In rесеnt уеаrѕ, Mіkе Vеѕсеrа іѕ gаіnіng a rерutаtіоn іn thе buѕіnеѕѕ аѕ being a mаѕtеrful рrоduсеr аnd еngіnееr wоrkіng frоm hіѕ ѕtudіо “Thе Tоу Room” lосаtеd juѕt оutѕіdе оf Nаѕhvіllе TN. Thе ѕtudіо іѕ ѕесоnd tо nоnе utіlіzіng ѕtаtе оf thе аrt ѕоftwаrе аnd tесhnоlоgу tо асhіеvе unrіvаlеd flеxіbіlіtу аnd dіmеnѕіоn оf ѕоund. Mіkе соntіnuеѕ tо wоrk аѕ a рrоduсеr аnd еngіnееr оn a vаrіеtу оf оngоіng рrоjесtѕ. Mіkе hаѕ fеаturеd аѕ thе lеаd vосаlіѕt fоr Jое Stumр’ѕ Rеіgn оf Tеrrоr, Rоlаnd Grароw, Pаlасе оf Blасk, Dr. Sіn, Kіllіng Mасhіnе, Sаfе Hаvеn, hіѕ MVP – Mісhаеl Vеѕсеrа Prоjесt and Vescera. Hіѕ саrееr аѕ a vосаlіѕt hаѕ bееn nоthіng ѕhоrt оf аmаzіng. I caught up with Michael to discuss Vescera’s new release on Pure Steel Records.
Michael, congrats on the new album. Your voice is still as powerful as it was 25-30 years ago. Is there anything you do to keep your vocal chords in shape? Do you have any pre-show warm up exercises?
MV: Thank you!! I try to stay in shape, exercise every day; this helps with the vocal stuff. I warm up a bit before singing full on, just a few voice things here and there, but nothing crazy!!
I was listening to Beyond the Fight. How did you do the writing for the songs? Was it a band collaboration? Did one person have more input than others?
MV: Frank(the bassist) wrote the music, and we collaborated on the lyrics. He would send me the idea, and I would do my thing. The outcome seemed to work out well!!
How did you pick your band members? Did you audition them?
MV: The band is a pre-existing group called the NiteHawks. Frank had been working with these guys for a bit, when we first started speaking about doing this it just seemed the right thing, they were all great players, so we went with it.
If you write both the lyrics and melodies, which do you write first?
MV: I usually come up with the melody first, just use some mock/improv lyrics on the fly. It makes more sense to me this way!!
Did you have a particular direction in the sound you wanted to attain with this record?
MV: Not really, just the classic metal thing was what we were going for. Good songs, melodies, etc.
You tour quite a bit in Europe. Is there any chance we might see you play in the states? I know bands, particularly hard rock/metal bands tour Europe more because they support the genre better than in the states.
MV: I do some shows occasionally in the States with Obsession and some solo stuff here and there, but it’s challenging, there’s just no support of any kind. Although there are a significant number of fans in the States that love this music and love the live shows, it seems that there’s no support from labels, venues, etc.
You were in the AniMetalUSA project with Chris Impellitteri and Rudy Sarzo. How did you enjoy that project?
MV: Animetal USA is great to be part of. Rudy(Sarzo), Chris(Impellitteri), and Jon(Dette) are excellent people and killer musicians, we lots of fun doing this sort of thing!!
You’ve worked with some of the best guitar players out there. Is there one you enjoyed working with the most?
MV: I’ve been very fortunate to work with so many great players, and they’re all killer in their way. Difficult to pick one, but I would have to say Akira(Loudness) impressed me the most, just a fantastic player!!
What are your plans for the rest of 2017?
MV: There’s some more touring stuff for me. I’ll be with Senforock in November, two shows in Turkey, then Europe and the USA. It consists of a conductor called MUSA GÖÇMEN, myself, a band and symphony. We’re speaking about the material now, but this will be a killer show!!
Possible other dates for my solo thing, but not sure now. The “Vescera‘ band is just working on some new material now and hope to have a new release early next year. It looks like we’ll be doing another tour of Europe in April!!
Do you have any comments you’d like to make regarding the remarks that Yngwie has said recently about his former singers?
MV: Funny stuff!!!! I know Jeff, Joe, Tim and even Mats Levin quite well, all great guys and awesome vocalists!! I’ve moved on from the whole Yngwie thing, and just wish everyone the best!!
