JON OLIVA Says Upcoming SAVATAGE Album And Tour Will Be His 'Way Of Saying Goodbye To Everybody'
April 20, 2023
In a new interview with Sakis Fragos of Greece's Rock Hard, SAVATAGE leader Jon Oliva confirmed that he is working on new music from the cult metal outfit. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "This [next] SAVATAGE record is going to fuck people up. It's that good.
"I've made these mistakes before. I'm not making these mistakes now. I'm not rushing it," he explained. "I figure, well, I wanna get it out by next April so that I can come over with everybody. We all wanna come and do the festivals next summer. And I'm, like, I'm not rushing this. No fucking way. 'Cause this will probably be the last album we ever do. And I'm gonna make sure that it's a 10 out of a 10."
According to Oliva, there are plenty of ideas to choose from for SAVATAGE's upcoming LP. "I have enough material right now for three albums," he said. "And what I'm going to do is I'm going to condense it down. I'm gonna try to condense it down to one album with three bonus tracks. I'm gonna record everything when I get the guys down here. So we're gonna record all the shit that we've got. And in case I wanna do another album, I'll have it all ready to go. That's the gameplan."
Regarding the musical direction of the new SAVATAGE material, Jon said: "Some of this shit is really strong. I'm even looking at myself going, 'Holy shit. This is really strong.' And the fact that you're gonna have me and [SAVATAGE singer] Zak [Stevens] sharing the vocals and doing songs together in like a duet thing, is even more… it blows me away. I purposely wrote five or six songs specifically for Zak to sing. And then I worked [on] a lot of songs with Al Pitrelli [guitar] that are definitely, 'These are Oliva songs.' And then we have a couple of big epic songs.
"This is gonna be the best album I ever made," Oliva promised. "Unless I kill myself. All I know is that the SAVA fans are gonna be fucking blown away when they hear this. They're gonna be blown away. I wasn't gonna do the SAVATAGE thing and just do a half-assed album. If I'm doing this album, it's gonna be the best album I've ever done. 'Cause when I go out, I wanna go out on top."
Jon went on to say that a new SAVATAGE song called "For The Man Who Would Be King" is one that he sometimes refers to as "the new 'Morphine Child'," a nod to the track on SAVATAGE's 2001 album "Poets And Madmen". "And that's one that me and Zak are gonna do together," he explained. "And then it's got this big middle section that's all these QUEEN, operatic[-style vocals]. I'm, like, 'Wow, this is gonna be epic.'"
Regarding which other musicians will be involved in the recording process for the new SAVATAGE album, Jon said: "I'm gonna have [former SAVATAGE drummer Steve] Wacholz come in and play on a couple of songs. But Jeff Plate [drums], Johnny [Lee Middleton, bass], Al Pitrelli [guitar], Chris Caffery [guitar], Zak, me, and on a couple of things I'm gonna have Jane Mangini [TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA keyboardist] come in and play. And maybe the Ukrainian guy Vitalij Kuprij… 'Cause I have a couple of things that are beyond my capabilities of playing, and I figured instead of me spending a month trying to play this, I'll have one of these guys… My keyboard players with TSO, they're some of the best in the world — by far. So I'm, like, 'Oliva, are you stupid? Why you are gonna sit there and try to…? You can't do it. With four arms you couldn't do it.'"
He continued: "I'm getting everybody involved from the beginning. I want it to be a full-band album, all of us working together. And it's gonna be great."
Asked about a possible title for the new SAVATAGE album, Jon said: "The working title is 'Curtain Call', but I don't know if that's gonna be it. 'Cause the very last song that's gonna be on the album is this song called 'Curtain Call', and it's just me with a piano, and it's very deep. It's basically me singing to the fans, telling them all goodbye and thank you. Every time I hear it, I cry. Everybody I played it for cries. It's just very deep. But it's my way of saying goodbye to everybody. 'Thank you. I love you all. And this is my final goodbye. Thank you. Have a good life. And do whatever.' So I think I'm gonna call it 'Curtain Call', but it's not in stone yet."
