IMPALER, the Shock Rock band from Minneapolis has been around for ages already, but for some strange reason overhere in Europe most people are still lacking in information about them. They are probably best known because of their classic releases "Rise Of The Mutants" and "If We Had Brains… We’d Be Dangerous" that both came out on Combat Records in the 80’s. But very little is known about the years and releases to follow, so we re-located original vocalist BILL LINDSEY who kindly accepted to answer our questions. Here’s the result.
The first time I heard about IMPALER was in 1984, when your "Rise Of The Mutants" EP came out… How long had the band been together at the time already?
"IMPALER formed in the summer of 1983."
Did you record any demos or something prior to that EP?
"Yes, we had a demo that was circulating through the tape traders at the time called "Vicious" demo." It had four studio songs and a live show."
I guess it would be a good idea if you could tell us exactly when and how the band got together back then… Had anyone of you any projects going before you founded IMPALER?
"The Metal scene back in the early 80’s was cover bands (bands that played other people’s music) IMPALER wanted to do all original material and put on a theatrical stage show. That was the plan from the begining. We all played in bands that we were not 100% happy with."
Who came up with the visual side / image of IMPALER and did you use that straight from the start?
"I was the founding member of IMPALER. I came up with the name and the concept. I got all the members together. Once we all got together everyone contributed to their own images. Everyone was excited and had input of their own."
When it comes to the image, where did you get your main inspirations from and did you create your outfit and stageshow completely on your own?
"Our main inspirations came from the original ALICE COOPER BAND, KISS, Horror Movies and Pro Wrestling. We created our own costumes and props to set us apart from other bands. We didn’t want to wear clothes that anyone could buy at the store. We were very different from the other bands around at the time."
And musically? Would you agree that you not necessarily have a pure Metal background, but also got influenced a lot by Punk music at the time (especially your vocals remind me a lot on old British Punk)? Feel free to tell us some of your main influences at the time.
"Well, some of us in the band liked Punk better than others. Meaty Bob (drums) and I listened to FEAR, BLACK FLAG, GBH and DISCHARGE. We also liked bands that mixed Punk with Metal like the STOOGES, MOTÖRHEAD and VENOM. I listened to THE DAMNED, THE RAMONES, THE DEAD BOYS. But my vocal influences were ALICE COOPER, STEVEN TYLER, BON SCOTT, OZZY, DAVID LEE ROTH and IGGY. These were the guys that made me want to be a singer. They were the bands I listened to back in the 70’s."
I noticed that you originally started out as a 5-piece, but already with the release of "Rise Of The Mutants" your other guitar player, Mike Senn, wasn’t with you anymore… What was the reason for the split-up?
"We couldn’t always get along. Mike formed a band called VILE that played alot of shows with IMPALER back in the mid 80’s. He came back for a short time and played lead on three demo tracks that appear on the reissue of the two combat albums called "The Gruesome Years" (Root Of All Evil Records)."
Why did you never replace him and just continued on as a 4-piece in the years to come?
"We felt the chemistry was perfect with just the four of us. We didn’t want to get someone else in the band that we couldn’t get along with. Also we had more room on stage for mayhem!!"
Is it possible that "Rise Of The Mutants" was supposed to be a 3-track EP at first? When it got announced there was only talk about the songs ‘Shock Rock’, ‘Assassin’ and ‘IMPALER’…
"That was an early press release that was inaccurate. "Rise Of The Mutants" was originally going to be a six song EP. The song ‘Live Hard, Die Fast’ and the original recording of ‘Breathing Down Your Back’ were omitted by Combat. So it was released as a four track plus Torok’s guitar solo ‘0 dfx’ (zero defects). He liked to spell it the weird way… But that title was left off the track list for some reason."
So, was ‘Crack That Whip’ the newest song on that EP at the time?
"I can’t remember…all those songs were written about the same time. We were building our song list up at that time and writing tons of material. Some songs that only appear on live bootleg tapes!"
"Rise Of The Mutants" originally came out on Blood Records, which (I suppose) was your own founded label… What made you do so? Was there no real interest in IMPALER happening at the time?
"That is not correct. We got signed by Combat before we had to put it out ourselves."
When I found the EP in a store overhere in Germany back then, they had censored the cover picture with a white piece of paper – did similar things already happen to you overthere in the U.S.?
"Yes, there were actually stores that refused to carry it because of the cover!! The P.M.R.C. was all over it. Church groups burnt it and protested our shows! It was exactly what we wanted!!"
How did you get together with Combat Records then? Did they like your EP or have they been seeing you live, so that they offered you to be on their label?
