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Christopher Kinder (Jon Oliva's Pain)

Interview with Christopher Kinder from Jon Oliva's Pain
by Orpheus Spiliotopoulos at 01 December 2004, 11:12 PM

While Savatage has been paused for a certain time period (?) some musical forces couldn't and cannot be stopped (like for example Chris Caffery's awesome solo works). Jon Oliva is a creative force, a musical whirlwind that comes out of your speakers, lifts you up, spins you around and takes you to NeverNever Land! A mastermind's creation though needs more than just the mastermind in order to take form and in this case Jon Oliva shared his Pain with some really skilled gentlemen who to be frank I misjudged  by their works with their previous band, Circle II Circle. Sometimes it takes the right man to make the world realize how good you are and the right man was J.O. for Christopher Kinder (drums), John Zahner (keyboard),  Kevin Rothney (bass & backing vocals) and  Matt Laporte (guitar). The band's debut record, Tage Mahal is indeed a very interesting release so we took the liberty of asking the most friendly Christopher Kinder a few interesting questions about the band, the touring (with the band's first shows being in Greece - one of them will be a special, acoustic show), the future, the past…Read on as this interview might interest you more than you would imagine!

First of all, since we’re an online magazine I’d like to ask you what the Internet means to you. I for one know that you post on message boards a lot…

I would first like to say hello Orpheus…. As for the internet, it is clearly become a major force in exposing bands and their music to fans all around the world. Most bands do not have a million dollar promotional budget, or make million dollar videos . So, the internet is kind of like modern-old school. You’ve got to devote the time and the energy to sit at your computer and get your message and your music to the masses. You have to keep reminding the fans and the new listener’s what is going on with the band. Everyone’s attention span and entertainment dollar are being pulled in a thousand different directions. It’s a f*cking jungle out there, and you have to use every tool possible to promote yourself and give the fans the respect that they deserve.  No one on the planet would get to hear a fraction of the music available to them, without the net!

How long have you known Jon Oliva? How did Pain come up as an issue in your life?

I met Jon around 1990, when I saw my first Savatage show at the Rock-It Club in Tampa, Florida. A few years later, Savatage began rehearsing for their upcoming tours in the same warehouse complex where my previous band also rented. You know it was really funny, because Savatage would rehearse for just 2 days, maybe 1.5 hours each day, before they left for a major tour. That was it. My bandmates used to say Wow, must be nice to practice for 3 hours and then go on tour. Hilarious!!…As for Pain, Jon had asked us to perform with him at Criss Oliva’s Memorial concert. He had been working on some new solo material and since we were already performing with Circle II Circle, it just made sense to work with us. He had really good demo tapes already recorded, so most of the songs were ready to be brought to the stage. That was a great thrill for all of us….I mean here I was, playing on stage with one of the greatest metal writers/singers ever. He is one of my all-time favorites. I had no idea what was to come next.  

What’s it like working with such a prolific musician like Jon Oliva? How was it during the recording sessions of Tage Mahal?

Jon is one of the those amazing writers that can  hear the entire song in his head……guitars, bass, drums, vocals, everything all at once. The process in the studio was surreal, comical, and flat out amazing. His demo tapes begin with him recording every instrument on his keyboard, including the drums. You gotta see this guy play drums on a keyboard with six fingers all moving at the same time…Incredible. From there we got work-tapes to listen to. Kevin and I had only 1 week to rehearse before we began laying down bass and drum tracks. It was an interesting process since more than half of the songs did not have lyrics and some of the songs were not quite 100% together. Jon was clear on what he wanted. He wanted the process to be fun, fresh, and raw. He wanted the record to be spontaneous, writing our parts as we were recording, coming up with new ideas right on the spot. Sometimes we would cut tracks and not even realized what we were playing until listening back, and then looking over at Jon with this sinister smile on his face saying I f*ckin love you guys. Wait til’ they (the fans) hear this. Kevin and I looked at each other and figured that we were doing okay…The studio sessions were hysterical. It was amazing that we even got anything recorded! And it is all on video….priceless!

Would you like to share with us one the funniest moments I’m sure you’ve lived during the recording of Tage Mahal?

