Being immensely proficient in playing one's instrument can prove particularly beneficial, and definitely finds itself to be a mighty weapon in one's live arsenal, something Hit The Lights' readers have experienced before their very eyes. Consequently, this means the gentleman in question can cut skilful solos, but making such a statement robs the man's songwriting prowess of its rightful limelight. A classic metal oriented affair which takes its cues from such eighties stalwarts as Iron Maiden, "Wicked Maiden" features a clutch of potent compositions. Couple this against the high pitched vocals of Rob Rock, not to mention the feverish solos of Chris Impellitteri (the man in question), then what you have is an album which irrefutably warrants your attention.
Impellitteri's seventh and eighth studio albums, namely "System X" (2002) and "Pedal To The Metal" (2004), featured Graham Bonnet and Curtis Skelton respectively at the vocal helm. During May 2008 however, it was announced that original vocalist Rob Rock had rejoined Impellitteri. Provisionally, Impellitteri's ninth studio album was titled "Good And Evil", but the album's eventual title was "Wicked Maiden". In writing the album, Impellitteri aimed to rival five records which they grew up listening to, namely: "Van Halen" (1978), Ozzy Osbourne's "Blizzard Of Ozz" (1980), Metallica's "Master Of Puppets" (1986), Pantera's "Cowboys From Hell" (1990), and Yngwie Malmsteen's "Rising Force" (1984). "Wicked Maiden" was slated for Japanese issue on February 25th through Victor Entertainment, whilst its European issue was pencilled to occur on April 24th via Metal Heaven Records.
On February 4th with director John Logsdon (who has worked with such acts as Def Leppard, Anthrax, Rise Against, Audioslave, Seether and Deftones), Impellitteri filmed a music video in support of the title track. From the writing stage through to the mixing and mastering stage, "Wicked Maiden" reportedly took roughly three years to complete. Acting as engineer, Greg Reely additionally acted as co-producer. At the following studios, "Wicked Maiden" was recorded: Village Recorders in Santa Monica, California, Impellitteri Studios in Thousand Oaks, California, and Redroom Audio in Orlando, Florida. At the Green Jacket in Vancouver, Canada, "Wicked Maiden" was mixed, whilst engineer George Marino handled mastering in New York City.
At 22:00 GMT on April 23rd, Impellitteri guitarist and namesake Chris Impellitteri telephoned Hit The Lights' Robert Gray to discuss "Wicked Maiden", amongst other topics.
Chris Impellitteri: Hi. This is Chris.
This is Robert. How are you Chris?
Good. How are you doing Robert?
I'm doing well. Would it be alright if I began the interview?
Yeah. Please do so.
Could you provide an introduction to 'Wicked Maiden'?
In all likelihood, 'Wicked Maiden' is a return to the first record that we cut, namely 'Impellitteri' (1987), featuring Rob Rock's vocals. I was roughly fifteen years old, and pretty much, 'Impellitteri' boasted extreme aggression, a lot of shredding guitar solos, and screaming vocals. 'Impellitteri' made a huge impact here in the United States, and in Japan. For years, fans have commented; "Man, we want you guys to cut a record like that again". In short, we wanted to challenge ourselves to see if we could achieve that goal, and wanted to push ourselves to the limit. In writing 'Wicked Maiden', our goal was to rival some of our favourite records that we listened to as children growing up. We just kept writing tracks, and recording material, until we thought that we had cut a dream album, and an album that all artists dream of having. 'Wicked Maiden' is a somewhat aggressive metal record, though yet it has a lot of diversity. In one instance, 'Wicked Maiden' features the title track, with high, screaming vocals, and a really fast pace. On the other hand though, the album features a track entitled "High School Revolution", which is a hilarious, more tongue in cheek type of tune.
What appealed to you about returning to the original sound of Impellitteri?
For me personally, we haven't really returned to the original sound of Impellitteri. I was always there, and that was my heart for years. It isn't easy for music fans to stereotype us, since they don't know what music category to file us under. We have many fans who think that I'm a guitar hero, and many other fans who think that we're a new metal group. When I say new, I'm referring to acts like Children of Bodom, and Pantera. Then again though, we have a lot of other fans that think we're musically similar to an Iron Maiden, or a Judas Priest - more classic oriented. People don't know how to classify us. For me, returning to the 'Impellitteri' EP's sound is just a progression of what we are as us, but without stereotyping us or making us conform to one style.
In my opinion, 'Wicked Maiden''s sound more closely resembles an Iron Maiden type sound, and is classic metal oriented.
