Music Incider interviews Jon Oliva -
Music Incider Magazine
MI: Ok, tell me about the new CD.
JO: It was a labor of love. It took a long time; we worked on
it for about a year. I'm really happy with it. I think it's
some of the best work I've ever done.
MI: Oh, I've heard it. When I found you site on MySpace
and then when I got the new CD I'm like, "My God, he's telling
stories from one CD to another CD."
JO: Why thank you.
MI: I'm being dead serious, who does your artwork? It's
JO: Actually the art design is mine. I had another album cover
already done and it just didn't work. So, in Germany this summer
I hooked up with an artist that I met through the record company. We
came up with the idea and we used a real model and it's a real photo
except for the airbrush stuff that was added to it. But, the actual photo
itself is a real photo and a real building that we found in Germany. It
was a lot of fun. They did a really great job on it and it really came
MI: I'm like, "Wow, that's a hot fucking cover." I
knew it was a photo because I'm a photographer and I'm like, "How
did he do that?"
RI: We had to lighten the guy up a little bit because he was a little
bit too sun tanned when we met him. We just powdered him up a little
bit. They found those wings and stuff, but I don't know where they
found it. When I saw it, I was at the shoot when they did it, I was
like "Damn, that's really cool." It worked out really
MI: What's your favorite track off the CD?
JO: Oh boy, I think probably "Timeless Flight" and "End
Times" are my two favorite songs. I can't really choose between
the two because I'm very fond of both of them and they're the two
songs that took the most work to do. I guess it's just what they
say and the style. I really like the style. The "Timeless
Flight" song is very special to me because the whole middle section of
the song is music that my brother Chris wrote that I incorporated into it off
of some old tapes I'd found. So, I took the piece and he actually
had the whole middle piece written on an old folk guitar, Spanish guitar. So,
I had to translate it to piano. It took about a month or so to work it
into the song and it just kind of fit right in. That song we spent the
most time on. That one has a lot of special meaning to it. So,
I guess it kind of is my favorite. "The End Times" is another
one I really like just because it's weird or a little different off of
what I normally would do. You gotta stick your thing out there on the
chopping block once and a while and hope it doesn't get chopped off.
MI: What blew me is that you got that Cooper influence.
JO: Yeah, I was a big Alice Cooper fan. I loved Alice's
stuff, especially the earlier days. A lot of my influences definitely
peak out the Cooper, the Queen, the Beatles stuff. That all kind of worked
right into it.
MI: I think it's just fantastic. Tell me about your musical
JO: I started playing drums when I was five and that was because I saw
the Beatles on tv and I wanted a drum set. My parents, on my fifth or
sixth birthday, bought me a drum set. I started on drums and as time
went on I started getting interested in other things like the guitar. I
picked up that and had my older brother who played a little bit and taught
me how to play. Of course my younger brother who just wanted to do everything
that his older brothers did. We started to get him to play and we just
went from there. From the time I was like 6 to 12 or 13 I had already
started playing guitar and a little bit of piano. My father was a concert
pianist so we always had a piano in the house. He gave me lessons. Not
a lot because we didn't get along very well when I was younger because
we were so much alike.
MI: Yeah, I know that feeling; I got the same thing with my dad.
JO: Yeah, he saw that I had a natural ability and just let me run with
it and I just kept going and taught myself mainly.
MI: You did a great job.
JO: Why thank you.
MI: How long have you been in the industry if you don't mind me
JO: Oh my God, a hundred and fifty years? *laughing* No,
since 80, professionally, since 83, so it's about 25 years.
MI: What would you advise any young band going in to sign with a label.
JO: Be a plumber.
JO: Actually, the advice I would give is don't sign anything unless
the lawyer is your brother. Be very careful. There's a lot
of shifty people in our business. I know because I cross paths with about
150 of them. They're out there and you just gotta be careful; you
gotta read every little paragraph, every little subparagraph, and every little
thing, and it's best to have someone that's taking care of you
that you can really trust. I ran into that problem early with Sabotage. We
had a lot of people take advantage of us and that's a lot of the reasons
why Sabotage never really made it.
