Greg Prato puts out books I just can’t put down. Shredders: The Oral History Of Speed Guitar is just one of them. Prato has a way of getting the people he interviews to open up and tell stories. I would suspect from what he says about himself in his forwards; it might be because Prato himself is a fan of these people and the subject matter. What’s particularly cool about this book, is it that you feel like you’re traveling back in time to the dawn of shred during your reading. On top of that, you don’t need to know who all the players are to be engaged. Shredders are a 5/5 book. My only complaint is that Chris Impellitteri isn’t included in the book. A super fun read that I recommend to any and music fans!
How fast can you play?”
“What guitar do you have?”
“Who is better, Eddie Van Halen or Steve Vai?”
For metal fans in the 80s, these were common and important questions. Tune into MTV, pick up a magazine, or walk into an instrument store, and more often than not you’d be exposed to what is now known as shredding – the fast, virtuoso soloing popularized by musicians like Vai and Van Halen, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen, Randy Rhoads and Dimebag Darrell. Inspired by these pioneering guitarists, thousands of young musicians would spend hours at home in their bedrooms, perfecting both their playing and their poses.
Though shredding fell out of favor during the grunge/alternative rock era, it has become increasingly popular again in recent years, spurred by the rise in popularity of bands like Children Of Bodom, DragonForce, and Trivium. Drawing on more than 70 exclusive interviews with the principal shredders past and present, author and guitarist Greg Prato has assembled the definitive guide to the fastest players of them all.
Greg Prato is a New York-based writer, and author whose books include Grunge Is Dead: The Oral History Of Seattle Rock Music, Survival Of The Fittest: Heavy Metal In The 1990s, and A Devil On One Shoulder And An Angel On The Other: The Story Of Shannon Hoon And Blind Melon. His writing has also appeared in publications including Guitar Player, Vintage Guitar, and Rolling Stone.
Shredders: The Oral History Of Speed Guitar is available at Amazon.com and other online retailers. Grab a copy today!
Building upon the legacy of its award-winning, USA made guitars; Peavey Electronics proudly introduces the HP™2 Guitar at the 2017 Summer NAMM Show in Nashville. The HP2 is constructed with leading-edge technology, traditional handcrafted methods, professional-quality upgrades, and customizations. When a USA-made guitar bears the initials of Peavey founder and CEO Hartley Peavey, players can expect an iconic design with its unique flair.
While the esthetic is a classic, the HP2 undoubtedly stands out with its carved top and offset, the asymmetrical body design that offers comfort, proper balance, and maximum playing ease. Maple was chosen for the top and basswood for the back; solid basswood construction is also available. Peavey selected these hardwoods not only for their natural beauty and weight characteristics but also for their particular tonal qualities. Cream or black-edge binding accents the body.
At the select birdseye maple neck and fingerboard, players will find unmatched stability and playability. Dual graphite reinforcement bars and an easy-access, adjustable steel torsion rod provide additional strength, as does the bolt-on construction with contoured neck heel. The oil-finished fingerboard is cut from the same piece of wood as the single-piece neck, keeping the color and grain patterns consistent. The stress-relieved lamination also adds increased stability. The HP2 has a 25 ½” scale length, 22 jumbo frets and 15″ fingerboard radius. The 10-degree tilt-back headstock has a 3+3 tuning machine configuration featuring Schaller® tuning machines with pearloid or cream buttons. The chrome-plated hardware finish completes the look.
The HP2’s construction and electronics work in harmony. Two custom-wound Peavey humbucking pickups supply optimal output and tonal response. They’re made using a two-step wax-dipping process that provides ultra-low noise operation and resistance to microphonic feedback. The pickups are mounted directly to the body, further reducing feedback at high volume levels and enhancing response. A Switchcraft® 3-way toggle switch allows selection of pickups in up, center and down configurations. Players will also find either a Peavey/Floyd Rose® licensed, double-locking tremolo assembly or tune-o-matic/stop tailpiece fixed-bridge to complete the guitar. Finishing off the guitar are two push-pull knobs for volume and tone, with the ability to split the pickups individually.
Born on 16th June 1972 in the mesmerizing Rio de Janeiro region of Brazil, Kiko Loureiro is not a new name for the music enthusiast, specifically among the heavy metal aficionados who consider him as an ultimate legend, the ace master of the genre!
Kiko Loureiro has emerged as the present age music sensation due to his heavy metal guitar mastery as his signature forte. Kiko’s professional career incepted at a time when guitar playing was overshadowed in the midst of new, refined, and state-of-art musical instruments.
While the music industry was heavily directed towards improvisations and inventions in instruments and playing techniques, Kiko Loureiro opted to stick to the conventional patterns of guitar playing, something which eventually turned out to be quite a unique feat at that time. The prime motivation behind this decision was the bygone era of rock and roll legends that has always inspired the young Kiko Loureiro ever since his childhood.
Kiko Loureiro started practicing his fingers on a basic acoustic guitar at the tender age of 11, having learned the skills and tactics of Brazil’s legendary musicians, Mozart Mello and Pedro Bueno, and being immensely inspired by maestros such as Jimmy Page, Randy Rhoads, Eddie Van Helen, and Jimi Hendrix.
Having mastered the intricacies of the electric guitar by then, Kiko Loureiro had started gaining prominence in the music spheres. Impressed by his brilliance and the depth of his skills, Kiko Loureiro was welcomed as a core member in ‘The Legalize’ and ‘A Chave’, 2 eminent bands of their time. This is how he kick-started his professional career.
Doing a good job by tackling all opportunities that came his way, Kiko Loureiro progressed, learned, and polished his skills along the way. By the time he turned 19 years of age, he had paired up with Rafael Bittencourt, Andre Linhares, Fabio Lione, Bruno Valverde and Felipe Andreoli at Angra’s platform. He has released 8 studio albums, 5 EPs, and 3 live CDs till date.
Aside from his band associations, Kiko Loureiro also focused on strengthening his personal mastery in the heavy metal genre. His extensive knowledge of the basic intricacies and his penchant to improvise and infuse his own flavor in the music he squeezed out of his instrument led him to produce a number of his own solo records which has resulted in him building an impressive personal portfolio over time.
His solo numbers include ‘No Gravity (2005)’, ‘Universo Inverso (2006)’, ‘Fullblast (2009)’, and ‘Sounds of Innocence (2012)’. Besides that, he has also imparted his personal learning and music knowledge through a number of tutorials, playing lessons, and instructional videos from 1993 until 2010.
A polyglot, being fluent in English, Spanish, French and Finnish, Kiko Loureiro paired up with Dave Rogers to play for his Eurobeat songs. Furthermore, at the platforms of Tribuzy, Tarja, Neural Code and Paco Ventura Black Moon, he has played for an extensive variety of records, EPS, and live jamming sessions.
The news of Kiko Loureiro joining hands with acclaimed American metal band Megadeth came as a great surprise for the music enthusiasts, with Kiko Loureiro replaced Chris BroderickMegadeth. After taking Kiko Loureiro on board on 2nd April 2015, they released their album Dystopia in 2016, one that has received immense applause from the critics and the audience alike.
Grammy award-winning guitarist Steve Stevens career spans over 35 years. Always sharply dressed, Billy Idol’s axe man has done everything from the Top Gun Anthem, Atomic Playboys record, playing with Vince Neil and Michael Jackson. One thing Steve Stevens isn’t is underrated. He has incredible talent on the guitar. Stevens work on the guitar can be put up against many names such as Vai, Malmsteen, Gilbert, and others. I had the pleasure to speak with Steve to discuss his current and future plans.
Are you rehearsing for Billy Idol or are you doing solo stuff?
I start rehearsals in ten days for a solo Euro tour then I head straight into rehearsals with Billy Idol, so it’s a little bit of both Are you doing a tour this summer with Billy? We do a Vegas residency at the Hard Rock. We did that all last year, and we’re resuming up in March we do that for four months out of the year. Then we’re heading down to South America to do Rocking in Rio, and as well in South America, we have dates with Aerosmith, so it’s a little bit of both
Wow! You’re all over the place Yes! You’ve got to stay busy man! I’ve been reading. Have you been doing some writing with Ozzy? Yes. I did a session. The rhythm guitar player in Billy Idol is Billy Morrison, one of Ozzy’s best friends so he asked me to do some writing with Ozzy and we spent about a week working on some tunes and I haven’t heard anything so I guess he’s really happy with them so yes, I did some writing and recording with him
Out of curiosity if he called you and asked you to step in and do some solo stuff would you do it? Well, that’s what it’s for, for his next solo record so yes, of course! If it’s recording I would as far as touring I’m dedicated to Billy Idol.
Solo album, do you have anything coming up? After I do this solo tour in Europe, the singer I’m bringing with me is Franky Perez who is in Apocalyptica now and he and I have done some recording and stuff so we’re talking about doing a project together. I don’t know if you call that a solo record but it would be a full-on album and we’d tour behind it. That would be really cool! He’s one of my favorite singer’s and he’s kind of an undiscovered gem at this point so you know I’ve done the instrumental thing and I’m a song guy you know. I love guitar solos within the context of a song so it would be really cool to do something more of a band project rather than a solo record
I was going back into your history because I’ve listened to you since going back to elementary school how and I sound really old now but I was reading when you were on tour with Vince Neil you were trying out some Eddie Van Halen equipment back when you were touring with them opening for Van Halen. Is it true that Eddie Van Halen sent you a truck full of Peavey’s at the time and some of his Music Man Guitars?
Yes, he did. Funnily enough from what I understand he did the same thing for Jerry Cantrell. When I started the tour with Van Halen and Vince I was bringing out my vintage Marshall stuff with me. You know that stuff sounds great but it’s not road worthy and Ed kind of came over to me at sound check and said, “Hey man why you bringing that stuff on the road?” you know. He said why don’t you play through my gear? I said great! So he arranged for the next sound check you know I played through his stuff. He had all the Peavey stuff happening and I really liked it and I played one of his guitar’s and said,”Oh this guitar is really nice, it was a black one!” and he said, “take it!” Then a couple of day’s later a truck shows up with a whole Peavey backline and I started using it from then on. That’s like the ultimate in generosity I mean I was kind of shocked you know. I played those amps for many years.
What are you using? To get into my next question regarding gear? I know you switched guitar endorsements. What are you using for gear now regarding guitars and amps and pedals? I have a signature guitar with a company called Knaggs out of Maryland and Joe Knaggs was the head of the custom shop and PRS and I had one PRS that I really liked and I found out Joe had built that guitar so we started a dialogue and they sent me one of their guitar’s and I said well it’s not exactly what I would play and he said well I’ll build you anything you want and they’re just amazing guitar’s you know I’m getting spoiled now because I basically have a guitar company at my beckon call you know. We’re now on the third version of the guitar it’s the SSC – Steve Stevens Classic. You know and it’s a handmade instrument and we’re starting to get other people playing them. I mean I couldn’t be any happier with the company they’re just the most awesome makers and individuals as well. It is good to keep an American company and help with their business. There’s only about fourteen guy’s there that work the whole company and everything is made right there in Maryland so I’m really happy with them. Then I have a Friedman, Dave Friedman signature amp that I’ve played Friedmans’ for about ten years now and Dave said if you’re really happy with the amp why don’t we make it available to the public? So that is now available as well.
Very Good! Are you endorsed by any of the pedal companies? I have a signature pedal coming out with J. Rockett. I just approved the casings and I’ve been using their pedal’s for a couple of years now and it’s kind of an interesting take on it because I have been using on my signal chain you know I have a boost pedal which I was using at theArche J. RockettArcher which is kind of their take on a Klon I guess but I was always having to put an EQ pedal afterwards to kind of create a curve or whatever and I said is there any way we can combine those two into one pedal and that’s what we’ve done it’s basically a Klon with an eq post gain stage, I have the prototype right here and it’s actually worked out really well for me. So that will be available I think in stores in about three weeks.
Was it at NAMM by chance or did you approve it before NAMM happened?
