News, Reviews & Interviews



Staff & Management of Empire Extreme

The staff of Empire Extreme is made up of a handful of individuals that live and breath music. Many of them have spent their entire lives working closely within some aspect of the music industry.  Several are or have been in their own bands, others work in management, sound production and merchandise. Check them out and feel free to follow them on any of their social media outlets.

ATTENTION Labels, Publicist, Tour Managers & Artists: CLICK HERE

ATTENTION Labels, Publicist, Tour Managers & Artists:
If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a part of Empire Extreme and they are not listed on this page, then they are NOT part of our organization and we can not vouch for their credibility nor take any responsibility for your interaction with them.  If you are approached by somebody claiming to be part of Empire Extreme under these circumstances, please feel free to contact our Publisher: Josh Drespling at [email protected].

Josh Drespling – Publisher, Writer, Photographer, and Web Guy

Josh Drespling (AKA Tha Doc)

Josh, also known as The Doc is the mastermind behind Empire Extreme. He has a huge background in the print and design industry and runs his own marketing and design firm call Majesty Marketing. Along with being an accomplished illustrator and artist, he is also a successful journalist and photographer.  He has seen his work published in some of the planets largest and most prestigious publications.  By nature he is an “idea-guy”, but not one of those sit back and bark out order types, he would rather be down in the dirt making it happen.  He has also been in several noteworthy bands that toured extensively in the Mid-west and North-east.  Josh was also behind the launch and development of Kingdom Extreme Magazine, a sister publication to Empire Extreme.
Those who know him understand that there is no idea too big, and no obstacle that can’t be destroyed by the unconventional ideas falling out of the head of this man. Josh lives by the motto: “There has got to be a better way” and his work and innovations prove that statement to be true.



Jason L Nelson – Lead Photographer and Visionary

Jason L Nelson

Jason is one of those people who everybody knows and no matter what your situation or your position in life he is able to make you smile. He has professed that as a youngster he wanted to be a stand-up comedian, but since that dream never came into existence he is content to make people laugh on a more personal level.
He is an extremely accomplished photographer with a passion for music and capturing those moments of pure energy and expressionism with his camera. He has produced mountains of amazing shots of every rock star and celebrity that you can name. He has a list of published photos so long that even he can’t remember half of them.
Aside from his passion for the camera Jason also has some interesting hobbies. One is that he is pen-pals with a number of the planets most “infamous” people (seriously, his mom used to get mad at him because these people would send letters to her house and thus know where they lived). Someday he will find the time to put together a book of all those letters and stories.
Other pursuits that keep Jason out of trouble are his never ending quest for celebrity autographs, being a die hard wrestling fan, and an avid music collector.



Ron (AKA “P”) – East Coast (Maryland & DC) Staff Writer

Ron S. (AKA P.)

Ron or simply “P” to some has been in love with all aspects of music since a very early age. He has been a part of various bands and groups spanning just about every genre imaginable. He has also spent many years being behind the scenes of the music industry. From being a musician, a fan, and an industry insider, P has built up a vast collection of useless information, when combined with his love of writing creates a whimsical and harmonious blend of information and entertainment.

With a keen eye for talent and a love for the underground, “P” has no fear to go where nobody dares or wants to go. He is in the trenches working on the scoop and digging for the information about the newest artist before they break or working an angle with a veteran artist you know and love. Never one to back down from an assignment, “P” is always game for a challenge.


J.J. Ulizo

J.J. Ulizo – Pittsburgh Area Staff Writer

J.J. Ulizio

JJ considers himself to be the luckiest guy for being given the opportunity to write for Empire Extreme. He is a lifelong music fan of all genres, he made his first mark on the local music scene by starting the (currently defunct) Rockshow Productions in the Beaver County area outside of Pittsburgh. He also continued his foray into local music by fronting his own band, Pittsburgh metal-core act, New Shores Burn(currently on hiatus).

Eventually crossing paths with Tha Doc and falling into his position in the original run of Empire. JJ would send Tha Doc more and more local bands in hopes that they would get coverage. Eventually he was told to “just do it and that it would be published”.

More recently JJ has been begging the powers that be for more hours to be added to the day as he lives on caffeine and tries to balance his two jobs working in EMS with going to school, and continuing to think of himself as the luckiest guy on Empire Extremes staff for getting to meet and interview the musicians he loves.