MI: And Sabotage was fantastic.
JO: Yeah, and we never really made to that big, big level because we
were always in debt.
MI: So, what exactly happened with you and Sabotage?
JO: Nothing really, we just kinda, … After Chris passed away
it was very difficult. I kept it going and we kept making records and
actually, Sabotage, post Chris Oliva, was really the birth of the Trans Siberian
Orchestra. We were moving away from the heavier metal sound like the
Dead Winter Dead Record and The Wake of Magellan record, if you took a few
songs off there, that were a little bit heavier, that could have easily been
Trans Siberian Orchestra records. That was kind of what we were going
for. You don't replace someone like Chris.
MI: You can't.
JO: You can't. I didn't want to try to do that. I
had some great players play with us, Al Pitrelli, Alex Skolnick – guys
who were great guitar players but they still, as great as they are, they're
not Chris Oliva. So, I figured instead of trying to copy what we had
it was better than we tried to move into a new direction. It just got
to the point where we were getting frustrated because we had the song "12
24" which Paul O'Niel and I knew was a number one song. We
knew it was a hit song. No one would play it when we issued it as a Sabotage
record. Not one radio station in the Country except for the three down
here in the South would play it. To prove it, the next year we re-released
the song and stuck a Christmas tree on the cover and called it Tran-Siberian
Orchestra and it was the number one song in the Country.
MI: Here you go from this big metal band, you put out this Christmas
album with Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and boom you got a hit record.
JO: It sold like millions and millions of records. The funny thing
is it's really just Sabotage. Even Trans-Siberian Orchestra today
is Sabotage. We evolved into Trans-Siberian Orchestra. I think
after you give the heavy metal thing 20 some odd years, and the guys from Sabotage
we busted our asses for 20 years and we spent the best years of our life cooped
up in a bus or in a hotel room or in a recording studio trying to get Sabotage
to that Metallica level. Which, I think we deserved to be there, but
it was just every time we would start to get ahead, something from our past
would come up and slap us down. You know debts and law suits. It
just became so frustrating that we just finally said we gotta do something. We
came up with the Trans-Siberian idea and we were gunna keep Sabotage going. Sabotage
is not a disbanded band, we're just taking a break. After 25 years
I figure we deserve to take a break. The Trans-Siberian is doing so
well for us that there really isn't any need to do anything else with
that right now except ride it out.
MI: They were just in Atlanta, the Trans-Siberian.
JO: Yeah, I was just there.
MI: I'm like, who are they? I've got to cover them;
I want to know who they are.
JO: It's certain members of Sabotage with different singers. The
writing and the album is all me, Paul, Al, Chris Kathry, Johnny, Jeff Plate,
it's all the guys from Sabotage are on the albums. No one else
plays on the albums but us. Live when we do the Christmas tour because
of the demand we have to split into two touring groups. We have some
of the guys in the East Coast touring group and some of the guys are in the
West Coast touring group. That's the only way we can do it. It's
successful and we've already doubled our sales from last year. You
know, God Bless, knock on wood.
MI: So what made you decide to put out a solo album?
JO: Well, because I want to use my own outlets. The Trans-Siberian
thing is Paul O'Neil's baby. I mean, it's his idea,
and he comes up with the stories and I just write to his stories with the music. I
mean, there's thing that I want to say and there are things that I want
to get off my chest. I miss the heavy metal thing. This JLP thing
is a perfect outlet for me and I figure that of course with this album having
some lost Chris Oliva music added on to it then to me it's more like
a Sabotage record then even the last four Sabotage records. This is because
you've got me singing and music from me and my brother. *dog
barking in the background* My dog's freaking out.
MI: Don't worry about it.
JO: SHUUUT UP! *laughs*
MI: Try the cats, my cat shits all over the floor. Don't
worry about it. What is the most memorable show you ever played live.
