Chris Caffery is the lead guitarist for the East Coast company of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and also performed with the now on hiatus Savatage. He was preparing to record and release his first solo album when we did this interview and had drummer Jeff Plate along with him as some production on the music had been done earlier in the day. We met up with Chris and Jeff at a local bar in Astoria, Queens and talked at length about a wide variety of topics. Ken Pierce Meets Chris Caffery & Jeff Plate 2/7/04
Before I begin, let me apologize for the length of this piece. This was the first interview I had ever done and at the time I was the US Representative of The Metal Circus in Barcelona Spain. I was fortunate enough to be able to sit down with Chris Caffery and Jeff Plate of Savatage and The Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We discussed music, life and Savatage, The TSO and beyond. Instead of taking this as an interview think of it as a evening out with two great musicians as we all talk about a little of everything in a cool local bar. The empty chair at the table is for you. Sit down for awhile.
KEN – So as I mentioned to you in email, the site is primarily in Spanish, with a couple of dozen items submitted by me that retain an English translation. The goal is to move to a lot more English going forward. The readers loved the Trans Siberian Orchestra review that I did for them back in December and I was told by my colleagues that “we hate you, we hate you…..but we love you since you are able to bring us this interview”
Jeff – So how big is the site?
KEN – The Metal Circus Site is pretty big and it’s connected to a radio station that will soon be something metal fans can hear online. They also publish a magazine which I think is given away at the record shops and club shows. There is a sizable amount of CD and DVD product listed as well as concert coverage and interviews. I was contacted by their Director to be the NYC Reporter several months ago, and as result I have been hitting a lot of shows and reviewing a lot of music for them.
CHRIS – Did you see Iron Maiden a few weeks ago?
KEN – No, could not get a ticket and then the last night got cancelled, and Saturday was cut short since beer fell on a sound board.
Jeff – Why’d they cancel the last show?
Ken – I heard something about the Venue overbooked the night.
Jeff – Overbooked or oversold.
Ken – No, overbooked. There was supposed to be something else going on the same night that they booked Maiden. Personally I don’t buy that because Maiden was onsale like 3 months before and it just seems crap to me.
Chris – We’ll never know what happened, its weird sometimes.
Ken – I am just using these notes as a guideline so feel free to chime in or yell at me or stuff like that if you want to say something. This was originally ready to do about two weeks ago as a question and answer and then Chris sent me an email that said come on down.
Ken – Chris it is awesome to meet you in person, good to see you still rocking better than ever. Some backstory for you I am actually an old school Savatage fan for many years and I did meet you once before many years ago on the “Gutter Ballet” tour. I was in one of the opening bands for that tour
CHRIS – Which show?
KEN – L’Amour’s in Brooklyn.
CHRIS – Oh really?
Ken – Now to my knowledge this stuff was being recorded for release on a live CD, and I think some of that stuff is on the “Live Devastation” CD.
Chris – No, no, no some of that stuff is “Ghost In The Ruin”.
Ken – Ok “Ghost In The Ruin”. I have that as “The Final Bell” though, I think I saw it and felt there was one more song on it, so I went out and paid like 30 dollars more for it.
– Chris takes cell call
Jeff – (yawns) oh God!
Ken – I have questions for you too. I’m a drummer.
Jeff – Oh that’s cool!
Ken – It’s fun to have drummer questions.
Jeff – Give the drummer some he never gets enough – We have been working on this music oh so much and I am so completely overloaded right now.
Ken – It’s ok, I might write that down also, “here he sits worn and tired” haha.
Jeff – Oh we’ve been working on this stuff for a long time. Basically been rehearsing it for two weeks, and we start recording it on Monday. It’s just a lot of material.
Ken – I am psyched I really am.
Chris – I’m sorry my computer program was delivered FedEx, my neighbor got it, and I need it tonight.
Ken – Ah yes you are a MAC based guy, I am PC, not politically correct though.
Chris – I was converted a few years ago.
Ken – Many benefits for the guitar players. So anyway here we are live from Astoria Queens, McCann’s bar , I’m sorry guys I figure this information is very important to Spain
Chris – It’s important to know, a cultural experience.
Ken – Chris I’m doing this for the Metal Circus site in Barcelona Spain and they’re really big Savatage fans. They get a kick out of you and like I mentioned earlier they ate up the TSO Article and one of the great things about the site is the little differences it offers. This radio show is going to be more than just local they tell me. As it will be turning this into a Webcast so people can play it from the PC if they want to. They said make sure you let them know we play a lot of Savatage. and given the solo record is coming, we can expect that they will be playing a lot of the faces cd when they have one. I was also told to express the anger my colleagues have at me for getting to not only see the TSO here in NYC but getting to come and do this in person with you guys
CHRIS – We’ll see them eventually.
KEN – Let’s start with some Savatage stuff, now 2003 really sucked because Criss Oliva is dead 10 years and I had the honor of meeting him also at that show I spoke of. One of the coolest things I own was acquired at this show. I was this young musician opening up for a major band and I got Criss and they rest of you to sign each of your pictures on the inside of the “Gutter Ballet” CD Booklet. To me Savatage is vital metal, its real and it has a lot of power to it and it’s always changing and fresh. There is such a die hard core following and I love that. So the benefit happened can we talk about that for a few minutes.
