I called Chris Caffery (Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra) a while ago to talk about his new album “Your Heaven Is Real“. It was shortly before the Savatage reunion at Wacken, and he wasn’t allowed to talk about Savatage until AFTER the show.
This is a transcript of the conversation, just plain and simple word by word.
Always enjoyed talking to Chris,my impression of him is that he’s a sincere and non-bullshit type of guy, and I like those people.
And yes, I did speak with him again after Wacken, about Savatage. But that was for a magazine that has not been published yet, so you might find that here later, at some point. Maybe.
That’s the thing about magazines, an article can only fit so much text, whereas you don’t have to restrict the size of a piece online. I don’t know when or IF, but… subscribe and you will be the first to know. ;)
The last time I spoke to you, you were working on House Of Insanity. You said it was to keep busy while Savatage was on a break. Now you’ve got TSO, you’ve got your hot sauce, the Wacken gig… So you are still a very busy man, yet you found the time to record another solo album. Do you still have the urge to do something on your own away from the band situation?
Well…I love creating music. There is nothing in the world that I get a greater high or rush off of I think. That’s only natural, it’s fun for me to create something. In a lot of ways it’s the same feeling that you get playing in front of a big crowd. It’s something that you created, and you know that that piece of work is going to be something that people can listen to. Not everybody’s going to like it, but it’s still something that I’m really proud of.
The one thing I never really thought was going to happen, was the progression of my voice. I loved singing, but I was kind of a closet singer. I kind of thought I stunk, so I stayed in the background and tried to scream along with the music in the car or wherever I was. But as time has gone on, I have actually developed my voice to something that’s a pretty useful tool.
When I make my music now, I enjoy the singing just as much as I do the guitar playing. I think that that’s a great part of what inspired me to do the new music. I really enjoyed making the complete songs. It’s funny, because sometimes, I get kind of anxious to get to the point where I can actually sing the vocals.
I only want to get the other tracks out of the way, because I’m that excited! To me that’s the most fun that I have, making these records. when I get to sing. It’s just something that I really enjoy.
I finished House Of Insanity and I did everything on my own. I was learning about myself and the studio, so in my opinion it wasn’t the greatest sounding record, but there were some cool songs on it.
A lot of things that I learned about the business while doing my solo things, is that it was very difficult to take on that kind of stuff on your own. I just needed a bit of time away from it to get back to the point where I really wanted to have fun with it again. And this record to me was a lot of fun to make.
When I approached Brian Tichy asking if he could play the drums for it… That was the thing that really made this record, because I got a hold of his drum tracks and he is brilliant!
I had to make the rest of the music to rise up to him, because I can’t stink around these drums!
I had to make sure that the singing and the guitar playing, the sounds and everything else that was going on, were the level of what he sent me.
I just sent him some basic quick tracks, some rhythm guitars… just scratch demo versions of the songs so he would know what was the chorus and the song. But when I got those drum tracks, I was like… Wow!
I have to make sure that this stuff rises up to him.
He is, in my opinion, one of the greatest drummers on the planet.. He is probably the best one I have ever worked with in my career and I have worked with some really great drummers.
When did you get to know Brian?
There is a little tour that goes on in America called Randy Rhoads Remembered. The Rhodes family and some people go around playing Randy’s music and it’s usually Bryan and Rudy Sarzo playing the bass and he’s got a few different singers, and a bunch of different guitar players. Last year, it was myself, Metal Mike [Mike Chlasciak, Halford], and Joel [Hoekstra] from my band [TSO], and a bunch of other guitar players: Phil [Demmel] from MachineHead was playing…
And this year they had Jeff Watson from Night Ranger playing with me, Phil X from Bon Jovi and Bumblefoot from Guns n’ Roses… We played those songs, and Brian was the drummer. I just emailed him “can you do drums?“. He’s got his own studio that is set up to do recordings, so I emailed him some tracks and he sent me this stuff back. I was so happy with what he did.
On House of Insanity you did everything on your own, right?
Pretty much. I mean I had John Macaluso to do drums for that record, but the overall sounds and everything on that record was just… it wasn’t on the same level as this.
I have improved my studio gear a lot. You know, the recording of those drums was done in this studio, but they weren’t what I would consider to be studio album quality. That’s what Brian has. Brian gets the sounds just hitting those drums that you would be paying for samples you know! Overall this record just has a better sound.
I really enjoy the songs on this record. I had a lot of positive inspiration going on when I was working on this. My personal life was in a good place. I was really happy while I was working on this music.
Did you work with anyone else apart from Brian?
Actually I still did most of the stuff myself. My keyboard player Lonnie Park, and I did some background vocal work together and arranged a lot of his keyboard stuff. He had also mastered the record, but in the end it was still me. I played the bass, I played the guitar, I was the singer, the engineer, I mixed it… I did the majority of the work the same way I did on House Of Insanity, but it was a happier time and it was a more pleasant creative process getting this done, because I was more confident.