JO: The most memorable show live was probably the Dynamo Festival, 1996
or 97. It was a 100 – 150 thousand people. It rained on every
single band except for us. *mischievous laugh* It was very
weird, because we got there and it was a three-day festival, and it was raining
the whole first day. It rained the whole second day. We played
on the last night, last afternoon around 4 in the afternoon and a half-hour
before we came out, it stopped raining, the clouds parted, the sun came out,
beach balls started flying all over the place, we came out and played and as
soon as we hit the last chord of "Hall of the Mountain King" it
started raining again and rained the whole rest of the time. It was the
most memorable because we had the best show case. We had no rain, the
sun was out, people were going crazy taking their clothes off, runnin' around
going mad, and everybody else they were hiding under plastic bags. It
was a great day; it was Chris parting the skies for us.
MI: Yeah, it was, it probably was. Do you plan to make any videos
for this CD?
JO: Yeah, actually we're filming in March.
MI: Which song?
JO: I think we're going to do four or five of them. I'm
not sure. I know we're going to do "Through The Eyes Of
The King," "Maniacal Renderings," "Timeless Flight," and "The
Evil Beside You," and I think the other one is going to be "The
Answer." That seems to be getting a lot of attention and it's
also up for a movie.
MI: I was just going to ask you that, that's weird.
JO: Oh yeah, I've got some stuff up for movies.
MI: Really? Well, speaking of movies, if a movie was made of your
life, who would you want to play you and what would you want the theme song
MI: You like that, baby! I've got some fucked up questions!
JO: Well, if Al Pachino put on some pounds I'd ask him to do it
and the theme song would have to be "Death On Two Legs." *laughs*
MI: Oh, Jesus Christ you are bad. Do you believe in psychics?
MI: Have you had a psychic reading?
JO: Oh yeah.
MI: Has it come to pass?
JO: No. *laughs*
MI: Oh, Jesus fucking Christ. Do you believe in reincarnation?
MI: Who do you think you were in a past life?
JO: A plumber. *laughs* I don't know, I've
never really thought of that. Probably something to do with music, maybe
I was an old-time composer or something.
MI: Speaking of old-time composers, because I went off after Dimebag
Darrell died, I attacked William Grims out of a Columbus paper and I had said
to him, because he called him a "Barbarian" and a "No Talent" and
all this shit, and I had attacked several papers, but him, name why?
JO: I don't blame you, Darrell was a sweet guy. One of the
sweetest guys you've ever met.
MI: Well, I said to him, "You know, Mr. Grim, imagine if it was
your son on the floor and your other son was watching your son die. How
would you feel then?" Then people reading your response, his family
reading your response.
JO: That's just disgusting. Anyone who can call themselves
a human-being and saying something like that should just be beat.
JO: I know what it's like to loose somebody that you love and
it's a very, very traumatic experience. Just to have somebody say
something like that …
MI: Oh, it was horrible. I wasn't a Pantera fan, but I was
more into Cooper, Rob Zombie, Glen Danzig, Megadeth. Even though I hate
James Hetfield for violating Dave Mustane, he can rot in hell, even though
it's more of Lars' fault, but we'll blame both of them.
JO: I love Dave; Dave is a great guy.
MI: Dave is a great guy; that is one guy I would love to go to bed with
and that's between me and you.
JO: Ok, I'll let him know that. *laughs*
MI: Ok, you let Dave know that and you tell him MSO banned me from his
whole fucking tour nation wide. Ok, you tell Dave that and kick Mitch
Schneider's ass. But, here's the thing though: how
did the death of Dimebag affect you?
