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03 July 2013 @ 11:11 pm
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra Interviews: Chris Caffery - December 13, 2012  
All videos and photos captured by Brad Parmerter unless otherwise noted.

Chris Caffery Interview - December 13, 2012

Chris Caffery’s musical upbringing doesn’t begin with a connection to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s creator Paul O’Neill, but early in Caffery’s career he crossed paths with the producer and the two have worked closely together since; first in the band Heaven for a short time, then with Savatage for many years and now with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. With four solo records under his belt, Caffery has established himself as a powerful songwriter and vocalist, but recently has been concentrating on his culinary taste.

I caught up with the guitarist and master of ceremonies for TSO during The Lost Christmas Eve tour in December of 2012 in Albany, NY. We chatted about the transition from touring Christmas Eve & Other Stories (which TSO toured from 1999-2011) to The Lost Christmas Eve; his diving into the world of hot sauces; how polka legend Jimmy Sturr and Paul O’Neill are similar; the mighty Savatage; the business of the music business; a few songs from throughout his career; as well as the special connection between TSO fans and the performers.


Chris Caffery "Faith Noel" - November 24, 2012 - Manchester, NH 3pm

Bp: How are you doing?

Chris: I'm good. How's it going?

Bp: Good. You're somewhat close to home today.

Chris: Yeah, but not close enough. I get within an hour or so a lot. It's close, but not close enough to go anywhere.

Bp: After 13 years of Christmas Eve & Other Stories how are you enjoying doing something new and different?

Chris: I love it! I think it's fun. I'm having a lot of fun with it. For the most part there's been a really small amount of people who have said that they miss this or miss that. Some people have said they miss the bar song ["Old City Bar"] and things like that, but I think for the most part people are really enjoying it. I know the band is enjoying playing something new. It's fun for us. We've done the same story for so long that the new one, for me, it's a lot of fun.

"Christmas Jam" - Dec. 23, 2012 - Boston, MA 8pm

Bp: I've been seeing TSO since 2000 and the anticipation going into the tour was so exciting because the setlist was going to be so different with the new story and what was going to be included in the back-half from Christmas Eve & Other Stories. It was almost like going to see your favorite band for the first time.

Chris: Yeah, that was another thing that we had to think about. 'What are people going to want to see?' Paul still wants to make sure that people get their rock concert experience and picking the second half of the show was kind of obvious, but kind of not. You have to pick the best moments you can pick, but I think the set the way it is really flows well. People see the songs they want to see, I don't really hear them saying, 'Oh, I wish you'd done this or that.' Like I told you earlier it's funny, but the only song that I've really heard about is people miss the song with the bum. That's the main thing that I've heard as far as what people say they miss of a particular song.

Bp: Especially with this type of show, which comes around every year during a time when tradition is so important, people are going to be tied to certain things and traditions that they've seen. I've heard people say that they miss little moments that became special to them, for instance Bryan snapping his fingers and having the star field light up is one I've heard. But at the end of the day you've got the essential TSO elements, a brand new story, you're pulling on the heart strings, there’s redemption, lights, lasers, etc. Opening night in Peoria was so exciting with the combination of the new and the familiar. Seeing you guys on stage energized by the new show was awesome to see.

Chris: Yeah. As far as the moments that people miss, there's still a tremendous amount of people every single night when we do the check presentation before the show, there's a lot of people coming back this year because it's a new show, but at least 30% of the people when I ask if anyone hasn't seen TSO before, they haven't. So they don't really have a moment they're going to miss. They're just going to see TSO for the first time and the story is very intense on this one. And I know there are things about the original story that I do miss in certain ways. Things like "Ornament" that I think really drew you personally to being away from your family or family members at Christmas time. To me "Ornament" was the real part where I would watch people cry in the audience during the old story. That was the one terrific...because when you think about it, that was the one in particular, if people weren't seeing somebody at Christmas. That was the story, the ornament was the memory. And I think with this one it's a lot more intense on the surface level and I think it's relating to a lot of people pretty heavily. People are telling me that the story is really intense, and it is really intense. The music around it is awesome. I'm enjoying playing it.

"What Child Is This?" - December 23, 2012 - Boston, MA 8pm

Bp: What are some favorites for you from this year’s show?

Chris: I always wanted us to put “What Child is This?” into the live show so just playing that song and being up there with the story; I knew that was going to be a big room song. And that’s coming from my years of being on a big stage. That one I love. And of course a few of the little things we have going on in the second half, I like the robot arms we’re using for “The Mountain.” That is a song we’ve been doing for five, six, seven years, but it just makes something completely brand new for me as a performer because the way it’s being presented is so much different.

"The Mountain" - November 15, 2012 - Peoria, IL

Bp: You haven’t been stranded on those, but in Indianapolis you were stuck up in the cherry picker…

Chris: Yeah. That was interesting. Last night I definitely thought about that when I went back there. I thought, ‘Oh, geez, am I going to get down?’ When you use new technology something is going to happen. And it’s not anything that’s ever dangerous, but you just know that it’s a possibility. If you use a chainsaw eighteen times, you’ve got to oil the chain and the chain breaks. Something is bound to happen when you’re using something mechanical over and over again. And that’s what happened. I believe Johnny Lee was stranded up on one of the arms and so did Joel, he was a little slow getting back one night. That’s new technology.

