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Chris Caffery – Guitarist for Savatage/ Trans Siberian Orchestra/ Dr.Butcher, and solo artist

Date: 10/01/06
Interviewed By: Rich Catino



1. So Chris you recently came off the road doing some dates playing guitar for Spread Eagle.

How did you land that gig and how did the shows go?

CHRIS: Well I have been friends with those guys for a while. I mean they had not played together yet or live in a long time and didn't know what to expect but the shows went real well. That really wasn't my concern anyway whether or not there was a crowd. Years ago Ray West and I had talked about doing a project before anyway so this was a good chance for us to play some music. I mean some people kinda coined them as an “80's” band which they really weren't. They were more of a rawer harder sounding band and I found the music a bit challenging to learn for this tour.

2. Is your latest solo album complete and can you tell us what its sounding like?

CHRIS: Yeah its finished and ready to be mastered I'm just getting the artwork together and trying to find a label for it since my previous one Black Lotus, which released my first solo album “Faces”, went out of business so that changed the scheduling for everything. So I had to step back and deal with the financial end of things and that took some time. I have a few offers on the table and hoping to have a label announced by the time I go out with Trans Siberian Orchestra or while I am on the road.

3. What is the album called and how would you compare it to “Faces”?

CHRIS: Its called “Pins and Needles”, like when your foot falls a sleep, and I don't think you can compare the two. Its like when your sitting there and your foot gets numb. Its kinda like sometimes in life you keep taking the same crap and dealing with the same things so much that after a while you become numb to it ya know.

There's a focus and maturity with this record. When I recorded “Faces” I had so much material I wrote over the years to go through, I had no idea what people were going to like, I never sang before and basically I was like a kid in a candy shop as far as what I wanted people to hear. Now with “Pins and Needles” there is a set direction and its definitely not what people are expecting. I am very looking forward to people hearing it.

4. Are you using the same guitar sound or is that different also?

CHRIS: The main guitar sound is going to be similar because its me playing and I don't use many effects really. But I am using a lot of different sounds throughout the album, although it does have a cohesiveness throughout. I am just singing for the music more than just singing to be a singer. I am using my voice a lot smarter this time. Its pretty focused.

5. When does it come out and will you do any touring behind it?

CHRIS: Well I am lookin for February as long as the business end rolls the right way. Once the TSO tour ends I would like to be on the road. I was kinda hoping for some more activity for Savatage next year since it's the twentieth anniversary of the band but I haven't heard much of that yet. I'm the only one who has been really trying to get that going again but I have not heard anything yet.

6. How did the shows go last year that you did with Jon Oliva?

CHRIS: Ehhh they were good but in my personal opinion many were booked too late and close to the dates of the actual shows. When you are working with smaller record labels who don't have a whole lot of power you know it was hard to get the right promotion. The main problem with that tour was we booked it five or six weeks in June for August and September and that got rejected. So it had to be re booked by the agent because there were too many days in a row and Jon Oliva was not ready for that type of schedule since he had not sung for s uch a long stretch on the road. So it was done ass backwards somewhat. Now if we did it again Jon's voice has been holding up amazing and I think we would be ready to do some extensive dates like that together. I think his album is out already in Europe and the response to that has been great so it would be good if we could hook up some more dates together again.

7. What is going on with the stage show and setlist for TSO this year? Is it more of the same from previous years?

CHRIS: Well the formula for the live shows is basically going to stay the same to some extent where we do the Christmas Eve thing at the beginning and for the back half of the show we changed it up a bit adding in some other songs from the other two Christmas albums and then the whole entire stage set will be a bit different. I think the stage show will be bringing out another two tractor trailers of lights for both the east and west coast tours. I'm still very excited about doing this tour another year. Its amazing to see how well it does every year and record sales always increase each year. We may sell another 400 – 500,000 copies of “Christmas Eve” every year. Those units are like another couple million people every year getting turned on to TSO. I mean even if the same person will not go every year to see the show there are just so many more people getting into the music that brings in the new audience potential each year which just keeps rising. This year we are lookin at maybe doing over 800,000 ticket sales.

Paul O'Neil had a vision when he started this thing in 1996 and he has a lot to be proud of, and the quality of this show maintains a certain level each year. Even as the show gets bigger every year the ticket prices really don't get raised much. I mean every year this show is one of the best selling concerts and its become something more than just another rock show. Its become a reason for a lot of people to get together once again for the holiday season and it creates a special mood for that time of the year.

