Patrick Prince of Powerline magazine recently conducted an interview with Jon Oliva (SAVATAGE, TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, JON OLIVA'S PAIN). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Powerline: Why wait all this time to do a solo album?
Oliva: It's just that the time was right. After we lost Matt [LaPorte, JON OLIVA'S PAIN guitarist], it was a very difficult time. I didn't want to think about a band at that time. I didn't want to think about replacing one of my best friends. It's like how I didn't want to think about replacing my brother [Criss Oliva] when that happened. It just seemed like the right time. I got a real sense of urgency. After Matt passed away, I had these last few riffs of Criss' and I said I just don't want to think about a band right now. I don't know what I want to do. And I started working with my friend Dan [Fasciano] down in his studio. He was also very close to Matt. And I think it just started from a couple guys who had [experienced] loss. Dan just lost his mom shortly before that. Then we lost Matt. It was just a very traumatic thing, and I guess that everybody we knew was always busy during the day, except me and him, because I think we're the only ones rich enough not to work. [laughs] So I would just come to his house at 9-10 in the morning before I had to go out to Adventureland — which is the TSO studio. I call it Adventureland. And I would have to 4 or 5:00 until I would have to be at that TSO session. So it just started, and Dan's a guy who a great writer and isn't really a band guy, but had a lot of stuff that was really good. He asked me if I would listen to some of it and I did and I thought it was really good. What was really strange is I had a lot of stuff also that was unfinished and we kind of combined them. And once we brought Criss' stuff in there, there was a chemistry that definitely happened. We went on the writing spree. We wrote like 60 songs in two months. And I'm glad I decided to do it now. We were very happy with the way it happened but it was definitely a lot of work, you know.
Powerline: Sounds like serendipity. It just came together.
Oliva: It was weird. In certain instances it was a little creepy. Especially with Criss' stuff. When we were trying to put in Criss' riffs — where a lot of his riffs were only 20 seconds of something that I had on a cassettes … thirty seconds at the most. And there were just little pieces of things that he had. The riff that starts "Father Time", that's the second riff Criss ever wrote in his life. I mean, he was fourteen years old. The first riff he wrote was "Smoke On The Water" backwards. And it sucked. And I told him. I said, "Dude, that riff sucks." And he goes, "Fine. Fuck you, man." And he comes back the next day and said, "I wrote this other riff last night. Does this sound too much like RUSH?" And he started playing and I was like, "Fuck RUSH. That's great. Let's use it!" But we really never did anything with it until now, when I recently found it on those lost tapes of his.
Powerline: Was prog rock a main staple for you while growing up?
Oliva: I didn't even know what it was. And then Paul O' Neill [producer] said, "Well, you guys SAVATAGE were kind of like one of the first prog rock bands, whether you know it or not." I'm like, "Were we?" I'm like, "What the fuck is prog rock?" And he's like, "You know, progressive hard rock." I just thought we were a rock band. I didn't know any of that shit. The first time I heard the words heavy metal was when my friend brought over the MOTÖRHEAD album, "Ace Of Spades". He's like "These guys are fucking metal." I'm like "They look like flesh and blood to me. I don't see any metal." [laughs] I didn't know what the fuck they were talking about. And then: Oh, I see. It's a new thing like punk was. Or disco. It's just a new name. But what it really was, was just hard rock music. Rock music played with a harder edge of faster tempo. I still don't get the "heavy metal" thing, but whatever. It sounds good.
Powerline: Do you need to do an anniversary thing for SAVATAGE?
Oliva: I think the thing with SAVATAGE, as far as anything goes, would be to do some studio stuff together, maybe. Because just the schedules … and the fact that the guys from SAVATAGE are still together. We just don't call it SAVATAGE anymore. But the guys are still there but … to do something where you would harm the progress of TSO would be stupid.
Powerline: I mean, you can just celebrate it doing your solo stuff.
Oliva: Exactly. Like I'm going to do the 25th-anniversay of "Gutter Ballet" next summer in Europe. And I still fly the flag, you know. I love playing those songs and it's a big part of my history, and I'll always play them. But it's like since SAVATAGE hasn't done anything since … 2001. I thought people would finally get a clue [laughs] that not much is gonna go on.
Read the entire interview at Powerline.