Don't Fear The Wicked Maiden - Chris Impellitteri speak's out!!
Chris Impellitteri is no stranger to the world of guitar wizardry, along side the likes of Paul Gilbert (Racer X), Marty Friedman (Cacophony), Jason Becker (Cacophony), Steve Vai, Yngwie Malmsteen, Chris is one of the truest guitarist who has not wimped out or sold out and has continued to carry on as a guitar shredder. With the band starting out 1992 Chris has continued to carry the band forward and making each album shred as it should do so. With the release of the bands 1st mini e.p. 'Impellitteri' which featured the current singer Rob Rock was a great introduction to the beginning to what was to come. The band released their debut album 'Stand In Line' with former Rainbow front man Graham Bonnet, which was a very impressive debut album and Chris continued to release a further albums such as 'Grin & Bear It' in 92, 'Answer To The Master' in 94 to more albums such as 'System X', 'Pedal To The Metal', and now their new album 'Wicked Maiden' in 2009. The bands current line-up is Rob Rock – vocals, Chris Impellitteri – guitar, James Amelio Pulli – bass, Edward Harris Roth – keyboard, Glen Sobel – drums. Chris speaks out about the new album and the future plans for the band. So what does this Wicked Maiden have over the band, Chris explains!!
Lets start by asking you about the 'System X' CD, this was the last time I had the pleasure of interviewing you when I was doing the fanzine. Just how successful was that album for you?
"Well that album did pretty well actually in Japan, not too bad in Europe but not great and it served it purpose and it was an album that I wanted to do with Graham Bonnet and I personally hated 'Stand In Line'. (ED: Why?) Well I will tell you why, I have a certain music taste and when I was growing up as a kid I listened to metal music, like Maiden, Priest, Van Halen, Ozzy, and that was my thing. So the very first record I did with Impellitteri was the 4 song black e.p. which was self titled. The playing and singer was great but the production sucked, which sounded like a bootleg with only 2 microphones in a arena and it sounds really distant sounding. I've heard better bootlegs in sound. It should that we were a metal band after that point Rob had left the band and I didn't know what to do with regards to finding a replacement. So I remember see in Graham Bonnet in Alcatrazz & Rainbow, MSG, so I did the record as a 1 off thing as a fun thing but it was not going to be a true Impellitteri metal thing. That record 'Stand In Line' actually blow up and sold a lot of records, and to me I don't like that record. I was getting labeled as the wrong music which always pissed me off. (ED: Was it the fact that Graham always wore Hawaii shirts, that pissed off Richie Blackmore). No not at all (laughing), I loved that about Graham that he would wear those shirts, he was just so different and he looked like James Dean. We had the hair and he didn't fit in and he just wanted to be different. He had a awesome voice, very powerful. When we did the 'System X' CD we wanted to do a different album that would be more of a metal album, something I wanted to do with Graham. That was the idea and for those people who wanted the Graham, Chris metal thing got it."
If there is 1 song that stood out from the rest of the 'Stand In Line' album it had to be 'Over The Rainbow', why did you do that, it's a great version haha!! Are you still friends with Graham?
"That song actually was never meant to be on the record, we ended up not having enough material for that record and the label asked us to put another song on the record. So we didn't have a clue what to record, and I remembered see in a guy in a bar playing that song on a acoustic, his name is Jay Johnson he was amazing and he had a band called 'Crier', and when I was a little kid I use to watch him. His version of that song just ruled, so we just re-recorded it which was the same version as they did but I played the fast guitar solos which was fun. Yeah I am still friends with Graham, but I haven't spoke to him in a while. He is a great person and a good friend, and to be honest I was very comfortable working with him within the band because he is old enough to be my dad, and the relationship always seemed weird. I couldn't relate to him because I wasn't his age, I am a metal guy ha he hates metal. He is one of the most unique and very powerful singers around, weather you like his voice or not he is just incredible singers around, there is something unique about him. I remember the 80's, every band sounded pretty much the same but when you hear Graham you know it is him, same thing with Dio and Halford, you just know it's them."
The next album to come along after 'System X' was 'Pedal To The Metal', just how successful was that album compared to 'System X' album? How do you see that album as a progression from the last one?
