3 GRAND PRIZE WINNERS WILL GET ONCE-IN-A-LIFETIME CHANCE TO FLY TO METALLICA HEADQUARTERS
AND HANG WITH JAMES HETFIELD AND KIRK HAMMETT
ERNIE BALL LAUNCH CONTEST EXCLUSIVELY WITH GUITAR CENTER AND MUSICIAN’S FRIEND
CONTEST RUNS TODAY THROUGH OCTOBER 31
Los Angeles, CA (September 7, 2017) – ERNIE BALL, the iconic maker of SLINKY guitar strings and instrument accessories, has announced the launch of the “Hetfield + Hammett Experience,” a partnership with longtime Ernie Ball artists and legendary guitarists JAMES HETFIELD and KIRK HAMMETT that will grant three lucky winners the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hang with the guitarists at METALLICA Headquarters in San Francisco, CA. Click HERE to see Hetfield and Hammett talking about “The Experience.”
Winners will also take home their choice of a Hetfield or Hammett Signature ESP Guitar as well as an Ernie Ball Prize Pack complete with their favorite gauge of SLINKY guitar strings and other prizes. The contest launches today, September 7, and runs through October 31.
“I have to say that HQ is kinda like NASA,” says Kirk Hammett. “You need the right credentials to get in; you need to know the right codes to get through the door. There are constantly people around making sure that whoever is there is there for a purpose. It’s pretty tight because it’s like the brain control…The mission control for all things Metallica.”
This is a pretty cool opportunity to get into Metallica’s creative space and see what it is, why it is, and what is in there that inspires us, said James Hetfield. “For me, as a fan of other bands, it would’ve been pretty awesome to have shown up in Phil Lynott’s writing space. This is gonna be an extraordinary moment for whoever gets to show up at HQ.”
“To have artists like Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield trust our strings for over 35 years is something the Ernie Ball family is incredibly thankful and proud of,” says Ernie Ball President Brian Ball. “It also means our strings have been along for the epic ride of ‘Seek & Destroy,’ ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls,’ ‘Sad But True’ and many of the band’s biggest hits. We’re excited about this contest and looking forward to connecting the band and a few lucky fans in a special way.”
Fans can enter Ernie Ball’s “Hetfield + Hammett Experience” by purchasing qualifying packs of Ernie Ball Strings at Guitar Center or from Musician’s Friend, then entering the codes found inside the packs at ernieball.com/metallica for a chance to win.
Metallica formed in 1981 by drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist and vocalist James Hetfield and has become one of the most influential and commercially successful rock bands in history, having sold 110 million albums worldwide while playing to millions of fans on literally all seven continents. They have scored several multi-platinum albums, including 1991’s Metallica (commonly referred to as The Black Album), with sales of nearly 17 million copies in the United States alone, making it the best-selling album in the history of Soundscan. Metallica has also garnered numerous awards and accolades, including nine Grammy Awards, two American Music Awards, and multiple MTV Video Music Awards, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 2009. In December 2013, Metallica made history when they performed a rare concert in Antarctica, becoming the first act to ever play all seven continents all within a year, and earning themselves a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Metallica’s latest album Hardwired…To Self Destruct was released on November 18, 2016, on Metallica’s own Blackened Recordings record label and debuted at No. 1 around the world, selling over 800,000 copies worldwide in its first week.
Heavy Metal as a genre has been around since the 1970s with “Black Sabbath,” “Judas Priest,” “Metallica,” “Iron Maiden,” and countless others. It became popular because it branched off from Rock and Roll; it was easy for it to become part of the culture back then. Fast Forward to present day, there are a lot less heavy metal bands because it is not the hottest genre right now. Even the bands that were mentioned before are still going on today, which should give people the idea how many heavy metal bands are still forming. In today’s world, it would be hard for a heavy metal band to make money in the music industry because the culture has evolved their tastes in music, however, if a metal band did succeed, it would be worth it for them.
It would be hard for heavy metal to succeed in today’s world because it is today’s world. Heavy metal became popular for a lot of reasons back in the 1970s and 1980s. One them is that it took Rock and Roll to a whole another level regarding sound; it became the music of rebellion for that period. Now, the culture has evolved into something different. The African-American culture has taken the nation by storm with hip-hop, pop, and rap as the front genres. Those are the genres that are popular right now. Take a look at some of the top musicians as of right now, Beyonce, Adele, Drake, Taylor Swift, Lorde, Ed Sheeran, they are all part of the hip hop/ pop genre. Take a look at Taylor Swift; she used to be a country singer; now she evolved herself into more of a pop singer. Even Maroon 5 has changed into pop in recent years, and that band was part of the rock genre back in the 200s. They changed because it would attract more audience. So in the midst of all this, heavy metal would be overlooked by fans in favor of pop singers. Not that is a bad thing; the pop genre has much great music. Regarding heavy metal making money, it would be hard for them to make money because the culture has changed and their fan base would be relatively small.
