on his lower range and bringing out more of a full-voiced thing with his classic high decent thing and really you know he just has the ability and the range to do all the styles of Vicious Rumors music you know. I think you being someone who really knows Vicious Rumors from the beginning to now know we are aware that we don’t just have one style or one sound we have a lot of different aspects to our music from speed metal to ballads to slow quenched stuff and we need a singer that can sing low and cumbersome, high and clean, dark and moody and also melodic, so it’s a real tall order to be the singer in Vicious Rumors and Nick’s just done a great job in the band the last few years and a fantastic job on the new record.
Yeah, it’s an excellent record. I reviewed it for another website that is not mine. I think you guys liked it on Twitter and followed me back as a matter of fact. For Concussion Protocol did you do anything differently in production for the preparation of recording the other albums?
We did, it was the most I mean months of great lots of hard work man. I started by just writing riffs on my little digital recorder. Once I had put together the body of twelve songs we actually got together and rented a house in The Netherlands and spent like three weeks together you know finalizing the ideas and taking suggestions for the guy’s and really just working together to try to make the album the best it could be and luckily we had the three years experience together and all the touring we did. Since Nick and Tilen have been in the band we’ve done a major US tour a South American tour, two European tours we had built the chemistry already which was really helpful, we were all really comfortable with each other when we started writing this album and after I kind of assembled most of the songs you know we rented that house in The Netherlands and put the final touches on it. Once I really felt like the album taking shape I really felt like wow this is going to be probably our heaviest album and one of our most powerful driving records that we’ve ever done, and so I really felt at that point like man I need lyrics, I need a cover, I need a concept to be to be just as heavy and after the guys had gone home I stayed in Europe for like three weeks, just with a notebook and a pencil and my pads and paper and I just wrote lyrics and started coming up with this crazy doomsday story with the asteroid taking out the world and I was just thinking when we went digital dictator we were at the beginning of the digital age, and I was thinking where are we now? Well, unfortunately, we’re in the age of disasters. You know with tsunamis and earthquakes, terrorism and all this shit I just thought man what would be the ultimate catastrophe? That would be the whole planet being destroyed in one swift blow! So I wanted to make a bad ass heavy metal loud one and a total nightmare at the same time, and that’s how the whole thing came on the Concussion Protocol. I hope you know I was just kidding when I said we were going to do it my way and all that. You know, people, it’s the funny dude the way you know how long this band’s been together.
Yes, I sure do
And anytime you have a band together for half as long as we’ve been together there are lineup changes, and that’s just life. I mean look at any heavy metal band that you can think of at off the top of your head Judas Priest, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath you know Testament and the list goes on and on everybody’s had lineup changes. So there’s nothing different from Vicious Rumors to any other bands. If you love what you’re doing you just fix it and move on and that’s what we’ve done in the past. Right now we’ve got a very particular combination and I really hope that we can stay together and make a few more albums together in this lineup and if for some reason that doesn’t happen, then I’m just going to go ahead and make another bad ass album without, you know I got a great bunch of guys right now, and we have a real good chemistry together. I think as long as we can work together you know I think the guys are very excited about the response so far, the views and the ratings that the album’s been getting like 9 out of 10 and 8 out of 10. People just responding in such a positive way and I appreciate your comments too man
Oh yes I rated you guys an 8 out of 10
that’s fantastic man!
Soon as I heard it, I knew it was you! Soon as the opening riff, I knew it was you. That’s how distinctive your riff playing is
Thank you very much
Drums, everything about that you can always hear a Vicious Rumors song
I appreciate that
Going on from Concussion Protocol you’re on a German label now. How was that first back in the day when we had big budgets with Atlantic Records all that compared to now and the market?
Well, I tell you it’s been fantastic. Working with SPV has been an incredible experience. They know what they’re doing Ali Han and Marco over there in the office. They’re seasoned veterans. They’re into the music they know the market. They’ve done a great job??? Spinning up the album and this year I think they’ve done more for the band than ever before. I was just here two months doing Press. I did like 70 interviews. So it’s been a great experience to work with SPV, and you know Atlantic was also you find out when you’re in a band, and you’re trying to get signed it’s a very tough business you know. When you have the opportunity to sign with the same label as Led Zeppelin and AC/DC you know it’s a dream come true and you take that opportunity no matter what it is but you know there’s also the reality of being a minuscule fish in a huge pond and so to be with SPV and be one of their more featured bands it’s also working out quite well
I remember Sylvio Bonvini, the guy that was doing your A & R at Atlantic
Yes, he was one of them it was him Sylvio and Peggy Donnelly.