You said that you were in a good place – is there anything you would like to share?
A few of the songs on the record are actually dedicated to and written about… I met somebody. My life changed and I’m engaged. Her name is Kayla Wheeler and we are really happy. I just I wrote a few of the songs particularly about her. There is even an instrumental piece that’s for her, a little guitar piece that is kind of dedicated to the day that we actually announced our engagement to everybody. So it’s just it’s a positive thing, I was happy.
Even when she wasn’t around I was still writing and playing this music and sending her mixes. I wanted to excite her, because she comes from a very musical family. Her sister is a very successful songwriter, her sister’s husband was a very successful singer and she has just always been around really good music and bands. I don’t know, maybe in some ways I was showing off to her.
Did it work?
Yeah, I think so I think it did. You know. in some ways it inspired me to make this better and I think that’s a good thing to have somebody in your life that you want to succeed for.
I felt like… the fact that we’re gonna get married was one of those things that I wanted to make her proud. So it was definitely a positive inspiration and a different one for me, because I have never been in that situation before when I was making music!
Maybe the whole vibe is different from House of Insanity which was the exact opposite?
Exactly. Like I said, I had a lot of positive things going on. TSO approaching its 20th year, there is a lot of positive about that. My hot sauce thing is doing well … Life is just in a good place, and I think that that energy led to the album just having a little bit more of a free spirit and a little bit more of confidence, you know. I did things with a good head I think. That helped a lot.
I was wondering about the title Your Heaven Is Real – is there a story behind it?
Oh absolutely. I had, which I didn’t know, developed an allergy to shellfish.
We were on tour with Trans Siberian Orchestra, in Ottawa, Canada, and I ate a bunch of mussels, and about an hour-and-a-half later I started getting a violent allergic reaction from it. I actually had seizure and died for 5 minutes. My pulse has stopped, I stopped bleeding… I don’t mean to be gross, but my body released its bowels and I was dead.
But in that time I experienced what people say you see – a bunch of bright lights, people laughing and faces around me… I just remembered a voice telling me that it wasn’t time for me yet, and I can go through.
When I was brought back to consciousness again, my face was busted open cause I fell into the desk, and my teeth went through my lip. I didn’t look too good. But it was basically what happened in that song, and that is what the title is about – the experience that there is something there.
Whether or not that was just something in my subconsciousness or whatever, it was… I mean, I’m not particularly looking forward to dying, but I can’t say that I’m afraid of it anymore.
I actually experienced what it was like to go into that stage when your body is gone. My soul obviously still had an energy, for me to still have a recollection of what was going on.
But it was that’s what inspired that song.
So the voices that are in the beginning of the song are recreating what you saw and experienced?
Exactly. I’m basically at the time where I am out of it and I kind of hear the heart beating again and then I’m coming to it and that’s what that situation is.
Any plans for a tour?
I wouldn’t mind touring. We have already spoken about some festivals next year and I talked to Brian about it. I would love to have him play the drums. And the good thing about him is that he’s got a huge network of musicians that we could use if it would ever come down to playing together really quick.
I would love to play some shows butt it would be a happier and less stressful tour.
We have some touring plans, so I will just have to check and see where my schedule is with TSO because I have always let TSO know that I am available whatever comes up.
Just a little side-step extra: Do you have any anecdotes, memories or stories from your time with Metalium?
You know, that time was really really a cool memory for me. I wrote some songs and went over to Hamburg. I spent, I think it was about 4 weeks, living there and working on that album.
I am doing the record, and it was pretty funny because they left me and Matthias [Lange] in the studio, I basically engineered the guitars and produced them myself. I had never even loaded a two-and-a-half inch tape on a tape machine when I did that record! But I was putting the tape on the machine and Lars just left us and I thought “this was kind of strange” but I did it. I was really proud of that record.
That record was actually pretty good. When I listen back to that, it was a really strong metal record, much like the Doctor Butcher record.
Weird things in my back catalogue, that are actual special pieces of heavy metal history. A lot of fans, like in Brazil, people go: “you played on this legendary Doctor Butcher record and that legendary metal record” but the thing that had happened was…. I was in Savatage! I wasn’t in another band. I had no desire to be in another band. But Lars apparently told the labels that I was joining Metalium, Before I even knew I was supposed to be in the band.
At that time I think it had something to do with the amount of money that he had gotten to record or something.
It was like “tomorrow we have a photoshoot and on Friday the press is coming for a listening party!”
I’m like: “A photo shoot? What do you mean?” So he sits me down and says “I have to talk to you”.
And he goes: “You need to do the photos or my house of cards will fall…”
Those were his exact words. You need to do these photos or my house of cards will fall, and I found out at that point in time that I was in the band. Not just producing the record and playing. I was a member of the band. So, I discussed it with my people and they said “you can do photos but you have to appear like you are distinctly different from the band”.
