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01/09/2006 – Interview with Jon Oliva, mastermind of JON OLIVA'S PAIN

Originally planned for the the 31st of August, due to telephone problems the interview with the Mountain King aka Jon Oliva was postponed until the 1st September. He couldn't call me as he was at another studio - working on new TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA songs - where one can't make overseas calls. So I had to call him, which wasn't a problem. ;-)

JON OLIVA'S PAIN released its second album very recently. Titled "Maniacal Renderings", this is the follow-up to 2004's "'Tage Mahal". Both albums are of course outstanding pieces of Metal, and it's only since a couple of days that I added the debut to my collection. Shame on me, indeed, for Jon's previous band - the mighty SAVATAGE - is among my favourite bands of all time and was a major influence during my childhood. But now I'm up-to-date again with both JON OLIVA'S PAIN albums. :-)

For this interview I tried to focus on the latest album and the band, but talks about the last SAVATAGE album and new TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA album were naturally unavoidable.

Jon is a very sympathetic guy, very down to earth - unlike certain popstars who consider themselves better than others -, knows what humour is and still enjoys life to the fullest. Interviews by telephone are nice, but it's of course more pleasant if you can do this in a more casual way, with a beer (or anything else), just chatting about the band, new album, etc...

Jon Oliva's Pain logo

Hi Jon, how are you? Since the interview was postponed, can you tell me the reason for the delay, why I had to call you instead of the other way around?

Well, I was in the studio in New York, working on the new TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA album. Here you've got high-speed internet and all, but you can't make overseas calls, unlike in Florida.

Jon Oliva - Jon Oliva's Pain"Maniacal Renderings" recently came out. Congratulations with another great album. How satisfied are you?

I'm very optimistic. It has a lot of special things and that alone makes it interesting. We had a really good time recording the album. Six-seven months in pre-production, rehearsing with the guys. We found the old Criss Oliva tapes and it gave us a kick in the ass...

...So you mean it wasn't planned to use old SAVATAGE material?

No. I found some big boxes with sneakers and shoes from my wife. One of the boxes had my name on it and 'work tapes', which I didn't remember having. My wife said they could probably be important, hahaha. I also found some old stuff from 1980. I listened to it and heard Criss fooling around with the riffs, like the middle section in "Edge Of Thorns".

The new albums sounds a lot like old SAVATAGE.

Yeah, especially with the old Criss Oliva stuff. I wrote everything on demotape and gave it to the other guys for them to add their parts. I'm not like "I want the drums to be like that, the guitars to sound like this, ..."". It's more "surprise me". So then it came back to me, with their own ideas. This made it fresh, plus with Criss' music, it's really enjoyable. A very enjoyable record.

We worked very hard on it. One year and a month for the recording 'till the mastering, just like with the "Streets" album. It's the same effort, but we were in the studio every day. A lot of stuff came out automatically, also the solos with Matt. There was no time pressure. Whatever suited the songs best, we tried it out.

"Maniacal Renderings" comes in three versions, two of which being limited editions, each with their own bonustrack. On the digipack it's "Reality's Fool" and the tincase contains "Only You". Do you know the reason for this?

I didn't know there were going to be two limited editions, but I love bonustracks as I can do what I want. "Only You" was written for a movie here. I'm a big BEATLES fan and some guy asked me and I said "Let me do it, let me do it", hahaha. It's almost a popsong and I recorded it during the recordings for "Maniacal Renderings". Everyone loved it, so the suggestion to use it as a bonustrack came up very easily.

You're not going pop anytime soon, I hope? ;-)

No, not at all. But I like all kinds of music, be it Death Metal or THE BEATLES or MOZART. I grew up on pop and you also hold a special place for stuff you grew up with. And I'd like to pay homeage to it.

In the Dutch magazine Aardschok you talked about the last SAVATAGE album, that it would be a live one with a DVD. It would see the light of day next year. What are the plans so far and how do the others react?

I wanna do something special. Not something to be done with very easily. It's planned for next Summer or after that, but this requires money and time. "Handful Of Rain", "Edge Of Thorns", ... I want all to be involved. We still loe each other, but life changes: you get kids, there's rent to pay, etc...

Back in the day we were just rocking and playing. Life from time to time gives you a smack in the face. Since Criss passed away, everybody has not been the same.

But so far everyone is involved. There will be a bonus DVD with all the SAVATAGE videos, live concerts with Criss - which are good enough to publish - and we also have tons of homevideos. We still need an editor to help story the band. But that's all *British accent on* in the lap of the gods *British accent off*.

You've been in the business for tens of years...

Ten THOUSAND years, man, hahaha. :-)

Well, ok ;-), ten THOUSAND years, but your voice is still intact and as powerful as ever or never before. How do you take care of it?

Thanks for the compliment. It's been only two years since I realized I could sing again. I used to get up every day and smell like dogshit. I have to sleep 10-12 hours a day, or else I won't be singing the following evening. You could say I was going crazy from the '80s.

Hahaha, you could use that for an album of covers. :-)

Yeah, something like... "Listen up, people, after the break we've got "Crazy From The '80s"." *laughs*

What kind of songs have you already covered?

Weird cover songs, not what people would expect: "I Am The Walrus", which is in a heavy rockstyle with orchestral elements, or "Megalomania" by BLACK SABBATH.

Maniacal Renderings coverLet's go back to the new album, "Maniacal Renderings". Who was responsible for the artwork?

For the cover art, it was me. The angel is a representation of the good in the world, but the look in his eyes is like in the movie "Clockwork Orange". You know, where they put weird stuff in the man's eyes. I gave the artist the idea for the picture, but I thought he was going to airbrush it. When I saw the final result, I was "Where the fuck did he get that?" *laughs*

When writing songs, do you come together and brainstorm or does it all start with you, then passing on the audiofiles or tapes to the others for their parts?

Whenever I'm stuck, I call upon the others: "I'm stuck, where now?". For three to four songs they helped me out. I like bouncing off people. It's good to do stuff by yourself and work in team, it lifts your stuff to a higher level.

For this new album you signed with AFM Records. Why them and did you have talks with other labels too?

I like them. I was involved with them in a few business situations to develop the working relation. Those people love the music and that's important. Next to that, they're great people, so it was a no-brainer. No, there were no talks with other labels. I wanted AFM. When I got released from SPV, I chose AFM.

Jon Oliva's Pain band picture 2006At the beginning of the interview you said you were working on the new TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA album. Can you already tell what the album title is and when it's scheduled for release?

The title is "Nightcastle" and should come out late Spring, early Summer. This is/will be my favourite of all the TSO albums. THe story is really good, at least what I've heard so far. But let's say the release is for May-June.

CIRCLE II CIRCLE also released a new album. Have you already heard it? I can tell you that it's - for me - the best of the three albums. "Watching In Silence" was very close to SAVATAGE, "Middle Of Nowhere" was less good, also because of the production, but now it's really great.

No, I haven't heard it yet. I worked on the two first albums. But right now I'm too busy, so I still need to listen to it. When Zak was in SAVATAGE, many people (old fans) didn't want to listen to SAVATAGE without me on vocals, but I wanted Zak in the band. Just like you hear me sing, there's Zak's characteristical voice. After a while, people started appreciating Zak.

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