JJ also uses snapchat and live snaps from the shows he is fortunate enough to cover. If you are interested in following him there for music related “stories” or just random other things that happen to fall out of his brain you can look him up at jj15059



Anthony Bernardi – North Coast Staff Writer

Anthony Bernardi

What’s up everyone, my name is Anthony aka Klownz. I thought I would give you all a little 411 on who I am.

Music has and is a big part of my life. I remember jamming out to The Moody Blues with my dad. One day in particular he looked at me and said, “Son you can hear music, but you’ll never truly understand it unless you feel it”. That still means a lot to me today, especially when I pick a band. Music to me is the only thing that all the cultures around the world have in common. Currently I am learning to play the drums again and also writing songs. I have always gone to music for my inspiration, to relax, or to get my blood pumped. My family and I live in Minnesota, where we pride ourselves on our music festivals, mosquito,s and casserole dishes. Music has heavily influenced my life and also my family’s. I have over 300 plus shows under my belt, and I can only hope to give you all some in depth interviews, and killer access to shows here in the Midwest.
As they say Catch you on the flip side!  Klownz


Elena Bottles – Staff Photographer

Elena Bottles

When she was 19, Elena’s family opened a music venue, The Fallout Shelter, underneath their bowling alley in Aliquippa, PA, propelling her into the local music scene.  As the venue’s bartender, she quickly made friends with the punks and metalheads who flocked to the place and, as a photography student, turned her camera on them.  Music quickly became one of her favorite subjects to shoot, both at live shows and for band promo pictures, though many other styles can be found at elena dee photography. She is proud to have her work featured on multiple albums, in magazines, and online.

Elena lives in western PA with her husband, whom she met when his band played her venue, and three cats.  Along with photography, she enjoys knitting, flesh suspension, and flea markets.


George Archibald – Writer

George Archibald

George Archibald has been a metal connoisseur for many years starting with working at his local CD store in town, On Cue. The CD store opened up a collection of music that would have remained a mystery to him otherwise. This inclusion, paired with his musical abilities shaped his taste for the underground scene. George spends his time looking for up and coming bands that are pushing the envelope of the extreme metal genres.
You may also know George from the local music scene as he has been in several bands that have played throughout the Eastern Ohio and Central/Western Pennsylvanian areas. An experienced guitar player for over 25 years now, he likes to review music not only from a fan standpoint but also from a musician’s perspective. He also brings this point of view to his band interviews having experienced some of the same situations as the musicians he is speaking with.


Andrew Bastion – Photographer & Writer

Andrew James Bastion

Andrew James Bastion has had a camera in his hand since 2010 and became serious about photography in 2012 when he began working for various venues and tours through out the North East. When he is not enjoy long walks on the beach and late night car rides near his home in Youngstown Ohio, you can find him listening to a wide array of music. It would be no surprise to see him go from heavy music such as The Black Dahlia Murder right into Katy Perry.
Andrews says: “I just love photography and music, without them I would die.”



Alyssa Varner - Staff Writer

Alyssa Varner – Staff Writer

Alyssa Varner

I’m currently in the medical field, working at a hospital on a telemetry floor. Taking care of people is a very important part of my life. I’ve been doing it so long it just comes naturally!

I am 25 years old, so I’m always trying to be adventurous with my close friends. We like to go to concerts, EAT, shop, and obsess over makeup. Music has always been there for me, it makes me happy, and has never let me down. There is nothing better then experiencing your favorite band or discovering a new artist. When I asked the infamous “Tha Doc” if I could join his team… he didn’t hesitate. I’m so excited and “extremely” happy to be apart of something so great.


Ryan Hensler – Photographer & Writer

Ryan Hensler

S’up everyone?  My name is Ryan aka “Slabs” a nickname that I earned and I actually like!  If I am not covering a show, I am working in Pittsburgh Level One Trauma Center as the Head of the Orthopedic Department, and putting people back together and that need fixed up. I usually do this while listening to my favorite genre of music METAL!  If you have had the pleasure of being pieced backed together by me, know it was done to some quality METAL wailing in the background. It’s pretty fitting, since we are using, screws, plates, drills, saws, bone tamps, cages, wire, and anything else you can think of.

