Thiago Sarkis of Brazil's Roadie Crew magazine recently conducted an interview with former SAVATAGE singer Damond Jiniya. During the chat Damond's first official interview since his days with SAVATAGE the vocalist talked about drug and alcohol abuse, his current status with the band, and what he has been doing for the past nine years. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
On his upcoming autobiography:
Damond: "It's a very frank and honest biography. Life as I've known it hasn't always been ideal . . . I kept a very detailed diary of my time with [SAVATAGE] 2000-2003. I am cross-referencing those notes with things that have transpired in the last nine years. From residual drug and alcohol abuse to complete sobriety and marriage. The bio will run the gamut of all things dark and light."
On his status as a member of SAVATAGE:
Damond: "It was a relief when SAVATAGE ended. That train was spiraling into oblivion. Unfortunately, the fans were the casualty. Jon [Oliva, SAVATAGE mastermind] and Paul's [O'Neill, producer/composer] withdrawal from the friendship they worked so hard to solidify with me hurts the most. Paul and Jon assured all was well until 2009. Now nothing. It's not easy to trust people especially in the [music business]. They said a lot of things to break through and then left me in the cold."
On his reaction when he read interviews saying he was out of the band or that SAVATAGE was no more:
Damond: "I contacted Paul and the office (Nightcastle Management) immediately after reading the interview. I was belittled by the office clerk and told to move past it. I was later told by 'insiders' that they were stringing me along to thwart any bad press during a time when [the yuletide franchise] TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA [founded by Oliva and O'Neill] was blooming. By 2009 TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA had reached a level where my experiences wouldn't matter to anyone in the press. I was never told anything solid from SAVATAGE/TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. That was something I was told later by someone who worked for them. I never considered giving my story to anyone although I've been hounded over the years. I truly did 'believe'."
On whether he is officially out of SAVATAGE and whether he would continue with the band if asked:
Damond: "I have never 'officially' been let go. Jon denied the interview when we spoke in 2009. He said that he was misquoted. That was our last conversation. I can only hang on so long nine years, to be exact. If they wanted me now, I would politely decline. Writing is my passion now. Besides Jon is SAVATAGE."
On his personal and financial situation:
Damond: "Personally, my life has improved greatly. I picked up some horrible habits after meeting Jon. Coupled with depression due to idle time, it took me many years to overcome the [SAVATAGE] demons. I met the love of my life in 2006. We married in 2008. I have been sober and wildly inspired for four years now. I believe that I wouldn't have reached this plateau in SAVATAGE. Financially, it has been tough since the downturn in 2009. I have had to completely change my approach to making a living."
On auditioning for INXS as part of the reality-TV show "Rock Star: INXS":
Damond: "I auditioned in Nashville, made the final 20 and was flown to Santa Monica. Upon arrival, they sequestered, poked and prodded me. For two weeks I was forbidden to talk to any of the other finalists. I was made to stay in my room only to come down to eat and get random blood tests. I finally auditioned for the 'guys' in INXS in a conference room in the hotel. I sang 'Unchained Melody', 'Crazy Train' and 'Sympathy For The Devil'. I had decided this gig was not for me, so I did an especially 'dark' rendition of 'Sympathy'. I was flown back home the next day. The assistant that I was working with called me and said that I was the 'guys' thought I was 'too spooky,' but that I would be perfect for their next farce SUPERNOVA! I politely declined."
On what SAVATAGE's plans were at the end of his tenure with the band and whether he ever recorded any new songs with SAVATAGE:
Damond: "The plans were to record and continue touring. Initially I'd work on three albums with them. At least that's what the contracts said. I stopped signing them in 2007. I expected nothing from them, I got nothing. I was brought in to record a couple of 'lemons,' but clearly the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA material was taking precedence. The real [SAVATAGE] material is in JON OLIVA'S PAIN."
On his SAVATAGE audition:
Damond: "[I sang] 'Edge Of Thorns'. The audition was a farce. I didn't expect that they would hire me. I had 24 hours to prepare. Other than the stuff Punchy [producer Juan Gonzalez] would play on tour, I knew nothing. It was a marriage of convenience. [SAVATAGE manager] David Krebs said I was 'the one' after going out to a bar later that night, Chris [Caffery, guitar] said they hired me because I ordered a 'Long Island.' I should have known then."
On his contact with SAVATAGE fans:
Damond: "I still get a lot of love from cool people worldwide. I feel bad because I won't speak about SAVATAGE other than to say I don't know. These people love this band. I don't want to be the one to tell them that [SAVATAGE] doesn't seem to care other than to push TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA at them. This is the first time I have been candid about any of it."
Damond Jiniya in March 2010 (courtesy of Damond's MySpace page):