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Chris Caffery

Interview with Chris Caffery from Chris Caffery
by Eleni at 14 July 2004, 7:36 PM

Chris Caffery had to give 24 interviews in two days the last time he visited Greece, about 3 weeks ago. We were supposed to interview him the second day, so we were kind of worried about whether he would be exhausted and bored to death. But Chris was in a very good mood and answered to all my questions about his upcoming solo album, Faces, Savatage present and future, politics and many more. I should note that when we met him he had some injuries on his hands and arms because when he had gone out to celebrate the Greek football national team's achievements in Euro 2004 the night before, a firwork blew just beside him! No matter what, his love for Greece is apparently never affected. Enjoy!

You have been coming to Greece often lately.

Yes, a lot.

A month ago you were here, too. Does this only have to do with your contract with Black Lotus Records?

Pretty much right now, yeah. I do have a lot of friends who live here; I have family here, because I live in Astoria In America, so there is probably more Greek people in my life than the average American. My landlords are Greek, her brother lives in my basement and actually, my engineer and producer in the record is Greek and this has to be a coincidence, it has nothing to do with Black Lotus. And then I come here, I have a Greek record label, a record mastered in a Greek place, I have a Greek graphic designer doing my art and my photos, so, if you look at the credits in my record it looks like a Greek record, it’s funny.

It took you a long time to come up with a personal album…


In the meantime, you were writing songs for bands like Metallium and participating in projects like American Rock Live. Why didn’t you concentrate on your album earlier?

I don’t know, really, I didn’t have a clue that I could sing it myself until I actually bought a computer studio for home, because I wanted to start writing more songs and when I finally brought it to my house I started putting melodies down on the music, because a lot of ideas I had for songs I wasn’t putting them down and exactly what I heard in my head was what my singers would come up with and I wasn’t getting the credit and the money for that like others putting the melodies down, Because I’m getting ripped off basically, and I started singing and I heard something in my voice. That I thought was different thought it was kind of cool and I actually had tone in it that I thought I carried out really well my music. I thought my voice made sense with my music and as I wrote more and more I really thought that I were the only person that could sing my record.

And how was it? How did you feel being the lead vocalist for the 1st time? Your voice has a great range, it sounds as if different people were singing each song.

Yeah, that was the funny idea, my schizophrenia I call it. I, you know, I had fun with it. It’s just like the different types of music that are on the record. I created mental images of myself, with the vocals and I went into different things and once I started, I took vocal lessons just after I signed my record contract and I learned how to sing, I had this voice thing, but I learned how to use it and when I got in the studio it became easy for me to do this and I was singing sometimes 10 hours a day and I just had fun with it. I mean, my vocal teacher told me no caffeine, no alcohol and one day after singing in the studio I was like this (shows us his hands trembling).

So, I bought a bottle of scotch, pizza and a case of diet Pepsi and I just said forget it, I’m gonna have fun with this, and it was kind I locked myself away in the studio basically for 3 months, with my sound engineer and co-producer and once the drums and bass were done, the keyboard player came in to do his stuff and a few outside world musicians for some small pieces and it was basically me and my engineer for about 12 weeks by ourselves. Like in vacation I was waking up every day and I don’t think I ever looked forward to do something in the studio as much as I did the singing. It was fun for me, I got in the vocal booth and I just had a blast doing it, I was having fun and I think that this is surprising everybody, the fact that it doesn’t sound like somebody who has just started singing.

But ok, I think my voice is just starting to develop, I think that if I was singing this record now I would blow myself away. I did it just 2 months ago. And this is exciting. That’s the reason why I wrote so many songs, I couldn’t decide who I wanted to be right now, and people listen to all these different faces.

So, that’s why the album is called Faces.


It’s the different faces of you.

The whole CD came out because one of my largest faces is the heavy metal side and I had more of those songs, so instead of me taking one or two of them, I decided to put a bunch of them in a separate CD and basically give it away because I thought that making a metal CD for fun, really, and I just expressed some of my ideas about what’s confusing me with this world, because there’s been a lot of things.

And why didn’t you release two separate albums? I mean, God Damn War is a full album itself.

Yeah, because I had 65 songs.

It was a matter of quantity.

Yeah, and I couldn’t narrow it down to one record. I couldn’t do it, look the songs and say I’m not going to release the song so far today, so it’s just like we could record all of them, when I say a lot of them I recorded 30, and see which ones we wanted to use and I just decided for all the years that fans have given me the opportunity to travel around the world and play music, I figured I had to give something back. Somebody asked me yesterday Don’t you think it’s too much music? and I said…

Well, music is never enough.

