Nearly 40 years ago, when Santa Rosan Geoff Thorpe, then a teen-ager, led his band Vicious Rumors onstage for the late rock promoter Bill Graham’s “Metal Mondays” showcases in San Francisco, he had no idea where it would lead.
“A lot of bands got their break there, including some very big bands, like Motley Crue and Metallica,” Thorpe said. “When we started out in the Bay Area at that time, in the early ‘80s, we just thought we were just a bunch of local bands like in any other major city. But it was the birth of this thrash metal sound the whole world ended up looking to, and it propelled us around the world.”
All right, so you’ve heard of those other bands, but unless you’ve got a very long local memory, the name Vicious Rumors probably rings no bells. And yet Thorpe is telling the truth with his “around the world” reference.
The band keeps busy in Europe and particularly in Germany, where it has a recording contract with the SPV/Steamer label, and where Thorpe, 56, lives half of every of year, when he’s not on tour elsewhere or back in Santa Rosa.
On Aug. 31, Thorpe and Vicious Rumors will perform their entire 1988 breakthrough album “Digital Dictator,” plus other songs from the band’s long career, at the House of Rock in Santa Rosa.
The guitarist came from Hawaii, where he grew up, to Santa Rosa Junior College to take music classes, back in 1979. That’s when he launched the original Vicious Rumors in a rather unorthodox way.
“I just made a thousand business cards and started going to San Francisco and going to concerts and local clubs. I just started passing out these cards and man, sure enough, three or four months later, people started saying, ‘Hey, there’s that guy from Vicious Rumors.’ I didn’t even have a band together yet,” Thorpe said.
“By the time I did put together a band from local musicians, we started off as a band of completely local Santa Rosa guys, and we went and played all the high schools at lunchtime. That was our strategy back then,” he added. “Somehow the schools hired us, even with our makeup dripping down and our black clothes and how we looked — which hasn’t changed much, by the way.”
From that start, the band built a following in Northern California, cracked the European market and went on to tour Canada, Mexico, Scandinavia, South America and Japan.
During a career that has spanned almost four decades and produced 17 albums, including three for Atlantic Records, the Vicious Rumors lineup has experienced a lot of changes, going through more than 40 members by Thorpe’s estimate.
“Some people seem so surprised by that,” he said, “but you take any band that’s been around as long as this one, and there’s gonna be changes. That’s life.”
For the “30th Anniversary ‘Digital Dictator’ World Tour 2018,” which kicks off in Santa Rosa and includes 45 dates in the U.S. and Canada alone, the band’s lineup includes — in addition to Thorpe himself — singer Brian Allen, guitarist Gunnar DuGrey, drummer Larry Howe and bassist Cody Green, substituting for current regular bassist Tilen Hudrap.
Aug. 31 also marks the release of a Vicious Rumors DVD titled “40th Anniversary: Live in Germany,” which will be available at the House of Rock show.
As long as the band’s fans stay loyal to heavy metal music, Thorpe plans to keep playing and he remains optimistic.
“The European metropolitan audiences take the music very seriously,” he said.