Showing posts with label Trans-Siberian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trans-Siberian. Show all posts

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Letters from the Labyrinth from Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Letters From The Labyrinth is the new and upcoming album from progressive and symphonic rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It is their sixth studio album, scheduled for release on November 13, 2015. Delivering the sounds of the season, the album offers 15 tracks by the band. Dubbed as the first hybrid album from Trans-Siberian Orchestra, this album was produced by Paul O'Neill, the founder of the band and co-produced by Dave Wittman. Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to new album - Letters From The Labyrinth. So, what did I think?
Time & Distance (The Dash)
Written by Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva
The beginning of the song jumps right into an operatic chorus which reminds me of a Nightwish and Epica redux. The song is inspired by the changes of humanity through the years and is based on Night Castle from 2009. The lyrical delivery is majestic and consists of a choir of operatic sopranos singing through the entire song. The reverb works here and almost sounds natural. As the song continues, you can really get more of a rock sound. The sound is very much hard rock. The guitar riffs are good and really bring a whole meaning to the season.
Madness of Men
Written by Ludwig van Beethoven, Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva
When I first heard this song, almost instantaneously, I could really tell this was going to be a song that would captivate the audience. The instrumental in this is so incredibly exciting, and I really love the delivery of this song. It's classical and timeless yet has that hauntingly beautiful symphonic rock vibe to it. I really love the piano sound in this song more than anything else. I think Beethoven would be very proud of this one. I love how the song starts light and yets darker and speeds up. This is what makes the Trans-Siberian Orchestra so magical.
Written by Ludwig van Beethoven, Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva
First and foremost, the beginning of the song really starts out with a piano arrangement that is so exciting. I knew the moment it was played the angle it was going into. I really love how this song delivers both the classical and rock genres together instead of just starting with one and leading into the other. The guitar riffs are amazing. Jeff Scott's vocals are very strong and remind me of a 80's rock redux, which I really can appreciate. Out of the many renditions of this song I have heard, this is one of the best I have heard yet. In fact, I don't know if I would call this a rendition, but rather an enhancement.
Mountain Labyrinth
Written by Modest Mussorgsky, Paul O'Neill
This is one of those tunes that really grabs you instantly. The first thing that caught my attention was the ability to evoke such a hauntingly beautiful tune into something exhilarating. Like musical magic. It is very celestial yet virtuous. It starts out slow and innocent and really brings excitement towards the middle of the song which one can really appreciate. I really love the instrumental arrangement here, as it clearly works. This is definitely my favorite song from the album so far.
King Rurik
Written by Paul O'Neill, Vitalij Kuprij
The beginning of the song brings you a crepuscular keyboard solo which really renders a meaning here. Then about a few seconds short of a minute into the song, the song really picks up into an uptempo ballad. The song offers an amazing guitar riff that reminds me of The Who. The ending is something that leaves a lot to desire. Overall, the song is very powerful and the message is very clear here.
Prince Igor
Written by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Alexander Borodin, Alexander Glazunov, Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva
The strings really come to life in this song and truly do take you to another place when the drum parts come in. At first, I was confused, but now I get it. The keyboard (the organ in particular) is really exciting in this tune. It is the 6th song of Letters From the Labyrinth and I find myself really appreciating the instrumental arrangement of the song here.
The Night Conceives
Written by Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva
The classic guitar is the first part I hear and almost immediately I can hear various guitar riffs that tell me it's going to be more of a bluesy song. Shortly after, Kayla Reeves comes in. This song is very bluesy in comparison to most songs I have heard from the band. Kayla Reeves sounds fantastic. She's like a cross between Ann Wilson, Joan Jett, and Bessie Smith. The lyrics really depict a message. This is definitely not something you are use to hearing from Trans Siberian Orchestra yet it works. I really enjoy this song. If you are into blues music, I think you will not only love this tune, but appreciate it much more so.
Forget About The Blame
Written by Johnny Green
This is what is referred to as the Sun version of the famous song from Johnny Green. I really appreciate the execution of the song. It's more dark than the original and really brings something new and unique to the tune. Robin Borneman's voice is great on this track and you can feel the passion in his voice with this song. The lyrics really convey a purpose here.
Not Dead Yet
Written by Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva
