Jon Oliva - Savatage

May 11, 2001

Give us some history on the band.

Sure. We started back in 1983 with the Sirens album and we've been going strong ever since. We're still here. We haven't gone away.

And that's a good thing.

That's a good thing.

You've had quite a lineup change. Tell us about your new vocalist and guitarist.

The new vocalist is Damond Jiniya and he's a friend of a mutual friend of mine who introduced me to him. I heard him sing and I was like he's perfect. No questions asked. Jack, the other guitar player, was a friend of Criss' for many years so we've known Jack for years anyway. He just seemed like a natural guy to bring in because he's already familiar with the band. It's like Jack's been here forever already so we're very happy right now.

I understand that Poets And Madmen is the first album in three years.

Yeah, it's the first Savatage album in three years. We had other projects that we were committed to that we had to finish up and we changed record labels. That kind of set us off about a year but yeah it's the first Savatage record in three years. Long overdue but I'm glad it took this long because the record's perfect. I wouldn't want to change it.

Who came up with the storyline and what inspired it?

Paul came up with the storyline. He usually comes up with our storylines. The inspiration was the photograph of the little girl in the sedan dying with the vultures sitting behind her. We saw that picture and then Paul did some investigating about who took the picture and then uncovered this story of this guy. What he went through. He was a nobody photographer and then ended up taking that picture and ended up becoming a world renowned Pulitzer Prize winner.

There is some truth behind this?

Very much. A lot of truth behind it. The only thing that's different is in our version of the story he doesn't commit suicide but in real life he committed suicide because he could never get that could never leave his mind. No matter what he did. He tried numerous ways. It was just something that he was just cursed with I guess. It ended up driving him mad and he ended up committing suicide in real life. In our story we keep him alive. Paul doesn't want to kill off anybody so in our version of the story instead of him committing suicide, he hid out in the mental institution that he was committed to. There was a fire and he snuck in under the basement and hid out and the place became abandoned and he's always been there. These three guys find him there, then he tells them his story and that's what the whole thing is based around.

This is your third concept album?

Actually this is the fourth Savatage concept album. Streets was the first one, Dead Winter Dead was one, The Wake Of Magellan was one, and this one.

The new vocalist will be singing on the tour but I take it you did the vocals on the album.

Yeah, well we hadn't met Damond yet at that time and instead of stopping the album and wasting any more time, we decided it would be best just to finish it and then look for a singer. Take our time. Make sure we're going to find somebody that's going to be right for the band. We didn't want to rush in and then find out that the guy wasn't the right guy. We knew I could finish the record and we figured that the fans wouldn't mind. They'd get a kick out of it. I had a lot of fun doing it. Now we've got somebody that we're comfortable with. We're breaking him in on the road. He's a young guy so it's like he needs some work, some training. It's like his spring training. He's coming to the party, man. Every night he's amazing. He's getting better every day, put it that way.

You had done lead vocals before, right?

Yeah, not out of choice. Just out of the fact that no one else can sing. We went through a transition period where I left for a year or so because I had burned my voice out and we got Zakk, who's the last singer. What a lot of people don't know is that I was coming back into the band before my brother got killed. I was going to come back in the band and we were going to have the two lead singers starting then, but then that happened and it kind of threw everything off.

It was stated that there were many hidden meanings on the album so you have to listen to it more than once.

. Paul's amazing for that. Every song's got it's own little meaning to it. Our stuff's always been that type of stuff. The more you listen to it, the more you find little things in there. We kind of layer it up with little things that keep you interested as time goes on.

If you listen to it three months later...

. You might hear something you didn't hear the first time.

I understand the bonus track is "Shotgun Innocence" by your brother. Why did you decide to add that as a bonus track?

Correct. Just to have him involved with us somehow. That was the obvious choice for us because it was something he was on. It's like he's still there with us.

Why did you decide to sign with Nuclear Blast America?

Because it's just a young company that's very aggressive and I liked the people I met. I took a liking to and I liked their attitude. I thought that Savatage here in America needed a company like that, that would give it a little bit more attention. We were kind of getting lost in the wash with Atlantic and with Trans-Siberian Orchestra being so successful they were like "what do you want to do Savatage for? Just keep doing this stuff". They don't get it. We just figured it was time for us to move Savatage to a label that would give us some more personal attention. We're spoiled.

Have you thought about doing any videos for the album?

Yeah, we're doing a lot of filming over the summer. We're filming live stuff and we're doing video shoots. We think this record's going to have a long life to it so we're planning a year of touring and video work to support it. A lot of that you'll probably see starting to filter out around fall. October or so.

Who does most of the songwriting?

Myself and Paul and Chris Caffery. Pretty much the three of us work on everything. I'd say I probably do a little bit more because I usually start at the ideas.

What are your favorite tracks on the album?

That's a tough one. I like "Surrender" a lot and I like "Morphine Child" a lot. I like the ballad, the last song a lot too, "Back To A Reason". I think that's got a cool vibe to it.

How's the tour with Fates Warning going?

Excellent. They're great guys. We all know each other. It's just like hanging out with buddies, going around getting a little nuts, and having some fun. It's been great. The fans have been showing up. Can't complain at all. It's been wonderful.

When did it start and how long will it last?

It started about three and a half weeks ago and we still have another ten days left on this run and then we go to Europe. I don't know what they're doing. I think they're going to the studio but we go to Europe. Our tour keeps going on from now until I think November 15th. It's a world tour so we start it here. Then we go overseas. Then we go to South America, Mexico, then we go back here for another month on the West Coast, then we go back to Europe's a traveler's nightmare.