But it was a big pain in the butt. And the only thing that really stunk about it was that the record was great but it never really had a chance to get where it needed to go, cause Lars and Mike Terrana had a fight in the first week of touring and Terrana quit the band during the tour.
So I told them, I don’t want to be a part of this. This is going to be a mess, so... I walked away from the touring and everything. I told Lars I couldn’t do it anymore.
They hired somebody for the tour and that was that. But there was a very interesting story with that. I can still remember that experience very well because I remember how cold it was. I remember the snow, and I remember wandering around McDonald’s after cutting a track or waking up in the morning seeing the hookers in their jackets on the street corner, and I was just giggling cause it was just funny seeing hookers standing outside of McDonald’s. It was just a crazy time. Our apartment was just right up the street from Reeperbahn and I lived there for a while. It was just a really interesting place and an interesting time.
(Small talk off the record that has not been transcribed – and then the talk continues:)
It’s been 30 years since I started working with Paul O’Neill. And we were also discussing that it was very unfortunate that the first band I ever worked with with Paul, was called Heaven and that singer Allan Fryar just passed away from cancer. So we were talking about that.
That was my first professional job ever and I still have a copy of my first professional paycheck which was signed by David Krebs. Basically the biggest rock and roll manager in history was signing my very first ever paycheck. He was my very first ever personal manager and producer and he eventually got me into Savatage – that’s 30 years now in August.
I did my photos last Wednesday actually, and I posted one of them on my Facebook page. Somebody said to me “that’s a great photo how old is it?” Like it was something from the past. And it’s something that I took that week! My photos look better than they did 10 years ago. I think it’s because I’m healthier and happier. I’m taking better care of myself and I think people age differently now.
It’s gonna be good, I’m excited for the future and like I said I think after Wacken there are going to be a lot of questions that will need to be answered. I’m just excited you know. I’m excited for people to hear this record too. Cause I think that Savatage fans are really gonna like it a lot. Heavy metal fans in general are going to love it a lot. I was talking to my radio people about it, and I said please don’t send it to people just like I am the Savatage guy.
Just treat it like it’s a brand new record. But you can’t get away from it. I have a 30 year old history with the band, is gonna come up.
Everything is good, life is good and always consider myself the luckiest person in the world. It’s good. When you listen to the beginning of the record there was a time when I may not have even been here to talk about it. Once you have listened to my album I would like to know what you think.
I’m really proud of this record. I would love to know. The song Why and Your Heaven Is Real, so much went into them, more work in that song than I think I’ve done on some albums. There was 85 tracks of music and that song. Just different vocals and strings and everything that happens is that song.
You released your previous albums on your own label, right?
Yeah, I did too much work on my own. It was very tiring. That inspired me not to do anything like that again, that’s enough.
It’s that time of year again – when it’s time for me to look back on the past 12 months to summarize what I’ve been up to. It’s been a rockin’ year for sure, although it didn’t start out that well.
My year in rock started tucked down in bed at my friend Blackie’s house in Nashville, Tennessee. I had a bad fever and a touch of the flu after visiting another friend in Florida two days before, Kevin from JOP (Jon Oliva’s Pain).
[The first blog of 2014:]
I missed the gig I had planned to go to on New Year’s (Blackie and her bf Ronnie, both from a band called Liquid Courage), but at least I got to see former Savatage-frontman Damond Jinya do his thing with his tribute band Kuzin It in a club before I left.
[Left – Damond with Savatage Right: Blackie, me and the ladies, at the club]
I loved this!! Great cover, well sung, awesome!
It was a fairly slow concert month in January, as always. I did an interview with Gus G for Sweden Rock in January and I think that was pretty much about it, musicwise. Yes, a VERY slow month.
February served the rock’n’roll table at Amager Bio in Copenhagen – first with the PARTY BAND number ONE: STEEL PANTHER (February 14th)!
A week later it continued with ROYAL HUNT taking on the stage. I went cause I love the drummer’s style, Allan Sorensen. He’s absolutely amazing. As it turned out, so was the singer – D.C Cooper. Holy shit…
March was the month when things started to move a bit. Gus G had just released his first solo-album “I Am The Fire” and was kicking off his solo tour with a few shows in Greece with Uli Jon Roth and Jorn Lande – and Mats Levén fronting his own band. I flew down to Thessaloniki which I almost consider as my second home nowadays, met up with my friend Suuded from Germany, and checked out the show.
Had a great time in Greece – as always. Was great to see Gus and the others, we went to this rock bar after the show which is almost a tradition every time he plays in his home town.
But the loud music makes it almost impossible to hear what anyone is saying so after maybe 2 hours everybody left to get some well deserved sleep.
A few days later I was on a plane over to Manchester, UK, to check out the Steel Panther show there. That was all I did – for a change. No interviews, no parties, no nothing. Just fly in, see show, fly home.