Everybody is stealing music today because they are saying they pay too much for nothing. I’m giving a whole record for free, I didn’t record it for my pocket and when they tell me it’s too much music I’m like…(funny face-laughs). No, it’s not too much music. Next time I’ll have 60 songs!

In God Damn War you talk about war and people being brainwashed. Do you think that this happens in the States as much as in Middle East, for example?

I think that the States have been really confused lately. When, a year ago, actually 14 months ago, the war first started it was like a cheerleading push in America. Like we’re going to take revenge, we’re going to get even, we’re going to kick some ass, like yeah, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go and now everybody says: What the fuck are we doing? You know, I would watch, my Greek friends have Greek satellite TV, they don’t have US TV in their house, so I go downstairs and I watched Greek TV and the news and they were telling me what was being said on the news here and I was thinking that the news in USA and the news here were two completely different things. Now, 14 months ago, as an American and experiencing 11/9, I wanted to believe that USA was sane, but you are hearing all of the sudden information and then, as time went on, I watched 90% of what I saw in the Greek TV proved to be truth and it was really disheartening for me because, you know, my mum is retired, she lives on a fixed income and the gas prices went up 125% and the interest rates went down, so everybody started buying property, so the property prices went up, so the taxes are going up.

So, how does somebody like my mama afford to live? You know, they don’t give her the right medicine and meanwhile they are spending 100 billion dollars in war and the country doesn’t even care if every single American died tomorrow. This is weird for me. I just question. I’m not anti-war, I’m anti-senseless death and we have millions of people in this war starving and dying from diseases and now people are killing each other for no reason and all the people will be heading, you know, the military groups that do the kid-napping and all this to me it doesn’t make sense. I think humanity needs to step off and realize that this isn’t the dark ages, we’re supposed to be the most intelligent form of life in the planet and we’re not acting like it. That’s what I think about war, I question everything, I just sit in the middle wondering what the hell is going wrong.

So, if you could do something to help stopping the war, would you support a candidate for the American elections this November, in his campaign?

No, you see it’s weird about America because I don’t even know if Bush wasn’t to win if he would have that war stopped.

Maybe he would because many people now are not satisfied with this situation. American soldiers are dying.

I don’t know what’s gonna happen. Right now it really seems that Bush will win the elections. I think everybody is afraid of that, but even after everything that happened with the prison thing, the scandals and the lies and Michael Moore’s movie and everything and George Bush is still gaining momentum.

Orpheus:Would you vote for him?

It’s weird because I did before and technically I am a Republican and right now I don’t like either of them, which is weird. I don’t trust Kerry and, you know, everybody’s voting for John Kerry’s wife but John Kerry’s wife is married to a huge Republican. I just don’t know who to trust and Kerry is lying already about some certain things and he’s coming now and maybe he will stop the war, but he might drive the country to the ground, you never know. Is he going to be a good president? I don’t really know. I just find it weird that people sit there and they are praising Bill Clinton and they say he was one of the greatest American presidents and that guy was on TV and lied straight to everybody, right on television.

And he was involved in the war in Bosnia and nobody paid attention.

And nobody knows how many people died there, hundreds of thousands of people, nobody knows a thing and he sat there saying: I didn’t have sexual contact with this woman, I was watching it. The President of USA looked you in the face on the TV and lied and that’s what people call a great president?

Maybe it just comes to comparing things.

I just know that when the war came down I was touring with Savatage in Europe. It was amazing to watch the changes that happened. Europe seems to be getting better all the time and the Euros are getting stronger and, you know, I used to be really proud to travel around, wear my USA hat and things like that and now I travel around and people are looking at me like I am a piece of shit. I don’t like to see their opinion about me change, that’s unfortunate. America has done a lot of really good things for countries in the past and maybe some of these things are financially motivated but it’s how many hundreds of thousands of American soldiers died in World War 1 and World War 2, how many buried in France alone and the French can’t stand Americans and I think it’s just because some people don’t know the truth. I think this lying creates barriers between the countries and I don’t think it’s necessary.

You know, human beings are smarter than they are acting and it’s time for people to take responsibility of protecting the human life or the planet and stop killing each other. That’s where comes my fantasy that the planet whips out everybody and the planet turns around and squirts people like a bunch of flies. You know, the planet has been around for millions of years, human life has been around for…what?