JO: I was stunned. I remember meeting Darrelll, God, way back
at the Dallas city limits and he and his brother came on the bus. Me
and my brother were in the back lounging. We sat there and got so stoned
and just talked about music. They always would come and see us play whenever
we were in town and they took us to the titty bar and everything. They
were just great guys, what can you say? I hadn't seen them for
a long time and when that happened I got a phone call, I think it was like
5 o'clock in the morning, from a friend of mine that lives in Columbus
and he told me what happened and I was just numb. I mean, that's
the only word I can say, as I sat, I lit a cigarette and I took drag off the
cigarette. I was sitting at my kitchen table. The next thing I
know, I look and the cigarette was all the way burnt down to the filter, I
didn't even take another drag off of it, I was just stunned. I
was just sitting there like, "What kind of fucking World is this?" and
it's like I don't believe it. Of course you hear at first
multiple stories and until I actually sat down and got exactly what happened,
I thought it was, the way it sounded to me it was like it was some kind of
terrorist thing or something. That's the way the guys that told
me explained it to me. When I found out what happened I felt so bad for
his bro. I mean, I just …
MI: Well, I was amazed, because like three or four days after Darrelll
passed I was getting ready to do his obituary on the tribute cover for Dimebag. I'm
going through this and something's telling me to call up 1-800-US-ARMY
and the Marine Corps. I should have had my fucking tape recorder on,
I should have, I would have had the whole fucking US government into pieces. They
turned around and he said, "we've always trained our troops to
music, all types of music." I said, "So, how does this affect
the death of Darrell Abbott and Nathan Gail?" They said, "We had
nothing to do with the death of Dimebag Darrell, we had nothing to do with
the death of Darrell Abbott and we can not release any information on Mr. Gail." I'm
like, "Yeah, Uh huh, you just released him on the site singin' 'Mommy
just went out and bought him a gun because he was a good soldier.'" They
didn't know what the fuck to say.
JO: Yeah, they usually don't know what to say.
MI: They don't know what to say. Are you scared to perform
now on-road since Darrell's death?
JO: Well, I tell ya, ever since that happened I don't go anywhere
without a body guard now; especially in Europe because they really don't
like us over there. Thanks to our buddy George.
MI: Yeah, George, tell me about it.
JO: It's definitely something that I think about; especially after
what happened to Dime. It's like, it's always the great,
the sweetest guys that go. My brother, Dime, you know my brother was
a lot like Dime. They were just the sweetest guys and they would do
anything for you.
MI: What did your brother pass from, if you don't mind me asking?
JO: He got killed by a drunk driver.
MI: Oh my God.
JO: A seven-time habitual drunk driver.
MI: Tell me he got killed, that they executed him.
JO: The guy that hit him? No! The guy that hit him got
three years in jail.
MI: That's all he got?!
JO: That's all he got. He killed my brother and got three
years in jail.
MI: I am so sorry.
* Transcriber's Note (Jesse Turner): That is beyond fucked. How
many more people have to die for shit to happen? Godamnit, that's
JO: It's so fucking ridiculous that I have to block that away. My
rage with that is that if I ever came face-to-face with that person I would
be wearing a yellow jumpsuit or an orange jumpsuit right now because I'd
rip him into a thousand pieces.
MI: I wouldn't blame you.
JO: But you know what, sweetheart? Things happen for a reason,
but it's just sad when people you love are just lurched away from you
for a senseless reason. I miss Dime a lot and I miss my brother a lot
and there will always be a part of them in all of us.
MI: You know what you do? You imagine them up there with Jimmi
Hendrix and the rest of them having a good godamn time downing Black Tooth
Grins. That's what you gotta do.
JO: You're right. It's just sad, I feel bad for the
families, especially the parents. I know what my parents have gone through
and what his parents have gone through.
MI: Right, exactly, because as I'm going through Dime's
history I'm saying to myself, "he's going to be buried next
to his mom. His dad, Jerry is a very famous producer, he's got
to be reading the fucking newspapers all across the country by now. Seeing
what they have to say about Darrell." I'm like, "God
good, I hope to God the sweet old man did not have to read this shit."
MI: Now, did you see their new video from Big Vin Records?
JO: No, I haven't.
MI: You gotta see that. That kicks ass.
JO: I'll have to check that out.
MI: It's called "Nothing to Nothing." I don't
know if you've got Comcast where you are. But, they're got
David Allen Co. on vocals, they've got Rucks Brat on bass, I believe
it is, they've got Dime on guitar, I don't know how they superimposed
Dime in there, but they've got Dime on guitar, and Vinney on drums. You
would never think Dime had passed.
JO: Oh, cool! I gotta check that out.
MI: You've gotta check that out. You can find it on Yahoo. What
pisses you off most about the world today? Here we go and I know it's
going to start with the Bush man.