CHRIS – More or less it was something that Jon wanted to get together and instead of everyone just being drunk in a bar and talking about his brother I think that’s what it started as. Then a lot of Savatage fans wanted to come and hang out and that spread into a jam session which lead into the memorial thing. It was, it was fun for me. It was a lot of fun going up and playing a couple of those Butcher songs since we never did that before. It was really great to get back onstage with Zak again. The show itself really had those special feelings and its weird that it’s 10 years have gone by but a helluva lot has happened.
Ken – I consider him one of the most under rated guitar players in metal, I really do.
CHRIS – You know what I don’t necessarily think Criss is under rated I think Criss is under recognized, because everyone who knows him, knows how good he was. A lot of people just don’t know, and if their with Savatage and his work then they never really had a chance to sit and listen to what he did. Yet anyone like guitar players who liked him and a lot of bands who we’ve toured with, metallica’s etc they all loved Criss’ playing. He is very very well respected, he just never got the popularity that he deserved.
KEN – So regarding the Memorial concert, this was a one night only thing. Did you guys record anything that maybe a piece could be released from it?
CHRIS – No nothing like that was gonna be recorded and be released, I know the Oliva family recorded it so they could have it themselves but we didn’t have any plans to release anything from that.
KEN – I have a question that goes back to “Poets And Madmen”, the last time I saw Savatage. The talk was that this was being recorded for a release back then. You had Johnny Lee, Jeff, this wonderful singer Damond Jiniva, and what was funny to me was a friend of mine was an old Jon fan and I said well Jon is not singing anymore he was like “I’m not going”, I said hey Zak’s great so we go. He walks out “Zak’s great he sounds go great”, so I say Tage is playing again, but Zak left, and again I get “I’m not going” so anyway it was a great time. Was any of that stuff recorded?
CHRIS – We never recorded anything on that tour multitrack, we were planning for the end of that tour and trying to figure out whether or not we were going to a live DVD of a concert from that but that never came together. What we wanted to do first was get a studio record done with Damond singing and then go out record a concert from that next tour but that studio album is taking a little bit longer than anyone anticipated so.
KEN – What about some of these live DVDs, I mean there is a “Live In Japan” one which Jeff is on, but Chris you are not on this.
CHRIS – No I was working with Jon in Doctor Butcher at the time.
KEN – Sadly I don’t have a lot of background on the Doctor Butcher stuff, but I heard some of it because of some friend of a friend of a friend. It’s the kind of thing you guys should make available again because I think when you have a die hard core following, that they will go out and buy it.
CHRIS – We’re planning on doing the release of the Butcher stuff in the States, its still available in Europe.
KEN – So is it safe to assume that there is a lot of unreleased material Tage-wise that could form a good boxed set and not like a greatest hits thing, but more a retrospect like Slayer just put out this great career spanning big box.
CHRIS – So you mean stuff that is left over or?
KEN – Left over, unreleased, live, acoustic that might make a good boxed set.
CHRIS – We really don’t have a lot of unreleased material – We never did. Savatage usually recorded and released what we had. I know there was extra tracks from “Streets” but the “Streets” master reels were lost so they’ll never come out. There was only the recordings we had from L.A. and Brooklyn and those were the only live multitrack recordings we had and there was only one multi camera filming from the Dynamo Festival that I have a master reel from. Actually there’s gonna be more as next year is Savatage’s 25th Anniversary and what the plan is for there to be a “History Of Savatage 25th Anniversary DVD” and some of that material will be on it, all of the videos, the live in Japan. Then we are going to do a 25th Anniversary record and tour and do one concert somewhere that will have any existing members that are important to the bands history will be playing at least maybe a song here and there we will get together and film maybe a DVD from that. So we will probably have two DVD releases next year.
KEN – That’s good – So now I used the phrase “cult status” a couple of times already. Now how do you guys feel about having that kind of vibe with the fans, like where everyone at the show is a die hard Savatage fan.
Jeff – Well as much as the band has changed I mean that’s the only reason it exists I think. You know? I mean the band has completely changed members a couple of times.
KEN – Yes, I know this.
Jeff – When I joined I think it was probably the most different it had ever been.
KEN – True, as that’s when you had Alex Skolnick
Jeff – Alex was in the band and Zak was still relatively the new singer and Johnny was really the only original so to speak member, and then Jon came back in. I dunno.
CHRIS – It’s a great feeling for me knowing that Savatage’s core audience is that strong. It gets frustrating for me sometimes because we don’t play for them every year and that’s basically the reason why I started writing and planning on doing the solo thing because I want to go out and play every year and when Savatage is off and TSO’s not working I can just go and we can go play and that’s really what I wanna do with this.
KEN – Now I have always kinda recognized you guys as one of the first power metal bands I mean you have your Iron Maidens and your Judas Priests but they started something entirely different. You guys were doing a lot more harmony inside the metal there was always a lot of different guitar stuff going on.
CHRIS – Savatage was actually I think the first band ever really the first metal band to record with the whole guitarist tuned down lower. It was one of those things I think on “Sirens” or “Dungeons” and we checked into and its one of the first records with the whole guitar down that low to drop C and really the introduction of piano into a heavy metal band had not happened very much at all. There had been keyboards and voice ins in bands like Rainbow who had keyboard players but other than Queen the actual piano in a metal band was something that kinda got introduced on “Gutter Ballet”. That was a signature thing for Savatage.