However, music is all about art and expressing oneself, and heavy metal does that. There is a lot of people out there who love rock, and the sound that it brings, so heavy metal could still make money in today’s industry. To draw a much bigger crowd, an up and coming band could learn to adapt; if a heavy metal band took the genre to a whole new level, they would make more money. Like before, music evolved quite a bit because new types branch off from other ones, taking inspirations from other genres. If a heavy metal band took the sounds of the genre to a whole new level, they could make money. There has been a lot of heavy metal over the years, so the genre has been covered quite a bit. A new band would just be mimicking those older bands. If a new heavy band drew inspiration and developed into something different, like adding new beats to songs, changing the attitude of the genre just enough to draw a new crowd. Heavy metal will also be exciting to people because that’s just the nature of the genre so that it will have its audience; the trick is to make it into making into an art a lot of people can enjoy.
Heavy Metal has been around for almost 40 years. It has its audience, young and old so that they will make money. The trick is to draw a bigger crowd. Since the culture has evolved, and so has music taste, that is challenging part of a heavy metal band. If a heavy metal band was willing to take it to a whole another level for today’s audience to love, then they could make more money. So, yes, a heavy metal band can make money in today’s music industry.
The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – an assuming museum located on the shores of Lake Erie that makes the strongest of men weaken with a burning desire to belong. Legends are made and honored amongst the museum’s four walls, forever etched as the choice of guidance for the generations of musicians to come.
From all the great artists who made it to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, our eyes wander purposely to find one name that lingers in our hearts – Jake E. Lee. The American guitarist who signed with Shrapnel Records and is recognized for playing with Ozzy Osbourne for the four years leading up to 1987 is a name that resonates admiration amongst seasoned guitarists and amateur fans alike.
Inspired by his elder sister’s guitar, Jake E. Lee gave up the classical piano lessons he had been taking since the age of six only to pick up the guitar at 13. Inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath and Led Zepplin in his teens – he transformed his classical music knowledge to become a self-taught rock guitarist, highlighting his natural acumen for the instrument.
His talent grew multi-bounds, leading to incidents where Lee had been asked to downplay his skill. In 1980, Lee joined a hard rock band called Mickey Ratt in San Diego that went on to become the popular glam metal band Ratt in Los Angeles under his care. Once he realized that the peak of Ratt’s success had been achieved, he left to join Rough Cutt but was whisked away by Rough Cutt’s producer Ronnie James Dio who invited him to join his new solo band Dio – Ronnie James Dio’s latest venture after leaving Black Sabbath. Lee’s stint at Dio’s band remained short lived due to the fact that Ronnie Dio continued to wish for Lee to play “simple block chords that wouldn’t trample on his vocals”.
The turn of events that took place next defined Lee’s discovery to the path of success. Around the same time as Lee’s departure from Dio, the world-renowned bassist Dana Strum recommended Jake E. Lee as a replacement for the recently deceased Randy Rhoads to Ozzy Osbourne. Torn between Dokken’sGeorge Lynch and Jake E. Lee, Ozzy finally decided on Jake E. Lee despite having initially chosen George Lynch based on Lee’s creativity in technique.
Lee continued to stick by Osbourne, through Osbourne’s substance abuse problems as well as his post-recovery tours up until Lee was unfairly fired by Osbourne’s wife Sharon Osbourne – without any hint at the impending exit.
Shocked but undefeated, Jake E. Lee went on to form his own blues inspired hard rock band Badlands with vocalist Ray Gillen in 1988. Following the short-term success and end of Badlands, Jake E.Lee continued to make waves in the musical industry. Apart from wishing to keeping a low-key profile between the 1990’s -2000’s, he still appeared on musical tributes to Queen, AC/DC, Rush, Metallica, and others.
There are very few who can boast to have the depth of experience Jake E. Lee has – the man who has been chosen to be their primary one choice by great producers and musicians. His dedication to the art of playing the guitar above the desire to be commercially successful has often buried his true contribution to rock and roll. If there is one name our wandering eyes search for on The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – it’s that of Jake E. Lee.
An influential vocalist, composer, guitarist and more, Mille Petrozza is a reflection of what today’s unique European thrash metal consists of. Being of Italian and Calabria descent and born in Germany – Petrozza’s music is globally appreciated across diverse cultures.
As the lead vocalist, founder and guitarist of the band Kreator (previously known as Tyrant in 1982 and Tormentor in 1984), Mille Petrozza has been an influential figure in the musical industry since the past 32 years when Kreator debuted their first album titled Endless Pain.
