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10 November 2014 @ 08:56 pm
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra Interviews: Paul O'Neill - Winter Tour 2014  

Paul O'Neill Interview Winter 2014

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra Interviews:
Paul O'Neill - Winter Tour 2014

Interview, photos & videos captured by Brad Parmerter unless noted otherwise.

Composer, producer, and creator of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Paul O'Neill, talked excitedly and at length during a mid-summer afternoon about the upcoming winter tour and projects in the queue. As the hours peeled away we covered a variety of topics, many centered upon The Christmas Attic, which was being narrowed down as the featured story of the 2014 Winter Tour. The last album of the Christmas Trilogy to be performed in full, it's seen by many as the 'forgotten' TSO album with songs that have rarely made an appearance in live shows during the last decade. We dove into song backgrounds, lyrical inspiration, recording details, and expectations for the live debut of The Christmas Attic; upcoming projects; a couple of Beatles references; a great deal of historical insight that ties into Paul's lyrics and songwriting; what 2015 holds for the band; the healing power of snow; how New York City influenced his writing, and much more.

As October came to a close, TSO management, crew, and band set up camp in Council Bluffs, IA (Omaha, NE) where both the east and west coast bands gathered for rehearsal for the winter tour. A few days into this busy time, Paul and I reconnected for what was to be a brief catch-up on the band's progress. Ninety minutes later it was clear that there was a great deal of excitement in the air for the shows and fans would be in for a treat!

We again discussed aspects of The Christmas Attic, plus the power of endorphins in healing, various band members and what they bring to TSO, special guitars, and details about the 2014 Winter Tour before the Mountain King himself called in to remind Paul that it was time to return to the task at hand.

Bp: Good afternoon, Paul, how are you?

Paul O'Neill: Tired, but good. It's so great to get a break from the studio. Kenny asked if I wanted to talk to you and I said, "Oh, yea. It will be a nice break from more layers of guitars." We had offers this year to do some festivals in Europe, but we turned them down 'cause I wanted to keep recording. And with the unrest in the Ukraine, if shows and contracts get cancelled due to political unrest and I have the whole production out there, that's my ultimate nightmare: to have the fleet at sea when something terrible breaks out. I don't mind risking money, but not personnel. I don't fear any other band, but no matter how big the band is, it floats on the finances of the world.

Bp: So I guess we're looking at The Christmas Attic for this fall?

Paul O'Neill: Ninety percent sure. I'm sure you're aware that the average family in America has lost 1/3 of its wealth. I love The Lost Christmas Eve, he goes so far into the abyss before he gets saved, but I think people are under so much pressure these days, I want to make sure this year's concert is pure escapism. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a great little story for pure escapism. The thing I like about The Christmas Attic is it's probably the lightest story we've ever told with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. One of the reasons I made it light was Christmas Eve & Other Stories was a little dark, we were just finishing Beethoven's Last Night, which was very dark, and I knew The Lost Christmas Eve was very dark, so I thought, "Ok, I need to make this one lighter." It's pure escapism and I'm re-writing the story because one thing I learned the hard way is that our audiences are – I might go seemingly off topic, as you know, but it's because I know I talk to you a great deal and I go into a lot more detail with you than I do other reporters ‘cause you're so well educated with your questions – that the single biggest problem that we have, and I call it the John Wayne problem, is that what is interesting for a 30 to 40 year old couple isn't necessarily interesting for a nine-year old kid. When I was young and saw a John Wayne movie I didn't want to see him kissing Maureen O'Hara, I wanted to see him shooting bank robbers.

Danielle has become very key. She's been with me since she was twelve and when she decided to have baby in '09, she jumped to the other side of the fence. Danielle went to work with Night Castle [Management] helping train the singers. With TSO, singing is not acceptable, storytelling is. But in reality you want that person to become the [character]. You see those jumps, like when Chloe became Theresa that time in Kellogg Arena when she had the breakdown on stage. I don't know if you got to see John Brink, he got so into the character, in Portland, Oregon, that he was hanging onto reality by his fingernails. I said the same thing to John that I said to Chloe, "You have to go there yourself before you take the audience there." Then it's a matter of controlling the emotion. All the great actors and singers do that. His performance of "Back to a Reason" in Portland, it was funny, I got a call from the sound guy and he said, "Paul, Brink is on fire." This guy never calls. "Paul, you can hear a pin drop in here." He wasn't singing the role of the father, he was becoming the role of the father.