KEN – Now we were talking about Zak, and does he even have a band anymore?
CHRIS – He has “Circle II Circle” right now.
KEN – Right but they are the “Jon Oliva Project now”? (Jeff laughs at the way I put this).
CHRIS – Yeah I don’t even know what the story is with that, but Zak just toured Europe with Doro and Saxon and he had a whole new band put together. John Osbourne from Doctor Butcher played drums with him on that tour and I believe the other members come from a Florida based band called “Smackhead”.
KEN – I have been watching the metal scene these days and I am liking a lot of this Eurometal that is out there and I think some of it is, not the Death Metal or the Goth Metal, but bands like Nightwish and Sonata Arctica and stuff like that and it seems like you guys made a lot of that come about.
CHRIS – There is a lot of bands that are out now, we get very flattered by that, when we tour we meet bands that have become pretty successful over there telling us that Savatage influenced them and that’s kinda weird . I mean it’s a good thing, it’s a bad thing, because it makes you feel old.
KEN – So Jeff when you talk to Zak next tell him to drop me a line so we can talk to him also. Now Chris, you said this 25th Anniversary was going to be next year, but I can almost swear that Jon said 2007 on his website.
CHRIS – No its 2005.
KEN – Good, because I saw that and I was like WOW, it’s a bit of time away and easier to look more forward to that if it is next year. Is Savatage still on Nuclear Blast?
CHRIS – We haven’t decided what’s going on with Savatage in the US.
KEN – There seem to be a lot of bands out there today that sort of take their career into their own hands. I am speaking of Marillion and a couple like this. They run their own thing. They will sell board tapes of shows and stuff like that. It’s really cool actually.
Jeff – Oh really? I had not heard much about them, since they had the hit here in the States back in the 80’s or something
KEN – So did you ever think about taking the band in this direction, where “we will do it this way” and the fan club sort of supports it by funding the decisions that you made.
CHRIS – Savatage has sorta become a little different from that, I mean we the band members, we try to organize a lot and get everything done the same way but sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way we want to. When the Trans Siberian Orchestra came about and that band became so undeniably big that there was a time sharing thing that was becoming a little bit of an issue. Savatage would sometimes get the attention it needed and other times TSO would. What happens in this is the focus sorta drops off of one or the other. I mean Savatage – it’s music that you said is fan music and its history is so important and so special, I don’t think its one of those things were the band really needs to go out and sell board tapes and do things like that . It’s just a different kind of thing. People anticipate the studio records and I think the pattern that Savatage has developed will stay the same we’ll just keep recording and working that way.
KEN – I just found that the die-hard likes to own as much stuff as possible you know?
CHRIS – Well if you look on the Internet I mean somebody forwarded me a website that had about 250 bootlegs from live shows on it. People are recording anyway because something like this as you see (Chris grabs my recorder device which I am using to record the interview) fits anywhere and there is really not much you can do about it. I mean if a band was to take it and try to sell it there’s a chance that it is something that everyone has already anyway.
KEN – I still think there is a little cleaner sound when you guys would do it as opposed to a audience bootleg. So lets talk Trans Siberian Orchestra. I love it and I am serious. Now, you hear that a lot I am sure. So each year it gets better and better in my opinion. When it started out were you expecting to be this big?
Jeff – Not at all, we had no idea.
CHRIS – Nobody knew what to expect from this Christmas instrumental song on a Savatage record that on the “Dead Winter Dead” tour we were playing live as a Savatage song it was just that in Christmas of 1995 that song got a lot of airplay , and then the Christmas Eve and Other Stories record was put together and recorded in 1996 and every year it started selling more and more . 1998 we filmed the “Ghosts Of Christmas Eve” TV Special and we were asked if we were interested in trying to do some live shows. It just exploded from there, we never would have thought that it would turn into two simultaneous arena tours going on with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. But it just exploded.
Jeff – Our first show in Philly, Johnny Middleton and I were standing on the side of the stage and watching dry ice roll off the stage on to some 70 year old man and woman’s lap and we thought we were completely fucking doomed at that point. Yet they stayed for the whole show and it was incredible.
KEN – So I missed the first tour because literally it came and it went so quickly
CHRIS- Yeah it took everybody by surprise
Jeff – It was 7 shows.
KEN – That’s what I thought — that there were a little less than a dozen dates now you have two months of straight touring spread over two companies. Is this adjustment a little rough on you?
CHRIS – Which adjustment?
KEN – To doing two months straight as TSO with such a big production.
Jeff – We would rather be playing 7-8 months straight
CHRIS – Exactly
KEN – Soon guys soon. So now I ask this since the readership is largely in Spain, one of the main questions that they had for me was to ask the guys if there was ever going to be an International Company of TSO. Now of course we don’t want you to avoid anything in New York, Philadephia or Jersey but is this foreseeable to have?
CHRIS – I don’t think there is ever going to be a a third TSO. I mean there have been talks about it but I don’t ever see that happening. I can see possibly in 2006 you may see TSO go to Europe and do some shows for “Beethoven’s Last Night”, maybe 2005 but I would say more than likely 2006.
