JON OLIVA – has made quite the mark on the music industry. Since 1978, Jon Oliva has been involved in making music… after all, as you will later find out, Jon Oliva is a man of music. A founding member, along with his late brother Criss Oliva, of the influential and legendary Progressive Metal Band -Savatage. As Jon Oliva will elaborate, later in this interview, Savatage has since been transformed into the ultra world popular – Trans Siberian Orchestra, in which Jon Oliva is most personally proud of.
In the midst of of Jon Oliva’s music career, he has also founded and nurtured his Heavy Metal brainchild known as Jon Oliva’s Pain, with four studio albums released since 2004. Jon Oliva’s Pain has recently released a fourth studio album on AFM Records titled, “Festival”, this very same month on April 13th. Recently, Jon Oliva took the time from his busy schedule to talk to Hard Rock Hideout about his terrific new album and the music he has created and loves. Here’s what Jon Oliva had to say:
HRH: Jon, I can’t stop listening to “Festival”, I’m really hooked! An incredible album you made here!
Jon Oliva: Thank you, “Festival” really is an album that grows on you each time you listen to it.
HRH: As with all of the music you have created or helped to create, it’s always been a listening experience for me. “Festival” continues this trend. How did you prepare your thoughts and ideas for this new and amazing album?
Jon Oliva: There’s a lot of little things in the background. The last album, (“Global Warning”/AFM Records), was an experimental album and I pretty much got that out of my system. I wanted to play guitar, so when we were on tour in Europe, “Festival” was written. We had an amp and a 4-track riding around Europe! I wanted a darker, old school Savatage type album, a back to basics without losing any weird stuff that is heard in the songs.
HRH: “Festival” showcases your musical diversity, all the while maintaining a dark, hard and heavy style. Were there any last second double guessing happening while in the studio?
Jon Oliva: Not really, there was a plan. I was confident when we went in and prepared. “Festival” is different from the last three (John Oliva’s Pain) albums, every musical thing was written and ready to go. There was no searching for parts, no searching for keyboard parts, no stress. This was a very happy album to make.
HRH: The song “Now” has an uncanny Classic Rock feel to me, with a tad of ELO (Electric Light Orchestra) flavor and still it’s Jon Oliva’s Pain. Is that accurate for me to state?
Jon Oliva: Sure! A big influence on me is ELO, I love that band! Back when I was eighteen years old, my bother Criss and I wrote the chorus for this song in grandmas garage. After all those years, I pulled the tape out, wrote a new verse for it, inserted the chorus and this song, “Now”, is the result. “Now” was half written in 1978!
HRH: That’s really cool, the story behind “Now”.
HRH: “Death Rides A Black Horse” gives me goose bumps, such an epic power it delivers. How did this song come about?
Jon Oliva: From a nightmare. Lyrically based on nightmares are all my songs. I saw that guy with the long scythe, it was death coming through the clouds and he had fire in his eyes. What I remember from nightmares I elaborate on it, lyrically. I have nephews in the military and their slogan is this song title, so I thought it was a great name for a song! I wanted to do it for them, adding their slogan as the song title. “Now” and “Lies” are two songs not based on a dream or nightmare though. “Living On The Edge” is about being chased by something I cannot see, all I am seeing is blackness ahead of the lines in the road. The storyteller comes out in me through songs, I just improvise the ending of these nightmares I have.
HRH: It’s amazing and unique, these nightmares you have that eventually become songs.
Jon Oliva: Since I was a kid, I always have nightmares, every night. As a kid, I would watch “Creature Feature” (a Saturday morning/classic horror movie matinee on television) and my mom would warn me, “you’ll have nightmares if you watch this stuff!” My brain is having a party up there and this is what comes out in my sleep!
HRH: Each time I listen to “Festival” I get the perception that there is no slowing down Jon Oliva. How true is my perception?
Jon Oliva: Very true. There is a lot going on in my life. I am creating as much music as I can, while I can still do it. I’m not twenty one anymore and eventually it will all stop. I still have a lot of stuff on tape to pull out and work on. I like to get up and get out there! As I get older, I have acquired a sense of urgency. Trans Siberian Orchestra helps, I get lots of music through them that doesn’t suit John Oliva’s Pain, the Hard Rock and heavy side of Pain. The soft and more tender music I write suits Trans Siberian Orchestra.
HRH: Is there a North American tour on the horizon for Jon Oliva’s Pain?
Jon Oliva: I’m looking at a mid September to late September window, with a few dates in the Northeast and I’m working on setting this up. Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York would be the area for these dates. The economy is bad and the drinking age is twenty one. The club scene is killed with the drinking age of twenty one. The clubs lose fifty percent of their business with twenty one being the drinking age.
HRH: I always wonder, how much of a deterrent to alcohol this drinking age of twenty one really is.
Jon Oliva: It’s not a deterrent. When we were young, you would still gather somewhere to drink and play music.
HRH: Yeah, my buddies and I would set up in a remote field in the woods, crank up some Metal and let the keg beer flow!
Jon Oliva: Exactly! That’s what we did.
HRH: Who were your musical influences growing up and even now?
Jon Oliva: The Beatles and ELO. ELO’s music is so melodic. I saw ELO in concert in Florida, sometime in the late 70’s. ELO had this enormous spaceship on stage, it was like going to see Alice Cooper for the first time!
HRH: Was it the “Out Of The Blue” tour?
Jon Oliva: I believe it was. It was around 1977 and 1978.
Jon Oliva: Theater Rock is what I’ve always been into and inspired by. People get bored at a concert without entertainment on stage, you might as well stay home and listen to the album or CD instead. If you are really into ELO, Klaatu is a band you should look into. I’ve always loved this band’s music. They were a Canadian Progressive Rock band. Klaatu is named after a character in the science fiction movie “The Day The Earth Stood Still”.
HRH: Thanks Jon, I’ll have to definitely check out Klaatu.
HRH: Which instrument, that you play, gives you the most satisfaction?
Jon Oliva: The piano. There’s nothing like playing a real piano and singing. The guitar also, it’s a weird combination. I can get real emotion on the keyboards, yet it transposes better on guitar. Still, the touch and feel on a piano is something special.
HRH: Will Trans Siberian Orchestra return with a new Christmas theme in the future?
Jon Oliva: I’m not sure, it’s Paul O’Neill’s decision. Paul has lot’s of projects set up that he wants to get out.
HRH: Jon, you have seen and done it all in the world of music. What moment or moments in your career make you the most proud?
Jon Oliva: Becoming so successful with Trans Siberian Orchestra. Trans Siberian Orchestra is Savatage. We worked very long on Savatage and Trans Siberian Orchestra put a cap on Savatage, it’s all the same people. It was always as if we never could get over the hump, (with Savatage), where Savatage was a big name band, by changing the name to Trans Siberian Orchestra, it broadened the whole thing. Trans Siberian Orchestra was a natural progression to go to, there are no limitations, many musicians and singers are featured while the nucleus of Savatage is there. We have the same writers in Paul O’Neill and myself. The name and versatility of Savatage changed.
Living on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and trying to survive since 1980, we, (Savatage), would get beaten down and people would stomp on us! Then we got back up for another ten rounds with Mike Tyson and finally delivered that Buster Douglas punch with Trans Siberian Orchestra! Trans Siberian Orchestra is the biggest band, if not, one of the biggest bands in America today, two shows sell out a day! Currently, “Beethoven’s Last Night” is on tour.
HRH: Is music all about life or is life all about music?
Jon Oliva: Music is all about life! Music is personal experiences, desires, dreams, loves and losses. Music is life with a tune!