This song is truly something to desire. The opening bassline is quite uplifting. It reminds me of Walk this Way with more of a Funk spin on it. The rhythm is very evident here. The song is inspired by controversy based on the veracious lyrics. Russell Allen sounds great. He has a raspy voice that I really enjoy. After Allen sings his part, the composition starts to really take off. The guitars and drums are outstanding. I really love the use of the keyboard here.
Past Tomorrow
Written by Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva
The strings and the piano are incredible here. Jennifer Cella has a stunning voice and really brings the song to life the moment she comes in. The song is dark Symphonic rock at it's finest with a classic crossover vibe to it. The song's storyline is stirringly striking too. If you are a fan of Epica, Within Temptation, Xandria, and Lacuna Coil, you will love this song. This is my favorite song from the album so far.
Written by Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva
When you first hear this song, you are not sure what it is until the instrumentals start to really take off. This power-ballad is a Savatage cover. For those of you who are unaware, Savatage was a heavy metal band created by Jon Oliva and his brother Criss in the late 70s. (RIP Criss Oliva) Adrienne Warren has a beautifully dark voice in this tune. Not quite buoyant nor melancholy, but somewhere in between. I really love how this song starts very light and ends dark yet you can hear where the moments are. It's very different from the original and almost as good.
Not The Same
Written by Paul O'Neill, Ireland O'Neill
First and foremost, when I first heard this, I could envision a gospel redux. Almost like Yolanda Adams or Christina Aguilera singing in a church surrounded by a choir. The song depicts a message, a real message about ignorance and bullying. It is quite expressive. The instrumentals are one thing, but when Kayla Reeves comes in, the song really takes off from there. She sounds amazing here. Absolutely amazing. Reeves has a lot of soul and the soul really sold me here. The piano leaves so much penchant. The songs just keep getting better. This is my favorite song of Letters From The Labyrinth so far.
Who I Am
Written by Paul O'Neill
Virtually instantly, I was getting sounds of classic rock. Very much The Who meets Queen with a hint of Mozart. The operatic choir here really works with the drums. The lyrics do not go unnoticed, but with such powerful instrumentals and vocals, that is the main focus on this song. It's a very exciting song and reminds me of a tune you would hear during an adventure. Absolutely outstanding. The music just continues to get better.
Lullaby Night
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach, Paul O'Neill
This is by far the best enhancement of Ava Maria that I have heard in a long time. To be honest, I wasn't sure if this risk would pay off because this song is very big and has been recreated many times, but it really works here. The melody has been darkened and refined, the notes really blend well making a timeless tune into a modernized earworm of euphoria. I also love the backdrops of vocal modicums. I get goosebumps just listening to this song. Trans-Siberian Orchestra really proves they can deliver some of the greatest music the world has ever heard with this song alone. My only con is that I wish it were longer. Do you think Bach is dancing in Heaven right now?
Forget About The Blame
Written by Johnny Green
This is another fantastic Johnny Green cover. Lzzy Hale's voice is really unique with this song. This is the Moon version. The acoustics really bring a rustic sound that does not upstage the vocal, but merely hides beyond the vocal stylings of Hale. Speaking of Hale, Lzzy Hale's voice really brings a very avant-garde rock to this tune. The best way to describe it is Suzie McNeil meets Joan Jett. Needless to say, I prefer this rendition over the Sun version. As the 15th track and final song to Letter's From The Labyrinth, this is also a featured bonus track.
Trans-Siberian Orchestra is filled with some of the most talented musicians in the world. The members of the band include: Paul O'Neill, Jon Oliva, Al Pitrelli, Luci Butler, Chris Caffery, Roddy Chong, Angus Clark, Joel Hoekstra, Mee Eun Kim, Vitalij Kuprij, Jane Mangini, Asha Mevlana, Johnny Lee Middleton, John O'Reilly, Jeff Plate, Derek Wieland, David Zablidowsky, and Dave Wittman.
Letters From The Labyrinth will be released on Friday, November 13, 2015. This is symphonic rock at it's finest. A plethora of melodies that produce only magic to the ears. This album brings you both light and dark polyphonies that cross into various genres while depicting a story that goes beyond any plot or libretto. A story that is so intoxicating and yet delivered in a hauntingly beautiful way. That is what music is all about. Would I recommend this album? Absolutely.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Hot in Music: Top 10 Christmas Albums of All Time

Christmas Eve and Other Stories from
Trans-Siberian Orchestra is definitely
the best Christmas album of all time.
I don't know about you, but Christmas is my most favorite time of the year. Everything from the decorations to the food and many more, including the music. Yes, the music. Because Christmas is my most favorite time of the year and because I love music, I have decided to countdown the many Christmas CDs put out by the numerous artists and bands to only the top 10 Christmas records.