The week that followed was graced by the super awesome Danish rockers D.A.D! My friend Henny and I made a roadtrip to Gothenburg and had a great time, getting slightly intoxicated at Hard Rock Cafe – and I hit on the Swedish prince, Carl Philip, literally. I wasn’t looking, as usual, and he and his “gorillas” were passing me on the sidewalk where there was a construction area and not much room. I wasn’t looking and thought “why do I always have to be the one who moves??” so I pretty much shoved the prince, when my friend whispered to me who it was. Whoops…
The cool thing was that he went to Hard Rock as well – and ordered a burger that he enjoyed while Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society was playing from the video screens all over the restaurant! The Swedish prince ROCKS! :) And he’s handsome too – for a short haired prince. ;)
THIS is what I call rock and f***in’ ROLL!!
In April, I got a message from Iréne on Facebook – she used to sing with female rockers Modesty Blaise, a band I used to manage back in the day, and that was reallyyy a long time ago. We lost touch but reconnected thanks to social media. :)
She invited me to come over to the studio where they were recording a tribute to our old friend Andy Pierce from the band Nasty Idols who passed away last year.
It was so great to see everyone again. Sometimes it’s like time stood still, we all had a great time and Andy’s positive spirit was with us the whole time.
And that takes me to MAY and the months that followed that were super-busy concert- and travelwise! Let me catch my breath a little bit here before continuing to part TWO of 2014, cause there’s a lot – a LOT more where this came from. :D Keep checking!!
I’ve been 100% absorbed working on a song all evening. I had almost forgotten that magical feeling, when you’re creating something, and you get to watch it grow into something really cool as a result of your work. :-)
Six years ago I felt that urge to record a song, so I called the best musicians, who I knew would be perfect for that particular song, and we spent many fun but also tough hours in the studio recording the Savatage-song “Summer’s Rain“.
I’ve posted it here before, but in case you just got here for the first time, this is the song I’m talking about:
Now I got a few top-notch musicians again, some of the best at what they do, and it feels great to be working with them. It’s so inspiring to hear all their ideas and just see their energy and enthusiasm.
All the guys have been so full of cool ideas that this thing would have turned into a 20-minute Led Zeppelin or Purple type of song, to fit it all in. We had to choose the best parts.
No details yet, there will be more about this soon enough. And when this project is finished, there is more music, more songs, more upcoming projects – this “all star”-thing will continue (with additions of other people), because it’s fun and it’s a great opportunity for everybody to play with other musicians that they maybe wouldn’t have worked with otherwise.
Oh yeah, here’s another “old sin” by the way….. :-D
Back in the very late 90’s I asked my “little brother” Chris Laney (multi-musician and producer at Polar Studios – where ABBA recorded their albums) for a song that had a summer-vibe to it, a mix between hard rock and summer-hit for the radio, kind of like Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly“. Just an upbeat, fun type of song.
He brought me “Ride The Future“.
As the extremely busy guy that he was – and is even more now, he invited me over to his own studio, Platform studio in Stockholm in 2001, to record this inbetween his mixing of a Candlemass-record and whatever else he was up to at the time.
The thing was – I hadn’t heard the song even ONCE before recording it! So, the way we did this was that he sang it to me – line by line and then we recorded it that way…! Line by line. I didn’t even know how the song ended…! :)
As the producer he is, he also wanted me to sing in a different style than I normally do, with more of a “girlie baby-voice”, which I didn’t quite like – but… I love the song! So did the reviewers, here’s one of the reviews for this one:
“Daniela is from Sweden and her debut single song demo packs a mighty punch.
Loaded with hot guitar layers and a great singalong chorus ‘Ride The Future’ purrs along in similar style to Aina, Alyson Avenue and No Doubt and is perfect for the radio.
The song does have some modern alternative loops in the mix, thus the resemblance’s to No Doubt , but with a killer “woh, woh” Europe style chorus, and great vocals you can’t fail but to love this song, I was hooked from the first play as this song has huge crossover potential.
Honestly this is a fantastic song and I really can’t wait to hear more from the delicious Daniela in the future. Interview soon.
Fireworks magazine, UK”
I wish I could have done the vocals at some other, better time and actually nail it. This was a super-quick recording, but I was grateful that he had time to do this for me at all. The guy is one of the best songwriters I know, music runs through his veins!
So yeah – it’s time for more on Saturday. When it’s all done, I’ll reveal the people involved and how this whole thing came about…! :-))
Sunday – last day of the festival – started out as a total nightmare. The last thing you want when you’re in a field in the middle of nowhere – is rain! And it was pissing down. Vera didn’t even have a rain poncho or umbrella or anything, so we had to wait until the worst rain passed to we could go and get her a poncho asap. She would have been soaked without it.