"Back to a Reason, part 2" - TSO Live in Portland, OR; November 24, 2014 - courtesy Stacey Porter

Who is the actor who just died from a heroin overdose, I forget his name.

Bp: Phillip Seymour Hoffman.

Paul O'Neill: Right, thank you. He won the Oscar for playing Truman Capote, and they re-showed an interesting interview he did and he said he became Truman Capote. When he was asked if he'd ever do it again, he said, "No, I will never do it again." It consumed him. I totally believe he deserved that Oscar. To me, great performers go somewhere else, and truly great performers take you on that journey. It's very hard to do, especially within a rock band with so many lead singers.

Bp: You mentioned re-writing the story. So you're re-writing The Christmas Attic story?

Paul O'Neill: Yes.

Bp: Is that to be more from the point of view of the young girl and less from the point of the view of the angel, like you did with the second year of The Lost Christmas Eve?

Paul O'Neill: Yes. Just like I've learned there are different speeds, there is arena speed, theater speed, record speed, and television speed, I want to keep the story within a certain length and you want everyone to be able to enjoy it. Not just the parents, but their kids. There is precedent for it. The first time I read Les Miserables was in classic illustrated comics and then the second time in Readers Digest condensed version and then when I was much older, the full novel itself, the Penguin translation. Certain things, especially if you're doing a new thing, you can't give huge audiences the full novel, you want everyone in that arena to enjoy it, including the kids. That's why I'm really happy that we did the complete narrated version of The Lost Christmas Eve and Beethoven's Last Night...

Bp: Is that coming for The Christmas Attic as well?

Paul O'Neill: Yes, it will. Eventually I'm going to have them all done in the rhyming pentameter and there are two reasons I'm doing that, Brad. One is for the people that want to sit back and have someone read it to them and they have that enjoyment. The second is there are so many groups performing these stories as productions, but it drives me crazy when they don't get the meter of the rhyming correct. So basically by putting these out they will be able to see what words are emphasized and what words are not, which is so important.

For the same reason, as soon as possible, we are re-releasing all of the music books in spiral, so they don't tear apart, and with guitar tablature. Most guitar players don't read and tablature in many cases for them is better than music because it tells you exactly where the fingering should be.

Bp: And how about a quick update on the studio projects?

Paul O'Neill: Romanov, all the music is down. Pretty much when we put the final vocalists in, it's ready to go. Gutter, half the music is down. Letters from the Labyrinth...I love it! It's just whether I do it in a story form or I do it in a straight album format.

Aerosmith just announced that they are no longer going to release albums. If you release albums like we do, it's a guaranteed money loser.

Bp: But you're in it for more than an album. You're telling a story, telling a tale. It's an entire piece.

Paul O'Neill: You're one hundred percent correct, but now it's also changed on another level in that, I was very lucky to be born in the golden age. When I came of age, it was not uncommon for record labels to give a million dollars to a bunch of teenagers to make an album. As you know, those days are long gone. If you sell a hundred thousand units, the new number one album by Weird Al Yankovic sold a hundred thousand units, I remember when a hundred thousand units wouldn't get you signed on a major label. Now it's a number one. You can have an album that sells thirty-six thousand units and it's a top five album, but I remember when thirty-six thousand units wouldn't even get you in the Top 100.

I know we're rolling the dice. We're multi-tasking. Number one, I know I have to keep Trans-Siberian Orchestra going because without the labels I don't think you're going to be able to build another prog rock band, and it's also changing the mindset...the kids in the band, actually we just found this young teenager from Eastern Europe that may be on the tour this year if I can just get her working papers, and I found another great young singer out of Moscow, but I'm afraid I'm not going to be able to get her working papers with what's going on. But we'll see what happens.

Bp: I'd like to dig into The Christmas Attic if we can.

Paul O'Neill: Certainly. Brad, do you mind if I pick your brain a little bit?

Bp: Go ahead.

Paul O'Neill: I'm sometimes surprised about your knowledge of the band. It's practically as if you work for Night Castle Management, but you're also a fan. I never intended to go fifteen years without doing a straight concert, but after doing it in Europe, I loved it! I was toying with the idea of doing the best of the trilogy this year for the first half, and then the rest of the albums in the second half, but William Morris feels it's very important before we even try that we do The Christmas Attic at least once. The fans will be expecting a story, they said, "You have to do The Christmas Attic at least once before doing a straight concert."

Bp: When we talked in January and you talked about how much you loved the straight concert format and you revealed a couple of options, I actually thought that you'd do Attic this year to see how it went over and then either do a straight show next year or repeat Attic before bringing back Christmas Eve & Other Stories for the anniversary in 2016.