I approved it before NAMM. I think they had the prototype there. The thing I’d like to point out is that part of the proceeds for my signature guitar goes to MusiCares. It’s a division of the Grammy’s that helps musician’s help get sober and put’s musician’s into treatment and also the J. Rockett pedal, 20% of the proceeds go to Children’s Cancer Fund, so there is some good coming out of what I am doing as well
Well I might have to go onto Knaggs website and add you to my collection
I’ll get to that in a second. When you were growing up I was reading a folk musician inspired you; his name was Phil Ochs Yes, he and Phil Ochs was a protest singer. He happened to come from my neighborhood Far Rockaway in Queens. There is a cool documentary I think it is on iTunes about Phil’s life and at the time he was as well known as Bob Dylan a hell of a lot more outspoken against the Vietnam War, and he was our local hero, and his sister was my first guitar teacher
Wow! So when you picked up your first guitar was it some cheap knock-off? How did you start playing guitars even though he influenced you?
Yes, my dad actually got the guitar it cost $15 with a music book. It wasn’t for me you know it’s just my dad always loved music, didn’t play but he saw this guitar package at a department store and brought it home and little by little I kept dragging it into my room and I have an older brother, he’s like five years older and some of his friends played guitar and they told my parent’s, “you know he’s making a hell of a racket but it’s in time, he’s got rhythm” so they arranged for Phil Ochs‘ sister to give me my first guitar lessons and I actually played only folk music for quite a while because I didn’t get an electric guitar until I was 13 and I started when I was 7 1/2 so that is why I have a strong affinity for acoustic music Wow! When you started playing were you self-taught or did you have lessons?
No, I had lessons but Phil’s sister was my teacher but I was just picking and when I developed an ear enough I was just picking up things from the radio or my brother’s record collection or what not you know. I had a real problem with teacher’s back then, but now it’s entirely different but that back then guitar teacher’s in my neighborhood were fuddy-duddy trying to teach me whatever, old standards and I wanted to learn The Who and The Stones and stuff, so I had to take it upon myself to learn that stuff What was your first band that you got into? Well like I said when I was 13 I got an electric guitar and I joined my first neighborhood garage band. The guys were about four years older than me and you know we just started playing whatever was popular at the time. So yes, I got into my first band I guess when I was 13 or 14.
Wow! When you were growing up and were playing in your garage band who were some of your influences back then? Obviously, Led Zeppelin was huge, Hendrix and The Stones and all that kind of stuff. There was a local radio station, FM Radio was just getting going. I mean I’m dating myself here
WNEW in New York had a show every Friday called Things From England where they played the English British imports for two hours and a lot of what was done then was the early Prog-Rock. It was the first time I heard Yes and Genesis and ELP and for some reason I went crazy for that stuff because you know in my house we shared music you know as a family and I appreciated classical and jazz and all those things and when I heard Steve Howe you know play all those styles within the context of a band, it’s kind of like a light switch went on and I went wow you can use all these influences you don’t just have to try and play blues or whatever as much as I liked Clapton and all that it was for me I loved all those other guitar player’s who had all those other influences as well.
Very Nice! How would you describe your guitar playing? Do you have one style? Are you multiple combinations of methods? Because you go from one extreme to the other. Atomic Playboy is over here. You played with Michael Jackson over here. Emmy award winner with the Top Gun soundtrack. I mean you have encompassed a lot of different things. To me, it’s all music but I will say that one of the things we tried to do with Billy Idol, I think that once I met Billy I really started to develop a style. In the context of a Billy Idol record you have Rebel Yell, Eyes Without A Face, Flesh For Fantasy, these are all different, texturally different guitar things as well as stylistically. I think it was a conscious decision to A: Play what’s best for the song. I know that sound cliche but it is true. If you’re in a band with a singer, that’s your job first and foremost and then to try and develop a style that would make me identifiable quickly. I always wanted to be one of those guitar player’s where you hear 8 bars and go “yes, I know who that is!” So that took a bit of time to develop you know. I kind of hinted at it on the first Billy Idol record and I think you know the last track we recorded for that album was White Wedding and that was the beginning of us stylistically. So you know I have got to give credit to Idol for doing that he really helped me develop a guitar style because we took all these different influences that apparently came from the Punk- Rock background but also great American Rock and Roll. You know he loved The Doors and Credence and we kind of like created a different kind of gumbo with all these different styles. Also our producer Keith Forsey he came from the dance music background, he worked with Giorgio Moroder, so I think if you take all these different influences and you mix them all together you kind of have what became my guitar style
With Billy Idol do you guy’s share the doing lyrics and the and melodies? Does one do the other? Is it a band effort? How does that work? You’ve guy’s have been together for 35 – 40 years 35 we’re not 40 yet!!
I remember when I was 10 and I first saw you with your cool hair and I was like, “this is awesome!” Yes, it is whatever get’s the ball rolling. Very rarely do I have anything to do with the lyrics with Billy. On occasion, I will suggest a title like Blue Highway or something but any singer worth his salt is going to want to sing his own words. So usually I’ll start with a riff or some words, you know Billy plays guitar, so it starts innocently with two guy’s you know sitting in a room with guitar’s and just hammering out idea’s and seeing what sticks
Wow! When Vince Neil came calling you for his solo band, did you have any say the melodies with his Exposed Album? To a certain extent, for the Vince record I was already signed to Warner Brothers so I was an artist on their label and then they signed Vince and I was living in New York and he’s obviously an LA guy so I flew out to meet him and we rehearsed and I loved Dr. Feelgood record and thought yes this could be an excellent opportunity you know to kind of play some heavier guitar stuff. You know it was natural. There was like no like grand scheme, it was a pretty natural thing to do. Let’s continue to do what Vince Neil is known for, write good songs and keep it heavy and that’s what I contributed
I read an article in the Hartford Courant, I grew up in Connecticut just like you, I read an article that when you guys came with Van Halen to the Thames River Pavilion up near Groton that when you went back to Billy Idol after Vince Neil you said the crowds were getting smaller and smaller and smaller was that true? Was that accurate what they said? No. No, I don’t know about that. That’s kind of a misquote. I think they were talking about the Vince Neil tour because what happened was that record came out just as grunge was happening and Nirvana was huge and you know it was hard to get the label on the record you know even though the record out of the box sold 350,000 copies which were looked at then as a failure. I mean now people would kill for them kind of numbers but as the record labels do, they go where the dollar signs are and you know it was suggestions like why don’t you guys put on flannel shirts and Doc Martens and it was like well who the fuck do you think you signed? You know?
So yes we started playing smaller venues and the writing was on the wall as far as that audience and all of the bands that made their career’s in the 80’s were experiencing that you know.
When Atomic Playboys album came out, you said, “ the better the guitar sound, the fewer notes you have to play” Yes! I still believe in that. There’s a guitar sound, I mean just think of Angus or someone like that. Angus’ guitar just sounds so great that you know you want to give air to that sound and if you are just all the time filling it up with a million notes you’re not utilizing the strength of the sonic capabilities of the guitar. I mean I love guy’s that can play fast. The guy’s I love, it’s interspersed with maybe not so many notes, that’s when it’s really active. Too much of a good thing is never a good thing!
That’s true!! Is it always in pursuit of the ultimate tone with you? Yes! Absolutely! Still is. You know tone is a huge part of it and I think you know I have a pretty good electronics background. I Actually, when I got the gig with Billy Idol a couple of weeks before that I had gotten hired by Electro-Harmonix to be a product tester and help develop pedals and they held auditions at the music store on 48th Street and they put a bunch of pedals’ in front of you and each guitar player had to come in without seeing them before and configure them and do a demo but they lost my number and the week that I got the gig with Idol they placed an ad on the back page of the Village Voice looking for me so I had to call up Mike Mathews, the guy who owns Electro-Harmonix and I said you know I’d love to come work with your company but I just got a record deal with Billy Idol.
so I think it’s because of that love of electronic’s and gear you know I had a really gifted guitar guy in New York called Henry Yi who helped me kind of tone -in my guitar sound and develop and open up Marshall’s and all that sort of stuff. I love exploring with that. I love soldering and pulling guitars apart. I have four Sears Craftsman cases of just guitar guts and bits and all this kind of stuff and I love getting in there and doing all my own guitar repairs and stuff. I just love doing all that stuff so yes I’m definitely in pursuit of a great guitar sound
That is awesome! After Whiplash Smile you played with Michael Jackson on Dirty Diana do you think that was one of your career highlights?
It certainly raised my profile you know. I remember as famous as the Billy Idol videos were on MTV the day after Dirty Diana had aired I believed it aired on Entertainment Tonight as well as MTV. I was living in New York, and I went out for a walk or something, and I’ve never been stopped by so many people, people running out of McDonald’s to get my signature, I was like what the fuck is this? And I go, “Oh it’s that video! “ So yes it raised my profile in that regard and one of the things I was adamant about when I spoke with Quincy Jones was that it was in my deal that Michael would be in the studio when I recorded and also if there was a video to be filmed that I would be in the video
Fantastic! That is awesome! Do you improvise any of your playing?
I improvise most of my playing. Especially solo’s you know. I’m not good working out solo’s you know we’ll run tape or whatever and I’ll just kind of hone it in. You know I hear melodies a lot of times in my head just based on the vocal melody and that’s kind of what I have in my head at the time I’m soloing so I want to do something that is in some way connected to what the singer is doing and you know depending on the artist I am working with they’ll have suggestions. Billy always has good suggestions as far as solo’s and things and I like getting that feedback from people, it’s part of making music.
How does it feel to have your name come up with guy’s like Randy Rhoads, Steve Vai, Yngwie? Your name is right in there with the top ten guy’s that play. Some people consider it shred, you know, heavy metal, hard rock guitar. Your name is always in there with the top 10 names. Yes! I guess that is cool you know! It’s certainly not a bad thing. I see people say that a lot of times I am kind of like underrated or something like that and I kind of go well that’s not really true because I won a Grammy, not to be boastful or anything like that, to me I am not underrated or anything. To me, I’m like whoever likes me likes me and I think that is one of the things about it is that it is Billy Idol so real Billy Idol fans know who I am I think sometimes if you’re in a band or something then people know the guitar player better. I’ve always like a bit of anonymity it’s never bothered me. I would be really uncomfortable with the level of fame that someone like Billy Idol has where you can’t go out without being recognized. I like the fact that people that know me, well ok, they might ask for an autograph but by and large, I live my life like any other citizen and I dig that!
I know I saw your T-shirts on your website and I’m like, “I don’t have these Steve Steven’s shirts!” (laughter)
Neither do I!
I’ll wear a Billy Idol T-shirt, but I will not wear a Steve Steven’s T-shirt! I’m a little bit too humble for that one man
Regarding your plans for 2017, I know that you’re going out with Billy Idol. I know that you’ve got your solo thing. Do you have any American dates coming up? Any artists that you play with?
I work with an All-Star band named Kings of Chaos. Matt Sorum and Robert De Leo from Stone Temple Pilot’s and Billy Duffy and Billy Gibbons. It’s a rotating cast of character’s
Yes! You know first and foremost it’s tremendous fun. To be on stage with other great guitar players and we all respect each other and we all kind of all sit around and talk guitar and shop and all that without the ego thing it’s just a great gig so I’ve got some more Kings of Chaos shows coming up. We’re going to go into the studio and do some recording. So that’s like icing on the cake for me to be involved in a band like that. So after I take my solo band to Europe, we’re starting to talk about doing some American dates so we’ll see how we can fit that in.
Awesome! And with Billy are you recording with him or are you guy’s going to be going out to do some tour dates aside your Vegas residency?
As I said we do this Vegas residency and that is like three or four month’s and then in August we go to South America and do a couple Aerosmith shows and you know he and I have talked about doing some new music together. You know we’re trying to fit that in. He’s got a busy schedule going, he’s got a radio show happening now you know he had his book come out as well so I think he’s looking at other things to be involved in other than just touring and recording. What was great about the last record we did was that it was mostly autobiographical because it was done at the same time as the book so we kind of seen how it’s good if you’re going to do a record it’s good to do a theme about it and a purpose behind it rather than let’s just slap a bunch of songs together you know.
That is awesome! Now you and Josie, you guys go out on the road together. You guy’s just pack up home together, and you’re pretty much on the road. Is that the case? Yes! I mean it really works for us and you know usually you hear about musicians’ wives being the Yoko Ono of a band or something but she is so not that person. When she’s out there she wants to work with us. She does our meet and greet’s. She’ll do whatever it takes to be part of the band and she can really hang with the band. For some reason, she’s just one of those girls that can really hang with the musician’s in the band and everyone loves her. I don’t recommend it for everybody but in our case, it really works and I love having her. You know I’ve been around the world for 35 years since I’ve toured and done all that so for me it’s great to share it with my wife and I’m one of those guys that will just stay in a hotel room and just go to the venue and I never see anything so she’s always arranging for us to go to museum’s and see architecture and all that. Stuff that grumpy old me will never see.