10. The Lost Christmas Eve by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra never fails to disappoint, especially when it comes to the holiday season. They are always on top of their game. This CD is exceptionally astonishing because it provides you with more than just good music, but compositions filled with raw masterpieces. The songs include: Music Box Blues, Faith Noel, The Lost Christmas Eve, Christmas Dreams, Wizards In Winter, Remember, Anno Domine, Christmas Concerto, Queen Of The Winter Night, Christmas Nights In Blue, Christmas Jazz, Christmas Jam, Siberian Sleigh Ride, What Is Christmas?, For The Sake Of Our Brother, and The Widom Of Snow. Whether you are looking for an amazing Christmas gift or simply looking to enjoy amazing music, this Trans-Siberian addition is it. (Check out my interview with Paul O'Neill of Trans-Siberian Orchestra here.)

9. Christmas by Ella Fitzgerald. Ella Fitzgerald is a jazz legend. I never get tired of hearing her naturally gifted vocals. The songs include: It Came Upon A Midnight Clear, O Holy Night, We Three Kings, Away In Manger, O Come All Ye Faithful, The First Noel, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, Silent Night, Sleep My Little Jesus, and O Little Town Of Bethlehem. If you are looking for a great gift to give, give the gift of Christmas by Ella Fitzgerald.

8. Jingle Bell Rock by Brenda Lee. Christmas isn't complete without Brenda Lee. The songs include: Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree, This Time Of Year, Jingle Bell Rock, Strawberry Snow, Silver Bells, Winter Wonderland, Blue Christmas, A Marshmallow World, Christmas Will Just Be Another Lonely Day, and The Angel And The Little Blue Bell. Every time I go anywhere after Thanksgiving, I am always hearing Brenda's classic "Rockin Around The Christmas Tree" and to be honest, I never get tired of hearing it.

7. The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole. Nat King Cole is a legend in his own right. The songs include: The Christmas Song, Deck The Halls, Adestes Fideles, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, O Tannebaum, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, I Saw Three Ships, O Holy Night, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, A Cradle In Bethlehem, Away In A Manger, Joy To The World, The First Noel, Caroling Caroling, O Come All Ye Faithful, and Silent Night. "The Christmas Song" may have been covered by many artists and bands, but none of them touch Nat King Cole's rendition.

6. Merry Christmas by Mariah Carey. Mariah Carey proves why she is ultimately amazing, when she made this holiday album. The songs include: Silent Night, All I Want For Christmas Is You, O Holy Night, Christmas (Baby Please Come Home), Miss You Most (At Christmas Time), Joy To The World, Jesus Born On This Day, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, and Jesus What A Wonderful Child. This is one of Mariah's best records to date and "All I Want For Christmas Is You" will go down in history as a classic. If you are looking for a last minute gift, give the gift of Merry Christmas Mariah Carey. Everyone who receives this is most definitely certain to love it.

5. Christmas Spirit by Donna Summer. Disco diva and soulful soprano Donna Summer's CD is truly a force to be reckoned with. She proves that she still has it with this album, making this a definite top Christmas record. The songs include: White Christmas, The Christmas Song, O Come All Ye Faithful, Christmas Is Here, What Child Is This, Do You Hear What I Hear, Joy To The World, I'll Be Home For Christmas, Christmas Spirit, Breath Of Heaven, O Holy Night, and Lamb Of God. This Christmas CD is very much worth owning.

4. White Christmas by Bing Crosby. If you have ever watched the classic holiday movie "White Christmas" (or commonly referred to as "Holiday Inn") chances are, you have heard Bing Crosby. The songs include: Silent Night, Adeste Fideles, White Christmas, God Rest Ye Gentlemen, Faith Of Our Fathers, I'll Be Home For Christmas, Jingle Bells, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, Silver Bells, It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, Christmas In Killarney, and Mele Kalikimaka. I'm dreaming of a white Christmas. Yes, I've heard "White Christmas" covered numerous times, but let's face it, the song belongs to Bing Crosby. This CD is a classic.

