From Kontrol To Integrity
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
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 (www.dabelly.com/columns/lint147.htm).
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
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?
Cannella: 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
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
DB: What does the rest of 2015 look like for
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.