His experience as a musician has been diverse, ranging from thrash metal to goth to industrial and back to thrash metal. His love for experimenting with new styles has led Kreator to become one of the most skilled bands in European history.
Apart from Kreator, Petrozza also played the guitar for the all-star band Voodoocult along with other band members such as Dave Lombardo of Slayer and Chuck Schuldiner of Death. He also made appearances as a lead vocalist in Edguy’s album Hellfire Club, Caliban’s album The Undying Album, Volbeat’s 2010 album Beyond Hell/Above Heaven and has composed albums for Demonical, Pessimist, Cannibal Corpose, Vader, Abigor and others.
In terms of lyrical style, Petrozza is deeply inspired by contemporary relevant themes such as religion. Metaphorical by nature, his songs are not an explicit take on the theme but more of a the relevance of the theme in today’s world. For example, he is quoted to have said that “Satan Is Real” is me wondering why it’s still relevant in 2017.” His aim is to drive change through his music, by appreciating that the world has come a long way from what it used to and that reevaluating our beliefs is the aim of his music. For example, he believes that “people take it (religion) so seriously that they seem to be OK with doing all this bizarre stuff or even dying for religion, because they believe this stuff.”
What makes Mille Petrozza truly unique is his deep-vested interest in changing society through his music. He believes that the themes of Kreator’s music will always be relevant, an internal struggle of good versus evil. Good is subjective and the music aims to lead attitude towards acceptance of all kinds of people, views and beliefs. This belief runs into his personal life, where despite being a vegan, he is close friends with a hunter.
In terms of equipment and skill, Petrozza prefers to experiment with a varieties of instruments. From playing a B.C. Rich Mockingbird in the mid 1980’s – a guitar very similar to the one played by Kerry King of Slayer at the same time – he now uses Jackson Live models.
Kreator has the talent and skill to become one of the “Big Four.” Petrozza’s lyrics, skillful playing, excellent musicianship could easily replace and of the “Big Four.”
Despite his violent playing style and threatening vocals, Petrozza uses music as nothing if not a tool for social change. His style reflects the anger an ideal teenager would feel when faced with the injustices in the world. Perhaps this is why the lyrics of Kreator are what draws people to dissect every piece ever produced – an almost magical remedy to the pain in this world.
For most musicians, just being nominated for a Grammy is a dream come true in itself. However, being nominated for the Grammy Award a total of fifteen times and selling over 10 million albums makes Joe Satriani incomparable to most musicians.
The Midas of all instrumentalists, it would be nothing but fair to say that Satriani truly turns everything he touches to audio gold. Joseph “Joe” Satriani is an American born and bred multi-instrumentalist best known for his career as a rock guitarist.
Influenced by the death of the legendary Jimi Hendrix, Satriani was drawn to the world of guitars at the age of 14. How he started to play the guitar is a narrative made for the history books. He heard of Hendrix’s death on the football field during football practice, walked off to his coach and informed his coach of his decision to quit in order to become a guitarist. He fell in love with the legend Hendrix was and today, he is nothing short of extraordinary himself.
In 1978, Satriani moved to California to pursue a career in music. He started teaching the guitar during this period. His skills on the guitar and fluid communication methods as an instructor led to numerous of his former students achieving unparalleled levels of success. Some of his former students include Steve Vai, Rick Hunolt, Larry LaLonde, Kirk Hammett and Charlie Hunter.
In 1986, Satriani released his first studio album titled Not of This Earth. It drove in successful critical acclaim and led to Satriani recording his second solo album, Surfing with the Alien, the very next year in 1987. It was the first all-instrumental solo album to perform as well as it had and to have become a radio hit since a significant number of years.
The news of his talent spread like wildfire through people who had witnessed his firsthand success. In 1988, a decade after he became a teacher, Satriani was recruited by Mick Jagger as lead guitarist for Jagger’s first solo tour. In 1989, Satriani released his third album Flying in a Blue Dream, inspired by the death of his father who had passed away during the making of the album. In 1992, Satriani released The Extremist, which has proven to become the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful album of his till date.
With one successful solo album release after the next, Satriani soon rose to worldwide fame. In 1993, he was invited to join the incredible Deep Purple as a temporary replacement for Ritchie Blackmore who had just left the band.
With 15 albums released since 1986 and with 15 Grammy Nominations, Joe Satriani is a name recognized across the world, from every corner of the United States to developing nations across Asia. He is considered to have mastered extremely difficult performance techniques on the electric guitar. Influenced by blues – rock guitar icons such as Hendrix and Clapton, he is skilled alternate picking, legato, harmonics and extreme whammy bar effects amongst numerous skills.