Talk about names I remember dealing with getting your stuff. Sylvio hooked me up with posters of you guys.
Well you know, like I said Atlantic Records is no joke and everything we’ve done in the past has led us to where we are now. So I have no regrets, I have no excuses, and I make no apologies. We’re just trying to do the best we can do and do it. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel we’re just trying to take our art and our music and make it the best we can
Going on with your music we’re going to kind of go to a different level we’ll get back to that in a second. The YouTube issue. It’s becoming a big issue about YouTube, and I ask everybody these questions I always want to hear what everyone’s opinion is. There are a lot of people like Nikki Sixx, and a few other people are saying that YouTube is not fair in compensating the artists due to all their music being on YouTube and it just being replayed and replayed and people uploading full video’s of the bands without consent. I mean do you have an opinion about that? Have you been following that story at all?
I mean it’s a real double-edged sword. I mean it’s great for people to find the band and get to see it. Like our albums just came out Friday and I think later that day someone had already put the whole album on YouTube or some link to go and get our entire album for free and it’s just like in some ways it kills the industry so it’s such a double-edged sword I mean in one respect it’s great because people can find out about you they can hear the music and if they’re real fans maybe they’re going to go out and buy it but there are so many people will just bootleg your stuff and won’t pay for it, and it is unfair in a lot of ways, and you know it just comes right down to being victims of a digital world.
How do you feel about the streaming service like Spotify and Apple music and all them? Do you think they help or hurt the industry?
Well you know there’s some accountability there. You know with YouTube it’s just the artist ripped off so at least with Spotify and some of those other things there can be some accountability. You know man, that’s just the world we live in today, and it just makes touring that much more valuable.
Yes to increase the revenues you’re losing on record sales
Exactly and selling your album to the hardcore fans that go to the shows you know luckily in my case and I think the guys in my band, everybody in my band are guys that love what they do it’s not about money, it’s about passion and fire and living out our dreams you know we’re just very thankful to our fans that stood by us and the new ones that we get all the time cause man without the fans there is no band, and we’re all about the fans we’re nothing without them.
Your video that you came out here, are you playing Dean Guitars now?
Yes, I’ve been with Dean for a while now.
I saw I don’t know if it was you playing a Dean Dime Guitar are that what you’re primarily playing or do you have your signature model?
Yes, I use the Razorback. You know when I saw that thing I was like my God it’s like a bolt of lightning, and it’s just so fun to play and I’m also a good fan of Dimebag so yes I was euphoric and honored that Dean Guitar would sponsor me with and give me so many great guitars to work with that’s been really a privilege and I’ve been really really proud to play my Dean Guitars around the world. I have three Razorbacks a Razorback B and ML also an Eric Peterson, and the Eric wasn’t given to me by Dean it has been paid to me by Eric. He came to my house and gave me the guitar we’ve known each other a long time, and I remember the day he gave that to me I was. I was like man there are a couple of million people that would just be so blown away to have you come to their house and give them one of your guitars. Eric and I have grown up together we’ve known each other a long time, so that’s part of being fortunate enough to be a part of the Bay Area metal scene that turned out to be something that the whole world looks to is just something extraordinary. Metallica, Exodus, Vicious Rumors, Death Angel, Testament, Megadeth bands that are still going strong today.
You’ve got Dave Messina on Dean Guitars. You’ve got Michael Androvetti??? Who are in my group, you’ve got Vinnie Moore, and Rusty Coolidge is on there you know I can go on. It seems like Dean is picking up a lot of different artists and all. Is there any top signature model for you or are you just happy with what they provide you?
Well you know, we’ll see, we’ll see. I would love to do that at some point but I’ve been very thankful just to be sponsored by Dean, and you know they’ve given me some great guitars. You know I strangle the hell out of them, I beat the hell out of them and they seem to hold up quite well, so it’s not like a top priority for me my priority is the music and keeping the band working. I would love to have a Geoff Thorpe signature.