3. Christmas Album by Michael Crawford. Michael Crawford proves why he is and always will be the true Phantom of the Opera. This CD is wonderful. The songs include: The Very Best Time Of The Year, The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, Peace Peace, Silent Night, Mary Did You Know?, A Journey To Bethlehem (Christmas medley), O Holy Night, Scarlett Ribbons, Candlelight Carol, Angels We Have Heard On High, The World, and All Is Well. I have to be honest, I don't think there is anyone who can cover "O Holy Night" as good as Mr. Crawford. Looking for a last minute gift or just a great CD to listen to overall? This is it!

2. Christmas Songs by Elvis. If you don't own this Christmas CD, you really are missing out on a great album. Brought to by the King himself, Mr. Elvis Presley, this holiday inspired album is the best Christmas Album to date. The songs include: Blue Christmas, Silent Night, White Christmas, Santa Claus Is Back In Town, I'll Be Home For Christmas, If Everyday Was Like Christmas, Here Comes Santa Claus, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me, and Mama Like The Roses. I absolutely love all of the songs, however; if I had to choose my favorite, I would definitely choose "Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me" followed by "Blue Christmas". Whether as a gift to yourself or that music lover who appreciates great tunes, this is it.

...and the #1 Christmas CD is...

1. Christmas Eve And Other Stories by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. If you are a fan of rock or a fan of symphonic metal and industrial, chances are you are going to love this album. If you are not, well, you are still going to love this amazing addition by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The songs include: An Angel Came Down, O Come All Ye Faithful, A Star To Follow, First Snow, The Silent Nutcracker, A Mad Russians Christmas, The Prince of Peace, Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24, Good King Joy, Ornament, The First Noel, Old City Bar, Promises To Keep, This Christmas Day, An Angel Returned, O Holy Night, and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. I know you have heard "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" played everywhere, because it is a brilliant work of art. Whether you are looking for a last minute gift or a great holiday CD, this is it. (Check out my exclusive interview with Paul O'Neill of Trans Siberian Orchestra here.)

Friday, May 9, 2014

Music Talk: Exclusive Interview with Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is a progressive rock band founded in 1993 by Paul O'Neill. I think this band is one of the greatest acts in the history of music. Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to the founder of the band, Paul O'Neill about the music, the final installment of the Christmas Trilogy - The Lost Christmas Eve, and life. Here is what he had to say...

(Q) Tell me a little more about Trans-Siberian Orchestra...

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is technically a progressive rock band, but in reality it is an idea and an ideal. The band is musically driven rather than celebrity driven, a phenomenon that seemed to have taken off in the early 80’s with the birth of MTV. To our knowledge, we are the first band to draw our members from every genre of music, be it rock, classical, theatrical, R&B, gospel, etc. We draw our members from countries all over the world: America, Germany, Korea, Ukraine, Great Britain, Holland, as well as every generation. We have members as young as seventeen and I’m the oldest one in the band. The band was designed to push the boundaries of what a rock band could do both on recordings as well as in concert. Our goal is to make the best albums and live concert experiences as possible, sparing no amount of time or expense while charging fans the lowest possible price.

(Q) Behind every great genius lies a source of inspiration. Tell me a little more about who or what inspired you to create Trans-Siberian Orchestra…

When I was a kid growing up in New York City and first began to play guitar, we would try to write songs where the lyrics were so good they didn’t need melody and would stand up as just poetry by themselves. We’d then try to write a melody that was so infectious that it didn’t need the lyrics, so that when you combined the two they would create an alloy where the sum of the parts was greater than the whole. When you heard the lyric and melody combined, you couldn’t imagine them apart. Once we had done that to the best of our ability, we were always trying to find a way to make the music have more emotional impact.

The band, in my opinion, that first came up with a way to do that was "The Who" when they did the first rock opera, "Tommy". When I first heard "Pinball Wizard" I loved it, and when I bought the album and figured out the pinball champion was deaf dumb and blind, it was even better. When I first heard "Heaven on their Minds" on the radio I loved the song, but when I picked up the album Jesus Christ Superstar and found out that it was sung by Judas, the song was even more intense. That was why, when we first started Trans-Siberian Orchestra, the original concept was to do six rock operas, a trilogy about Christmas, and the occasional non-rock opera album. We try to write the songs so that, like "Tommy" or "The Wall", they stand up individually, but when woven together create a tapestry that has a story, thus giving the album more emotional impact, and if we are lucky cause the listener to feel an emotion they never felt before.

