SACRAMENTO — Progressive rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s style can be described as Christmas music...with bite.
The band was founded by Paul O’Neill, Robert Kinkel, Jon Oliva and Al
Pitrelli. The group usually tours around the holidays and their live show
features lasers, explosions, strobes and even simulated snow. This year they will perform their 1996 album “Christmas Eve and Other Stories" in its entirety including the popular song “Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12-24.”
Other rock opera albums TSO have produced are “The Christmas Attic,” “The Lost Christmas Eve” and two non-Christmas themed albums “Beethoven’s Last Night” and “Night Castle.”
Recently guitarist Al Pitrelli, whose credits include work with Alice Cooper, Celine Dion, Megadeth and Taylor Dane, answered some questions via telephone.
Q. What makes Trans-Siberian Orchestra unique?
A. I think its Paul O’Neill. He knows how to, say arrange Mozart’s
24th Symphony in such a way so it doesn’t go way over the head of the
I remember reading an interview with a famous classical composer and they asked him who his favorite modern composers were. He said the Beatles because it is so hard to come up with incredible melodies and yet keep them so simple that everyone can get it and the Beatles were the masters.
Q. How do you go from playing with Alice Cooper and Megadeth to
playing Christmas songs?
A. I just put on much nicer clothing. (laughs) I play guitar with TSO just
like I played with Alice Cooper and Megadeth except Paul has produced me in such a way as to get the best performance I’ve ever done on records. When it comes to playing live, I don’t back down at all, dude. Megadeth was heavy, Alice Cooper was theatrical, but TSO also encompasses the heaviest heavy metal all-stars of all-time: Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Liszt—those dudes are heavier
than anybody, bro.
Q: Your album “Christmas Eve and Other Stories” is number 9 of the
all-time best-selling Christmas albums list. Other artists on the list include Kenny G, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion—who is your audience?
A: The kick in the head is that we appeal to everybody. When we did the first record and it was all over the radio, my mother called me raving about it. Everyone I’ve known in my life called me and was raving about it. I couldn’t believe how many people we touched. When we walked out on stage there’s some guy in a “Master of Puppets” Metallica T-shirt sitting next to his grandmother in a crotched reindeer sweater.
Q: What about doing a TSO Broadway show?
A: Well, we’re doing this thing called Rock Theater which is basically taking Broadway across America. Paul and I grew up between the shadows of Madison Square Garden and the theater district so this is the perfect combination of what we grew up with.
Q: Many people were first turned on to TSO by that video with a house bedecked in Christmas lights with “Wizards in Winter” synched to it, correct?
A: The funny thing about that was Paul wanted our crew to rig the lights so that they picked up on the counterpoints to the music. The lighting crew said that they couldn’t do it. Then two weeks later some guy with a staple gun and a string of lights from Wal-Mart does exactly what Paul wanted. It went viral on YouTube and Paul showed it to the crew with 15 million dollars worth of computers and lights and said “Really?”
Q: Do you feel pressure to wow audiences every year with your live
A: There is an unbelievable amount of pressure because we want to makes sure every year it is bigger, better, faster, louder and fiercer. We’re not going to scale down. We want to make the biggest show ever. That’s all that matters.
Reach Fairfield writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, November 19th 3 pm and 8 pm
Power Balance Pavilion
One Sports Parkway