CHRIS CAFFERY Talks TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA Livestream Event, SAVATAGE Reunion - “Every 20 Years There’s A Savatage Record - It Will Be 20 Years In 2022”
December 17, 2020, a year ago
In August, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) was forced to make the heartbreaking announcement that, for the first time in more than 20 years, the group will not be able to tour during the holiday season, instead bringing fans together from around the globe for its first-ever livestream event, Christmas Eve And Other Stories Live In Concert, on Friday, December 18th at 8PM EST. BraveWords caught up with legendary guitarist Chris Caffery to talk about the event, the current state of the music industry and much more. He also talks about the ongoing rumours of Savatage being resurrected some day; if you recall TSO had blown the dust off some classics like "Prelude to Madness" (renamed "The Mountain”), “Handful of Rain”, “Believe” and "Chance" during recent tours. Here is an excerpt from our Streaming For Vengeance chat you’ll hear in just a few hours on our Facebook page or our YouTube channel. For more on Streaming For Vengeance, visit this location.
BraveWords: I’m really curious since TSO’s late founder, composer, and lyricist Paul O’Neill was deeply rooted in Savatage, there must have been talks about resurrecting that band, especially given the fact that TSO were playing some of the band’s classics which fit the theme perfectly. I have to wonder if his vision with Savatage could have followed the rock opera spectacle that TSO created. Is that a disrespectful thing to ask you about?
Caffery: “No, I don’t think so at all, I think when TSO was able to get off the ground because it was something that Paul had had in his head to do for a very long time, and all of us from Savatage were included in it, he never disconnected the two worlds because he knew how, as you said, underrated or unrecognized Savatage was and I think ultimately that was part of his plan, to get a lot of our music released through that channel. And then getting Streets to broadway and bringing that music alive - things like Dead Winter Dead and stuff like that. I think we were progressing, we were getting to music like ‘Chance’ and ‘Hourglass’ with Savatage on the road, and ‘Gutter Ballet’ when we played Europe. There were a lot of Savatage songs in the second half of the set on one of those Beethoven tours. I think it was always there. The Criss Oliva guitars would pop out of the ground on the screens. There was something really special with Paul and the Olivas, a special relationship, a special creative relationship. Especially the way Paul and John Oliva would write ballads, it was very special the way that stuff would come out. I mean, Paul loved that band. He loved Criss Oliva and his playing and he loved everything that we did. For me, I started working with him at such a young age, I’d never really worked for anyone else before. There was only about a year and a half total when I wasn’t working with John and Doctor Butcher on something, so I didn’t spend a lot of time away from the organization and I watched a lot of really incredible things happen in my life and my career from Paul. I mean, the guy was a genius. I think that happens with anybody you’re really super close with, sometimes you don’t realize just how lucky you are because they’re kind of like air, it’s there all the time, but if you cut my air off right now, I couldn’t breathe. So losing Paul, it was tremendously different for me, and it will be tremendously different without him forever because there are so many things that he would make happen that I couldn’t even dream of imagining, because he would make the impossible possible. That was his whole thing.”
BraveWords: In a hundred years I truly believe people are going to be listening to Savatage, like Mozart. Is there anyone who is going to fill Paul’s shoes?
Caffery: “I mean we’ve been speaking about it for the last 20 years now, since the last record. It’s always able to happen and something else stops it - you’ve got Haley’s Comet coming around once in a while, and every hundred years you have a pandemic, and once every 20 years there’s a Savatage record. It will be 20 years in 2022 so maybe that’s when it will show up. I’m kind of hopeful that it does, I know I’ve done a lot of writing, and Jon has, and Al (Pirelli - TSO’s Music Director and lead guitarist) always has a lot of music, so we could make a record. Things would never be exactly the same without Paul, but they were never exactly the same without Criss Oliva either, but we still managed to do Dead Winter Dead and Wake Of Magellan and Poets And Madmen. Songs like ‘Chance’ were done after Criss had passed, so we were able to keep things alive. Especially me and Jon, we channel the same spirit that’s always been there, that’s something very unique about Savatage. Somebody who has been a Savatage fan their whole life asked me today; no matter how many bands they interview or how many records they hear, they’ve not really heard anyone who has come along to take up the torch for Savatage. That meant a lot to me because that means we did something that special. I don’t think anyone came along and took the torch for The Beatles - I’m not saying that Savatage is The Beatles - and I don’t think that anybody is going to take over for Freddie Mercury from Queen. It just means we did something special. When you hear that, it means you filled your hole - like Eddie Van Halen did for guitar, there are lots of guitar players, but only one Eddie Van Halen. I definitely think there’s only going to be one Savatage. I think we have our own little spot, and as I watch how our music has grown with people and how it’s developed over the years and how much bigger the band has gotten without us even trying - it’s worldwide - we want to go play because there are so many places just waiting to see it. For a lot of people, it will be the first time because we haven’t played a lot of these places in 20 years. It would be amazing to get out and get the younger kids to see this band. It’s a special band. I don’t necessarily take advantage of it, but I’ve been living it, and I’ve been a part of what’s happened with it. It’s definitely a great band, and there’s a lot of great bands that you can say that about - that there’s only going to be this one band - to me I think that’s special when you can identify a band like that on their own, for being that particularly special.
BraveWords: The last time I witnessed Savatage live was at the Wacken Open Air 2002 and Jeff Waters was on stage with you.
