Saturday, May 27, 2006

Archive 27/5/2006 - James Byrd profile

James Byrd is perhaps the player out of all featured at Baroque & Roll that should be more renowned than he is. His reputation by those that are familiar with his work is right up at the upper echelon of the genre and he has the honour of being the only guitarist Yngwie has given an uncompensated endorsement to, calling Byrd, "One of the best European sounding guitarists I have heard in years, he definitely has 'the vision' and aims for each note and makes it count". Guitar For The Practising Magazine (now known as Guitar One) listed Byrd in their one-off feature "The 10 best guitarists you have never heard" and he is often quoted by rock guitar legend Frank Marino (Mahogany Rush) as a superb talent.

In addition Byrd has one of the purest tones you will hear and his entire catalogue screams quality and is essential listening. His guitar work showcases what the instrument is capable of in the right hands with his immense note choice, clean speed picking, superb vibrato and original phrasing - Byrd is "a players player" and anyone that takes the time to investigate his music further will be blown away – (a baroque and guarantee).

I have noted some comments in a couple of places on the web stating that Byrd is nothing more than a Yngwie rip-off. This suggests that either these people have never heard Byrd’s music or they have never heard Yngwie’s music. There are no real comparisons in a compositional sense between Byrd and Malmsteen other than them both being masters of the guitar and many similarities in influences and tastes. Byrd however is the stronger composer and his progression as an artist can clearly be traced over his recording history which dates back to 1983 with the classic debut by Seattle based Melodic Power Metal pioneers Fifth Angel.

In addition Byrd now front his own guitar company Byrd Guitars who produce the truly stunning 'Super Avianti' of which I own one and can recommend it as the number one neo-classical guitar (even above my old beloved Strats).


Byrd's roots extend back to when he was 9 years old; he had a guitar but was not serious about the instrument until the day Jimi Hendrix died. His first early influences were mostly blues players and within 5 years he was playing like an "old soul" wow-ing much older audiences around the Washington State area. After this Byrd began listening to players like Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth (Scorpions era), Al DiMeola, Neal Schon and Michael Schenker amongst others. Byrd uses these players’ styles as a springboard to his own sound and began honing his playing and song writing skills further still.

Aged 18 Byrd went on the road with a heavy metal cover band, performing albums such as UFO's Strangers In The Night and Scorpion's Tokyo Tapes note for note. This band won the "Northwest Battle Of The Bands" and free studio recording time. As the band did not have a single original song, they went in and just played covers live. Byrd decided after a year in this band, he wanted out, but they tried to get him to stay, so the soundman (who also wanted to go) and Byrd took-off in the middle of the night.

In 1980, Byrd put together his first original band with original songs. In late 1981 he moved to L.A. and spent a year there playing with various bands at the usual places (Troubador, Perkins Palace etc.). In late 1982, Byrd had had enough of L.A. and wanted to move back to Seattle to work with two musicians he'd heard before he'd gone to L.A. One was drummer Ken Mary, the other was vocalist Ted Pilot. This was to become Fifth Angel.

The band concentrated solely on writing, rehearsing and producing an album, and then looked for a recording contract. By late 1983, Fifth Angel was in Steve Lawson Productions with Terry Date recording "Fade to Flames", "Fifth Angel", "In the Fallout", and "Wings of Destiny". With this four song demo, about a hundred tapes went out to record companies on a list. Shrapnel Records was on the list, and Byrd felt that if nothing else, they'd sign him. Mike Varney was on the phone after one listen to sign the project. They got a pittance of an advance, but finished the album by cutting five more tracks. The reviews were stellar, and Byrd began getting endorsement offers and interviews. In 1987, Fifth Angel's reputation as an act got them management with 'Concrete Marketing and Management', and a seven-album deal on Epic/CBS who re-released "Fifth Angel" in late 1987/early 1988. The seeds of destruction for Fifth Angel were sown as soon as large sums of money looked likely. Byrd was out of the band he'd created very shortly after the CBS agreement was signed.

In 1988/89, Byrd returned to Shrapnel Records under his own name and recorded James Byrd's Atlantis Rising. A lawsuit between Shrapnel and their distributors left the album in a warehouse for an entire year with no distribution, but still was advertised in major press by Shrapnel. The album did extremely well in Japan and Europe, but by the lawsuit severaly affected sales in the US. Musically the album is an extension of the sound showed on the debut Fifth Angel album, with strong vocal melodies and guitar solos from Byrd that are a near perfect mix of fretboard finesse and melodic content. Metal Hammer in Europe gave the album a 5 star review.

In 1993, Byrd recorded his first instrumental album Octoglomerate. It was this album that brought Yngwie Malmsteen's introduction. Mike Varney played Malmsteen some of the tracks over the phone, and Malmsteen asked for the album. It was sent, and Mike Varney introduced the two guitarists. 1993 also saw an introduction for Byrd to a long-time hero and influence Frank Marino, a close friendship developed between the pair. Frank's comments of praise about Byrd can be found in numerous interviews by Marino.

1995 brought the recording and release of another instrumental album: Son of Man. Yngwie Malmsteen granted his only uncompensated endorsement of another guitarists work for "Son of Man". Several mentions in major guitar magazines by Malmsteen of Byrd as "A great guitarist" created additional press, culminating in inclusion of a feature article in Guitar (GFTPM) Magazine in 1996; "The Ten Best Guitarists You've Never Heard Of". The album was a huge critical success with many publications calling it one of the finest instrumental releases in the history of guitar music. Any self respecting neo-classical fan should track down a copy of this album.

1996 brought the release of The James Byrd Group - The Apocalypse Chime with vocalist Robert Mason [Lynch Mob / Cry Of Love]. This was to be Byrd's fulfilment of his last contract to Shrapnel Records and possessed a strong collection of tracks marred slightly by a weak mix (Byrd states that Shrapnel gave him $1000 to do the album).

In 1997, Byrd returned to the Atlantis Rising name with a new label -JVC Japan, Mascot Europe-and line up. The new album James Byrd's Atlantis Rising - Crimes of Virtuosity was released in 1998 in Japan and Europe. The album gained extremely strong reviews but sadly label promotion was lacking for this superb album. Many high profile magazine articles did follow e.g. Young Guitar, Burn etc.

In 2000 James made Crimes Of Virtuosity available on Repackaged and remastered the album was a big success, featuring the Japanese 'C.O.V.' bonus track 'Shot Down In Flames', and the previously unreleased guitar/orchestra instrumental 'Byrd's Bolero' [whose recording predates Yngwie Malmsteen's Concerto by some 3 years], both were worthy additions from the Byrd vaults. Several tracks from the album scored highly on the mp3 charts, "Metatron 444" was #2 for 9 straight weeks and was still in the Top 20 after 6+ months!

After 3 years of hand building over a dozen prototypes of his signature "Super Avianti" guitar, James started his own 'Byrd Guitars' company in 1999 and began building his guitars for select local clients. Byrd's unique guitar also caught the eye of the NAMM show planning commitee and his guitar was featured as a display in Kentia Hall at the 99 NAMM show

From here Byrd hooked up with European label Lion Music initially for a solo on the Jason Becker Tribute album Warmth In The Wilderness. Byrd's solo is one of the most unique on the entire double cd with his tone and style being instantly recognisable.

May 29th 2001 saw the release of Byrd - Flying Beyond The 9 on Lion Music. The album set new standard for Byrd's career in song writing, production and guitar work. Press reviews were the nothing short of stunning and was Byrd's strongest band based effort to date at that point.
Summer 2002 saw the release of Byrd's strongest release to date - Byrd - Anthem. This album saw the sound of 'Flying Beyond The 9' built upon with a return to the slightly guitar heavier approach of earlier albums. Vocals melodies were again an integral part of the sound and this side of the album shows Byrd's ability to pen timeless memorable melodies and hooks. Symphonic orchestrations were again heavily used and the production of the album is something to savour with Byrd's best guitar work and tone to date.