8. Are the members of Savatage still involved for the touring bands and who is playing on what coast?

CHRIS: Yeah they still are involved. Jeff and myself are on the east coast with Alex Skolnick still on guitar and Johnny Lee Middleton and Al Pitrelli are on the west and Jon Oliva is probably still sitting at Paul O Neil's house right now writing some new material. That's what Jon does when he's not working on his own stuff. They are constantly working on TSO stuff I mean in so many ways TSO is still Savatage in the respect that its creative roots came from Savatage given the single “Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24” first appeared on “Dead Winter Dead” in 1995. Bob Kinkel has been writing for Savatage with Paul O' Neil for many years and he worked very closely with Paul in the studio with everything we have done for Savatage like the instrumentals “Mozart and Madness” where that formula used in Savatage was something that carried over to TSO a lot. TSO was just the vehicle to get the music to larger audience ya know.

For me its still very fulfilling and even as big as its become we are all still very humble about it. We just enjoy what we are doing so much and its just so great to do all these sold out shows in big arenas. It doesn't have any certain kind of attitude to it. Its all about the family atmosphere about it which comes out on the stage and to the audience.

9. Because of Trans Siberian Orchestra's success, has Savatage's music become more recognized and have album sales improved because of it?

CHRIS: Absolutely I mean they, the TSO fans, have been or getting more exposure to it all the time. There are a lot of Savatage fans that are learning about TSO as well especially in Europe and South America where Savatage has always been recognized as a premier metal act for many years and they are growing older and starting to realize what TSO is. I think it's a matter of time before TSO makes its way over seas. I mean its impossible for people not to be exposed to Savatage through TSO because not only do you get the many Savatage fans who wear the shirts to the concerts, but if you go to the TSO website you can click on the individual band members links for their websites and see what each members does and where they come from. If you go to Johnny Lee's it goes right to the Savatage wesbite. Its part of our bios.

As far as the Savatage records they keep selling but I think some of them are in the process in being re distributed in America because some are not readily available in stores. You know we are in the digital world and there they keep on selling. I mean people are still interested in the music especially since Paul ONeil has become extremely well known as a producer and people are interested in what else he does besides TSO. Also since Jon Oliva is a writer for TSO people are lookin into to what else he does musically as well. You'll get the musician fans of their works who will want to grab onto the other things they have done like “Streets”, “Wake of Magellan” and “Dead Winter Dead” where all the music, lyrics and poetry were works by Paul. So all around people are learning about Savatage.

10. Metal Blade records have given “The Dungeons are Calling” and “Sirens” the remaster ed treatment with bonus tracks and the albums on Atlantic have been reissued over seas with bonus tracks and linear notes.

Are there any plans to remaster those Atlantic albums and include some bonus tracks?

CHRIS: I know those Atlantic albums will be re released but I don't know about anything getting remastered since I have not had too much contact with Paul and/or Jon this year since we have all been busy doing our own things. Paul has been working with TSO, Jon was working on his latest solo album “Maniacal Renderings”, and I have been completing my second solo album “Pins and Needles”. I know I will have better answers for those questions once TSO rehearsal start.

11. Speaking of Savatage, what's the status of the band and who is still in the band?

CHRIS: Really I am not too sure at this point there really hasn't been much talk about it or as much as I would like to hear. There was talk of this 20 th anniversary celebration/album in 2007 but I'm not sure yet.

12. Recently some pro shot video footage of Savatage when Criss Oliva was in the band during the “Streets” era, along with footage from your time with the band during the “Wake of Magellan” tour have surfaced online.

When it is time to compile footage for a Savatage DVD, will footage of this nature be included?

CHRIS: Yeah that's the plan. The idea is to make a special compilation DVD with all the videos, classic live footage from when Criss Oliva was still alive and Jon Oliva was still the lead singer, some candid stuff, plus a new live concert with everyone involved who has recorded with Savatage. I know there is one concert from the Dynamo festival with the “Mountain King” lineup that had a pro shoot, actually that week they asked me to re join the band for “Gutter Ballet” was when they were flying over for the show two days later and if I had a chance to rehearse with the band at all in time I would have been part of it too. I have a copy of that show and its about an hour or so and it's the only real pro shot footage that includes Criss Oliva at all.