Bp: You guys have been stonehenged a couple times.

Chris: [laughs] Exactly. My bean-pod didn’t open.

Bp: When you arrived in Omaha this fall for rehearsal, what pre-prep had you already done as far as learning the new show, solo breakdowns, etc. Granted you've done some of these songs in the past, but how was it determined who was getting what solo or part?

Chris: Well, I mean really, the bigger instrumentals on The Lost Christmas Eve we'd already done so I knew what I was doing as far as "Faith Noel." I knew that I was doing the melody, Joel was doing the running part, and me and Roddy were finishing the melody. "Wizards" I knew what we did. There wasn't a whole lot of ones that we had to figure out. Some of the songs, like "The Lost Christmas Eve," [we had to decide] am I going to do the intro or is Joel going to do it. So when it came to learning it, I just learned all the songs and knew all the parts and when we got there it was more or less, 'There's a harmony. Are you playing that or am I playing that?' There wasn't a tremendous amount of stuff we hadn't actually played through in instrumental land. It's just a matter of learning songs so that whole part of it was pretty easy. I mean I had just learned the traditional songs on the record and wanted to see what parts of those songs I had to play. But as far as the instrumentals, we've done the majority of the instrumentals already live. Like we did a part of "Christmas Jam" and we've done "Siberian" before and the decision for me to play "Jam" and for Joel to play "Siberian" happened in Omaha just because they were going back to back and it was basically, 'We'll give you a song and you a song.' It just made sense with the way the bar was introducing them. They were bringing up musicians in the bar to play and that's the way that was being presented. It was more or less the vocal songs that were the ones we really had to learn.

Bp: For the guitars this year. I listened to an interview you did a week or so back and you said that you weren’t being endorsed this year, you just brought out your favorites.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. I don’t find endorsements distracting, but I find them to be inconvenient in the way that you can’t use your favorites. If I really truly love one particular guitar, [but] you work with a company that goes, ‘Hey, we want you to play our guitars,’ and then somebody sees you playing that guitar you really love, and [they] say, ‘Hey, don’t play that guitar on stage.’ That’s insulting to me in a way. It’s like, if you’re a fan of guitars, even being a guitar maker, how would you be insulted by inventing a brand new guitar and having it sit next to a Ferrari or a Corvette and the fact that I would consider using your guitars under that circumstance that says a lot right there. And if I was to bring out the Ferrari or Corvette for one moment at a car show, it’s not an insult. I got to the point where it became so business oriented, the whole guitar endorsement thing, and I was like, ‘Y’know what, I’m not playing guitar to be a business man. I’m not trying to sell somebody’s guitars. I’m trying to play the guitars I like. I’m trying to play guitars that I think sound good. I’m trying to play guitars that I think look good.’ If I have a guitar with a graphic or image on it that I think looks good with that part of the show, I think it’s cool for people to see it. So when somebody took the fun out of me using guitars, I said it’s time for me to stop being an endorser because I have enough to where I can do without it. I don’t need free guitars. That’s not what it’s about. I don’t need to promote myself, that’s not what it’s about for me. I’m not that type of guitar player where I want to see myself in guitar ads. I just want to play good guitars. I want people to look at them and hear them and see them and say, ‘Wow, that’s a cool sounding and cool looking guitar.’ And that’s what I’ve done on this tour. I just really want to use what I think sounds, looks, and plays the best for TSO.

Bp: That makes sense. And it keeps the enjoyment in it for you.

Chris: Exactly.

"Christmas Nights in Blue" - December 20, 2012 - Hartford, CT

Bp: The Fender Strat that you’re using for “Christmas Nights in Blue” – is that new? I’ve never seen you use that before.

Chris: I picked that up in June. I was just playing around on eBay one night and was looking at ‘70s Strat’s and I happened to find one. I think I caught a really good day and I thought, ‘Wow, this guitar is there and it’s that price?’ And I grabbed it. That’s the fun thing about eBay. Sometimes you’ll find things that are way overpriced, but every once in a while you’ll find something that somebody throws up as a one-day-sale. I got the guitar and it’s awesome. I have a couple other Strats, but I wanted a different one and I’m always looking for a new Strat because it’s fun to grab one. The ‘70s ones are so amazing. I got a hold of it and I thought, ‘[Bryan] says ‘An old blues bar.’’ So I’m going to bring out a Strat.

Bp: That’s a great song ‘cause it gives you a chance to do some little licks which is rare in TSO songs.

Chris: Exactly. I always change it up every night so I don’t play the same ones. There might be one or two [licks] that I try to play the same, but for the most part I’m playing something different every time.

Chris with his 'Santa' Jackson Rhodes circa 2003. Photo courtesy web.

Bp: Where did your ‘Santa’ Jackson Rhodes end up that was a go-to guitar for you on the early TSO tours? Do you still have it?