In this world, there are certain personalities that leave their mark in the hearts and lives of others around them. To such personalities doing what makes them happy and good is what matters the most. Such people are not bound by time or place to be liked or loved by others. Some, although, left this world to remain alive in someone’s heart and soul.
There’s such a person who, though, not being among us anymore remains inside us forever. That person is named Randy Rhoads a famous and talented guitarist of all times.
Randall William or commonly known as Randy Rhoads was born on December 6th, 1956. He was a famous heavy metal guitarist. Randy Rhoads is the one who integrated his own heavy metal style with his classical music influences. Although, having short career tenure, Randy Rhoads played a very vital role in neoclassical metal. Apart from this, he was also considered a great influence by many other guitarists, and made on many lists of “Greatest Guitarist”
Randall William, Randy Rhoads, was born in Santa Monica, California. He was the youngest of his two other siblings: a brother named Doug and a sister named Kathy. His brother Doug is also a musician, but he performed under the name Kelle. Rhoads parents, Delores and William, both were music teachers.
When Randy Rhoads was 1 ½, his father had left the family, and Rhoads mother had to take care of all the kids. Delores, Rhoads mother, afterward opened her own music school in 1949 called Musonia. She had opened this school in North Hollywood to support her family financially. Rhodes’s mother had a bachelor’s degree specializing in music; apart from this she also played the piano on a professional level as well.
In 1979, attempting to establish a new band, ex-Black Sabbath vocalist, Ozzy Osbourne came to Los Angeles. Rhoads was contacted by Dana Strum, future Slaughter bassist if he was interested in the offer. Rhoads discussed this offer with his mother to come to a decision, and when his mother asked him if he would accept an offer like this one; his answer was a yes. Rhoads received a call for his auditions, just before he was going to perform in his final show with Quiet Riot in September 1979.
The day before Osbourne’s departure back to England, Rhoads walked right into the hotel room of the vocalist along with his Gibson Les Paul guitar and a practice amp and started to warm up. Osbourne who was feeling quite inebriated that day just listened to Rhoads and immediately gave him the job. Rhoads, Osbourne, Strum and Drummer Frankie Banali spent their couple of days jamming together before Osbourne left back to England.
When Osbourne went back to England, he met and was introduced to ex-Rainbow bassist, Bob Daisley, by Jet Records employee named Arthur Sharpe while in a pub. There he told Daisley that he had met with a talented young man who was a good guitarist. On November 27th, 1979, Rhoads flew to England and met with Osbourne and Daisley at the Jet Records’ Office.
On March 18th, 1982, Rhodes played his last show and was dead on March 19th of 1982 because of his plane crash. To this day, Randy Rhoads is still considered one of the best guitarists of all time. He left this world but also left a mark in this world.
John William Lowery, aka John 5, is an American metal guitarist best known for his versatility that has evolved from a gradual transition from one genre to another. Having tested his mettle with a number of instruments and in different genres, John 5 celebrates the uniqueness of his style that makes him stand out and outshine, successfully making it through multiple eras since 1987.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, it was a kid’s TV show that sparked his passion for music. Having gained the support and encouragement from his family, little John started playing at a local bar at the young age of 7. This focus helped him polish his natural strengths and acquire an elementary knowledge that later provided a sound ground for him to experiment and improvise on. While his initial aptitude was heavily inclined towards the country and bluegrass genres, his style was also influenced by the likes of Eddie Van Halen, The Monkeys, Jimi Hendrix, and Yngwie Malmsteen.
By the time he turned 17, John 5 formally started his music career by joining Alligator Soup, an underground band in Los Angeles. Although the band was still in its incubation phase and did not have a significant feat on its part aside from a couple of performances, the style and technique of John 5 were bold enough to catch the interest of Rudy Sarzo. After a small series of consultations and meetings with him, he officially offered John 5 to join Sun King.
The association brought him into the limelight and opened up doors for many future associations, the most promising of which turned out to be the one he had with producer Bob Marlette. After a couple of meetings, he assigned him a couple of his projects, including movie scores and television commercials. Meanwhile, he also expanded his domain of collaboration and partnered with Lita Ford, Paul Stanley, Randy Castillo and other members of Kiss.
In the later part of 1996, John 5 became a part of a temporary band setting formed by Rob Halford, Ray Riendeau, James Wooley, and Sid Riggs which was called 2wo. Although their first release titled ‘Voyeurs’ did not fare well, it did not revoke or decelerate the pace of prominence John 5 had started achieving due to his unique techniques. His next milestone made him meet his childhood dream in the face of David Lee Roth. After contributing a couple of lyrics for his songs, Lowery moved on to partner with Marilyn Manson and was later recalled by David Lee Roth to write lyrics for his upcoming album ‘Diamond Dave’.