And this last day we didn’t get any VIP-treatment, no backstage passes like the day before. Well – I had my press pass, I had that all 3 days, but Vera didn’t so we were out in the rain. I wanted to see Sebastian Bach but as the rain kept getting worse, even I wondered if I really wanted to see that show that bad…
The minute he got on stage, I knew what to do. I didn’t want to watch it. Actually, I was pissed off. No disrespect to Sebastian as an entertainer but the “problem” in this case was that I’ve seen SO many shows with Sebastian since 1989, I lost count already in 1992… He has ALWAYS been this bundle of energy, TNT dynamite on stage – I’ve come to expect that. When it was pissing down like this at Donington 1992 he ran out on stage, slid and fell on his ass – but continued singing! That’s what a true artist does.
But at Graspop he looked like a primadonna who didn’t want to get his hair wet! I’ve NEVER seen Sebastian act like that before. In 23 years this was the first time he had that attitude and I was disappointed.
When he just stood there, doing nothing, looking like he just wanted to go back to the backstage area it felt like it was anything BUT rock’n’roll. And when he stated “Belgium! This SUCKS!” I was even more pissed off because I was thinking to myself, as the water kept running into my eyes and my clothes were about to get soaked even through the rain poncho – “It’s not YOU standing out here getting soaked mothertrucker! I’m not gonna stand here if you’re not going to make it worth the trouble!”
[Seriously – what the hell was THIS all about…?]
THESE VIDEOS (each was less than a minute long) WERE REMOVED FROM YOUTUBE BY “GET OFF MY BACH PRODUCTIONS INC” (=Sebastian Bach).
Further comments not necessary…..
So I left. The first time ever that I walked out on a Sebastian Bach or Skid Row show. Later on I heard from somebody who had stayed through the whole thing, that it got better towards the end of the show… Well, too bad my patience or the lack thereof, got the best of me in the rain and the cold. The last thing I need is an artist with a bad attitude.
The Marquee tent was a lot better. I had no idea who was playing in there, I didn’t care. I just wanted to stand somewhere where it wasn’t raining. The only problem was all the SMOKING in there. I felt like I was gonna puke. I get sick from cigarette-smoke, I really can’t handle it, it makes me panic. And people were smoking EVERYWHERE.
I couldn’t hide from it, it was the same outside actually. Every time I wanted to take a deep breath of fresh air, I got a cloud of someone’s SMOKE in my lungs instead, which almost made me faint a few times. Smokers just don’t understand what it’s like to be subjected to their smoke. Some chick at Sweden Rock told me that “this is a festival, we SMOKE here!”. Okay – people pass out in their puke on festivals too, so what’s that got to do with anything?!
So I had my nose stuck in my jacket the whole time, the only way to avoid taking a deep breath of nicotine when I least expect it… Shouldn’t have to be that way. Maybe someday smoking will be a thing of the past.
Jan from JOP showed up, they had just arrived. Had a short chat with him, then he took off to check out the sound board the would be working with. I texted JOP’s former tour manager Anett to ask if she was there cause I knew she was going to the festival. She texted back saying she was up on the stage (Ugly Kid Joe’s stage).
Everybody’s impressed with UKJ – it’s like time stood still with those guys. They are still as cool and as valid as they ever were. There is still the naughty boyishness in them, the middle-finger teenage punkish attitude. They sound great and most of all I’m super impressed by drummer Yael Biz. She is freaking amazing!
Here she is with Alex Skolnick in a different project, she kicks major ass:
Whitfield Crane sounds great still, so all in all it was great seeing them live again. It was raining when they were playing Sweden Rock Festival as well, but at least this time they were in a tent. :)
When they finished their set I RAN out of the tent cause I could hear that EUROPE had started playing. It was still raining but I absolutely wanted to see them. Here is my shaky video of the powerwalk from the tent to the main stage – prepare to get sea sick! ;))
To be honest, I haven’t seeen Europe in many years because I chose NOT to. I remember them from their hayday, from the “hair-days” when they were on top and I didn’t want to ruin my good memories by seeing a bunch of old(er) family-guys with short hair. Just didn’t feel right. However, seeing them at Graspop was different somehow, it was a festival so I decided to go check it out.
Now I regret that I wasted so many opportunities the past few years to go and see them. They REALLY made me proud to be Swedish! There was nothing about them that felt “old” in any way, they are still great on a big stage.
Joey Tempest was strutting – owning that stage. Unlike Sebastian he didn’t give a fuck about the rain. He put on a show like there WAS no rain! And he looked like he loved every second of it!
It sounded great – Europe is a perfect old-school arena-band. They know how to handle a large crowd and a big stage. I’m glad that I went to see them and it was WORTH standing in the rain for! Joey Tempest still knows how to entertain, I’ll be back for more.
[Still kicking butt!]
After their show, I met up with Anett for just a few minutes and took a walk around the area. It was cold and damp so I decided to go back to the tent. Jon Oliva’s Pain was coming up.
