Impellitteri – Return of the Beast

Monday, 29th October 2018

Dead Rhetoric: What are the biggest challenges that Impellitteri faces to deal with the current, ever-evolving music industry that we live in today? And do you have any solutions or insight into how things could improve?

Impellitteri: Revenue streams are quite a bit different than when I was a kid. I do remember you could sell… when we did Answer to the Master in Japan, we sold 100,000 records in the first day, something obscene. Today, it’s much more difficult to convince the buying public to buy an entire body of work. You aren’t making tens of millions of dollars on making records anymore – it’s about touring and branding.

For new generations of bands I get this question a lot, ‘well what do we do?’. The first thing is, this is my advice even to myself, you do this for the passion because you love music. We are artists, you start with a blank canvas when you begin to paint. That’s my number one focus, it’s not about making three million dollars in one year. Been there, done all that stuff. It’s more about expressing myself and sharing my body of work where if two people are turned on by music or a million people, the reward is still just as gratifying. That’s the way of succeeding going forward. You’ll do anything you can do to share your work with other people. Now financially, you may have to do some other things in business. Everybody needs to eat right?

In the old days I got signed to Sony Music, a big record deal, here is a couple hundred grand here, another couple hundred grand for advances, tour support. There was MTV, all of that stuff. Today that doesn’t really exist.

Dead Rhetoric: The biggest question that probably comes up when talking to North American journalists especially is – when are we going to see Impellitteri playing more shows on domestic shores? Care to elaborate from your side why other markets outside of the US seem more open to your style than domestically?

Impellitteri: This is just my perspective – it’s theory. I believe the US is controlled by the good old boys club- a network of people, managers, booking agents, etc. I’ll give you an example – think of say Metallica. The management of Metallica may have three other b-level bands underneath them. The promoter will be bringing Metallica to a city – and the management will be willing to give them the date, but they also have to put on one of their other bands. It’s the same thing for the space, trying to get the venue.

I can only tell you what I see when we go overseas. We’ve never been a bar band, we are not going to play little clubs. Overseas we play massive places. Even in Japan we are playing two thousand plus seat venues, multiple nights. In America, the promoters and to be fair to them they may be right, they have their own group of people they are comfortable with. Promoters probably look at us and think they don’t know if we can draw three people to their area- and to be honest they may be right, we don’t even know that. It’s been an untapped market for us. The biggest problem we have right now is convincing the agents, the promoters to bring us in. We can’t play the venues unless they invite us.

Dead Rhetoric: Is it frustrating to break through that wall when you know that the consumers aren’t stupid if they see a Metallica headlining and Avenged Sevenfold is opening. To them, why would they want to experience the same type of thing when that could be a time to give a young, upstart band that shot?

Impellitteri: They aren’t looking at it from that perspective. I’m betting ten to one whether it’s Cliff Burnstein or Peter Mensch, they are looking at it as a way to tap into Avenged Sevenfold’s audience. They have a huge following, but it’s a different demographic than Metallica. They may cross, but Avenged Sevenfold has a lot more younger fans, especially on the female side than Metallica. I think that’s the reason- and there’s also the competitive component. They are terrified if they put on a band that may be a little better than them musically, it doesn’t make them look good. And we’ve literally had people tell us that, which seems shocking. They are afraid because we can sing, or play, and maybe outplay them, they don’t want their band to look bad.

Dead Rhetoric: After the shows, do you find audience members still coming up and asking for your advice about guitar playing – and if so what do you have them consider?

Impellitteri: I do talk with fans a lot. When you said after the show- we do signings. And that’s a full band, it’s not only guitar players. Impellitteri – and this is really important – is a band. It’s four guys, and I am no more important than any of the other guys. I’m just the guitar player – so a lot of people during the singings want to talk to Rob Rock because they love him, or they love James. The guitar players that do come up and say hi, yes they do want to talk about technique which is a lot of fun.

One thing is true – YouTube has made it much easier for younger kids now to see what we are doing. There are so many amazing players on YouTube, and they show their technique. Within a couple of hours you can learn these things. When I was learning the guitar, there was none of that. Put a needle on the record, try to slow the thing down, and pick out the first three notes out of the million. So guitar players are still curious. The big question I get which is typical is how do I play so fast and accurately. They want to know how I pick, because scale sequences are scale sequences. When you do it enough you get muscle memory. The technique, the articulation, the more complex the passages the more difficult it is. Something I tell people is always work on your picking technique. You don’t have to do always alternate picking- I tend to do it because I’m comfortable that way. Whatever it is, you have to enhance the notes where they need to be enhanced. That’s really based on your right hand.

Dead Rhetoric: How would you describe your personality to others meeting you for the first time? Do you think there is a specific area of who you are that you would love to improve or work upon more?

Impellitteri: As a person? As a human being, for my daughters. My oldest daughter is an attorney, and my younger one is in the medical field. They always tell me I’m like a three-year-old child, to grow up (laughs). They probably would say I should be a little bit more mature with my personality. If I don’t know people, I tend to be a little bit shy. Sometimes I think people think I’m a bit arrogant or snobby, and it’s not that. If I don’t know you in a physical setting, it’s harder for me. I tend to hold back a little bit more.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s left for Impellitteri to accomplish, see, do, and experience? Would you ever consider developing a documentary of your life, or possibly writing an autobiography?

Impellitteri: Wow, that’s kind of cool. Right now, we have a long journey. We are getting into the point where we are like vampires and dinosaurs. It would be fun to do a documentary on the behind the scenes to keep something like this going for so long. We’ve been around since 1986 – here we are in 2018, and the band is getting bigger. Every record cycle we go out, we do something that outdoes our previous stuff. When you are a band that’s never really been embraced by the masses, the way that like Satriani, Van Halen, or Vai were – we are not embraced by the Metallica or Pantera community, but we keep sustaining and gaining fans. And that would be fun to see.

We are definitely going to tour. We are looking at dates in Japan as always, Europe. US- we are desperately trying to work this out with promoters, if we can find a happy medium where we find decent size venues and they can take a chance on us. There are so many people around the United States that have begged us to play, and I feel for them. We want to bring the whole production and the whole show with us. If we can make it happen, we will tour the United States.

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