Josie has been super friendly to me via e-mail getting this together. Great! She seems like an extraordinary person, and you are an incredibly talented guitarist. I can see your Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction for you at some point down the road. I know The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame doesn’t have that credibility
You know I was happy to see that Yes was finally inducted this year so I wish that it would have happened while Chris Squire was alive cause he was the founder of that band. He was the soul of that band I got to know Chris well, and it gives me hope that Yes will be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, so I am not going to slag the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame at all! A lot of my good friends are in it, and I’m happy for them so
My last question for you, what do you think about the state of Rock & Roll and Hard Rock and Heavy Metal? I know asked a couple of times, but it just seems like the music industry has no idea what it’s going to do Well, I’m old enough to have seen trends come and go and you know when I was really young the record companies had all these kind of teeny- bop artists that they could, you know record companies love to control the artist! They love to be able to like cultivate the image and give the artist the song’s that they have their songwriters that they like and that is kind of where the business is at and that is why pop music has permeated to the market right now because that’s what they can control. For many years when I was a kid, the Vietnam war was happening so music had a message behind it if you think of how political things were everything from Black Sabbath and Hendrix and all these things. People were making records with a purpose and I think unfortunately the world is a pretty dangerous place right now and I think the next generation is kind of waking up to hopefully make music that means something rather than it just being about product you know because myself, and guy’s my age we didn’t pick up the instrument thinking about our bank accounts, we picked it up because we wanted to express ourselves musically and play rock & roll and didn’t want to conform to you know maybe what our parent’s had adjusted to. So you know I’d say anybody who wants to pick up a guitar or wants to be successful in the business you’ve got to want to do it for more than just making money because that’s not the reason. It’s nice if you make money doing it. You know if I stopped making money and playing guitar tomorrow, I’d still do it. I’m not going to go, that’s it! No more guitar! So I think that’s got to be the motivation. Is there any guitarists out there that catch your eye?
Like a new guitar player?
Yes I guess Guthrie Govan is incredible! I mean and he seems to be doing projects that are making him happy you know. I like Mastodon they’re a cool heavy rock band I’m sure there are other people I am forgetting. There’s a bunch of like newer acoustic players that I don’t even know the names of but just the other day I was watching some things, so there are newer players that are just killing it!
Awesome! Well, Steve, you have been a gentleman for taking all my questions My pleasure!
Declared as a ‘Master Shredder’ and one of the ‘Fastest Guitarists in the World’, Rusty Cooley, aged 46, has managed to lift himself to legendary status in a short span of time. Rusty is praised widely for his highly refined guitar techniques, and has made significant contributions to his genre; he has embarked on a journey to impart the treasure trove of knowledge he has gained over time to the budding music generations of today.
Rusty’s entire career and all notable achievements on his profile revolve have stemmed from his non-conformity for the conventional techniques and his penchant to push the boundaries of his forte and refine his skills in the sphere of improvisation. Having set his fingers on the chords at the tender age of 15, Rusty initially landed under the supervision of some guitar instructors. Disgruntled by their typical, and current patterns of tones and techniques, Rusty decided to take a solo flight and embarked on a journey to strengthen his knowledge and nurture his natural skill sets through a self-taught methodology. His learning style was based on the main parameters such as trial, error, improvisation, and perfection. This, coupled with his dedication and commitment towards his passion, has brought out the bets in him. It is no wonder that he is acclaimed as a truly virtuosic master musician today.
Rusty’s playing technique is neat, and a sure tell of his expertise at fine, harmonized and well-grounded articulation of tones. The graduation, density, and versatility of his sound have evolved through consistent refinements. Rusty possesses a sound knowledge base about a variety of playing styles and genres. This great command over the playing intricacies of multiple genres has enabled him to imply improvisations in heavy, progressive and power metal genre which is his prime forte.
Rusty was primarily influenced and inspired by legendary music virtuosos, including eminent names such as Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai, Vinnie Moore, Paul Gilbert, Randy Rhoads and Tony MacAlpine. However, his technique is majorly compared with the likes of Randy Rhoads. Rusty is famous for jamming on a variety of instruments, of which, his personalized six, seven and eight stringed guitars are most noteworthy.
Rusty’s signature style of sweep picking has stemmed from the original sweep picks of Randy Rhoads and Eddie Van Halen. He set on to master the art of sweep picking at a time where the technique was only being practiced by Randy Rhoads and EVH and had yet to gain popularity in the rock and metal world. Rusty plunged into this relatively untapped domain and eventually aced the sweep picking skill.
Aside from that, Rusty also possesses immense expertise over hammer on, alternate picking, pull-offs, and one finger tap. Rusty is personally fond of incorporating a lot of pinkie-tapping in his tones, a tricky technique that has become his signature. Rusty’s shredding is fast, fluid and dense and each shred is well-established and perfectly designed. Rusty’s tones are smooth and audacious and carved over graduating nuances that give it a fluid flow and an enchanting dexterity.
Rusty’s style makes him an eligible descendant of Randy Rhoads regarding his approach towards music. His tones often reflect the essence of Randy’s picking and those music enthusiasts who have seen the era of Randy Rhoads and the likes, will get it better that Rusty Cooley’s style is a unique and worthy tribute to the legacy of Randy Rhoads.
He emerged on the music sphere, he aced his forte, he redefined the heavy metal genre with his own identity, rocked the music scene of the 1980s and while the music world was still anticipating a lot coming from his camp, left the music world at a time when his work was ruling the music charts. Vito Bratta, the man whose fiery tones fueled the roar of ‘White Lion’ and whose bold style and playing technique had a daring flair about it, silently crept his way out of the music sphere after his prime association disbanded in 1992.
Vito was born on July 1st, 1961 in New York and possessed a natural affinity for music, particularly towards the rock and metal genre. Having plunged into the musical sphere in his teens, the initial years of his career were marred by underground performances, jamming sessions and a temporary association with ‘The Dreamer’. This was his incubation phase that prepared him for the groundbreaking feat destiny was pushing his way.
Having strengthened his basic skill set and with a firm hand over his forte, Vito Bratta eventually co-founded White Lion with Mike Tramp, an American/Danish metal rock band that rocked the music scene from 1983 until the initial years of the 1990s through their gold and platinum selling records. While Mike Tramp contributed his vocals, Vito composed the lyrics and also played the chords. Vito was primarily influenced by the likes of Eddie Van Halen,Jimmy Page, and Neal Schon.
His initial feats do carry a frequent tinge and essence of his influences. He evolved and mastered his own signature style that is unarguably characterized as swift, smooth, vivacious as well as technically dense and detailed. The upbeat music as well as his lively personality made him one of the most eminent faces of the heavy metal domain of the 1980s.
Vito’s association with his brainchild spans over 9 years. Although White Lion did make a revival in the closing years of the 20th century, Vito refused to be a part of it. During his association, Vito made his vital contributions in the form of major feats including the debut album ‘Fight and Survive’, ‘Pride’, ‘Big Game’ and the final release, titled ‘Mane Attraction’, after which the band was disbanded with mutual consent.
Vito Bratta is a name that is still remembered and echoes through the corridors of hard rock and glam metal. His playing style is heavily doused with intricate nuances and rhythmic ascents and descents, punctuated with plenty of riffs and shreds in between. Often compared to the likes of Eddie Van Halen for his virtuosic playing expertise, it would not be an exaggeration if we say that Vito Bratta’s style and technique was the core ingredient of White Lion’s signature music recipe.
Vito Bratta’s style was a unique fusion of double-handed taps, smooth sweeps, and dense riffing that hovers through the entire melody and leaves the audience spellbound by its audacity. Although he has completely shunned himself from the glitz and glam of the music world since the early 1990s, his technique is still recognized as fresh and unique. He is still praised as a master player who still has a lot in him to strike awe and inspire his loyal fandom.
The history of heavy metal rock will forever be highlighted by a select few who managed to achieve far greater heights than their contemporaries. Jimi Hendrix being one, with the sheer brilliance and expertise par excellence, had no boundaries or restrictions to limit his potential and the magic he was capable of with the guitar.
With no rules to abide by and no sequences to follow – he was unstoppable, with an unwavering courage to explore and carve musical planes that have never been heard of before. Jimi Hendrix made it totally worth it, to be considered as the undisputed God of the heavy metal genre and escalated legendary milestones to a whole new height, making it even more challenging for his successors to touch that level of greatness.
It is quite refreshing to note that the post-Hendrix era is populated with a number of names that took it upon them to take forward the ‘Hendrix legacy’ and took pride in following the path laid by the eternal maestro of the heavy metal world. Eddie Van Halen, for instance, is one of those few names who made their own signature mark on the music scene of the 1970s and 1980s.
The mastery he had held over his personalized six-stringed instruments ensured that it was him that controlled how his guitar would work and what he squeezed out of the chords, not the other way round. So, it all makes perfect sense if we say that the musical planes and the untapped realms that he ventured into was not a coincidence, rather his own brilliance, forte and excellence.
An analysis of his notes and techniques is a strong validation of his great and intricate attention to details. Fast, furious and with an extreme audacity to make your ear drums experience new heights of musical ecstasy, Eddie Van Halen himself compares his playing style to a racing car, going down the road, blitzing though everything that comes in between.
Just like Hendrix – the rock maestro, Van Halen too had little to stop him when it came to playing the whammy bars and gave a whole new meaning to the heavy metal rock through ‘Panama’, ‘Eruption’ and ‘Hot for Teacher’. His notes made a profound impact that was anything but distortion. Perfectly planned, and intricately carved, every single fluctuation and nuance still makes an impression as if a farfetched fantasy is coming to life.
His musical virtuoso is a depiction of his uniqueness, and entails his signature master moves, as in, the dive bombs, fun licks, finger tapping and pinching on the natural harmonics. He was not just a pioneer or inventor of a new style; he made them popular and inspired many young artists and musicians that took pride in following his lead. The way he used effects pedals, hot-rodded amps and tricking out guitars, it escalated the set bars and ensured that hard rock still had a lot in it to be explored.
It was all worth it, for apart from countless other awards and accolades, including the Grammy Award for ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ (1992), American Music Award for ‘For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge’ (1991), MTV Music Awards for ‘Jump’ (1984), ‘Finish What Ya Started’ (1989), and two awards for ‘Right Now’ in 1992, Eddie Van Haken was declared as the ‘Greatest Guitarist of all Times’ in a poll conducted by Guitar World Magazine.
More than the awards and accolades that mark his musical career, it is his inclination to develop his signatures taps, his understanding of the strings and chords and the perfect chemistry between his finger tips and his instruments, that enabled him to produce not just a piece of music but a real treat to cherish for a lifetime. It is his successful attempts at turning the impossible into possible with a mere finger tap that justifies that if anyone could be rendered as a successor to the ’Hendrix legacy, Eddie Van Halen almost makes it to that honor.
A mere finger shred on the guitar chords does not make one a great musician. It has to come from within as if you’re tugging on not just the guitar strings, but the chords of your heart. It is only then that the noise turns into music and profound melodies are created that resonate in the air, casting a soulful impact around. Judging on this precise criterion, Chris Impellitteri has definitely aced his job!
Chris Impellitteri is one of those rare guitarists that vent out their internal restlessness, noise, rage and anger by pulling out on the guitar chords and squeezing out tones that seem to touch and enthrall the minds and hearts of listeners.
In the raging rhetoric of the music world, Chris Impellitteri rose on the music horizon to gain a significant prominence in the music scene of the late eighties, when his band ‘Impellitteri’ that he cofounded along with Rob Rock, launched their debut album ‘Stand in Line’.
However, Impellitteri had made a notable hinting teaser about the grandeur he was to achieve through a black EP that he released in 1986, simply titled the ‘Impellitteri’. While not technically a full album, this was the release that established the band’s sound and is heralded by guitarists all over the world.
Their premiere presentation was an immediate hit and his unique style and signature vibrato was perceived to be of grandeur that matched with the likes of the notable music maestros of that time and even more.