Chris: The funny thing about the Jackson guitars I had in general is the very old ones that I’d gotten when me and Criss [Oliva of Savatage] had gotten Jacksons, they aged really well. Years later they sounded good and there were a few Jackson’s that I got in the latter years that didn’t. The Santa Rhodes guitar was just a wood grain Rhodes that one year I let one of our truck driver’s wives, who was doing Christmas art for friends in catering and I thought, ‘Oh my god, that’s really cute.’ I gave her my guitar and she put a Santa on it. And that guitar was insanely amazing but it was not for the TSO environment which is extremely cold trucks and extremely hot stages. And it didn’t take it well. Unfortunately, what was one of my favorite guitars ever playing and sounding wise became very difficult to play. It was hard to keep the guitar in tune, it was hard to make the guitar sound good. It didn’t age well. It was weird. I have the guitar at home, the Santa doesn’t have his face on the guitar anymore, it was stripped off. It did peel, the paint peeled off. I’m actually hoping to get it pressed and see if I can bring it back to life. I love the original sound of that guitar. It was amazing, it just didn’t age well. It’s weird and really disappointing to me because it was one of my favorite guitars ever. It just did not age well. Whereas, we were just talking about that Strat, that was something that I never even played and it was made in the ‘70s and when I got it and when you pick it up and you play it the guitar sounds great. Some guitars actually sound better as time goes on and some of them sound worse. That Rhodes guitar was just one of those that did not age well.

Bp: Back to when you were out in Omaha for rehearsal, obviously it’s a pretty crazy and hectic time, but are you looking at the West band at all to see what they are doing or to get a sense…

Chris: We see them, but what I try to do with that is – musically Al is involved with us when we put together the arrangements of the songs so we try to keep that – what I like to do, but I don’t like to do too much of it – I like to watch the west coast band play their show with the lights at least once so I can see what positions on the stage look cool, so I can see what lighting looks cool. Then I can see a spotlight, ‘Ok so he’s standing there and that light shining behind him looks cool.’ I think that’s an advantage. That’s really the only time I get to see TSO is when we’re watching TSO west during rehearsals. So that is definitely an advantage for us to do and I always do it. I always watch the whole entire show at least once before we leave Omaha so I can say, ‘Ok, that’s a good lighting spot.’

Bp: Jumping to your solo work, I know it’s been a few years since House of Insanity, are you working on anything or have any plans for another solo release?

Chris: Y’know, I sit in the signing line every night and 8 out of 10 people that come through that are aware of the fact that I have solo records are asking me if I’m going to do another one, so I think it’s time for me to do another solo record. I was just talking to Jeff before and it’s been awhile since I’ve done my last one, so I think it’s time.

Bp: You’ve been spending some time refining your culinary side though. Your hot sauces Tears of the Sun and Grapes of Wrath are pretty exciting.

Chris: That is fun! It’s funny because Grapes of Wrath was one of the first sauces that I came up with. It’s probably about five years old. When Steve [Seabury] from High River Sauces said, ‘Do you want to do a seasonal sauce?’ I said, ‘Ok.’ So I had the recipe and I seriously weigh all the ingredients which is really kind of tough, because when you’re cooking you toss in an extra dash of this or another dash of that, so to specify a dash is kind of difficult sometimes. When we were getting Grapes into production I didn’t get a chance to taste it before it went into ‘Ok, it’s fine’ mode. So I trusted Steve on it and last night was the first time I had a chance to actually taste it out of the bottle and I think it’s awesome! I’m really happy with it. I think it’s your metal alternative to cranberry sauce. And that’s what we wanted to do, we wanted to do a seasonal holiday sauce with grapes and I think it’s awesome!

Bp: That must have been a little nerve wracking not having tested it before it went into production.

Chris: Yeah, it was. Working with food is fun for me because it is creative. Food is art like music is art. I actually think in some ways the food critics are even more harsh than the music ones. It’s a lot of fun watching the thing develop. There’s a ton of money in food and it’s not that I’m in it for the money, but I didn’t realize how big this business was. And you can’t download hot sauce. So people have to actually try it. If they like it they have to buy it. If they want to buy it again, they have to buy it again. It’s an amazing business, the food business, I didn’t understand the inner workings of it until I got involved in it and it’s crazy. It’s a crazy business and a whole lot of fun.

Bp: Switching gears a little bit back to the old school, you’ve been folding some Savatage songs into the TSO sets in the last few years, but specifically earlier this year on the Beethoven tour when Kayla Reeves and Georgia Napolitano were unable to perform due to age restrictions at the casino in Hammond, IN, you guys added “The Storm” to the show. Was that extra special to have an unexpected Savatage song thrown into the set?