July 2003 saw Lion Music release Beyond Inspiration - A Tribute To Uli Jon Roth. James contributed the track 'So Many Lives Away'. Many reviews of the album have called this track the highlight, its also the first track to hear the sonic possibilites of Byrd's revamped 'Strange Particle Productions' home studio. The guitar tone is especially strong on this track.

In 2004 Byrd played a guest solo on the Lion Music Jimi Hendrix tribute album The Spirit Live On Vol 2. Byrd contributes a solo to the track Burning Of The Midnight Lamp which showcases his blues guitar ability.

For the past few years James Byrd has been honing his own take on the electric guitar. The company was officially launched in April 2005 which sees the Super Avianti guitar marketed to the public - for more information see the Byrd Guitars website.

Originally released on JVC Victor Japan in 1998, and Mascot Records (Europe) in 1998, Byrd remastered Crimes of Virtuosity with two previously unreleased bonus tracks and all new artwork/inlay for his current label Lion Music which was released in 2005 - another essential purchase.

In 2006, Byrd recorded and produced the track "The World Anthem" for the all-star tribute to Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush fame entitled 'Secondhand Smoke'.

Byrd Guitars Super Avianti - Artist Edition

Marshall 1987 50 watt plexi head.
Marshall 8x10" vintage cabinet.

Dod 250 Overdrive Preamp
Ibanez TS-9 Tubescreamer
Vox Valvetone
Dunlop Wah

Archive 27/5/2006 - Joe Stump Interview

Joe Stump is often credited as taking the neo-classical fury of Malmsteen and Blackmore to even greater extremes. One listen to his solo works such as Supersonic Shred Machine or his latest magnum opus Speed Metal Messiah show an artist with a burning passion for the genre and great guitar playing. Joe has recently started a new project Holy Hell which looks likely to elevate his position higher in the public view. Joe was kind enough to grant baroque and roll its debut interview and gave us a superb read back in September 2005.

2005 has been a busy year for you so far, can you give baroque and roll a summary of what you've been up to?
Well lets see, I did release the Shredology disc, which was an anthology type of collection record and was packaged along with the live Midwest Shredfest bootleg live cd. That came out in March 2005. Then in late April I went back to Europe for a tour playing solo material, Reign of Terror stuff and some killer Rainbow and Purple stuff. I played a bunch of shows and clinics over there and was over for a few weeks. After that I was out on the road for a good portion of time from late May to late July playing some solo shows and also touring with the power metal band Holy Hell. We were out with Manowar and Rhapsody for most of June in the states and then a few large festivals in Europe in July. After I got back from Europe I went to LA and did some clinics and master classes for Berklee out there and then some more solo shows went I got back.

It's currently early Sept. and I've finally been home for a few weeks. The Berklee fall semester is about to start up so back to my day job a bit , but it's always nice to get back home for awhile after so much travelling, but as usual after I'm home too long I get the itch to go back out rather quickly. I'm quite fortunate that for more of an underground guitar hero I get to do fairly sizeable amount of touring. As you can see my dance card's been quite full these days.

Holy Hell is your latest project with Tom Hess; please tell us about this project.
It's working out nice, in the US and in Europe the band was really well received as the opener with Manowar and Rhapsody. We really crushed on a bunch of the shows. A killer female vocalist Maria Breon is fronting the thing and she's gonna be a fucking star. She sings like an angel (and a demon as well at times) looks killer and people really respond to her and the band. Many of my fans came out to see the thing and really dug it. And of course while it's no Joe Stump show guitar -wise I do get plenty of room to do my thing and cause plenty of damage. So we'll see there's a ton of potential there.

What's the current state of play with Reign Of Terror?
Well I'm going to start work on the Holy Hell disc very soon. I've been writing quite a bit and much of the stuff will be for either Holy Hell or my next Reign of Terror disc. I'm hoping to release the next Reign of Terror after the Holy Hell thing drops as with the bigger label support (Magic Circle Music/SPV) and a lot more promotion behind that release, my next ROT disc should cross over to a lot more newer fans. In the meantime I might look back into putting together the live Reign of Terror stuff for a possible live disc. That should tide a lot of my hardcore fans over.

Will you do another album with Mike Vescera as you two were turning into a very powerful song writing force.
I'm really hoping the next Reign of Terror disc is gonna cross over to a larger audience (as I said previously). So of course it'd be great to have Mike onboard with me as he's such a great singer and writes great vocal lines and lyrics. We definitely have a song writing chemistry together, so we'll see what happens when the time comes.

Your last solo album Speed Metal Messiah, how was the album received and what are your thoughts on it now?
My finest hour, I came fairly close to getting it right on that one after 6 solo instrumental records. All my fans were quite pleased and I'm fairly proud of that record. I wish I had gotten more coverage in the American guitar mags on that my best record to date, but Lion a European based label has a little less pull with the mags in the states as opposed to Leviathan. For instance on Shredology I appeared in back to back issues of Guitar World. But overall looking back the Messiah is certainly my pinnacle of that type of classically influenced guitar work and composing.

Do you still get a buzz from neo-classical music?
Yes I love it; I never seem to tire of listening to it or playing it. Even as I've gotten older, I'm still balls out, more so than ever. I'm not about to slow down, or become an old bluesman, or some whacky fusion player. I love metal, especially neo-classical European style stuff and it's what I've chosen to pursue for sometime now and I have no desire to abandon what I love to do. Of course my instrumental stuff covers a fairly large spectrum stylistically, but the classical influence always seems to be there outside of my bluesier Hendrix-y /Frank Marino-ish exploits.

The genre itself seems to be getting new life into it with bands like Ark Storm and Concerto Moon, are you aware of any of these new acts and if so what's your opinion on them?
I like both those bands very much and both Norifumi Shima and Katsu Ohta are outstanding players, killing. Many people that are a bit on the uneducated side tend to lump all of us in together, (meaning classically influenced players) but I can certainly hear the distinct difference between the various bands and players. Both Ark Storm and Concerto Moon have been around for a while , I'm pretty familiar with many of the artists in my same genre, one because I enjoy some of the stuff as a fan and of course because it's good to be aware of the other artists in your field because you're appealing to much of the same fan-base.

I know your very knowledgeable on the history of neo-classical guitar, in your eyes were did it start and do you feel it has yet to be perfected?
Well as I've said it before the holy trinity responsible for the whole genre is Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth and Yngwie. Michael Schenker contributed as well; Randy Rhoads was heavily influenced by both him and Gary Moore guitar-wise. But the big three really wrote the book with Yng obviously taking it further both technically and having a more extreme classical influence, Malmsteen`s compositions were also much more classically influenced also. Where as Uli and Ritchie would infuse the classical elements more into their lead work in the context of a hard rock tune. As far as someone perfecting it that's really more of an objective thing and of course it depends on what you like taste wise as well. Someone once described my playing as bridging the gap between the older school guys like Uli and Blackmore and the newer super shred players, I thought it wasn't that far off.

You favour an ESP Strat through various amps, do you have a particular tone you are chasing and how close to it are you?
Well my favorite records guitar tone wise are --- Deep Purple `s Made in Japan, Made in Europe and Rainbow's Live on Stage. Uli's early Scorpions records like Toyko Tapes, Taken By Force and Virgin Killers. Gary Moore's Corridor's of Power, Victim's of the Future and We Want Moore. And the first Rising Force disc along with Marching Out and Trilogy. My tone is basically a more aggressive blend of the tones of all my heroes and in my hands it always comes out sounding like me. My tone is a bit less gainy than in the past on my earlier records and I quite pleased with it these days. But one common thread between myself and all my heroes is Marshall, there is no substitute. As Jeff Beck says it's the big Daddy, there is no other fucking amp. I'll always have at least one Marshall in my rig whether it be live or on record.