John 5’s career is entailed with many notable associations with numerous bands and music virtuosos. Aside from David Lee Roth and Marilyn Manson, John 5 has teamed up with an impressive array of bands and groups such as Rob Zombie, Loser, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Red Square Black and Meat Loaf. He has also focused on establishing his solo profile since 2004 and has added a significant number of studio albums, single tracks, and DVDs to his profile.
John 5 continues to rule his forte and has been raising the bar through his smooth and fluid tones that transition from the country and bluegrass to the metal and industrial genres. Fusing the essence of a variety of genres, John 5 still has a long way to go to amaze and enthrall the music enthusiasts through his innovative and groundbreaking techniques.
The 1980’s turned out to be a great era for the global music industry. This period could be rendered as the time when some remarkable talents emerged and made their mark in their respective genres, revolutionizing old school and contemporary approaches through their penchant for experimentations and innovative techniques. In the midst of them all, Vivian Campbell, aka The Journeyman, the North Irish, Belfast, rock and metal sensation outshines in the most important category of the musicians of the mighty 80s.
Having set his fingers on the chords at the tender age of 12, the bond Campbell developed with guitars in his childhood only strengthened over time as he practiced and learned the intricacies of the strings and chords. By the time Campbell set his feet in the professional music domain at the platform of Sweet Savage, despite being an amateur in the pool of professionals and maestros, he made a quick and promising start of his professional career.
Two years later, he bid farewell to Sweet Savage and joined Dio as the main guitarist, substituting Jake E. Lee. Although Vivian’s association with the Dio only brought in more success and fame to the band, the collaboration didn’t last for long, and Campbell eventually parted his way in 1986.
Whitesnake turned out to be the next milestone in his career. However, the association became even more short-lived than what he had with the Dio. Vivian worked with some music groups later only to make a breakthrough in his career, as he joined Def Leppard in 1992, replacing their deceased guitarist Steve Clark.
The association turned out to be incredibly symbiotic for the band as well as Vivian. The void created by Clark was efficiently filled by Campbell for good, who proved his mettle in his debut performance with Def Leppard. Not looking back since, the band, with Vivian Campbell on board, delivered a fiery performance at the stage of ‘Freddie Mercury Concert for Life.’ Vivian’s association with Def Leppard made an incredible addition to his profile, with last hit records like Retro Active (1993), Slang (1996), Euphoria (1999), X (2002), Yeah! (2006), Songs from the Sparkle Lounge (2008), Mirror Ball – Live and More (2011), Viva! Hysteria (2013), and Def Leppard (2015).
Besides casting his spell at Def Leppard’s platform, Vivian Campbell also worked over his solo ventures and released his personal album titled ‘Two Sides of If,’ featuring some interesting cover editions. He also convinced Jimmy Bain, Vinny Appice, and Andrew Freeman, the former Dio members, to reform and launch their own ‘Last in line, an American heavy metal band, in 2012. The band released their album Heavy Crown in 2016.
Vivian Campbell’s’ music career can be summarized as being punctuated with historic highs and lows, yet the maestro only excelled at his expertise through consistent dabs of style, finesse, versatility, and creativity. Vivian Campbell has managed to maintain his charm and vigor with an evergreen and unforgettable personality. At present, he is suffering from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and is under intense treatment through stem cell therapy and regular courses of immune therapies. However, with his natural liveliness that is a signature hallmark of his playing style, he is optimistic to tame the disease and looks forward to doing more stints in his career profile.
How is the Last in Line Tour going?
It’s not a tour yet. We’ve been weekend warriors for the last couple of weekends. We did three shows Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and then the following week we did the same just on the west coast out here. It doesn’t feel like we’re on tour yet, but we will be because we are heading to Europe on Tuesday for a solid month worth of shows over there. So, that will feel more like the real thing. The six shows that we have completed through here on the west coast that is evolving significantly. The response is fantastic, and it’s very encouraging. We need to get out and play more. I read a lot on social media people want to see us play in Texas, out west, Detroit, Canada, New Jersey and New York you know. It’s difficult on this level when you’re playing clubs. Exceptionally difficult from an economic point of view. I’m not even talking about making any money; I’m talking about not losing your shirt for the privilege. We’ll try to do something in 2017. Def Leppard’s not going to be too busy next year, so I’ll have a bit more time, and hopefully, we’ll be able to put something else together. Like I said the economics of it are complicated.
