The Venom's in you're Veins - Chris Impellitteri speak about the new CD.
It's always good to see bands making new records, in this case guitar wizard Chris Impellitteri makes a come back with his band Impellitteri and a new album, along with a new label. This hand have been around since the early to mid 80's, when Chris after been to a music school met up with vocalist extraordinary Rob Rock, when the band recorded a EP, which was self titled. With the release of this EP the band were getting recognized by the press, other musicians and labels alike. Sadly Rob only did the EP, then left and was replaced my ex Rainbow Singer Graham Bonnet, and the band signed to Relativity Records, part of Combat and the album 'Stand in Line' was released. A fine album indeed which I really like, some fine playing and strong powerful vocals here that also featured the song 'Since you've been Gone', with some guitar shredding, which made it a really great song.
That was the only album that Graham would do for some time. Rob would return to record 'Grin & Bear It' in 92, a heavier and more technical album this was, and Rob would record the next album 'Answer to the Master' 94, 'Screaming Symphony' 96 & 'Eye of the Hurricane' in 97 & 'Crunch' in 2000. 2002 saw Rob leaving only to be replaced by Curtis Skelton who recorded the album 'Pedal to the Metal' album in 2004, only to be replaced by Rob again for 'Wicked Maiden' in 2009. The band however have just released their stunning kick ass album 'Venom' through Frontiers, and is doing really well. I managed to catch up with Chris to talk about the new album, here is what he had to say!
Great speaking to you again Chris, hope live is good!! So let's start the interview off by asking about the last album 'Wicked Maiden', how successful was that album for you?
"Well it's great speak to you again Jason, life is good and I hope it is for you too. To answer you're question, the last album did its job. It was meant to target Japan and it did really well over there, and we had been playing and releasing albums since the dawn of time, we started in 87 playing Japan and we got there when bands started to burn out or getting too old or had families so it was always hard to capture younger audiences. I think what happens in Japan comes down to the cost of living is really expensive. So when I 1st started I had my die hard fans who would live, eat and breath metal but when they got older family and responsibility is pressured onto them really, so they don't have as much time. So the fans that started listening too my music are well in their 40's/50's.
The record companies told us that we had to grow and move on to survive, if that makes sense!! With the last album 'Wicked Maiden', we were back we had 15yr old boys turn up to our shows and girls, so there was 50 yr old to 15yr olds in our audience which was amazing!! In the U.S. the album didn't really do much in sales, in Europe we gave it to a very small label 'Metal Heaven', great guy who owns it but I think the label was too small for us. We needed more promotion and push. In Europe they really don't know who we are so we needed the push."
What songs from that album stood out for you and why?
"Well 'Garden of Eden', went down well live, it was a very popular song. Other songs I like are 'Wicked Maiden' 7 'Last of a dying Breed'. "
What other labels approached you for that album?
"Well I think 'System X' was on SPV, and a friend of mine Matt Sinner (Primal Fear) took the new album to the labels. Most labels had their schedules already done and we would of had to of waited a long time to get the album released. So it was Matt who gave it to Frontiers for us."
Did you tour Europe for this album? I didn't see any advertising.
"Now we didn't sadly, we did some dates in the U.S. and Japan tour. We did only 1 show in Sweden at the Sweden Rock festival. The promoter of that festival put us on the head lining stage on the Saturday with Dream Theater Lita Ford, Journey, and Heaven & Hell. It was an honor playing there. We wasn't sure how well we would go down. I have to be honest here Jason, I have tired to contact lots of agents here in Europe and nobody would book us, we have loads of fans out there who want to see us play, but nobody is booking us. I feel that the agents are very close knitted family and I also think that we are outside their circle of friends. It's really frustrating for me and I don't understand why we can't find an agent who will promote a tour for us."
Looking back at you're debut album 'Stand in Line', how do you see that?
"Well for me it was a good album, but in no way was it an Impellitteri album, it was more of a tribute to bands like Rainbow, Alcatrazz, but it gave us a lot of exposure. Some good songs on that album too."
Ok Chris, let's talk about the new album 'Venom', why the title? Where you inspired by the British band Venom?
(Laughing) "No we were not but they are really cool. When we did this record Venom, we are getting old and this is our 10th album and we had to push ourselves as musicians. We knew we had to push ourselves for this record and challenge ourselves and push the limits we could ever make. When we were growing up we listened to some kick ass music and we thought what would we do now to make our album more better than those albums. For me been a guitarist I was into Van Halen and Ozzy's 'Dairy of a Madman' and Metallica's 'Master of Puppets' and I would listen too these albums from morning to night and they became an addiction for me, like a Venom running through my veins, it became a drug to us. For us we are hoping that this album will grow on the listener and they will also carry on listening too it for some time to come, instead of it been put on the book shelf to collect dust.
I was working on this record for a few years now and we would listen back to the songs we were working on and to be honest Jason I have some prospective on it, but you see it in a different light to me. I really like songs like 'Empire of Lies', 'Venom' and I feel good about it."
How do you see the music evolve over the year?
"What really pisses me off is the fact that kids of today call us old school metal... no we are not we are real Metal!! The kids of today have molded metal music into other categories like cookie metal, or whatever. If you listen too Rob he is a natural singer like Rob Halford, Bruce Dickenson, and I think i have a theory to what happened to metal in the 90's, it was difficult to for bands to survive out of the post Maiden, Priest, Saxon era if you didn't have a singer who could sing like those guys, you were pretty much done!! Vocalists who could sing like that wanted to be in bands like Journey. So the band of today would create the cookie monster voice if you now what I mean (laughing)."