The success of his EP and Frits Studio Release kick-started his career into high gear, establishing a credible profile with a myriad of music accolades and awards. He was officially declared as the ‘Fastest guitarist of all time’ by Guitar World Magazine in 2008, making him stand on a legendary plane with the likes of Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen, Randy Rhodes and other maestros in the fast, heavy metal genre.
A mere look at his discography, rig rundown and the style that only evolved to get better with time is a testament to the fact that he not only made it to the legendary bars but also elevated his celebrated stature to a height no one thought he’d be able to achieve.
His career profile encompasses numerous feats, albums, and accolades including ‘Grin and Bear IT’ (1992), ‘Answer to the Master’ (1994), ‘Screaming Symphony’ (1996), ‘Eye of the Hurricane’ (1997), ‘Crunch’ (2000), ‘System X’ (2002), ‘Pedal to the Metal’ (2004), ‘Wicked Maiden’ (2009), ‘Venom’ (2015), along with some notable guest appearances in ‘House of Lords’ in 1990, ‘Dragon Attack – A Tribute to the Queen’, and ‘A Tribute to Randy Rhodes’.
Here we share the tidbits of the recent interview that we had with Chris Impellitteri to satiate the cravings of his loyal fan base. The ‘fastest musician of all time’ was humble enough to spare some time out of his fast and busy schedule to touch upon the various aspects of his entire career and enlighten us with his personal thoughts, views, and experiences.
Chris, welcome to All That Shreds! It’s a pleasure to have you here!
Glad to be here.
You grew up in Connecticut, that’s one thing that really kind of caught my eye, cause so did I but where exactly did you grow up at?
Are you familiar with Ledyard?
So I grew up in Ledyard Connecticut
Where Foxwood’s Casino is
Yes. It didn’t exist when I was a kid. I went to school actually with the two kids, I think it was their family actually got the funding and got all the permitting and went thru the legalities to actually create it. It was crazy because I went back in like seven years after graduating high school it was a completely different place.
Yes, that’s pretty much how Foxwoods is and a lot of concerts actually go on there. Mohegan Sun has got the arena but Foxwoods has this small amphitheater and that’s where a lot of the hard rock groups go and play their concerts at.
Yes I think I’ve seen some of that footage, you know in that place. I used to be managed years ago by a man named John Sheard he was a really big concert promoter like in New Jersey and New York City in like the Meadowlands and Madison Square Garden. One of his partners was a guy Jimmy Koplic. Jimmy did all the shows. I think eventually he ended up doing things for Foxwoods directly.
Yup Jimmy Koplic and Shelly Finkel from Cross Country Concerts. We’re really going back in time there. I still got my ticket stubs.
Well Jimmy, yes, I know Jimmy but Shelly he stopped many years ago he promoted Evander Holyfield the boxer he got out of it but Jimmy stayed in it. I think he still does that for Foxwoods directly.
Your background I was going through because I have pictures of you and Joe Satriani from Guitar World back in 1998 it says Master Shredders.
You know I think Dustin had an email. I saw that picture. I do remember that.
How did you start playing guitar? Did you work an early age; did you have any other instruments?
How did I start? Well the truth is and then again not due to violence or anything like that. So, when I was nine I lost my parents you know.
Oh, that sucks, I’m sorry, I didn’t know about that
No, no dude really it’s cool, it’s been so many years. It was kind of a tragedy. So, at nine years old I was, literally, I had no family. Went to bed woke up and my grandmother, who adopted me, my grandparents’, they thought look, nine years old, lost his parents, we need to get him doing something so he doesn’t come up a screw up. So basically, she asked me if I wanted to learn how to play an instrument and I’m sure probably the first thing I wanted to do is be a drummer, right, and they were probably like “NO”! So, she brought me to a music store and I forget and um and on the wall, I will never forget this it’s been many years, there were let’s say a copy of a Les Paul it was like a black custom it was by a company called Cameo and then there was a kind of like a cream strat kind of like what Hendrix played, you know Fender. I actually chose the Les Paul. I was like, “I want that”! So, I picked it up and it was weird. It was just something about it, as soon as I touched it, it was like, it felt like a part of my body, it was weird. I can’t explain it, and from that moment on I immediately started taking lessons, started music theory. You know and I just became addicted about playing my guitar.
So that was basically how I began. I wish I had a cooler story but that’s the truth.
When you started playing into your teen years did you have any like little bands that you belonged to or did you do anything to make yourself known outside of where you grew up?
Well yeah definitely of course! Like any kid playing music, I started in 7th grade. I started like dances in high school, we were doing covers doing anything from Van Halen to Foreigner and that stuff. You know we would do covers and of course, we’d do all the local keg parties. Anything we could do, we would play. A lot of house parties. I remember the backyard parties, you know. Do they still call them keg parties?
I don’t know, I’ve been out of that scene for quite a while
Well back when we were kids, basically kegs of beer in the back yard on Saturday night and literally 1,000 kids would show up from high school so we would always be the band that would play that. You know so I did that all through like 7th & 8th grade started doing the dances, 9th & 10th grade I was doing that and honestly by the 11th grade I was actually playing in the bars. You know, I was sneaking, I was playing with all the guys, you know I was playing and they used to kind of sneak me in, get me up on stage and I’d do my thing, then of course take me out of there. So yes, I did that for years and that is actually how I met Rob Rock.
Yes! This is what most people don’t know it’s funny because we’re going way back. This would be like early 80’s there’s a band called QT Hush and my band used to open up for them. My band we would play a lot of Van Halen covers, Ozzy you know stuff that was more guitar driven. This band QT Hush was a tribute to AC/DC and they were massive. They were literally borderline playing in arenas on the east coast it was that big. We opened up for them, and it was good because we were playing in front of thousands of people and their guitar player quit so they asked me to do the Angus thing and I actually did it for about a year. You know you would dress up playing Angus and I would play mad solos, shredding and you know whatever, masturbating to the solos, Van Halen or whatever you know. So, that was it, then I met Rob Rock and hence that’s where this whole thing began.
And that was in your teenage years?
Yes, that was in my teens. That’s probably around, I think I must have been 18 or 19 or something like that when I joined that band. I almost didn’t graduate high school because of it.
How did you go from that band to your own band with Rob Rock? Because the Black EP is like Holy Grail in the guitar community with others. That was your beginning record.
Well Rob and I after that QT Hush band, we actually were on the New England circuit you know. We would play all the places in New England. We had a band called VICE and it was probably about 75% covers 25% was original music. It didn’t really, we didn’t really push. It didn’t go anywhere really. The label that Ozzy Osbourne was on at the time that was called Jet Records. The first two Ozzy records it was for Diary of a Madman and Blizzard of Oz and they were going to sign us. Bring them to LA, to be honest the band hated me! Because I was so driven. They wanted someone that was going to be more pop, you know. Someone that was a little more. I think I was a little too, probably because I was 18 years old and I was full of fire. I just wanted to do it my way, so anyways, they fired me. I went to LA so I figured, screw it. Mainly because I was always pushing them to be better. Yes, you know, I wanted to practice 12 hours a day play as many notes as I can, at that point I just wanted to play. I didn’t realize at that time, oh there’s this thing called pace and melody. Anyways, I went to LA then I don’t know what happened. My bud Rudy Sarzo was in a band. Anyways they were looking for a singer and they had done a bit of reiteration to the band and they called Rob. Rob Rock eventually got the gig. They did a record. Unfortunately, it didn’t go anywhere, they couldn’t get signed at least to a major label so Rudy and Tommy Aldridge quit, they went to Whitesnake. Rob needed a gig and at that time I was literally writing the music for the ImpellitteriBlack EP and I was really into at that time I mean you know it’s funny if I look at this thing in perspective and open eyes when I first came out and I get it believe me is the Yngwie, you know I get accused of being a clone, you know like oh you’re ripping him off or whatever, the truth is, it had nothing to do with him or the whole Shrapnel crowd that Mike Varney had which is really a guitar person I really love. It was really like a band like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest a lot of the British Metal scene but I loved the really fast double kick stuff and I started playing around with that and of course I really had a huge love for John McLaughlin & Di Meola had a huge influence on me so I just started blending all of those different styles you know and that’s literally how the EP came about. We did it at a place called Baby-O Studios and I’ll never forget it because I was recording it and in Gene Simmons from Kiss came in. It was really cool, I was this kid, you know. I was in a studio, we were creating. You know musically I don’t know what it was I still to this day get a lot of compliments. I’ve had bands, huge bands, tell me, hey man we got that Black EP and we love that thing. I’m like, how do you even know about it?
A lot of people have your video’s. Many people remember you. Many still listen to you, so yes
Oh, that’s cool! I got to be careful about the video thing. I did do a video which there’s one video out there and it’s horrific and I’m so ashamed of it. There’s a thing I did with this company I think it’s called REH I think it was called, RH Video? Oh, dude, it’s horrible! I was literally like it was probably part of that period where you start getting some success and you’re partying all the time and experimenting with things believe me when I did the video I was heavily experimenting with some chemicals and dude I look back and think, I don’t play guitar like that and why would my manager even allow that to be released. I’m just simply masturbating all over the guitar and it’s senseless! So even I would call myself wanker, I mean come on.
I’ve actually got your video on speed soloing from RH Video on VHS.
Well dude, I must owe you $60.00 and I apologize sincerely!! (laughter) If you pay attention, listen to the Black EP and you can obviously tell it’s much more controlled. It is extremely fast. It’s not that easy especially at that age. That whole movement of shred, if that’s what we’re calling it, it was really evolving. Yngwie had just come out, really. Mike Varney was getting his team together. He had some really amazing guys, obviously, I think the first one I believe was Tony MacAlpine I think and Tony was just a fantastic talent I think you know then of course everyone else. When I was doing the EP, especially in the infancy stages of writing it and the solos, none of this existed. We didn’t have that to benchmark so really you had to listen to the Di Meola stuff or the John McLaughlin.
Yes, I can hear a lot of Al Di Meola stuff in some of your music and that’s what I was going to ask you. Is he one of your bigger influences like some of the other’s you’ve mentioned?
Yes. I mean I will tell you for Di Meola I’m trying to think of what really affected me the most because I’ve seen Al, I’ve actually hung out with Al a few times. Let me think about this before I answer this because what I’m trying to do is I’m trying to think exactly what was the Di Meola stuff specifically right, that really affected me to the point where I think it affected my guitar playing and my style. Because obviously with Night in San Francisco you know like Passion, Grace & Fire that stuff was hugely impactful as far as the way I articulate and attack the strings with my right hand you know because when I listen to acoustic players right, when their shredding they have a way of attacking the strings that’s very percussive right? So obviously, I would. Itis huge for me and Friday Night in San Francisco I think, you know Paco and Mc Laughlin & De Lucia that to me probably had the biggest impact on me. For me the trouble was, how do I translate what they’re doing on an acoustic guitar to an electric? You know to capture that percussiveness and that’s where my right hand, you know obviously, you have to master the left hand because that steers the ship. It takes you to where you need to go and obviously, it’s critical for hitting the notes. But the right hand for me, I want to use it more as a percussive instrument. I don’t know if that sounds strange or if that makes sense but, you know
No it does! It makes perfect sense
So I’ve experimented and I’ve broken as many rules as I possibly can, not always for the better, but the reason I wouldn’t pick a lot of guys that do more like economy picking. Yngwie does a lot of it Paul Gilbert does a lot of it and it works really good and I love the way they make it sound but for me I wanted that Staccato that really percussive tone alternately you get when you’re using heavy picks. I mean obviously when you want to play heavy with your wrist for some reason I just couldn’t get that snap. So basically, I would find myself breaking the rule and going to the forbidden zone which is not only using your wrist and your index finger and thumb in the circular motion then you’ll also start to use a little bit of your elbow which is forbidden. You know what I mean?
It’s like the no, no! It helped me get more of that attack. Especially on the Black EP you can hear it
That Black EP is one record I and many others go back and listen to many times over.