Thank you. I agree with you, and that's what I think. In the end, that's what 'Wicked Maiden''s stylings particularly musically resemble.
So you agree with this, and share that opinion?
Why did 'Wicked Maiden' take three years to complete?
(Laughs) 'Wicked Maiden' took so long to complete since we searched for tracks like the title track, which is likely my favourite track on the album. As an artist, to write a track like that isn't easy. I've been writing tracks for awhile - I've recorded eleven albums. An artist being able to author a track like that is just extremely rare. I don't mean to sound egotistical, as I'm not saying that we're God. I'm just stating that as an artist, it's really difficult to compose a track that has that magic. Everyone we've played "Wicked Maiden" for has freaked out over the track, and so we think that the reason it took so long to complete the album is due to the fact that we always searched for tracks like "Wicked Maiden". That meant that we had to write ten tracks to discover one track which resembled "Wicked Maiden", and when you opt towards this approach, you consequently write roughly a hundred tracks in support of an album. Literally, that can take roughly a year to two years.
Once we had written 'Wicked Maiden''s tracks, we had to group together as a live act, rehearse and learn our parts so that we actually sound like a live group upon the album. That took roughly another year or so, and the recording process took roughly a year and a half at least, and so by the time 'Wicked Maiden' was completed, it took more like roughly four and a half years.
I was merely quoting what 'Wicked Maiden''s press release states.
Oh, ok. Yeah, anyway, that's the truth - completing 'Wicked Maiden' actually took us a lot of time.
So when you write tracks, you're extremely strict then? If you feel that a track is ok though nothing special, then you just discard that track?
Yeah, for the most part. To be honest, I can listen to 'Wicked Maiden' now with a little bit of clarity. 'Wicked Maiden' has been completed for several months, and for that reason, I can listen to the album with a clear perspective. My opinion is this: 'Wicked Maiden' has four to five great tracks, and its other four to five tracks aren't great, but are just ok - I call them album fillers. They're fun to perform live, but are they great tracks? No. When you make records, you don't know whether every track on an album is great. You set out to ensure that every album track is great, though you don't know whether you achieve this.
After having recorded several albums, is it difficult to become excited about recording new albums?
No, and you know why? I can't explain what's happening right now, but something's happening. This happening is weird, and almost a magical thing. Our group is becoming huge, which I think is very much a result of the internet - 'Wicked Maiden' is just getting spread all over the place. In the US, where we haven't even released 'Wicked Maiden' yet, a huge buzz is surrounding Impellitteri, and we don't know why. They hear a track. We just shot two major music videos, which were for the tracks "Wicked Maiden" and "Last of the Dying Breed". I don't know if you've seen them or not, but those videos seem to be going viral right now. We have them streaming, so those videos really can't be copied. People are freaking out over what they're seeing, and there's much talk happening. This is causing us to enjoy writing more material, so as we arrive at the writing process for the next release, the answer is yes: we love what we're doing, and it's fun still.
Are there plans to issue 'Wicked Maiden' within North America?
Oh, absolutely. We're striving towards 'Wicked Maiden' being released by a huge label, and everything.
Can you provide information regarding that, such as 'Wicked Maiden''s potential North American release date, and 'Wicked Maiden''s North American distributor?
Right now, I'm actually in talks with several record companies. Literally, the labels are bidding to secure the right to issue 'Wicked Maiden' here in America, so I can't say yet. However, I can tell you that 'Wicked Maiden' will likely be issued towards mid summer in America.
In North America then, 'Wicked Maiden' has actually extremely excited record labels, and they really think the album has something?
Yeah, which is insane. All of a sudden, people are saying "Dude, you should check these guys out". Rock stars listen to us, and major metal groups comment "Dude, this is badass". Once we heard these type of comments, we knew that 'Wicked Maiden' would probably have a good chance here in America. I don't want to say this will happen though until it happens, so let me just reserve that comment.
'Wicked Maiden''s working title was 'Good and Evil'. Why did you opt to discard 'Good and Evil' as an album title?
'Good and Evil' was always just a working title, and wasn't really going to be the actual title.
"Wicked Maiden" happens to be the album's title track, obviously, though why did you opt to use that title as the album's name?
"Wicked Maiden" is my favourite track upon the album, and just formed what I feel the full length concerns. If you listen to "Wicked Maiden", you'll know what to expect from the rest of the album's tracks. We're pushing the limit, and taking things as far as we can take them.
Although you're known as an extremely good guitarist, do you feel it's still important to write extremely good tracks?
Absolutely. I read press articles, so I know that I'm considered to be a guitar hero and so on. However, the reality is that I'm a metal fan, and you have to write a good track. I could play the greatest guitar solo in the world, but if the track sucks, then what good is that?
