From Kontrol To Integrity - 
Life As A Musician
By: Sara Lambeth

Chris Cannella is a household name amongst music industry insiders. He has dedicated his life to the art of music, the business of music and is considered one of the best guitar players in metal. 

During the '90's and into the '00's, Chris Cannella was the guitarist for the nostalgic band, N17.  Always wicked and always in dark theatrics, N17  became a fetish for fans. N17's dominating presence amongst the Arizona metal/goth/industrial  scene earned the date, November 17th as an unofficial holiday.  Once, one of the pioneers in the, and I use this term loosely, industrial genre, N17 only plays the occasional reunion show. Early this year, it was announced that said show would be happening April 11th. 

Like I said before, Cannella is considered one of metal's greatest guitarists. He has been a guest guitarist  on albums from Queensryche, Agoraphobic, Nosebleed, and Gorgoroth  as well as asked to sit in on the recording of the upcoming albums from Slayer, Soulfly, and Deftones. He has done numerous guitar clinics including a 14 day tour across Europe with Phil Demmel of Machine Head. 

During a Jackson Clinic at the Music Power Showroom in San Diego, California, Cannella spoke from his heart saying,
"When you're playing guitar, it's your time. Whenever you're sitting down with yourself, you don't need an amp, you don't need anything. (But) If you're sitting there strumming your guitar and making a few notes and making it work for you, no government, no person, no anything can take that away from you. That is your moment. You have just created your own personal time, your own personal magic. That is creativity. "

This became a way of life for Cannella  back when he was 15 years old. He was given his first guitar, a Jackson, modeled after his graven image Randy Rhoads (Ozzy Osbourne, Quiet Riot.) This  amplified the passion for Jackson and unwavering love for music that led to his  dream career working for Fender Musical Instruments Corp. (FMIC);  which Jackson Guitars,  as well as Eddie  Van Halen's EVH Gear are a part of.  

“I remember I was told I had to take the EVH gig while I was with Jim Root of Slipknot on stage during their soundcheck. I didn't want the gig, but the CEO at the time said, “no choice,” and it ended up working out. Corey from Trivium was there too,” Cannella remembers.

During his time at FMIC, Cannella worked directly with the iconic Eddie Van Halen helping to build the EVH name into an actual brand not a signature series. 
“Over five years, we never had a single disagreement. We got along great and still keep in touch. He is a beautiful human and so is his right hand man Matt Bruck, his wife Janie, and Wolfgang,” Cannella said.

With a life dedicated to Jackson Guitars and Fender, it came as a huge surprise when last year Cannella announced he would be leaving FMIC to  become the Director of Artist Relations for ESP Guitars.

Here is what Cannella had to say about going to ESP Guitars.

DB: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. A lot has changed for you since we last spoke back in October of 2012 ( As of last year you no longer work for Fender Musical Instruments Corp. and now are the Director of Artist Relations for ESP Guitars. Knowing your first guitar was a Jackson and your lifelong history with Fender, why the switch to ESP?

Cannella: Well I do not want to talk ill of anyone. There are still allot of really great people at FMIC, but for me it was time to move on. Me and the current leadership did not see eye to eye on certain things that i hold close to my heart. They were taking the brands into directions I personally could not agree with and i was moved to Gretsch. Amazing people at Gretsch, no doubt, and that brand is amazing, but at the end of the day i am a metal guy. When i was approached by ESP I was blown away by the level of quality they hold for their products as well as the employees. I truly felt like it was my home right away. I love it so much that i still live in Arizona and commute three days a week to North Hollywood. 

DB: How are you enjoying being with ESP? What does a "typical" day at work for you look like?

Cannella: I average anywhere from 250-300 emails/ day. i am on the phone constantly with artists from all levels and styles. I also spend a few hours a day in product development for the line. I wish i could say there was a typical day but some days i am desk bound, or i have artists in the office, and then there are days where i am in the recording studio with Slayer or the Deftones. I attend a lot of shows and off site meetings and its for sure the busiest I have ever been. But, when I am home I don't like to leave the house. (Laughs).

DB: This was your first  NAMM show with ESP. How was NAMM this year for you?

Cannella: It was the most exciting NAMM ever for me. I have never been more slammed. (It was) so bad that I was only able to meet with people by appointment. I got to spend a lot of time with friends like Alex Skolnick, Frank Bello and Gary Holt. That was awesome. My team at ESP was incredible to work with. It was awesome. 

DB: Very exciting news that the original line-up of  N17 is reuniting to perform at Club Red April 11th . However the reason for the show, especially it not being on November 17th, is a rather sad one. Can you tell us a little about Jon Taylor and how this show came together?