(Q) Queen, The Who, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Yes, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Aerosmith. Tell me a little more about how these bands influenced you…

I’ve never heard of any of these bands, let alone any of their music… Only kidding. Had the bands you just mentioned not existed, TSO would not exist in it’s present format. It’s a little scary how dead on you are with the biggest musical influences of my life. The rock opera: blatantly from "The Who". The marriage of classical and rock: blatantly from "Emerson, Lake & Palmer" and "Queen". The budget-be-damned light shows from "Pink Floyd", and the street edginess of Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin. TSO is fortunate enough to have Greg Lake appear with us both as a special guest live and on the album. In my mind, Greg Lake is the father of progressive rock just as Black Sabbath is the father of heavy metal.

Greg is very generous in sharing his wisdom from his years with King Crimson and ELP. He once told me that progressive rock is the ultimate form of music, the only form of music that has no boundaries. It’s part of the name, ‘progressive’, it is always pushing the edge. If you’re in a blues band and you play jazz, it’s no longer a blues band. If you’re in a jazz band and you play reggae, it’s no longer a jazz band. If you’re in a reggae band and you play a Strauss Waltz, it’s no longer a reggae band. But progressive rock does not have to abide by any normal rules, which is why bands like Rush on ‘Spirit of the Radio’ can go from rock to reggae and back to rock and nobody says ‘boo’." Greg Lake is like the Aristotle of rock and roll, everytime he speaks, I feel like I should be taking notes.

(Q) I am a huge fan of you. In fact, I think last year alone, the song 'Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24' was both my ringtone and ring back tone for the entire year. I just never changed it because I couldn't.

First of all, thank you very much. Hearing things like that is the best part of being in this industry. When new members join, especially kids, we always tell them that the fans own TSO, and the minute we forget that is the minute we start to decline.

(Q) When it comes to music, I think of it as a language. I don't think the world could live without it, to be honest. Going back to inspiration, I have to ask, whenever you write, what inspires you most when you create music?

Wow. Great question. Complicated answer. I’ll take it in sections. First, I totally agree with you that music is a universal language that when done right needs no translation. I truly appreciated this over the years with one song in particular, "Carmina Burana" a song whose lyrics were written in the dark ages by a barbarian monk and the melody in the 1930’s by a classical composer. I first heard it performed in Germany in the ‘70’s with a full symphony and choir in an audience of mostly rich, older, upper crust blue bloods and it totally blew my mind. Later on in the ‘80’s I was seeing Ozzy Osbourne in concert, and before Ozzy took the stage, a tape started to play. It was "Carmina Burana" and the place went nuts. In the ‘90’s a friend asked me to go see a rap group in an inner city club, before the group went on stage, a tape went on and the place went nuts, it was "Carmina Burana". I was thinking, "here’s a song whose lyrics were written in the 1800’s the melody during the great depression and it was effortlessly leaping the atlantic ocean to blow away aristocrats in Europe, Suburban kids in an arena, and inner city kids in a rap club". Those who don’t know it, the lyrics are in Latin, which I’m fairly sure most of Ozzy Osbourne’s fans don’t speak. Only music has that kind of power.

The second part of your question, about the world not being able to live without music, I agree. Music has the ability to bring peace to the tortured mind, inspire crowds of people to feel as one. After the Greeks in Delphi had discovered the Chromatic Scale during the Sixth century, they said very famously that "music soothes the savage breast." They did not know why, but when people with mental illness heard melodies played on a harp, they calmed down. Now for the third, and hardest, part of your question. Ever since I started working in this industry in the mid-70’s there was a basic belief in the industry that when an artist reached a certain level of financial success they lost the drive to create. This is why so many bands that had done great albums early in their career haven’t done a great record in decades. But that never made any sense to me, because not only am I a fan of music, but I’m also a big fan of the Greek philosophers who said "to use reason and logic and it will always lead you to the truth". The theory that I just mentioned did not hold up to reason and logic, because in the 1800’s Beethoven, Dickens, Victor Hugo, etc. were all household names around the world, their works universally known, and they were all financially successful.