Chris: It always is. I’ve always loved listening to Al play so anytime you can add another piece of Al Pitrelli’s playing into the show I’m never going to be less than ecstatic about it. And “The Storm” just brings back really good memories. For me personally, and I think if you ask Jeff or Johnny or anybody involved then, the Savatage Wake of Magellan/Dead Winter Dead years, in Europe specifically, were probably some of the most exciting parts of my life. Although I had a lot of years before with Savatage in the developmental stage, [we were] taking a whole entire continent and developing into something really special for the people and the fans. We were becoming one of the favorite heavy metal bands at that time. You would read the reader polls of fans’ favorite metal bands and in the top 5 would be Savatage, Iron Maiden and Metallica. And a lot of times we would be ahead of them. We were really getting that big. It was an awesome feeling so playing something from those albums immediately instills that feeling of something incredibly special. And we have that with TSO here in America obviously because we’ve become something bigger than any of us could have ever dreamed of here. We had that in Europe with Savatage, it was just a shorter period of time, but it was a very special period of time. So when you have something that brings back those memories it really hits you in that way.

Bp: As Gutter Ballet and some other TSO projects come to fruition hopefully we’ll start to see even more Savatage material back on stage.

Chris: Exactly.

Bp: I wanted to touch on your connection with Jimmy Sturr. We’ve talked before about my Dad going to school with him and Jimmy playing at my parent’s wedding. You’ve been performing with him for a few years and it looks like you’re having a blast on stage bringing some rock to his traditional polka performances.

Chris: You’ve got to look at it this way, Jimmy’s won 18 Grammy’s. I mean, that is crazy. Most people will advertise the fact that they were nominated for a Grammy, so when you put that into perspective…people go, “Grammy nominated so and so.” Jimmy’s won 18 Grammy’s. He really seriously is a legend. I’ve watched him enough over the last 3 or 4 years that I’ve been working with him to see the people, whether it’s Willie Nelson or Congressmen or Senators or whomever he becomes associated with, the guy is literally a legend. He lives next to me. He’s my neighbor and he’s my friend. But I didn’t really get a chance to put into perspective just how incredible he was until I had a chance to work with him. His band is insanely amazing. I know people have their perceptions of what they think polka music is. I mean, polka music is basically redneck rock and roll with horns. That’s really what it is. It’s not what people think and his band is so awesome. They probably have a repertoire of about 150 songs that at any given moment Jimmy will call out on the fly and they’ll flip through this book and play. They’re all the best of the best as far as what they do musically. Polka audiences were huge in the 1950’s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s. There were times when that particular genre with acoustic music, which are what horns are, was huge and then electric music took it over and kind of pushed it aside. When I mix the guitar in with that it’s a fusion that’s really exciting for me and it’s exciting for him too.

"Rock and Roll All Nite" with Jimmy Sturr Band - August 12, 2012 - Hunter, NY (courtesy Chris Valcik)

Jimmy’s 70-years old and I pray to god I have his energy when I’m 70; that I still do 150 shows a year like he does. The guy plays everywhere. He owns his own bus. He parks it up in his own backyard, packs it up and drives all over the country playing music to the people who love to hear him play. He enjoys it. He to me is so inspirational because the real love of performing is why he does it. The guy does not need to play. He is so successful musically, financially, whatever the case may be. Jimmy Sturr does not need, at the age of 70, to get out his house and travel to the middle of Texas to play a music festival. He does that because he loves being in front of people. He loves entertaining. He loves being an entertainer. And he’s giving me an education as I’m getting older as far as this is what I do for people. Sometimes you get jaded on that with the business because the business is so much of that, a business. There’s so much working the dollars and cents side of it. Working with people like Paul and people like Jimmy, I’m fortunate enough to work with people who love the art side of it. They love the entertaining side of it. Paul loves to have people’s jaws drop to the floor when they go into a TSO concert. Jimmy loves people just to see him on stage, see him smiling, to tell stories and to connect with people emotionally and musically on a level that’s different than everybody else. Jimmy loves playing his music and connecting with people that way. I’ve been really fortunate to have the opportunity to work with people like Paul and Jimmy in my career. True artists are hard to find and that’s what I have. I’m working with real artists; real creators; real composers; real musicians; real entertainers. There’s nothing fake about Jimmy Sturr or Paul O’Neill. They’re the real deal. These are people who do what they do because they love it. Because either of them are in a position where they could cop out and walk away, do things half-hearted and not take it to the next level. I am fortunate enough to work with people that just really love what they do and are so brilliant at it that they keep doing it. They keep wanting to make the audience like it more and bring it to another level. With Jimmy mixing the rock guitar in with the polka is something that nobody has ever done before. Nobody’s ever brought rock and roll guitar into that genre of music. I don’t necessarily play the polka tunes with them, but we do rock and roll with his band. And it lets those fans hear that in the same way that Paul crosses every gender, genre, age with TSO. We see everybody from 8 to 80 and everybody in between and every type of music fan. And that’s what I like too. I don’t think of music as being two earths or a class war; you either like metal or you don’t. Or you like rock or you don’t. Or you like country or you don’t. That’s what I like about the bands that I play in more than anything. TSO goes to everybody and it’s a timeless, ageless type of music, like Beethoven and The Beatles. It’s awesome.

Bp: Sadly in the last 30 or 40 years music has become so much of a business that many true artists are ground up by the business.