What are your rigs consisting of? I know you have the Dimebag but what else are you using?
I’d love to tell you, but unfortunately, I’d have to kidnap you. No man, I use a real classic rig called a Langner power amp and preamp with a very particular amp called a More Sound, and the More Sound amps are made in San Diego California, and he did make me a signature amp. I do have an amp it’s called a Megajet amp. It is not available on the market is a custom amp that was made for me by More Sound amplifiers and yes it’s pretty bad ass I think we got a really great guitar sound on the record and other than that I don’t have a lot of special gear to tell you about and quite honestly 90% of the way guitar players sound is their hands. I could go into Guitar Center and plug it into the amp, and I’m still going to look like Geoff Thorpe of Vicious Rumors because it’s me playing, so gear and tone is definitely concordant but like I said you know Michael Schenker walks into a Guitar Center picks up the guitar and amp he’s still going to sound like Michael Schenker, and that’s because 90% of guitar players sound is coming right out of his hands.
That’s what I was getting to are you still practicing before each show? You’ve pretty much been at it for 37 years
Oh yes man, I still rehearse and warm up it’s important. I feel like I can play much more freely if I get a chance to warm up. I enjoy having rehearsals but unfortunately, nowadays we have this international line-up, and so we don’t get to have so many rehearsals. Everybody’s professional enough just to be ready, and we talk about the list, put together the set list everybody’s ready to go. We get together, have one or two rehearsals and start the tour.
Are you still up in the Bay area? Are you guys still practicing up there because you guys are playing Europe so often do you guys stay out there?
Yes, Larry and I and Thaen still live in the Bay Area and Nick is in The Netherlands. So usually what happens is when we are preparing to go on the road I’ll have three or four rehearsals with Larry and Thaen just the two guitars and drums and then we’ll come to Europe a week early before the tour and have three or four rehearsals together as a band and then just do it and then everybody shows up individually ready to go so we can have our rehearsals be very concentrated and we’re already rehearsed and ready and you know when you’re in that situation no one wants to be the guy that’s not ready you understand me? So everybody shows up prepared.
What is your touring schedule going to be like for the next twelve months? Are you guys going to be in Europe?
No. We’ve got some large plans. We start October 31 we’re going to be with Durkschneider playing into November supporting him through Scandinavia and Germany, Czech Republic, Austria then we’re going to break and do two and a half weeks of headline shows, and then we finish with another run with Durkschneider till December 19. We’ve got the 70,000 tons of metal cruise coming up at the beginning of February. We have a second opportunity for a tour in Europe that we’re negotiating right now, and we certainly have plans to return to the United States as well as Japan and South America, so it’s going to be a very busy 2016-2017 for Vicious Rumors man we’re just putting the classic set out there with the best material. We just want to make it a heavy metal night to remember every time we hit the stage.
I ask everybody this question too. Is there any guitar player of a younger generation that has caught your eye?
Oh man, there are so many good ones. Everybody’s younger than me though so I’m not sure what the guys in Arch Enemy. I don’t know how old Jeff Lynne is he might not be that much younger than I, but he sure is amazing. It’s funny the part playing of soloing and stuff was a lost art for a while, and now it’s coming back again big time, so I think it would be great to see somebody stepping up the guitar playing again. Especially with like schools losing music programs and things like that dropping out.
Well, Geoff, those were exquisite. Those were the questions I got for protocol, and it sounds like a good album and Nick looked superb on it, the video is sharp there. Hopefully, you can get your signature endorsement from Dean so you can do that
I appreciate that, and I just want to thank you and the followers, of all your info like I, said we’re all about the fans whether it be the fans from the beginning or they’re just finding out about us you know no excuses no apologies it’s just bad ass heavy metal, and that’s all that matters.
It’s been one hell of a ride with Vicious Rumors in my collection for the past 26 years. All of us going to see Total Recall is still one of my favorite memories.
I’ll tell you what, just keep rocking my friend and we’ll take you to the movies again sometime ok?
Well if you’re down in Florida, are you guys going to be touring in the states soon or you guys just stay primarily over there because Europe is more of a money maker for you?
Well, we plan on doing a US tour sometime I’d say mid-2017 so yes we’ll be back for sure.