"They had read about IMPALER in the fanzines and heard our "Vicious" demo. When they heard the tapes and saw the cover we wanted to do for the EP they said Combat will put it out."
What kind of contract did they offer you? For how many releases? And was the license of your EP already included?
"I think the original contract was just for "Rise Of The Mutants". That sold so well that they wanted another one."
But it seems that your co-operation didn’t really work out as you only recorded one more album for them in 1985, the "If We Had Brains… We’d Be Dangerous" full length. So, what exactly went wrong?
"Combat promised alot to us that they never delivered. We became frustrated and asked to sever ties with them. A lot of the people who believed in IMPALER had left the label and were replaced with assholes who didn’t care about IMPALER and did nothing for us.There were great people there who helped us alot. Mike Snapp and Allen Becker were a pleasure to work with. Others sucked!!"
How did you hook up with HÜSKER DÜ’s Bob Mould as the producer for that album?
"They are from Minnesota too. We played alot of Punk clubs when we started because we played our own material and were so aggressive. HÜSKER DÜ used to come see us and asked IMPALER to play with them when they released "Metal Circus". When we came to record "If We Had Brains… We’d Be Dangerous" we had to find a producer. Bob Mould had produced some other bands from Minnesota. We knew he understood what we were doing."
"If We Had Brains… We’d Be Dangerous" also featured a cover of the old STOOGES song ‘Search And Destroy’ – who came up with that and did you have any other cover songs in your set at the time?
"We played a cover once and a while of bands that influenced us. That was one that we played a lot and was a crowd favorite so we decided to record it. I believe I was the one who wanted to do it the most! We did others sometime ‘Making Love’ by KISS, ‘Poison’ by VENOM and ‘Sin After Sin’ by TWISTED SISTER are a couple that I remember."
Why did it take you three long years until you returned to the scene with "Wake Up Screaming?
"We recorded that album in 1988 but through bad management it was held up in red tape for three years! It did not come out until 1991. We had a couple of deals that fell through so it ended up coming out on a local label here in Minnesota called Channel 83."
Have you at least been able to play out live in between the split-up with Combat and the release of your next album? Any particular shows (good or bad) that you can still recall?
"We never really stopped playing shows. Out of town shows slowed down a bit. I also got my son in a divorce and was raising him at that time too."
Your stage shows have been described as a mixture between "Night Of The Living Dead" and "The Day After" – would you like to go a little bit more into detail here?
"IMPALER has a stage show that has to be seen to be believed! Lots of blood and guts and pyro and fire. Very high energy and physical. I get carried out in a body bag, smashed with folding chairs, people get their entrails ripped out!! It is Halloween all year long."
Did you mind if people compared the blood’n’guts thing with early W.A.S.P. shows?
"No, I think Blackie and I were influenced by a lot of the same people. We were in Minnesota and W.A.S.P. was in L.A. so who do you think would get the most press? But W.A.S.P. is more rockstar in their image. IMPALER is more horrific."
On the CD re-issue of "Rise Of The Mutants" / "If We Had Brains…" there’s also 4 demo tracks from 1987 – did you shop that around to record labels?
"No, we intended to at first but we had so many management problems at the time. And Mike Senn had left again so we got our guitar tech at the time John Stradinger to play guitar. He knew all the material as well as any of us in the band."
How popular have IMPALER become throughout the years overthere in the U.S.? I guess you mainly concentrated on the American market, didn’t you? Or what is the reason that there’s hardly anything known about IMPALER overhere in Germany?
"IMPALER is a cult band. We have a strong following that is growing all the time. We have fans who write us that have been into the band since "Rise Of The Mutants" came out and we have fans who only heard of us recently. I think that since we have never had the chance to play in Europe we haven’t been able to make as much of an impact there. IMPALER would love to come over and play. We get mail from all over the world so some do know about IMPALER. We need the right connection to bring us over there."
I’m personally totally lacking in information about all the other releases of yours, that came out in 1988 ("Wake Up Screaming"), 1995 ("Undead Things"), 1998 ("It Won’t Die") and even your brand-new album "One Nation Under Ground". So, could you tell us all necessary things about each one of them?