Chris: Exactly. There is unfortunately a huge change in the music business. The concept of artist development is gone because there aren’t any more record sales, so there’s the whole recording industry…I mean, I remember my earlier times with record labels there were 10-15 people working for that label whose job was to travel around the country and find and develop bands. That doesn’t exist anymore. There aren’t enough sales to even generate money to justify paying those people for their jobs. It’s sad. The piracy and the internet and the downloading, it’s like, alright I like the internet like anyone else, but I’m sorry, it sucks as far as the music business goes. It killed the art of music. You’ve got technology, one of the most wonderful things you could possibly have, but it’s one of the most incredibly horrible things that could have happened to art because anybody can Photoshop. Anybody can take a loop and paste it together and make a song. It was the people who made those loops, it was the people that made that picture that you’re pasting on top of another picture and magically erasing with a button. It’s like computer art, the imagery side of it, what is done with animation I think that’s awesome, but there’s such a basic side of art and music that’s been taken over by technology that it’s killing the creative side of it for a lot of musicians. The bottom line is when you can download music for free and steal it, it’s changed the way that people actually perceive starting and developing a band. Bands are no longer something that you build on the street it’s just now someone saying, “Are you American Idol ready? We’ll make you a superstar tomorrow. If we can’t then there’s not enough money to work with.” That’s kind of sad. A lot of the joy for me in doing what I did was putting together the band or getting in the band, sweating it out, watching a band like Guns’N’Roses that slept in their rehearsal studio and then became huge. Is that gonna happen? Is there gonna be another Guns’N’Roses? Is there gonna be another band that sleeps together in a rehearsal room and develop themselves that way? It’s kind of weird when you think about it.

Bp: I think it also discourages young people from getting into artistic fields because while it may be their life’s passion they are seeing such a void between those who are extremely successful and those who are struggling to survive in the industry. It seems as though there is a bigger void between the two and there are fewer musicians in the middle. Since there is little to no chance of development and being able to grow with the support of someone’s wing, like a record company, or having the ability to assign a value to their work there are so few avenues to support themselves and survive.

Chris: Exactly. When you have a medium like YouTube where you can have 7 million views of people just making jokes or gags and then you have incredible musicians that have 7,000 views, real talent isn’t being appreciated. You have to be incredibly stupid and obnoxious to get noticed. It’s not about the art it’s missing out on art. That’s where it bothers me. The real artists are suffering. Trust me there are some amazing musicians. I do watch some of these kids and people who play on YouTube that are phenomenal musicians and artists. But they are people in their bedrooms playing stuff for YouTube. They’re not sitting in a bar sweating it out with their friends making a band. I don’t see the incredible bar band. I see the incredible bedroom musician. To me that’s not exciting. I’m sorry dude, sitting on your chair with your guitar up against your neck playing the fastest guitar lick on the planet, that doesn’t impress me. Go out to a bar and put 500 people in there on a Friday night and do it with your guitar hung down to your knees and a bunch of people applauding you out in public. I’m not saying the other isn’t art, because it is art, you’re becoming a great musician, but to me, as a musician, I want to see the person in front of people. I want to see them performing. I want to see and feel what I felt as a kid when I went to see Twisted Sister at an old smoky bar. When I saw people like Rhett Forrester playing in Riot and people like Pat Travers in a tiny club. I want to see and feel that feeling out of music and that’s what I miss. I’m not saying that people aren’t incredible musicians nowadays, they are. But I’m just missing the element of live, because everybody is so camera-focused all the time. “Here it is, I’m sitting in my house and I’m playing this and I’m gonna make it awesome.” It is awesome. I’m proud of you. I’m proud of the fact that you are playing something I probably couldn’t play in my wildest dreams, but let me see you play “Cat Scratch Fever” in front of 500 people on a Friday night and pay your bills with it. That’s what music is about. With me as a rock musician it was about going out and I’ve got to survive. I’ve got to make music to survive. That’s my life. It’s not about how fast can I play or how perfect can it be and how many views can I get on YouTube. It’s about can I pay my cable bill? Can I pay my electric bill? Can I eat today off of my guitar? That’s what I think music used to be for a lot of people, it’s like, “I’ve gotta live!” And that emotion is what was in, and I’m gonna keep mentioning it, Guns’N’Roses’ first record, that was a band living to live, playing to live. That was the magic of rock and roll music and I don’t feel that anymore and I miss that. To be quite honest, I miss it. I really miss knowing that somewhere there is a band that’s trying to live to pay their bills. I don’t really feel that exists anymore. I just don’t feel it. And I don’t feel that there’s the business person that’s going, ‘Oh my god, I’ve gotta find that band that’s living to pay their bills to pay my bills.’ It was a circle in the music business. It was like, ‘I’ve got to find this band. We’ve got to find this band.’ And once they found that band they’d say, ‘We’re proud of this band.’ And they would make gold records and send them to the radio stations and say, ‘Hey, look what we’ve got.’ It was like showing off your prize bull at a country fair. I just don’t think music is the same way anymore.