Yeah, definitely. There's a few musicians who are known as extremely good guitarists, though I think to myself "Have they written any good tracks?". Some of these guitarists have cut good solos, but they haven't written any particularly memorable tracks.
You're speaking the truth, and that's the way I hear this. Yes, I practice all day long so that I can perform great guitar solos, and I'm known for that. However, the reality is that I know I have to write a good track, and and that's difficult. Stating that you intend to compose a great track, and then actually composing a great track, are two different things. So many variables come into play - you could write a good track, but then the track could become messed up during the recording stage, or the mix could destroy the track. It takes a lot of work to actually write and record a great track.
Do you feel that some musicians confuse writing a great track with showcasing technicality? Some gifted guitarists seem to concentrate on showcasing more and more technicality within their material, as opposed to concentrating on the quality of the track.
I understand what you're saying. A group possibly like Dream Theater, where they become really progressive, and more technical, and forget about.. I'm not saying that Dream Theater do that, since I like Dream Theater, though is that what you mean by technicality?
Some guitarists seem to concentrate upon being extremely technical within their playing, but don't concentrate upon writing a good tune.
Oh right, I see.
Do you agree with that statement?
Yeah. I don't think composing a technical section in the middle of a track makes it greater, as it doesn't. The track has to have a vibe, and has to be conveyed from your soul. The track has to be melodically pleasant, even if the track happens to be hardcore metal. As well as a good rhythm, the track has to have a structure that touches the soul. Really, technicality has nothing to do with that.
As you mentioned, you're known as a guitar hero, and are noted for playing extremely fast shred guitar. Do you prefer playing at a faster speed, and cutting quicker solos?
It's just my personality. When I was nine years old, both of my parents committed suicide. I'm an orphan pissed off at the world. Fortunately, my grandmother bought me my first electric guitar, and encouraged me to take lessons. I just started to express my anger through the guitar, as well as rage. Somehow, I feel that translates into the whole speed element, and that's why I'm known as this shredding guy. I shred continually as that expresses my internal rage, and my internal anger.
As a person growing up, how did the fact that your parents committed suicide affect you?
It certainly messes you up a little. As a kid, you feel as though you were somewhat screwed. I was nine years old, and became an orphan. Having said that, this made me stronger, and gave me a purpose. That led me to guitar, and the guitar gave me this minor legacy I guess I have.
So whilst you were a teenager, you didn't turn to alcohol or drugs?
I had moments where I delved into bad things, let's just say that (laughs). I had a time where I did such things, but fortunately, I survived.
Would you say that it was playing guitar which helped you through those times?
Yeah, definitely. There's no doubt that playing guitar helped me through those times, and it still does to this day.
As we just discussed, you're known for playing shred guitar. Do you feel being known for this undermines your versatility as a guitarist? Music fans comment that you play shred, though you could play slower passages if you wanted to.
Absolutely, and I do; I play bluesy, melodic, classical, and shred. I do it all, and certainly try to be as versatile as possible. As a matter of fact, I restrain from shredding quite often to make sure that the track is the focus.
Nowadays, does the fact that every guitarist and group has to be filed under a specific category annoy you? They even create new genres, and subgenres.
Yeah, and that's the crazy aspect of metal. Metal was meant to concern performing metal, and being part of the metal community since you want to rebel against the rules. You don't want to be told what to do, and want to be free to express yourself. As soon as you join a metal group though, the metal community stamp all these rules upon you. The metal community demands that you sing in a certain vein, that you play in a certain vein, and that you can't explore certain avenues since you might be labelled and filed in a box. It's really weird.
In terms of marketing Impellitteri, does this cause difficulty?
It probably makes things difficult for media representatives, as they don't know how to market us. Does our sound resemble Pantera's, or does our sound resemble a melodic group like Avenged Sevenfold? I don't know how to phrase it.
Do music fans actually compare Impellitteri to Pantera?
Absolutely. Some people consider Impellitteri's sound to be somewhere between Pantera's, Avenged Sevenfold's, and even Children of Bodom's. When they say compare us to these artists, remember - we were first.