Caffery: “Yeah, the Canadian that lives in England. I love his studio. He’s online so I look at his stuff all the time. That was a fun couple of weeks because here is Jeff Waters - one of my favourite metal guitar players - because we needed somebody to replace Al (Pitrelli) who couldn’t get to Europe for this tour. I remember when I got the phone call from Adam at our management and he’s like ‘What about Jeff Waters?’ ‘Really?’ It was just funny, cuz when you see Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and you watch him when shows up at the restaurant as Abe Froman, the Sausage King Of Chicago. So Waters shows up and he’s just such a goofball. And I was like, ‘You’re Jeff Waters?’ I had met him and saw him, but he was just so funny, and no offence, so Canadian. He has that sense of humour on all the time. It was just so funny. I was just there and he said ‘I’ll play rhythm on anything you need me to do.’ So he was my rhythm guitar player for most of the show. Which was just insane right there. But we played together and it was so much fun to make some music with him because he is such a great player. I was actually really worried about him, because the first show we did was somewhere in Spain and we had to wait because he was playing the next day with Annihilator and he had passed out in the heat on stage. We were afraid that we had almost lost Jeff Waters. But he’s a lot of fun. He’s a great player and he’s a great person and one of my dear friends, so it was a lot of fun to get that time with him.”
BraveWords: What is the health status of Jon Oliva?
Caffery: “He’s doing much better, because a couple of years ago he had a bit of an incident. So he hit a bump in the road with something inside of him. I see the masked mountain king every day and probably the last four five years he’s looked the best he has to me. A weird thing that Paul (O’Neill) said was that ‘Jon Oliva is going to out-live us all.’ He’s Jon. He’s there and he’s healthy. A lot of people worry about Jon, but he’s doing alright. I get together with him and he starts complaining about everything at home, so I know everything is back to normal. He’s got the normal problems in life like me, he’s making his music, telling jokes and talking about football. That’s the great thing about the Savatage guys; we are so close in that kind of personal way. I see people like Johnny (Lee Middleton) and half the time we are just laughing and being silly. That’s how we always have been. These guys are my family.”
BraveWords: Doctor Butcher was never really a live band, and right now you can’t go on the road. Any new Doctor Butcher material on the horizon?
Caffery: “I could’ve done 20 Doctor Butcher albums by now. These are all the questions you need to ask Jon (laughs). And he’d probably say, ‘You need to ask Chris about that.’ It’s not true. It’s never me. I’m waiting. But I’d love to do another record with Jon. We’ve talked about it and I’ve even written a bunch of songs. I’ve stolen some of my Doctor Butcher songs for myself. When I released that single “I’m Sick Of This Shit” earlier this year, Jon said that could’ve been a Doctor Butcher song. I thought it was a really cool metal song.”
In August, Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) was forced to make the heartbreaking announcement that, for the first time in more than 20 years, the group will not be able to tour during the holiday season. The multi-platinum, critically acclaimed, progressive rock group, is proud to make an exciting announcement today - to keep its rock holiday tradition alive, TSO will bring a performance right into fans' homes with the world premiere of its first-ever livestream event, Christmas Eve And Other Stories Live In Concert, on Friday, December 18.
TSO performing an all-new staging of its beloved album Christmas Eve And Other Stories, means that fans, despite missing so much in 2020, won't have to miss their favorite holiday tradition. This electrifying livestream will bring some much-needed rockin’ Christmas spirit to fans everywhere. In addition to the full album concert, fans will view special pre-show content including behind-the-scenes footage and classic interview segments.
General public sale is on now. Keeping the TSO tradition of offering huge entertainment value for a low ticket price, advance tickets for TSO’s “Christmas Eve and Other Stories Live In Concert'' will be offered as a family-friendly $30 all-in ticket. For fans unable to view the livestream’s debut on Fri., Dec. 18, TSO will make the performance available for streaming on demand through midnight on Sun., Dec. 20. In addition to purchasing the stream, fans will have the option to purchase gift packages, including T-shirts, ornaments, and masks, plus livestream tickets can be sent digitally to friends and family as presents. For more details and to purchase tickets and packages, visit trans-siberian.com.
This special event will bring together members of both the East and West bands for the first time since 2000 when TSO first began touring with two full groups. For the livestream, Bryan Hicks will narrate and Al Pitrelli (guitar) and Derek Wieland (keyboards) will serve as musical directors. The band will feature Chris Caffery (guitar), Mee Eun Kim (keyboards), Johnny Lee Middleton (bass), Asha Mevlana (violin), and Jeff Plate (drums). Vocalists will be Russell Allen, Nate Amor, John Brink, Erika Jerry, Chloe Lowery, Georgia Napolitano, and Jeff Scott Soto.
The debut studio album of Christmas Eve And Other Stories is available as a part of "The Christmas Trilogy," a three-album collection that also includes definitive TSO albums The Christmas Attic and The Lost Christmas Eve. "The Trilogy," which has been out of print for several years, is available again on November 20, and is available for purchase here.
Since its historic touring debut, TSO has played approximately 2,100 concert dates for more than 17 million fans and has sold in excess of 12 million albums and DVDs.
In support of their upcoming livestream event, Trans-Siberian Orchestra are streaming "Queen Of The Winter Night" from The Lost Christmas Eve (2004). Listen below:
(Top Chris Caffery photo by Bob Carey)