Cannella: Well I will leave the details of Jon with Trevor. That is a very personal thing for him as well as the band. But in all honesty, it was time for us to play again. A few years back we got on stage for three or four songs and got along so (that)  we knew a  reunion show was inevitable. N17 has done shows in the last few years, but this is the first time that i will be joining them. This show is very serious for me.  When N17 fell apart 15 years ago, there was a lot of animosity towards each other. I then said I would never play with N17 again, but sometimes people eat crow and when we did the short surprise set with me a few years back my mind changed a bit.

DB:.  It is going to be quite the reunion of reunions having Sorxe and TOAD on the bill as well. What are you most looking forward to about the show?

ESP GuitarsCannella:  I am definitely looking forward to seeing all the bands with us. (There are) some great bands on this bill. TOAD, being one of my favorite Arizona bands to date. For me I am looking forward to the performance and the intensity we will bring again. We are taking this very seriously and not just being five dudes going up reliving the glory days, but rather bringing the true N17 back to perform the way the fans deserve to see us. I am also so excited to be playing on stage with (Jason)  Kowalski again. We always remained close through everything. He quite possibly is one of the best drummers in the biz. Shit, we played together since ‘91. In all honesty, it will be fun to be with everyone again on stage: Damon, Byron (Filson)  and even Trevor (Askew) ( Laughs)!  In spite of everything that happened, Trevor still is one of the best frontmen ever. Damon is a manic live as well. Hell, we did arena football almost a decade before bands started calling it the wall of death. A famous lead singer once told me, who will remain anonymous, that he got that idea from us in the late ‘90s, so I really am looking forward to it all. 

DB:  It has been over a decade since the N17 original line-up has played together. Has a setlist been decided yet?
Cannella: The setlist is a little up in the air but, we will be playing most of our favorite songs. Grip Kontrol BAAL etc. Definitely more off “Trust No” One than “Defy Everything” but, still doing our faves from that as well. We just don't have as many favorites on that one!

DB: Does a November 17th show seem likely to happen this year?

Cannella:  I would say no but then again I said i wouldn't play live with N17 again and here I am Ha Ha Ha! Who knows, maybe there will even be another N17 CD someday, but you never know.

DB: How are things with  Autumn's End going? What can you tell us about future plans for Autumn's End?

Cannella: Autumn's End is in a period of rebirth so to speak. The vibe and feel of the band kind of fell apart there for a bit. Too many lineup changes, and even though (anyone) who was ever in AE, are still held by me in high regard. Sometimes even the greatest of friends can't be in a band together. El and I are still here, but he is really busy with Incite. Ii am finishing up the writing and demo tracking for the next CD. We are actually discussing a new home right now with a few heavy hitter labels. Its very flattering and exciting. This may sound horrible, not intending to be, but this time for me getting back to writing and demoing  this music has allowed me to  push myself to new levels as a musician, guitar player, and vocalist. I am not holding back anymore. This will be the most intense AE record to date and the most technical and difficult for me as well. And thats good. This in many ways was the way I intended the band to sound. More like Act of Attrition on another step if that makes sense. I feel excited, like when I started again. 

DB: What does the rest of 2015 look like for you?

Cannella:  I don't plan on anything anymore. I am so busy all the time with ESP, music, and my family. Everything changes on a dime. I know I will be at many festivals, Europe and possibly Japan for work and going to do more with Autumn's End as well as other musical projects. iI hopefully will be getting to play a few shows with Gorgoroth. Even if I don't get to this year, I was so honored to play on the new CD coming out this summer. I am also guesting on a few other bands CD this year and working on a side project with the one and only Jason Slater.

DB:. Is there anything you would like to add?

Cannella: Just last night I was talking with one of my oldest friends in the world, John Shuptrine. I cannot believe how fortunate I have been. I am not a wealthy man monetarily, but I have the best wife and kids on the planet. I get to hang and drink with my best friend and wife and somehow she still keeps me around. I always say this but I actually like my family. I am surrounded by great friends, extended family like the Zuninos and El. Between my time with  musical experiences and work, I have been able to do things most only dream of and get to help other bands as well. I never take that for granted because all it takes is one bad day to end it all. I am seriously the luckiest ugly guy ever. 

Click on the links below to keep up to date on Autumn’s End, N17 and what is going on with ESP Guitars. Not that any of you would, but don’t miss 13th Floor Entertainment Presents N17 live  April 11th at the new Club Red in Mesa, Arizona.



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