Actually, we recorded an album a few years back entitled 'System X'. We worked with a producer named Andrew Murdock, and 'System X' consequently turned out to be a really cool record. When we completed 'System X', Murdock went on to produce this group called Avenged Sevenfold. One day whilst I was in my house, my daughter heard Avenged Sevenfold, and said "Dad, this sounds like you. Who is this? It sounds exactly like you". I listened, and commented "The riff does sound like a riff upon 'System X'". I took a look, and the name of the group was Avenged Sevenfold. I said "Well, that's crazy", and viewed the names of the album's producers. I said "Murdock? What the fuck?", and so then I realised. It's possibly just a slight coincidence, and it likely is, though I heard that track, and thought "Are these groups listening to what we play, and incorporating that into their sound?" I don't know if Avenged Sevenfold were or not, though when I say our sound resembles a certain group or whatever, I just want people to realise that we're not copying.
Do you view such things as a compliment?
Absolutely. Growing up, I did this to many artists' work - I definitely lifted certain parts. You can only enhance that part, so I say absolutely to do so. If musicians wish to do this with Impellitteri's material, then rip us off. I don't care. I think it's awesome, and is a compliment.
Whilst mentioning Pantera though, were you referring to a specific period in that group's career?
Definitely. 'Cowboys From Hell' is likely my favourite. You can hear that same aggression within 'System X'.
Ok. I asked that, since Pantera's later albums such as 'Far Beyond Driven' (1994) are much different than Impellitteri's sound.
Upon our last record 'Pedal to the Metal', we recorded a parody track. That was hilarious, and extreme fun. We just cut a mockery of all these groups, but mocked these groups in a good and nice way. It touched upon all this new metal material, and was hilarious. It's just so different.
Do you feel that some musicians can occasionally take things too seriously?
Absolutely, yeah. They take themselves way too seriously.
Whilst discussing your work, music fans constantly mention Yngwie Malmsteen. Does that piss you off?
No, not at all. I've heard that for years, where music fans say I'm just a Yngwie clone. Honestly, if you listen to Impellitteri, then you'll know that I don't sound anything like him. Yes, I play fast, and yes, I play a Stratocaster. I play a Stratocaster due to Eddie Van Halen's influence though, and not Yngwie's. Where my playing speed is concerned, I can obviously really understand the comparison. I want to correct something though, and this is something you really should print. Credit should go to Uli Jon Roth - you have to listen to Uli Roth, who was the Scorpions' original guitarist. Uli's playing is likely the playing, if anyone's, that my playing resembles, and Yngwie's playing resembles. Listen to 'Virgin Killer' (1976), which was recorded when I was barely even born. Upon that album, Uli plays exactly the way that Yngwie and I play nowadays back then, and yet, who received the credit? Yngwie received more of the credit for shred guitar, though Uli played shred before Yngwie.
'Virgin Killer' is the Scorpions album which featured a controversial front cover.
Yeah, I think so. Two years ago, Uli called me, and asked me to perform alongside him. I performed alongside him at a concert in Los Angeles, with him and I performing "Virgin Killer". We traded off guitar solos, which was so much fun.
If things had transpired vice versa, and it had been you who became much more known in the eighties, do you feel that the shoe would be on the other foot so to speak? That music fans would have dubbed Yngwie Malmsteen a Chris Impellitteri rip-off?
It's only a natural thing, and that's fine. I'm not dismissing Yngwie - Yngwie is absolutely influential, of which there's no doubt about. I don't want to dismiss that influence as well, since I like what he did. The reality is he's not really a musician who influenced me. I would credit Eddie Van Halen and Uli Roth as the musicians that I ripped off, and possibly even a man named Al Di Meola, who's a jazz guitarist. Really, those are the musicians that I truly ripped off, and are the ones that I was able to evolve from.
"I don't mean to sound egotistical, as I'm not saying that we're God."
What do you feel those three influences in Eddie Van Halen, Uli Jon Roth and Al Di Meola contributed to the world of music?
Eddie Van Halen influenced me with his innovation, and sound. As far as attempting to create something unique with the instrument, this had a big effect on me, and his riffs were great. With Uli, it was the same thing. Uli's playing concerned the fact that you could play aggressive, you could play fast, you could play really melodious and beautiful, and that you could use classical elements. You could incorporate the likes of Bach, and Mozart. Collectively, all those elements really influenced me to tap into those areas.
Whilst discussing 'Wicked Maiden', you've referenced Yngwie Malmsteen's debut album 'Rising Force'. Therefore, you enjoy that album, but are actually influenced by older musicians?
No doubt. Listen to 'Wicked Maiden', and tell me what you hear as an influence upon that album.
To be honest, 'Wicked Maiden' just sounds classic metal oriented to me.
Yeah, exactly. 'Wicked Maiden' musically resembles the 'Impellitteri' EP, but just with a really good production.
We've touched upon Iron Maiden, and Iron Maiden were obviously influenced by seventies acts as well.