"(laughing) 'Pedal To The Metal' was a disaster!! Well nobody really under stood the concept of that album, and the record was a parody and it became a rip off of what other people were doing, it was almost comedy. It had a feel of rap style singing on that record, it was kind of like a goof on people like M.M., and one of the songs was suppose to be like M.M. and making fun of rap music and we also did a In Flames rip off, Disturbed, Yngwie, we did everybody pretty much and we also put our own stamp on it just to piss people off. It was meant to be a tribute to all the cool metal bands and I like bands like In Flames, Disturbed, and it was not an insult to those bands. People were saying to me that we were ripping them off and they really didn't get the whole concept of that record, we were not trying to be serious. I'm a guitar shredder and it was fun doing that record as a project, but we stopped it as our hardcore fans were emailing us and telling us to stop this crazy shit, so we stopped it and went back to playing real metal music."
You had a different singer on that record who was Curtis Skelton, how did you find him?
"Well he had a great voice, kind of a hard rock, blues singer and I don't see him now as he lives in Texas & I live in California, but he is a great singer a good unique voice."
Why did you leave SPV Records? Was it the fact that 'Pedal To The Metal' didn't do so well or was you looking for another label?
"No we were not dropped by SPV, I was going to go back to them for this record, but that label kind of disappointed me because they seem to be a label that would set you up with x amount of cash for your record and we will only promote it to that point in the record when the record will die and we will do nothing to promote there after or beyond that. There was no way I was going to stay with a label for 'Wicked Maiden' who had a decent distribution but would not promote it enough as I feel this is one of the best albums I have done. So we went for the option of going with 'Metal Heaven' records which Matt Sinner (Primal Fear) set the deal up for us, and they are a very passionate label who seemed to promote the bands well. I thought that it seemed like the right idea, so we signed with that label instead. To me the record industry has changed a lot sine the early days and I would rather be with a label that has a strong distribution and I was told that 'Metal Heaven' have just that. They have the same distributors as SPV have, so it seemed like the right choice. Our new label are taking out 3 quarter page ads out in various metal magazines and in our contract it states that they will advertise in very major metal magazine. I really don't know of any band that can really pull that off unless our Metallica."
Do you feel that you would of got as much advertising if Rob wasn't back in the band as your singer?
"I agree, it is very crucial that Rob is back in the band, because with the internet I listen too what the fans are saying about us, they all want Rob back in the band, so I had to get him back with us. For me I don't want anybody else to sing for Van Halen other than Dave Lee Roth, and for me it is the same, without Rob it just isn't the same. What I consider the best albums we have done are the ones with Rob Rock handling the vocals. I believe that he gives us more incredibility in Europe, and I am the driving force for the U.S. and Japan, but Rob is for Europe."
If you didn't have Rob Rock in the band, who would you have as the front man doing the next record?
"I really don't know, I would go for somebody like Bruce from Iron Maiden. (ED: What about Tim Owens?) Great singer, he has a great voice, but I don't want somebody who sounds like somebody else I want somebody who has their own identity."
Out of all the guitar shredders that were once was back in the day like Paul Gilbert etc.. you are the only one around now with Yngwie, why is that do you think?
"Well I guess Yngwie is god at what he does and he has not sold out, and for me I don't want to make the same record over and over again, but at the same time I don't want to sell out. I do change my style from time to time and we do change our style just to grow and to evolve and experiment and we don't make the same record over and over again as it is just too boring."
Lets talk about the line-up, you still have the same line-up I believe!
"Yeah it's still the same band members, it's Rob Rock, James Amelio Pulli, Edward Harris Roth. Glen Sobel. I worked with some young guys and Brandon Wild (drums) helped me out. I worked with him on the new album just to give me that youthful vibe but in the end Glen ended up doing the whole album from start to finish."
Have you done a promo video for any of the songs from the new album?
"Yeah we have, haven't you seen the video for the song 'Last Of The Dying Breed'? It's great Jase, lots of amps, nice lighting show and we did it with a guy who has worked with Def Leppard, God Smack. You can see the video at: www.impellitterifanclub.info check it out!!"
Tell me a little bit about the art work for the new album 'Wicked Maiden', how did it come about?
art work was done by Ann Stokes, he is totally amazing and she to me is the
Derek Riggs (Iron Maiden) of this generation. We wanted some thing that would
appeal to us and be our mascot in a way, so that has become our stage prop. We
did have other concepts in mind for the record, but this 1 just blow us away!!
Ann had done is art work previously and we found it and it totally amazed us, so
we had to get a hold of the artist. The girl in the songs is actually her and we
wanted to have this art work at all costs!!"
Why did you deice to call the album 'Wicked Maiden', did you have any other titles in mind?