The fact that a significant number of his students have achieved critical commercial success is only a reflection of the master’s trade. It’s a pleasure following Satriani’s success and we’re just around the corner – waiting for his first Grammy win because it’s about damn time.
He is one of the most influential metal guitarists, lead singer and composer, who holds the privilege to be one of the thrash metal pioneers. He is better known for being the founder and leader of Megadeth, the band that made it all faster and aggressive as it could get by that time. Of course we’re talking about Dave Mustaine, the mind behind the complex riffs, dark lyrics and concepts that made Megadeth one of The Big Four of Thrash Metal along with Metallica, Anthrax and Slayer.
Playing the guitar since he was a teenager, Dave’s attendance to a Kiss concert during their Destroyer tour in Anaheim in 1977 was a mind-blowing experience to him, being highly influential in his decision to take music more seriously. He started his own band, named Panic, which was a short-lived act due to the tragic decease of drummer Mike Leftwych in a car accident. Dave’s ongoing journey into the music took him to the infamous Metallica auditions for a lead guitar player in 1981, which as he recalls: “I was setting up my stuff, tuning my guitar, and doing some warm-ups and then I asked ‘So, are we gonna do the audition?’ and they replied ‘No, you got the job’, so I think what they’ve heard pretty much impressed them to a point where they didn’t need to do that”.
His time as Metallica’s lead guitar player was short-lived. It ended before the Kill ‘Em All recordings. Too much have been said already about this moment. Dave is constantly taken back during the interviews to this point in his life, where he “had no one but you [Lars] and James”, as he states in the Some Kind of Monster documentary, so there’s no need to extend on this controversy anymore. What is important here is how this experience became a defining moment in his life, and how it turned to be the necessary incentive he needed to go into his own path as a musician and individual: it led to the creation of what would become Megadeth.
After his departure from Metallica, he met bass player David Ellefson in Los Angeles, and together formed Megadeth. His artistic intentions were to play faster and heavier music than Metallica, a goal in which Megadeth greatly succeeded. Rather than an “I’m better than you” race, as it is depicted, Dave Mustaine’s contributions to Metallica were a demonstration of what he intended as an artist: his riff near the end of the bridge of Phantom Lord, the Mechanix song (which you know as The Four Horsemen) or Jump in the Fire gives you the idea of what his musical concept was: fast tempos, fast riffs, a dark and decadent atmosphere surrounding his music.
In 1985 he released Killing Is My Business with an 8,000 dollars budget from Combat Records to produce and record the album. Dave’s musical approach raised the bar for all guitar players in the metal scene out there. There are many examples of the high level guitar playing in Megadeth’s debut album, such as Killing is my Business riff, bridge and solo work. Also remarkable is the aggressive, right-to-the-face lyrics work: Last Rites/Loved to Death, a not so typical story: boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, girl doesn’t, boy kills girl so no one else will have her. This album is one of the keystones for thrash metal music, and the one who introduced Megadeth to the metal scene!
The highly technical riffs and aggressive, full of meaning lyrics will become Dave Mustaine’s signature as an artist, and Megadeth’s definition as a band. The following albums became success after success, and grew an enormous worldwide fan base that loves him for remaining loyal to his style during his entire career. Peace Sells, Rust in Peace, Countdown to Extinction, Risk, The System Has Failed and Endgame are Dave’s mostly recognized efforts and artistic success in his career, including hit after hit in a regular basis, making each one of them a memorable record.
Dave Mustaine as a musician has a lot to offer: he sings, he writes, he composes his own material, he plays rhythm AND lead guitar! His guitar playing is quite appealing to us guitar freaks: he delivers legendary riffs, famous for his technical demand and use of chromatic scales, giving them a menacing feel : Killing is my Business, Peace Sells, Good Mourning/Black Friday, Liar, Holy Wars, Take No Prisoners…and that’s just a few mentions!
His soloing work consists of altered pentatonic patterns combined with exotic scales. Dave is away from the typical scalar-running shred from his generation, and aims for the creation of a proper feel to go along with the song’s concept. He often trade his solo works during Megadeth’s live performances, and he seems very proficient at playing the most challenging ones: Burnt Ice, Kick The Chair, Ashes In Your Mouth or Hangar 18 just to quote some examples.
Dave Mustaine proves to be one of the most versatile and accomplished metal musicians of our time, and his undeniably great contributions to thrash metal makes him a living legend, with an artistic legacy that transcends to this present day in his music!
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.
Vicious Rumors came out at the same time as Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer, and Exodus. Vicious Rumors are known for killer guitar riffs and head banging music. It’s been 37 years since Geoff Thorpe formed his iconic brand. I recently caught up with Geoff to discuss Concussion Protocol and other happenings of Vicious Rumors.