What would you recommend as a starting point for guitar players wishing to play this sort of music?
To listen to the men, don't listen to the fucking boys. Players ask me all the time if I heard this new shred guy or that new guy that plays with insane technique a billion miles an hour. I tell them I don't listen to that type of stuff, when I wanna hear guitar I put on one of the men - meaning Blakemore, Malmsteen, Schenker, Gary Moore or Uli Of course there's a bunch of other guys I could mention as well. But a lot more of the newer more technical players are leaving way too much of the cool -ass element of rock guitar out. There's melody, vibrato, control and vibe, you need that shit along with all the technical command. Rock guitar isn't hot lick number 64 or this fancy ass sweep arpeggio shape.

You have a couple of instructional DVD available on your website, we have just given a glowing review to Neo Classical Guitar vol.1, I believe you are about to start filming vol.2, what will this second instalment cover?
The second neo-classical DVD will be much more advanced and longer as well. I'll cover transcriptions to a few of my solos and pieces of various tunes of mine. In those transcriptions a wide range of techniques will be covered (multi string arpeggios, economy and alternate picking, classical licks and sequences, etc.) I'll also do a section on pedal tones that will be fairly extensive. There will also be a bunch of performance footage as well with me playing full tunes from my various recordings. The reaction from the first neo-classical DVD was very positive so I'm sure everyone will be completely thrilled with the next one.

Do you feel that public interest in the neo-classical genre is better known than it was say 10 years ago?
Yes, It seems like in general more accomplished, technical playing is being embraced and celebrated by a whole new generation of players, which to me is a very healthy thing. 10-12 years ago you were considered uncool as a younger guitarist if you played solos, practiced and aspired to be a virtuoso type of player. The press looked down their nose at it as well. It was certainly a dark period for actual musicians. Plus you see that feature in Guitar World called "Betcha Can`t Play This", I've done one so have Michael Angelo, Rusty Cooley , John Petrucci and ton of other cool players. Plus Yngwie's got a Guitar World instructional column and he's also on the cover of the new Guitar Player issue, so things are certainly headed in the right direction.

Guitar Dominance to Speed Metal Messiah has been quite a journey, do you have any special fond memories of the recording of any of your albums?
Each one of my albums marks a particular period in not just my career, but my life, so I have a ton of memories from all those past experiences. I remember certain tours, shows; trips out of the country for live full on band touring and or clinic tours. Going to countries and cities for the first time. I remember my first sizeable royalty check, the first times I appeared in various guitar magazines and other well known metal fanzines. Guitar players I opened shows for and met that were and still are my heroes, and how many of my heroes became my peers and how I gained their respect, my first major endorsements all the great stuff all players aspire to. Let me tell you that a day doesn't go by that I don't feel completely blessed that I get to do what I love for a living; I never ever take that for granted. I spend every fucking day with a guitar in my hands for hours on end. The best part of it for me has always been the playing, I love to play, I'm more addicted to it now than I ever was and I've continued to grow and progress as a player, all round musician and composer throughout the spectrum of my career. The more I play, the more I tour the better I get. I've just got done playing a ton of shows over the last few months and I'm at the top of my game and then some.

Another thing I do recall is that many of my early records- Night of the Living Shred, Super Sonic Shred Machine, Rapid Fire Rondo were all made when I was doing some fairly reckless living, whether it be boozing, drugs and of course you've gotta have some womanizing in there as well, man does not live by the sweep arpeggio alone. I'm older, wiser and much more focused now and as a result my playing is constantly getting better. If you listen to the Messiah disc you know what I mean. So yeah it's been quite a fun ride.

What would you say the defining moment in your career has been to date?
My career has had many nice moments but as far as he pinnacle of my classically influenced playing and composing goes Speed Metal Messiah would have be it. Granted looking back you're always gonna have things on every record you wish came out differently, but on that one I came pretty fucking close to getting it right and I'm very proud of that record.

What do you have planned for the rest of 2005/2006?
I'll be recording the Holy Hell record, a new Reign of Terror; maybe the live Reign of Terror disc will finally be released. Another neo-classical instructional DVD, maybe a high quality concert solo DVD. A world tour in 2006 with Manowar, Rhapsody and Holy Hell, very long lots of countries and shows. Of course more clinics and solo shows. I've also got a fairly good idea of what my next solo disc will be like and have a bunch of tunes in the pipes for that as well. So tons of cool shit to do, looking forward to the work.

Joe anything else you would like to tell the readers of Baroque & Roll?
Just as always the most sincere, heartfelt thanks to all the fans that have continued to support my stuff over the years and if you haven't been saved by the Messiah as of yet I strongly urge you to pick up Speed Metal Messiah, if you like amazing guitar work and killer guitar driven metal tunes I think you'll be quite pleased. My best to everyone. Thanks Joe Stump

Monday, May 22, 2006

Archive 27/5/06 - Norifumi Shima (Concerto Moon/Double Dealer) Profile

Japanese guitarist Norifumi Shima is a player firmly rooted in the neo-classical mold of Yngwie Malmsteen and Ritchie Blackmore. Being the leading member of 'Concerto Moon' and the Japanese super-group 'Double Dealer', Norifumi Shima is building a strong cult following with those interested in this style. With a prolific output - 6 studio albums in 7 years - Shima shows that he is a talented songwriter as well as a top class player.

Concerto Moon play superb neo-classical metal combining the best elements of 80s-era Malmsteen and Rainbow. There is a lot of melody, powerful intricate riffs, extended solo sections, exciting keyboard and guitar duels to be found in their music. The only slight note of caution could be thrown at the Japanese vocals on the bands early albums. By their third album Rain Forest, the band had started to write almost exclusively in English as they recognised the need to reach a wider audience. This led to a much more ear pleasing album to fans outside the land of the rising sun. Luckily it also featured the bands strongest collection of songs to date.

However, the bands two earlier albums all contain exciting dynamic neo-classical metal tracks, the choruses on the majority of songs are in English so there is something for the virgin listener to grasp onto until they become accustomed to the vocals. Run To The Sky from their debut Fragments Of The Moon is an absolute corker of a track from start to finish!

Live the band are a truly exciting act as captured on the live album and video The End Of The Beginning. This live set is a collection of the majority of the bands best material (sadly omitting Run To The Sky). The video is available as a bonus disc (mpeg) with European versions of the CD. I however splashed out $45 on the DVD which was worth it for the extra tracks that were not on the CD and Shima's solo spot. This album would be the best starting point for anyone interested in checking out the band.

The bands fourth studio album Gate Of Triumph saw a change of vocalist. Out went Takao Ozaki to be replaced by Takashi Inoue. The impact of change in vocalist was hard to ascertain as Gate Of Triumph was mostly instrumentals and re-recorded versions of earlier classics. Inoue's vocals do sound more confident than Ozaki's when singing in English and the impact of the change was evident on 2003's Life On The Wire and in particularly 2005's After The Double Cross. These 2 releases really saw Shima come into his own and his style is now easily identifiable - not quite so neo-classical in the rhythm department but overall stronger for it.

Alongside Concerto Moon, Shima also handles guitar duties in the band Double Dealer. The band are essentially a Japanese super group made up of members of Concerto Moon (guitars, keyboards, bass) and Sabre Tiger (vocals, drums). The direction of Double Dealer is similar to Concerto Moon in guitar/keyboard duels, but the music is more straightforward metal in approach. The vocals are also more metal-esque and fans of bands like Accept should feel at home with the gruff vocal aproach of Takenori Shimoyama. Some of the translations from Japanese to English do get a little confused at times e.g. "My straight shout squeezed my soul" but overall the band are another worth checking out with their third and latest album 'Fate & Destiny' being essential listening.