JO: The obviously, just the violence, the senseless violence. It's
like what the fuck, man?! Put the fucking guns down and just fucking
chill out. Go smoke a joint or something. Just give us a break. That's
the thing that just really and the crooked religious people.
MI: What about the crooked religious people? Which ones are we
talking about? I just had the Mormons' at the door and the Jehovah's
the other day.
JO: Well, that's what that whole song "End Times" is
all about. It's about the crooked religious people that are after
these poor old people. Especially down here where I live in Florida
and you read about it all the time where they just take them for every people
that these poor people have.
MI: Oh shit, they do. They do it in New York, too.
JO: They do it all in the name of God. That's the scary
thing. So, that along with the senseless violence stuff; that's
the stuff that really bothers me. I mean, it worries me, I have children. They're
gunna have children. You know, it's like, what kind of fuckin' world
is this? Can't you guys just unwrap that turban from around your
head because it's squeezing your brain. You're not thinking
right. I've read the Koran. I've read that shit and
I've never seen anything in the Koran were it says it's ok to slaughter
people. I've gone through this shit. Basically, it's
been misinterpreted. But, you gotta look at these people: they have nothing,
they come from nothing, and they're very easily manipulated. They
have nothing in their life, they have no life. It's very easy to
take advantage of their brains by blaming us for everything. It's
sad, but I think that good always triumphs over evil.
MI: How do you think Bush is handling the situation?
JO: He's an idiot. He's a fucking idiot. *laughs* But, I mean, what choice did we have? Kerry or Bush? Jesus Christ,
it's like choosing between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck. I'm
not a very big fan of Bush.
MI: I bet you voted for Daffy Duck.
JO: I voted for Yosamite Sam, actually. "Go, varmits!" *mockingly
MI: You did?! *laughs*
JO: I hate politicians, I really do, it's such bullshit. All
they do is lie. They tell you what they want you to know.
MI: The one that I love is Bush's we're gunna bring the
troops home by June.
JO: And monkeys are gunna fly outta my ass.
MI: When are they coming home?
JO: My youngest nephew is over there. He's got his whole
life ahead of him and he's out there, he's in the ARMY. It's
MI: I watched the movie Fahrenheit 9/11. Did you watch it?
MI: I'm watching this movie and I'm watchin' these
soldiers go through the malls. These soldiers are saying, well, that's
too rich, that mall is too rich. That's too classy. So, they
attack the middle class mall. I'm like, "this is fuckin' stupid." They
were interviewing these two black kids. They said, "well you know,
we can make you as famous as Snoop Dogg or whatever you know, he was in the
service, too, you know!" And I'm like, Jimmi Hendrix was
too and he came home, though! This is bigger than Hendrix. To me
this is like another Vietnam but worse.
JO: It basically is. It's sad, because there's a lot
of young kids that are going to loose their lives for nothing.
MI: It is the truth. If you were God for a week, what would you
JO: Oh God, the whole world. I would change a lot of things. I
would end violence, I mean to me that's the biggest thing; because that's
where everything is based around greed and violence. That's what
it's all about. Abolish greed and abolish violence and you'll
have a safe world.
MI: How did 9/11 affect you?
JO: It was tragic; I lost seven of my friends in that.
MI: Oh my God, I am so sorry.
JO: That song "The Answer" was the song I wrote right after
that happened and I was afraid to release it. I didn't release 'til
this year because of a lyric, I didn't want people to think I was anti-God,
but if you listen to the lyrics of that song …
MI: *finishing the sentence* You do God bashing, but you really don't. It's
just like, you know who Trace Atkins is? I call him Trace "The
Pelvis" Atkins because every time I shot him at Music Midtown last year
he kept shoving his crotch in my face. So, I'm gunna do the interview
as Trace "The Pelvis" Atkins. But, I saw his last video "Arlington." Everybody
that I know from the Midwest say, "Oh my God, it's a beautiful
video. It's a beautiful tribute to the troops that are coming home
dead." And I'm like, "No, it's an anti-Bush
song." Then, you're not seeing the message. I don't
want to come home to this, I want to come home alive.