Man last time I saw you were in Windsor, Connecticut at a dive bar in 1990. I was disc jockeying at a college radio station in Hartford, Connecticut. McGee was with you guys, and all of us got on your tour bus and went to see Total Recall.
Yeah Man! Well, when you mentioned that about going to the movies in the tour bus, you know, I remember that because we’ve never done that before, just taking a bunch of fans, jumped on our bus and went and did something on our off day, so yes, I completely remembered it. Also, it was hilarious; you were like how did you remember that? My God!
I know 26 years, like five albums for you guys.
Yeah, Incredible man!
Are you touring in Europe?
Yes! We’re not on tour right now, but we’re doing a big tour with Dirkschneider.
Yes, I saw that! Is he done with Accept?
Yes, he is doing a tribute to Accept where I think he just sees how popular Accept is and so he’s cashing in on it and it’s working. When he does the Dirkschneider thing, he plays to packed houses, and so it’s a big tour for us. We’re kind of excited about it.
Good! That will lead me to my first question for you. You guys are trendy in Europe. You guys are playing festivals 40,000, 50,000, 60,000 people and your counterparts, I mean everybody Slayer, Megadeth, Metallica, everybody goes over there, seems like they’re making more money than they are in the States. Do you think the market is pretty much dried up here in the states for metal? Could you come back and play a thousand seat clubs? Then you guys go over for the Wacken Festival or whichever festival you guys are at —
Well you know, I don’t think that it’s ‘dried up’ but there’s just, I say the difference between the European audience and the American audience is that you know trends come and go and the European audience tends to, they might embrace something new but just because they embrace something new they don’t reject stuff that they liked before, and I think that the American audience like fads come and things change, and then all of a sudden people might think like, I mean I’m not like you know I’m just thinking out loud what is the possible reason for that? I just feel that European audiences are more open to still loving what they used to love and then embracing new bands that were sometimes American audiences tend to go with new fads and just move on from what they used to do to something new. I don’t know man, you know the bottom line is there are great metal fans all around the world but there’s definitely something special that goes on here in Europe, and we were lucky enough to start in the 80’s and we were embraced here by the fans here and so you know we just went where the opportunities were, and we’re just really thankful that we have this incredible European fan base here and I always love being in Europe. I love the people. I love the way that they can get together in large numbers and they know how to behave you know. People aren’t getting robbed or beat up or vandalized. You know they get together, somebody falls, and someone gets picked up. You understand me? They don’t get trampled on. So it’s just a different vibe out here man, and it’s very cool especially for us, we’ve just been fortunate to have this incredible fan base that’s been with us from the very beginning and here we are on our twelfth studio album 37 years later it’s all going strong so it’s just – you know we’re humbled by it and at the same time we just want to give the fans the best possible metal experience we can deliver, night after night. We just want it to be a metal party that you can remember for all time and that way if we just give our best every time, you seem to be invited back.
Going back to Soldiers of the Night which is still considered a Metal classic is going up with the Carl Albert Fronted band 1988-95 RIP Carl –When you’re doing pre-production for your records, and all are you primarily the one doing the writing of the music and the lyrics, is it a band effort? Because I know Vicious Rumors is, you see, you found it, how do you dispense what the duties are?
You know I am the primary writer, and if the guys don’t do exactly what I tell them, they need to get the fuck out and if we don’t do it my way we don’t do it anyway but really, I’m easy to work with. I’m just kidding bro!
I was going to be like; you sound like Mr. Malmsteen!
No shit huh! That was insane; it felt excellent to say that though. No, I’m just playing with you man. I lead the direction, and I write most of the music. I do write a lot of lyrics and melodies, and I always have. When we had Carl, we worked together in that way too. Vicious Rumors has always been a team, and we work together much like a sports team. I’m the leader of the team, maybe I’m the driving force, but I like to surround myself with really talented creative people, and right now we have a unique combination. I never intended to have this worldwide line up this international lineup with guys in Europe and guys from California it comes down to chemistry, the most important part of having a band is the chemistry within the group, and that’s what made bands like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple and Metallica they have chemistry together and when you find that kind of chemistry, luckily we live in a day and age we’re just a flight away and with the internet it’s possible to have these guys half way across the world and we can still do it and like I said, I never intended to do it but when we got together and when I found Nick and found Tilen they just brought so much to the table in every way they’re super creative; talented, they got a lot of great ideas. So to me, chemistry is number one, and if you have that, then the rest will follow. So yes, I do a lot of the writing but we work together as a team, and I’m entirely open to all the guys’ great ideas. We don’t always use them because I do so much of the writing, but they help me shape it. The one thing that we’ve had with all the different lineups is my songwriting, and that is sort of like the thread from the beginning to now that’s kept up Vicious Rumors, so I don’t want to lose that but at the same time, I really value the talented guys that I work with.