Oh that’s cool. You know the only thing, I mean look, I still listen to it, I guess as a fan. I’m a fan of guitar players period. But for me, yes when I listen to it I have tremendous respect for what we were able to do with that EP it changed my life in a big way but there’s pros and cons. The pros are it was honest. It was no one influence, so really I think we came into finding our own sound even though there were a lot of people trying to say we were clones of Yngwie or always ripping somebody, off right? Which is just not true and that EP, it was really who we were. Expressing ourselves, coming into our own identity. So, that was the pro and I think we did captured it. It was really a live recording. As a matter of fact, it was mainly room likes and we did it I think it usually started around 10 or 11:00 every night in the studio because we didn’t have any money you know, we were basically poor at that time and you know we would go into Baby-O Studios which was again that’s where Gene was doing KISS demo’s and we’d use one of the rooms, My God I must have had 8 or 9 white Marshall Anniversary Cabinets. We had probably 16 mics which people just don’t do. You have obviously your ?? mic, you have all your ?? right in the center of the cones then we also had a room mic so we could capture the ambiance, you know. So anyways by the time we did it you know I went, this is great. As far as the production I wish it could have been bigger but you know it was really meant to be more of a live recording and capture the band live
Yes. I do believe the Black album ?? sticks to the hands of time. I just wanted to comment on something about people saying you’re a big Yngwie clone. I’m a big Yngwie Malmsteen fan and you guys have two totally different styles. You’re each your own person. So, I would definitely disagree with them about that
Well Thank you and listen to people never for some reason when I say Yngwie absolutely in some manner affected the way I play but It’s unfair to say Eddie Van Halen didn’t or Randy Rhoads I mean come on. Biggest influence is every guitar player, I mean if you’ve played a song or I’ve heard a demo from you at some point, you’ve probably influenced me. I used to always laugh at that and I got it. I was playing a strat, I was wearing the white boots you know in Stand in Line you know what I did with Bonnet and but the funny thing was, the people that were condemning me for it was like ‘dude this is hilarious, you’re not realizing what we’re doing’ and the Standing in Line video I’m actually playing a Richie Blackmore model and it was such a tribute to Rainbow you know like a watered down Rainbow that we were literally almost dressing comically you know, kind of like Rainbow. Then everybody goes, you look to rip off Blackmore, I’m like actually those would-be Blackmore guys which means, somebody else is ripping off Blackmore.
Wow! I didn’t even realize that your Stand in Line you had a Blackmore. Who are you currently endorsed with because you’re using Charvel, Dean?
Yes, I’m working for Charvel now. I’m definitely endorsing them. We’re working right now on playing with the idea of making a signature model. There’s one guitar they gave me recently it was sitting in the warehouse for probably 7 years and it was done by Grover Jackson, hand built, I think it was the original founders of Charvel came together. They did this Legacy series and the very first run, the three of them actually hand built a couple guitars and they tried to sell them for some ridiculous amount at retail in stores for like $16,000 or $17,000. Not one guitar sold. They were just too overpriced
Is this the one with the red on it that I see you with?
Yes, the blood splatter?
Yes, that’s the one guitar and dude it’s insane! You know, I mean it’s all hand built. It’s really unique, you know it’s one piece maple neck but you see like the in lays or the center dots are all rosewood and the side markers are all brass. You know the body, typical, I think we’re using ?? on that one, but sonically it sounds amazing. I’ve got a ’58 Les Paul I used a lot on my recordings and this thing sounds equally as good if not better. It’s different because Charvel sometimes has a compound radius this actually has a 12-inch radius all the way down pretty much like a Les Paul except with Fender.
Are you still using your spider web guitar from Dean?
No. I’ve got to be honest, I never did. The Dean thing started only because when I did this, I did a project in Japan called Animetal. It was a really silly thing. We were basically doing a tribute to a Japanese band called Animetal out of the early 1990’s. Sony approached me and Rudy Sarzo and Scott Travis from Judas Priest and this guy Mike Vescera and asked us to do like an American version of it. So, we agreed and when I saw the concept I thought, oh my God this is insanity. Kind of like KISS on steroids but the music has to be covers of famous anime songs but then just bastardize it and shred. They wanted weird looking guitarists. So I was literally in a nutshell when I saw that SGV thing which I thought was what I didn’t realize at the time is it was built originally for Zakk Wylde thru Dean. So, I met the owner, he and I hit it off and he flew me down to his house in Tampa and I said yes I’ll use this and he said hey why don’t we do a signature guitar? I said well, I’m really a strat guy man. Really loyal to what I play not just the brand because it’s comfortable. So, he made the guitar and before I really had any say he already tried to put it up on his website and sell it. I think he actually sold some of them and I was like dude, I haven’t even approved it. So, the short answer is No. I never used the spider web guitar
I had no idea!
No. Sorry dude! No! Actually, the closest thing you’re going to find to me doing this, you know I’ve done signature guitars for Fender but mainly in Japan only. Now Charvel is different. Charvel, the blood splatter guitar, that’s pretty much what I’m working with. Now the paint job forgives me, I didn’t do that it was already done. You know, I don’t care it sounds so good and plays so well through my Marshall stacks.
I thought I saw the spider web in some of your videos on some of your recent Venom record from Frontiers?
No! That’s another guitar we were building. No, no, no that’s like I don’t know if that’s a Charvel body and some strange neck I was building it literally in like my garage or whatever. No, and I was actually having fun with that because basically did the graphic where we went well you can’t really do anything unique right? Because Van Halen has done everything you can possibly do with graphics, right? And so, I said for my love of Eddie and Randy why don’t I just do both? So, I basically did some stripes and some dots, polka dots and it’s on the cover I think of the new Venom record. And that guitar actually had a crazy neck on it.
So you didn’t agree to it?
Well you know it’s cool. I like Elliot very much but yes, they made me a couple guitars. I think it’s just when you played something all your life, you know I was playing Fender soon after that Les Paul copy. As a matter of fact, when Van Halen came out, the whole reason I got into Fender was when Van Halen came out that very first record where I lived in Connecticut and obviously, you did I was a little older, we didn’t have Charvel. We didn’t know what Charvel was. I looked around, I couldn’t find it. I wondered what Eddie had. So, the best thing I could do was buy a Fender Stratocaster which I did and then cut the body. I did that for a while, then I got some real nice vintage Fenders stop cutting the body because it hurts their value so – hence that’s why I ended up sticking with the single coils for years
During the grunge movement of the 90’s did you do anything different with your music? Or did you stay true to your core and continue writing the music style that you have?
We did one record. Impellitteri Black EP kind of gets noticed by the industry, you know especially in Europe. I’m going to get to your answer really quick. I’m just going to try to give you a quick evolution. So, we did the Black EP which at that time it was advertised everything guitar. Really popular magazines like Circus Magazine you know they all have them like the inside covers there’s a lot of advertising and I think it was Kerrang! Magazine in England and that’s where this whole stupid fastest guitar player in the world thing, at least for me, started. They called me the fastest guitar player in the world it’s some stupid crap right. All of a sudden from Japan everybody noticed us from the Black EP and then Rob Rock quit and I was screwed. I was like Oh my God what are we going to do? I don’t have a singer. So, at this time Sony and Relativity that’s where Joe Satriani and Steve Vai got signed for their instrumental records, they signed me. I didn’t know what to do, I just wanted to get this Black EP out and tour behind it and they were like, Yes, but we need you to go do another record so we ended up calling Graham Bonnett, because Graham had ended up calling me gosh probably two years earlier to see if I would be interested in replacing Yngwie when Yngwie was in Alcatrazz. So basically, I went and did the Stand in Line record, which by the way I really don’t like. I’m not a big fan of it.
I don’t. Cause listen, I was playing with a bunch of older guys. We were almost 15 years old or something if not more. I didn’t know what to do. I was a heavy metal kid and the only thing I could think with Graham is why don’t you do something like a light sort of version of Rainbow and really that’s what I hear it as. You know I hate guitar tone and it’s buried in reverb and I had no say over it. With the Impellitteri Black EP, I was very involved with everything from the playing, the recording, the production. Stand in Line I felt like literally it’s got my name on it but I have no control over this. You know what I mean?
So there, we’re coming into the 80’s and MTV starts playing our video a lot Stand in Line which I do like stand in Line to this day. It was just too big of production but I like the song. So, we started doing MTV and I guess we were in the eye of the media and we were getting a lot of coverage and Japan all of a sudden really really take off for us. You know like really big. And I know like that when people say oh when you can’t make it in America you’ve got to go to Japan you’ll be a rock star right but for us all of a sudden we were playing arenas, masses. Not like the smaller version would go to Japan and play clubs. You know our first show was at the Tokyo Dome. So, we were doing really big things and that kind of gave us life. Even though what was about to come around the corner is grunge right?
So at this time, also let’s not forget Guns & Roses are really changing. The music scene you know, you’re coming out of that. I was more of a shred guy borderline thrash with the Black EP you know again, Maiden, Priest even Metallica I love. So, when this happens, Japan offers us a really really good record deal but now I’m listening to Guns & Roses. Everybody in the media is slamming shredding, you know or anything that has anything to do really with the 80’s. So, we do a record called Grin and Bear It for Japan it’s really riffy, it’s really more funk, you know funk rock. So, that’s where you asked me did I do anything, did I change? The answer is yes for that one record. You know some of the stuff was really cool. I still look back and listen and say you know that was really fun to play but it was not in the direction we should have been going with
Impellitteri, so thank God, we do that, it sold, Ok. We probably sold like 50,000 records or something like that in Japan, not very much. The label they said look, we’re going to give you one chance, you need to go back to your roots, more like the metal stuff. We did an EP called Victim of the System for Impellitteri and that’s only released in Japan. But we’re getting more back in the direction of our Impellitteri Black EP and from there on in we just started being true to ourselves and kind of developing from the Black EP as we should have always done. I know it’s a really long answer to your question about the grunge thing did make a change but that was kind of I don’t know if it’s a good answer but that was the evolution. There was a little bit of change really quickly and then we realized, we’re deviating, go back.
Is that what you did to Answer to The Master in 1994?
Definitely! Definitely. Answer to The Master that’s a perfect example where you see like you know we’re getting thrown in with guitar players like I said I love all of the shredders and all of these instrumental guitar players but we are never one of those guys. So, Answer to The Master you can hear it. It’s more about the riff more about the band never mind the guitar player, if that makes sense. I mean it has moments you know where you’ll see shredding but a lot of times it’s not the focus by any means. It’s really about metal, the riff, the melody the song, the hook.
You’re absolutely correct.
When you went after you guys did that you went to Screaming Symphony did you stay the course there too?
Yes, I think so. It was, when you say course, for me I’m always thinking once I came off that little deviation I kind of set my mind to say look that was kind of like the beginning of our identity. Now of course you’re never going to repeat the record over and over again because that means you’re not growing. So, every record is evolution but hopefully yes of course back on course from where we should have always been back with that EP. I don’t know if that makes sense, but for me there is a direction. You start, you kind of develop your sound. You know which we did with the Black EP. To me that’s like us, I mean three guys, we actually had a studio guy helping on bass as well you know playing in a room and you get that feeling of what do we sound like live, let’s capture that which kind of really tells you what the band really sounds like. From there we just evolved. So, then we’re on a course for whatever our sound is so that’s kind of what each record was. I think Screaming Symphony was you know another evolution of where we’re going. Remember we’re only getting older on every record. So, the more you play guitar, the more you are influenced because remember every time we tour we are around other people, other bands. We’re listening to other music. You’re evolving as a human being and you’re absorbing like a sponge so it’s effecting you some way otherwise you’re dead.
What is your creative process when you’re writing songs for your records?
Well if I look at the newest records or even Wicked Maiden before that the way it really starts is that I every day, I don’t care where I am or what I’m doing I’ve got to have a guitar somewhere. Whether I’m sitting down talking, or I’m outside at my pool right, I mean there’s always a guitar near me. I could be upstairs in the house, I could be in my studio, I could be downstairs. You know no matter where I’m at there’s a guitar I’m playing. The way my writing process works is all guitar players, we’re constantly we’re noodling, right? We’re shredding, we’re playing, we’re having fun just making ourselves happy by playing the instrument and a lot of times what will happen is I will stumble upon a riff and I’ll go, oh that’s kind of cool, what’s that? And if I really like it, I run into my studio quickly and I will literally record it. You know just really quick or a drum machine. Just a really quick track. Identify what the tempo is and then I’ll just play it in a clip and I’ll just keep playing the riff until you know what I’m hearing or I think is really cool I’ll keep developing and eventually it leads me into a song. That’s literally my writing process and sometimes it turns out to be a great song and other times I’ll listen back and go, God it’s horrible, what was I thinking?