I can imagine because you do not have any Florida dates on here, I kept looking. The Last in Line album that I mean, Jimmy Baine RIP, that album rocked! As soon as it came out, l was like this had it, it just did, it reminded me of you, Vinny Appice, I forgot how you pronounce it
They both pronounce it. Differently Carmine says Appice (A-peace) and Vinny says Appice (Ap-pacie)
What I was saying
Yeah, that means that the record was great! We were pleased with how it came out and the response to it apparently, you know, Jimmy passing away when he did, that was a major blow to us. We had a tour planned. You know a pretty comprehensive North American club tour was in place for March, April, and May of this year. When Jimmy passed away we immediately just canceled those plans apparently. It took us a little while to regroup and rethink what it was we wanted to do, and in the end, we felt that we owed it to Jimmy, and we owed it to ourselves to do something with the record because it did so well. You know we had incredible responses as I said. This record meant a lot to Jimmy. He put his heart and soul into it. You know something that ticked me off when Jimmy died was that so many people immediately jumped to the conclusion that his past was associated with his addictions and that wasn’t the case at all. For the last year and a half or two years of Jimmy’s life, he was very sober, and he was very focused. Being in this band, writing and recording this album was his focus in the last couple years of his life, and it meant a lot to him. And Jimmy felt like it was his band. He was very creatively involved in it. He even went out and got a Last in Line tattoo. It was the only tattoo he had. So, you know it was hurtful that a lot of people just jumped to that conclusion that he died because of his former addictions. His addiction, he won that battle. Finally, you know.
Well, that’s too bad. I liked Jimmy a lot. He was on all the Dio albums and like I said when your Last in Line album came out there was a great response to it. Do you feel like, I don’t know if the word redemption is the exact word I’m looking for but do you think that with this album you’re kind of getting some closure you think of previous Dio albums where you thought, I just read that you didn’t get individual credit for writing stuff and all that? Do you think this is kind of redemption for that because the other albums didn’t sound so fantastic?
Well, Yes. It does make it clear that the sound of the band is the result of some of the parts, you know. The band was called DIO for obvious reasons. I mean Ronnie was the damaged one. It wouldn’t have made any sense to call it Appice or Campbell. It’s a long story that whole Dio thing.
I got you
Let me just back up by saying none of this happened, this Last in Line project it happened by accident at the time. This wasn’t an intentional thing. It just grew out of a jam. One thing led to another and even when we were first starting several years ago when we were first starting playing shows as Last in Line we were just doing the songs that we had written and recorded with Ronnie from the first three Dio albums. Our intentions were very much just a fun side project. We weren’t thinking about writing and recording music. It was only when Frontier Records approached us in 2013 they offered us a record deal. They asked if we’d be interested in writing and recording the music. Honestly up to that point we had never even thought of it. That’s when we sat down, and we talked and decided that that would be the next natural progression you know. So, went about writing the record and recording very much in the way we had gotten with Holy Diver with Ronnie and that’s not to say that we were trying to make a record that sounded like Holy Diver, but we wanted to set up similar parameters. When the band Dio was formed, Ronnie had one and a half songs. He had the title track Holy Diver, and he had half the idea of a song that would go on to become Don’t Talk to Strangers. The rest of the album was written with Jimmy, Vinny and I. The way that it was written is that we would go into a rehearsal room and that was usually just Vinny and Jimmy and myself. We’d go into the room in the afternoon, and I would have an idea for a riff or Jimmy would have an idea for a riff or if neither of us had an idea to start with Vinny would just play a beat and I’d always find Vinny Appice, the most inspiring drummer I’ve ever played with. When Vinny plays, even if I don’t have anything to bring to the party, we’d just jam something that would come up with an incredible idea for a song. So, that’s how a lot of the early Dio songs were written, and that’s how everything on the Heavy Crown album was written they all grew out of jams, and we don’t sweat it much, we don’t think much about what kind of song we want to write or what direction we want the album to go in. There’s none of that bullshit. There’s no preconceived notion of what the records were going to be. It’s just if somebody has an idea we just go with it we don’t think about it a lot it’s very straightforward organic hard rock music. Going back to the Holy Diver album, Ronnie would come in in the evening, and we’d play him what we had, and sometimes he would say, “no I don’t hear that” or other times he would say “ok, that sounds good.” He always had books with lyrics, he’d sit down and