"This Christmas Day" - November 16, 2009 - WPYX Studios, Albany, NY

Bp: From my experience for the people in record label positions who can bring that kind of band to the market, it’s less about bringing an awesome band to market just as they are, warts and all, but more about molding and changing them to fit a predesigned box in which to market them.

Chris: I don’t really try to get wrapped up in the business now. Even though I have my opinions on that, the business is what it is. Everybody’s doing what they do now and the bands are what they are now and it’s all fine. I’m just going back in retrospect, but really the only way I can express my opinion that I feel is valid is in retrospect because that’s where I have knowledge and experience in life and in music. What is happening now in the business I don’t even comment on, as far as I said that I see the way things are being developed and I see what happens with the VPs and stuff like that. As far as the new bands and what is happening with the business I don’t even bother getting involved with having an opinion on it because I don’t have enough experience with it. It happened so quickly. It’s such a big turnaround every year with different bands and different things that I tend to shy away from giving my opinion on things that I don’t have proper knowledge of. And I don’t have proper knowledge of the new business. It’s changing so quickly that I don’t even feel I have the right to make an opinion on it. I can only say from what I experienced in the past and what I lived. And like I said, that was the sweaty band in the bar that was fighting to survive.

Bp: You brought up YouTube earlier. As a musician, what is your opinion on people capturing parts of the show and sharing that on YouTube?

Chris: Y’know what, I don’t mind that. There’s a certain amount of your privacy anywhere in the world that’s gone. I can’t even go to the grocery store without somebody throwing it on YouTube. But I think it’s a good thing in a way. Like I said, there’s money being taken away from the business by the downloading and those other x factors that exist, so in some ways when somebody films part of your show they’re actually advertising it. I think that it’s kind of a way for the people who are stealing to give back if you think about it in that circle. ‘Cause the person who is actually filming you and putting that up might be the same person that downloaded your record for free. So if they’re putting your YouTube clip up and somebody is seeing it and you’re getting somebody to go see a concert off of that it’s kind of a weird cycle so I think it’s not bad. There was always bootlegging and it was more taboo in the old days, but I find that most of the concerts that I did when I was younger have all been filmed and I had no idea. They’re starting to climb out of the woodwork. It’s like, “Oh my god, I’m seeing this concert I did in Paris in this year. There’s this show I did in Michigan in 1990…” You didn’t realize back then they were filmed. Nowadays they’re just on YouTube the second they’re filmed. That is what it is and I don’t mind it at all.

Bp: Now I’d like to get whatever comes first to your mind on a few songs from throughout your career starting with Savatage’s “Chance.”

Chris: Well that song was, to me, really innovative and groundbreaking. That was the first time Paul put the counterpoint vocals into rock and roll music. And I always tell Paul, when we were doing the spring tour when we were thinking about what songs to do in the second half of the show, I always told him, ‘Do you understand that you were the first person ever to put counterpoint vocals into a rock and roll band?’ I mean, there are certain things that Paul does that I don’t think he even realizes that he was the first person to do it. We’re the first rock band to do the counterpoint. We’re the first rock band to have a storyteller. But with “Chance” that was the first time that a rock band ever had real five-point counterpoint vocals going on in a song. I remember the first time I listened to the final mix of “Chance” I was blown away by that song and every time we played that song with Savatage it was mesmerizing to the audience. When we finally did it with TSO I was so happy because as I told Paul, ‘You invented that! Let’s do it and have fun with it.’ Like I said, it’s just one of those things that Paul invented something and I was always really happy to play it.

Savatage "Chance" - Handful of Rain, 1994

Bp: “Tracers.”

Chris: “Tracers” is cool because it’s a real epic kind of a big room song. “Tracers” would be fine in a small club, but when you get a song that you know stretches to every inch of an arena, that’s what’s cool about “Tracers.” From beginning to end it’s one of those really cool arena songs.

"Tracers" - December 23, 2012 - Boston, MA 3pm

Bp: “Music Box Blues.”

Chris: It’s difficult for me to listen to Daryl Pediford. He was my best friend and I miss him. As time goes on…it’s crazy how many people that I’ve worked with have passed away. It’s really difficult with Daryl. He was the best blues/rock/soul singer that I’ve ever worked with or ever will work with.

"Music Box Blues" vocals by Daryl Pediford - The Christmas Attic, 1998 (courtesy TSOVids)

Bp: What were some of the emotions you felt during the last couple years when that was brought back into the set?

Chris: I think it helped me having a female sing it. I think it took away a little bit of my mental focus going back towards Daryl. The same way with “For the Sake of Our Brother.” I can listen to Erika Jerry sing Daryl’s music and I can get emotions out of her just from the song. I think if there was a guy that was to sound exactly like Daryl it would be way more difficult because it would make me think of Daryl. When Erika sings the songs it makes me think of the song and it makes me remember Daryl positively, but it doesn’t really nail me to the wall the same way it does if I listen to Daryl’s actual singing of the song.

Bp: It’s nice to have those songs in the set as a memory for those of us who remember his singing and to keep his spirit alive.