Paul O'Neill: The reason I keep vacillating, is not that I hate making decisions, it's because the last three singers we auditioned were all young, between 18-20, and every one of them were phenomenal singers. If it was the ‘80s, every one of them would have record deals right now, but it's not. Every one of them said the same thing to me, they couldn't believe we called because they were all quitting music because they couldn't make a living. That's lit a fire under me, Brad, that...again, the bands that came before me...

Bp: So you want to keep these young kids in the business before they check out.

Paul O'Neill: Yea. They left the system that allowed me to have a shot of doing nothing other than working on music instead of needing to work a 40-hour a week job and do music on the side. You can't make bands like Pink Floyd or Led Zeppelin if you're working a straight job forty hours a week.

And obviously you're aware that I want to take on Broadway. How many times can you put on Oklahoma! They're living in the past and every band that has tried it has failed with the exception of Mamma Mia. The theater people don't understand rock, and the rock people don't understand clear storytelling. As you and I have discussed in the past, when bands would explain it to me I still didn't get it. The great thing about...we're really thinking about accelerating the rock theater part of Night Castle [Management], which is still yet to put out its first album. With our new studio we'll be able to take one of the rooms and dedicate it to nothing but Rock Theater. The reason it's important is for three reasons. Number one, there's a magic to live that can't be reproduced on TV or a movie. It can basically keep thousands of singers and musicians singing and working their whole lives and earning a damn good living. Then if they can break out of it where they can headline an arena on their own, God bless, but in the meantime it keeps them playing an instrument as opposed to selling widgets over the phone.

Bp: Back to The Christmas Attic, how is the preparation going?

Paul O'Neill: As we've been preparing for it, on Christmas Eve & Other Stories "Old City Bar" is the axis on which that thing turns. With Attic there's the light part of the story which is basically a child wishing for happiness for everybody else, but then there's the really tense part of the story which you really have to dig deep to find, which is Merry Christmas, Rabbi, which inspires the song "Dream Child." The decisions about who is singing what is what we're floating around the band, there's the business man, the father, the uncle, the storyteller, and then whoever sings "Dream Child" is the forgiven man. Who does something so bad that doesn't think he can be forgiven. That's based on Merry Christmas, Rabbi. The guy who wrote Merry Christmas, Rabbi is the man who thinks he can never be forgiven and how has that dream he realizes he is. I love "Dream Child."

"Dream Child" - 2010 version, vocal by Tim Hockenberry - original version on The Christmas Attic

Bp: I wanted to pull out one piece of that and ask you about it. "There were thousands of candles, upon every tree, it was beautiful, but there was one mystery, for all of those candles, you must understand, that the only one lit, was now in that Child's hand." Where did that imagery come from? What inspired those particular lines?

Paul O'Neill: It's ideas. Number one, what's going on in the world, especially with what's going on in Iraq, Syria, Baghdad, and the Ukraine, you have all of these people blindly lashing out at each other. If you take, God forbid, a sinking ocean liner and all the lights out, everyone's panicking and bumping into each other, everyone's scared and no one knows how to get off...when you're in a room and all the lights go out it is very disorienting. When I was young, there's a sunken WWI cruiser right off Long Island, an American sub sunk by a German torpedo, but the guy who took me, all the doors were wide open and you could see really cool stuff inside, but I knew that twelve or so divers had died inside and these were professionals. He explained to me that what happens is the divers would go in and you're taught when you scuba dive, if you become disoriented you light your flare, blow a few bubbles and watch which way they go and that's up. When they went into that sunken WWI cruiser, if you bumped the wall tons of rust would fall down and you could light the flare, but you wouldn't see it. I can now see why professionals would panic. They would find some of them dead with a half-full tank. If you're in a room with a whole bunch of people, it's totally dark and a panic situation, whether it's a fire or a sinking ocean liner like the one off Korea or the one that sank off Italy last year, if you're in a dark, crowded room everyone is scared, but if you strike a match suddenly you can see everybody, you can see the stairs, you can see the exit; one match and bam. And the other thing I love about a candle is if one guy's got a lit candle, then you can light your candle and you didn't lose anything. The same thing is true of ideas.