listen to what we had, and we’d play it for him a couple of times he’d step up to the mic, and he’d start singing. Other times he would start changing the arrangement and say I hear this part saying this, so we’d start rearranging the building blocks of it, but it all happened very quickly. Within a couple of days, we’d have a song written and then when we came to the recording of the Holy Diver record it was again very organic we cut the tracks live, guitar, bass, drums, Ronnie singing a scratch vocal, I double the rhythm track, we’d do the lead vocal, do the guitar solo, bang! The mix was done. There are very few mix embellishments on the record. We also did much of the Heavy Crown album the same way. We recorded tracks live; I’d double the rhythm track, we’d do a couple of minor guitar embellishments here and there. I’d do the solo, and we’d do the vocal, and away we’d go. Also, when we went in to do the Heavy Crown record, it meant that we had parted ways with Claude Schnell, the original keyboard player. Again, because we were going back to the way we approached the Holy Diver record and Claude was not part of the band when we wrote and recorded Holy Diver. Ronnie brought him in at the end of the record, and that’s when the keyboard embellishments were done. Even the keyboard in Rainbow in The Dark that was Jimmy Bain that played that, he wrote it, so keyboards were not part of the creative process of the early Dio band. In fact, they only became so in the Sacred Heart album. That was the first time that we wrote with Claude. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that Jimmy, Vinny and I that’s when we were having issues creatively with Ronnie. We kind of all felt that Ronnie was trying to bring keyboards into the sound of Dio too much that we were getting away from the original guitar, drums, vocal vibe of the original Dio band. None of us had particularly good feelings about the Sacred Heart album, but there were also a lot of business things going on with Ronnie then. Ronnie was in a very dark place when we were doing Sacred Heart that’s when he was divorcing from Wendy. He was miserable; he was very moody. Nobody wanted to be in the studio when we were making that record. We all would just go in do our parts and leave which was very different from Holy Diver and Last in Line records where we were very much all encouraging each other we were all in the studio all day every day. It was very much a group effort, but that is the assigned job with all of this. You know a lot of people were wondering why we parted ways with Claude, which was the major component that we wanted to clear it with our keyboards. It was important to Jimmy, Vinny and I that we did. Apparently, that made a difficult situation for Claude. When we did the Heavy Crown album, we just wanted to approach it in the writing and recording aspect and very much as we had done in the Holy Diver and the original Last in Line record with Ronnie.
Well, it does, it sounds phenomenal. You left DIO back in what ’86? I saw you on the Holy Diver tour
” I GOT FIRED HALFWAY THROUGH THE SACRED HEART TOUR”
I think it was ’85. We had gone tour for Sacred Heart, and we had done the first leg of the tour which was a North American tour although I think it was the second leg of North America where Craig Goldy perform. We finished the first leg of the tour of North America, and we were supposed to start in the UK, and I GOT FIRED in the transition, and they brought in Craig Goldy. I think it was ’85 sometime. I would like to make emphasis on the point that I was fired from the band. So many people here 30 something years later people still think that I left DIO, I didn’t leave DIO. It was never my intention to leave the band. I was fired from the band. The reason I was fired from the band was that I refused to accept a contract that they offered me which was contrary to the original agreement Ronnie had made with Jimmy, Vinny and myself when the band was first formed. Wendy had different ideas for how it was going to be, and for me, it was a matter of principle, and I refused to sign the contract, and that’s why I was fired.
Ok. I had read so much back when Metal Edge was around that time and Hit Parader we read so many kinds of different stuff that you were fired, that you quit
Back then there were no social media, so the only way for me to counterwhat the DIO camp was putting out in the press was for me to hire a publicist to get out my side of the story. I couldn’t have afforded to do that back then and obviously; I didn’t. That’s one of the things that hurt me because not only was I fired from the band I put my heart and soul into for three albums, but I would think the stain in the press that I was the one that turned my back on the band. It was absolutely 100% untrue, so that left a bitter taste in my mouth for many many years which is why I didn’t want anything to do with DIO or the band or even that genre of music for so long. You know I’ll admit that I was foolish for saying some very hurtful things in the press, as was Ronnie, we both said some unnecessary and nasty shit about each other, but you know you do that when you’re hurt.
Yes, I understand. A lot of people 30 years later like Guns & Roses and all them are reuniting and all, they put everything behind them. Do you think if Ronnie was alive, do you think you could do the same and reunite?
