With a successful tour with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra completed and another one set to start in a few months, a brand new solo album called Pins and Needles, and a recent tour playing in Doro's band (with he and his solo band opening each show of the tour as well) Chris Caffery has been a very busy man lately. On a rare instance where the guitarist was home for a few days, he and Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up and talked about the new album, his recent string of touring, TSO, and the future of Savatage.
Read on for the interview!
SoT: How did the Trans-Siberian Orchestra tour go last year?
Chris: It was amazing. We had the same band we had on the East Coast this year that we had the year before, so it was pretty relaxed even though we had a really tight schedule. It was like 62 shows in 60 days but they gave us extra rest, it was double days off the road to make up for the double shows we were doing in the day. You didn't realize just how much that was going to be necessary until the tour went on. It was probably like mid-way through December when we had two days off in Columbus, Ohio, and I didn't wake up until Noon of the second day off, the whole first day off I just didn't exist. We would have been getting ready for another show normally and never even had that extra day off, so the schedule was good and everyone stayed healthy. Attendance was really good across the board as well, better than ever actually.
SoT: Any particular cities that were the highlights of the tour?
Chris: There were a lot of different highlights for many different reasons, because we had all these special guests coming out, so we had Greg Lake come out at Nassau Coliseum in New York and Continental Arena (Meadowlands) in New Jersey…
SoT: What did you guys play with him?
Chris: We did "Karn Evil 9".
SoT: Wow, very cool.
Chris: Yeah. Both shows were cool for me. First of all, the Meadowlands was the first place I ever saw a concert at (KISS and Judas Priest in 1979) as it was the closest arena to my hometown growing up, so I saw a lot of shows there. Playing both those places was really special, I mean I played Nassau once with Savatage, but it was cool to go back. In Philadelphia we played "Roundabout" with Jon Anderson, and in Cleveland we did "All the Young Dudes" and "Cleveland Rocks" with Ian Hunter. There was lots of great shows, you get a lot you don't expect that just come out of nowhere where everyone is in that mood. It's a family type of audience, but some days you get a really rowdy crowd that makes it memorable. It all depends. Some cities just explode, like Detroit last year.
SoT: How about the Spread Eagle tour?
Chris: That was last summer, just before the TSO tour. That went well also, but it was a quick little tour. Then I took some time off in September, then TSO rehearsals started. After the TSO tour, I started on photos and artwork for my Pins and Needles record, and in fact in January I started on the European interviews, because the European release for the CD was in March. I also went to Germany to play with Doro at the Edguy anniversary concerts in their hometown. It was at that time that Doro asked me potentially play with her on a future tour, but she again asked me soon afterwards when I ran into her at the Overkill/Metal Church show at BB Kings in New York, but I had looked at it more to have my band play on the tour. I got a phone call from her manager saying "so I hear you are interested in playing in Doro's band?", and I'm like "that's not really what I was thinking but sure, ok!" So, I came home and started rehearsing with my band, had to move out of New York City because my landlord sold the house on me, so I've been busy. I also took my band over to Europe and we did a short tour with Kotipelto, which was hit or miss. It was a strange tour, and not put together really well.
SoT: Did that draw well?
Chris: It was spotty. In places that it was promoted well it drew, where there was no promotion it didn't…people need to know about it. Kotipelto's band is just incredible, so tight, especially the bass player. .
SoT: You hooked up with drummer John Macaluso recently?
Chris: Yes, we hooked up on the Spread Eagle tour. I played on one of his songs on his new CD Union Radio. He's the craziest drummer alive. He acts like a lead singer that plays drums, it's bizarre.
SoT: Is he planning on taking that solo band out on tour?
Chris: I'm sure he'd like to, but it's so difficult these days to do that on your own. When you get out on your own it's a pain in the ass. For some reason, you get a certain amount of help, but you get smacked in the face a lot too. A band could be together one year and put out a record, then one person works two years on a solo record, because it's not four different people that are named after some tractor part, the solo thing is not as credible as the band. It doesn't make any sense-why can't you have credibility as a solo artist? I could have named my band something, but with the craziness of the TSO thing, it's difficult for me to say that "hey, you're going to be in Chris Caffery's band and this is what you are going to do, but because of the TSO schedule in October, November, and December, you're going to have to find something else to do at that time", so it's real hard to do that. Thinking that I'm going to have the same people in my band all the time is not realistic and pretty ridiculous, so I'm kind of doing what Ted Nugent has done all these years, is having people work with you when then can and have your friends come and have fun. Nowadays, is really difficult to get to a level of a Nugent or a Pat Travers where you can get that recognition of being a solo artist. So many people are rooting for a Savatage reunion that they hate anything that's not Savatage from the Savatage family. They feel it's getting in the way of a Savatage reunion, and it's so untrue, the reason I am doing the solo thing is because there is no Savatage right now. If Savatage was playing right now, do you think I'd go out and lose money doing my solo thing? There's got to be an easier way to lose money (laughs). You know, I go out and I play with TSO and I make money, then I go into the studio and make a solo record and go out on tour with my band, and I lose it back. It's a perfect plan! (laughs) I can go fishing and lose no money, and just wait for the TSO tour, and be just fine. I don't need to go out and people smack me in the face because I'm trying to make music. It's a weird thing. There's a lot of fulfilling moments, but a lot of moments that make me sit there and go "why am I bothering?" Of course, there are a lot of people that are never happy with what you are doing musically. If a no-name band came out with Pins and Needles, nobody knew who they were; I'd love to see the reviews compared to the ones that were given to me. I guarantee, the magazines that gave me 2 out of 10 would be giving that band 11 out of 10, but because it's me, and they are expecting my records to sound a certain way, they already have a preconceived notion of what they want to hear. The first record Faces, in general, had really good reviews for the most part, but every now and then you'd get someone who just hated it and you wonder, did they really even listen to it? This time, it seems like a lot of people, especially in Europe, didn't really listen to at all. I think they put it on, skipped around a bit, and just didn't get it. There's more work that went into single songs on Pins than there was on the entire Faces album. Perhaps there's too much here on this record to digest on first or second.