You know, I would have to go back and look through the dozens of hours of studio footage. We are planning to edit those down and release them in the future. Seriously, the sh*t that was going on in the studio, Jon’s Savatage war stories, and Greg’s (our producer/engineer) humor, sent all of us home every night holding our stomachs from laughing so hard. We never got tired of being there. The atmosphere was always upbeat, and positive. It was a party for sure.

Is it true that all the songs on Tage Mahal are all Savatage leftovers from the past? Is it true that The Non Sensible Ravings Of The Lunatic Mind was actually the homonymous song of Savatage’s Poets & Madmen album?

No, that is not true… There are some songs that were originally intended for other Sava- albums such as ’Lunatic Mind’ and ’Nowhere to Run’.  But most of the material was earmarked for this record. Jon has been cataloging ideas and songs for years. Some were written many years ago, others were written a few months prior to the recording. I can only imagine how many songs Jon has tucked away in the dark corners of his mind!

Ok here’s a cliché question I know you must have heard people asking a lot but I feel things have to be completely clarified. From what you know (from Jon) is the end of Savatage close or is it just the fans’ wrong impression? I mean, Tage Mahal could have easily been a Savatage record but it’s not. Is there anything wrong people are not aware of?

I think Jon has been really honest about the whole process. It is true that all of us live very close to each other. I have a studio in my house that the band can use at any time to rehearse or go over Jon’s idea’s. The atmosphere here is comfortable and easy. If Jon wants to get together, he picks up the phone, and that’s it. When you have a big machine like Savatage, with all its other personalities (TSO, BLN, ect), something is going to have to give. Jon is in complete control of this record. Meaning, he is able to work it around his own schedule. Same with Chris Caffery’s new CD. Chris had been waiting years for a new Sava-record and tour. They are both songwriters who want to get their music heard by the fans. TSO is a huge entity in and of itself. It demands a lot of time from everyone involved. I really have no idea when the next Savatage record will surface. But I am sure that Jon and Chris will continue to bring their music to life regardless of how it is marketed. I seriously doubt that Savatage is dead.

Another issue that needs to be clarified is the fact that John Zahner (keyboard), Kevin Rothney (bass & backing vocals) and Matt Laporte (guitar) and you were all members of ex-Savatage singer Zachary Stevens’ band, Circle II Circle. A lot of people think your relationship with Stevens is not that good anymore and that Jon Oliva stole you from Circle II Circle. Though I know that’s not the case, I’d like to hear your personal view on this issue.

That is an issue that deserves clarification. First, Jon did not steal this band from Zak. We had terminated our relationship with Zak prior to working with Oliva. Jon was aware of the problems we were dealing with, but never approached us to record his solo record until after it was clear that we would not be performing with Zak any longer. As for our relationship with Zak, frankly we never had one. He was the singer and we were the band. We never rehearsed with him, and we only saw or spoke to him at shows.

Is Tage Mahal a one record solo project or are there going to be more to come in the future? What are you personally going to do after the world tour is over, in terms of music?

Well, the goal is to continue to put out Jon’s music. This is his first solo release without Savatage, and I would imagine that the amount of energy put into this project will be determined by how good the record does. Honestly, the reviews have been nothing short of amazing and that is very encouraging. This record was designed to be the first record of three with the next two albums getting progressively heavier. We will be filming every show and as much behind the scenes footage as possible. The plans are to release that on DVD. As for the touring, those plans are still in the works. I suspect that our 2005 spring/summer is going to be a very busy time for the band. We will also begin working on the next record very soon.

You’ve picked Greece as your opening country for the European part of the tour. You’re playing three shows (two in Athens and one in Thessaloniki) from which one is a completely acoustic show. Are there any plans for other acoustic shows or is this going to be an exclusive one? Are you going to videotape it or record it for later use?

This show is going to be very special. It was important for Oliva to give back something to the fans of Greece. He is so grateful for their support, that he felt they deserved a special performance. The show will be held in a smaller, more intimate venue \[An Club]. The all-acoustic show will only be performed twice. Once in Greece and once in another European city to be decided in the coming months. That’s it!…It will be recorded, but we cannot be sure what will happen to it after that!

Give us some hints on what the set list is going to be like (or give us the entire set list if possible, hahaha) for your upcoming tour.

