Chris Impellitteri has been shredding for over 30 years with his band Impellitteri. Gaining some success in the late '80s in the US, the band really took off in Asia, especially Japan, where they headlined arenas.
The band just released a three CD compilation album titled Wake the Beast: The Impellitteri Anthology.
We had the chance to speak to Chris to talk about the new CD, his career and what he has planned for the future.
Greg Drugan: I wanted to congratulate you on your new CD compilation Wake the Beast that comes out on Friday. How did this CD come about after all of your recording history?
Chris Impellitteri: It’s been a while in the making, I can assure you that. It came to fruition because we got all the legal rights back from our masters. For years we were signed to record labels in Japan and Europe and they controlled the rights. The success that we’ve had in Japan has spilled over into other markets. A lot of new people are very curious about who we are. Is Impilletteri a disease or a rock band? We’ve had interest but the music wasn’t accessible without paying exorbitant import or export prices. As soon as we got the legal rights back, we would release this compilation of music, so hence, that’s what’s happening.
GD: Very good. So this is a 3 CD set. How many songs are on this?
CI: Oh gosh, there’s at least ten songs per CD, so at least thirty songs.
GD: Over the course of your band, how many albums have you put out internationally?
CI: We’ve done eleven or twelve records so far. We tend to do our records far apart. We’ll do a record and then tour Japan and continental Europe. We take three years, at least between records.
GD: So this compilation is like a “best of” all of your albums you put out so fans can get an idea of what your catalog is all about.
CI: Yeah, I think so. People have asked me how we chose all of these songs. Over the years and playing to our fan base, they kinda let us know what they like or disapprove of. When kids would rip one of our songs from our CD’s and upload it to YouTube, you can read comments to see what they think.
GD: You are back working with original lead singer Rob Rock. Many tracks also feature Graham Bonnet. How did you first meet up with Graham?
CI: After we did the first record, called The Impellitteri Black EP, we spend a year promoting it to build a really big buzz in places like California. We were getting noticed on the Sunset Strip, we got five out of five reviews from Kerrang magazine, our live shows were killing it, then our singer Rob Rock decides he wants to go and do something else. So I came across Graham, and we were friends, and he was like “what are you doing?” I said,”well my singer just quit. What are you doing?” Graham had just ended Alcatrazz after their third record so we said why don’t we try writing? I remember going to his house and the first song we wrote was “Stand In Line” which was title track for that particular album.
GD: Did you guys open up for bands on the “Stand In Line” tour or did you headline clubs at that time?
CI: You’re gonna laugh at this, but we were headlining arena’s. Not in America. It was mostly Japan. We did one co-headlining date, the last one Graham Bonnet played with us at the San Jose Civic Auditorium. It was completely sold-out, about five thousand people. It was Impellitteri and the Pat Travers Band. It was an amazing show, and we get back to LA. Graham had to get back to Australia because he was having issues with his wife. So he flies to Australia and we get a call from our manager saying we have the whole ending of the Iron Maiden tour. Great! Then ten days later, we get a call from Graham saying he’s got to stay in Australia, he can’t come back because the marriage is in trouble. I could have written a song with Coverdale, “Here I Go Again!” (laughs) We auditioned a lot of very well known singers, then we crossed paths with Rob Rock and we decided to reform and that’s where we are today.
GD: Very good. I hear this sometimes with bands that make it really big in Japan or Asia, but they don’t make it here in the US. I just wonder what you think the disconnect is?
CI: Oh, easy! In Japan, you have to earn respect through your music. The PR machine that tries to convince people that you’re good, doesn’t work. In the US, and I don’t mean to sound negative, but there is a lot of media, even metal media that completely ignores us. In America, it truly is who you know. When we go there (Japan), we compete with bands like Metallica and Ozzy for covers of these magazines. Our records are heavily promoted on TV and radio, our shows tend to sell out. I do think that it’s work that has got us there.
GD: There’s nothing wrong with hard work. Playing across the States, do you have any memories of playing in Cleveland?
CI: I do! I think there was a place called the Cleveland Agora. When I was in high school, I was really into Van Halen and Gary Moore. I ended up opening up for this AC/DC tribute band out of New York and they were really, really big. Their guitar player quit, and we were the opening band and they asked me if I wanted to join them. I said yes, and I ended doing Angus for over a year with them and we ended up playing the Agora Ballroom and places like that. This was like 1982. But with Impellitteri, no. We did some dates on the east coast, but we never played Cleveland. But we need to because Cleveland is an awesome place.
GD: Looking back on your career, when did you know you wanted to be a musician?
CI: I started playing guitar when I was twelve years old. Within a year, I got really addicted to the instrument. I grew up with my grandparents and my grandmother bought me my first guitar, but not only that, she bought me tickets to see this band called Kiss. I was in fourth or fifth grade, it was the Rock and Roll Over tour, but it was the same set as their Destroyer tour. I remember seeing Gene and Paul running down the stairs, opening up with “Detroit Rock City” with bombs going off. Kiss’ show was like, “wow, I gotta do that!” Even though I was more into bands like Thin Lizzy, Queen and Van Halen. That was a huge influence on me.
GD: Besides Kiss, who were some of your other early influences?
CI: Real early, like twelve to sixteen were Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, loved Queen but the heavy side of Queen like “Stone Cold Crazy.” We did a song called “Cross to Bear” which was our attempt to do “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Then of course, Eddie Van Halen and Randy Rhoads with Ozzy. Those two guys had a huge influence on me.
GD: When did you first meet up with Rob Rock and form Impellitteri?
CI: I was actually loaning some of my equipment to Gregg Almann. He had a solo thing, and I lent him some equipment, went and said hello and I remember seeing this opening act. I was like, ‘who is this singer?’ Rob Rock is his true surname. He used to get so embarrassed about his last name that when I saw him it was called the Robert Allen Band. He was amazing, he could sing like Rob Halford screaming, Bruce Dickinson and Dio. He could do all of that stuff but he was real melodic as well. We met up and started talking and three days later, we were in the same club when they were closed, we brought in a band and started playing. It was instant chemistry, it just worked.
GD: Very cool. Talk about playing shows, are there any plans for you to tour behind this record?
CI: We are going to go out and tour but it’s going to be the summer of 2023 because we’ve been in the studio for over a year and we are recording our next record. The plan is to release the new record close to the summer of 2023 to be followed by a full tour, a global tour. We will play anywhere that people will have us.
GD: So it’s like, people that haven’t heard you or haven’t heard you in a long time, they can get a taste of what your band is all about. Then they will also have a new record to listen to.
CI: Yeah, I’m real excited about the new stuff. The twelve songs that we’ve written and the few that we’ve recorded, we are really excited about it. Hopefully it turns out as good as we hear it in our ears now.
GD: Chris, I will get the word out about this record. If you come to the Cleveland area, I will be sure to check you guys out. I’m excited to see you come out and start shredding again
CI: Thanks man, I appreciate it!
Check out Impelliteri's new three CD compilation: Wake The Beast: The Impellitteri Anthology which is out right now.
If you would like to watch the complete Zoom interview, just click below.