When did Nick come along? Was he on the last album or come on the tour?
Well what happened was we had a big US tour in 2013 and then Brian Allen was becoming more and more unavailable you know understandably, he’s got, three kids, he’s a single dad with 3 children, so you know that’s a huge responsibility and so he started looking at, he just became unavailable and the problem was when he decided that he was not going to be available it was four weeks before a giant tour that I had already spent four months working on and so I was just lucky that I found Nick off a recommendation of a good friend of mine in The Netherlands from my brother Jake’s band in The Netherlands he recommended Nick to me and we had just gotten Tilen in the group, and I was just lucky to find him in time, and he came in we did the US tour together and he did the last live album Live You To Death 2: American Punishment and he had only just joined the band and just crammed in to learn like 20 songs and did a fantastic job and now we’ve had three years of chemistry behind us so if you listen to the last live album and the way he sounds on the new album you can just actually hear in percussion protocol the growth that’s taken place and the way his voice has evolved, you know he can sing
high and clean all day long but we worked on his lower range and bringing out more of a full-voiced thing with his classic high decent thing and really you know he just has the ability and the range to do all the styles of Vicious Rumors music you know. I think you being someone who really knows Vicious Rumors from the beginning to now know we are aware that we don’t just have one style or one sound we have a lot of different aspects to our music from speed metal to ballads to slow quenched stuff and we need a singer that can sing low and cumbersome, high and clean, dark and moody and also melodic, so it’s a real tall order to be the singer in Vicious Rumors and Nick’s just done a great job in the band the last few years and a fantastic job on the new record.
Yeah, it’s an excellent record. I reviewed it for another website that is not mine. I think you guys liked it on Twitter and followed me back as a matter of fact. For Concussion Protocol did you do anything differently in production for the preparation of recording the other albums?
We did, it was the most I mean months of great lots of hard work man. I started by just writing riffs on my little digital recorder. Once I had put together the body of twelve songs we actually got together and rented a house in The Netherlands and spent like three weeks together you know finalizing the ideas and taking suggestions for the guy’s and really just working together to try to make the album the best it could be and luckily we had the three years experience together and all the touring we did. Since Nick and Tilen have been in the band we’ve done a major US tour a South American tour, two European tours we had built the chemistry already which was really helpful, we were all really comfortable with each other when we started writing this album and after I kind of assembled most of the songs you know we rented that house in The Netherlands and put the final touches on it. Once I really felt like the album taking shape I really felt like wow this is going to be probably our heaviest album and one of our most powerful driving records that we’ve ever done, and so I really felt at that point like man I need lyrics, I need a cover, I need a concept to be to be just as heavy and after the guys had gone home I stayed in Europe for like three weeks, just with a notebook and a pencil and my pads and paper and I just wrote lyrics and started coming up with this crazy doomsday story with the asteroid taking out the world and I was just thinking when we went digital dictator we were at the beginning of the digital age, and I was thinking where are we now? Well, unfortunately, we’re in the age of disasters. You know with tsunamis and earthquakes, terrorism and all this shit I just thought man what would be the ultimate catastrophe? That would be the whole planet being destroyed in one swift blow! So I wanted to make a bad ass heavy metal loud one and a total nightmare at the same time, and that’s how the whole thing came on the Concussion Protocol. I hope you know I was just kidding when I said we were going to do it my way and all that. You know, people, it’s the funny dude the way you know how long this band’s been together.
Yes, I sure do
And anytime you have a band together for half as long as we’ve been together there are lineup changes, and that’s just life. I mean look at any heavy metal band that you can think of at off the top of your head Judas Priest, Metallica, Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath you know Testament and the list goes on and on everybody’s had lineup changes. So there’s nothing different from Vicious Rumors to any other bands. If you love what you’re doing you just fix it and move on and that’s what we’ve done in the past. Right now we’ve got a very particular combination and I really hope that we can stay together and make a few more albums together in this lineup and if for some reason that doesn’t happen, then I’m just going to go ahead and make another bad ass album without, you know I got a great bunch of guys right now, and we have a real good chemistry together. I think as long as we can work together you know I think the guys are very excited about the response so far, the views and the ratings that the album’s been getting like 9 out of 10 and 8 out of 10. People just responding in such a positive way and I appreciate your comments too man
Oh yes I rated you guys an 8 out of 10
that’s fantastic man!