Yeah. Iron Maiden definitely had a major impact, and as far as the metal scene is concerned, I really love what they did.
Personally, what are your favourite albums then?
In all likelihood, 'Van Halen' (1978) is my favourite record of all time. Also, I love Ozzy Osbourne's 'Blizzard of Ozz' (1980), which features Randy Rhoads, "Crazy Train", and all those cool, really memorable tracks -that's one of my favourites. I love 'Virgin Killer' by the Scorpions. Actually, I can tell you an extremely cool story regarding the groups I like. When we planned to write 'Wicked Maiden', I set a goal for Impellitteri. I didn't know if we were going to achieve this, nor do I even know if we have achieved this, though I wanted to complete a record that I thought could rival five records which I grew up listening to. I wanted to be able to place an Impellitteri album alongside these five albums, and those five albums were; 'Van Halen', 'Blizzard of Ozz', 'Master of Puppets', 'Cowboys From Hell', and 'Rising Force'. Anyone who likes those records will likely enjoy 'Wicked Maiden'. In all sincerity and honesty, that was the goal of 'Wicked Maiden', and that was what we strived for.
In your opinion, is 'Wicked Maiden' as historic an album as the albums you mentioned, such as 'Master of Puppets' and 'Blizzard of Ozz'?
Yes. Personally, I do. Remember, this is only my perception. I can't say that is reality, though in my heart, and judging by the feedback we've received, I believe we did. I don't know which Metal Hammer magazine is responsible, though one of them just gave us a perfect review. For the most part, it's been that way. We've received really positive reviews. Right now, the kids and the fans, who listen to groups like Avenged Sevenfold, are accessing our site, and freaking out over 'Wicked Maiden'. We may have succeeded, I think, since the comments I've heard are comments like "Oh my God. Who are you guys? 'Wicked Maiden' is insane. It's killer, it's gigantic, and with big production. The guitars are insanely cool, and so is the guitar soloing. And who is the singer? The singer's insane". From the feedback I've heard thus far, we may have recorded an album which, yes, does exactly that.
Do you feel that whether 'Wicked Maiden' is as historic an album as the likes of 'Blizzard of Ozz' and 'Master of Puppets' is something to be judged in roughly twenty years though? Only years later, does an album stand the test of time.
Yes, I understand. Yes, I think 'Wicked Maiden' will stand the test of time. Twenty years from now, I think I'll be really proud of this record.
You've previously mentioned the goal of Impellitteri in writing 'Wicked Maiden', and that you feel Impellitteri achieved that goal. Are you afraid to make such statements on occasion? People might assume you're egocentric in comparing 'Wicked Maiden' to the likes of 'Master of Puppets'.
Exactly, and that's what I'm terrified of. Remember, the key word in that sentence was we set a goal for ourselves - "goal" was the key word. I didn't say we succeeded, and I didn't say that 'Wicked Maiden' is better than those records by any means. That's not what I said, and I made that statement regarding my five favourite records roughly a year ago. When I said what we would try to accomplish in making 'Wicked Maiden', people just hammered us. They said "What an egotistical asshole", and called us all these names. I wanted them to chill, since I didn't say we could actually write an album to rival those classic albums. Writing such an album was a goal, a dream, and what we strived for. I didn't know if we would achieve that goal, but we pursued that goal. We feel like our fans, who support us, deserve the best. We wanted to present our fans with the greatest album we could ever deliver. There's that danger of music fans commenting "You're such an egotistical asshole". That's not what we are, I promise you - we're not egotistical by any means.
Rob Rock handles vocals upon 'Wicked Maiden', and has returned to Impellitteri's ranks. Could you touch upon why he originally left, and how he eventually returned to the fold?
Yeah. Rob wanted to record a solo album, so whilst recording 'Crunch' (2000), I told him that I constantly struggle to convince people that Impellitteri is a group, and not a solo project. I've always told everyone that this is a team effort, and that Impellitteri features four guys that work really hard. Impellitteri isn't the Chris Impellitteri Ego Show. I said "If you record solo albums, then people will say "Well, maybe Impellitteri really is just a solo artist with a hired gun where Rob just plays on an Impellitteri album now and then". If these solo albums boast music which is similar to Impellitteri's music, then you'll just confuse the people who support Impellitteri. If you intend to record a solo album, then I will do something similar". Of course though, since Impellitteri has my last name, what would I have called my solo project?
For that reason, we agreed that he would leave Impellitteri, which he did. Impellitteri recorded two other albums ('System X' and 'Pedal to the Metal') with two different vocalists, and to be honest, the fans didn't want those albums. The fans wanted Rob as part of the group, and I knew that. After we completed our last debacle, we realised that in order for Impellitteri to still grow, we needed Rob, or a vocalist that sung like Rob, as part of the group.