Jan was busy working, Hanneke (light-tech) as well but she was so glad to see me, she jumped down to give me a hug. “You are welcome to join me up there if you want“, she said, so when she show was about to begin, I went up there. Hanneke rocks, always happy always up to something, it’s impossible not to like that girl. :)
Saw guitar-tech Fabio on the stage, haven’t seen him in ages, hoped to be able to get together with “the family” later and catch up a little! That didn’t happen though. I don’t know why, but at least I got to hang with the funniest bunch in the backstage bar afterwards – Fabio, Hanneke and Anett. We were laughing and having a great time, always a pleasure to hang out with them! :-D
The Jon Oliva’s Pain show…. Jon lost a lot of weight since I last saw him, he looked good. The new band sounded good but… I’m not sure why the band (or Jon) has chosen to just play songs from one album (Hall of The Mountain King).
Personally, I think it’s a step back, because this band has created some great music under the name Jon Oliva’s Pain since 2005 and I missed hearing those songs. Going back to the Savatage years feels unnecessary and wasn’t my cup of tea at all. Maybe it pleases the hardcore Savatage-fans but evenso they must have followed Jon’s work the past few years and learned to appreciate what he does now, so I don’t know who this was for, really.
But that’s only my personal opinion, it has nothing to do with the execution of the songs or the quality of the musicians. That is, as always, top-notch.
A bit sad and disappointed that I didn’t get to meet Jon this time. Maybe some other time.
Instead, I went to check out the merch, it had stopped raining. Met up with Vera, grabbed a bite and got ready to see Motorhead. But by the time they went onstage, it was raining again. I went to the VIP-bar and for the first time noticed that they had direct streaming of the show on the TV:s back there. Couldn’t be more perfect! I was under a roof and I could still watch the show! :)
What can I say about Lemmy…? Not too many surprises there. He is cool. He is very cool. He sounds like Lemmy and he gives the crowd what they want. Motorhead is a sure thing. You always know that they’re gonna deliver and WHAT they’re gonna deliver.
After Motorhead, I met up with Anett, Hanneke and Fabio in the backstage bar and nobody was particularly eager to see Guns n’Roses. First of all, we all expected them to be late as fuck, as usual. Then – we expected them to suck, like they have the past few years. Everyone I talked to that day hadn’t planned on seeing GnR. “Maybe the first two songs or something…” – that was the general attitude. Nobody had high hopes for Axl & co.
No wonder, he’s screwed up so badly so many times that people just got tired of it. You can’t act any way you want nowadays because there’s always gonna be some other band that will steal your fans. Not even if you’re Axl Rose, will you get away with just anything.
We were just taking it easy back there when suddenly we heard this BANG and music from the stage. We all stood there with puzzled faces. “They started – already???” It was 20 minutes too early..???
I went out there to check if it was indeed GnR or something else. It WAS Guns…! They had opened with Chinese Democracy. I still didn’t think that they would deliver anything that would be worth staying for, so I stood there, far away from the stage with no intention of moving closer. I was sceptical.
The set continued with Welcome To The Jungle. At this point I was beginning to realize that Axl sounded freaking GREAT. He looked a lot better than the last time too – he lost weight and was actually MOVING on stage. Whooah!
A few songs later I was hooked. This was a different Axl than I remembered, and definitely a different Axl than I expected! It was as if he was pissed off at the criticism and had something to prove.
So you think I’m fat?
You think I can’t sing anymore?
You think I can’t deliver the goods?
WELL – TAKE THIS MOTHERFUCKERS!!!
He was on a mission and I was blown away! I’ve never even been a GnR-fan ever. Never in a million years did I think that Axl Rose, of all people, would get my attention and even have me contemplating to miss the early flight home…!
We had to leave but first Vera wanted to see “just one more song“. And then I ended up thinking the same “just ONE more song…”. And Anett, who was supposed to go with us so we could drive her to her hotel, didn’t want to leave at all..! She said she would grab a shuttle or something – at the time nobody cared HOW they would get back to their hotels or airports, it was just a show that you didn’t want to walk out from…!
It dawned on me, for the first time ever, why Guns n’Roses once became the biggest rock band in the world. THIS was the reason. Axl had a fantastic evening – he created magic!
I read a review in Metal Hammer UK that said he “had the passion of a dead sheep” at some other gig, and I had to wonder if this show at Graspop was just ONE great show that we would see in years…? Cause if the band would continue to sound like THAT and Axl continue to sing flawless – and communicate with the crowd – I would GLADLY travel to see GnR again.
But I guess you never know with that man. I’m glad and feel privileged that we got to witness a great GnR show that actually made people STAY and enjoy the show! I dragged Vera away from there somewhere after “Civil War” cause we HAD to beat the crowds and get out of there before all those thousands of people started heading for the exit.
We could hear Knockin’ on Heavens Door, Whole Lotta Rosie and Patience as we were walking to the parking lot.
The PERFECT ending to a PERFECT festival.
THE GRASPOP BLOGS:
Next up – Bang Your Head festival in Germany……….!
This road report was originally written for a magazine, but was never published for various reasons. I think part of it had to do with that the editor at the time, had a different idea of what he wanted a tour report to be. He prefered interviews on the bus instead of the “fly-on-the-wall“-approach. Either way, it was never used.