Soon as I heard it, I knew it was you! Soon as the opening riff, I knew it was you. That’s how distinctive your riff playing is
Thank you very much
Drums, everything about that you can always hear a Vicious Rumors song
I appreciate that
Going on from Concussion Protocol you’re on a German label now. How was that first back in the day when we had big budgets with Atlantic Records all that compared to now and the market?
Well, I tell you it’s been fantastic. Working with SPV has been an incredible experience. They know what they’re doing Ali Han and Marco over there in the office. They’re seasoned veterans. They’re into the music they know the market. They’ve done a great job??? Spinning up the album and this year I think they’ve done more for the band than ever before. I was just here two months doing Press. I did like 70 interviews. So it’s been a great experience to work with SPV, and you know Atlantic was also you find out when you’re in a band, and you’re trying to get signed it’s a very tough business you know. When you have the opportunity to sign with the same label as Led Zeppelin and AC/DC you know it’s a dream come true and you take that opportunity no matter what it is but you know there’s also the reality of being a minuscule fish in a huge pond and so to be with SPV and be one of their more featured bands it’s also working out quite well
I remember Sylvio Bonvini, the guy that was doing your A & R at Atlantic
Yes, he was one of them it was him Sylvio and Peggy Donnelly.
Talk about names I remember dealing with getting your stuff. Sylvio hooked me up with posters of you guys.
Well you know, like I said Atlantic Records is no joke and everything we’ve done in the past has led us to where we are now. So I have no regrets, I have no excuses, and I make no apologies. We’re just trying to do the best we can do and do it. We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel we’re just trying to take our art and our music and make it the best we can
Going on with your music we’re going to kind of go to a different level we’ll get back to that in a second. The YouTube issue. It’s becoming a big issue about YouTube, and I ask everybody these questions I always want to hear what everyone’s opinion is. There are a lot of people like Nikki Sixx, and a few other people are saying that YouTube is not fair in compensating the artists due to all their music being on YouTube and it just being replayed and replayed and people uploading full video’s of the bands without consent. I mean do you have an opinion about that? Have you been following that story at all?
I mean it’s a real double-edged sword. I mean it’s great for people to find the band and get to see it. Like our albums just came out Friday and I think later that day someone had already put the whole album on YouTube or some link to go and get our entire album for free and it’s just like in some ways it kills the industry so it’s such a double-edged sword I mean in one respect it’s great because people can find out about you they can hear the music and if they’re real fans maybe they’re going to go out and buy it but there are so many people will just bootleg your stuff and won’t pay for it, and it is unfair in a lot of ways, and you know it just comes right down to being victims of a digital world.
How do you feel about the streaming service like Spotify and Apple music and all them? Do you think they help or hurt the industry?
Well you know there’s some accountability there. You know with YouTube it’s just the artist ripped off so at least with Spotify and some of those other things there can be some accountability. You know man, that’s just the world we live in today, and it just makes touring that much more valuable.
Yes to increase the revenues you’re losing on record sales
Exactly and selling your album to the hardcore fans that go to the shows you know luckily in my case and I think the guys in my band, everybody in my band are guys that love what they do it’s not about money, it’s about passion and fire and living out our dreams you know we’re just very thankful to our fans that stood by us and the new ones that we get all the time cause man without the fans there is no band, and we’re all about the fans we’re nothing without them.
Your video that you came out here, are you playing Dean Guitars now?
Yes, I’ve been with Dean for a while now.
I saw I don’t know if it was you playing a Dean Dime Guitar are that what you’re primarily playing or do you have your signature model?
Yes, I use the Razorback. You know when I saw that thing I was like my God it’s like a bolt of lightning, and it’s just so fun to play and I’m also a good fan of Dimebag so yes I was euphoric and honored that Dean Guitar would sponsor me with and give me so many great guitars to work with that’s been really a privilege and I’ve been really really proud to play my Dean Guitars around the world. I have three Razorbacks a Razorback B and ML also an Eric Peterson, and the Eric wasn’t given to me by Dean it has been paid to me by Eric. He came to my house and gave me the guitar we’ve known each other a long time, and I remember the day he gave that to me I was. I was like man there are a couple of million people that would just be so blown away to have you come to their house and give them one of your guitars. Eric and I have grown up together we’ve known each other a long time, so that’s part of being fortunate enough to be a part of the Bay Area metal scene that turned out to be something that the whole world looks to is just something extraordinary. Metallica, Exodus, Vicious Rumors, Death Angel, Testament, Megadeth bands that are still going strong today.
You’ve got Dave Messina on Dean Guitars. You’ve got Michael Androvetti??? Who are in my group, you’ve got Vinnie Moore, and Rusty Coolidge is on there you know I can go on. It seems like Dean is picking up a lot of different artists and all. Is there any top signature model for you or are you just happy with what they provide you?