All this other stuff, like treating those as you'd like them to treat you and all these simple ideals...it seeps into our kids, it seeps into other people when you lead by example. It's easy to do. Like one of the songs on the new album coming up, its working title is "Fire," but I'm really going to be calling it "Prometheus." I've always loved Prometheus, the Greek God who saw humanity, living in the darkness huddled together in the cold, scared at night, and he was the one who gave them fire. His father was so angry with him, he chained him to a rock, vultures would eat his liver every day and at night he would regenerate and die all over again until Hercules, his half-brother let him go. Right now what is going on in the world, it scares me, Brad.

The main thing also is people getting to know people. You and I have discussed this before, the hard part about being a band these days is you're competing with Xbox, PlayStation, the internet, whatever, but the good thing about it is people are not used to live like they used to be. When I was younger, people used to sit on the stoop and all get together and talk to each other. Concerts were a much more regular thing. You wanted to be in the crowd, you wanted to be with people, you didn't want to be stuck at home. Anything that gets people talking to people I think is great and anything that stops that divide. Rock and roll started...like I said, you'd be at a concert next to the richest person and next to the poorest person, that divide didn't exist. That divide is being inserted into rock music by its own promoters. I truly hate it.

The thing I love about TSO is you'll see a seventeen-year old kid talking to a fifty-year old guy and they're both talking about Led Zeppelin and they both love it.

Also at work, cubicles didn't exist when I was young. Now there's not an office I go into be it IBM, be it Sony, whatever, and it's just cubicle after cubicle...things to get people together...especially things to get people together where they're not drunk...every once in a while we'll be in a building after a hockey game and you can literally smell the vomit in some of the areas.

Bp: That's another nice thing about a TSO show. Circling back to Attic, you had mentioned earlier that you were coming off of Beethoven which was really dark and you wanted Attic to be lighter, when did you write the majority of The Christmas Attic? Was that written in stages over the years or at once?

Paul O'Neill: I had written The Lost Christmas Eve before I wrote the Attic. [The Lost Christmas Eve] was pretty dark and also the only part of the Attic I had was The Forgiven Man and I hadn't even written the song. By the way, we might be re-releasing Merry Christmas, Rabbi, that's right the only part I had written was Merry Christmas, Rabbi.

Bp: I'd like to find out about your writing in general, there's so many instances of healing and forgiveness and redemption and I was wondering where that stemmed from? Obviously you're writing about Christmas and the healing power of the season in the trilogy, but was there a special healing power from the season that was special to you when you were growing up that led you to write the way you have?

Paul O'Neill: Well, it's multiple things, Brad.

Bp: If you had horrible Christmases as a child, you wouldn't be writing these.

Paul O'Neill: Well, I think you know most of them. It's two-fold your question. As you know, I'm a historical nut, I'll get the question out of the way first, growing up in New York City, I know you must know this story, I was about six-years old...

Bp: The cab drivers?

Paul O'Neill: Yes. The cab drivers who got into an accident and here I thought there was going to be a huge fight and both drivers did the exact opposite of what we expected and it was quite a shock.

Bp: Is the theme of "Christmas in the Air" about that accident and that night?

Paul O'Neill: It's a constant theme I saw when I grew up with fender benders, or anything. People seem to be kinder and gentler on Christmas. Families that were strained or troubled would always get together on Christmas Eve. And then the one that hit me the hardest, especially as I grew older and I learned more about it, was World War I, probably the most brutal war of any of them because they had modern weapons, but it was still trench warfare where the guy you're killing is right there in front of you, and you're looking into his eyes as he's dying. The entire Vietnam War 50+ thousand American soldiers died, which was horrible, but in World War I you would have a million people die in one battle [that was drawn out over time]. A million!

The thing that hit me was when no-man's land started and that first Christmas Eve they'd literally have a battle where there'd be half a million dead and the winning side got five hundred yards more territory. As I'm sure you know the story, it was Christmas Eve and the Germans and Austrians started to play on a theme along "Silent Night" and the English and French soldiers recognized it and they also joined in. As the song swept up and continued down both sides, all of a sudden a German soldier walks out across no-man's land and a British soldier walks out across no-man's land and they shake hands and then the British soldier gives him some tobacco and the German soldier gives him some canned meat. Next thing you know all the soldiers are pouring out of the trenches, they're talking, they very famously had a soccer game, the Germans won – just like the World Cup – the next day the German high command and the British high command lost their minds. They told the soldiers never to do that again and if they did it again, anyone involved would be shot. The next Christmas Eve they did it again and so many soldiers did it again, they couldn't shoot them all.

