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!
Alexandra Zerner is one of the renowned musical moguls in the Bulgarian musical industry; one cannot talk Bulgarian music without talking of Alexandra Zerner.
She was Born in Sofia, Bulgaria, AlexandraZerner who is a solo artist, a guitar player, numerous instrumental player and a composer as well. She has been able to take part as a sessional musical, sound technician and a guitar lecturer since the year 2001.
In 2013, she took part as a guest musical artist to the album by the name ’Thoughtscanning” from the band We All Die (Laughing). In January 2014, she started on her solo career path as a guitar player, she worked on her solo album by the name –9 Stories which was out on November 19, 2014. it was able to receive positive response in the musical industry market
In 2015, she was called by DéhàAmsg to be a part of the Post-Rock-Ambient production by the name “Aurora Borealis ”, where they all together worked on the album by the name ’Path To Atlas”. This was released onNovember 20, 2015.
Since September 2014, she was part of the- worldwide “Another Destiny Project” as a leading guitarist. In October 2014, Alexandra Zerner was already in the 15th number of Hard Rock and Metal Female Guitarist player list by Metalholic web page
In 2015, Alexandra started working on her number second solo album, going by the name –Aspects which was released on December 22, 2015. it took the musical industry by storm it did so well.
Meanwhile, she was named by Jason Becker in October 2015 series of Guitar Player publication, along with Jeff Loomis, concerning her cover of Jason Becker’s classic- Perpetual Burn.
In January 2016, Alexandra began competing in projects like –Vivaldi Metals Projects as a leading guitarist. Since February 2016, she has been able to work with a band to showcase her albums lively, while she was also working on her number third solo album, which she believes will be released in 2018.
In August 2016, Alexandra Zerner was able to win herself Nili Brosh’s – Matter of Perception- Melody Competition, competing against many guitarists from different countries all over the world. She was named by a number of guitarist greats – Nili Brosh, Greg Howe, Jason Becker, and Marco Sfogli, and she was awarded the EMG endorsement award.
In October 2016, Alexandra was able to be highlighted Shredder of the Month title at All That Shreds website.
In the same year- November 7th, 2016 she and her band we able to perform as a supportive act for the Stu Hamm and Greg Howe in her country Sofia, Bulgaria.
Few days after, on November 11th, Alexandra Zerner was able to releases her acoustic E.P, which she called –An Evening Walk which also did very well in the Bulgarian musical industry and the general world.
Alexandra was also named one of the top 10 female shredders by All That Shreds.
Alexandra’s playing will be demanded across the globe!
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.
It’s exceptional that there’s many up and coming female guitarists. Meet Simona Soddu. Simona caught my eye when I was watching her YouTube videos. Her acoustic version of Megadeth’sTornado of Souls is phenomenal. Influenced by John Petrucci, John 5, and Nuno Bettencourt, Simona showcases her talent through the passion you can hear in her playing. Here’s some more information on Simona.
Simona Soddu was born in Cagliari (Italy), where she currently lives. She started playing guitar at the age of 13, learning from her brother first and then by taking private lessons from Brian Maillard (Solid Vision, Dominici).
In her teens, her main band was Grim Drowsiness (death melodic/prog metal), with whom she played live intensively and recorded a demo in 2009. During the summer of the same year she toured with Brian Maillard’s trio (progressive metal) to promote his first instrumental album called Melody in Captivity. Her role was to play the rhythm guitar parts. Between 2009 and 2011 she collaborated with Magic Salad (folk-rock) recording some guitar
parts in their first album “Every Forest has its Shadows” and playing with them in several live shows. Afterwards, she appeared as guest musician in the rock-opera ‘Checkmate‘ by D.G.I., performing the guitar solo on track 7. Between 2013 and 2014 she recorded her first instrumental solo album ‘Leftovers’ and started to actively run her YouTube channel with over 300 thousand views.
‘Leftovers’ is a collection of 11 instrumental tracks entirely composed by Simona Soddu during her whole music growth. All of these compositions were never been released for different reasons: some of them were supposed to be in the first album of her death melodic metal band Grim Drowsiness that eventually split up; others were rejected at the time; and some others were not suitable for the genre of the band she had at the moment of their conception. Thus after a while Simona decided to recover all of these ideas, literally “leftovers”, re-arrange them and put them together in this album. This is the reason why metal tones are often alternated to clean sounds or relaxed rhythms and the genre of Leftovers is overall highly diversified.