But these individuals not only created great works of art when they were young, but also when they were middle aged and later on elderly. Beethoven wrote the Ninth Symphony right before he died. So I wondered, how were these artists in the 1800’s able to create great art throughout their entire lives, and artists in the 1900’s did not seem to be able to? This is just my own pet theory, but I believe it’s because of mass media. Even though everyone knew Beethoven’s, Dicken’s, and Hugo’s name, no one knew what they looked like. Dickens could see an individual arguing with a pawn-broker and get an idea for a story. Hugo could see a police man chasing a burglar and get an idea for a novel. Beethoven could see a couple falling in love, and get an idea for a sonata. I believe that they, like most artists, got their inspiration by observing the constantly changing world around them. However, with the birth and total saturation of the western world in modern media, a great many artists lost that ability. I’m going to use Michael Jackson as an example. I thought he was a truly great and gifted artist who gave great works of art that brought joy and happiness to countless human beings. However, Michael became so famous that he lost the ability to be able to just observe people.

If you, Sarah, fifteen years ago threw a New Years Eve party and say, one friend was a little bit arrogant, one was a little condescending, your friend from elementary school was a practical joker, and you invited Michael Jackson. When Michael walked into that room the condescending person would not be condescending, the arrogant person would not be arrogant, and the practical joker probably would not tie Michael’s shoes together. Michael lost the ability to observe the world, because when he walked into the room, the world revolved around him. This is one of the reasons that in TSO the covers of our albums have artwork as opposed to pictures of band members. I got this idea from watching Pink Floyd. I worship Pink Floyd, I think Waters and Gilmour are geniuses. However, if they were to walk into a room right now, I’d have no idea who they were. In Pink Floyd the music is the celebrity, we try to keep the same true in Trans-Siberian Orchestra.I felt this theory was vindicated a number of years ago when I was standing on a corner and there were two ladies in their mid-twenties standing next to me. One of the women said "My husband came home so drunk last night that he slapped me. I threw him down hard and opened his chest with a can opener." I wanted to say "Hey ladies could you slow down so I can write all this down?", it was a great idea for a story. If I had been Michael Jackson, I never would have even overheard this. So, to come full circle and answer your question, I get the inspiration for my writing from the world around me.

(Q) Tell me a little more about 'The Lost Christmas Eve'…

The Lost Christmas Eve was the final installment of the Christmas Trilogy. I personally love that story. There is something about Christmas Eve that allows people to undo mistakes that they never thought they could undo. If you live long enough, everyone knows someone, a friend a parent a grandparent, that they haven’t talked to in a long time. On Christmas Eve, you can pick up the phone, and individuals that haven’t talked to each other in so long that they can’t even remember what they were fighting about, will leave the past in the past and start over.

(Q) Criss Oliva, a talented guitarist who is also the younger brother of Jon died tragically and so unexpectedly.Tell me a little more about how the death of Criss Oliva impacted the band…

Criss Oliva was one of the greatest guitar players I ever met. And also one of the nicest humans. You know that old cliche, "treat everyone as though this is the last time you are going to see them"? Criss would treat everyone that way. For someone of his talent level, he was always very kind, humble, and looking out for other people. As you may or may not be aware, TSO’s first album was supposed to come out in 1994. Jon and I were well on our way into delivering the first TSO album, but when Criss died, we put everything on hold to stabilize Savatage, because it was very important to us that his music lived on. The only way to insure that was to make sure that Savatage continued as a band. I miss him terribly to this day, and I cannot imagine how hard it must have been, and still is, for Jon.

(Q) What advice do you have for any artist or band that suffers such a traumatic and unpredictable loss?

To basically take all that emotion and steer it into your art. Writing and recording "Handful of Rain" and "Dead Winter Dead" helped Jon and myself get over that initial first couple of years. Jon, to me, is one of the greatest singers I’ve ever worked with, always had the ability to capture emotions when he sang. I didn’t think that could get any better, but even more emotion actually came out of him after Criss passed away.

(Q) Ticketmaster is known as the world's biggest ticket seller. As of March 1st 2013 you have had over 25,000 fan reviews on the Ticketmaster fan reviews site, and you held the #1 spot by over 10,000 reviews. That is quite an accomplishment, I would say. How does that make you feel?