"Christmas in the Air" - TSO Live in Newark, NJ; December 21, 2014 - vocals by Rob Evan

As I always say, I was fascinated by Christmas Eve growing up in New York City most times you walk past someone on the street and you bump into each other, nobody says anything. On Christmas Eve everyone says, "Excuse me." I love the fact that it not only affects the way we treat each other on the most intimate level, family, neighbors, whatever, but the way nation states treat each other. On Christmas Eve be in war with one side being Atheist, both sides stop fighting. But then also going through history...

Bp: You mentioned New York City, there are a number of instances in the trilogy where you reference the healing power of snow.

Paul O'Neill: Ah, yes.

Bp: If you had grown up in Florida the trilogy would have been different, but because you grew up in New York City and you experienced snow, does that feed into your sense of snow as a source of healing?

Paul O'Neill: Brad, I've never even thought of that, but now that you're asking me I have to think...I can honestly say you are one-hundred percent right. I would never have written those books that way. Because in New York City, especially the poorer areas it can be dark in run down areas, but it could snow and everything was magical and white and glistening. You're absolutely right, if I had grown up in Florida...New York City, especially when I was young in the ‘50s and ‘60s there was no such thing as a non-white Christmas – it was before global warming. Thanksgiving you were getting snow and by Christmas it was higher than I was. It was built up from the snow plows coming through. As a kid you go through these canyons of snow and every time it would snow, the whole world would be magically white. The next day it would be grey, but for that one night you're one-hundred percent correct, growing up in New York City, especially in that time, you were guaranteed a white Christmas, I do not think any of those metaphors would have existed, you're correct. I've never thought about it, but being born in New York City you meet people from all around the world, it's a whole different way of growing up. If I was born in Oklahoma, God knows if I would have been able to have the jobs that I did, or have the opportunities that I did or the music that I did. Growing up in New York would be like growing up in Rome a thousand years ago. Right place, right time. Interesting. I've never thought about it, but you're one-hundred percent correct.

Bp: In "Find Our Way Home," during the mid-section: "He had time or at least then he, Always thought he did, And mistakes, well, he thought that time, Always would forgive, Each transgression, for his intention, forgetting, Years he squandered, On things he now was regretting." Was that something you took from a historical reference or realization that you had in your own life?

Paul O'Neill: It's so funny because when I left home my father said, "Paul, you have three types of currency. Money," I didn't have any money when I left home other than a couple hundred bucks. My father said, "You can always replace money. Time, because I know you're thinking right now you have an unlimited amount of time, but you will discover as you get older, you don't. The third thing is your reputation. Guard your word and your reputation more than anything." As I studied history, like J.P. Morgan who had got a ton of money, but had lost money in an earlier deal, when he was being questioned by Congress who said, "Why would you lend this man money unless you were getting a kickback? I don't even see any paperwork for this investment." J.P. Morgan goes, "Character. He's honest. I'd rather have zero paperwork with an honest man of integrity, than a loan of ten million dollars with a thousand page contract with a man with no integrity." As my Grandmother Moore used to say, "Paul, integrity is what you do when no one else is looking."

It's the value of doing the right thing because it is the right thing, which I learned from my parents. And it goes back to something you had said about forgiveness and redemption. After WWI the allied powers, in particular the Versailles treaty, punished Germany for the aggression that started the war. Instead of Germany becoming a better country it led to the rise of Hitler. As opposed to when the allies won in WWII, America rebuilt Germany and rebuilt Japan. By forgiving and welcoming them back into the community of nations, Germany and Japan turned into great democracies and great places to extend freedom. Also, two of my heroes in history, which is why I have dozens of the actual letters from Lincoln, and a couple of them from Grant, is they were great men in that when it was obvious they were going to win the Civil War and men in Congress wanted to punish the south, Lincoln said, "No. They are our fellow citizens. We are going to do everything we can to help them rebuild their states and get back on their feet." By saying that, Lincoln set a tone and then Grant put the period on it when Robert E. Lee surrendered in Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant. Lee was defeated, Grant could have gotten whatever terms he wanted. Again, you may or may not know, but Ulysses S. Grant, a lot of people used to say that it stood for Unconditional Surrender Grant. But when Lee surrendered at Appomattox they expected to be all sent away to camps and disarmed, the whole nine yards, but Grant said, "The men who owned their own horses can keep them, they're going to need them to plow the fields. The officers can keep their own sidearms. All they have to do is lay down their military weapons and swear not to rebel against the United States again and they are free men, equal citizens." Because Grant said that, and Lee agreed to it, and President Lincoln said it, it set the whole tone for the healing of the Civil War where we'd eventually merge one nation, even stronger. As I'm sure you know, if you break a bone, when it heals it's actually stronger where it broke.