I think Ronnie and me fundamentally never had a problem. I don’t believe we would have ever worked again if Wendy Dio was involved in his career. Wendy was the one who was never on the same page as the rest of us. She never saw us as being a band. Wendy always thought like ten Ozzy Osbourne’s she saw it as Ronnie and his backing band. She didn’t care who was in Ronnie’s band. She’s not musical. She doesn’t know that the sign of a great band is the sum of the parts. It’s not just about the singer. You know it would have been one thing to put Ronnie out on tour behind a bunch of fierce fewer musicians if Ronnie was the one who created all the music in the first place. That was never the point, Ronnie never did. We created it as a band look at the writing credits on any of the first three DIO records, yes there’s a couple of songs like Don’t Talk to Strangers and Holy Diver like I said that was Ronnie’s songs, everything else we wrote together and in fact, you know I could go on. Jimmy Bain and I we wrote, we rocked. Ronnie was not a guitar player; he didn’t write those riffs. We didn’t get credit for a lot of the songs we wrote, and that’s all well and good. I’m not bitching or anything like that that is water under the bridge. We very very much created as a band and that’s what made those first records so special. Wendy doesn’t understand that she’s not a musician. Ronnie knew that. That’s why when the band was formed there were four people in the room, and Wendy Dio was not one of them. Me and Jimmy and Vinny and Ronnie and Ronnie made a promise to us that by the third album Sacred Heart we would have an equity situation at that point, we got none of the records, none of the tour receipts, none of the t-shirts, none of the mechanicals. We got paid less than the road crew which was awkward. Somewhere along the way Ronnie kind of lost sight of that. Wendy pushed him toward being a solo act. The original DIO band was not a solo act. The original DIO band was a four-piece creative unit, and Wendy never understood that. So, Ronnie and I, I think would have been fine. Hypothetically if somebody else, if Ronnie had a proper manager and not his ex-wife, I would have never been fired from the band and Ronnie, and I would’ve never had an issue. I mean our relationship was always a little catchy. It was an awkward relationship. We didn’t communicate very well together on a personal level but on a musical level we worked together. We worked well. So, to answer your question, would I have gotten back together with Ronnie? Yes, but Wendy Dio never would have never allowed it to happen if she was involved in his career. Right up until his death she was involved in his career, I’m going to go with No on that.
Did you write any credits to We’re Stars where everybody got together? Did you write anything about that? Did you write any of the leads or anything?
Jimmy Bain and I wrote the music for that. It was while we were doing the Sacred Heart album. We brought it to Ronnie and like I said when we were doing Sacred Heart earlier Ronnie was in a very dark, very stressed place in his lifetime. So, we brought this idea to Ronnie to do this project I asked him to help us and would he write the lyrics. At first Ronnie said no then he changed his mind and he came back to us later and he agreed he would be involved in the project and it was at that point that Wendy took over a lot of the management of the Stars project and took it away from Jimmy and me which is ok because we needed that official sort of DIO involvement for us to make it happen. It would have never happened without that. Yes, Ronnie wrote the lyrics, Jimmy and I wrote the music.
Having all that immense talent coming in there, you’ve had everybody from George Lynch; you had Yngwie Malmsteen you had all them. Then you had I know that Wendy has talked about remastering that. That’s one of the soundtracks that I’ve been after for years, and you can’t find them except for in Japan for like $500.00. Have you heard anything about that? Or is it kind of a conversation you’re not privileged to?
Yes, Wendy took it over. My involvement in the project stopped like I said we wrote the songs and took them to Ronnie. I worked the phones extensively with our lady who was a deal publicist back then, and I utilized her connections, and I’d go to her office every day, and I’d get on the phone, and I’d call people. I’d be calling people I never met in my life you know, “Hi my name is Vivian Campbell, I play guitar for Dio” I had my whole schpeel done, tell them what we’re doing. I’d ask if they can get involved in it. So, we did, my involvement with the entire project ended that night after we had done the recording session. That was it, from that point on I had nothing to do with it.
You’re Last in Line, you have the Dio Disciples which Wendy manages.
Is there any or was there any comparisons? Did anybody give you any flack about Last in Line? Because of the Dio Disciples, have they said that Wendy’s involvement makes them “Official.”
