JON OLIVA Talks About Solo Album, Working With Original SAVATAGE Drummer

SAVATAGE mastermind Jon Oliva recently spoke to's Garry Sharpe-Young about how the new JON OLIVA'S PAIN album is truly keeping the spirit of classic SAVATAGE alive. An excerpt from the interview follows: I guess the standout cut has to be "People Say – Gimme Some Hell".

Jon Oliva: "It looks like it. That’s the track everyone is pointing to for sure." To explain, almost the entire lyric content is based on SAVATAGE songtitles. It sounds odd, but it really works exceptionally well. There are also some chilling chorus lines in there.

Jon Oliva: "Yeah, if ever I wondered how long I could growl the word 'Hell,' now I know! It's really funny how that song came about. It was the very last song. We had the music and I was just driving around in my car, thinking about putting a song together to pay tribute to SAVATAGE, like a real homage. I just conjoured up that first line 'I told you about the sirens…' and the light bulb started to glow. Hmmm I thought — I can use this.

"I got home and pulled out all my SAVATAGE albums, laid them out and started picking out titles, trying to represent each album. It could have been really stupid but it all began to lock in and gel really well. I was quite surprised, but it did all make sense. I spent all night long putting these words together in different combinations but when it was finished it was very cool. The next day, when I sang the first take in the studio we had some of our website guys there and they said, 'You know, Jon, that is going to be the most memorable song on the record.' They are right. Everyone is picking up on it. It's very different, not just the words because it has a bit of horn work in there, the chorus is unique and we even sampled some of Criss' (Oliva, Jon's late brother and SAVATAGE co-founder) guitar work from 'Legions of the Night' too." I have to ask you about the laughing outro to "The Non Sensible Ravings Of The Lunatic Mind".

Jon Oliva: "That was me and a couple of friends in the studio. It wasn't quite enough so we added in some soundbites of little kids and girls mixed in there too. It was all pretty random, a one pass thing." So what did you do to get the laugh? You can’t just laugh on cue.

Jon Oliva: "Ah, I have a friend who can do these real bizarre facial expressions. He can mould his face into almost anything. He does a great Jack Nicholson. Probably most of what was making us really howl was this strange baby face he was pulling. He got this character of an angry mobster baby face with a cigar in his mouth. Well, when you have a bunch of friends, someone doing all this weird stuff and then throw a few bottles of vodka into the mix, you soon get to laughing quite hard!” You also had an old friend in the studio too as original SAVATAGE drummer Steve "Dr. Killdrums" Wacholz appears on two songs. Did you two have to conduct some relationship building exercises?

Jon Oliva: "Aw no. Not with Steve. We've known each other since forever. Everything has always been OK with Steve, because he, I and my brother Criss have known each other since our early teens. I remember the very first day Steve turned up at my doorstep dressed in baseball gear. Well, I turned him from baseball to BLACK SABBATH!

"The thing with Steve was that I had a couple of tracks on the album that were really aimed towards that very early SAVATAGE sound. I just thought it would be cool if I get could Steve to put the drums on those. He was nervous, I tell you — he hadn't been in a studio for ten years. I told him look, it's like riding a bike, it's like having sex — you don't forget! So we got together I played rhythm guitar, he played drums and it just brought it all back, those great times when Criss, Steve and I used to jam because in those days it would always be Steve and I goofing around on our own waiting for Criss to finish work. It was a very special feeling, a bit of a nostalgic flashback.

"It worked great. Steve found his groove again very quickly. We even worked in some stuff from an old SAVATAGE song called 'Nowhere To Run' that was meant for the 'In The Hall Of The Mountain King' album [1987]. It was one of those songs that was nearly there but we left it because Criss hated some of the music. We kind of resurrected it."

The full, extensive interview plus a detailed SAVATAGE/JON OLIVA'S PAIN history and discography can be found here.


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