You know what I mean?
And sometimes, when I begin writing it’s always the riff first without a good riff to me, it’s nothing. I mean you could have the greatest solo in the world but without a riff or a good song, it really doesn’t matter. So, for me, it always begins with a riff and that’s another thing too. That’s where guys like Tony Iommi, Richie Blackmores riffs, those guys had a huge, huge impact on me. I think even Van Halen we all love Eddies soloing his innovativeness think about the riffs he wrote. They were great riffs. So, for me, it always has to start their first and that’s the way I write
That sounds great. What is your rig set up like these days?
Well to be honest, over the last 15-20 years I’ve been really using the same amps which are really, they’re vintage Marshalls. They’re 100 Watts. The main one I use is a 1973 it’s a white Marshall head but it’s heavily modified. When you look at the front of it you wouldn’t be able to see it still looks like a standard form put head but actually John Suhr and Bob Bradshaw had a company called Custom Audio they developed and they developed a pre-amp I don’t know how many years ago. It was like a 3-channel pre-amp and what we did was we took channel 3 and we used that mod it’s my Marshall head. So, it’s one of those heads even with a strat with single coil pickups you can plug directly into that thing and just start playing. You don’t need anything to over drive the front end. You know you don’t need any boosts, EQ or anything. It’s one of those heads that it just screams. So, I use that and I can’t even tell you I had how many heads, virtually I owned everything so on the records a lot of times I always start with my vintage Marshall and then I’ll blend. I think on Wicked Maiden I was using Diesels I think we had some Engls but it’s always blends around the Marshall.
Were you ever using Engl amps?
Yes, of course! I was endorsing them for a while. I was using the Powerball’s which I really like a lot.
Yes because I remember having pictures of you in front of them. That’s why I knew you were using Marshalls but I didn’t know if you were endorsed by them previously
I did endorse Engl. So, the answer is yes. They gave me a ton of heads. They gave me all these Powerballs. They gave me, I don’t know what they’re called, they’re really expensive heads. They’re like 3 channel whatever. So, you know I had everything Engel. I used it, I loved it, I liked it but to be honest, I was always finding myself even in my live shows, I would always be playing through my Marshall. You know Marshall going through Engl cabinets this time but either way I was right back to Marshall. So, when I was doing Venom I called Nick Bowcott and said, dude can I endorse you guys? He said totally cool, absolutely, we’ll take you so I just decided to stick with what I was always doing to be honest about it which is hence, back to Marshall. Which I never really left
Are you using Marshall heads in cabinets exclusively now?
Yes, that is all I am using, yes. And like I say, mainly it’s always vintage Marshall heads. You know I like plexis. The cabinet’s I use differ. On Venom, I was using both cabinets with a Celestion 25-watt Greenback and also Vintage 30’s. So, I would do that and there were times with something on like with Venom where if you wanted a little more depth what I’d do is I’d add a 30:20 electrifier, just to triple track and bring it under the other guitars just for a little more body, depth. I did that a lot especially on Wicked Maiden as well.
That’s where you get that real full body. You know your typical stereo track with your Marshalls. And just for more meat you go up with the rectifier
You’re absolutely correct about that
You had some phenomenal songs on this album. How was it to work with Rob Rock? Did you guys have a good relationship?
Yes, well first of all, we’d been friends first. You understand we grew up together playing in the bars together so as you’re maturing as a musician right you’re learning; you’re mastering your craft. Every time you do that, if you’re doing it with someone like a team player your kind of evolving but your kind of understand how each other evolves musically and how they write and what their style is like. So, for him and I it’s just really natural. It’s just so easy. I know when I’m writing a song I will always send Rob a vocal melody. You know cause you’re a guitar player. You know how it is. You’re playing guitar, and you’re writing something, there’s a voice in your head and you’re singing, right?
So that’s what happens. So basically, as I’m singing that voice in my head you know I’ll lay it down in a demo and give it a quick vocal guy, give it to Rob because I already know how he’s kind of going to sing it and then you know if he likes it or he’s got something better he just takes it his way and then we get back together, we practice, go into rehearsal and work it out until we think it feels natural. So, it’s great working with him. It’s easy and there’s no drama he’s a great guy.
That’s really important to have no drama especially with the singer of the band
Well believe me, I’ve gone down that road. He is one of the few guys and vocally you know I mean he’s one of these guys were like. You know he had a little bit of a struggle on one of the most recent shows we did. He had a node or nodule on his vocal that he just developed but up until then, I mean look we’re 20 years now this dude is just on note for note. I don’t care if he’s sick. No matter where we’re playing, a 17-hour flight somewhere he’ll get up, play, no sleep. He’s just great every time, you’re just like, wow! He has one of those rare gifts that what he does he can easily do live night after night and that’s pretty rare.
Yes, Rob has some pipes on him. The Venom album did you do anything differently in terms of writing processes with Rob and the band or was everything just the same musically?
No. Obviously, there were some differences John Dette who I played with in Animetal he played with Slayer, and who were the other artists? Testament and Anthrax recently filling in for Charlieon bass. So, he came in. He and I have been playing together with Rudy Sarzo for about two years and after Scott Travis in that Animetal band. We were touring in Japan constantly and we did multiple records and we had built a good rapport and John is really an aggressive drummer so that affected me on Venom. It really made me hunger more of an aggressive approach. Even on the melodic songs we still wanted something more aggressive nature or an aggressive foundation for it. So, that affected the way we were writing Venom and also because I am a fan of music. I listen to everybody. Everybody’s new record, I’m always going to listen to it. What I do find a lot of times is that bands get older and when they are getting older they kind of slow down. They tend to get more groove and whatever and I was like on Venom, no it’s actually the title track, let’s go the opposite lets push ourselves. We’re not 19 anymore but we’re going back to that world. We’re going to rest up, sleep, we’re going to get hungry. Practice nonstop night and day. We’re just going to push ourselves until we can get back to that time when we were just really hungry for it. We loved it, we were energetic and you know when I was doing the Black EP remember shred was kind of evolving. There really wasn’t anybody yet there to have said it on shred except Di Meola and the forefathers. Yngwie had just come out so we can’t do a record and have that kind of style unless we’ve already kind of been mastering it for years before that. It was really fun because there were all these great players, Paul Gilbert, Vinnie Moore, Michael Angelo Batio there was Tony MacAlpine of course and with the element you have all these guys doing amazing stuff it pushes you. So, with Venom I actually was going back and listening to a lot of different things. You know when I was young doing the Black EP for Venom I would put on the Black EP and play along and go man this was fun let’s get back into this and then you go wait a minute, what were my peers doing, the other guys that were starting in this you know what was something like Racer X doing? I’d just try to get energized by it. So, that was some of the difference when I was doing Venom
John is an incredible drummer. When you watch the videos, and listen to Venom it’s got your signature sound. It doesn’t like, you know people get older and it starts getting softer. You’re still balls to the wall. You got John you’ve got an excellent band there and hopefully we’ll hear more from you in the future.
Well, I hope so, yes! You know I just wrote another cool song the other day. Right now, we’re working on something called Warhead for Impellitteri. Next year is our 30th anniversary so you know I just got off the phone right now with a guy who kind of manages and is the agent for Twisted Sister. So, it looks like next year we’re going to try I’m not saying certain what is going to happen yet but we’re going to try to go out and do a full-blown anniversary tour. You know we just got back from doing some really amazing festivals in Europe and Asia. So hopefully we will keep this going. Especially next year since it is the 30th anniversary of the band.
And that was my other question it seems like you’ve been having a good time, out there overseas and you’ve been to some of the big rock festivals out there
Yes! This is the funny thing about Impellitteri if you were to ask your mother or sister, neighbor, brother or whatever 9/10ths of the people are going to say who? They don’t have a clue but it’s funny we go over there and they put us on the bill where we’re really really close to the headlining slot. We just did Rock Fest with Iron Maiden. We played right before Anthrax and Anthrax was right before Iron Maiden and so many bands before us. Then we just headlined in Ansan Rock Festival in South Korea and dude it was probably close to 100,000 people came. It was massive. It was insane. You can see footage on YouTube or whatever they posted and it was just unbelievable what we draw on some of those markets. Even on the festivals we did this time all the big bands are probably going dude, why don’t you guys play, we got your records and we’re like, really, you even know who we are? It was really quite funny
Yes that’s a question I’ve asked other people about the European audience vs American. The European audiences seem to hold true to what they grew up with and they don’t change when the trends change like the wind like over there like they do here. Over there you’ve got the Wacken Festival, you know all of them. They have some huge, huge festivals out there. Europe just seems like that’s where you’ll be more profitable. You’ve had better audiences. Forgive me if I’m wrong. I was looking at your YouTube videos out there when you were at the Bang Your Head Festival, The Rock fest in Barcelona the Jisan Rock Festival in South Korea. They were all into it you were really rocking those guys out there so I’ve always asked people is there a difference between European and American audiences? It proves it right there in the videos
There’s no doubt about it! I mean listen we are and I also acknowledge this, we are really really lucky. We were at the right place at the right time for Japan because you know when you said 30 minutes ago about grunge and the change? You know grunge destroyed so many of my friends and their careers were over. You know I cried for them because they were good bands, they worked really hard but there was really no other country that would embrace them. For us the saving grace and this is where I really thank Graham Bonnet. Even though I don’t really like Stand in Line the record, I owe Graham because Graham in Japan especially coming out of the group Rainbow and then he was in Alcatrazz, Michael Schenker Group he was massive in the early 80’s in Japan. Even in Europe remember when he was in Rainbow it’s called Download Festival now but back then it was called Castle Donnington and he headlined as the singer of Rainbow with AC/DC opening, Judas Priest, Maiden. You know Graham was this legendary guy he joined Impellitteri it immediately whether I was good bad it didn’t matter it seemed, to that audience, because they were going to give me a chance and it was just massive, it was all of a sudden they took us and all of a sudden now Impellitteri is competing with Metallica. Not a band at Impellitteri level I mean literally we were competing for covers of magazines and big shows and record sales we are are up against these bohemas and that was a gift I really do believe. There are plenty of other great bands that should have had the opportunity so Japan and some of that filtered off to parts of Europe for us and it’s weird it just keeps growing. You know it just keeps spreading, it’s almost like a little disease.
It does. I know I said back we’re going to hear more from you in the future. Are you working on a record right now? I know you have the 30th anniversary coming out you wrote a song, are you going to have another release from Frontiers?
The answer is yes. I am working on something. I haven’t made up my mind yet what I want to do. Do I want to do an EP? Do I actually want to do a full-length record? I’ve already got some killer songs literally recorded. So, I already know the sound of it. It’s in the direction of Venom there’s no doubt about that. So, I’m really happy with it. The industry has changed so much. The Venom record we did, it was expensive. I know a lot of people can do their records in their house now with pro tools, we didn’t do that. We went to NRG Studios where you’re going to see Slash, Guns & Roses guys like that doing their records. We spent an insane amount it was a lot. We were talking to a guy from the 80’s where it cost half a million dollars to make a record so it was not cheap to make. At the end of it we say man we spent a ton of money and no matter what we do, we’re never going to sell enough records to be reimbursed to re coop that. Now I’m trying to look at it as an artist, like you, I don’t ever want to stop making music or recording so to continue to do that, how does our audience want to hear it or absorb it? Do they want to hear it as a full record? Will they even sit down ever and listen to 10 songs? Or do they want to hear 3 songs? Because remember we live in a world now where our attention span is very limited. Think about all the things we have to preoccupy our time so I’d rather do a 3 or 4 song or maybe even 5 and do videos for every song and whatever that ‘new children’ is that we bring into life of music, I call them ‘the children’ whatever those are, they get 100% of our attention and anybody that wants to listen to us it would be accessible to us without giving them too much to absorb. That’s where I’m at right now. I guess it leaves me saying, I don’t know if I want to do a full-length album or an EP
Your 30th-anniversary tour, are you going to be touring the states with that?
