Interview By Ville Krannila / January 2008
First off, why did you start a Priest tribute band and what does the music of Judas Priest mean to you?
Cristiano (bass player): Well, it might be an obvious answer but it’s just as simple as this: we all love Judas Priest!! In Italy there are a lot of tribute bands dedicated to Iron Maiden, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses…we felt it was time to bring Judas Priest’s masterpieces to the metalheads as well, the best way we could. Our singer Pier Paolo is one of the most devoted people to Rob Halford in the whole universe and has been singing his verses for so many years…he just HAD to be the singer for a JP tribute band and we all agreed in trying to set up the best and most faithful act we could: it wasn’t just passion which led us but the challenge to reproduce everything that made Priest so great in more than 30 years of heavy metal music. Judas Priest is one of my favourite bands and we all share the same love for their music: I think you HAVE to like them to be part of a band which plays about 24 JP songs every show, ahahah!!
Where did the name Lawbreakers came from, a Priest song?
Cristiano: Yeah…our guitar player Rena came up with it thinking about a fusion between “Breaking The Law” and “Jawbreaker”. Ripper used to introduce “Breaking The Law” asking “Do we have any lawbreakers out here?”…we all felt it was a great name, even if sometimes it’s a bit difficult to explain some old people we meet that we are not robbers and bad guys!!
How long have you guys been Priest fans, how did it all begin?
Cristiano: For me it all began ten years ago, when I was 12. I had gotten into heavy music two years before thanks to Iron Maiden and it took me some time before discovering Priest and falling in love with them. I bought “Screaming For Vengeance” because I loved the front cover and already knew “Electric Eye”…then, I was hooked. I started collecting all their records…the first time I played “Painkiller” I was shocked from its perfection as a song and album: it was PURE metal, everything I could relate to heavy music was there at its best!! The riffs, the atmospheres, Rob’s screaming voice, devastating drums, the evil lyrics and Glenn/K.K.’s harmonies and magic solos…I understand why that album made so many people listen to them and to heavy metal. I think it’s pretty much the same for my mates, even if we’re of different ages…Valerio (guitar) deserves a special mention because he’s the eldest among us and when I was 3 he saw JP live on the “Mercenaries Of Metal” 1988 tour, which was actually the first time Priest came to Italy! He started his metal journey thanks to “Defenders Of The Faith” and is still here headbanging with us: Rena could be his son, being 18!!
Of course singing the songs originally done by the Metal God himself isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Do you practice the metal screams or do any vocal training?
Pier Paolo (singer): I started self-taught but my performances and singing got really better when I decided to take lessons from a great singer here in Milan. He taught me how to use the voice properly and how to hit the high notes without losing it after a few songs…I think it’s really important to have someone telling you how to improve yourself, especially if you plan to sing for a long time and want to preserve your voice. I drink water and sleep a lot, which is really helpful…it might not sound so rock ‘n’ roll but it’s the sad truth: heavy drinking, smoking and partying all the time doesn’t improve your voice at all!!
How much practice in general it takes to make a successful tribute act?
Cristiano: it depends on the skills you already own as a player, of course…but to make everything sound tight and Priest-like it takes quite a lot. We didn’t start playing music in Lawbreakers and came from previous bands and experiences so it’s never been a matter of “being able to play that riff or solo”…but we didn’t just want to play some covers “decently”, we wanted to sound and think like Priest and this made us spend a lot of time on the small details, like maniacs! We met just to find the best distortion, the guitar effects, the backing vocals…during our practise days we were pretty much like Chris Cole in the movie “Rock Star”, never satisfied!! Now we take everything a bit easier, especially because we don’t need to practise every week anymore…we know the songs better than our girlfriends ahahah!! Of course there’s not a proper rule to rehearse for a tribute act: it depends on what you’re searching and aiming for. Some people just want to have fun without spending so much time on sounds and arrangements or like to give their own interpretation to the songs…I understand that perfectly. But my ambition is not only to entertain but to impress the people who come to our shows, giving them everything they need as Priest fans: I have been watching official and unofficial video releases and listening to a lot of bootlegs to find the best live versions of each song in our playlist…
What “gear” are the players currently using?