KEN – When you guys go Jeff I will help you set up the drums since they are computers so I will plug em all in for you , make sure the wiring is all nice.
Jeff – You wanna do it. It’s just connect the dots. No tuning involved, all you gotta do is turn them on.
KEN – The DVD “Ghosts Of Christmas Eve” I love it, but similar to my question about Savatage stuff have any full shows of TSO been filmed so you can do a release?
CHRIS – We film every night but its only just a digital camera for our use. We’ve not done any multi-camera filmings of TSO live shows yet.
KEN – I really think this would be something nice because I have seen a couple of really good DVDs over the past couple of years, you have KISS doing their Symphony which was fantastic and Gene is a marketing genius who is not gonna let it fail. Yet it was a full concert. Then you had Roger Waters who is a musical genius who decided to release his whole “In The Flesh” tour song for song. He did not cut one number and you can appreciate all the musical brilliance on stage. Now, TSO has a lot of meat to it as there’s a lot going on, the music the effects and Chris with his Elf Hat and his craziness.
CHRIS – Well the whole thing with that is with the filming we wouldn’t film any show on a East or West Show, we would have to have the two meet somewhere and do it like that with the whole original band playing. We have talked about ways of doing it and trying to figure out. Like maybe doing three nights in Cleveland, or New York City on Christmas Eve or something.
KEN – I vote for the New York City one.
CHRIS – Well that’s what I would like to see. I would like to see “Christmas Eve And Other Stories” recorded in New York City on Christmas Eve. In a perfect world that’s what I would do.
KEN – Me too, its just such a big thing but maybe we can bend Paul O’Neills ear on that.
CHRIS – No I don’t think so.
KEN – He’s a tough man to convince I guess. Anyways, Chris you are a lot of fun as the Master Of Ceremonies.
CHRIS – Yeah that was interesting too, Jeff was talking about the first show in Philadelphia.
KEN – So how did it fall on you to do all that?
CHRIS – Well that’s exactly how I mean, we’re doing this first show in Philadelphia and everybody’s going alright we have this part of the show where were going be talking narration between. What the heck is gonna go on? Maybe somebody should go out and talk, somebodys gotta introduce the band. Who’s gonna do this and everybody just looked at me. And it was just one of those things where they’re like “You’re doing it!” and I just went out and talked it. It was a little rough at first because your stumbling on your tongue and your nervous. That still happens every once in awhile and usually when Paul’s around. It just came kinda natural for me, I enjoyed it. Because I really don’t look at the crowd, I look at the follow spots . Although this year I started eye to eyeing people in the crowd a little more since I was more relaxed with it. Its tough because it’s a lot of the same people every year and I am like “I gotta come up with a completely different thing to say” and sometimes I get nervous but usually something will just pop up on the tour that makes my life a whole lot easier.
KEN – So at the beginning the monologue starts off pretty much the same at the first couple of venues that you do and then you just work with it for the tour?
CHRIS – Yeah I mean there will be certain jokes that I make and I will turn around and go “why did you say that” , ok that’s gone .
KEN – When I sent the review in for the site, I included a picture of the satellite shot from the blackout but they did not label it as such so we have all these pictures of you guys and I used some from the meet and greet and theres this satellite thing so it’s a little confusing unless you pay attention in the review. Anyway, so who does your duties on the West Coast Company? I mean you’re a tough act to follow you are like Seinfeld.
CHRIS – It’s split up between Tommy Farese and Al Pitrelli. Al kinda talks between the songs and Tommy introduces the band. I have heard it’s funny but I know it’s different. Since its different peoples personality it is never going to be the same.
KEN – I like Al, I am a big fan of his work but I can’t see him as funny as you are.
Jeff – It’s a different thing and a different vibe altogether from what we have. I mean it’s the same music and the same lights but the different personnel.
KEN – I am glad I got the East Coast Company. I remember when I first saw it I was like surprised because I did not know who exactly was going to be playing live as it was kinda a mystery. So its like “oh cool there’s Chris gear, hey theres Jeff’s gear…hey maybe Jon is gonna be here, oh wait we have Rob Kinkel and he wrote so much of the stuff so.
Jeff – When was the first time you saw the group?
KEN – The first time I saw TSO was the second year at the Beacon Theatre. I pretty much have stuck to the Beacon shows. I also try to go twice if I can swing it. I even was able to have a friend of mine bring his kid to the show, and he was 11. It was his first concert ever, and he knew everyones names. It was a lot of fun.
Jeff – That’s the amazing thing about this show. My first concert was when I was sixteen. Now I hear about kids eleven years old who have already seen us two or three times.
Ken – My first show was KISS at Madison Square Garden for “Dynasty” tour in 1980.
CHRIS – My first show was KISS and Judas Priest. I couldn’t see over anybody since I was on the floor.
Jeff – Tripping over beer cans.
KEN – He did not know what beer was at the time.
CHRIS – The funny thing was I got a bunch of the confetti from off of the floor and It smelled like pot. I had it in a jar and I remember opening up the jar a few years later and I was like “wow, it still smells like pot”
KEN – So now the first time I saw TSO it was just lights. Then it was lasers and lights or as you say “fricking lasers”. So now we have “fricking lasers”, “fricking lights” “Fricking Fire” and Snow!. What’s next?
Jeff – Probably video.