You know honestly, I’ve wanted to tour the states for 15 years. It’s really up to demand and the promoters. I don’t really know if you know what goes on behind the closed doors of this industry. A lot of it believe it or not is who you know, who’s managing you, who the agent is and 90% of these big festivals you see in Europe are all bands on there that are bought to be put at those festivals and it’s usually by a record label, like back in the past maybe it’s like a roadrunner: Hey I’m putting all my bands on this label or on our label to be at this festival. So, the same thing happens in the states with its promoters. They’re looking for: hey how many videos do you have? What’s your twitter account? And dude, I am the worst, we have never embraced social media. We don’t even, I don’t even think we have an official page. People have hijacked my name. There’s a bunch of Facebook pages. I do have one that I recently got that I think it has a 7 in my name like Chris Impellitteri7 or something like that on Facebook and I do that but most of it is done by other people and we can’t even get our own page back, like Facebook, Impellitteri, I don’t even know who that is.
So when I met with you on Facebook, it’s probably not you?
Well it depends and I don’t know, I think I did actually get that one. If there is a number 7 in that. Then I had a personal Facebook page and someone said to change this to a band page and you can use both as soon as I did that I lost my original Facebook, I mean I can’t speak with people or something like that you’re talking with a guy that is horrible with this stuff.
Impellitteri.7 that is where I messaged you or something.
Yes. I would have gotten that definitely. There is another page out there, it’s Chris Impellitteri it had like a brick wall picture or something like that and that’s someone else. Then there’s Impellitteri for Facebook period. You know like on Facebook “Impellitteri” Official page or whatever, and I don’t know who that is. I’ve been trying to get that page back.
I’m sorry, where I was going through with the United States, promoters look at this stuff. So, they don’t really care if you’re good or bad. All they want to know is do you have ten million Twitter followers? Are you with the managing company who also manages Brittany Spears or whoever because then there’s some sort of package they can negotiate and get you on. You have to understand a band like us, we have a good strong cult following around the world. I’m sure in the United States because we have done warm up shows in LA where literally we didn’t even do an announcement and we’d get to places where we are playing and there’s a line around the block for people waiting to get in and we’re like Jesus!! So, we don’t know how to convey that with promoter’s in the United States. So, a lot of times they are going to try to promote us in some small club and unfortunately we’re not a club band. We don’t want to do that. You know we’ve always played theaters, arenas, stadiums. America is challenging. I can say we want to go out on our 30th anniversary tour it’s really dependent on the new agents we work with this year. We’re going to try to see if they can make it happen. We will definitely go out and do Europe and Japan of course, the U.S. I’m not sure. I hope it happens, but you know, I’m not holding my breath.
Social Media wise, do you think that you’re going to embrace it? It seems like that’s the platform that most bands have to do to survive in this new music age
I think ultimately the answer is yes. You know it’s funny. I’m aware of all these other bands because of social media, but yet I’m one of those guys who never embraced it myself. I guess because I’m one of these guys, I’m not really good at networking. I’ve never been one of these guys who has to go out and sell myself to people: “hey we’re great, listen to us” I never wanted to do that. I’ve always wanted to leave it up to the people. If they discover us, and they like us maybe they’ll embrace us maybe we’ll make an impact and we’ll grow as a band. I was never one of these guys out every night who tried to convince people to listen to our band and whatever. I guess that is my issue with social media. I feel like I’m doing the same thing again, like I’m trying to force myself onto people. The answer is yes. We need to do it. Maybe we’re a little lazy. We are very very blessed. I mean we sold millions of records especially in Japan, we’ve done really well. So, I sometimes think, oh we don’t even need to do it, everybody already knows who we are, you know, well everyone does not know who we are! You know?
Yes. I think a tour of the states would be good for the bands, you know when you look at some of the 80’s bands that have replaced singers and all that you know they talk, they are very big on social media it seems like with Twitter that just seems like it’s part of the equation to keep yourself alive out there and keep your name out. It would definitely, especially with you, you’d have a huge following. I’m sure you know how big of a following you have especially here in the states. The promoters need to see that
Yes, we have a huge following in America. I really don’t know. I can only tell you that in Los Angeles a lot of times we’ll go and do these festivals or we’ll do an Asian tour you know we’ll always book a place. We might sneak into a place like the Whiskey a Go Go or something like that but we don’t announce it until you get there, you do a sound check and you literally have hundreds of people around the block waiting to get in, you’re like geeze it’s literally 3:00 in the afternoon. So, you know there is definitely a presence or people definitely know who we are and have interest but can we play a 4 or 5,000 seat place like we do overseas in the United States? That I really am very skeptical about. I’m not sure I could do that. You know would people even come see us if we were in Texas? You know 5,000 people or 3 people?
I totally understand. Do you have a picture of that Charvel? Is that going to be your signature guitar? Or have you even thought about talking to them yet?
No, we are talking. As far as the image of the guitar, I’m not sure. I mean that is the guitar. That guitar originally came to me and when they gave it to me it was a single coil guitar that was it. So obviously, we routed it, we put a humbucker in it. We changed the position of the volume and the toggle switch. Basically, I hate the volume switch. A lot of people like it with their pinky while their resting on their bridge, they like to roll their volume knob. So, for me I actually developed and this is another weird thing, if you look at the video in Venom about two and a half years ago I again was experimenting and I actually changed my picking technique a little bit. What I was finding with this picking technique which was really loose was and really a lot of attack, it was hitting the volume knob. So basically, we moved the position to about an inch and a half and then we took the 5 way out and we put a small mini toggle so that way you could never hit anything below the bridge with your pinky or your ring finger. So, those were small changes we made, small little embellishments.
So the answer is yes. If you’re going to put a picture on your site just put the Charvel because that’s definitely the guitar I am using. I’m actually using on the recording. So, I’m doing a record, the stuff I recorded already, it’s all that blood splattered Charvel
Alright. We’ll look forward to seeing that signature model pretty soon. I’m sure Charvel makes some fantastic guitars
Do you play any acoustic guitar?
You know actually I just sold my Taylor’s. So, the answer is yes because I love practicing. I always practice acoustically period but I do play acoustics as well. I am looking right now for an endorsement for acoustic. So, I did think about going to Ovation because I used to love their older stuff and you know Rudy Sarzo just played with me in Impellitteri when we did the Korean shows. He was playing bass for us. So, I think Rudy told me he was endorsing basses for Ovation for acoustics so he told me to check them out. I’m going to look into it
Why don’t you design your own pickups? I’m sure a company has offered.
I’ve had offers to do that. To be honest, I’m really happy, like in the Charvel those are just PAF’s they’re 59’s in both of the bridge and the neck and for me I just love that tone. With single coils with strats, I just feel like screw it. Why design it if it’s already there? For me, I love it, like the ’71 that’s all it is a 71 bridge pickup on that guitar you know you’re familiar with Impellitteri Black EP, I’m 99% certain the guitar did almost all of that record on was a 1979 Fender Stratocaster with just ’79 pickups going in to at that time I think I was using the vintage Marshalls and a of course I had a JCM 800 at the time and a tube screamer and that’s all it was, but the pickups there’s something about it. They have a hollow tone to them so you get a little bit more of an ambience. I think that’s what I like about those pickups. Really weird, I know
I think just as a fan of yours, I think you should approach Seymour Duncan or Di Marzio and you should just design your own. That’s probably the best way you can do it and you can do just trial and error and then put it to your new signature line. You want that old strat sound
I see what you’re saying. Remember I’m deviated on the guitar because I’ve been old the last few years. People don’t realize a lot of the years I was playing strats I always had Charvels too with humbuckers and as a matter of fact outside the Impellitteri record the Black EP and Stand in Line every one of those records have a routed guitar with a humbucker. You know sometimes there is a single coil and a solo but a lot of time the rhythm stuff is all humbuckers. So, in the last couple records it’s all been humbucker pickups and for me the 59’s just seem to work for me. I’m pretty happy with them. I don’t really know what I would do differently to be honest. Because some have a weird pickup which works great when you run your amp wide open
What is your preference Japan or American strats?
I’ve got to be honest with you I’ve played some amazing Japanese models. Obviously, a custom shop in America is where I really got all of my custom strats from outside of the vintage strats and believe me I’ve had almost everything for vintage strats. For me it was obviously they were U.S. because there was a point where they really were not manufacturing in Japan especially when you’re doing late ’50, late 60’s, 70’s early 70’s that’s all U.S. based. Recently the stuff I’ve played, I’ve got to be honest with you some of the new it’s the American Standard. I forget what they call it, whatever they’re making now out of the U.S. out of chrome or whatever, that start plays really nicely. So, I actually like that a little bit better than what I’ve played with from out of Japan for Fenders. There’s really no set answer. It’s really just set on who in Japan or in America was building guitar. Were they paying attention? They have pretty good quality control and it’s pretty consistent. Right now, Jackson who is Fender they own Charvel, they own Jackson they own the EVH for Van Halen they just sent me a top of the line I think it’s called a Monarch. It’s kind of like a Les Paul it reminds me very much of ESP’s Les Paul version. So, Jackson just gave me that guitar the other day and it plays insane and I asked the guy’s great who made it here in the custom shop? They go dude it was made in Indonesia and I’m like oh my God it plays and sounds amazing. It’s their top of the line guitar so they’re not even building that here in the U.S. So, I guess at this point it doesn’t even matter where the guitar comes from as long as the luthier, whoever is in charge of building the guitar, is competent, paying attention and really cares about what he’s doing as far as quality
Yes, I’ve seen some guitars that are by the endorsee they are not made in the American shop they’re coming over from Korea. I’ve got a MAB4 and it was made in Korea. For a $400.00 guitar that thing sounds pretty good
Andrew you are absolutely right! When Elliot flew me down to Tampa he said here let’s go into his little private stash and he said just start picking up guitars. So, I started playing everything and my favorite guitar that I played there, out of this one split tail he gave me was a Dave Mustaine Flying V that was made in Korea and I go dude this thing is insane, the neck sounded great, it played great and I think I picked up they made something in the custom shop similar and I was like, the Korean one smokes it!
And that’s the difference between $499.00 and $5,000 exactly right!
You know at the end of the day, listen to be fair it’s almost like saying it’s made in Korea it can’t be as good well think about it. What about some of the classical piano’s that come out of Korea. They’re insanely good. Are they less talented because they come from Korea? It’s senseless! So, it’s the reality of quality control, what’s the components? Years ago, people would kind of roll their noses up at it which means kind of snobby towards Japanese guitars and the problem would have been, what kind of metal were they using in the bridges, cheap right? Obviously, the tone, there is going to be some degradation in the tone of the instrument. So, that’s a big problem. Japan has like overcome that. Now the quality whether it’s Japan, Indonesia or Korea or where ever they all are kind of using similar components. It’s now just a matter of does someone really is with someone, is there an element of pride in their job? Because technically with everything they’re playing right now for God’s sake we live in the digital age where everything has a scan or some sort of numerical metric at the pitch of the neck and there is some sort of laser that you can see exactly if the pitch is off 100 mm of an inch, it has all of that stuff. So as long as you’re paying attention it’s really inexcusable now to make a bad instrument
There is a difference. When you pick up one of the Deans of Batio its so lightweight. It’s smaller. Then when you pick up an Yngwie strat it is heavier and bigger. It’s almost like night and day if you take a picture in front of them. I go from playing that and then you go to one of the Fender strats there’s just so much heavier and larger.
You know it’s interesting you said that because weight remember is critical. So, for me I guess this is really plagiarizing Van Halen’s word, I am also a tone chaser and believe me I am a studio nut. I’ve owned major studio’s in Los Angeles and I have a major studio in my house. I’m not talking about the little pro tools only thing. I’m talking about big rigs and SSL’s and all that and for me personally I am absolutely addicted to tone and I find the heavier guitars, it’s probably why the tracks I do especially on Venom we’re talking about the new stuff but now I’m using the Charvel mainly but for Venom 90% of that record is my 1958 Les Paul which is heavy. You know even the title track of Venom is actually I’m using it in the video it’s called Face the Enemy that’s the Les Paul I recorded all the record on and that thing is a tank. It is so heavy. Your left should be just killing you after it. You’re like oh my God this thing is so weighty! Now do you hear a difference tonally? Now it’s hard because Michael’s guitar has a humbucker while Yngwie’s has a single so the humbucker is going to have an advantage immediately because the width, the coverage of that pickup really acoustically, which one has the better tone?
