Blasting-Zone.com recently conducted an in-depth interview with SAVATAGE/JON OLIVA'S PAIN mastermind Jon Oliva. Several excerpts follow:
Blasting-Zone.com: What was the motivation behind the formation of JON OLIVA'S PAIN?
Jon: "It was mainly the lack of SAVATAGE work that was going on. Because of the huge success of TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, it was just taking up so much time. I waited around to see if something would break and it didn't and I just didn't feel like sitting around and waiting anymore. So I decided to put my own little thing together so I could go out and play some SAVATAGE stuff, write a couple of albums and see what happens. And have some fun again."
Blasting-Zone.com: Towards the end, once the group started to become increasingly inactive, did being a member of SAVATAGE stop being fun for you?
Jon: "After (late SAVATAGE axeman and Jon's bother) Criss (Oliva) passed away, for me, it was never the same. I feel that the SAVATAGE that took place after Criss's passing was more the building blocks of TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. We kinda got away from what we had been doing. I still like a lot of the stuff, but I miss that sound that we had when we, for instance, did the 'Streets' album and stuff like that. I consider that the band at its peak. …I was just getting tired of sitting around, ya know? With the orchestra, I don't tour with them. I just play in the studio and I write. It's not really my bag…my sort of thing. I'm a heavy-metal and hard-rock type of guy. I just can't see myself up there playin' Christmas music. I think it's great, it's a great show, people love it and it's makin' us lots of money so everyone can pay their bills, but as a player, I need a little bit more than that, ya know? And I love to sing. I finally got my voice back into shape and with the orchestra, we use lots of different singers, so I wouldn't have had the opportunity to do that much. Maybe a song or two…so that's why I made that decision. I suppose I could go tour with the orchestra, but I'd just rather do this because it's something I need to do, ya know? …We never gave up on SAVATAGE, ya know? We just pushed it as far as we could push it. After the whole 9/11 thing… that was the straw that broke the camel's back for me. It just got to the point where we said we just need to get away from this for a while. When it feels right to come back and do it, we'll do it."
Blasting-Zone.com: As a group, did you ever seriously considering disbanding after Criss passed away?
Jon: "Oh yeah. …I didn't wanna do the 'Handful Of Rain' album. I just wanted to do that song, but the record company was like 'Well, we don't really do singles anymore, so you need to do an album.' I figured that was going to be the last thing. Even when I did that album, no one from the band even showed up in the studio. It was just me. That was really like my first solo album because I played everything on that album except for some of the solos which Alex Skolnick was nice enough to fly in and play. Then, at the very end, we ended up talking (former SAVATAGE vocalist) Zach into coming in and singing. Other than that, no one else from the band played on it but me, so I thought that was the end. I was quite surprised when (producer) Paul (O'Neil) came to me with the idea for 'Dead Winter Dead'… That convinced me to give it another shot because I knew it could be huge. …But that part of SAVATAGE was good because it was actually us morphing into the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA."
Blasting-Zone.com: What prompted you to step down as the lead vocalist of SAVATAGE?
Jon: "Well, that was after the 'Streets' tour and I had a nervous breakdown. …I had been basically working and playing every night since 1978 and I was just tired. I had gotten myself involved in some stupid party activities, they started to get the best of me, I lost control and just needed to get away from it. The original idea was that I was just gonna be gone for a year. I was gonna take a year off, get myself back together and then I was gonna come back and join the band so we could have two singers, which is what we've always wanted to have anyway. But then Criss got killed and it just kinda shredded up the whole idea we had of that. From that point on, for me, it was kinda chaotic. People were comin' and goin' in the band like people visiting your house. …It was unfortunate, but it was all we could do. We were just tryin' to keep it all together. We knew we had to go in some different directions and again, that's were the whole TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA thing really started. The 'Dead Winter Dead' and 'Wake Of Magellan' albums were really that start of what is now the TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. If you soften up some of the guitars, some of the songs, even as they are, I can imagine hearing on a TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA album. Songs like 'One Child' and things like that…those could all be on TSO albums. …If you look at who's playing on the TSO albums, the only real difference between them and SAVATAGE is that TSO has different singers goin' on. …The writers and the players are exactly the same as SAVATAGE. It's just what we became and what we morphed into."
Blasting-Zone.com: How many videos did SAVATAGE do over the years? Is there anything floating around from the "Power Of The Night" era?
Jon: "There's some live stuff. You can go on YouTube and see every video the band ever made. I think we really started to get into the video stuff from around the time of 'Hall Of The Mountain King' on. We didn't do a video for 'Power Of The Night'. I think we did something live. MTV was just starting around that time. The first thing we did that got played on MTV was 'Hall Of The Mountain King'…and we hosted 'Headbanger's Ball' a few times, which was cool. We did 'Gutter Ballet', which was successful for us, 'When The Crowds Are Gone' did pretty well for us…there were a few. I think we did six or seven…but we were never into that stuff. We didn't like that stuff. We were old school, ya know? I liked the mystique of having to go out and buy a record so you could find out what a band looked like or how they dressed. To me, in a lot of ways, MTV ruined music in America because it made visuals more important than the music. …I think it was good in some ways, but it was also bad because they made the visual side more important. It didn't matter if you had a great song or not. ...Bands like POISON and whatever...we always considered groups like that to be pop metal. No offense to groups like POISON, I'm just using them as a reference point. But to be quite honest with you, I couldn't say a song like 'Talk Dirty To Me' is on the same level as a song like 'When The Crowds Are Gone'. But because we never dressed like that, we never got played. And that was very discouraging because we were a good fucking band. We didn't get played because we refused to run around in fuckin' high heels and hairspray. That was very difficulty for us to handle. We though it sucked. We were getting bigger and bigger in Europe because in Europe, people don't give a fuck what you dress like. You had just better be good, ya know? And you'd better kick some ass when you come play there."
Read the entire interview at Blasting-Zone.com.