Shima's guitar sound falls between that of Malmsteen and Blackmore. Shima uses Strat style guitars loaded with Duncan Quarter Pounder single coil pickups. Schecter make a signature Shima model for the Japanese market. Shima uses both vintage and modern Marshalls and newer Engl amps (upto Rainforest). His sound is the distinctive distorted single coil tone as favoured by the majority of players in the neo-classical mold.

Shima's effect use is very sparse. You'll hear the occasional octave divider on solos, or a wah pedal, otherwise, its a very pure sound that has a lot of bite and definition.

Technique wise Shima is certainly no slouch. He posseses a superb speed picking technique, is adept at swept arpeggios and his vibrato is also very well executed. He is not quite as clean as Malmsteen but he's not far behind. Shima also seems to be developing his own voice since Concerto Moon's debut album which was very 'Malmsteen'.
Shima also knows the importance of when to play slow. Several Concerto Moon instrumentals are based around slow, classically influenced melodic and harmonic minor scales, these show that Shima has developed more of the classical sound beyond those players that just ape Malmsteen etc. The title track from 'Rain Forest' is particularly noteworthy.

Overall if you are a fan of Blackmore/Malmsteen/Uli Roth etc then you should enjoy Shima's work immensely and you may even come away thinking he is a stronger songwriter.

Scheter Signature Strats
Fender Stratocasters
ESP Stratocasters

Marshall 1959SLP
Marshall 1987
Marshall DSL100
Engl Savage
Marshall 4x12" cabs

Sunday, May 21, 2006

From The Archive 21/5/06 - George Bellas Interview

George Bellas is one of the leading players in the modern day neo-classical scene Having released 3 solos albums to date that showcase his rapid fire picking and flawless sweep picking technique over intricate and complex arrangements, Bellas has also worked with such illuminaries as Vitalij Kuprij, Ring Of Fire, Mogg/Way and many more. In this interview we find out what makes George tick musically and get his opinions on neo-classical metal and much more.

Interview conducted November 13th 2005

George, many thanks for agreeing to this interview. If we can go back to the start, what initially made you pick up the guitar?
An unexplainable inner drive. I was seven when I started and had a tremendous passion for it right away.

How long was it before you started to realise you have a talent on the instrument?
I knew from day one.

Who were you early influences?
As far as rock goes... Ronnie Montrose, Michael Shenker, Robin Trower, Ted Nugent, Van Halen, Randy Rhoads, etc...

How did these influences shape your playing style?
They boiled my blood, singed my fingertips and made me want to crank it up! They energized me for a lifetime!

You utilise a lot of intricate time signatures and rhythms in your music, where does this side of your playing persona stem from?
I'm not sure. I have always written with odd meters, ever since I was really young actually.

Do you consciously think, "I am gonna write something in x time signature", or does the music always dictate the rhythm?
Yes to both. Sometimes I begin with an odd meter rhythmic motif, and other times I'll just improvise something on the keyboard or guitar and it turns out to be in some odd meter. 4/4 is weird man...

The neo-classical slant in your playing is well documented, what composers or pieces of music from the
classical masters would you recommend to the fan that maybe is only really into neo-classical metal genre?

Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Paganini, Liszt, Mahler, Stravinsky, John Williams, Bill Brown, Danny Elfman...

On the rock side of things whose works do you particularly enjoy or got inspiration from?
I've been really diggin' Virgil Donati's "Serious Young Insects" album. Killer rhythms and great playing on that thing!

You use predominantly Fender Strats, are the pickups in these guitars changed from the stock units?
I love the sound of the stock pickups, but I also use Dimarzio's and Seymour Duncan's.

Your website shows a few different Marshall amps (non master volume/JCM800/JCM900),do you use these for different applications and do you have a particular favourite model?
I love the JCM900 4100 series amps and also the vintage MKII's from the early 1970's.

Do you an external overdrive with any of these?
I use an Ibanez Tube Screamer. The old green ones. I love those things! Who'd ever thought something so green could be so sweet.

How do you like to mic your guitars?
With an SM57 right up to the grill and a little of centre. I run that through a Focusrite Red Mic Pre and finally into an Apogee AD converter = Bellas Butter Tone!

Any tips for getting a good guitar tone on mix down?
Not on mix down, but while recording yes - play your absolute best, use a great mic pre and get the best AD converter you can afford. Trying to fix a badly recorded tone during mix down is not the way to do it. Get it recorded properly in the first place.

Which of the albums you have recorded are you most pleased with (a) your guitar tone, (b) overall sound.
To be honest... The two albums I am currently producing that are not released yet are my favourite. The tone, writing and overall sound / production is the cream of the crop.

How does your writing process normally start?
There is no normal involved. I'll sometimes begin with a melody, sometimes with a harmonic progression, sometimes with a time signature or rhythmic motive, sometimes just by jamming and improvising. Most always though, it starts with a blank piece of sheet music. I am endlessly and always inspired to create, my passion is insane.

Your 3 solo albums all have their own individual character yet with the unique Bellas sound throughout. What were you aiming for on each album, do you feel you accomplished your goal and what are your thoughts on them now looking back.

Turn Of The Millennium
This album is very progressive, utilizing lots of unexplored meters, rhythms and modes. There is only one neoclassical song on the whole album, everything else is totally futuristic. This entire album was written on music paper (while sitting outside) way before I even picked up a guitar. Dean Castronova did a great job tracking drums as did all the other performers. There was definitely a lot of pressure felt from all the musicians to record this album within the short time frame they had. I sent all the musicians the full score's prior to me getting together with them to record, but most of them had never played or seen rhythm's in 23/16 time, for example. For the drum tracks...Dean and I would get together at his house in the morning, review the drum parts (from the scores) to be recorded that day and then go to the studio and cut the tracks. Bravo Dean! He is one awesome drummer!

Mind Over Matter
This album is totally in the neoclassical style. I composed this album (again on music paper) while recording an album with the UFO guys. While out at "Prairie Sun Recording Studio" I would rehearse with Phil, Pete, Ansley, Barry and Matt and then compose feverishly with every other moment I had in between those band rehearsals. This album has a lot of cool old school harmonic, rhythmic and contrapuntal qualities about it. Immediately after doing this record I did the John West "Mind Journey" album. I was flying back and forth from California to Chicago quite often back in the early days. My girlfriend knew that whenever Mike Varney called, I would usually be on a plane days later.

Venomous Fingers
This album is a combination of Neoclassical and Progressive styles. I wanted to do everything on this album and retain complete control of the entire production. I am very happy with the guitar tone, playing, writing and overall production on this. I am a composer in the most literal sense and want control of every note. I have a passion for writing for all instruments, not just the guitar. Paper and pencil is all I really need and is my preferred compositional workflow. At one point in my teenage years I told my Bass player that I was thinking of devoting 100% of my time to composition (just paper and pencil). But the guitar is too cool! So, my whole life has been trying to balance both performance (improvising + practicing) with Composition.

You played guitar on Ring Of Fire - The Oracle, you had an excellent chemistry with Vitalij Kuprij across all the projects you have worked together on, but how come you only played on the one album?
VK and I have always had a great vibe when we record together. I am very happy with how everything worked out on all the various projects we have done together.

Can we expect another neo-classical release featuring you and Vitalij in the future?
I'm not Nostradamus, but I'm sure it's possible!

You sell a lot of instructional material on your website, what do you feel you offer other musicians in these?
Help with obtaining better skill on their instruments as well as being a source of inspiration.

