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Singing ’Soprano’

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When accepting the invitation to interview the thespian who plays murdering, recovering drug addict Christopher Moltisanti on HBO’s "The Sopranos" - the same character who sanctioned the terrifying slaughter of his own fiancée to protect his mafia family from the FBI - you take a moment to ponder the prudence of going to the meeting at his Manhattan theater without a few consiglieres in tow.

But actor-writer-director Michael Imperioli is not at all like his "Sopranos" alter ego. (Except for the big brown eyes.) He’s more articulate and, while still casually attired, leaves the leisure suits in HBO’s wardrobe department.

Last season, Imperioli had some memorable moments opposite actor Ben Kingsley, when his character was ardently pursuing a career as a filmmaker, but Imperioli’s real-life passion is his new rock band La Dolce Vita, which will have its Brooklyn premiere on Jan. 5 at Park Slope’s Southpaw club.

With the success and awards Imperioli has garnered in the acting world, including a resume of roles in films helmed by the prestigious likes of Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee, and the media frenzy that’s sure to ignite in April when the final season of "The Sopranos" kicks off, one can’t help but wonder: why is Imperioli launching a rock band now?

With a steady gaze, and some fidgeting with his cell phone, the Tribeca-based actor explained that in part, his decision was based on "living through that 9-11 shit."

"Life is obviously short, and I’ve been wanting to do this for so long," he said in an exclusive interview with GO Brooklyn last week, revealing that 16 years have passed since he’s played with a band.

The Emmy Award-winning actor shares the limelight with fellow LDV members, drummer Olmo Tighe and Park Slope bassist Elijah Amitin.

Although Christopher may not have been lucky in love on "The Sopranos," it seems safe to say that Imperioli’s real-life wife, Victoria, is not in danger of being whacked. In fact, Imperioli’s so smitten with the woman, with whom he raises Isabella, 16, Vadim, 9, and David, 5, that his band is partly named for her. ("Vita," Imperioli explained, is her Russian nickname that he’s also had tattooed on his body.)

Imperioli, 40, also revealed that LDV’s set list primarily consists of original songs - written by the band as well as material Imperioli penned between 1986 and 1996. (While that might sound like a unibrow-raising confession, Imperioli is no stranger to the world of letters. He has written five episodes of "The Sopranos" and written and executive produced Spike Lee’s "Summer of Sam.")

"In some ways, [my songs] were written in a different time period," said Imperioli, who claims to be a fan of Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices and Courtney Love. But Imperioli’s material is being arranged now with Amitin and Tighe, whom he describes as "great musicians.

"I’m not doing this for any other reason besides I found guys I really like to play with, and I’m passionate about what we create."

And while Imperioli does find some similarities between acting and rocking onstage, "The audience is not as reverential as they are in the theater, where they’re afraid to open a piece of candy," he observed. "Part of the rush is that your ass is on the line ... There’s no hiding, no second take."

While some would assume that his "Sopranos" fame would draw a crowd of adoring fans to LDV concerts, Imperioli said his popularity can cut both ways.

"It’s weird," he said. "[Fans] have enough trouble seeing me play something other than what I play, let alone going into another venue - especially rock ’n’ roll - because people have very strong opinions about music

"But in other ways, it’s great because they’re willing to check you out because they know you from someplace else."

Summing up their sound as New York-influenced, raw and gritty, the trio is humming with excitement over their upcoming Southpaw date, where they will share the bill with Death of Fashion and Generals and Majors. Rather than focusing their energies on long-term achievements like contracts and recording CDs, the LDV boys are just happy for another opportunity to share their music.

Said Imperioli, "The goal is just to have a lot of people there on the fifth. If we do, I’ll be very happy on the sixth."

Death of Fashion, La Dolce Vita and Generals and Majors will perform at Southpaw (125 Fifth Ave. at St. John’s Place in Park Slope) on Jan. 5. Doors open at 8 pm. Cover is $8. For more information, call (718) 230-0236 or visit the Web site www.spsounds.com.

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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