SoT: Do you think maybe that this album is just too diverse for some people? There's a lot on this CD that is bordering on avant-garde metal at times. This is not a traditional metal record by any means.
Chris: A guy in France called it the Frank Zappa of metal.
SoT: I can see that.
Chris: Being who I am as a musician and what it is that I do and how I am as a person, all around it kind of fits my personality. It's weird, it's deep, it's intense…it's funny you said the word diverse, this album is actually more diverse than Faces…
SoT: Oh absolutely.
Chris: But it comes out so heavy that a lot of people are saying that it's too heavy. So I'm confused, as some of the same people were saying that Faces had too many intros and wasn't heavy enough, so I put all the heavy stuff on this record in a row. If I had sequenced this record differently, you would get a completely different perspective. I learned through all of this that you're never going to make everyone happy. I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing. I've already started writing for my next record, and I'm going to try, as much as I can, to do my next one entirely on my own, except for drums, depending on whose available and what the schedule is like, and how I can do it. I really want to just disappear without the influence of other people. My producer was really wanting me to focus on a modern angle, and arranging a lot of things, so the CD may or may not have come out differently had I worked with a different ear. So the next time I am just going to disappear into my studio and make my record, with no pressure, and come out with what I want and just go from there. More than anything it just gets a little frustrating, and the industry itself is just getting so weird. The labels don't promote things the right way anymore. "There's no need for posters, there's no need for magazine ads…" is all you hear. Well if there's no need for any of this, then how do people know the CD is out? How does anybody know my CD is out? They say "well, you have your fans". I have my fans, yes, but the only people who know about and will buy my CD are the ones that visit my website? Then why do I have you? That's what I say to these labels.
SoT: You are never going to make money just selling to those same people all the time.
Chris: Right. Unless it's my own record company and I sell from home and I make the $10 the label makes. As an artist, you really have to bust your ass these days and do a lot of the work yourself. The business has changed a lot.
SoT: How was it being out with Doro?
Chris: The crowds were great. A lot of shows were really good, depending on the market of course. Chicago, New York, a lot of the fans were really excited to see her again. I think she's going to spend a lot more time here in the US, which is good for me of course. At this point in my life, between the TSO tour and the time I spend in Europe, I mean I like to play, but if I could play more in the States that would be better for me. TSO is planning a lot of non-holiday stuff at some point, so when that happens I'll probably be too busy with them for anything else.
SoT: Has there been any talk of recording with Doro?
Chris: Yeah, there has been. My goal over the next few weeks is to write a few songs for myself, a couple songs for her, and a few for Zak Stevens, so yeah, the plan is for me to do lead guitar work on her next album. I don't know if Joe is planning on coming back to her band. When he was leaving I told him that this was his gig, he's been with her for 12 years, but he's in a difficult place in his life, but I'm friends with the band and I knew Doro would be comfortable with me, plus the fans would be into it, so it's a good thing all around. If Joe gets to a point where he feels he can come back and the band decides that's what they want I'll step aside, no problem.
SoT: What's the status of this upcoming TSO non-holiday album?
Chris: We are in the studio, it's going well, about 50% recorded right now. The original plan was to have it out this year, but that's not going to happen. The goal now is to have it ready to be mixed by the time we start the tour later this year. Some point mid-2008 the record should hit, but that depends also on when we also decide to do a non-holiday tour. It will be great, as TSO will finally be able to get over to Europe and play.
SoT: What's the news on a Savatage reunion?
Chris: Well, nothings really happening. At this point, everyone needs to come to grips with the situation. If you turn around, and see Savatage playing, be excited about it, otherwise, just leave it alone for now. Stop blaming me, blaming Zak, blaming Jon, blaming Paul, it's everyone's fault that it's not happening right now. The band's not happening right now, and instead of pointing fingers, just let it go.
SoT: That's all you can do at this point.
Chris: We have a legacy. We can turn around tomorrow and go out playing and be bigger than ever. We've got offers to headline every festival on the planet by not playing. Guess people miss us. Savatage may have only sold gold records here in the states, but if we sold 500,000 records, we had 500,000 fans. That band had some serious, die-hard fans. So many of these bands out now, are huge Savatage fans. These were kids who came out in the 90's to see the Dead Winter Dead tour, and are now players in bands who are even bigger than Savatage ever were. Funny how that works.
(Click here to read our reviews of Pins and Needles)