To me however, it is still, to this day, one of MY favorite pieces. And now, in 2012, it’s also a piece of untold history.
Two people who were on the 2007 tour are not with us anymore. Greg Marchak (sound engineer and producer) passed in September 2007 from a brain aneurism. Matt LaPorte (lead guitarist) passed away in April last year.
When this was written, Jon Oliva’s Pain was still a family well held together in a way that I’ve never seen or experienced with any other band ever before. It brings back some great memories.
So here it is – tour of 2007, Scandinavia, on the road with Jon Oliva’s Pain.
ON TOUR WITH THE MOUNTAIN KING
Text & photos Daniela P
It’s an early, damp and chilly morning in Halmstad, Sweden. Jon Oliva’s Pain, band and crew, have just enjoyed a day off and now it’s time for the equipage to start heading to the next destination: Oslo, Norway.
The band’s bassplayer Kevin Rothney is helping me get my heavy, bulky Sweden Rock Magazine-bag up on the bus. When I finally get my ass up on the bus, I’m greeted with smiles that make me feel right at home, like an old friend.
One of the first things a first-time visitor on a tourbus must learn, is how to use the toilet.
Well…if it’s absolutely necessary to use it at ALL, that is. Cause you don’t go unless there’s just no other option. Somebody starts laughing and mentions the word “pissfoot” and everybody seems to know what that is. I’m about to learn that as well.
The bus-toilet must have been designed for pygmies, cause whoever tries to get in there will have to grease their hips and practice advanced yoga to get in and out.
Some of the guys ended up standing OUTSIDE trying to aim, well you get the picture – and with a bus that drives 90 km/h on the highway, brakes and passes other cars, you can probably figure out what happens. The piss doesn’t end up where it’s supposed to. So, whoever enters the loo next, can expect an unpleasant surprise. SPLASH! Sock + cold piss = Pissfoot.
Then, when the piss dries on the sock, it spreads a certain…odor on the bus. So, that was the very first introduction I got to “life on the road”. Might as well be informed of the worst parts right away and get it over with.
The bus starts rolling, and the two Italians – drum tech Rig and guitar tech Fabio, start yapping in Italian, while eagerly filming everything through the bus window.
THE KING LIVES IN THE “ELVIS ROOM”
The curtains of one of the bunks are drawn to the side and a sleepy light tech peeks out – the Dutch girl Hanneke. Suddenly drummer Chris goes: “HEEY!” while looking at something behind me. I turn around and there’s the man himself, mr Jon Oliva. The guy who’s been the face and voice of Savatage for over 20 years, whose fans worship the ground he walks on. He smiles. He’s cool and he’s damn funny. You can’t help but instantly like the guy. He sleeps way in the back of the bus – in the Elvis room. There’s much more space back there than in any of the other coffin-like bunks that the rest of us are sleeping in.
We are approaching Oslo and the video cameras are rolling, everybody’s admiring the stunning view. Jon is just smiling. He doesn’t look particularly impressed. He’s used to this.
When we reach Oslo, and park outside the venue, it’s like somebody hit a button. Everyone knows what to do, and like worker ants they unload everything in a matter of minutes. People are running back and forth, pushing anything with wheels on it. Inside the black-painted rock club Johnny Dee, things are going very quickly. It doesn’t take long before everything is up and running and the sound check is ready to commence. Efficiency, that’s the word of honor. Tour manager Anett is all over the place, making sure that everything works. She is like a school-teacher telling the students about things they need to know and remember – anything from dressing rooms, showers, food, schedule….
Someone put a veggie-plate in one of the dressing rooms. The guys are looking sceptically at it. You can probably die from veggies. So, broccoli and all that other stuff, ends up being used as ammunition in a food fight. Jon Oliva however, is sitting in his own dressing room with a viking helmet on his head. He is just taking it easy, greeting journalists with that Oliva-smile that we know so well.
The club is jam packed when it’s time for the band to hit the stage. The craziest die-hard fans are already hanging at the barricades. As expected, the classic Savatage songs are the ones that gets people to sing-along, But it’s also clear that the Oliva-fans are loyal and they keep buying the records no matter what name is on the label.
After the gig it’s full speed again. The crew is rolling out the gear fast, The bus has a deadline to meet, so gear, band and crew all need to be ready for “takeoff” on time.
The noise level on the bus is all the way up to eleven, you can hear roaring laughter and hi-fiving all over the place, The adrenaline is still pumping through everybody’s veins after the successful show. But the bags need to be packed and that’s done while the chatter with the guests backstage continues.
[One of the guests in Oslo – from Pagan’s Mind]
When it’s a few minutes past midnight, everybody’s on the bus cracking jokes, laughing. Some are a little buzzed, others are crawling into their bunks falling asleep pretty much right away. It’s easy to tell the crew from the band at this point. The “foot soldiers” are the ones who have a tendency to be in bed way before the band.