What are your plans for 2006?
I write constantly and very fiendishly. My catalogue of music is enormous. Out of all that, I am currently preparing 2 albums for release in 2006. These 2 works will contain some of my most eccentric writing to date, featuring lots of unexplored elements not found on any other records to date.

Anything else you would like to tell the readers of Baroque & Roll?
Life is but a vibrating string... and the universe a symphony. Do a google on "String Theory" and you'll know what I mean. Peace!

Interview by Andy Craven.

Archive 21/5/06 - Uli Jon Roth Profile

Though he doesn't get nearly as much credit as Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore, Uli Jon Roth helped lay the groundwork for neo-classical metal with his lead guitar work for German hard rock icons the Scorpions during the '70s. Roth's playing owed an obvious debt to Jimi Hendrix, but the elegance of his lead lines, the fluidity of his phrasing, and his use of alternate scales learned from classical training all helped push his oeuvre into another realm entirely. Upon leaving the Scorpions in 1978, Roth embarked on an solo career that found him exploring his psychedelic and neo-classical influences to a degree that would have not been impossible with his former band.

Uli Jon Roth was born Ulrich Roth in Dusseldorf, Germany, on December 18, 1954. He began playing guitar at age 13 and was performing just two years later. In the early '70s, he joined a band called Dawn Road, which also featured vocalist Klaus Meine. Members of the temporarily in-limbo Scorpions (their guitarist Michael Schenker had just left to join UFO) became interested in Dawn Road's original material, which was largely composed by Roth, and a new Scorpions lineup was formed in 1973 with Roth on lead guitar. 1974's Fly to the Rainbow was their first recording together, but they really hit their stride on the follow-ups, 1975's In Trance and 1976's Virgin Killer, which made them international stars and drew particular acclaim for Roth's soloing abilities. However, musical tensions were evident on 1977's Taken By Force; Roth's epic ambitions began to clash with the straight-up hard rock sensibility of the rest of the band - the album did produce the classic 'Sails Of Charon' along with some exceptionally sweet soloing on 'Your Light'. After a tumultuous world tour, Roth left the group in 1978, following the release of the live double album Tokyo Tapes.

Out on his own, Roth formed a backing band called Electric Sun, which -- in keeping with the classic power-trio format -- featured him on lead vocals as well as guitar. Electric Sun made its debut with the Earthquake album in 1979, which was musically somewhat similar to his work with the Scorpions, albeit with more Hendrix influence, generally longer songs, and a slightly hippie-ish vibe. Those tendencies were explored in more detail on the 1981 follow-up, Fire Wind. For the next Electric Sun project, Roth took a left turn into symphonic neo-classical rock, greatly expanding his compositional palette while introducing his new invention, the six-octave Sky Guitar. The result, Beyond the Astral Skies, was released in 1984 and would prove to be the last Roth recording for quite some time; he elected to take a break from recording in order to work in an ambitious new direction. All three Electric Sun albums though Hendrixian in nature contain countless stunning solos over rich melodic backings.

Much of Roth's writing from the mid-'80s to the mid-'90s was in a classical style, leaving rock & roll behind altogether. For example, the 1991 piece Aquila Suite (later issued as part of the three-disc From Here to Eternity package) was a set of 12 etudes composed for solo piano, in the style of the Romantic era. Also in 1991, Roth was tapped by German television to direct the tribute special "A Different Side of Jimi Hendrix," which also featured bassist Jack Bruce and drummer Simon Phillips, among many others. In 1993, Roth returned to German television with the "Symphonic Rock for Europe" special, in which he performed his first rock symphony "Europa Ex Favilla" (plus several other pieces) backed by the Brussels Symphony Orchestra. Some of those compositions later turned up on Sky of Avalon: Prologue to the Symphonic Legends, Roth's 1996 return to recording, which featured his new backing band Sky of Avalon. Prologue was the first of a projected four related symphonic recordings spotlighting the sky guitar.

In 1998, Roth played his first straight-ahead rock concerts in quite some time, joining the European leg of the G3 guitar-virtuoso package tour with Michael Schenker and Joe Satriani. In 2000, Roth released Transcendental Sky Guitar, a two-CD set of recent live and studio material (including selections from a special 1999 concert in Vienna) that was split into classical and rock-oriented halves - again more essential listening for neo-classical fans. Feb 2004 saw the release of Uli's interpretations of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons entitled Metamorphosis, with his own material added to the end - again an essential purchase.

Uli's tone is amongst the elite in any genre of music, not overly distorted with excellent dynamics allowing each subtle nuance to transcend through the music. Uli's unique Skty guitar has 7 strings and 36 frets allowing him to mimic the range of a violin.. Uli's career is varied but there are gems amongst every release. For this reason our recommendations below are starting points for those new to Uli's work.

Lion Music released a tribute album dedicated to Uli entitled 'Beyond Inspiration - A Tribute To Uli Jon Roth', this is worth buying for James Byrd's rendition of 'Still So Many Lives Away' alone.

Sky Guitar (scalloped necks)
Fender Stratocaster

Amplification / Effects
Marshall 100 plexi tremolo head.
Marshall 100 watt non master heads.
Vox AC30
Fender Twin.
Roland Space Echo

Recommended Releases
Uli Jon Roth
Transcendetal Sky Guitar
Beyond The Astral Skies

Tokyo Tapes
Taken By Force
Virgin Killer
In Trance

Official Website

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Neo Classical News Round Up


Chris has checked in with the following at his official website

Hello Friends,

I am still in the studio finishing the writing process for my next record. The CD working title is called "Good and Evil". It will be a return to the sound of Impellitteri with influences from my Screaming Symphony, Crunch, and System X recordings. The music will feature lots of shredding guitar solos and screaming vocals with the usual fat production.
At this time I have ten tracks written. They are fast and furious tracks mixed with good song writing. Also, there is an instrumental song very reminiscent of Bach or Mozart on steroids.
Both the metal community and the musicians should enjoy this disc.

I have been using my original 1970 Fender Stratocaster, 1958 Gibson Les Paul, and Marshall modified amps in the demo process and my guitar tone and playing are definitely maturing very nicely. I am definitely trying to take my guitar playing into the next realm--(Shred, taste, orchestration, and writing etc...)
It is to early to say how the music will turn out, but I hope and pray that this recording makes our longtime fans pleased. I am definitely doing this disc for you !!!!!

Until then, please check out the audio samples for you listening pleasure, especially if you don't know who we are --
IMPELLITTERI -- the name that know one can pronounce including myself !!!!

Chris Impellitteri


Plays & Lecture Series Vol.1 “Basic Picking”

This new DVD available in Japan only features Concerto Moon / Double Dealer guitarist Norifumi Shima delivering a lesson aimed at beginners to advanced students on picking. There is slow playback of eack example as well as a section on Shima's gear.

The DVD can be ordered from bazooka music

Thursday, May 18, 2006

News: Yngwie Malmsteen to guest on 4 tracks on new Derek Sherinian album 'Blood Of The Snake'.

Derek Sherinian - Blood Of The Snake
Yngwie guests on 4 tracks.


I contacted Derek for a few words on working with Yngwie on his new album 'Blood Of The Snake'.

Comments taken from my sites /

Derek comments, "I flew down to Miami to record Yngwie at Studio 308 April 27, 2006. We spent all day on these songs. He was so cool to work with once again. He was very professional, and wanted to make sure that I was happy with the tracks- that would be an understatment. The song "Viking Massacre" was written in honor of Yngwie. "

Yngwie appears on the following tracks (numbers represent songs in the albums running order)

1) THE MONSOON (sherinian/tichy)

2) BLOOD OF THE SNAKE (sherinian/tichy)

8) PRELUDE TO BATTLE (sherinian/tichy)
YNGWIE MALMSTEEN -guitar DJVAN GASPARYAN -duduk,vocals TONY FRANKLIN-fretless bass DIMITRIS MAHLIS- oud MIKE SHAPIRO- percussion BRIAN TICHY-acoustic guitar JERRY GOODMAN- violin

9) VIKING MASSACRE (sherinian/tichy)

Update 3 18/5/06 Chris Impellitteri Interview & Profile

Over the next few days I aim to get the vast bulk of content at the old site available here, feel free to post your comments to any interviews/player profiles that go online.