Well you know, we’ll see, we’ll see. I would love to do that at some point but I’ve been very thankful just to be sponsored by Dean, and you know they’ve given me some great guitars. You know I strangle the hell out of them, I beat the hell out of them and they seem to hold up quite well, so it’s not like a top priority for me my priority is the music and keeping the band working. I would love to have a Geoff Thorpe signature.
What are your rigs consisting of? I know you have the Dimebag but what else are you using?
I’d love to tell you, but unfortunately, I’d have to kidnap you. No man, I use a real classic rig called a Langner power amp and preamp with a very particular amp called a More Sound, and the More Sound amps are made in San Diego California, and he did make me a signature amp. I do have an amp it’s called a Megajet amp. It is not available on the market is a custom amp that was made for me by More Sound amplifiers and yes it’s pretty bad ass I think we got a really great guitar sound on the record and other than that I don’t have a lot of special gear to tell you about and quite honestly 90% of the way guitar players sound is their hands. I could go into Guitar Center and plug it into the amp, and I’m still going to look like Geoff Thorpe of Vicious Rumors because it’s me playing, so gear and tone is definitely concordant but like I said you know Michael Schenker walks into a Guitar Center picks up the guitar and amp he’s still going to sound like Michael Schenker, and that’s because 90% of guitar players sound is coming right out of his hands.
That’s what I was getting to are you still practicing before each show? You’ve pretty much been at it for 37 years
Oh yes man, I still rehearse and warm up it’s important. I feel like I can play much more freely if I get a chance to warm up. I enjoy having rehearsals but unfortunately, nowadays we have this international line-up, and so we don’t get to have so many rehearsals. Everybody’s professional enough just to be ready, and we talk about the list, put together the set list everybody’s ready to go. We get together, have one or two rehearsals and start the tour.
Are you still up in the Bay area? Are you guys still practicing up there because you guys are playing Europe so often do you guys stay out there?
Yes, Larry and I and Thaen still live in the Bay Area and Nick is in The Netherlands. So usually what happens is when we are preparing to go on the road I’ll have three or four rehearsals with Larry and Thaen just the two guitars and drums and then we’ll come to Europe a week early before the tour and have three or four rehearsals together as a band and then just do it and then everybody shows up individually ready to go so we can have our rehearsals be very concentrated and we’re already rehearsed and ready and you know when you’re in that situation no one wants to be the guy that’s not ready you understand me? So everybody shows up prepared.
What is your touring schedule going to be like for the next twelve months? Are you guys going to be in Europe?
No. We’ve got some large plans. We start October 31 we’re going to be with Durkschneider playing into November supporting him through Scandinavia and Germany, Czech Republic, Austria then we’re going to break and do two and a half weeks of headline shows, and then we finish with another run with Durkschneider till December 19. We’ve got the 70,000 tons of metal cruise coming up at the beginning of February. We have a second opportunity for a tour in Europe that we’re negotiating right now, and we certainly have plans to return to the United States as well as Japan and South America, so it’s going to be a very busy 2016-2017 for Vicious Rumors man we’re just putting the classic set out there with the best material. We just want to make it a heavy metal night to remember every time we hit the stage.
I ask everybody this question too. Is there any guitar player of a younger generation that has caught your eye?
Oh man, there are so many good ones. Everybody’s younger than me though so I’m not sure what the guys in Arch Enemy. I don’t know how old Jeff Lynne is he might not be that much younger than I, but he sure is amazing. It’s funny the part playing of soloing and stuff was a lost art for a while, and now it’s coming back again big time, so I think it would be great to see somebody stepping up the guitar playing again. Especially with like schools losing music programs and things like that dropping out.
Well, Geoff, those were exquisite. Those were the questions I got for protocol, and it sounds like a good album and Nick looked superb on it, the video is sharp there. Hopefully, you can get your signature endorsement from Dean so you can do that
I appreciate that, and I just want to thank you and the followers, of all your info like I, said we’re all about the fans whether it be the fans from the beginning or they’re just finding out about us you know no excuses no apologies it’s just bad ass heavy metal, and that’s all that matters.
It’s been one hell of a ride with Vicious Rumors in my collection for the past 26 years. All of us going to see Total Recall is still one of my favorite memories.
I’ll tell you what, just keep rocking my friend and we’ll take you to the movies again sometime ok?
Well if you’re down in Florida, are you guys going to be touring in the states soon or you guys just stay primarily over there because Europe is more of a money maker for you?
Well, we plan on doing a US tour sometime I’d say mid-2017 so yes we’ll be back for sure.
Dedicated to the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Guitarist!