Chris: Yeah, I know. And I know Daryl better than anybody and I know that he’s loving who is singing it. I know he is smiling watching Erika Jerry sing those songs. That’s all I’ve got to say.

"For the Sake of Our Brother" - December 13, 2012 - Albany, NY

Bp: Back to where it all started for TSO, from the Savatage Dead Winter Dead record, “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo.”

Chris: It’s crazy. Again I go back to Paul, I remember working with him when I was 18-years old playing in Heaven and he was talking about this song he had. He’s had that idea around forever and I’d always hear demos of it and he finally put it on the Savatage record. But that was a brain child of Paul’s for a long time. He just had this idea, he was always trying to figure out where to put it and what to do with it. It just wound up on Dead Winter Dead and it was written into Christmas Eve & Other Stories. It’s funny now because I tease the intro of the song now in the live show right before the encores, or our supposed encores where we stay on stage and we play the last two songs, and I just play a little bit of that intro. The crowd reaction from hearing that bit of music…it’s become iconic. It’s kind of cool. You are starting a “Cat Scratch Fever” or “Smoke on the Water.” When you can play a guitar riff, or just a piece of it, to where a whole entire arena reacts to it, you’ve got something really cool. Then the song of course is what it is, but it’s a piece of musical history that’s not going to go anywhere. I mean 50 years from now you’re going to turn on the radio on December 13th and that song is going to be being played. I guarantee you. I will bet my left foot that you’re going to hear that song 50 years from now. You can’t say that about a lot of other songs.

Bp: I agree. Are you glad that you don’t have to play that intro for 3 minutes underneath Bryan’s narration anymore?

Chris: Oh my god, yeah! That was the longest thing…it’s so weird because it was string three and it was triplets that was going on and it was so bare that when you wear the in-ear monitors if you ever trip over what you were playing it always sent this weird feeling of paranoia to me. I would start to get real anxiety where I’d think, ‘Oh, if anybody heard what I just did…’ but when you have stuff in your in-ears you hear it differently than the audience does and we did “A Mad Russian’s Christmas” right before it so I was always sweating. The sweat sometimes, especially in the theaters when we first started, was pouring into my eyeballs and I’m playing that little piece of guitar underneath that intro and it was actually pretty difficult sometimes to get through that as simple as it was because I’d be shaking and sweating. Yeah, that’s one part of the show I don’t miss: that little piece of music underneath the narration before 12/24.

"Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)" - December 26, 2011 - Albany, NY 3pm

Bp: I can definitely understand that! Let’s move back to the Savatage classic, “Gutter Ballet.”

Chris: That’s another one of those. I keep going back to what Savatage and Paul and Jon Oliva had done that was different. Freddie Mercury put piano into rock and classic rock and Jon Oliva and Paul O’Neill put piano into heavy metal. I think that other than some of the things you might have heard with Black Sabbath that were intros to songs and things like that I can’t think of a metal band that used piano. Queen was not a metal band. Queen was Queen. Savatage was a metal band. In that way it was completely unique. It was different. That song and that sound were so groundbreaking. Now you go to Europe and watch a three day European metal festival and I guarantee you out of the 60 metal bands you’re going to see, 25 of them are going to have something with piano in their metal song. That came from Savatage, dude. And that is fact! That’s Paul and Jon. That’s fact! And the bands will tell you that and that’s so cool. When people go, ‘What’s your favorite band?’ and I listen to some of these kids who are in these bands now that are headlining festivals and they say they listen to Savatage. It’s really neat.

Bp: Sticking with the Savatage theme, “Morphine Child.”

Chris: I love that song! And it’s not just because I had a big part in writing the music for that song. I think it really is one of the ultimate Savatage songs because it has all the elements that Savatage had from all the songs in one. It has the light; the dark; the counterpoint; the obscure musical parts; it’s got a great Scorpions-like live-groove to it. It was one of those ones where you did on a tour for your new record and it got a reaction as big as one of your old classic songs.

Bp: And it’s from an arguably tragically overlooked Savatage album, Poets & Madmen.

Chris: Yeah, exactly.

Savatage "Morphine Child" - Poets & Madmen, 2001

Bp: One from your solo record Faces, “Abandoned.”