Todays update is a double whammy of Chris Impellitteri goodies, first off an interview conducted on New Years Eve on 2005 and also my profile of Chris. Enjoy!

Please note you can access older interview by using the options on the right hand side.

Chris Impellitteri Interview

Chris Impellitteri has been shredding away on the metal scene since the mid 1980's. Over the last decade he has had a prolific output of recorded work and gained a reputation in the genre as one of the finest technicians out there. We here at Baroque & Roll also believe that Chris is a great songwriter and rhythm guitarist so we thought it would be great to track down Chris and fire a number of questions at him about his playing style, his albums and much more! Be sure to also check out our profile of Chris (below) and buy some of his music!

Interview conducted December 31st 2005

What inspired you to begin playing guitar? Who were your initial influences and have they changed over time?

I started playing guitar after my mom and dad died when I was 9 years old. My grandmother thought I needed an escape from my tragic past so she bought me an electric guitar to replace my parents. I was definitely influenced by Van Halen and Randy Rhoads as well as jazz guitarists like Al Dimeola and later Yngwie.

My influences always change over time. Truthfully I listen to everything and everyone (musically speaking). However, my dominant guitar influences are early Van Halen, Rhoads, Dimeola, Yngwie, and then all other guitar players in the world.

How would you describe your style and tone?

I can tell you that I enjoy classical music in regard to composition and phrasing; therefore I tend to use a lot of your typical minor, harmonic minor, and diminished scales blended into heavy rock music. I obviously tend to play very FAST !!! ( sometimes great and sometimes senseless masturbation); both instances definitely describe my technique. I really enjoy playing for the song, which means either playing with perfection or playing in a crude manner. I guess I let the music direct me. I am definitely a guitarist with a very highly debated style. Some people think I am a great amazing guitarist and others think I suck. I guess it depends on my mood and drugs. If I am focused, I will play great like my first Impellitteri EP or my recent recordings which are controlled and well practiced; on the other hand if I am chemically influenced you end up with the earlier stand in line or that stupid reh video product (yuk). Ultimately, my style is definitely characterized as speed demon with classical influence and love for aggressive, melodic music. I definitely love to shred !

As for tone, I can honestly say that my tone has not changed much, but the engineering on the recent recordings have finally captured my tone instead of destroying it. I like to make my guitar sound like a chain saw but yet clean enough to hear each note when I shred.

You have a unique style, how many hours a day practice do you devote to the instrument?

I practice usually about 6 hours per day depending on my schedule. If I am making a record than I will play up to 14 hours per day, which is insane but it really has made me a better player.

You used a Fender Stratocaster for the bulk of your career, what is it about that guitar that you like?

I love the Fender Stratocaster. I first bought a Stratocaster after seeing Van Halen with a Charvel. Since I could not find a charvel I bought a Fender Stratocaster because it looked like Van Halen's guitar. Then I really found this connection with the instrument. It has the perfect body shape and the double cut away allows comfortable access beyond the fifteenth fret. The neck shape is also perfect for my hand, I can really play extremely fast on Stratocasters. I also love the sound of Stratocasters. If your record them correctly they sound amazing. I can burn up the fretboard with great clarity thanks to the single coil pickups.

How many guitars do you own and do you have favourite instruments that you always find yourself going back to for studio and live work?

I actually own only about 5 specific guitars. I have my main Stratocaster which is a 1971 Stratocaster that I bought in 1996. I have used it live and in the studio ever since I bought it. It really has allowed me to play great live. I guess you could say it gave me a tremendous confidence. Next I have a 1958 Gibson Les Paul that is amazing. I use it in the studio and actually took it out on the latest tour in Japan. It screams and the fingerboard allows me to play really fast without having to fight the instrument. My third guitar that I use is my Fender Stratocaster that was built in the Fender Custom shop. I do most of our recording with that Stratocaster. It is definitely modified, with jumbo frets and a combination of Duncan and fender pickups. The rest is my secret! My fourth guitar is the Chris Impellitteri signature Stratocaster that was released in Japan. It is the prototype model which is designed to replicate my 1971 Stratocaster. It is an excellent playing guitar.

You are pictured with scalloped guitars c. Stand In Line, yet more recently you have used non scalloped guitars, why go back?

I went through a stupid phase of using scalloped guitars thinking it was cool because of the other people using them. But in the end I realized I could only play great by using traditional vintage style fret boards. Basically, I need a neck that has low action and a smooth fingerboard fitted with jumbo frets. With that combination I can play technically very well and extremely fast. In fact, on my first recording which was the Impellitteri EP, I used a standard early 1970s stock Stratocaster. Additionally, since the recording Screaming Symphony I have returned to using stock Stratocasters and I have gotten my technique back.

The tones you have got on Impellitteri albums since 'Grin and Bear It' have all been GREAT, a really raw Marshall crunch, what's your basic amp set-up and do you boost the input with any overdrive pedals?

Thanks ! My amps are all modified. Live I usually use my 1973 Marshall 100 watt head with 25 watt celestion speaker cabinets. The 1973 marshall was modified by Bob Bradshaw. Basically it has extra preamp stages that increase the gain structure of the original amp. The head is amazing; in fact I got it around 1996 when we did Screaming Symphony.

I also have a 1969 Marshall 100 watt head that is completely stock and it screams. (Total Van Halen tone from the eruption solo!)

My third amp that I use often in the studio is a VHT ultra lead amplifier. It sounds very fat in the studio and blends well with other amps. Oddly, it also allows me to play really fast and capture all the notes with clarity like my 1973 Marshall head. Also, I must admit that I have been using a mesa boogie triple rectifier for the fat tones that go on the modern medal songs we record. So for the lead solos I use Vinatge Marshalls and VHT's, and for the rhythms I use VHT's and Boogies.

[Impellitteri c.Eye Of The Hurricane]

Has your basic guitar/amp set-up changed much since the Impellitteri ep?

No. I still mainly use Vintage Fender Stratocasters with Marshall's in combination with other amps. As I said earlier the engineering has finally captured the sound of my guitar only recently. I have always used Old Marshall's but the earlier versions were completely stock so you really had to work hard to make the amp sound right. I can also say that since I bought a major recording studio I have learned how to get that great guitar hero sound I wanted. In fact, since Screaming Symphony I have gotten a lot of compliments on my tone and technique.

How do you like to record your guitars and what sort of mic'ing techniques do you use? Any tips for getting a good sound when recording?

I use my Neve 1081 mic preamps and eq's for the recording of my guitar. The signal then goes directly to my Studer 827 tape machine. I play without using effects which allows me to make certain the tone that goes to tape will be the tone that is mixed in the final stage of the recordings. I also tend to eq in the mix with API equalizers. The API eq definitely shapes the guitar tone so that the guitar has great clarity in the mix. As for miking the amps, I use Sure SM57 microphones pointed directly in the centre of the cone of the speaker. That in a nut shell is the secret of my recording technique. The rest is in my hands.

Have you used any of the modern "modelling" amps, and whats your view on these gadgets?

No, I don't use the modelling amps yet. The ones I have tried do not move air. In the studio I like to feel that the speakers are actually pushing air and with my experience I have been able to do that only with real amplifiers. However, I have tried some of the amps like the pod and I will say it is really easy to play fast and do all of the technical wizardry, but the tone just seems fake in the studio. So therefore I am still using real crude technology for my amplification.

