On February 1, Metal Discovery webzine conducted an interview with JON OLIVA'S PAIN/SAVATAGE mastermind Jon Oliva. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metal Discovery: The new album sounds awesome. I understand the "Festival" concept came from a nightmare you had in a Dutch hotel room?
Oliva: Yeah, actually, yeah. I had a freezing cold nightmare and I woke up, and just not thinking because I was half asleep. I shut the windows and turned the heat up all the way and then went back to sleep, and went into this crazy nightmare. Pretty much if you've seen the artwork of the front cover, that's kind of where I was. The guy caught it, so… when he showed me the artwork, I almost passed out! But it was basically that type of a thing, and it was just weird. There were lots of other little things that popped in and out. A lot of the songs on the record, lyric-wise, have all come from either dreams or nightmares that I've had over the past couple of years. So that whole idea — the festival, the kind of haunted nightmare — I'll just write about some of my dream experiences. You know, at my age I'm running out of shit to write about!
Metal Discovery: Because the lyrics were born from nightmares, does that explain why the material's predominantly darker in atmosphere on the album?
Oliva: Yeah, that also, and the fact I like to make my albums different. The last album, "Global Warning", which I'm very fond of, was a very keyboard-heavy album and it was a very experimental album for me. I had a lot of older material; pieces from my brother [late SAVATAGE guitarist Criss Oliva] and me that I wanted to get released. So this album, I wanted to go back a little bit. I wrote most of it on guitar… and I just wanted to get back to more my roots, and get a little bit darker, and a little bit eerie. Just to have a little bit more fun, you know.
Metal Discovery: Yeah, it works brilliantly; it's fantastic. I understand a lot of the material was written while you were on tour in Europe last summer. Would you say that explains the more straightforward approach and kind of raw energy in the songwriting compared to the more experimental "Global Warning"?
Oliva: Yeah, well, basically a lot of the writing was done on the tour bus and I couldn't fit a grand piano in the back lounge, so I settled for a… We actually had a couple four-track machines and a little practice guitar rig back there so a lot of the stuff just ended up being written while we were driving all over Europe last summer. I've never done that before. I've always… especially on "Global", I wrote a lot of that in my home studio where I've got pianos, and harpsichords, and everything. I was kinda limited to an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar, and occasionally, at soundchecks or something, I'd be able to fiddle with my keyboard a little bit. But only one song was really a keyboard written song and that's the last one on the album.
Metal Discovery: I gather there are some more previously unused Criss riffs in some of the songs on "Festival". Is it important for you to always have his songwriting presence on each of the albums?
Oliva: Well, as long as the tapes last. The sad thing is… I'm down to the last eight or nine cassettes. When I started JON OLIVA'S PAIN, I had about fifty of 'em. I've gone through pretty much all of 'em and I've got about eight or nine left, so hopefully there'll be enough left to have Criss part of the next album and maybe the one after. But, unfortunately, that's gonna be coming to an end soon and that's gonna be a sad, sad day for me because, in a way, it's kinda like Criss has been a little member of the band for the last four albums. You know, his material's been on every JON OLIVA'S PAIN album, and that's really important to me and the guys. The guys… they always ask me, "You got any more Criss riffs? And I'm like, "I'm looking, I'm looking!" [laughs] It's a very exciting thing for us and I think, on this album, he's on four or five songs. "Lies", which is the first song, that's a lot of his music. Actually, the whole verse section I sing is Criss' music. "Living on the Edge" is kind of a remake of a SAVATAGE demo that we had back in the "Gutter Ballet" period, and there's a lot of his music in that song. The ballad at the end is kind of half his and half mine. His part is the chorus section and my parts are the verse section. There are a couple of other songs where he has little riffs in there; I can't remember which ones they are now, to be honest with you. I think "The Evil Within" is one and there's one other one where there's just one little riff that I grabbed. But those other three songs, he's got significant writing in all three of those — they're basically half his and half my music, so that's great, and that's always a positive for me. You know, it's good for the fans they get to hear stuff that they would never have heard. If there wasn't a JON OLIVA'S PAIN, they would never have heard this music of his.
Metal Discovery: When you started JON OLIVA'S PAIN, was there any part of you that was ever tempted to perhaps take a quicker route to success and call yourselves SAVATAGE or was it always important for you to have a completely separate identity for the new music?
Oliva: I had every right and every intention to call the band SAVATAGE, and I was gonna call it SAVATAGE Phase 3 — you know, the third basic period of the band. You had the Criss Oliva period, then the non-Criss Oliva period, and now this period, but I didn't know, at first, if I wanted to be in a band again. For the first one, I did the "'Tage Mahal" record — it was kinda like a test. I was gonna see how it went and how people accepted it, and see if I was happy being back in a band situation again, and as time went on I got comfortable with the guys and I was like, "You know what?! Let's build the band ourselves and then see what happens in another two or three years and, if I decide I wanna do something like that, I'll make the change properly where I'll do a big record and I'll have some of the guys from the old band come and play on a few tracks, and pass the torch on to the new phase of it." It's something I toyed with the idea but, you know, the JON OLIVA'S PAIN thing has been growing very, very strongly over the last two or three years and I'm happy with that. I'm just gonna ride it out and see what happens. I'd like to end my career using the name SAVATAGE. The chances of a SAVATAGE reunion with the guys from the "Dead Winter Dead" period happening is so minute to next to impossible that it might be something I decide to do in another couple of years. So, I don't know, I'll just have to see how things go.
Read the entire interview from Metal Discovery webzine.