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Jon Oliva – Singer/Composer/Piano for Savatage, Jon Oliva’s Pain, Trans Siberian Orchestra

Date: 6/15/13
Interviewed By: Rich Catino


1. Overall on your first solo album, “Raise The Curtain”, the music direction is different than Savatage, JOP, more 1970s Prog Rock. What lead you to take the music in this direction?

JON: What happened was Matt LaPorte, (JOP guitarist 2003–2011) passed away, and it was a very traumatic experience for me. My friend, Dan Fasciano, you’ll see his name on many songs on “Raise The Curtain”, I started going to his house in the morning before I went to work with TSO and we started making some music, it was like therapy for us. He would come up with a riff or something and ask me what I thought and we just started collaborating, and we wrote like sixty songs. And when we started writing this music it had a different feel than Savatage and Jon Oliva’s Pain. But also during this process I had some more of my brother’s (Criss) earliest riffs on tape and incorporated them into several songs. And unfortunately this is the last of my brother’s music. He has writing credit for the song ‘Ten years’ for the chorus section, ‘Father Time’ which is the second riff Criss ever wrote, he also has some music on ‘Witch’, ‘Can’t Get Away’, and its magical, but also very sad because I don’t have anything else of his on tape to work with.

2. I hear a Styx influence in the title track. Do you hear that as well?

JON: Sure, ELP, Yes, I hear all the bands Dan and I, and Chris (Kinder, Jon Oliva’s Pain drummer), grew up with. Deep Purple, little Beatles, Queen, Zepplin. That’s what makes my solo album so special because it shows you where Criss and I started before Savatage and songs like ‘Sirens’, ‘City Beneath The Surface’, ‘Dungeons’, ‘Power Of The Night’.

3. Tell us about the vibe and music style you were going for in ‘Ten Years’ because you have those horns?

JON: The chorus was a riff Criss had and Dan had this part of the song where he didn’t know where to take it. And we decided to incorporate some horns into it but we used real horns. One of my favorites, between Criss, Dan, and my parts with the melody and my lyrics. Its kinda got a swing fell to it.

4. How many instruments did you play on the album?

JON: Guitars, bass, and solos except for a couple little blurbs I had a couple friends come in and play, Dan played all the organs and most of the keyboards, and Chris Kinder played drums on half the album and I played on the other half. I really couldn’t have done this album without Dan and Chris’ help.

5. Were any of these songs, like ‘Armageddon’ or ‘Witch’, intended for Savatage or Jon Oliva’s Pain?

JON: You can tell that ‘Soul Chaser’, ‘Armageddon’, ‘Witch’, are similar to Savatage and JOP on purpose because the rest of the songs on “Raise The Curtain” are very different. Plus, that type of heavier music is what I have done for so many years, I wanted to make the album entertaining and not one dimensional.

6. Talk about the ballad ‘Soldier’. Is it about anyone or anything specific?

JON: It really deals with one thing, all over the world military people are out there fighting these senseless wars and come home with no arms or legs, I mean listen to the lyrics and how it is sung, it is very deep and emotional. It’s really true, the guys comes back wounded and all he wants to do, like it sais in the song, can you look past the wounds and just see the heart that’s still here. I went to war for my country, lost my leg come home and now I can’t get a job. It doesn’t matter what part of the world you’re from it deals with anyone who’s been in the military.

