Screaming Bloody Gore! Impaler by Brant Palko

Impaler came screaming out of the Twin Cities in a torrent of blood in the early 80’s, announcing themselves to the world with their notorious PMRC baiting “Rise of the Mutants” EP. The bastard children of Kiss and Alice Cooper, with a little Stooges, Dictators, MC5 and Motörhead thrown in, they took things up a notch with their gore splattered 1986 full length “If We Had Brains… We’d Be Dangerous,” produced by Hüsker Dü’s Bob Mould. Bloodied (literally) but unbowed, they’re still brutalising audiences around Minnesota today. We recently caught up with front man and mainstay Bill Lindsey.

Impaler, live in 2018 at First Avenue. Photo courtesy of Fred Sobottka, Twin Cities Media.

What was the scene like in St. Paul around the time Impaler started, what types of bands were you playing with?

The punk scene was really thriving. Many bands were doing their own thing, and by that I mean playing their own music, releasing their music independently and playing at clubs and bars that catered to punk and alternative type bands. Bands like Suicide Commandos, Hüskers, Replacements, Loud Fast Rules, Man Sized Action, Final Conflict, and new wave bands like Flamingo and The Wallets. They played at great clubs like Goofy’s Upper Deck, First Ave and 7th St Entry, The Longhorn and Duffy’s in Minneapolis. This was very inspiring to me. The metal/hard rock bands in the early 80’s were primarily cover bands throwing in a song or two of their own if they were more established. I wanted nothing to do with that grind, so I chose to follow the way the punks did business. We did some of our first shows with Grant Hart’s side project Noble Mice, Otto’s Chemical Lounge and Hüsker Dü. Impaler was very unique at the time because we played aggressive, original metal/punk inspired by Motörhead and Venom, and we had a horror movie inspired stage show. Most bookers didn’t want anything to do with us at first.

Impaler was known for their shocking theatrics, was this an extension of Alice Cooper and Kiss, or were you going for something a little more sinister?

We were very inspired by (the original) Alice Cooper Band, Plasmatics, and KISS, and more recently by newer bands like Motörhead and the NWOBHM bands. In my mind we always strived to be fun like comic books and Halloween. Others in authority saw us as sinister though, which was great with us, pissing off idiots is always good! To my mind the Catholic Church and our government are sinister, so it’s all relative to who you’re asking.

What kind of blow back did you get for the “Rise of the Mutants” cover art?

The best kind! Shortly after our EP “Rise of the Mutants” came out I was getting calls from some of the people at our label Combat/Important Record Distributors. They asked if I had ever heard of the PMRC and told me about them. Then they’d call me up and say your album was on Phil Donahue yesterday, or Nightline or Sally Jesse Raphael. And then newspapers and magazines started covering it too. Locally we had these record burning ministers called the Peters Brothers who latched on to us, and came to protest shows and had us in their slideshow presentations. So our imagery upset the people it was intended to offend, people with no sense of humor or fun!

Rise of the Mutants EP, 1985 IRD/Roadrunner Records

Were you playing with some of the punk bands you mentioned? Did they accept you?

We played with Hüsker Dü, Otto’s Chemical Lounge, Iron Fist, goth-punks like Dark Carnival and Two Fisted Zombie, and then thrash and speed metal bands started popping up like Powermad, Death Squad, Deranged and Vile. The first club that gave us a show was Goofy’s Upper Deck, which was a club that local and national touring punk bands played. We recorded a demo tape and took it to Fred and Drew who ran Upper Deck , and they were excited about it, and very supportive. They said they had been looking for a metal band that sounded like Venom to book there, so they booked us three times that summer of ‘83 and we were playing to the punk audience that was built into Upper Deck, and the metal people who had seen our flyers.

Were you doing any touring at this point?

We slowly started to play one off shows in places like Cleveland and St. Louis. Mostly local shows until our LP came out, and then local DJ/booker/editor of Your Flesh zine Peter Davis booked a national tour for us.

How did it come to pass that Bob Mould produced your debut full length "If We Had Brains We'd Be Dangerous?"

Well Hüskers were supportive of us. They were at our first shows and asked us to play with them, and I knew both Grant and Bob produced bands, so when Combat asked me if I could find a producer for a full length I called both guys. Bob got back to me first so we went with Bob! He was also working with Soul Asylum at the same time at Nicolette Studios.

What was it like working with Bob? Were you happy with the album?

Bob was great! Very nice and knew what he was doing. Steve Fjelstad engineered, and they knew the studio well. We both were into pro wrestling so we talked that up, and music of course. I was really into The Stooges and MC5 at the time, and I still am, and loved talking about the Detroit bands. A funny story; when I started doing vocals I did a couple of takes and Bob says “I want your live adrenaline rush. Go run around the block and we’ll get your heart pumping.” I was like... what? Okay. I did do the majority of the vocal tracks right after my jog, haha!

It seems like there was a big push behind Impaler around the time "If We Had Brains" came out, any fun stories you can share? What kinds of theatrics were you doing at the time?
Combat kind of threw the bands against the wall to see what would stick. They really got behind Megadeth, I remember. There was a great guy there named Mike Scnapp and he really did everything he could to get us press and some attention. Steve Sinclair came in as label manager just before that and couldn’t give the time of day to us, which is typical with labels. We did a tour of the states independently at that time. We had a van and a trailer that was the old bed of a pick-up with a topper, so we couldn’t bring any props or staging, but we brought loads of energy and enthusiasm instead. 

If We Had Brains... We'd be Dangerous, 1986 Combat Records

 What happened next for Impaler? Are you the sole remaining original member of the band? 

We’ve put out a release every couple years since about 1996. For a while I was the lone original member, but we have had Commander Court Hawley on bass for ten years or so, and Mike Torok plays as an alumni member. He was full time for about a six year stretch in the 2000’s but he has a cover band he chooses to pursue full time.

Impaler, live in 2018 at First Avenue. Photo courtesy of Fred Sobottka, Twin Cities Media.

I know you still play shows, how often do you play? Any plans for new material?

It varies. We try to make shows eventful in town here and play festivals when we are offered. We toured a bit to the east and west over the past few years. We did a Yuletide single this past winter titled “Cass Lake Christmas Massacre” and are working on writing a new album this summer.

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