CHRIS – I dunno maybe video, giant video screens or a giant snowflake or something interesting like that.
Jeff – Revolving drum risers?
KEN – Cool just don’t fall out.
CHRIS – More shooting fire or something like that.
Ken – I actually did have a fire question. All the pyro was great to experience but after all the stuff with Great White which was so terrible. Nervous with it at all?
CHRIS – Yeah it was kinda difficult, we did the TSO show in Providence and I have been using a line “fire fire” in my monologue but I didn’t do that in their town. It was not the right place for it.
Jeff – There are fire marshals there every day. We can’t use it unless they ok it.
KEN – It was just such a tragic thing to happen.
Jeff – We played there, and that was the “Poets” Tour.
KEN – So one thing I did wanna say, I notice that every year it seems that “Beethoven’s Last Night” is coming next year, over and over. What does knock it back? Is this proving that difficult to pull together because it is such a big production?
CHRIS – Well the thing is, there’s a couple of things pushing Beethoven back. Like you said there’s a lot of preparation and we need to get the next TSO Studio records finished. That’s kinda like, put Beethoven out and then we need another couple of years to get a Christmas record and then a non Christmas record done, since we wanna get a record out every year of so. Theoretically.
KEN – So now do you think that the seasonal feel of the TSO which is all Christmas stuff might be a little different than that of Beethovens Last Night is that a concern for you? I mean, I love it so I will go in a minute.
CHRIS – Well all’s I know is that Paul told me that during the “Beethoven’s Last Night” tour that I am allowed to use all of the jokes that he won’t let me use at Christmastime. So I think it’s going to be a lot different he said I could be more Rodney Dangerfield at the Beethoven shows so.
KEN – I will do what I can to spread the word. I just convinced a work colleague who is here from Britain. When he heard I had been 4 years running, he grabbed tickets.
CHRIS – That’s good.
KEN – So now onto the solo record, is it going to have a lot of that Savatage feel, is it gonna be more TSO?
CHRIS – I personally think that there is real small amount of this record is obviously Savatage influenced. I mean there is some Savatage feel here and there. It’s in a riff in the guitar playing, but I really think that this record has a lot more of it’s own identity than people will realize or that people will expect.
KEN – Now it’s called “Faces” and I was able to find a little of the tracklist online and I have listed here “Remember”, “Fright Knights”, “God Damn War”, “Life Crazy Life”, “Saddamize” and “Instrumental Thingie” (Jeff laughs), so what is some of your favorite material off of it, I mean I know its all you as you put it all together but is there anything that stands out.
CHRIS – Nothing particular comes to mind right now. It’s difficult now.
KEN – So it’s all good?
CHRIS – I would not say whether it’s good or bad Ijust have a lot of different favorites for different reasons. It’s real hard to say right now and it will be unquestionably easier to answer when the record is done.
KEN – Jeff what about you? What are you having fun playing?
Jeff – Well at this point we have been jamming a lot of music because we are just getting ready to do it. We start to record on Monday. Like he said when it’s all said and done it will be a lot easier to sit back and think about that. Right now every song has it’s own characteristic and it’s own story to it basically.
KEN – So now, besides you Chris and besides Jeff we have Dave Z. So who else is involved?
CHRIS – Well, right now it’s the three of us who are recording. I was considering using an outside producer for it but I decided not to in the end and I’m gonna be doing some vocal arrangements with Al Pitrelli who is gonna come in. He has a great ear for background vocals. Every once in awhile I like to have people who I know and I trust come in. I;m gonna need some keyboard work done here and there so that could possibly be done by Als Wife Jane. She is brilliant at that.
KEN – Oh yes, I have the “O’2L” CD.
Jeff – I have not heard it yet.
KEN – It’s really cool and it is different.
CHRIS – Actually I think Mark Wood is gonna come in and do some guest strings on it , especially on the instrumental thing that I have and the “Saddamize” song. That has the Middle Eastern feel to it and I want some real strings on it. Get some eerie kind of violin work on it.
KEN – So outside of the professional relationship that you guys have Jeff and Dave and you are saying Al and Jane and Mark perhaps, is it the comfort zone to do the record and have the care you expect put into it, to have it come out the way you want it to.
CHRIS – Yeah we were talking about it the other day, and we have been working together for 9 years. Dave now is 4 years working together, and you know doing it as “solo thing” as it is being called at the moment it’s a really nerve wracking experience because I have never, not only have I never released a solo record before, but I have never sang before. So this whole entire thing is new waters to me. I mean I am nervous but I am anxious to get it out. But I’m nervous about what people are gonna think and I like having Jeff and Dave working with me on it because its like to me it gives me like you said that comfort zone. I feel confident knowing that hey well you know at least the music is going to be really strong and we will build from there. It’s building the house and the foundation is gonna be solid and I really wasn’t thinking any other ways for me to get drums and bass on it. I was kinda like, well here’s the stuff why don’t we start. You know it just kinda happened like that.
Jeff – Dave is really one of the best bass players that I know.
KEN – Oh I agree he is very good.
Jeff – Since he has been working with us for a couple of years so it works.
KEN – Yes I have heard some of his solo work also with “Z-O2”. I also know the drummer from the project since he is in KISSNation. He calls me Eric Singer, since he thinks I look like him.
