Hot off the latest Trans-Siberian Orchestra yearly trek, Chris offers up some info about his new solo album Pins And Needles as well as some info about possible new Savatage activity....Enjoy!!
MR: You have a new album coming out soon called Pins and Needles. When will it be released and can we expect an album that will be similar to material on Faces and W.A.R.P.E.D or different?
Chris: Pins will be release March 23rd in Europe, a later date in the US and rest of the world. From the reaction I have gotten so far people seem to feel it is a lot heavier than Faces/WARPED. I think it is just a bit more focused in one direction and that is dark and heavy!
MR: Can we expect any socio-political rants like God Damned War or Pisses Me Off from your first two albums?
Chris: Hmm…not really, I do have one song called Mettle Eastern that has political lyrics, but it has a deeper meaning.
MR: What musicians did you have working with you this time and will any of them accompany you on the tour?
Chris: I worked with Nick Douglas from Doro on bass…he will tour with me. I used a female drummer named Yael, she played with My Ruin and Fireball Ministry. My brother also played drums on one song. I will use John Macaluso from Yngwie Malmsteen and TNT for my tour. Paul La Placa played some keys and he will accompany me again on the road. Alex Skolnick played a guest solo. Dave Eggar and Lucia Micarelli played strings.
MR: Besides the upcoming European tour, what other dates/touring plans do you have?
Chris: The tour is with Timo Kotipelto. I am hoping to announce a US tour very soon for June! There will be more!
MR: Why isn’t Jeff Plate with you anymore? Is it because of him being busy with Metal Church?
Chris: Jeff decided his schedule was too busy and we still work together in TSO and Savatage.
MR: What happened with Black Lotus (your old label) and how is being with Metal Heaven? Do you see getting more tour support/promotion etc?
Chris: Black Lotus went bankrupt! They had a huge business merger in the works, lots of money owed out…a lot was to be coming in. They operated as things were fine and it fell apart so they were stuck with huge debts. It happened right in the middle of my recording! It was quite sad. Metal Heaven has been great. I have just begun to work with them and things are going very smooth. I hope I can have great success with them!
MR: You just finished up the yearly TSO tour in early January. How was it this year compared to previous tours and what were the most memorable and/or surreal experiences from the tour?
Chris: This tour was a lot bigger! We played to about one million people total with both the East and West schedules. The schedule was so busy. 62 shows in 60 days! This tour was similar to the past tours but it ran much smoother and the band stayed very healthy. Surreal moments…I got to play Nassau Coliseum and the Meadowlands Continental Airlines Arena. Nassau is where I saw my first concert ever and the Meadowlands is where I saw most of my concerts as a kid. It was so cool to pack them both. I was in a daze both of the shows because it was so surreal!
MR: Is there any progress on the Night Castle album that TSO has been working on? When could we expect to see its release?
Chris: The CD is being worked on by Paul and someone every day. He is writing with Bob or Jon, working on lyrics, auditioning singers…There has been tons of progress. He has been working for years. The majority is written and lots of basic things have been recorded. We hope to have it finished this year. Fingers crossed!
MR: Are there any plans to do another Christmas TSO album anytime in the near future?
Chris: Not that I have any information on right now. The focus is on Nightcastle.
MR: What’s it like playing large arenas with TSO vs playing smaller venues for your solo tours and which do you prefer?
Chris: The large arenas are a lot of fun, I do miss the crowd up in your face sometimes but the whole TSO thing is so first class and successful that is definitely has a lot of up sides! I do like the smaller venues, I like the feeling of the crowd up close and personal. They both have their advantages and I am lucky to experience both worlds!
MR: Is it true that for the TSO shows that you play directly into the P.A. and don’t use amps onstage? Is it to keep the stage volume more comfortable and balanced with the large ensemble of people?
Chris: This has been the case for the past 5 tours but this year I used a live amp as well. We had speaker cabinets that were closed to keep the sound down. I liked that addition to my sound and feel a lot.
MR: I was reading an interview with Jon Oliva where he stated that one of the reasons that he’s not in a hurry to fire up the Savatage engine again is that he feels that the other band members are far too busy with TSO and wouldn’t be interested in doing small theatre and club shows with Savatage. How do you feel about that?
Chris: Well…I know I would love to play a Savatage tour at any time and any size venue and would do it for free so that is not my opinion for sure. I suppose you would have to ask everyone individually. I am sure if Savatage really wanted to fire up the engine it could. If a band wants to play that badly it will, even if it is just for fun in a rehearsal place.
MR: Savatage has a very loyal and strong following but is it really enough to make doing another album and tour economical or would it just be for the sheer love of the music and the band?
Chris: Savatage would have no problem making the tour economical, the demand is there. But as you said the love of the band…the band needs to want to do this, this has to include everyone, not just a few of us.
MR: Jon also made a point that after Criss Oliva died, Savatage changed dramatically and eventually morphed into the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Although there are some obvious similarities in sound, how do you feel about this?
Chris: Well, I feel after Criss died many things changed. Savatage definitely was not the same. The core of the band was half gone. So there were certain elements that were the same but huge differences as well. It was a bit more of a business because you dealt with people that were not in the trenches to make the band. You were at a rebuilding stage. We had a great chemistry with the Dead Winter Dead band and we did morph into TSO but I do feel both bands could have co-existed if it was what everyone really wanted. No matter what we are all fortunate to have TSO in our lives. I feel bad for the fans who miss Savatage because I am one of them but there comes a time when you just have to let the frustration go and think positively that something will happen in the future.
MR: Rumours are going around about the possibility of some shows and filming for a live DVD in order the commemorate Savatage’s 25th anniversary. Is there any truth to this?
Chris: Yes, there is a very strong possibility and in pure Savatage fashion our 25th Anniversary will probably happen in the 27th year! ;)
MR: Could you elaborate on your “bizarre gardening accident” (in true Spinal Tap fashion!!) that happened last year sometime?
Chris: Hmm…well, I had been meaning to clear this one piece of woods up at my mother’s house in NY State. I finally got some time off last summer and went there to do the work. I was clearing out an old pile of wood and logs and throwing them over an old horse fence. One log was about 10 feet long. It had no bark. It was old but still heavy and solid. I was deciding on whether or not to lift it over the fence, drag it around or cut it up with my chain saw. I chose to lift it. It slipped out of my hands and smacked me in the jaw. It hit so hard that it knocked my feet out from under me and I fell to the ground. When I got up I checked my face and there was no blood. I brushed off the dirt and felt a pain in my side. I looked down and saw muscle hanging out of my upper right chest. Something had stabbed me about 3 inches deep. If it was an inch in either direction I may have bled to death or lost feeling in my right arm forever. I was lucky.
MR: Any chance of you coming to Toronto with the solo tour? I was bummed about the Nov. 2005 show in Toronto with you, Jon Oliva and Beyond Fear being cancelled. It would have been the show of a lifetime for sure!!
Chris: I am hoping to get there for sure. I apologize about the incident on the tour with Jon. It is very difficult to cross borders now and some people on the tour did not have the proper paperwork. I know my band was fine to cross. So, I hope we can make it this tour for sure! I love Toronto!
MR: Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us and one of these years, I’ll have to stay behind long enough at one of the TSO shows to finally meet you in person. Any last words for our Metal Reviews readers?
Chris: Thanks to you and to all of your readers. The fans make it possible for everything to happen and I appreciate each and everyone of you. Look out for Pins and Needles and I will see you on tour!

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