That’s God Damn War’s concept, that nobody can beat the Earth.

Yeah, I know I start with the fantasy and then fill it up with a bunch of questions and in the end I open the curtains and say what’s really going on. And who knows, President Bush may be sitting in his home having a lunch right now. I don’t know, you don’t know. Nobody knows this.

Now let’s talk about your partners for a while. They are known to us except Dave Z. What about him? What was he doing before?

I discovered Dave Z. There is a Savatage convention in America, where bunches of fans fly from around the world, stay in a hotel and we have a public interview session and there is a bunch of bands that play Savatage songs and then there was a talent show to win a guitar. Dave Z was also in the talent show and the band show and he had really long hair at the time and I took his number and I said I wanted to use him for something one day, maybe Dr.Butcher records, whatever, I just took his number and then they were dividing the Trans-Siberian Orchestra into two bands. You know, for Christmas tour, the East Coast band and the West Coast band and they needed a bass player. So, I said Paul, I have a new bass player, he is amazing, so Dave shows up for the audition and he had cut all his hair off and Paul loves long hair and he was like…(laughs). But he took his bass and started playing and he blew Paul away and he got it and he was really young, just 21 years old and I took him from plain Savatage cover songs in clubs to headlining theatres with me.

You know, there’s a club in New York City called Cibi Jibis (I have no idea how it should be written) and he showed me a video of his band playing and there were 6 people in the club and they were playing the Christmas Eve Song in front of 6 people and then I had him out in front of 10,000 people playing in a tour and in a tour-bus, making a lot of money. Now every time he says something stupid I just look at him and call him Skipie, eh, Skipie, Cibi Jibis! (laughs) and actually now and his brother have a ZO2 band and they are opening for Kiss and Poison in America. They got that tour and I don’t know whether Dave can do my tourdates but, you know, I told them that he needs to play, has to go with his band, he’s doing really well. I think that if Dave cannot do the show I’m gonna use Rush from Annihilator, the bass player, he’s great, I love Rush! And if you can play Jeff Water’s riffs you can play anybody’s riffs. So, I’ve been speaking to him and Paul Morris has. I’ve known him for a long time, I call him Liqueracci, he’s amazing.

You have many nicknames, too. You’ve made the most of them yourself but you also have the Golf Ball. What had happened to produce this nickname?

I got my head hit by a golf ball in 1994. I get all the freakies non-stop. Everybody freaks out. If I was to buy a lottery ticket I wouldn’t get one number out of 6.

Me neither, don’t worry!

(laughs) You know, I was hit by a golf ball. It’s just that what happens to me, I don’t know, I think that I am a 24hour comedy channel and if somebody watches war and disease all the time and he wants to see something to make him laugh, he should turn on to my life and he would see me catch fire, being hit by golf balls, just something not killing me but just watch me be a complete idiot and go back to reality. So many times I think I probably should have died or could have died but it’s just….

Orpheus: What does Jon Oliva call you?

What does he call me? He calls me a bunch of different things. (laughs) He usually calls me Biff Ranger, which is the Savatage nickname. Sometimes he calls me Chris Catastrophy. (laughs)

Let’s talk about Savatage a little bit. Now that you are going on tour after your album is released, is there going to be a Trans-Siberian Orchestra tour?

Yes, that happens in November and December, so, whatever tour I can fit in. I think my major touring will happen in January and February and then I’ll come back to do the festivals.

Will you come to Greece for a gig?

Actually I’m going to play a few shows here.

Orpheus: Now that you said about the festivals, do you know about Prog-Power 5 in Atlanta?


Orpheus: What’s going to happen there?

You’re asking me? (laughs)

Orpheus: I think I read that all former Savatage members are going to gather up.

So, Jon Oliva, Zachary Stevens, Steve Wackles…

Yeah, all of them.

But it’s the bass player of Jon’s solo band…So, it’s basically Savatage without Al, Damon and Jeff. We played in  Chris Oliva Memorial Concert and we got together with Wackles and did some songs and we got back and played with Zack and I know Circle II Circle played Prog-Power last year and they invited Jon to play Gutter Ballet and he showed up really drunk and had a good time and talked to the promoter and he said I want you to play one way or another next year and Jon said yes, he has his band and he wants to play the shows, but I think the promoter of the show said: Oh, I would really like you to have you play but is there any way you can get Zack and Chris down here and do some Savatage songs? and they called me up and I always want to play, So it’s going to be fun. The show is sold out, I think the two days and I always enjoy that. I’m looking forward to it.

