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interview with jon oliva

from Dutch Savatage Fanclub-magazine Winter 1997
by Michelle van Dijk
translated by Patrick "boudie" van der Horst

Between riding, sleeping, sound-checking, playing and placing signatures we found Jon – on the road- in Bochum to answer us a few questions!

Which hairdresser do you have?

I always cut my own hair, because I’m afraid of hairdressers and I believe yours can’t be long enough!

OK, a more serious question: when were you the first time aware of music?

When I was 5 years old and saw The Beatles on TV.

What instrument interested you the most?

That would be the drums, but they drove my parents crazy, so they decided to give me some pianolessons. I kept doing that for a while and I thought myself everything else. My music comes from the heart! I also think it’s better to teache yourself because you make your own style.

You came in contact with music through your parents, then?

Yes, the whole family played music, that’s why it was very simple, also for Criss. I aws 9 and Cris about 5 or 6 and we were playing in the garage. Me on drums and he on bass. Though we only knew one ‘song’ and played that for hours, we had lots of fun! That ‘riff’ is on the Dr. Butcher-album: Innocent Victim. That’s the oldest Sava-song, strange isn’t it…..

I constantly think of Criss, I live the life he would have lived if he had lived now. And I miss him. But I know he’s in good hands and that I will see him in a short time. Life’s short and in that time I live everyday like it could be the last. I’m not afraid of death anymore, I will be that anyway. It’s one of those things everyone has in common: you’re born and you die!

Do you want to tell something of your childhood?

I have had a decent childhood, hard but decent. I caused many troubles, was a bad boy, were in a Borstal institution and have been in jail! That happened when I was 14. It was just for one week, but I was terrified and when I came out… I think a lot of my parents. They were great parents and I love them! My first concert was Black Sabbath in 1973 with Ozzy!

When did you begin to write your own music and how do you start with that proces?

When I was 12 I started. I think of something and keep it in mind. I don’t like jamming, that’s boring. When you think of music as a painting and composing as painting then jamming is just daubing. Sometimes I wake up with a melody in my head, I try to get it out on piano and then try to remember it. I don’t write it down, I have a good memory. My philosophy is: What’s good, you can’t forget! I wrote hundredes of song, not only for Savatag, but always for a band I was involved with. I can’t sell song, therefore they mean too much for me!

Paul O’Neill is very important for me, he writes the lyrics, I do the music. We’re each other partner, we write together aswell as apart from each other. Then we swap tapes and make arguments on each others work. On our US-shows he came to watch and he also comes to Japan, he loves Japan. Me too, but Holland is my favorite (grass is almost free here!!!!)

Who is/are your biggest influence(s)?

The Beatles, their music is timeless! I always bring their CD’s on tour, nothing else. I love to play old ‘60/’70 music myself. I also like to listen to ‘blakc’ music like Motown. I love it when you keep singing that song afterwards, because it’s stuck in your head!

What’s your favorite Sava-album?

STREETS!!!! And the new one, but Streets i like most, that’s MY story, you know…

Does the ‘private’-Jon differs a lot from the ‘stage’-Jon?

A lot, I’m a very quiet person, actually.The Jon on-stage is the Jon on-stage, because I have to be the Jon on-stage when I’m Jon on-stage. People expect from me to see the Jon on-stage, like the one I’m on stage! The Mountain King. That’s my stage-personality and I like it, but I can cut myself loose from him when I want to! I like quiet things and I’m very romantic.

Sometimes it looks as if you’re saving the show when something goes wrong!

That’s my duty! I’m Jon, the Saviour. The Show must go on!!!

Where do you live?

In the US, in Florida as well as in New York I have an appartment and keep travelling between them.

How are things going with Dr. Butcher/TSO?

The new Dr. Butcher is going to be released next summer. Same musicians, but a lot heavier. Trans Siberian Orchestra is going to release the next one in spring next year. I don’t know how it’s going to sound. It’s Paul O’Neill’s project so it’s up to him!

How often have you been a ‘ghost’-musician? (A question reffering to a Aardschok-interview in which Jon says he hasn’t played on it officialy because of juridical-reasons)

Never! And I don’t use them either. Don’t believe everything what’s told, so many stories go around!!

Do you know a nice tour-story?

Not really, touring is going so fast! Mostly you sleep, otherwise we’ll be drinking or playing. The show, that’s what everything is about!! Although Dynamo was a climax!!