Cristaino: Here’s a list of our basic gear…
Pier Paolo (singer): Shure Beta 58 PGX24E Wireless System
Rena (lead & rhythm guitar): Peavey V-Type NTB TR guitar, Line 6 Vetta head, KMD cabinet, Line 6 FBX foot controller
Valerio (lead & rhythm guitar): JEM 7V Steve Vai Signature guitar, Line 6 Vetta II head, Line 6 cabinet 412S-T, Line 6 FBV shortboard
Cristiano (bass): Fender Precision Standard bass, Ampeg B5-R head, Ampeg SVT-410 HLF enclosure
Rullo (drums): Tama Starclassic kit, Zildjian cymbals and a lot of shit he spent money on to build his fucking castle!! 🙂
We found out that Line 6 guitar amps are the most simple and best ones to faithfully reproduce the sounds and distortions Glenn and K.K. had back in the 80’s because are perfect for mid-frequencies…there’s really no need to build a tower of pre-amps, compressors, boosters or effects anymore!!
What’s the hardest Priest song to play live? Which one took most work to get done?
Cristiano: I think it was “Sinner” (both live and at the rehearsals), because of the changes and the intricate structures…great song, by the way!!
If you could add any song to the Lawbreakers set, which would it be?
Cristiano: We all have some favourite songs that for some reason are not in the playlist yet…I’d really like to play “Hot For Love” from “Turbo”, I love that song!!
Have you recorded any Priest songs in studio? If not, do you have plans to maybe cut some demo versions of Priest classics?
Cristiano: Yeah, we recorded three songs in studio for a promo CD two years ago: “Painkiller”, “Metal Gods” and “Jawbreaker”. We recorded them playing live together in the studio except for the vocals, which Pier did while listening to the instrumental versions we had made before. Everyone can listen to them on our MySpace Page (www.myspace.com/lawbreakersband) and download the MP3s from our website (www.lawbreakers.it)!
Do you use other Priest-related gimmicks such as motorbike on stage?
Cristiano: Our crazy drummer Rullo has built two beautiful reproductions of the Judas Priest trident we place in the right and left corners of every stage we play on. We all wear leather (Valerio and Pier are literally drowning in studs, chains and handcuffs…they keep adding stuff every month, ahahah!),of course, except for Rullo, whose long time excuse is that “Scott Travis plays with sport pants and regular t-shirts”. We all hate him because in summer he’s not melting like us after one song, ahahah! We did use a small minibike once…motorbikes don’t fit the pubs very well and even when we play big stages we don’t know where to find one!!
What is the most memorable gig that you’ve played and what made it great?
Cristiano: Everyone has his own memorable gig… I think one of our best was the one we did at the Jesse James Saloon in Saronno (about 30 kms from Milan) in October 2007. It’s not a big stage but everything was fine…great and perfectly balanced sounds coming from the PA, great performance and a lot of fun!! I love to play there…we got told by some friends we were really on fire that night and I felt the same onstage!
Are there any interesting “Lawbreakers on the road” stories to tell?
Cristiano: Of course…we are a bunch of mad guys, you’d not believe your eyes after a weekend spent with us, ahahah!! The decent ones I can tell (!!!) are quite funny…I remember booking a gig at a place I considered one of the best venues around and telling everybody in the band (and some friends who wanted to come and see us!!) that we’d have played on a huge stage. I had only been once to the place, didn’t remember where it was and didn’t know there were about three venues with the same name, in the same area!! When we got there we found we had to play in a farm…no stage, just a Mixer and PA. We got out of our cars and some chickens came to greet us. I really wanted to die!!