"There is a great story behind that song, basically the song and the lyrics are about a war machine, I wrote the intro and Rob turned the lyrics onto it. The opening line is 'You Run from the wicked maiden, she's a war machine', and I originally wrote is as 'You Run from the wicked maiden, from all her fury and wrath' and what is was about is when I was writing the music Iron Maiden were on tour on the 'Oz Fest' tour and there was a uproar between Maiden and Ozzy & Sharon. What happened was that Maiden and Ozzy were fighting really bad on that tour, that Bruce Dickenson on stage would be saying to the crowd that they don't need a TV show to make them big, and with that Sharon had enough. So with that, they started messing with Maiden's sound, giving them half the power or cutting the power and on 1 of the last shows Sharon had all of the roadies put masks on and harassing Bruce whilst on stage whilst Maiden were playing and then cut their power off. So basically Bruce & Maiden made a big statement in the press saying 'Fuck Ozzy'. So where this goes, here in America the kids don't say anything bad about Ozzy or Black Sabbath and after this all the Maiden fans were saying that Ozzy suck and vise versa and in the end it was the first time I had seen Ozzy and Sharon running with their tails between their legs running for cover, which was funny. I guess you could say that Sharon is the wicked maiden!! I guess that is how the whole song start really."
On the new album you have 10 new songs, so who writes the lyrics and the songs? Is it Rob who writes all the lyrics and yourself who writes the music? Is it hard writing when Rob lives in Florida? Also how long did it take to write these songs?
pretty much so, I think I wrote pretty much almost all the song for 'Garden Of
Eden' and Rob wrote all the other songs. Well when we are doing the demo's, we
write them as a band, without Rob as we all live here in California. I would
send him the demos through the internet to his studio and it is so much faster
and it seems like we are in the same studio together. Well it took the band
about a year and a half to write the whole album. Why? Well because we wanted
the album to sound as if we were growing together again, evolving as a band, and
something that would excite the fans. I don't know if we did or not, but the
idea was to challenge ourselves to take this to a level were we had not been to
before. I wanted to make a album that would rival 5 albums that I grew up with,
they were: Van Halen (vol1), Ozzy 'Bizzard Of Oz', Metallica 'Master Of
Puppets', Pantera 'Cowboys From Hell' & Yngwie Malmsteen 'Trilogy', which
they all had an impact on me. I want to make an album that would stand up to
those albums in years to come, this was a task that would be very hard to
complete as they are magical albums. When I said this in the press, they thought
I was arrogant and a idiot (ED: I know you ain't arrogant Chris) I was just
trying to say that it is a goal for me to try to achieve this if I can!! I
wanted to make the best album I could do so far, and I hope we have done this!!
I believe that this album has 4-5 great songs, but by far this is not a great
record. The other songs are great to play live but there not great by far. I
think the song 'Wicked Maiden' is a great song and when I heard it back when it
was done with the mix etc.. I was blown away by the sound of it. It took so long
to record because we set the ball rolling so high and we were chancing a dream
goal and we want it to make a mark in the future and if we have just 3 songs out
of the 5 that make an impact then we have achieved that goal."
So where was the album recorded? Was it L.A. or Florida?
"Well it was done all over the world and we started it in California just outside of Beverly Hills and it was recorded at the 'Village Recorders' and it is the same place where the Red Hot Chilie Peppers record their albums. It is a very popular recording studio and when we were recording 'Wicked Maiden' album was Chris from Cold Play in the lounge and so it has a great vibe there. We were so fucking loud Jason, that the studio manager asked us if we could take a break as they were trying to record some work upstairs and our sound was leaking and upsetting the other recording (laughing). We were like 'Fuck that, we ain't turning it down!!) We were like Spinal Tap with our amps going to 11 haha!! So in the end we did most of the basic stuff their and we recorded live as a band. If we make a mistake we would re-record that part later on using Pro-Tools. I did a lot of the guitar stuff at my own studio in Malabo (California) which is a pretty major studio and then when we got that right we took the music from a 2" tape which were on spoolers and sent that back into Pro-Tools and then we gave that to Rob Rock who did the vocals in Florida. Rob wanted to work on his own and to figure out and he wanted to make this album magical."
So what are the songs about on the record, we've already talked about the title track, what about the others?