It’s the ultimate compliment from the fans. We don’t take it for granted and we try to re-earn it with every tour. Because our fan base is so wide, both in age group and economic class, we try to build each concert and album like an old medieval castle. If you’re seven or 107, when you see a medieval castle, it’s cool. No matter how close you are, it’s cool. And then as you approach the castle, the way you enjoy it depends on your age. If you’re a teenager, you tend to run around the battlements and ramparts. If you’re in the middle of your life you may go into the throne room or the library. If you’re up there in age and you just want to relax, you may go to the highest tower and look out over the pastoral setting. The more times you visit it, the more you explore, the more there is to find. Performing live, the band’s motto is "Fog it, light it, blow it up, just don’t let the audience get bored."

(Q) For those bands and artists who have to endure critics, what advice do you have for them? How do you handle your critics?

Of course one wants everyone to like their art, but the only critic that we really worry about, the only critic that you can’t fool, is "Time". Mozart and Beethoven’s music has gotten past the ultimate critic and is as relevant today as it was in the seventeen and eighteen hundreds. For the record, I’ve always considered Mozart the world's first rock star. He lived like a rock star, died young like a rock star, and died penniless like a rock star. And Beethoven was the world’s first heavy metal rock star. When you think of the opening lines of the Fifth Symphony, if Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin had written those riffs, everyone would have believed it, he was centuries ahead of his time.

(Q) You are known for your philanthropic activities. In fact, it's a well known fact you have donated over $10 million to a combination of both local and national charities. Tell me a little more about this…

If you’re born in western civilization, you’ve won the lottery in life. And if you get to do what you love for a living, you’ve won it twice. We have been very fortunate and doing this is our pleasure and our way of giving something back to the communities that allow TSO to exist. I don’t think anybody in TSO was born with a silver spoon. A lot of us had kindness’s done to us as we were building our careers. Some acts were downright charitable, so it’s our pleasure to pass it on.

(Q) I have been to quite a few concerts. Out of the many I have frequented, I have to say, your concert was one of the best I have ever been to in my life. The music is one thing, but seeing you live, a fan can discover a whole new experience.

Once again, thank you very much. In Trans-Siberian Orchestra, it’s not only the singers and musicians on the flight deck that are members of the band, it’s the hundreds of people in the crew, and management that are considered band members as well. They tend to be the first ones awake and the last ones to go to sleep. If it wasn’t for them, not only do they help us to create these new visual spectacles ever year, they agonize to find ways to keep the tickets affordable. Because what’s the point of having a great concert if only corporations and sovereign wealth funds can afford tickets. That’s why Trans-Siberian Orchestra keeps it’s tickets between $25 and $75, never higher. We have no VIP tickets, or elite seating.When new kids join the band, we explain to them that a lot of people in the audience can easily afford these tickets, but for some, it might be their only entertainment of the year, and we don’t have the right to not give them the very best show possible. To make sure that I’m getting through to the younger ones I’ve sometimes explained it from another angle. I say "make believe one year we play for exactly a million people. The concert is three hours long and everyone lives thirty minutes from their doorstep to their seat, thirty minutes from their seat back to their house. We don’t have the right to waste four hours of their lives without giving them the very best show possible." This is why we rent a coliseum for a month before the tour and rehearse. The show must come out of the gate strong, there are no warm up shows for TSO. And towards the end of the tour Al Pitrelli will take the band aside and remind them "this may be our last show, but to everyone out there, this is their first show, so we need to act like it’s ours too."

(Q) From past to present, you have accomplished so much. Now, I have to ask, what are your present plans and future projects? What is next for Trans-Siberian Orchestra?

The one thing that Trans-Siberian Orchestra has taught me is that whatever you plan, something is going to change, because life has a way of just throwing boulders in the roadway. You just have to improvise, adapt, and overcome. Fortunately, TSO was designed to be constantly morphing and changing as the times change, and our biggest fear is that we never want to let the fans down.

(Q) For all of your fans reading this interview, what would you like them to know?

We’d like to thank them. For the support over all the years, through thick and thin. When albums have been late, you guys have been unbelievably patient. As I’ve said once before, the energy we feel from the audience when we play live is as important if not more important than the energy we pull from the local electric companies. When we first started touring in 1999, we never dreamt that it would still be growing fifteen years later. Once again, we thank you.

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