Machines Of Grace / Trans Siberian Orchestra / Savatage
Born in Montour Falls, NY and growing up in Horseheads, I think I started playing drums – you might say "banging" – around 10 years old. At age 12, I was a good little baseball player. I had a great pitching arm. Then my right hip blew out. Operation, 4 pins in my hip (half of one is still in there), crutches for several months, no sports for 2 years. But when I saw KISS on television in '75, that was it. I was worried about pitching for the Yankees someday. I wanted to do that! And here I am.
I played throughout high school, in the band and with friends. I took private lessons and was practicing at least 2 hours a day, if not 4 or 5. I lived in the country; there wasn't anyone around to bother. I was playing in bars when I was 17. I moved to Tampa, Florida in '81. Played in a couple of bands, covers and originals. Moved back home in '82 and did the same there for 2 more years. In '84, I moved to the Boston area, knowing there were more opportunities musically. I eventually left the idea of music to make money, whatever it was, and got a day job and concentrated on doing original music.
Wicked Witch was formed in 1989. Founder and guitarist Matt Leff brought in vocalist Zak Stevens and we played New England for 3 years. Did well, but no record deal. Zak left and joined Savatage. I left Boston and moved back home to retool. In '94 I was called by Zak to join Savatage. No audition. Zak's word and the strength of the demos we had done earlier got me in.
Within 3 months of actually playing in the band I had toured the states, been to Japan and recorded a live album – my first professional effort. I always said that if I could do at least 1 tour and record 1 album I would have won. 3 more CDs, world tours, magazine covers , respect, adulation. All of this with one of the world's greatest bands.
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra was formed in 1996 out of the success of Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24 off the Savatage CD Dead Winter Dead. TSO has done 4 CDs and sold millions of copies. The winter tour has grown from 7 shows in theaters in '99 to close to 100 shows, selling-out arenas and using 2 bands to cover the west and east coasts.
The most important thing to happen to me in my life has been the loss of my sister, and best friend, Terry. She died in a car accident 11/11/03. You are never prepared for things like this, and when they happen it puts so many things in a different perspective. She is survived by her husband, Bill, and sons Jeff and Bradley. The boys are the main focus now.
Chris Caffrey is one of my favorite guitarists, one of my best friends, and has been my partner with Savatage and TSO for the past 11 years. In February '04 we went into Spin Studio in Queens and recorded his solo CDs Faces and God Damn War. My best studio experience to date and, honestly, one of my favorite CDs. I've always loved Chris' songwriting and style. He did a tremendous amount of work and it is something we are both proud of. It was also great therapy. The CD was first released in Europe, followed by its American release and a world tour in 2005.