13. Was there ever a nother pro shot show during a particular period that could see release on this DVD?

CHRIS: Well that footage recently posted online from Cologne Germany that includes those songs “Turns to Me” and “Chance” were shot for TV in Europe and we do have all that footage but I think there may have been some things wrong with some of that footage that couldn't be used so that's why it was not released yet and couldn't make it a full concert. But I do know we have the whole concert and as much as possible will be released one day because I know that “Dead Winter Dead” lineup was really special and it had a very special relationship with the European fans. I mean its hard to get an idea from the footage itself just how many people were there that night for that show and the vibe was awesome . The German fans really just embraced Savatage, as did a lot of the European kids in Greece , Holland , Italy , Belgium . They were all the places that Savatage went to number one in the magazine polls and we just went to another level there. We were ahead of bands like Maiden and Metallica.

I have to get together with Jon and Paul to see what they have in mind for this anniversary year in 2007.

14. Have you heard the new Jon Oliva solo album because it has real classic Savatage feel to it? Were any of those songs written for Savatage at some point?

CHRIS: I have not heard the whole record but of the few songs I did were riffs on things that Jon played for me and had written potentially for Savatage and a few riffs were also things he worked on with his brother years ago. The Jon Oliva's Pain definitely has a lot of material that he had written for Savatage but he writes so much that he has a lot left over to work wit h. I know a lot of people like it.

F rom what I heard I am liking what I hear also and “Maniacal Renderings” does ha ve more of a classic and heavier Savatage feel to it but still I think the old old Savatage had a more brutal eerier sound. I think this stuff still has a little more of Jon's musical edge to it because it has more of the keyboards and harmonies . B ut this one is more well rounded as far as meeting his writing throughout his career.

15. I think the real old Savatage music is very similar to what you and Jon did with Dr. Butcher.

What is the future of that project?

CHRIS: Well Dr. Butcher had a similar kind of formula as those old Savatage records “Sirens” and “The Dungeons are Calling”. The Dr. Butcher record was very tongue in cheek in the lyrics and there was a lot of aggression in the music. The Dr. Butcher record was recorded very quickly over the course of several days like those old Tage records. The whole thing was mixed in like a few days, we were very well prepared for that record and we didn't even have a big budget for that first Dr. Butcher album. We were all very excited to record that one.

Some of those songs I wrote on the “Gutter” tour, some of it Jon wrote in 1992 -93 so that's naturally going to sound like older Savatage because we wrote it when we were closer to that age Hahah, ya know and more in that head.

As far as that project's future its up to Jon but I know I would like to do another Butcher record one day. I think we could but in order for it to happen Jon and I would have to lock ourselves somewhere, maybe I can get down to Florida to spend some time with him and have some fun like when we worked on th e first album. The main thing that wrote that record was fun and we always said we wanted to get together and write some of the heaviest metal anybody ever heard for the next one.

I mean if I don't get the opportunity to get Jon in the studio for that I have been considering doing something kind of similar to what we have done with the TSO records but with a horror themed metal record . I would have Jon sing and be the butcher and add some other well known vocalists to sing on some songs. I'd have to pick a real popular horror story if I do that and for me that would be just really fun.

I love playing the real heavy metal music and if I have the time that's something I want to do. I mean everyone I mentioned it to they were really into it and said when are we doing this.

16. Can you predict the possible future of Savatage and who will be involved in the band?

CHRIS: Well I really could not tell you exactly. I know we are going to do something for the anniversary . M aybe we will do one big huge concert, record an album including all the past and present members of the band, maybe a big European festival tour. If we do a special concert tour it will include Savatage's original drummer Wacholz playing the older music and probably include Alex Skolnick doing some stuff. Its just a matter of everyone getting on the same page ya know. I'm up for anything. I think the fans want to see more than one show, I know I do.

How many times have we seen it before in the past with bands like Kiss and the Eagles who say they are doing one more tour and then they are calling it quits. Maybe we will do another album, another tour, I don't know. Maybe there is some apprehension because everyone is busy with other things that maybe they are afraid of what popular demand may bring. I know my loyalty lies with Savatage because without that band I wouldn't be where I am. I'm not only a member of the band but I am a fan of the music so I would like to see as much happen as possible for the band.

17. Anything you would like to add?

CHRIS: I am just really looking forward to everyone hearing the new record because I am very excited about what I have done with it. It was really focused and a lot of work. I am very proud of it. I have the TSO tour coming up which I highly recommend checking out for the holiday season and after the Christmas season there will be another non holiday record sometime in 2007. TSO may also venture into the non holiday touring world. The potential for that band is limitless at this point.

Official website: www.chriscaffery.com

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