"Wake Up Screaming" was the last album that Mike Torok and Court Hawley played on. That was the end of the original line up. At this time there was a mad doctor and an accident in a laboratory and I was frozen in a block of ice… then I was resurrected by a Punk rock band called IRON FIST that used to play shows with IMPALER back in the 80’s. I asked them to join forces with me in IMPALER. Nikki Nickols on guitar and Eric Allyn on bass and a drummer named Ron Barna became the new IMPALER line up. We began recording and playing live shows and soon put out a six song demo called "Sonic Freakshow". We soon sold out of that and knew we had to release a full length CD. We recorded "Undead Things" in 1995/96. We put it out ourselves on the Vlad Productions label. It sold very well but more importantly we got a lot of national press from writers who remembered the band from the eighties. Also some big record chains here in the states refused to carry "Undead Things" because of the cover!! We came full circle from the "Rise Of The Mutants" days. All this attention caused us to sign with Root Of All Evil Records. IMPALER has known Earl Root from his radio show and record shop since the eighties. So it was a perfect move for both Earl and IMPALER. Nikki moved away in that year and has been replaced with Brad Johnson on guitar. We put out "It Won’t Die" in 1998 and the "Black Leather Monster" 7". This disc has had a lot of critical praise and attention here in the states. In late 1998 Ron moved out to Seattle to be with his son. So to our good fortune Tom Croxton became our drummer and we played the "March Metal Meltdown Fest" in New Jersey and "Expo Of The Extreme" with MOTÖRHEAD in Chicago and "Milwaukee Metal Fest" all in 1999. Now for Halloween 2000 IMPALER has released our most gory, gruesome monster to date… "One Nation Under Ground!!!"
By the way, what caused the big gaps in-between all of them?
"I think the biggest gap was between "Brains" and "Wake Up Screaming" and that was the result of bad management and putting our trust in people who really didn’t know what they were doing.Once we put out "Undead Things" we have put out an album every two years. That is where we want to keep it. It takes about two years for us to promote an album properly and write and record new material."
You very often had problems with the P.M.R.C. because of your offensive album covers but haven’t changed a bit anyway… Would you say that this controversy resulted in better or worse album sales?
"That is what IMPALER stands for and we won’t ever change. The P.M.R.C. and Tipper Gore can shove it up their asses!! We think the covers are cool and horrific and if that upsets some people they can fuck off!!"
You also had some line-up changes throughout the years and by now you are the only remaining original member left? What had mainly caused those changes and what keeps you personally still going?
"I think some musicians tastes change over the years and they don’t want to play Metal any more. Or they have changes in their lives that cause them to quit playing music or at least slow down. I can’t do that. I have Metal burning in my heart and I love it so much I don’t want to stop. Also I’ve been fortunate to find great people who want to keep IMPALER going. We are staying true to the original idea of what IMPALER is."
Would you agree that the new members pretty much changed the overall IMPALER style? I mean there’s quite obviously a big difference in the rather Punk-ish early stuff of IMPALER and the more Rockin’ new material, so… Have your personal influences also changed over the years?
"Certainly each person brings something of themselves to IMPALER but we still mix Punk with Metal. All of our writing skills have gotten better with time. Some bands put out their first album and it is kick ass and then they go down hill. IMPALER is getting better and stronger! Music is something that is constantly influencing me. I love new Metal and Punk bands and I don’t forget the old influences either."
There’s two remakes on the new album. One by ALICE COOPER (‘Teenage Frankenstein’) and a re-recorded version of your own old classic ‘Heaven’s Force’, which originally appeared on your "Rise Of The Mutants" EP… Tell us the reasons why you exactly decided to re-record those two songs? Especially the ALICE COOPER song is rather unusual as it’s from his more commercial late 80’s period, so…
"’Heaven’s Force’ is a song that has never left the live show and fans always say how much they love the new line ups version of the song so we re-recorded a couple as bonus tracks and they just got included with the rest of the disc. My first choice was to redo an older COOPER song like ‘Dead Babies’ but the band started to fool around with ‘Teenage Frankenstein’ and it sounded great! Plus the lyrics fit well with IMPALER’s style."
Please introduce the current IMPALER members a little bit more, how long they have been in the band by now and what they have done previously?
"Eric Allyn on bass abuse… Uncle Eerie as I call him has been with IMPALER ever since the "Sonic Freakshow" demo and "Undead Things". Eric had been in the Punk band IRON FIST before IMPALER. Brad Johnson is the guitarist and he has been in the band since "It Won’t Die". Brad played in the Punk band IDOL THREAT and MONDO TRASHO before IMPALER. Like Eric I’ve known Brad for many years. Tom Croxton is our newest member. He destroys on the drums. Tom is a Metal veteran who has played in numerous bands and recording projects. Some of the bands that he has worked with are ACHERON, THE UNHOLY and a side project called KREPITUS and a recording project called 3’s EVE. Tom joined shortly after "It Won’t Die" came out. We also have Dr. Corpse, the Zombie Executioner, and the Bride of IMPALER who adds chaos to the live show!"
Anything else that people should know about IMPALER?
"IMPALER will always be lurking underground with all the other corpses. When you need a monster fix IMPALER will leave your blood splattered! OOOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!"