Well, I know that it’s more official if Wendy Dio manages that band or the original DIO band put a real band together when we started doing the Last in Line project I had to go to extremes sometimes to explain to people the difference between the Dio Disciples and us. Dio Disciples are a tribute band. No one in that band was part of the original DIO band, no one! Not like one person. Where on Last in Line you had 75% of the original DIO band. People were referring to us as a tribute band you cannot be a tribute band if you are the original band. Obviously, Andrew Freeman is not Ronnie. So, it’s not the original DIO band which is why we didn’t call it DIO obviously
Andrew Freeman knows his thing
It’s a good thing. It’s technically incorrect to refer to Last in Line as a tribute band. We cannot be a tribute band because we are the original DIO members. The group superseded all that once we started writing and recording music it became something very very different
When you got fired and then joined Whitesnake how did that go? Did David Coverdale call you up?
No. The Whitesnake band was put together by John Kalodner; he was an analog guy for Geffen Records back in the ’80’s. In a nutshell, the album was written by John Sykes and David Coverdale. The album was recorded, and John Sykes played all but one of the guitar solos on the record. John Sykes played 97% guitar on the album to pick a figure or something like that, but he and Coverdale parted ways. So basically, they brought in some session musicians to finish off the record. They sweetened it; they could hear real potential. They brought in a keyboard guy and did several different mixes for certain singles and stuff. It was a very well-orchestrated camp, and they knew they had a big record on their hands, and they find themselves in the situation where they didn’t have a band it was the zenith of the MTV era you know where they had the hair metal. John Kolodner had the idea to put together a superstar band that would-be image driven, video group. So, the first thing, he called me and asked me if I’d be interested, and he sent me a copy of the record, and as soon as I heard the record, I knew it was going to be huge. It’s monster playing and writing from John Sykes.
John’s a great player. Very underrated too
He is, yes! People to this day don’t even realize that’s his record that’s his writing and his playing. Not mine, not Adrian Vandenberg. I feel sorry for him because he is missing the credit for that. It was a great record; it went to number 1 in the U.S. and sold gazillion copies, the tour was immensely successful. With the band, the first thing we did was we met on a video set, and we shot a couple of videos over the period of a few days, and then we went into rehearsal and started playing together. On paper, we were an excellent musical unit regarding pedigree but in my opinion and I do not mean this to be offensive in any way shape or form but I don’t think that we gelled on a musical level certainly not like the original DIO band. That was real chemistry. When Vinny and Jimmy and I played together right from the first moment, we played together in London in 1982 when I auditioned there was an immediate chemistry to the original DIO band that was undeniable. When I played with Vinny and Jimmy again in 2011 for the first time in 27 years that chemistry was immediate again. I don’t believe that Whitesnake lineup ever had that chemistry. We were brought together despairingly to make music videos, and I think that set the tone in a way we were more of a performance band than we were a solid musical group and that has nothing to do with the pedigree of the performers. I mean Tommy Aldridge, Rudy Sarzo and Adrian Vandenberg, Coverdale and myself I mean every one of us has a pedigree and experiences, but I don’t feel we ever had that magic and musical connection and like I said I don’t say that to sound disrespectful to the other guys in the band in any way because that’s not what I mean. I just say for nine years it just never gelled as a unit on a musical level.
Wasn’t your solo remixed in the Give Me All Your Love video?
Yes. That’s the only thing I recorded with Whitesnake. We went in and mixed that track. I did a guitar solo on it. By then what was supposed to be the follow-up album that’s when the wheels were starting to fall off. I knew. David was writing with Adrian, and they had a good thing going on together, and that’s David came and said he was going to write the record with Adrian and from that point on I could tell that I didn’t have a future in the band. I wasn’t going to be in a group that I couldn’t participate in, but I fully respected his decision to want to write with Adrian. They had a connection that David and I didn’t so be it
It sounds like Jake E Lee with Ozzy Osbourne he didn’t get any credit on those albums like you did with DIO it’s just the similarities your telling me it sounds like with Sharon on Ozzy and Jake on those couple of albums
Yes, I’ve heard a lot from other people who have worked with Ozzy as well that the Osbourne’s do that a lot. Have you write songs for them and you sign it away. It’s a timeworn school concept, not something I agree with. I don’t think it makes for good music. I believe that you must keep your employee’s happy if you know what I mean. People must feel like there a part of something to bring out the best in them. That’s why the early DIO records were much more vital because even though Jimmy and Vinny and I got nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing from those early records we were promised that by the third record we would. So, we were working towards it. We were a team we were in the trenches together. Like I said nobody left the studio early. We were all encouraging one another, bringing out the best of each other, making suggestions. By the time we got to Sacred Heart, it was evident that that wasn’t going to materialize. What had been promised to us was not going to happen that’s when it started to go sour. You know when we did the Heavy Crown record with Andrew we split everything on that record twenty-five percent for each guy. It doesn’t matter who had the idea for a song where it started or who contributed what it’s a full four-way split on that record and that’s part of the reason I honestly believe it’s an excellent record because everyone is in it together. When you’re working as a team you bring your best; you bring your A-game when you know you’re writing a song for someone, and he’s not even going to put your name on it you’re less inclined to want to bring your A-game. Even like a song We Rock where Jimmy and I we be involved in that song but we have no writing credit in it we were kind of ok with that at the time because we had writing credit on other songs on the record and us still trying to work toward the end goal that Ronnie had promised us you know. It’s unfortunate that it didn’t turn out to be, but it’s part of the pitfalls of the music industry.