7. I have to ask the obvious question…do you see Savatage being reactivated anytime soon?

JON: Do I shoot you now or wait till later…hahaha… I keep answering this question. The band really never broke up we just morphed into Trans Siberian Orchestra because all the Savatage guys are in the band. All we did was change the band name to TSO because under the name Savatage we were making no money. You know the story, we released the song ‘Christmas Eve 12/24’ under the name Savatage and sold 30,000 copies, the next year under the name Trans Siberian Orchestra with new artwork and sold 5 million. Ok, lets do the math. Funny thing is many fans think I (we) turned my back on Savatage, its not like that, I gave that band the best years of my life, I slept on people’s floors, sold drugs, did everything I could do to keep that band alive for over 20 years but it got to the point that you realize you’re not twenty five anymore and gotta make a move, and TSO was the right decision because now all the Savatage guys can make a living. We sell out two shows a day in 20,000 seat arenas, I have nine platinum albums on my wall, unfortunately not one of them says Savatage on it. But I get offended sometimes because I did what was right for myself and family, the Savatage guys, and everybody else. Because we all did put in the time to try and make Savatage big, unfortunately it never took off.

8. Has it ever been a thought in the Trans Siberian Orchestra down time, over the summer, to get Savatage together and play some of the European festivals?

JON: Yeah we have, Paul (O’Neil) and I have said if we decide to do anything with Savatage its to record four or five new tracks and put it out as a final thing thanking the fans because to get involved with that operation we’d have to take attention away from TSO, you don’t go and shoot the goose that lays the golden egg and then fry him up, you don’t do it. The Savatage fans are very loyal and vocal, and it sounds like 2 million of em but really its only like twenty thousand that are pissed off.

9. Plans to release a Savatage DVD with concert footage, interviews, and promo videos?

JON: Yes, we’ve talked about that. Something Paul and I have talked about in details and will include concert footage but we just don’t know when because TSO is so busy between albums, tours, Broadway things. There are about a dozen pro shot stuff from Savatage, a couple two or three camera shoots with my brother that are good. Some of that is from Cleveland, Harpos in Detraoit, Lamours in Brooklyn New York. But our priority first is what’s happening with TSO so the guys from Savatage and everyone else can all make a living.

10. What’s in the future for Trans Siberian Orchestra?

JON: I don’t know, I’ve been trying to execute it for years and it won’t die, hahaha, no, the future looks great for the band. We are working on the Romanov project right now which I think is the best material Paul O’Neil and I ever wrote together, its about the 1914 Russian Revolution, its dark and heavy. We are also working on making the Savatage album “Gutter Ballet” into a piece of music for Broadway, its been talked about taking into Casinos, like we did with "Beethoven's Last Night”, combining the “Streets” album, ‘Gutter Ballet’, ‘When The Crowds Are Gone’, with some different versions.

11. Releasing a live TSO DVD?

JON: We have so many shows recorded but Paul hasn’t said anything yet about releasing a full show yet, but we have talked about something called “guest list” with clips from all the musicians who have come on stage and performed with TSO, like Ian Hunter, Robin Zander, John Anderson, Joe Walsh, we’ve had a lot of great guests. Working with Paul O’Neil is insane, he’s a workaholic and a perfectionist, and every day the schedule can change because he has so many ideas.

12. Your future plans?

JON: Keeping busy, working on a new John Oliva’s Pain album and plan on making it very heavy, worse than Dr.Butcher, its gonna make that album sound like Marry Poppins, hahaha. TSO are in the studio right now, where I should be, haha. TSO are also working on two other concept albums at the same time.

13. Every year the Trans Siberian Orchestra include a couple Savatage songs live besides ‘Christmas Eve 12/24’; ‘Prelude To Madness’, ‘Sleep’, ‘Chance’. What are a couple other Savatage songs would you like to see added?

JON: (laughs), City beneath The Surface’, I think we choose those songs carefully, I really liked how ‘Chance’ turned out, ‘Handful of Rain’ would be good, ‘All That I Bleed’ is possibly going to be done on this year’s tour and that is the last song Criss and I ever wrote together. Cause Paul and I realize we can get away from the Christmas stuff a little bit and mix it up with the Savatage stuff. ‘Hounds’ would be cool, ‘I Am’ from “Dead Winter Dead”, ‘Hourglass’ from “Wake Of Magellan”, there are a lot of great songs we could incorporate into the TSO show.

Official website: http://www.jonoliva.net/index2.html


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