But what about Savatage in general? They have not come up with a record for 3 years and each one of you has his own project right now. Jon has Tage Majal, Damon has The Neglected, now you… It seems the priorities have changed.

Well, the reason why I did a solo record was not because I don’t want to do Savatage. I did my record because Savatage was not working and Zack did his record because he wanted to be back into the business and he wasn’t coming back into Savatage. Jon’s doing his record and I think that’s the only one confusing Savatage fans because Jon Oliva is prioritizing something other than Savatage. I think this is the point of Jon’s career that he wants to do something without the creative control or the studio, work with another producer and me. I sat in this house in New York City, which is the Savatage house and I live there for 10 years and when the band’s working and playing they come and stay with me, but the last few years there’s been no one there and that’s what this whole abandon is about. That’s why I put the counter in one song. I stuck there, I had to answer all the questions of the fans, like why hasn’t there be a Savatage record all these years and personally, I want to know the same answers as the fans sometimes.

The Trans-Siberian Orchestra is getting bigger and people’s lives are going to different directions, families and businesses and other things are taking priority and I’m sitting here, I don’t have any family other than my mom  and my cat and I sit there looking in the mirror watching myself getting older, watching time flying by, watching another summer coming by without playing in a festival, watching another year go by without a Savatage record, knowing that I could be here in Greece playing instead of sitting at home or in a bar in Queens, New York. I’m killing myself and why? I basically need to come out of what was becoming a really bad state of depression and the way I did it was through this music and it wasn’t a priority change. I think it was something that saved my life this record and that’s why I put so many songs; I wanted people to hear what I was going through. There are many personal struggles going on through Faces and the Faces record tells the story almost deeper than a record if you follow a timeline. And it was a difficult year last year. I definitely had some weird thoughts in my head that I don’t want to have ever again.

Fortunately, now you have a new record, what’s why you are here, you are going on tour later etc. I want to ask two last questions. First about your brother, Phil. You were together in 3 bands. What is he doing now? Is he still in the music business?

He plays drums but more as a hobby, he plays with cover bands sometimes, but he is actually back in school and he’s going for his master’s degree in a circle of different chemistries and biochemistries and something like that. He’s using his brain more than I am. I’m killing brain cells and he is using them! (laughs)

If you are writing 65 songs you certainly use your brain. There’s no doubt about it. I also read in the press release that you had won a backstage meeting with Judas Priest in 1980. How did you feel when you were on tour together 3 years ago?

That was really… I loved being on that tour! I won a backstage pass contest when I was 12 with Judas Priest and I remember the first thing before the show in the dressing room… I was idolizing K.K. Downing, because he was really cool on stage and he asked me what I wanted to do I got older and I was 12, I had glasses on (laughs) and I said I want to be like you and he was like Oh, cool! and then here I was opening for them and, yeah, it was just weird. I was standing outside the stage and I was talking to them every day and asked them whether they remembered who I am and the band really liked me a lot. Even K.K. Downing said When I retire you can get my job. You know, they are really my favorite band and it was weird and Tim Owens is one of my best friends.

The 1st show we did it in Scotland, we just opened for Judas Priest and they were introducing the song Breaking The Law and they said To everybody here except Chris from Savatage, a law-breaker. Opening for Priest and mentioning me on stage… You know, sometimes the promoters, there were certain places they treated Savatage great, some times at first they would treat us weird and Judas Priest were like If you need our dressing room whatever you need, they are real gentlemen. Glenn Tipton, all, it was an amazing experience and I know I had fun doing it because I know for a fact that I was playing really well and they were listening to me and asked me about my guitar tone, how I got that sound. Glenn Tipton, you’re asking me how I get my guitar sound?! (laughs) Come on, I learned how to get my sound from your records and you are asking me?

Well, that’a all, thank you very much for your time. Any message for our readers and your fans?

All I know is that there is no place in the world same as Greece, you have the craziest Rock’N’Roll fans in the planet, I’m happy that I’m spending so much time here and I can’t think of a better place to be. So, I hope I will be here a lot more and everybody is going to enjoy this record because I really laid my heart and soul.

I really think that when the fans get to hear it and sit and listen to it and they see there are 130 minutes of music they will understand the honesty and how much I appreciate that I have the opportunity to do that in my life.


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