Forgiveness and redemption through history where the winning side is magnanimous in its victory it ends up for being for the [better]. Like Churchill said, "Be magnanimous when you win and help the defeated side rebuild as opposed to crush." Everybody makes mistakes and everyone appreciates being given a second chance. But I really think they appreciate it when they're not expecting it. At one of the meetings between Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt when it was clear the allies were going to win, somebody said, "What are we going to do with Germany after we win?" Stalin said, "We're going to kill them all." Churchill said, "No, we're not." Roosevelt said, "We're going to help them rebuild."

"Find Our Way Home" - TSO Live in Albany, NY; November 30, 2014 - vocals by Russell Allen

Bp: I'm going to reel you back in here a bit, so those lines in "Find Our Way Home" came from more of a historical regret than anything you went through on a personal level?

Paul O'Neill: No, but again...[pauses]

Bp: Without trying to pry too deep I'm trying to determine where the delineation is between historical and direct personal experience into specific lyrical imagery and themes.

Paul O'Neill: They're pretty much all direct, but one of the nice things about rock and roll is you get to go all over the world and you meet these really nice people and I think we'd discussed...like Night Castle...also what's going on right now is we're starting to translate Night Castle and Beethoven's Last Night into German and Japanese. And one of the translators that was working on it, Jim Steinman turned me onto the guy, was getting ready to translate Beethoven's Last Night and [Savatage's] Dead Winter Dead into German and as a fan he said of Beethoven's Last Night, "I'm dying to translate this, when do you need it delivered by." I said, "Two months." He started to laugh and said, "Paul, this is going to take two years. You have so many double and triple entendre. Here you have in ‘One Child' on Dead Winter Dead, "Tell me the Pilot's died" you have Pontius pilot as in ‘I wash my hands. I want nothing to do with this.' It's also the airplane pilot that got shot down over Bosnia." In "Sparks" from Night Castle, the opening line is "Line..." and since it's a drug deal you think it's a line of cocaine, "..of a tale" oh, lines of a tale, so it's lines of a story. "Cut in the face of a crowd," oh, he means lines in your face. "So veiled," so he means lines of people at a court. So there's four meanings to line and whatever meaning you see in it, is what you need to see. Everyone sees the song differently.

There's a new song coming out called "Not the Same" with "There is a soul in the night," it implies there is a soul in the night, "that flies across the night toward a far distant plane." And I was telling the singer who was singing it that every beat keeps it moving toward a goal that they never obtain and I said, "Beat means every beat of the heart...and I say, "Imagine a moth flying across an old colonial town and there's a single candle in a church tower and, beat, this moth is flying toward this tiny candlelight that it might never get there, but think of the word beat to mean every beat of your heart, every beat of its wings, every beat of music, it can have all of those different meanings and people will find in it the meaning they need to find and that meaning may change as they grow older. Great albums do that.

Bp: On The Christmas Attic there is a heavy emphasis on a music box. Was there a music box that played an important role in your life or was it purely a metaphor?

Paul O'Neill: My grandmother Moore when I was six gave me a music box. It wasn't an expensive music box, it didn't even have a wind-up spring, it had a little handle that you turned. I was fascinated by it. It played a Bach theme and my whole life, whenever I was stressed I would play it and it always calmed me down. There's a song called "Lullaby Night" that will be on the next album and it's based on that Bach theme. And I still have that music box and it still works. I've always loved it because it doesn't need electric, it doesn't need anything. There was this unbelievably beautiful melody that has passed the test of time and it's great whether it's done by a symphony or on a music box.

I've always been fascinated by music boxes. There's something magical about them. It's all these things put together.

Bp: Staying on the music box theme, the imagery of "the candle wax of melted dreams" – where did that metaphor come from?

Paul O'Neill: It came to me one night as I was writing the song. It just appeared. I loved it. A candle is such a magical thing, because for the majority of the last thousand years that was people’s main source of light and the metaphor of a candle is like a light. It shines bright at the beginning, and burns and burns, the wax is everyday going by and I just love that metaphor.

I love old attics. I was always fascinated by old buildings and the coolest stuff was always in the attics. I actually wrote two different beginnings to the intro of The Christmas Attic, one completely brand new and original and then the one from the album. The new one actually makes a reference: great deeds done by great men are kept in museums, but for the rest of us they’re kept in attics.

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