ZAK STEVENS Hints At New SAVATAGE Music, Says Fans Should 'Keep Being Patient'
April 7, 2023
In a new interview with Jeff Gaudiosi of MisplacedStraws.com, vocalist Zak Stevens spoke about the status of SAVATAGE, the cult metal band which resurfaced in 2015 for an appearance at Germany's Wacken Open Air festival but hasn't performed live since then. He said: "We got a lot of work done at the end of last year with SAVATAGE. In 2015, we came together and played Wacken, with TSO [TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA] andSAVATAGE at the same time. Very aggressive. That was cool. And then the idea was to come back and play and do another record. So we're still on target for that. We got more work done coming into this year… When we were all there playing with TSO, we all just got to meet and get together and have meetings. And I was very excited about that. So we're making progress.
"I have to tell everybody, just on the SAVATAGE side, keep being patient, 'cause we're doing everything we can," Zak explained. "We got a few things outside of our control, but it's not a big deal, and we're just kind of working through those. And we got the music rolling. We're working on a lot. It's abundant, I'll say that. So everybody's got a job to do.
"That's one area that I would like to see really develop — get SAVATAGE back out there," Stevens added. "It came to my mind when I was talking about playing festivals — that's the perfect way. If we came out with this album, we can go straight to doing that, and it would make so many people happy, including everybody in the band and people who've been waiting for SAVATAGE to do something else."
Asked if he is ever surprised that people are still interested in SAVATAGE, Zak said: "It's amazing. It's a blessing, is what it is. We have our job to do. I just want everybody to know we're doing everything we can. We got a few little things on the management, the label side, try to make a few decisions, but we're just real blessed that that's still the case — that there is such a demand out there for the band. For me, it's kind of everything that my career is based on. That was the first major band I was in, being the second singer for SAVATAGE. So there would be nothing greater than to get everything rolling again."
Zak joined SAVATAGE in 1992 as the replacement of original vocalist Jon 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 the aforementioned Wacken Open Air performance, 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.
Back in January 2022, Chris Caffery, who has been a member of SAVATAGE for more than 30 years, told Sea Of Tranquility about the possibility of new music from the band: "I started working on stuff with [Jon]; he started working on stuff with Al. We have a bunch of pieces to a puzzle now. I think that we all have some really cool music, and if it does happen, it'll be a fun SAVATAGE album. It'll be a good way to celebrate everything we did.'
In the spring of 2021, Jon Oliva told That Metal Interview that he had been working with Caffery and Pitrelli on new SAVATAGE material "over the last couple of years." Oliva went on to say that he and his SAVATAGE bandmates "would all love" to make a new studio album. "But there's no deal with a record company to do it," he explained. "There's no plan — actual plan — saying we're gonna start recording SAVATAGE. There's no plan like that. All we're doing, as being musicians and songwriters, is we're compiling new material. So if we do get, 'Hey, why don't you guys do this? We've got a company that wants to give you guys [a deal], we're gonna be prepared.
"A lot of the fans, which it makes me upset, because SAVATAGE fans, I love them so much, because they have never, ever turned their backs on SAVATAGE — ever. And I just don't want to lead them down a road of false shit," he added. "If something happens where we say, 'Okay, we're ready to do this. Let's do it, guys,' I will be the first person to make a professional press release to tell everybody. But I just don't want to, because it's not solidified in stone right now. Do we wanna do it? You bet your fucking ass we wanna do It. But do we have the material for it? You bet your fucking ass we have enough material for another 10-year run. But all I can say is if we do a SAVATAGE thing, it's gonna fuck you people up — it's gonna be fucking blowaway."
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.
In addition to SAVATAGE, Zak has been the singer of several other bands and projects, including ARCHON ANGEL, CIRCLE II CIRCLE and the aforementioned TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA.
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