Chris: That was from a really tough time in my life, I’ve got to admit that. I didn’t know I could sing and I don’t really think I’m a great singer, but I know I can hold a tune now. Singing is something that I always would do behind closed doors and as I develop my voice, I can sing. It’s fun being able to sing. I have a raspy voice, a rock voice. What had basically happened was Savatage was…I knew what was going to happen to Savatage was happening. Back in 2003 I could have told you that we wouldn’t be playing right now. I don’t know how I knew it, but I knew it. And it was one of the biggest parts of my life that I knew it was disappearing. I could just feel it. I could just feel that it wasn’t going to be there and I really wanted it to stay. I felt in some ways like I was one of the only people who did. It’s not that the other people in the band didn’t love the band, but I felt that I was fighting for something that wasn’t gonna happen. And that’s where the theme of “Abandoned” came from. I just felt that I really needed to write the music and express these emotions and I didn’t want to be in another band. As crazy as it sounds I had a ton of bands, and I’m not going to name a list, that said, ‘Chris Caffery, do you want to be our guitar player?’ And I’m like, ‘No! I’m the guitar player in Savatage.’ They’d say, ‘But Savatage isn’t playing.’ But part of me refused to believe that and it still does. It’s the reason why I haven’t joined another band. I have TSO and it’s my band, but Savatage is my band too and I don’t want to be Chris Caffery in other bands. I don’t want that other part…I did some stuff with Doro and I did some stuff on the side, but I’ve never joined a band because, seriously, I still have the Savatage wedding ring on my hand. I wrote “Abandoned” expressing that. I was really feeling like I was really by myself in that situation. I was watching Jon and Zak go do their solo records and they were sounding a lot like Savatage and I’d think, ‘Why can’t we just do Savatage?’ I felt like I was one of the only people that was going, ‘Please? Can we do my band? I don’t want to do another band.’ I just knew the elements and things were happening creatively and musically and business wise that were pulling Savatage apart at the time. It was pretty difficult for me. I’ve come to terms with it now and it’s like, one day if Savatage plays again I’ll be there the next minute somebody announces it, but if it doesn’t I’ve had a lot of time that I’ve used to have to come to terms with that. Like I said, I still have that Savatage wedding ring on my hand.

Bp: Hopefully at some point down the line we’ll see a reunion of sorts.

Chris: Exactly.

Chris Caffery "Abandoned" - 2008 - Queens, NY (courtesy thetageguy)

Bp: I know I’ve taken a ton of your time this morning, I appreciate it. Let me wrap up with one last question, the TSO signing line, I know how important it is from a fan’s perspective to have those moments to interact with the band, but for you getting off the stage after maybe 2 shows that day, or 8 shows in the last 4 days, the last thing you might want to do is to be ‘on’ for another hour or hour-and-a-half. How important is the signing line for you?

Chris: Y’know, in the past I think there might have been days when you would take the [fatigue] and sometimes [that] would go to a few people in the line. Me? I think it’s awesome. It’s part of my day with people and TSO now. I look forward to it now. It’s like, ‘Ok, great, we get to go see people.’ You see people who maybe saw you the night before so you go, ‘So how was tonight compared to last night?’ Y’know, the real crazy people who see 10 or more shows a tour. I think it’s awesome. It’s really not that much when you think about it. What would I be doing an hour after I was done with the show? I’d be sitting down probably eating something and talking about the show. The only thing I’m doing differently is I’m sitting down, talking about the show with people that made the show happen, which is the fans. That’s the bottom line. If I’ve got to wait an hour to eat, it’s no big deal. The only time, I’ve got to be honest with you, the only time the signing line to me is bad is the very last show of the tour. Everything is so crazy and hectic that the time we’re spending with the fans I’m missing being able to say goodbye to my friends and my crew members. Their day doesn’t change. My day doesn’t change as far as business wise. When you do the very last show if we didn’t have the signing line I could go and approach each person in the crew and go, ‘Thank you! I’ll miss you and I’ll see you...’ And everyone in the band too, I’d be able to give them the special attention that I’m giving to the fans that particular night. That’s the only night that I can sit there and say I wish that we didn’t have that line. But then there’s going to be the people in whatever city we’re in for that show that aren’t going to get what everybody else has, so you can’t do it. And like I said, at the end of the day we can’t exist without the fans, so you’ve got to do it. But that’s the one time because there are literally people you see every day for two months that you don’t even get a chance to say goodbye to because of the signing line on the final show because they’re still loading a truck and you’re getting your stuff together running to your bus and to an airport. That hour or half-hour is time that you might have been able to go say goodbye to somebody that made your job happen for two months. That’s kind of tough, but it’s a push and pull with that because you’re not going to take away that opportunity from the fans. I happen to enjoy it. I think it’s fun.

"Faith Noel" - December 23, 2012 - Boston, MA 8pm

Bp: You mentioned talking about the show post-show. Is there much, I don’t think postmortem is the right word for it, but is there much discussion between the band after the show about how that day went or the crowd?

Chris: I mean, the obvious crowds everyone is just really, ‘Wow, that was awesome.’ Our crowds are always great, but there’s going to be one or two here and there that will stick out that are great. Earlier in the tour obviously there are things that we talk more about than we do now as the tour goes on, things that might change. Now we’re at a point in time where maybe once or twice a week things getting changed in the show where earlier it would be once or twice a show in the beginning.

Bp: I appreciate you giving me so much of your time.

Chris: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure to talk to you again. I hope I answered everything. It was good. I had a good time.

Bp: Thanks so much, Chris. I will see you from the 2nd row tonight and a few more times next week.

Chris: Thanks, Brad.

"The Mountain" ("I Love My Job" version) - December 26, 2010 - Albany, NY 8pm

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(Anonymous) on July 22nd, 2013 05:28 pm (UTC)
santa pic
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squintyt4esquintyt4e on July 23rd, 2013 03:38 am (UTC)
Re: santa pic
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