Jeff – Yeah you do a little bit. Haha.
Ken – So what about some finished work, will we see some of that online? Listener samples of some kind?
CHRIS – I’m thinking about that, but I don’t know I really don’t know. Possibly towards the end but I might be a little bit stingy with this until its done. I kind of — since I’ve never sang before and since I’m saying and doing so many different things with my voice in the music on this record I kind of want to wait for people to have to listen to the finished album.
Ken – That’s good.
Chris – I really – I don’t know. I haven’t made my mind up about that yet, I know that the record company people are asking to put some sounds somewhere. I just might wait for people to get the first single before I start putting anything else up online.
Ken – So what about gigs? Will there be time enough for gigs to be done?
CHRIS – We were talking about that now, a little acoustic show. We are talking about filming a song or two for DVD bonus tracks and I have started to book shows now, but nothing is 100% confirmed. We’re gonna have a festival date in Greece in July and we’ll have a full on European tour in September or October and possibly a couple of other festivals in August. Nothing in the States very likely until next year. Unless I decide to do a couple of weeks of dates here to just warm things up.
Ken – There’s a couple of relatively sizable clubs in the area like L’Amour’s over in Brooklyn. There’s the Downtown out in Long Island. Matter of fact I just saw Zebra there last week.
Jeff – Zebra wow!
Chris – I would probably look to find somebody that I know who is touring and just hook up for a couple of weeks as I don’t really think I would want to venture out so soon and worry about doing all the things involved in a tour. I would feel more comfortable for now just going out and opening up for someone.
Ken – Now Jon has his project also, so what about a double thing? I think that would be like – perfect.
Chris – We’ve talked about that and it’s a possibility that something like that might happen in Europe.
Ken – So let me ask you this. We hear you saying that the record is going to be heavy. So who should buy it? I mean you like band X and band Y then you really have to own a copy of “Faces” by Chris Caffery.
Chris – Well that’s a little difficult to say right now I mean the record is heavy but there’s also a lot of stuff that is very flavorful and different. I think, I don’t know exactly how far this is going to reach, but it might be more than anybody imagined because there is a lot of unique sound and feeling going on with this album. Definitely I think the European, South American and American metal, like real Metal fans are gonna grab it.
Ken – So bearing that in mind, are you guys happy to see like a full on resurgence of a couple of things and we are moving away from every band having a DJ. We have Halford back in Judas Priest again and there’s Iron Maiden who never really stopped along with bands like Metallica who has also never stopped albeit it with slightly different material.
Chris – Oh yeah, I was always hoping it was gonna come around again. And I think it is capped by Halford coming back into Priest. Because Headbangers Ball is back, VH1 has the Rock Show, things like Fuel Channel, and even people I knew who had little tiny metal shows in Florida and places I knew in Tampa are now Statewide and with Broadband and Digital Cable this has allowed for smaller stations to become bigger and I think its also coming around because every ten years people get tired of the music that is happening. – – – There was a time when all the music was getting, I don’t wanna say depressing but it was very somber and dark feeling to the music, the Seattle stuff. I mean it was a heroin scene and that drug and that whole scene played itself into the music that was being brought about . Now I think we are breaking out for more melody. I think bands like Evanescence and things like that coming out, and some of what we saw as Eurometal mixing in to the US pop mainstream now which is very exciting.
Jeff – There’s actual guitar solos in the music now, where that didn’t exist for awhile.
Ken – Or the drummer is just playing simple 4/4. I like a little more doing in the songs myself. Anything else you wanna add on the solo record before I move onto some other little topics to just generalize everything.
Chris – We are starting the drum tracks on Monday and once they are done I will have a better picture to paint for everybody on what it is all going to be. I’ve decided to do something a little different with it, but I don’t wanna give away too much of that right now.
Ken – The fans have better check the site for regular updates then.
Chris – Yeah keep reading the site, the one thing you will notice if you look at the site is (Chris pauses to ask the waitress to fill his coffee with Bailey’s) that I have not made a specific number that you can count on the amount of songs we are recording. It keeps going up and up.
Ken – Yeah, a double package with a DVD of you guys recording and watching TV and pictures of you guys just hanging out.
Chris – Everything and the kitchen sink.
Ken – Have the cat laying around. I just had some general questions for you to give the readers some fun stuff. Now I notice at every show that I have gone to you come out with either the City’s team Jersey or the ball cap.
Chris – Yeah I’m the biggest fair weather fan you will ever see in your life
Ken – I mean are you that die hard a sports fan?
Chris – I love sports and that’s the one thing about that whole scene.
Ken – I remember one year you were yelling “JETS, JETS, JETS!”
Chris – Jets are done.
Ken – I personally suffer through Rangers hockey.
Jeff – Everybody does.
Chris – It’s hard to get any kind of a gauge on any team unless you luck out. Yeah but that’s not an act. I love sports. Actually it’s probably the only television I watch besides the news. I watch the news and sports and that is entirely it. And maybe Emeril Lagasse. I really don’t watch a whole lot but of course I sometimes find myself surfing the E Channels as there is always some kind of ass on there.
Jeff – The beach stuff is good.
Ken – So how is Haley?
Chris – My cat? She’s fine, she is my sanity.
Ken – That’s great, I have two myself. Now some other things on music in general. Whats in the CD Changer?