Simona recorded all the guitar and bass parts. The drums, as well as the keyboards, were written by Simona and emulated with a sample software, except for track 2, 4, 8 and 10 where drums were played by Davide Sgualdini who also co-produced, engineered, recorded, mixed and mastered the album. ‘Leftovers’ was released on November 14th 2015.
Simona is a talented player, who exuberates sounds of Satriani, and her influences of John 5 and Petrucci.
‘Leftovers’ is available on Spotify, ITunes, and Amazon.
Doug Marks, a prominent figure in the contemporary rock and metal guitar community thanks to his more than 30 years of experience as a guitar teacher. He developed what would be known as one of the most popular guitar methods of the world: The Metal Method. Doug’s early days as a teacher started doing private guitar lessons in Denver, Colorado as a way to help other fellow guitar players to develop their potential; he also learned from his students’ questions: when he didn’t know about something, he did the necessary research to find the answer, making him grow as a musician and teacher. When he later moved to Los Angeles, his students were interested in keeping in touch with him. They thought that Doug’s method of instruction was excellent, so he was encouraged by his pupils to find a way to give long distance guitar instruction.
By 1982 he was pursuing a career as a heavy metal musician with his band, named Hawk. Doug had the opportunity to work this project with many great musicians that were not so known at the time: Charlie Morrill (ex-Black Night), Teddy Days (ex Hellion), Scott Travis (Judas Priest, Racer X, Thin Lizzy), David Fefolt (Forgotten Realm, Valhalla) and Matt Sorum (Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver). Doug managed to release the first Hawk studio release independently in 1986 as his personal project, a solid ten track album with Marks taking the leading guitar role, demonstrating a clean, bright and virtuosic heavy metal sound that was going to support his reputation as a metal guitar teacher.
The Metal Method
To keep in touch with his former students from Denver, and to make his method available to a larger audience, Doug Marks started to develop what was going to be known as The Metal Method. Metal Method Guitar Lessons has founded in 1982 thanks to his students’ questions; this was the way in which the method was shaped from the very beginning, and it owes his success and popularity to the fact that, to this day, Metal Method answers your needs as a guitar player.
The method consisted of a mail-order business in which Doug made his lessons available through audio cassettes and video tapes, where he explained the foundations of guitar playing, from the very beginning, under the assumption that you never picked up a guitar before. This was going to be known as the Basic Course in 1982, and it was the genesis of all. Doug takes you step by step into the paths of heavy metal technique and musical theory in a moderately increasing difficulty that is reasonable regardless of your playing level, avoiding you the pain of getting frustrated with impossible goals and overwhelming information.
The examples are played at different speeds, so you can easily keep up with the music, allowing you to analyze and practice each lesson in a way that you can get the most out of it, without being overwhelmed trying to play them at full speed right away. One of the most successful factors of this course was the fact that you can feel how Doug Marks is talking to you, not to a microphone or recording equipment, but to you as a student, as someone who’s eager to improve! That’s something that was not being offered in the market back in the day: a personal relationship between tutor and student, which is something the Metal Method offers.
The method was successful right from the beginning thanks to the philosophy of great guitar lessons at a lower price, with a high volume of sales. It was expanded into many editions that focused on specific areas of the guitar technique: Speed and Accuracy for Lead Guitar, Easy Guitar Modes, Guitar Mastery Package, Classic Guitar Licks and many others made in collaboration with guitar legends like Michael Angelo Batio: Speed Kills 1 and 2, Star Licks Master Series videos are an example. The Method has grown into a thriving business with plenty of information for all guitar players out there. In Doug’s website, he interacts with the people, answering their doubts and hanging around with them, showing how down-to-earth he is, and proving that he cares about the students and their learning process.
The Metal Method Legacy
It is amazing how the Doug Marks legacy is evident to this day. Worldwide known guitar masters such as Rusty Cooley or Myles Kennedy have said how important the Metal Method was to them! Doug is right when he states the following on his website: “We’ve been in business since 1982 for one reason – our program works!” The basic course is still going now in his 2016 revision! In the field of guitar lessons, we are always searching for the perfect answer to questions like “how can I play faster?” “How can I approach lead guitar?” “What is the musical theory I should know to play what I like?” and the Metal Method is positively answering these questions to all of us!
The influence of the Method has been around for 34 years already, helping many guitar players out there to achieve the desired improvement in their guitar playing technique. And don’t let the word “metal” fool you: if you are into any other genre like blues, country, jazz, rock, and roll…you will get plenty of advice and useful information from the Method, because of all the resources it has to give to any aspiring artist.
Dedicated to the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Guitarist!