Was it difficult striking a chemistry with Graham Bonnet, and with Curtis Skelton, who sang upon 'System X' and 'Pedal to the Metal' respectively?
The chemistry was different. Graham and Curtis are both fantastic singers, and great musicians, yet different. Considering the way I like to write material, I need a vocalist that has range. They need to be able to scream, have a lot of power, and all those things, like Maiden's and Priest's material. I really feel that Rob delivers those qualities. Graham and Curtis can also deliver those qualities, but not in the same fashion.
Prior to Rob returning to Impellitteri, did you and him sit down, and take part in a discussion, airing one another's opinions?
Absolutely. As is the case for every group, we fight. We discussed what we would strive towards, and what the direction of 'Wicked Maiden' would be. We had to discuss all those subjects, and whether Impellitteri would be a genuine group, whether Impellitteri really would tour, and whether we would really help Impellitteri to grow once again. Or, would it be a case of taking the money, and running? We had to discuss all these topics, and make certain that we all agreed to make Impellitteri work.
Is Rob Rock fully committed to Impellitteri?
Yeah. He's completing solo related projects at the moment, having a DVD ('The Voice Of Melodic Metal - Live In Atlanta') which is due to be issued. Also, he completed a one-off project (2008's 'Sons of Thunder') with a group called Driver. Rob told me that he's wholly committed to Impellitteri.
So Rob Rock's main musical concern is Impellitteri?
Prior to Rob Rock returning to Impellitteri, did you ensure that his main musical concern would be the group?
Yeah, that was important for me. I explained to him that the only way he could rejoin Impellitteri was to make a commitment to the group.
So you feel that it's important for each member to commit to Impellitteri, and for each member to really try to make Impellitteri a success?
Yes, I think so. As I said, Impellitteri is a group effort, and not just a solo effort from me. Personally, I need everyone to read from the same page, and to be committed towards Impellitteri. If we're going to perform at concerts, tour, and promote 'Wicked Maiden', then it has to be all for one. It's important for four to five members of a group to commit towards everything, whether it be to touring, promotion, or cutting music videos.
Do you feel a myth exists which suggests you're a control freak?
Yeah, I do feel that a lot. I'm not a control freak. As a matter of fact, I'm very submissive. I listen to Impellitteri's members, and people generally. Impellitteri is a democracy, and boasts equal voices. I don't get the last say, but just voice my opinion. When I'm told that I'm wrong, I just have to sit down, and accept that opinion. Definitely though, I'm not a control freak - I'm not at all.
You said that whilst recording 'Wicked Maiden', each of Impellitteri's members pushed one another "to the point of insanity". Could you expand upon this?
Fighting (laughs). We always feel that one another can achieve more, play greater, write greater, make a greater contribution, and try harder. Basically, we kept adopting that approach, and somewhat pushed ourselves to such a point that we were constantly almost ready to punch each other. Whilst making 'Wicked Maiden', that's what happened. As a matter of fact, whilst recording 'Wicked Maiden''s studio parts, me and our drummer just constantly fought - even 'Wicked Maiden''s engineer tried to calm us down. That was great, and that tension can be felt upon 'Wicked Maiden'.
I'd like to confirm something. Confusion exists over who handles drums upon 'Wicked Maiden'. During interviews, you've mentioned Brandon Wild and Glen Sobel.
Glen Sobel handled drums upon all of 'Wicked Maiden''s tracks, and is touring with Impellitteri once again. We had been working with Brandon Wild. I've worked with some really young drummers who are fifteen to seventeen years old. For me, we just attempted to gain that youth and dynamism back as part of Impellitteri, and that aggression. In your thirties, you look for a musician to give you that aggression. You're shown how it feels to be fifteen again, which gives you a kick up the ass. Just to receive that kick up the ass, I work with some young dudes. Of course, they have to be good musicians. We brought Glen back into Impellitteri.
So Impellitteri's members really feed off one another during the writing and recording process? Rob might say that you can write a better solo than the one you've presented, which consequently motivates you to write a better solo?
Absolutely, absolutely. Just kick my ass, and stress to me that I can do greater, and can raise my performance towards a new level. Constantly, we told one another such things.
Does each of Impellitteri's members know how far they can push one another to perform better? Do each of Impellitteri's members know one another's limits so to speak?
Yeah. I don't think we have limits. When we break, we break, and we subsequently lift the pieces up, get back up, and start again. We fight really hard to ensure that we perform the greatest job that we possibly can, though having said that, we're not just at each other's throats. We love each other too, and have that brother and sister type relationship - you love each other, but fight all the time.