Chris – The new “Iced Earth” I really love listening to it and Tim Owens is a really good friend of ours so I am really proud of it . It’s exciting for me to finally get to hear I don’t think it is even what he can do as much as a piece of what he is able to do. I personally think that he is the most consistent singer that I’ve ever toured with live. Zak Stevens was great, Zak was brilliant, Ronnie Dio was great. Tim Owens is probably the best every night, out of every singer I toured with.
Jeff – He has a great range.
Ken – I just did a review of the new CD, “The Glorious Burden” and I wrote that I was a fan of Ripper’s when he joined Judas Priest and I was happy for him. The whole story was like that movie “Rock Star”, and we had to as fans accept it, because at the time Halford was not coming back, so we gotta get over it. Yet I think Ripper is better in Iced Earth than he was in Judas Priest.
Chris – Oh absolutely. He got the chance to go in his own direction after Priest. (takes phone call, from his lost friends who made the wrong turn somewhere).
Ken (to Jeff) – I hope you don’t mind I brought a couple of CD covers to have you guys sign.
Jeff – Sure. When I do this stuff I always wonder if it is going to be on Ebay or something.
Ken – Not mine, these are from my personal CDs, so it is purely for my own enjoyment. I really liked the work you did in Savatage when you came in. Just wanted to add that.
Jeff – Being a part of Savatage when I came in was a lot of fun for me since it was just regular people who were playing in a band. I mean, it was a very good band but everyone got along so well. Soit was always a nice relationship between us and the fans because we never separated ourselves from them. Like that comment you said about Criss Oliva when you met him. I hear that kind of stuff a lot.
Ken – I try to keep the date we lost him in peoples minds, listen to some old Savatage that day if you have not been doing so regularly.
Chris – Everyone I know who comes here gets lost!
Ken – So I asked Chris what CD he has had on, what about you Jeff?
Jeff – Oh Jesus I don’t know, just lately been listening to a lot of metal old Priest and Slayer and stuff.
Ken – Did you see the show?
Jeff – I haven’t been to a show in so long.
Ken – Not a lot of talking at a Slayer show, just a lot of growling from Araya. During their show I was lucky to upstairs so I could better write the review and I was watching when Hatebreed was on, the various factions of mosh in all these little circles here and there. When Slayer came on it all swirled into one big sea of people. It looked like water from above. So, what about in the DVD player, what have you forgotten to return to the video store.
Chris – What have I been watching lets see , just finally saw the 2nd Lord Of The Rings on DVD so I can go see the 3rd one. Also Silence Of The Lambs
Jeff – X-Men 2.
Ken – So besides the music are there any other generalized hobbies that you like.
Chris – Cooking. Hunting. I like to kill and eat.
Ken – OK lets call Ted Nugent up.
Jeff – Survivor.
Chris – A Friend of mine who we record with a lot, John West got me into it. When you hang out with him you either have to wait for him to come back from hunting or go hunting with him. That’s your choice, so I started it. Sometimes though the animal could come up and tap me on the shoulder and I wouldn’t hear it so. The hearing thing is an issue with me, I have a keen sense …
Ken – I felt it after years of playing drums also. So I wanted to say that I do own the Metallium and I liked it. I even found the DVD.
Chris – They sent me a copy of the video but I never got the DVD.
Ken – I liked how it fit together so seamlessly. Any chance you would work with them again.
Chris – I would consider doing something with Henning because I think he is a great singer . It was also a lot of fun to work with Mike Terrana because it is just amazing to watch that guy play drums.
Ken – I thought it was Mark Cross.
Chris – Mark Cross was playing on the 2nd Metalium record tour and when I was working with them it was Mike Terrana. He is a maniac with what he does.
Ken – So we have the site www.Chriscaffery.com and it’s a great site with a lot of content. A very informative website . As a computer guy I like to see a lot of things to click on. You are definitely an open book to your audience.
Chris – Yes sometimes a little bit too open but you know.
Ken – I love the tour and studio diaries, and I do admire they way you answer the fan questions. I remember when I tried to setup the interview, I sat back and was like “wow, I actually got Chris and not some PR person via Record Company via Manager then to Chris”.
Jeff- He is all of the above.
Ken – So do you enjoy all of that?
Chris – I enjoy writing, I enjoy writing literature I wanna write books. I like writing and expressing so this has been more than anything good practice.
Ken – Do you find a lot of the same questions, over and over?
Chris – Yeah it’s a pain in the ass, not always the same questions but it gets to the point where sometimes time is really scarce and I literally slave to do what I do on that website. I was one of the first to —- as the music gets louder above us — to really write tour diaries and interact with them in a way. www.Savatage.com was really one of the first functional band websites to do that. It was really interactive and and had one of the first band forums. I remember reading back in 1997 that some rock magazine had voted it a great site, and it seems like a lot of bands have run with similar models nowadays.
Ken – Yeah I agree with all that, as I remember the site being around before a lot of other groups had one. I will post links on the interview as well for you guys. Now is there a www.Jeffplate.com?
Jeff – Not yet, but there is going to be something soon.
Chris – He is planning on bringing Plate.com to the table really soon. Laughs.
Jeff – He is a quick one, a real quick one.