"Ok well 'Last Of The Dying Breed', that is actually one of my favourites. That is more directed towards the driven metal sound that you might hear from a classic metal band, but it's fast and it reminds me of the Scandinavian de-tuned guitar sound. It has a real deep sounding sound but it is also classic us. Rob wrote that song about something you mentioned earlier Jason, that I am one of the last guitar shredders out there. There are a lot of kids playing fast but in our generation they seem to be dying away. Next is 'Weapons Of Mass Distortion', that song is about the media, were there is always a hidden message behind what the media is saying. People like George Bush who would be saying one thing and really trying to cover up what he was doing. Same thing with the media, so many people get inundated with so much information and so many options that you never really hear the true, so everything get blown out of per portion. Next is 'Garden Of Eden', it reminds me of the 80's (Laughing) and what I like about that song is the guitar riff, and everybody knows I can shred but for me it's about the riff. For me 'Crazy Train' by Ozzy is awesome, great riffs and the 'Garden Of Eden' has that certain riff to it that you will remember. When I hear that song it almost reminds me of me ripping it off from Y&T, I think the song is called 'Mean Streak', Robs voice is nice and raw and it gives me a great vibe. Next is 'The Vision', this is a strange song, because it is very orchestral where it starts off with a cool intro and it goes into a slow Pantera style of riff and the chorus picks up and I think it is unique and interested. 'Eyes Of A Angel', that is were we become pussy's (laughing) and we thought if there are going to be any girls in the audience we should at least give them a song!! Next is 'High School Revolution', that song speaks to a generation to every kid who wants to get the fuck out of school and that is your song. 'Wonderful Life', that song is about some of my neighbors and I live in a area were things are very materialistic and a fairly expensive area and I do have the mansion and I have security guards and I see a lot of people living beyond their means. There's people who want to live the dream life and in the end we all live beyond our means, we are living on pretty much credit cards etc... It's pretty much about people wanting more but they don't have the real means to do so. Next is 'Holy Man', Rob wrote that song, it's a really good song too. It's about Christ and the power within, and when I wrote the song it was more of a progressive tune with odd time changes and it is one of those song were you have it listen to it a few times before you get into it. Last is 'The Battle Rages On', that is one of the 1st songs we wrote and we were recording it at like 3am in the morning whilst people were walking into to studio. It's just a cool song to play live and record."
So who produced the album was it you and Rob? Who would you like to work with?
"No actually I co-produced the album with Greg Really, Greg has worked with Fear Factory, Devil Driver, a lot of Roadrunner record recording artists. I'd love to work with Andy Sneap but the fucker never replied to my emails!! I'd love to work with him, I think he is a great producer. I wanted to work with Fredrik from Dream Evil on the 'Pedal To The Metal' album, but he was too busy at that time. I am really happy with that Greg did on this new record. I'd love to work with Andy Sneap on the next record, if he ever gets in touch with me the fuck (laughing). It took a year and a half to record the whole album mainly because of time schedules with Rob doing his thing and Ed doing Glenn Hughes thing too. I went to get a master degree in business so I got a M.B.A. and I play my guitar 6-7 hours a day and do nothing else, and I heard Brain May (Queen) got a P.H.D. in astrophysics, so I wanted to clear my head and it was fun!!"
How do you see this album as a progression from the last few albums?
"This is way better Jason, for me it is more better on a personal level and I hear bands saying this is the best album they have done, but that is bullshit!! I feel that this is the best album I have done and I think it is a very honest record and it has some great riffs, great singing, great solos, great production and I wanted an album that would just stand up."
So what plans do you have for touring this year? I heard your playing Sweden Rock!
"Yeah we are Jason, but we are also playing Sweden Rock on June 6th and there are 4-5 stages and there is 1 stage who everybody wants and we are playing that stage which is the main stage. The order is Impellitteri, Journey, Dream Theater, Heaven & Hell. How fucking cool is that? I thought somebody had made a mistake but that is the running order so I can't wait to play there."
Moving on Chris, don't you think it is about time that you recorded a live DVD? I know Rob Rock has a DVD coming out shortly.
"I do think we should do a DVD soon, I will let you know how the tour goes, but yeah I agree we should think about doing something like a live DVD in the near future.
What do you think about 'You Tube' pulling off all those classic videos by bands like you? Some of your stuff is no longer on there.
"Yeah I no, I feel really bad about it because our office has pulled it off because we have contracts that won't allow us to have them online anymore and I feel bad about as some of our fans will think we are pricks and they will never get to see us live or see our videos anymore. I'd like to say sorry to our fans about that."
Well Chris, thanks for doing an update interview, best wishes with the record sales and touring plans. I hope we meet 1 day and hey don't forget to mention me on the next album!! DO you have anything to say before we finish off?
"Yeah, thanks to our fans for there support, we hope you like the new album and we hope you get the chance to see us live. Thanx also for the interview Jason, best of luck with another 10 years of the webzine. Take care metal heads!!!
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