In a recent interview with Sonic Perspectives, TESTAMENT guitarist Alex Skolnick talked about how his short-lived involvement with SAVATAGE eventually resulted in him landing a gig with the holiday-themed rock opera TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA.
“It’s interesting how that whole situation connected to TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA, because the one heavy rock recording I did in the ’90s was SAVATAGE [on 1994’s ‘Handful Of Rain’ album],” Alex said (hear audio below). “Which I wish I didn’t have to do it — but it was because Criss [Oliva, late SAVATAGE guitarist] couldn’t complete the album. And his brother [SAVATAGE singer Jon Oliva] told me, ‘Look, I know my brother. The only guy he would want playing these parts is you.’ How do you say no [to that]? It was a really good experience. Within a year or so, I was really sort of on my path towards what I’m doing now. Also, at that point, I was still living on the West Coast, so I just felt, in fairness, for a long-term touring guitar player, they were better off with somebody else. But within a few years, they had morphed into TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA and needed a guitar player. And by that point I was on the East Coast. And that was how that all started. So for about nine touring seasons, I toured with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA.”
Skolnick went on to say that playing with TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA was “great” even though it was “a lot of work. It takes so much energy, and the shows are long,” he explained. “When I was doing them, they were two and a half to three hours. And we would often do two shows in a day on weekends. And it’s just draining — it just drains all your energy. So, yeah, it’s a great thing to do, but I eventually realized… If I kept doing it after 2009, I wouldn’t have the energy that I wanted to do projects like PLANETARY COALITION and the [ALEX SKOLNICK] TRIO on the level that we’re doing it. And also, at that point, TESTAMENT was resurrected. TESTAMENT has had a tour almost every winter since then. So it was pretty clear I needed to step away. And now I’m a guitar player of many projects, including TESTAMENT, and I need those winters.”
Skolnick first heard Criss Oliva on “Sirens”, SAVATAGE‘s influential 1983 debut, but the two guitarists didn’t meet until 1990, when SAVATAGE opened for TESTAMENT during the latter band’s tour in support of “Practice What You Preach”.
After Oliva‘s passing, Skolnick joined SAVATAGE temporarily to perform on and tour in support of “Handful Of Rain”.
In 1996, members of SAVATAGE and their producer, Paul O’Neill, formed TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. In the years since, the group has become a top concert draw, with their annual holiday tour of American arenas — the 2018 edition of which kicked off on November 14 — regularly selling more than one million tickets.
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