A recurrent funny thing is about Rullo…you know, he’s not a normal person. He’s really crazy…sometimes we don’t even understand what he says because he speaks like a mad robot. He’s the craziest man I’ve ever met on Earth. He always complains about not being able to get to the venues on time after work to set up the drumkit and do the soundcheck. I always have to fight A LOT because he starts calling me a few minutes after I sent the rest of the band a mail with the schedule for the upcoming show and tells me things like “I won’t be able to come!!” – “You know, there’s a lot of traffic!!” – “Cancel the gig!!” – “No way!!”….always the same old shit, a thousand times. You know what?? He’s ALWAYS the first to get to the venue AN HOUR BEFORE the meeting. When I get there and see his car parked outside I always greet him screaming a huge variety of bad words…but he doesn’t even listen. I hate him, ahahah!
Have you ever seen other Priest tributes? What sets Lawbreakers apart from other JP tribute bands?
Cristiano: I’ve never seen other Priest tributes playing live but heard and watched a lot of stuff on the internet…I particularly like Xciter from the U.S.! I don’t really want to make a comparison between us and other bands because, as I told you before, everybody has his own way to tribute Judas Priest. I think our best qualities are certainly the fidelity to the originals and the great care for details in everything we do, from the sounds to the website!
On the outside the metal scene In Italy is possibly most known for their power metal bands, such as Rhapsody and Labyrinth. Are there any upcoming traditional heavy metal bands in style of Priest waiting to be recognized in your country?
Cristiano: Eheheh don’t forget Lacuna Coil!! I know some people wouldn’t define them “metal” but I think they are…they are our most successful and appreciated Italian band on the international scene and come from Milan, like us. I consider them more metal than a lot of copycats that still go out and play like Judas Priest in 2007…I think people and bands should start looking forward and learn that heavy music didn’t end in 1990. Judas Priest, Iron Maiden…the classic metal bands are still around doing their job and to me it’s really pointless nowadays to make a record in which the singer screams like Rob, the guitar parts are bad clones of Tipton & Downing’s harmonies and all the drum intros sound like “Painkiller”…why don’t you start a tribute band instead? You’d save a lot of money and avoid all the frustration of dealing with the music business! If you ask Steve Harris or K.K. himself for a favourite band among the newcomers I’m pretty sure they’d not tell you “the ones who sound like us” but give you the names of bands that, like them in the 70s, came up with an original style and their own qualities. That’s why I don’t like listening to the thousands of imitators who steal riffs and ideas from the originals, who will always be the best ones…I have some cool names but they’re not related to Priest at all ahah!! One of the best “traditional but not too much” metal bands we have here is Vision Divine (www.visiondivine.com), a band which was started in 1998 by Olaf Thorsen as his solo project (he was playing for Labyrinth at the time)…their latest album is great and they’re getting really big!!
What’s up next for your band?
Cristiano: Shows and fun…that’s all!! We are always looking for new venues and new people to play for!
If you had to choose, which Priest album would you take with you to a deserted island and why?
Cristiano: I would take “Ram It Down” with me. I know it’s not a very popular record but I think it’s a highly underrated masterpiece. There are some riffs, vocal parts and solos that are just AMAZING and “Blood Red Skies” is one of my favourite songs EVER. I love sci-fi and if I close my eyes and listen to the song, it makes me travel with my mind in space and time. It’s the ultimate portrait of Judas Priest and heavy metal as it was before the 90’s: cheesy lyrics, incredible screams, synths, awesome melodies, astonishing reverbs…and Rob was just awesome on that tour!! I’d die for an official release covering that period, but know that there’s not so much material around…and maybe the band don’t like it so much because it reminds them about Reno…:(
Thank You! Keep playing and keep bringing PRIEST fans an excellent tribute!
Cristiano: Thank YOU and all the guys at the Mill, K.K. included: you’re doing an impressive job and as a Priest fan I REALLY feel this place is like home…this is the Official Judas Priest website for me!! Thanks!!
MySpace Profile: www.myspace.com/lawbreakersband
MP3 Promo Tracks: www.lawbreakers.it/download.aspx
Videos (YouTube Channel): www.youtube.com/crislawbreaker
Live clips from YouTube:
All Guns Blazing