Which of your albums that you have recorded are you most pleased with (a) your guitar tone and (b) overall sound?

My favourite disc is definitely System X. The sound of the guitar is really amazing. The solo tones are top notch and it was definitely the record I should have made with Bonnet instead of the stand in line disc. Finally, for System X both myself and Graham were free of our demons and we were playing in great form. That disc will go down as one of the great cult classic discs if history is honest. The solos are shredding, well orchestrated, and the songs are a fine mix of vintage rock and modern metal. I also like the fact that the record is fairly raw sounding. In fact there are very few effects on the disc. I mixed the record with Mudrock who produced Godsmack and Avenge Seven Fold. I think I was his first virgin shred metal band, but he did a great job with System X.

My other favourite is my first Impellitteri EP that I recorded with Rock. The Impellitteri EP known as the black EP was definitely legendary in the shred circles. It was the first Impellitteri recording. The solos were ridiculously fast and the voice was insanely high. The songs were also great. The only problem was the actual recording of the music. Since we were poor we had no money to compete with all those bands who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their records. Instead we went in with about five hundred dollars and banged out the recording in the middle of the night with some friendly engineers in LA. So the music was definitely great because it was basically live with a couple of mikes and the band in a room!

[Graham Bonnett & Chris]

Something we mentioned in your Baroque & Roll profile was that Stand In Line had a very wet production, was this a conscious decision or a sign of the times?

No, I must admit I hate that recording. With the exception of the song Stand in Line the recording in no way represents Impellitteri. We were all so messed up with chemicals and secret addictions that the recording was doomed from the moment we went into the studio.

I can say that I cried to the engineer to change the sound of the guitar because I believed he was ruining the original tone that was recorded. But in the end he would not listen to me because the label paid him to mix the disc without my consent. To me I think the guitar was buried in to much reverb. But it was a good lesson for me to learn how to record and mix my guitar from that moment on. In fact the reason I made the great records like Screaming Symphony, Crunch, System X and so on was because of my anger towards the stand in line recording.

Your latest record 'Pedal To The Metal' pays tribute to the metal genre as a whole. What led to you doing an album like this and what was the reaction to it like?

Pedal to the Metal is absolutely a fun recording filled with lots of parody and tribute. In fact many people who hear the disc love it because we take you on an adventure by mimicking every band and style known to man. I wanted to have the record mimic bands that historically have been copied by other bands. So as you listen to the record you'll hear the Ozzy and Yngwie era that many people cloned in the eighties and then you hear the In Flames rip for the influence of the 90s, followed then by the modern metal scene with a Disturbed style tune. We also do a funny metal rap version which pokes fun at the whole M&M rap scene. In effect, the record sounds like Impellitteri is a cover band. It was really fun to do. Of course a lot of the tunes are also typical Impellitteri songs that just get you off your feet and make you want to grab your guitar and play.

Curtis Skelton was a great singer, will you work with him again?

Curtis Skelton is a great singer and I do not know if I will work with him again. I am currently writing and recording with my new band in LA and I am waiting to see the outcome.

One that thing that annoys me is that when people mention you they just focus in on the 'shredding' aspect of your work, missing the great song writing and riffs, what do you feel you can do to change this perception?

I think that people are finally beginning to hear what you are talking about. It is true that I brought on the shred label to myself. I am totally guilty of self indulgent soloing. After I did the Impellitteri EP alot of people told me how great I was and how amazing my speed was, but I got lost with that label and then with chemicals and depression I really lost focus. I call that my senseless guitar masturbation period.

However, since making the records I previously mentioned like Screaming Symphony, Crunch, and System X alot of people now hear a very well balanced version of Impellitteri, which I hope is filled with great songs, riffs, and inspiring solos with just the right mix of each to please all. Additionally, thanks to Japan and imports Impellitteri has now sold about 1 million records. So we are definitely making an impression in the music scene I think.

Do you care about this perception from certain people?


Impellitteri are huge in Japan yet never reached those levels of success in the US and Europe, does this annoy you and what can be done to change it?

Yes! I do want Impellitteri to be huge every where but all I can do is keep evolving musically. I have know control over what country or land we are popular in. I just love making music, so I just keep making music for the love of creating music. If anyone wants to enter the Impellitteri world their always welcome.

What do you feel in the internet has done for your career over the past few years?

I dont know? Impellitteri have a good friend named Brian who runs our fan club. The web page is . Brian usually lets our fans know what we are doing and asks us to update him on our current activity. In all honesty I really don't have anything to do with the site other than what he asks of me and my band. So if you love us or hate us you can write in and contribute your thoughts. As for the rest of the internet I think it is good and bad. I like it when the great Impellitteri music and performance is exposed, but I hate it when the crap we dont want released is heard. I guess that's part of the fun of the internet.
Ultimately, I think the internet has really led a lot of people to connect with Impellitteri. We definitely have been gaining a lot of new fans thanks to the internet!

Getting back to your guitar style, when did you start realising you had your own identifiable style?

Just now when you said I have an identifiable style !! Honestly, I think when I released my first Impellitteri EP the reaction from that disc made people recognize that my style was a mix of shred and metal. In fact, I was probably one of the first artists to mix metal like Iron maiden and Priest with technicall guitar playing. That was what the Impellitteri EP was all about. Also when I won best guitarist in the Burrn readers poll in Japan for Screaming Symphony I began to feel I was accepted as a decent player with his own technique.

Your rhythm work is amongst the best in the metal genre, what other players do you admire for their rhythm work?

Wow, I think someone paid you to say that ! thanks again ! Dime from Pantera was a great rhythm player, I love all the Norwegian metal bands for their heavy and melodic rhythm playing, definitely top notch.

Any tips for aspiring guitarists to build up their lead chops?

Practice ! It is what has led me back to being a real player. Just dedicate yourself to the instrument and the rest will follow.

You did the aforementioned REH instructional video back in the late 80's and some cover DVD's for Young Guitar magazine. Will we ever see any new instructional material (e.g. new DVD) from you?

I really hope so. I know people have begged me to show my true identity as a player. Unfortunately the reh video I did in the eightys sucked because I was so high. Sorry about that! I really owe the guitar community a video that truly shows the technical side of my guitar playing; so maybe with a bit of good luck I will do one in the future. Until then you can hear my playing on the discs.

What are your plans for 2006?

Record and make new music and hopefully tour !!

Anything else you would like to tell the readers of Baroque & Roll?

Thanks for your time and keep shredding the strings. The guitar is an amazing instrument and a great tool for self _expression. I hope to see all of you live with Impellitteri in the future !!

Thanks for your time Andy I truly appreciate it !!

Chris Impellitteri Player Profile

Super speed shredder Chris Impellitteri has had many tags associated with him: Yngwie rip-off, soul-less, lives only for speed soloing etc, but there is much more to this artist than cheap accusations. Impellitteri has possibly the best right hand picking technique in metal today. He also knows how to pen a catchy, melodic hook filled tracks which are a combination of power and melody - many of his albums are essentials to readers of Baroque & Roll.

Chris first came to prominence in the mid 1980's thanks to his 4 track Impellitteri e.p. This led to a major label deal which saw the release of 1988's Stand In Line featuring Graham Bonnet (Rainbow/Alcatrazz) on vocals and Pat Torpey (Mr Big) on drums. This album combined Chris's super speed soloing with tight punchy metal riffs and commercial hooks. The album contains what have become Impellitteri classics with tracks such as Stand In Line, Secret Lover, Tonight I Fly, and an instrumental working of Somewhere Over The Rainbow. The album created quite a buzz on the metal scene at the time and musically, it still stands up well today though it does come across a little dated due to a wet production.