Yes! It would make sense. Yes, that is what I would assume and then again, I’m not certain I have to hear it myself. But I would assume because of the weight and obviously, it’s a maple board and all that, that would probably resonate more. Where Michael’s guitar without an amp would probably resonate more in the shower, acoustically. You need more of that kind of environment where it’s more ambiance to it to fill out a sound
Are you a producer of anything? Because I realize you have these studio’s. Have you produced anything that is out there?
Yes. You know I don’t get into that. I’ve played on some of them records and you would know who the rock bands are. I just don’t say it. I will just say this I am a big junkie in the studio so I’m one of these guys I still believe in we love where we are with pro tools and digital but I think what the new bands are missing now is they’re missing capturing the bands live tonality. Now when people record drums a lot of these people are doing drums on some sort of program. They’re missing what the drums sounds like if you’re in a beautiful auditorium or in a really big room where you can do a 40-piece orchestra where the room lights up. You’re missing so much of the instrument. So, when I produce my stuff or produce or work with other bands if there is a budget there the first thing I do is ‘big studio’ not because it’s cool to be there it’s because you have the room
Yes, that’s very true. I will look forward to seeing your signature guitar out probably next year or the blood splatter.
Who was the first to do the spider web design?
It’s Charvel. They’re the first guitar company that did a spider web on a guitar. Kramer did it years later in the early 80’s I believe but yes Charvel.
Ididn’t know that. Kramer, I knew had one but I had no clue that Charvel did
Oh yes. Just google it, put Charvel vintage spider web. They were the first guitar company I think I had their catalog in 1981. I bought one of Randy Rhoads‘ first guitar in production ever. It had the original Floyd Rose that I wish I kept. It had no fine tuners on it and again back then they had catalogues and it used to be able to see I think it was even in 1979 that Charvel I think you’ll see it it’s a pink Charvel strat with a spider web. I kind of laughed at the Dean thing because you know I’m already heading back to Charvel and I didn’t even know it
Chris thank you for your time. It’s been a pleasure talking to you.
Eight solo albums, five collaborations, 6 UFO albums, 2 Hot Licks’ guitar video clinics, one virtuoso… Of course, we are referring to Vinnie Moore, the “Vin Man” as we the fans know him! He has accomplished quite a lot during his 30+ years of performance, but one wonders: who’s the man behind the strings? Well, to give you a proper answer in a few words is not fair to his career, so let’s take a look at those 30+ years of speed, accuracy, articulation and advanced lead guitar techniques!
He was only 12 when he got his first guitar; a teenage boy who looked up to the great guitar legends of that moment. Records by the Beatles like their eponymous double album from 1968 (from which he has covered While My Guitar Gently Weeps many times), Jeff Beck’s ‘Wired‘, Led Zeppelin’s ‘IV Zoso’, Deep Purple’s ‘Machine Head‘ and ‘Burn‘, Queen’s ‘A Night At The Opera‘, Van Halen’s self-titled album and many other bands; all of them were among his early influences. His first guitar was a Teisco and made him, in the Vin Man’s words, a “guitar freak,” always improving and crafting his unique voice through his youth.
After taking guitar lessons with a private instructor when he was 13, he started to put his skills to work by joining his first band, doing jam sessions and covers of their favorite songs in a typical setup of drums, bass, vocals and two guitars. From there on, he started to work on his ideas buying a 4-track tape recorder and experimented with many fragments, which later evolved into songs, showing his proficiency on the six strings.
By 1985 Vinnie Moore already was a prolific composer. He decided to pursue an opportunity and sent some of his recorded music, in the form of a seven song demo tape, to Guitar Player Magazine, and it caught the attention of Mike Varney and his Spotlight column in said magazine. It turns out that Varney was also owner and producer of Shrapnel Records, and Vinnie’s talent didn’t go unnoticed to him. This event allowed him to get into a Pepsi commercial (see video below) thanks to a Los Angeles agency that saw Vinnie’s picture and submission to Guitar Player; and even when it showed his hands only, it made his sound reach a national audience, getting recognition as a new emerging talent from Delaware!
In this commercial, we can hear an accomplished 23 years old guitar player showing his alternate picking technique: clean, accurate and fast. We can hear every note during the scalar passages, the arpeggios, and the pentatonic licks being perfectly well played along the video. Also remarkable was his sense of climax during the finishing sequence opening the last Pepsi bottle where he pulled off a scalar running which ended up at a high E vibrato, a very neo classical musical approach that he would go deeper into in his first album, but we are just about to get there!
Following the repercussion of the Pepsi commercial, Vinnie Moore and Mike Varney started to work together in Shrapnel Records to conceive the Vin Man’s first album: ‘Mind’s Eye.’ The album was released in January 1987 and represented a milestone for virtuoso guitar playing of the moment for various reasons. With all the neoclassical hype at the moment, it is hard to stand out among a great number of imitators since it became so popular back then, and yet the Vin Man managed to pull out one single record that earned a deserved recognition by the specialized press, the critics, and other guitar personalities. Although there are some obvious references to the neo-classical style regarding harmony, chord progressions, harmonic minor scale and phrasing, we can hear progressive rock riffs (In Control’s opening, Saved by a Miracle for example), preference for modal harmony and a tendency to put melodic phrasing above non-sense runs all over the neck that were so popular back then (Daydream, Hero Without Honor).
All these innovative elements were combined to bring a new, different and unique sound approach to the guitar world. Vinnie just did the alchemy and made an album that is real modern guitar history for all generations that came after. Shrapnel Records opened a new world to this 23-year-old guitar virtuoso. By 1988, with the release of Time Odyssey, he took his game another level up by emulating and surpassing the success of his previous album, also parting from Shrapnel Records. The Vin Man’s experiments on the progressive, futuristic and melodic approach of virtuoso playing went even further to craft this masterpiece!
The opening Morning Star fusion of classical and passionate melodic main theme’s phrasing, progressive cuts like Prelude/Into The Future or Message In a Dream (in collaboration with Jordan Rudess!), George Harrison’s tribute to While My Guitar Gently Weeps, beautiful rock ballads like As Time Slips By that showed Vinnie’s musical sensibility…the whole album was the refined version of himself as a musician, an accomplished composer that also has the technical ability. This time Vinnie would go for a total reinvention of himself.
By 1991 Vinnie Moore was a worldwide recognized musician and guitar artist, and his career would take a major turn with the Meltdown album. Vin decided to experiment with a groove-infused rock and roll style that became his signature for the following years, combining powerful riffs, virtuosic playing and an even more melodic tendency over the quick runs than his previous albums. The transition from metal to slow, mellow songs were smooth and remarkable (Meltdown, Earthshaker, When Angels Sing, Check It Out, Coming Home). And by 1996, when the grunge and alternative rock reign was at its best, Vinnie, once again proving himself a musician over a guitar virtuoso decided to go for an elegant instrumental approach for his next album, Out of Nowhere, which brought us memorable cuts that reflected Moore’s maturity as an artist: With the Flow, Echoes, Thunderball, Time Traveler, Move that Thang or this writer’s personal favorite VinMan’s Brew.
The Maze in 1999 marked the Vin Man’s return to Shrapnel Records and what a comeback I have to say! It was considered by many critics an epic return to his first two albums, with a modern and progressive approach that doesn’t leave out his accomplished musicianship. Memorable tracks? The whole album! However, special honorable mentions go to The Maze, Cryptic Dreams, Rain and Fear, and Trepidation.
Excellence and perfection are in Vinnie’s blood. More albums came with an excellent backup personnel behind: his first live recorded album Live! in 2000 with Barry Sparks on bass (Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Schenker, UFO), Shane Gaalaas on drums (Glenn Hughes, Jeff Kollman, $ign of 4) and Wayne Findlay doing keyboards (MSG also). In 2001 he followed The Maze’s trail and released Defying Gravity which had Dave LaRue on bass. Remarkable tracks from these periods: Check It Out (Live), She’s Only Sleeping (Live), Daydream (Live), Cryptic Dreams (Live), Defying Gravity, If I Could, Emotion Overload, Last Road Home.
Taking a little break from the Vin Man’s great solo career we got a question to ask you: how cool would it be to play with one of the bands you loved as a kid? It would be incredible, right?
That’s exactly what happened to Vinnie Moore in 2003 when he was recruited to play with one of the world’s most recognized rock acts: UFO, the legendary band that gave us such classics like Doctor Doctor, Rock Bottom, Lights Out (which is Vinnie’s favorite according to an interview), Love to Love and many others. Guitarist Michael Schenker left the band in 2002, and the Vin Man’s talent was required to enrich UFO’s sound. The idea was to relaunch the band career, and to do so they signed with SPV Records and producer Tommy Newton to work on the forthcoming album, You Are Here, for which Vinnie did major songwriting work in 11 of 12 songs the album has.
This collaboration proved successful, and it meant to him the most logical step in his career musically speaking, as he was joining the band he grew up listening to and crafting more solo material, he viewed this as a great opportunity that he took as soon as it knocked on his door. In addition to You Are Here, there are four more albums in which he has been playing and songwriting The Monkey Puzzle (2006), The Visitor (2009), Seven Deadly (2012) and A Conspiracy to Stars (2015). Remarkable tracks from the UFO new recordings, written by the Vin Man himself are: When Daylight Comes to Town, Mr. Freeze, Who’s Fooling Who, Stop Breaking Down, Year of the Gun, Devil’s in the Detail.
Vinnie Moore, the excellent musician, is also a wonderful person. A very down-to-earth guy he likes to keep in touch with his fans via his Facebook account (which he manages) where he comments on his daily life and his projects, and he’s also supportive of new guitar material that many of his fans submit. Firsthand talking with them during his clinic time and shows is also important to him to see how they experience the music he creates; maintaining this contact enables him to connect with their energy, to create emotions in people doing what he loves most, all thanks to the art he considers as a gift.
His creative process is the one of the inspiration. Vinnie likes to sit and explore many melodies, riffs, rhythms and guitar sounds and let the inspiration do the job while he is working, he follows it and lets himself drown into wherever it takes him. He is not the planning type of songwriter; he likes to give each song the proper meaning once the melody has arrived. To him, the melody and the feeling are the keystones of his music and trademark sound
Regarding the technical aspect, Vinnie Moore has always been a guy ahead of his time. Impeccable alternate picking technique which seems clean in every passage of his discography; he gladly explains how to achieve this level of mastery via daily workouts in his 2 Hot Lick’s video clinics: Speed, Accuracy and Articulation and Advanced Lead Guitar Techniques. Vinny is also one of the precursors of sweep picking technique, being a constant musical resource during his early and most virtuosic repertoire. He shows a preference for the modal approach to music, in which he explores the many possibilities of the eight Gregorian modes of pre-tonal music and combines it with his rock and roll influences, as we can hear in many of his most popular ballads for example.
When it comes to his gear, he has been working it out through the years and changing it constantly – as the search for the right sound never ends. Ibanez made for him a special Roadstar model in 1987 called VM1, which was his trademark axe until he started to work with Music Man, which made first Axis and Silhouette models for him. In 2007 he is endorsed by Dean Guitars and developed a very productive relationship with them, crafting the instruments with his very own specifications, here’s a list of the models used by him: USA VINMAN 2000 which comes in Gloss Natural/Trans Amber/Trans Black/Trans Red and the unique Vinnie Moore Signature – Mind’s Eye design. Regarding amplification he relies on the good old Marshall JMP 2000 DSL, the always delightful Marshall JMP 100w head and ENGL amps to get his particular tone.
As for today, Vinnie released his latest production Aerial Visions last year under his label, Mind’s Eye Music, and in the VinMan Studios. In this album, he takes his music even further by exploring his most melodic side in songs like Faith or Looking Back. It was created during part of his development of UFO’s new material for their most recent album, and as a matter of fact, two songs made for this album were heard by Phil Mogg, who wrote lyrics to it and were also included them in A Conspiracy of Stars. Aerial Visions represents another point of inflection in his career due to the wide variety of styles explored in this record in cuts like Mustang Shuffle, Aerial Vision and his tribute to ZZ Top’s La Grange.
As you can see, there’s just so much more than meets the eye in the career and style of the Vin Man, a creative musician who reinvents himself in each new production and is always in the search for real, emotional and memorable guitar music. Vinnie Moore is one of the best guitarists and a real inspiration for all of us guitar players!
Dedicated to the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Guitarist!