As for a timeline for the recording sessions for the new SAVATAGE LP, Oliva said: "We're gonna work on it and record it starting in June, and we're gonna work on it until we have to go to Omaha for TSO rehearsals. And then after the TSO tour, in January we're gonna come back and finish it up in January and February. And I wanna put it out on Criss's [Oliva, late SAVATAGE guitarist and Jon's brother] birthday [in April] next year."
Jon also talked about SAVATAGE's touring plans, saying: "We have a lot of offers to come over and do festivals. And I'm, like, all right, man, look… I'm not 25 anymore. If we're gonna do this, I wanna do Wacken [Open Air in Germany] — I wanna do them all. And that's it. And be done with it. It's my way of saying goodbye to everybody. Giving the fans a goodbye from me and the guys to them. 'Hey, we love you.'
"I've loved our fans forever," he added. "They've provided me with a living. And I'm not gonna let them down. I'm gonna come out and I'm gonna be out there next summer doing the festivals and we're gonna kick ass."
Zak joined SAVATAGE in 1992 as the replacement of Oliva. Zak sang on four albums with the band — "Edge Of Thorns" (1993),"Handful Of Rain" (1994),"Dead Winter Dead" (1995) and "The Wake Of Magellan" (1997) — before departing in 2000, allowing Jon to return. Both Jon and Zak took part in SAVATAGE's 2015 performance at Wacken Open Air, which marked the band's first, and only so far, appearance on stage since they went on hiatus back in 2002.
SAVATAGE's last album release, "Poets And Madmen", in 2001 was highlighted by Jon's return as lead vocalist, replacing Zak, who left the band citing family reasons, and the departure of guitarist Al Pitrelli, who accepted an offer to join MEGADETH in 2000. Pitrelli did record solos for some songs prior to his departure. Another very limited U.S. tour followed, supported by FATES WARNING in the early shows, and then NEVERMORE for the remainder. Around this time, Jon chose Zak's replacement in the form of Damond Jiniya (DIET OF WORMS). Damond performed Zak's parts on tour, with Jon having an increased vocal role in proceedings.
In September 2021, Jon Oliva was arrested on the west central coast of Florida for driving under the influence as well as possession of a controlled substance. Police charged Oliva with possession of cocaine, which is a felony, and DUI, which is a misdemeanor.
Back in 2016, Jon announced on social media that he suffered a stroke in April of that year. At the time, he said: "It was not as serious as it could have been, but it did leave me with some physical recovery challenges often associated with strokes."
Despite his health issues, Jon said that he didn't regret the way he had lived his life. He wrote: "I lived the rock 'n' roll lifestyle since I was 18. It's all I knew and I enjoyed the ride very much. But there comes a time in everyone's life where you have to step back and make some life-changing decisions... which I have."
Shortly after SAVATAGE's reunion performance at the 2015 Wacken Open Air festival in Wacken, Germany, Oliva claimed that he felt better than he had in 20 years because he had "stopped drinking and eating" in preparation for the concert. He explained: "It's my voice that's freaking me out, because, even when I was in my late 20s, early 30s, doing songs like '24 Hours Ago' were always really hard to do. And, of course, I didn't realize that it was all the drugs and alcohol I was doing. But, after doing that, getting my act together and stuff, singing '24 Hours Ago', it's actually easy now. [Laughs]"
In addition to his work with SAVATAGE, Oliva is well known for co-creating the classical music-meets-prog rock and pyro act TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA alongside the project's founder Paul O'Neill. Oliva has reportedly remained involved in TSO's activities even after O'Neill's April 2017 death of an accidental drug overdose.
Jon's brother Criss, who was one of the founding members of SAVATAGE, was killed in October 1993 by a drunk driver when he and his wife Dawn were en route to the Livestock festival in Zephyrhills, Florida. The driver of the other car was found to have a drunk driving record of seven prior DUIs and having a blood alcohol content of .294 percent.
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