Interview: Geoff Thorpe, Vicious Rumors

Balls to the Wall

It's been a while since San Francisco act VICIOUS RUMORS launched an album. About a year to be precise. Their latest release for Atlantic Records is the weighty Welcome To The Ball, a pretty sound spine-breaking statement of intent to take the five piece thundering in the 1990s.

Trivia fans might like to know that it's got precisely sod all to do with an album of the same name by venerated fellow Frisco resident Grace Slick.

I must confess that I expected to find guitarist Geoff Thorpe was just another Californian dude, whose band got lucky. It bloody well serves me right for being quick to pre-judge people. He, along with fellow guitarist Mark McGee, bass player David Starr, drummer Larry Howe, and vocalist Carl Albert,  have produced a polished re-interpretation of heavy metal with this album. They've been tagged as 'a thinking man's metal band.' Were Geoff and the band happy with that tag?

"Jeez, yeah," he drawls. "We're very happy with all the positive responses we've been getting. To the new album in particular and for the band in general. It's simply been a case of us doing exactly what we've always done.

"Our music has continued in that vein – that 'power metal' vein or whatever the hell you wanna call it – since way back when. You've gotta look at things running in cycles," he added pointedly. Think about it, the harder styles are back in vogue – nothing's runaway any more. First, listen to the METALLICA album and you'll know what I mean. It's coming back in and that's good to see. The bottom line with VICIOUS RUMORS is to produce good songs with a wide variety of melodies. Take the likes of Abandoned and Savior From Anger, and compare them to Children. You follow?"

I pointed out to Geoff that a number of the American metal bands I have spoken to, foster a great affection for European metal acts while Europeans are often pinching the clothes off the backs of US acts. Was my observation correct?

"Sure, you're right. My influences come from the early SCORPIONS, RAINBOW, and so on as well as the classic metal acts like ZEPPELIN. I think you'll find that young musicians don't take all that much notice of what's on their doorstep. That stuff from abroad is more exciting."

Geoff described their recent five week stint around Europe with SAVATAGE, as "A real blow for the European power metal. I think they're really gonna go for this in a big way."

There must be some accommodation for the fact that VICIOUS RUMORS aren't pulling as much weight over here as perhaps back home. 

"Success for American bands in Europe is always very important, as is Japan. We're making our first trip out there too. We played the Dynamo Festival in Holland last year."

And how was that?

He lets out an audible whoosh of breath.

"DEATH ANGEL, SACRED REICH, and us playing out there. What a blast! We come over here and get a real buzz outa playing live. You folks are very receptive to us and I think our live work in the states has helped pull the show tighter.

"I'll tell you this, we can't be dependent on airplay to promote the album, we've gotta tour our asses off! Staying on the road for seventy five percent of the time and recording or resting up for the remainder, is what it's all about."

So the charms of the likes of MTV and the radio stations weren't behind you?

"Well..." he sighed, dragging out the vowel. "We have to book real killer schedules to make sure we reach people. We get a lot of positive support from Atlantic Records. They're excited about us. The fans show up and the hand is getting one hell of a big cult following that knows what it likes and gets what it wants."

On to one more cerebral matter, Mark plays mandolin on the album. Shades of LED ZEPPELIN's forays of days gone by, Geoff?

"Yes and no," Geoff explains. "Mark likes to texture our music as much as possible. Like ZEPPELIN, we like to think we've no limits, no boundaries, and this'll go on as long as we feel we need to do it. Simple as that."

Being a Bay Area band means that VICIOUS RUMORS have expectations to live up to. What is going on in the Bay these days?

"To be honest with you, I haven't been there in months. I'm too busy touring," laughs Geoff. "The thrash element is still very much alive and vital out there, and there's also a lot of the pretty boy stuff. I like to think we have our own sound as well as being part of the Bay scene. There is always good quality music coming out of the Bay."

The point of this tour and the interview, is of course to promote the new album. As Gary Gilmore once said – let's do it!

"You want me to go over the album with you? Shit!" he exclaims. "Okay, with Abandoned you've got a revenge song, pure and simple," he says. "Sometimes you count on people in a real life situation and they're not there. They've let  you down. You get even."

Savior From Anger was written during the Gulf War.

"But's it's not about that particular war. It looks at hatred and not knowing why. It also concerns release, I think. Savior... can be an example of the positive thing that can be done with music," he observes philosophically.

One of my own particular favourites is Children. Something close to the hearts of the band members it appears.

"You know, four of the five guys in the band are parents. Children is inspired by our kids and it's a song that belongs to our generation of parents. It's an eco-song about the planet and what we're going to be leaving our kids – as a father, it's very important to me that we try our best for our kids. Things have changes. I believe the world is a safer place, but I often wonder what's going to happen after [President] Bush. I really do."

Clearly Geoff feels the distance from home acutely.

"As I said, we've been out on the road for five, six months now, and thinking about the song Children, I get to realize how much I miss my little girl. It's a painful experience to be honest."

With 1992 not more than a month away, it seemed pertinent to ask him what he saw lying ahead for the band after Welcome To The Ball.

"We gotta build," he said decisively. "This may sound kinda stupid, but we've also gotta stay clean, stay healthy, and keep the band rolling. We've just made Japan and we've got to keep going and prove ourselves to as many people as possible. To me, VICIOUS RUMORS will remain five talented people who produce heavy, melodic metal. We've got nothing more and nothing less than that to offer you."

Alan McCrorie
Riff Raff
January, 1992

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