I’m Edge and a music junkie. If it were not for music, I would not be here today. No joke! The only thing I love more than music is my besutiful wife. I also have a love for tattoos which is evident when you meet me, because I am nearly covered from head to toe! I am a Veteran and have been through some troubling times, without the music of the bands I love and respect, along with the ones I have been lucky enough to call friends, I truely would not be here today. I am very lucky in the sense to have been able to make some lasting relationships with these bands. I am humbled by the fact that they allow an old head like me at the age of forty three to chill with them. The music and the relationships I have built with these musicians have allowed me to express myself in ways I never felt possible. Through the eye of my camera I am able to be a part of the scene and event, while I’m still in awe of the performance happening right in front of me. I will forever be grateful to the people that have allowed me to photograph or interview them and allowed me into their private lives through some very deep conversations.


Brandon Soto

Brandon Soto – Photographer

Brandon Soto

Bio Coming soon!









Jamie Champion Popeski

Jamie Champion Popeski – Photographer

Jamie Champion Popeski

Jamie has been involved in the music scene for over 10 years. Having dealt first hand with artists and their representation for such a long period, he knows how to make every shoot and interview a pleasant and enjoyable experience. He has also booked over 200 national acts, toured nearly every state in the US, and has always had a passion for music festivals. Jamie will be focusing on more of the counterculture and delving into the woods to visit some of our favorite outdoor music festivals! You can keep up with what events he will be attending and covering on Empire Extreme, so check back often to see where you can find him and the best coverage of your favorite bands. See you in the woods!


Scott Massie – Writer & Columnist

Scott Massie

Bio Coming soon!











Alexa Linger – Staff Writer

Alexa Linger

Alexa works from home as a freelance writer who contributes to several blogs and spends most of the day writing sales copy for various companies. A former English major (whom her friends refer to as The Comma Queen), she is a self-described literary geek and can be found immersed in the classics, such as Shakespeare or Edgar Allan Poe (her favorites). However, her first love is music. She grew up on Billy Joel and Alanis Morissette, but soon branched out in search of a heavier sound and fell in love with metal. She began going to concerts at the age of thirteen and was fortunate enough to have parents who would drive her and her friends to Cleveland for concerts once a month (that she would pay for using baby-sitting money and money from her first job at a banquet center). She began writing reviews for her middle school newspaper and discovered she has a knack for it. So, she continues to review albums and films, but wants to get into interviewing bands and musicians.

When she’s not writing, Alexa is volunteering (especially at her church), reading, baking (and selling cupcakes), painting, and spending time with her husband, adopted daughter, and three cats. Alexa and her husband are also licensed foster parents and open their home to and foster teenage girls.


Brain Altman

Brain Altman – Photographer / Free Spirit

Brian Altman

Brian is what you would call a free spirit. He has a keen eye for the unique and often unseen photographic angles. He can often be found with camera in hand after wandering into a place he is not supposed to be, having an hour long conversation with a complete stranger.
Aside from photography, Brian is a painter and owns his own business Baltman Painting Company. He is also a drummer, a father, a brother, a son, and a Bearded and Tattooed cat dad.

“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a DIFFERENT DRUMMER. Let him step to the Music which He hears.” ~ Henry David Thoreau


Shelby Tyce – Photographer / Writer

Shelby Tyce

I’m Shelby and I’m from New Castle, PA. I’m quite new to the music scene and industry and I’m very excited to see where this adventure takes me. I am a graduate of Lincoln Park Performing Arts Charter School where I studied as a media major with a primary focus in photography.

I also own and operate my own photography business called Tyce Photography





Ian Sallese – Story Teller

Ian Sallese

Bio coming soon!










Paul Hammond – Writer

Paul Hammond

Bio coming soon!










Ross Jacobs – Silent Majority

Ross Jacobs

Ross is indeed the silent majority. He handles the back end of things, the finances, the phone calls, the back room deals, and the enforcement.  He and Josh have worked so closely over the past few decades that many have developed a theory that they are the same person. But we can assure you that without the help of Ross and his keen mind, much of the success that Empire Extreme has achieved would have never been possible.
Bottom line, if there is a problem, he solves it. We leave it at that…



ATTENTION Labels, Publicist, Tour Managers & Artists:
If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a part of Empire Extreme and they are not listed on this page, then they are NOT part of our organization and we can not vouch for their credibility nor take any responsibility for your interaction with them.  If you are approached by somebody claiming to be part of Empire Extreme under these circumstances, please feel free to contact our Publisher: Josh Drespling at [email protected].





Advertise with Empire Extreme