Really, I'm just interesting in how the songwriting process works within Impellitteri. If a member performs something which is just ok, and that member could perform better, how do you approach that subject without hurting that member's feelings too much? Some musicians would throw their toys out of the pram.
When we talk like this, we talk in a constructive, positive way. When we fight, I should clarify that we don't tell the other they aren't performing well. We might tell them that they should perform at a faster pace, raise the tempo, and hit things harder - things like that.
What can you tell me regarding the lyrics upon 'Wicked Maiden'?
Not a lot (laughs). I didn't write the lyrics. Rob wrote them, so 'Wicked Maiden''s lyrics are more a part of his territory. I have a rough idea regarding the stories behind the album's lyrics, but then again, I'm the guitarist.
"'Wicked Maiden' is a return to the first record that we cut, namely 'Impellitteri', featuring Rob Rock's vocals."
Could you provide your personal interpretation of the lyrics Rob Rock penned in support of 'Wicked Maiden'? Your thoughts and feelings regarding them?
I can tell you where we started. Really, the title track concerns a war machine which Rob wrote about, and that war machine became our character. You can view the character upon 'Wicked Maiden''s cover, who is our Wicked Maiden. That was really inspired by something which occurred roughly four years ago, when Iron Maiden performed as part of the Ozzfest tour? Are you familiar with that? Do you know what occurred at the end of the tour?
Yeah. Would this be related to Ozzy Osbourne? Iron Maiden were pelted with eggs and so on, due to the fact that Bruce Dickinson had a dispute with Sharon Osbourne.
Yes, and following this, Maiden and the Osbournes became involved in a major fight in the press. Iron Maiden said "Fuck you Sharon", and Sharon said the same thing to Iron Maiden. It's funny since in America, Ozzy is an iconic legend - no-one says anything ill willed towards Ozzy Osbourne, or Black Sabbath, God forbid. Iron Maiden had such a strong fanbase though, who said things like "Fuck you Ozzy. You suck. We love Maiden". For the first time, I saw Ozzy and Sharon with their tails between their legs, running for cover. "Wicked Maiden"'s opening line says "Better run from the Wicked Maiden", and that's what that sentence concerns.
As concerns the Ozzfest 2005 incident though, do you feel it may have been instigated more by Sharon as opposed to Ozzy?
Absolutely. In all likelihood, Ozzy is a very cool guy. It was definitely Sharon, I think.
Whilst Iron Maiden performed one track, the electric was cut. Also, the group was pelted with eggs, and whilst Maiden performed one track, one of Ozzy Osbourne's road crew grabbed a microphone, shouting "Ozzy! Ozzy!", attempting to intentionally disrupt Maiden's set. Do you feel such antics are extremely unprofessional?
Yeah, but then again though, it's that childish mentality, isn't it? Personally, I'm not sure why Osbourne's camp did that. To me, it's somewhat hilarious that they pelted Iron Maiden with eggs. There are two sides of the story. I heard that Bruce Dickinson slammed Ozzy as he had a TV show, and was making statements like "Screw Ozzy. We don't need to have a TV show to be cool". Dickinson made such statements night after night, and finally, Sharon just got fed up I guess. That's possibly Dickinson's personality I guess, which is funny, but her response was to egg him, and cut Iron Maiden's sound. They were both being childish, no doubt.
I've read that Bruce Dickinson is actually a fan of Black Sabbath and so on. Only Osbourne's camp and Maiden's camp know what transpired, I guess.
Anyway, what can you reveal regarding 'Wicked Maiden''s artwork?
Anne Stokes designed 'Wicked Maiden''s artwork, and she is a fantastic, amazing artist. We thought it represented the Wicked Maiden, and was a female version of what we sought for 'Wicked Maiden'. Iron Maiden used the services of a guy named Derek Riggs, who created Eddie. Now, Anne Stokes will design the Impellitteri creatures, and the Maiden, which is really awesome, beautiful, powerful, and mythical.
So the Wicked Maiden will become Impellitteri's mascot?
Yeah, I think it is (laughs). We're venturing in that direction.
Why do you feel 'Wicked Maiden''s cover is strong enough so that its featured character could become Impellitteri's mascot?
I don't know whether 'Wicked Maiden''s cover is a great cover, or a bad cover - it just really represents what we do. To be honest, as a kid growing up, where covers sported dragons and so on, it became cheesy after awhile. The Wicked Maiden is the one that has that beauty, but has that evil. That perfectly represents us, as I always considered Impellitteri as being beauty and evil coupled. In our music, that's what I hear.