MI: That's one video you have to see.
JO: Yeah, I'll check that out.
MI: Who do you think the greatest musician was of all time and why?
JO: Probably John Lennon to me.
MI: Did you see the new movie?
MI: How was it?
JO: It's brilliant.
MI: I'm dyin' to see that.
JO: Go see it. It's brilliant; probably him because he meant the
most to me. I thought he was the most innovative and creative musician
of our time.
MI: Oh, because I know tonight, I'm doing something for the Grammys,
I'm gunna go see this movie "Before the Music Dies." That
is supposed to be a hot one.
MI: I'll let you know how that turns out. What's the worst job
you ever had? Before you became a plumber!
JO: The worst job I ever had was probably when I worked on a construction
crew for two days. Cutting down bushes around swamps full of alligators
MI: Oh my God, you have to be a Sagittarian.
JO: No, Cancer.
MI: Oh, you are a little Cancer boy. Ok, give me your opinion
on computerized music, you know that stuff that's comin' out in that rap crap
JO: *interrupts* Hate it! *laughs*
MI: ... and the hip hop bullshit ...
JO: Hate it!
MI: Ok, what is your opinion about the rap lines in the middle of rock
and roll and metal songs these days, for example: Limp Bizkit and POD.
JO: Hate it!
MI: Ooo-k! What do you think about Metallica kicking out Dave
JO: Oh, I don't know, I didn't hear very much about it. I wasn't
really a big fan of Metallica.
MI: It was horrible, the rumor is that they woke him up and gave him
60 bucks and told him to go back to LA.
JO: Really? I didn't even know anything about that.
MI: Did you read the new book by Lann Friend, "Life on Planet Rock?"
MI: That is one book I will tell you to read.
JO: I'll have to pick that up.
MI: That is a damn good book. What is your favorite movie of all
JO: Oh, boy, probably God Father part I, the unedited.
MI: Jesus Christ, you and me should get married. Good God we have
so much in common. What do you think of the state of the music industry
JO: I think it's shaky.
MI: You think the ropes are shaking again?
JO: Yeah, I think it just needs help. That's the best way I can
describe it. You know, record sales have plummeted because of the Internet. But,
I think the Internet is good for a lot of things. It's definitely affected
bands and their recording budgets, and record labels and the amount of money
they want to spend to do things now, they've almost forced them to have shitty
MI: I had some guy contact me from a Napster like thing and he said
to me, for $144 or $400, and I'm like yeah, what's the catch? He said,
you know you can download any song that you want to be played on your site. I
said, "yeah," because I also have a MySpace account and my page is
MI: He goes, the person pays 90 cents, you make 70 cents, and I said,
what does the artist make? He couldn't answer me. How long is the
cut of the track? He goes, "Maybe two or three seconds." I'm
like, "Oh no, if you're going to do that then you've got to give them
at least a whole song to listen to before they buy it."
MI: That's how I see it.
JO: Sweetheart, I've got 4 minutes before my next interview.
MI: Ok, here we go, have you ever had a paranormal experience?
JO: Yes, I have seen ghosts.
JO: In the Blairsville, Recording Studios in the Catskills in New York.
JO: Where Jimmi Hendrix, Todd Rungrand, and the Rolling Stones recorded
up there. That place was haunted as it could be.
MI: Ok, I've got to go up there.
JO: You must check that place out.
MI: I will check that out. What do you think the best thing ever
to happen to rock and roll was?
JO: The Beatles.
MI: If you had a million dollars what charity would you make a donation
MI: Do you have a message for your fans?
JO: I love them, just enjoy the record, and God bless you all and be
MI: What is the website?
MI: Do you have a MySpace account?
MI: You have a great next interview, Jon, it was great talking to you.
JO: It was great talking to you.
MI: I promise you, I'm going to do this, I'm going to email
you through your website. I'm going to send you a copy of the interview
and the CD review and it will be going up on both sites.
JO: Thank you so much. Alright, take care of yourself and happy
MI: You too, have a good Christmas, be good, baby. Bye, bye.