True. When you worked with Lou Graham, and then you did your Riverdogs album did you have input there? Was that entirely different creativity for you?
Riverdogs is a very different project. Everyone wrote in Riverdogs, but the majority of the songs in Riverdogs were already written by Rob Lamothe when I got involved with the band when I first worked with Riverdogs it was as a producer. I was producing demos for them. They already had a guitar player. It was never my intentions to join the band, in fact, I was with Whitesnake when I first started working with them, but it was one of those things where the Whitesnake thing was starting to fall apart, and Riverdogs were losing patience with their guitar player and I ended up segwaying into that band. So yes, that was a very different thing.
How do you like the current state with Def Leppard? Are you enjoying doing that?
Well, it’s been 25 years. Def Leppard is a unique band in every aspect. How the band creates. How the band performs live. You know I’m still the new guy. I’m going to be forever the Ronnie Wood of Def Leppard. You know Ronnie Wood’s been in the Stones for close to 40 years, and I’ve been 25 years with Leppard. It’s a very different challenge for me being in Def Leppard. It’s challenged me as a songwriter to grow and to think in a variety of ways. I’ve learned an awful lot from being in the band. It’s challenged me as a singer. I’ve become much more proficient vocally than I ever was. That was important to me. I always wanted to sing. I didn’t do that with DIO, but from everything after DIO, Whitesnake, Riverdogs, Def Leppard I’ve been very active as a singer and Def Leppard is a big challenge for me on the singing. That’s the big challenge for all of us. There are so many intense vocals in each song that Def Leppard does it’s kind of cathartic to me in a different kind of muscle that I exercise when I go on stage with Last in Line because Last in Line I do not sing at all. I just play guitar, and it’s very challenging guitar to me in Last in Line to play the original DIO songs. To play the songs from the Heavy Crown album. It’s a very different muscle that I’m exercising than when I’m on stage with Def Leppard. Def Leppard is an incredible band, and I was always a fan even from the early day’s way before I knew Joe way before I became part of the group. I was very much a Def Leppard fan, and I followed them in their career since day one, so it was quite a privilege to be able to join the band back in ’92
My last question, how is your health? Are you doing alright?
It’s a work in progress. I mean it’s as good as it can be. Sometimes it’s one step forward, two steps back but I’m happy with where I am right now. The kind of treatment I am doing right now is called Immunotherapy, and I’m taking a drug called Pembrolizumab which is the same thing that cured Jimmy Carter’s melanoma. I’m taking that as part of a clinical trial. It’s FDA approved. I’ve been on it for a year and a half. At the very least it is holding my tumors where they are, and it might even be slowly starting to shrink them. I can do the treatment for about another 7 to 8 months so by summer of next year I’m going to have to possibly consider doing something else because I don’t think it’s going to cure it but at least I can continue to work with this treatment. There are minimal side effects. It’s not like doing chemo or anything its very benign very easy and the schedule is enough where it allows me to work I just must come back to LA every 3 or 4 weeks to do the infusions. So, for now, it’s good. Next summer I don’t know I might have to do radiation or something, combination therapy. I don’t know. That’s going to be next summer’s problem
I wish you the best like I said I would give some prayers on I hope a full recovery.
Thank you, Andrew,
You need a solo record out there too!
Well I know between Riverdogs and Def Leppard, there’s not a lot of time for that. Plus, my health. I got to jump. Nice to talk to you!
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.
Copyright 2016 by All That Shreds
Dedicated to the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal Guitarist!