An Interview With Imperial Stars, Part 1: Band Has No Regrets, Worked With Madonna, And Been Offered a Reality TV Show. For Realz?

On Tuesday, Christopher Wright, Paul Arabella (aka David Paul Hale) and Keith Yackey got on a semi, headed for the 101 freeway and blocked three lanes of traffic at 10:20 a.m. to play one song. The Garden Grove trio, collectively known as Imperial Stars, played their song "Traffic Jam 101" for a captive Los Angeles audience--commuters who were stuck in the traffic jam that the three caused.

Soon after the stunt, the CHP came to arrest Imperial Stars and tow the semi; on Wednesday, the band was released from jail and celebrated in Hollywood after posting $10,000 bail. Since then, Wright, Arabella and Yackey have been pretty busy; they've done the rounds of TV networks, press interviews with everyone from Ellen Degeneres and Inside Edition to the OC Register.

In this interview, Imperial Stars reveal they knew exactly what they were getting into, and what they were going to get out of it. They've been offered a reality TV show, money for a benefit concert and more. Are they idiots for pulling a stunt that got them arrested--or marketing geniuses?

"It's been a lot of stress, and in the end we're getting our message out," Wright says proudly. The message being the same one on their Web site: "The Imperial Stars are committed to benefiting the displaced children of America through the voice of music."

In Part 1 of the interview (with exclusive photos from the band), the trio talk about the cause they blocked the 101 for, what they're passionate about, how they became a band, and the money they're raising for the cause.

How did this whole 'let's block the traffic on the 101' come about?
Yackey: Basically there's a cause that we're really passionate about and we want to take our music to the world and use that music to bring light to raise awareness to the 1.5 million homeless children in America. The desire to let this all known--what's happeneing in the country--that's really what stirred all this up.

Which came first? The song or the charity?
Yackey: Music and charity have been a part of our lives, part and parcel all the way through. We've been playing music for a while, we've been a band for a year. We've always been involved in helping children and mentoring those younger than us. 

At one point in time I was a pastor for eight years. I had a chance to travel around the world and see the poverty and homelessness in other countries and it really opened my eyes when I go back to our own country and saw a lot of that here, same thing that they're going through and that's sad because we're such an abundant and flourishing country.

What were you doing before to help homeless children?
Wright: We've done books and read-alongs and stuff like that, mentor work. We've adopted kids--Moses, who was in an adoption home, and when he's 18 he gets released straight to the streets. We took Moses in our house, we worked with him and got him a job, he got his own place. We've done this with other kids as well, but if you want a testimonial for other kids as well, Moses--who was in a homeless shelter from 16 to 18--and had nowhere to go, we took him in and helped him get a job. He's a perfect example of one of the things we've done for the cause.

This is an extreme stunt to pull for a cause though.
Yackey: Did you say extreme? It was definitely extreme there's no question about it  because it's an extremely big problem and we're extremely uneducated about it. 

And you know what, we could've done something on the side of the road, we could've gotten a permit, raised some pom poms. But that's nothing like what we did. Most people don't know there's 1.5 million children who are homeless--that number grows daily and that number was taken in 2006. 

A lot of people have a hard time visualizing what that number looks like, but if you think of the no. 1 college football stadium--can fit 100,000 people in their horseshoe stadium. Imagine 15 of those filled with homeless children; and a lot of them are in the West Coast because our weather's so nice. That's sad. 

What's even more sad is that these kids have left their homes because they've been sexually, physically or verbally abused. And that's extremely sad--I mean, I'm sad to the extreme.

When did Imperial Stars get together?
Wright: We've been the Imperial Stars for about a year; prior to that we did a bunch of tours with another group, and we were touring the world and came back to California and start pushing the Imperial Stars project. And we're also working on our non-profit as well called the Children of the Stars.

We work closely with the John Burton Foundation out of Sacramento; what they're trying to stand for is what we're trying to stand for as well.

You describe yourselves as hardcore hip-hop. What do you guys listen to? What bands do you want your sound pegged after?
Wright: Let me correct that. We don't describe ourselves as hardcore hip-hop. We're actually more of a rock, pop, electro-hop band. We're the farthest away from hardcore hip-hop. If you heard our music, just from the single, you'd realize that. We're not a hardcore band, we don't have a hardcore bone in our body. We're not trying to be rappers. We're musicians. A lot of people have all these misconceptions because they thing that's the way to go.

We just did Inside Edition on Channel 9, and a lot of people are seeing us and changing the story now. They're starting to change the story now. The reality is that this is not about the Imperial Stars. This is about the 1.5 million children that are homeless in the United States. The Imperial Stars are just going to be the voice of those children.

Yackey: Imperial Stars write some really badass music and more's going to be leaked soon. We're going to make OC proud with the music we're providing. 

Wright: We have dance music, rock & roll--we're getting ready to release our songs. Our album's done. We've only released the one song--it's not about our album. This is just about the children right now. "Traffic Jam 101" was just to raise awareness. People are telling us we're just trying to promote ourselves, but we're selling one song, and 50 percent of that song goes to homeless kids via the John Burton Foundation, and that song is "Traffic Jam 101."

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