FIRST COME FIRST SERVED SHOWERS
It’s five thirty in the morning, and there are still people up partying. Soundguy Greg and a few more people from the crew, have crawled into their bunks and drawn the curtains. It’s cozy in the bunks, there’s a little lamp in there and everything. The kind of place you would have loved to have as a kid. But you have to twist and turn like a rubber-circus to try get your clothes on or off, cause there’s not exactly lots of space in there.
It’s like a cradle – a dark, humming bus that just rocks you to sleep in no time. Perfect. Well…If it hadn’t been for the fact that musicians aren’t exactly the type of people who are known for keeping their mouths shut and even less for sleeping at any time of day – at all.
Those who decide to go to bed and get some sleep, will do it to the sounds of laughter.
The next morning, I get bright sunlight in my eyes, even through the curtains. We are in Gothenburg, apparently. The guys in the other nightliner, opening acts Nostradameus and Dionysos, are running back and forth like a shuttle service to the two showers that are on the second floor, near the dressing-rooms. Two bus loads of people means that time and shower facilities aren’t always enough. It’s simply the first come first served rule that applies.
In the meantime, it’s totally dead on the Oliva bus. People were up all night last night, so it will be quiet most of the afternoon. The only ones that are up and about are the people in the crew who went to bed early last night.
Breakfast is a luxury. Someone made coffee, you can smell it throughout the bus, but if you’re looking for actual food – forget it. People simply grab whatever lies on the table from the night before, which could be anything from chips to chocolate. Breakfast in this context usually means a smoke and a beer, or, in best case scenario, coffee.
One after the other they are waking up, and it doesn’t take long until the front part of the bus starts looking like it’s being populated by characters from “The Night Of The Living Dead“.
Keyboardist John Zahner is standing with his newly purchased digital camera ready to be tested. He announces that he’s going out for a little sightseeing tour.
BEER IS NOT ONLY GOOD FOR YOUR HAIR…
Once back on the bus, there’s a grunt from one of the bunks and it’s Kevin who’s come to life. He’s about to give a lesson of how to take care of your dental hygiene on the road. He takes out his toothbrush, squeezes out a bit of toothpaste on it, whips it around in his mouth then takes a mouthful of yesterday’s Heineken, gargles and….swallows. All done! Dental hygiene á la tourbus!
Everything is set up and ready inside the club, it’s time for sound check. Soundguy Greg is angry because the sound board is crap, some junk that looks like something you would find at a recreation center – it will be a challenge to make anything sound good with what he’s got to work with.
Light tech Hanneke is shaking her head also, the stuff she’s got to work with is a joke too. It basically consists of THREE buttons that a three-year-old could handle. She laughs and says that it’s easily earned money that night.
There’s a sign in the dressing room that says something about smoking being prohibited and no alcohol. Jon’s eyes are as big as plates, he starts laughing. I had to explain that it wasn’t a joke, it’s for real. Welcome to Sweden!
NO REST FOR THE PARTY ANIMALS
It’s party time again on the bus after the show. Half of the working force is totally beat though, so they crawl into their bunks and fall asleep pretty much instantly. At four in the morning there’s still a lot of noise in the front of the bus, which makes some give up the idea of getting any sleep anyway, so they decide to crawl out of their bunks to join the others – which results in them not getting back to bed before six in the morning…
Three hours later, tour manager Anett starts kicking people out of the bus and up on the ferry. She doesn’t care who’s hungover, everybody must leave the bus right now. There’s a lot of grunting and grumbling, but they all eventually get out and light up when they see and smell the coffee in the cafeteria.
Bassist-Kevin, the band’s party animal, plonks down on the nearest couch and passes out again. That guy can fall asleep anywhere. The others are sitting there crosseyed, trying to perk up. Musicians don’t like being up at this hour, that’s for damn sure.
When the bus arrives at The Rock in Copenhagen later that morning, nothing is working as planned. The promotor doesn’t know which band he booked, the elevator is out of order and the gear has to be carried down steep steps, the sound system is not the one that has been promised, and the irritation is noticable. Anett is pissed off, Jan is shaking his head. But they are all professionals and used to this sort of thing. They have learned how to work miracles with whatever is thrown at them.
All the problems have been fixed by the time the doors open several hours later.
But guitarist Matt LaPorte gets the very sad news only minutes before he’s due on stage… His father has passed away. It lowers the mood of the whole band, it’s tough to be so far away from those that are close to you. The band is the only family you can turn to in times of crisis. But the crowd won’t notice anything, because Matt goes up there and he plays, just like he does any other night.
Because the show…must go on…
[Greg Marchak and Jan Janvier trying to get the best out of the sound equipment at The Rock, Copenhagen, 2007]
[On the bus to Oslo, beautiful view, crew filming]
[1:14 – Probably the biggest Oliva-fan in Oslo!]