The band Impellitteri's next release was Grin & Bear It. This album saw a complete overhaul in personnel and featured a change in sound. The heavily neo-classical tracks were replaced by a more riff-based, song-oriented direction that was more in line with Van Halen and early Extreme. These heavy and catchy riffs were the backdrop for vocalists Rob Rock's powerful metal scream. The duo proved themselves to be a very strong song writing partnership and one that would blossom over subsequent releases.

Answer To The Master and Victim of the System followed in quick succession, and both are superb metal romps powered along by Impellitteri's metal finesse, Rock's classy vocals and drummer Ken Mary's (Fifth Angel/James Byrd's Atantis Rising) explosive drumming.

But it was Screaming Symphony which really saw the band hit its stride. This album is home to one of Chris's finest instrumentals in 17th Century Chicken Picking. Screaming Symphony led to a fanatical following in Japan and further underground praise around the world.

Eye Of The Hurricane is perhaps the bands highlight with Rob Rock in the band. Containing 11 tracks of pure metal delight, this album is a fast, break-neck ride that only lets up briefly for the acoustic track, On and On. But its the metallic majesty of tracks like Eye of the Hurricane, Shed Your Blood, Master Of Disguise and the neo-classical instrumental work out Race Into the Light that catch the attention.

With the release, Crunch, the band got even heavier but its still a pleasing metal album with rip-roaring tracks like Beware of the Devil and Speed Demon, the energy displayed is impressive with neo-classically tinted solos.

2002 saw the band reform with Graham Bonnet for the re-energised System X. This is one delightfully metallic affair and not a thousand miles away from the sound displayed on Stand In Line (sonically its infinitely better). It also features Bonnets best vocal performance since Alcatrazz's No Parole For Rock & Roll. The album is available worldwide.

2005 saw Impellitteri work with another new vocalist - Curtis Skelton - to produce the blistering Pedal To The Metal. This album saw a nice mix of the styles on offer from the bands back catalogue as well as some modern metal outings which work well with Chris's speed soloing.

Chris's guitar sound is based on the classic Stratocaster and vintage Marshall setup. However, the rhythm tones often suggest a more hi-gain amplifier for the biting metal tone and tighter bass. Chris's website reveals the use of Soldano SLO-100's, Boogie Rectifiers and a Peavey 5150 as well.

Chris's lead tone is however very pure with a lot of definition and clarity and this would be the likely area where the vintage Marshall's are used.Chris's REH instructional video Speed Soloing saw Chris using a Fender Stratocaster as he blazes his way though trademark licks and motifs.! Chris' then started to use Schecters for a brief time. These days he is back to Fenders and uses custom shop instruments. He normally prefers rosewood boards, large headstocks and single coils (see top picture).

Chris lead work is firmly rooted in the neo-classical mold e.g. lots of 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 string arpeggios, sweep picking passages, diminished, harmonic minor and Phrygian runs. Chris's speed was best shown on the Stand In Line album. Since then his solos have matured nicely and he has learnt the art of when to use his terrifying speed to provide more impact.

Chris's technique is super clean, with flawless timing between left and right hands. His vibrato has improved over the years and continues to get better with each release. To see Chris's work close up I highly recommend tracking down copies of Young Guitar magazine where Chris is featured on the cover DVD.Chris' rhythm work is often based around fast speedy power chord voicings on top of rampaging open notes, yet the choruses often see nice chord inversions to make the melodic choruses more memorable.If you are looking for a band and player that combine heavy riffs, melodic vocals and impressive classically tinted soloing Impellitteri is just the ticket.

Fender Stratocaster
Schecter Stratocaster

Marshall 1959 plexi
VHT UltraLead
Soldano SLO100
Mesa Boogie Rectifier
Peavey 5150
Kasha Rock Mod

Ibanez Tubescreamer.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Neo-Classical Charts (month of April 06)

Neo Classical Album Charts - April 2006
Charts supplied courtesy of

Hideaki Nakama

Point Of No Return
Hideaki Nakama, a neo-classical and metal guitarist who gained fame with the hard rock band Hurry Scuary released a mostly instrumental showcase album in 1989 called Point Of No Return. The CD features seven instrumental tracks, along with two vocal numbers sung by bassist Norio Sakai.

Matthew Mills
Neo Classical Rock Guitar

Fire up the arpeggiation cannons, and launch the shred torpedos - guitarist Matthew Mills is back with a musical version of 'shock and awe' entitled NeoClassical Rock Guitar. Joe Stump, a big influence on Mills, guest solos on the album's closing track "Shattered Horizons".

Michael Romeo
The Dark Chapter
Romeo is an incredibly accomplished player drawing on a neo-classical style reminiscent of Yngwie Malmsteen while retaining his own identifiable signature that sets him apart from other players in this genre. He has received major coverage in many of the guitar magazines around the world and is best known for his role as lead guitarist in Symphony X.

Timo Tolkki
Classical Variations & Themes

Classical Variations And Themes is the re-release of Stratovarius guitarist Timo Tolkki's 1994, neo-classically flavored, melodic metal solo outing. An 11 track collection (9 instrumental, 2 vocal) of classical variations and themes, it includes Tolkki's interpretation of Tchaikovsky's "Death Of A Swan", as well as Rodrigo's "Concierto De Aranjuez" ("Guitar Concerto") and the traditional tune "Greensleeves". Tolkki provides the vocals on a pair of vocal tracks, and interestingly, decided to give up the vocal chair in Stratovarius shortly after - in order to concentrate on guitar.

Opus 2

The music of Opus 2 is rich in musical depth, progressive key changes and rhythms, orchestration, great passions of emotion, and of course, extreme double virtuoso guitar work. You have heard progressive bands, instrumental shred guitar masters, neoclassical virtuosos, cool film music and very dramatically expressive music before, but the only place you are likely to hear all of this in one CD is Opus 2.
[Be sure to check our Baroque & Roll's interview with Tom Hess now].

Nick Andrew


UK guitarist Nick Andrews first Solo? album is a totally unique musical experience that has brought together his love of classical, jazz and rock music. With a very off-the-wall virtuoso panache and sense of humour everything, from the delights of a dynamic chamber orchestra, to full on rock drums to insane jazz piano, is played on guitar and guitar synth.
[Baroque & Roll comment - not strictly neo-classical metal this one].

Vinnie Moore
Defying Gravity

Vinnie Moore's Defying Gravity is a stunning instrumental barrage of outstanding musicianship and is rooted deeply in the progressive neo-classical style that generated a legion of loyal fans.
[Baroque & Roll comment - for purer neo-classical from Vinnie checkout Mind's Eye]

Yngwie J Malmsteen
The Genesis

A collection of 6 demos recorded in 1980 and essential listening to anyone interested in Yngwie's roots. The sound is of demo quality but a great release. Also includes some spoken word from Yngwie and a recently recorded cover of Hendrix's Voodoo Chile.

Borislav Mitic

Fantasy is guitarist Borislav Mitic's 1996 Yugoslavian release which eventually led to his signing with Shrapnel Records. Featuring original compositions and works by Paganini, Handel and Bach, the CD is a neo-classical shredfest in every sense of the word.

[Baroque & Roll comment: A good release but try and hunt down the self-titled release on Shrapnel Records, sadly long out of print]

Bob Katsionis
Imaginery Force

An instrumental virtuoso progressive/neoclassical/metal album with amazing keyboards and guitars, entitled Imaginary Force. Katsionis is the number one keyboard player on the Greek metal scene and is constantly touring and recording with various acts, such as Firewind. Fellow Greek neo-classical shredder Theodore Ziras also contributed one magnificent guitar solo each.
[Baroque & Roll comments - More prog metal but their are neo-classical touches scattered throughout].

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