Obviously, you mentioned you had difficulties as a teenager due to the suicides of your parents. Throughout Impellitteri's career though, have you experienced any dark, difficult periods?
Yeah, we've had those. Obviously, it was a struggle to keep the group alive, especially when illegal downloading surfaced. For us, it became dark. We sold over one million records, and have performed extremely well in certain countries like America and Japan. When illegal downloading surfaced though, the money we were earning to support ourselves, the group, and the people who work for our group, began to dry up, and things became depressing. I just want people to hear Impellitteri's music - if people rip us off, that's fine. As long as they enjoy the music. Hopefully, our music betters their life, or makes them feel good about themselves, and if it does, then it's worth it. As an artist though, it's extremely difficult to support this big machine that rolls. As you embark upon a tour, you have all these trucks, and all these people who work for the group. They have to pay their bills, and support their families. When illegal downloading began to materialize though, where people just listened to our tracks, and ripped us off, it became dark since we had to lay employees off - we couldn't afford to keep them as employees anymore.
So Impellitteri has experienced the consequences of illegal downloading first-hand?
Absolutely. Big time.
Some music fans try to maintain that illegal downloading isn't as harmful as others stress, though many musicians say that illegal downloading will kill a lot of groups. Do you feel that illegal downloading will kill a lot of groups?
Absolutely. There's just no way you can survive. The only way you can survive is if you belong to a rich family, and happen to have a rich mother and father who can give you millions of dollars, so that you can cut your music forever, and give it away for free. Most human beings don't have that kind of money though. We made 'Wicked Maiden', and for most groups, it would likely have costed roughly a million dollars to record 'Wicked Maiden'. That money just doesn't come from thin air, and to pay for that, you need to sell albums.
Are record labels becoming more cautious? Have recording budgets dwindled, and so on?
Absolutely. Labels are dying. Pretty soon, I don't think there will be record companies, and physical CDs will be gone.
Has Impellitteri ever been tempted to self-release its material?
Yeah. Eventually, I think that's where we will venture, and that the music industry will be comprised of artist and management companies. Nowadays, record companies are cutting deals called the 360, where the label owns a part of your T-shirt sales, and a part of your concert revenue. They own everything you pursue as an artist. They can't make money from CD sales anymore, so they try to own everything related to groups.
Does Impellitteri make more money from merchandise than album sales then?
No. Fortunately, our albums have done well. However, a lot of our money is made from concert performances.
If a record label attempted to cut into all of Impellitteri's revenue streams, would the group feel that?
What touring plans does Impellitteri have?
We're performing some shows here in the United States, which I think are next month. Following that, we're performing at the Sweden Rock Festival. It's crazy, actually. I don't know how we were placed upon the big part of the bill, but Sweden Rock Festival spans across four days, and has five different stages. On that Saturday though, we're performing on the main stage. Impellitteri will perform, and Journey will follow us. Dream Theater will follow them, and Heaven & Hell will follow Dream Theater. On that Saturday, it will be us four groups performing on the main stage, and it will be extremely cool. We will perform a seventy-five minute headlining set, so we're looking forward to that. Following that, we're performing in Japan during July. Right now, promoters are contacting us to arrange a full blown headlining tour of Europe. We're keeping our fingers crossed, and hopefully, we can conduct such a tour this time.
In terms of a potential headlining tour of Europe, are there any chances that Impellitteri will perform in the United Kingdom?
Definitely. If you know of any promoters, tell them to send us an email. We're definitely talking to promoters right now.
Ok. Is there anything you would like to say before we conclude the interview?
Thanks a lot for conducting an interview with me, and for even giving me the time of your day. I really appreciate it, and it's really cool of you. I'm just trying to answer questions, and promote 'Wicked Maiden' to the best of my abilities, but I know guys like you are crucial to helping us. People like you don't have any information regarding us, so I'm grateful. Thank you very much.
Do you have a message for the fans who've supported Impellitteri over the years?
Yeah. My message would be thank you. I love you guys. You guys rock, and you guys rule. I really hope that we're making music today that you can still enjoy, and I hope 'Wicked Maiden' makes you smile. I hope the album stimulates you in a good way, and gives you some motivation. I hope 'Wicked Maiden' is your cup of coffee for the day so to speak, and just gives you that caffeine, that adrenaline rush.
Alright. Thanks for the interview Chris.
Alright bro. Thanks so much.
Have a good weekend.
You too. Bye.
Interview by Robert Gray
"It takes a lot of work to actually write and record a great track."