This set list for Greece will combine the majority of the Tage Mahal record and a crushing dose of old-school Savatage. We are going to go way back in the archives for this show. The acoustic set will be dramatically different from the electric set. It will include some different arrangements of popular Sava-tunes as well as songs from the new record. We are very excited about the acoustic show….It will be very interesting to say the least.

OK Chris, since you’re a drummer, I’d like you to share a brief comment with us on the following drummers: Steve Dr. Killdrums Wacholz, Scott Travis (Judas Priest), Mark Zonder (Fates Warning), Gene Barnett (Doctor Butcher) and Jeff Plate (Savatage).

Walcholz: An animal behind the kit and a real nice guy!

Scott Travis: Awesome drummer with incredible chops.

Mark Zonder: Another great drummer, very tasty in his playing,..really knows how to lay down a groove mixed with his excellent technical ability.

Gene Barnett: I believe John Osbourne recorded the Dr. Butcher CD. I never saw them live.

Jeff Plate: Very Talented to say the least. He fits the recipe for Savatage and TSO perfectly. I have met him a few times and always a pleasure to talk to. He did a fantastic job on Chris Caffery’s new disc as well. There is a chance that we will tour together in 2005….

A funny question now. Why does Jon Oliva not use the Internet, ever?

Jon does not even own a computer and still records his home demo’s on a basic 4 -track recorder. I guess you could say that he just hates technology. So he leave’s the internet duties to the rest of the band. Definitely old-school for JO.

Chris, how much has your life changed, if changed at all, in your opinion, now that you’re in Jon Oliva’s Pain? What fascinated you the most and what do you miss doing?

None of us knew what to expect when we left CIIC. But Jon used to come see the band at all the Florida shows. He was always so nice to everyone and had nothing but compliments for all of us. We never expected to be where we are today. I guess you could say that our paycheck from CIIC came after we left. Let’s be honest, moving into Oliva’s world was definitely a step up! Kevin, Matt and I have been playing together for more than a decade in various bands.  Needless to say, the benefits and perks of working with Oliva has been a blessing to all of us. We are grateful for the opportunity and are doing whatever we can to further the success of this solo record and future recordings. All we can say is thank you!

Which one of your favorite bands would you like to jam with, either as a supporting act (with Jon Oliva’s Pain) or as a member of that band?

Judas Priest, Masterplan, Primal Fear, Rush (my all-time favorite)…and scores of other!

Since your country’s just had presidential elections, I’d like to hear what your opinion is over this issue. How much is Christopher Kinder concerned about the world today (war, terrorism, people starving in many parts of the world etc…)?

The world has become a scary place, and I believe that very few politicians really care about the fate of mankind. The people of the US have been slowing manipulated into allowing a few hundred politicians to control the destiny of 240 million Americans, and it is really the same everywhere in the world. As for the elections in the US, it is a tragedy that the super-rich are the only candidates on the ballot. When this country first gained its independence, being in public office was a privilege and a part-time job. Now it is all about power and control. A lot of Americans feel that they were voting for the lesser of 2 evils. That is simply disgusting when it comes to choosing the leader of the so-called free world. The political arena both in the US and abroad is in bad shape, and needs to be overhauled! This is a very sad time in history for all of us!

What’s your most favorite quote?

When one door closes, another one opens  

What’s your point of view on Chris Caffery’s solo work, Faces/God Damn War?

Great record(s). Chris is a gifted songwriter and great guitar player. His vocal abilities surprised the hell out of me…so much variety!… Can’t wait to hear what he does on his next release.

Your personal ambitions in life as a musician and as an individual.

To continue to record and perform as much as possible. Being able to do what you love is so rare in this world. You never know when it is going to end, so you better enjoy while you can.

Finally, least but not last, send out a message to all the people who’ll be reading this interview, from all over the world. From my part I’ll just say that you ought to prepare yourself for the sequel of this interview which will take place soon, in Athens (haha)!

I have had the pleasure of vacationing in Greece several times and look forward to returning in December with Jon Oliva’s Pain. This is just the beginning of the tour to promote the new record. The entire band is really psyched about our immediate plans and future records with JO. Rest assured that we will be bringing this show everywhere and anywhere we possibly can. The Mountain King has returned and we are going to make sure everyone knows it. Thanks again for the interview….See you in Greece!



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