Ken – You know I have been avoiding saying to Jeff that it seemed like he has a lot on his PLATE all night and now I just cannot resist. Well, the site does seem like a lot of fun and the member of the fanclub gets a lot of cool stuff by joining.
Chris – Yeah we had a chat last night which was the first fan club chat.
Ken – So how is the “Chris Army” building up?
Chris – The “Chris Army” is building and growing every day. The website is doing tremendously well. I get about 1000 visits a day on that thing, it’s a lot of traffic.
Ken – Now with the site and the fan club, are you taking International Members considering we are publishing this on the International side. I am sure there are going to be readers of this interview who are going to want to join.
Chris – Sure.
Ken – So I am pretty close to done, and I just wanna ask Jeff a few things. So how did it come about you joining Savatage? Did you just hear that Doc was no longer in the band and you got an audition?
Jeff – Zak Stevens and I used to work in a band together called “Wicked Witch”, this is like 88-90. Zak had previously met Savatage and he stayed in touch with them. Now when Jon Oliva left the band, someone in the Savatage camp contacted Zak. Wicked Witch was a metal band and was doing shit since the metal scene was doing nothing at the time so he joined Savatage. He left and I probably didn’t talk to him for like a year and a half then I heard about the Criss Oliva aChrisident and Zak told me that the band was going to still continue and would need a drummer so I got an audition and there I was.
Ken – The work you have done on the records is great, to me you were a welcome addition to the fold. Did you find the public as receptive and supportive when you came on board?
Jeff – Well again as I said earlier, when I joined Savatage it had changed drastically. Jon Oliva was gone, so it was Zak, Johnny Lee on bass, Alex Skolnick and me. It was bizarre, I really wasn’t thinking about that I was just kinda enjoying playing
Ken – Jeff your switch to the Roland VDrums was most certainly a noticeable change on the last couple of TSO tours. How easy was the adjustment to these devices?
Jeff – We had to change because a lot of the theaters we were playing we designed to get the best sound because I could talk at this volume from the stage and if you were sitting at the top of the venue you could hear us. So when you would hit the snare drum “POW” it was just so loud. With the VDrums you control the whole thing, and it looks really cool. I am using the tympani kit . It works out good for the TSO.
Ken – Does Roland endorse you?
Jeff- No, I pay for them.
Ken – Hey Roland, let’s get some endorsements happening as the TSO is really amazing, and Jeff makes magic on them.
Ken – I am glad that you kept real cymbals on the kit though because not only do they sound great with the electronics, but it also adds a unique look to them. So is the stuff for Chris’ album recorded with VDrums also?
Jeff – No used a regular drum kit for that.
Ken – Oh there were pictures on the site….
Chris – We were rehearsing.
Ken – So Jeff do you have time for anything else?
Jeff – No, not since I have come home from the tour as I have been busy at work with this stuff with Chris since the beginning of January and then the new stuff for TSO will be hitting the studio. I will be doing the drums for John West who has a solo thing coming out.
Ken – Do you teach?
Jeff – Yes I have a few students who I teach drums to when the time is available.
Ken – Now I loved the drum solo from the recent TSO Tour, as it’s also good to see a set of electronic drums like that played like a real kit. You so often see them as things that the drummers use as an enhancement rather than seeing them hammered. The solo really reminded me a lot of Eric Carr because he was always doing that sort of thunderous rhythm.
Jeff- I never was able to see him live, but I saw some video stuff.
Ken – This is totally complimentary by the way.
Chris – Eric was a great drummer.
Ken – He was certainly an inspiration to me. What about you guys, any influences drumwise Jeff.
Jeff- Well Neil Peart, Carter Bruford, Mike Terana I listen to everything.
Ken – Chris who inspires you?
Chris – There’s too many. Ted Nugent for one, his “Double Live Gonzo is great. Malmsteen on the very first Alcatrazz album. I think there is some of the most ferocious lead guitar playing that has ever been recorded, it’s an attitude on that record that I think has been imitated but never equaled ever. Michael Schenker is my favorite lead player.
Ken – I just saw him out in Long Island with MSG.
Chris – Yeah Michael Schenker is brilliant.
Jeff – This was M.S.G.?
Ken – Yes he did about three nights in the area, but you guys were still mid-tour.
Chris – Tony Iommi is one of my favorite song writers ever as far as guitar goes. Adrian Smith is I think also great. You wanna talk about under rated guitar players Adrian Smith is completely under rated. That’s from an ability standpoint and this guy is amazing and he never really shows it. He just does what he has to do and plays, Adrian is a brilliant player. Great songwriter.
Ken – I got my hands on the new Steve Vai DVD, live in Astoria (London not Queens). Its worth checking out.
Jeff – Who’s on drums?
Ken – Virgil Donati on drums. Billy Sheehan Bass, Tony MacAlpine – Keys.
Jeff – Wow. Killer lineup.
Ken – That brings me to the end of everything and I wanna thank you guys for taking the time out of your busy schedule to meet with me and chit chat. I wish you both nothing but the best in Savatage, TSO and solo endeavors as well as anything else in life. OK, my interview is over, let’s get a drink.
Chris and Jeff – Thanks Ken.
Editor’s Note: This article was written for another medium prior to the 2005 launch of PiercingMetal.com and has been added to our content for your enjoyment.