I remember you telling me some time ago that this was going to be the heaviest album you will do.
"Yeah I remember that, I could be right. It probably is since the Black EP, when you listen too songs like 'Lost in the Rain', 'Burning', 'Playing with Fire', Lost in the Rain' was almost thrash metal, with aggressive double bass drumming. We even got some rave reviews for that record back then and when Rob left the band and we did 'Stand in Line', it was a big departure from the EP."
Did you have any other titles for this album besides 'Venom'?
"Yes we did, we were going to call it 'Time Machine', and the reason for that was because we wanted to rival all the bands we grew up on, so basically started back in the early days just like some of those bands did. So we started pretty much in each era and I think the EP came out in 86 and in the 90's we did great in Japan and we are still around now because we have stayed true to ourselves. So the title 'Time Machine', would of been an album were we stayed true to ourselves and believed in what we are doing even if it sounded back in the 80s or 90's. The song 'Empire of Lies', reminds me of Ozzy with Randy Rhodes, it could be something they would be doing now if they were still playing music together in to days society."
Would the album cover been the same if you called the album 'Time Machine' or would it of been different?
"It would of been completely different, I love all the old movies with time travel, and I think the cover would of been like a time machine with the guy in the machine traveling back and forth. The album title 'Venom' kept come back and forth to us so we knew that was the perfect title for the album. the Venom is like a drug and I will always keep listening too metal to the day I die (Ed: Me too)."
Tell me about the artwork.. very Victorian in statue how did that come about?
"Our venom is the music, our drug and and who's the tempest? I love metal artwork and I wanted something that would grab the attention of the listener and fans. I think I was on the internet one night and this image of a Victorian Queen came up and I thought it was cool. I also thought of Cleopatra and how she had snakes and how she would poison the servants and I saw a queen bring the chalice and I read that a lot of royalties would be poisoned. The had poison tasters, so the queens having a chalice full of poison was the Impellitteri music."
So who did the art work for this album?
"Well we brought the ideas to our label in Japan, and we have a fan called Tero who plays in a famous Japanese band and he asked our label if he could do some of our artwork. So we checked out some of his artwork and it was really good, so we said yes go for it!!! So we sent him a link of the Victorian Queen to work on. He later on sent us back some images and Rob our singer said we need more snakes tongue in the image rapping around her neck but we need the picture to be seductive and more evil. When it came back we were all amazed at the end results."
Is the music within the band wrote as a team effort of just you and Rob write the music and lyrics?
"Well it is all wrote as a team effort Jason, I write most of the riffs and then I give the parts to James our bass player. He is a monster rifer and he he is good with theory, he went to a music school, so he will work on his parts and bring the songs together. Having John Dette on drums we left him be free and he brought a lot of power and strength into the band. I started working with him on the 'Animetal' project which is Japanese Metal, like animation with English vocals instead of Japanese.
I auditioned 100's of drummer but John is an insane drummer, and I called our old drummer Glen but he couldn't do the album due to a contracted commitment with Alice Cooper, he's playing drums for Alice till the end of 2015. So I need to get into the studio and I asked John if he wanted to drum for us, so he accepted the offer. Rob writes all the lyrics for the band, so we all pull in together as a team effort. We all go into the studio as a live band and rehearse together."
How long did it take to record the songs for this album?
"I think we did it in 16wks, as we work as a band. It was recorded at 'Energy Studios', at the same studio where Slash did his album in L.A., it is owned by Jimbo Gardener. It was mixed by Greg reallie, who had worked with Over Kill, Fear Factory and our albums. I am happy with the end results, it sounds like a monster, I am loving it!!"
So what are you're favourite songs from the new album and why?
"Well I like the songs 'Venom', 'Empire of Lies' and 'Rise', this song reminds me of Pantera as it's heavy and still has a grove. I also like 'Face the Enemy' and I also like 'Nightmare', Robs vocals are insane on that song, I love the lyrics and if Freddie from Queen was alive I am sure he would do it."
So who did the deal with Frontiers come about? Who else did you approach? I took the album to every label in metal and every label offered us a deal, and the only label who said no was Nuclear Blast due to their scheduling releases, but the rest were offering us a deal. My friends told me t talk to Frontiers and the owner is really into our style of music, we are pretty much into the old school Maiden sound and if you lie the new stuff you might not like us. We are pretty much the heaviest band on the label so far. Their doing really good for us with promotion, press etc... and in America we are doing a lot of press & there loving us out here. The deal is for 1 album with options.
We have 2 more music videos to come, we did a song for 'Venom', we have another for 'Empire of Lies' is one we just did, It was dome at Mates, we have rehearsed there so many times. Other bands have just it too, GRN, Motley Crue, Van Halen, so many bands have worked there.
"What's the plans for a live DVD?
"Well I have a feeling about doing live albums and DVD's, so many of the are dubbed in the studio that so for me I find it hard to get my head around. Some guy in Japan many yars ago recorded one of our shows with a digital recorder and it sounds amazing, I love it, and that's the band live!!!As for a live DVD we will consider that, it is something to look into."
So Chris it was a pleasure chatting again, take care and chat soon. Do you have anything to say before we finish this interview?
"Yeah thanx Jason, thank's for the great review and interview. I owe you a t shirt and loads of beers haha!! To the fans, thanx for you're support, we hope you like the new album."
Thanx to Gary & Chris for the interview.