Oliva + Savage + Avatar = Savatage
“To me, music is the best therapy in the world because for those three or four minutes that you are listening to a song it takes you away from reality and making music is a therapy as well, that creativity helps you deal with loss for sure”. Jon Oliva
Savatage was an American heavy metal band founded by the brothers Jon and Criss Oliva in 1978 at Astro Skate in Tarpon Springs, Florida
Criss, Jon and Steve played Tampa (where they had moved with their family in the late-70s) and Clearwater area clubs for many years. In 1981 Keith Collins joined them to relieve Jon of bass guitar duties, even though he was actually a rhythm guitarist. In late 2006, footage was released onto the internet of an early performance by Avatar at a gig in a Clearwater, Florida parking lot and was prominent in featuring an early version of the song “Holocaust”, which would later be released on Savatage’s first album and a cover of Van Halen’s “Eruption” and VH’s version of “You Really Got Me”.
In 1982, Avatar took part in some heavy metal compilations, most notably “The YNF Pirate Tape”, a promotion by Tampa rock radio station 95ynf for local Florida bands. In 1983, “Avatar” was forced to change its name due to copyright issues. Combining the words “Savage” and “Avatar”, the band decided on Savatage.
The Dungeons Are Calling (1984)
Power of the Night (1985)
Fight for the Rock (1986)
Hall of the Mountain King (1987)
Jon then met Paul O’Neill, who saw that Savatage had the potential to be a big act. 1987’s Hall of the Mountain King was released to critical acclaim and is cited by many fans as being one of the band’s best works. Two music videos were released and received rotation on MTV, for “24 Hours Ago” and the title track. On the resulting tour, Savatage supported Megadeth and Dio, but Jon had many conflicts with Dave Mustaine, who at the time was a serious substance abuser. After hanging out with Mustaine on a 24 hour basis, after the tour, Jon entered rehab.
Ray Gillen – backing vocals (“Strange Wings”, Hall of the Mountain King)
She flies strange wings
Behind a thin disguise
She flies strange wings
Still tears she cries
Gutter Ballet (1989)
After seeing a performance of the Phantom of the Opera in Toronto, Jon was so inspired he wrote “Gutter Ballet” in the studio. Two videos were filmed for the album and again received MTV airplay – “When the Crowds are Gone” and for the title track.
“I thought the “Gutter Ballet” video was just perfect, that thing was shot in extreme, extreme weather conditions. It was 25 below zero with the wind chill and we were just freezing to death but it came out great, that cold atmosphere gave it a really cool vibe that translated just like the Coronado gave “Crowds” a cool vibe because of that old building, it just fit the whole thing perfectly. Those three videos, to me, were the best ones we did”. Jon Oliva
Streets: A Rock Opera (1991)
Jon Oliva hand-picked his replacement in voclas, former Wicked Witch lead vocalist Zachary Stevens who was discovered and introduced to the band by Criss’s best friend and guitar technician Dan Campbell.
Edge of Thorns, in 1993.
The 1993 EOT touring lineup is hailed by most as the best live lineup the band ever had. For the first time, Savatage began to enjoy mainstream recognition, including increased radio play and a world tour which gained international press as “the best Savatage has ever sounded live”.
Tragedy struck when Criss Oliva was killed by a drunk driver on October 17, 1993. Jon chose to continue the band, although he has since admitted that the band was pretty much over after Criss’s death, but only kept going because of his memory and to “keep his music alive”.
Handful of Rain (1994)
Dead Winter Dead (1995)
The Wake of Magellan (1997)
Poets and Madmen (2001)
“Music is for everybody whether you’re 4 years old or 84 years old. I don’t see why the audiences can’t enjoy it all, the music can be timeless and so can the audience. You love music as much as a kid as you do when you’re 30, 40, 70 years old, at least I do, so when I see all that at TSO that’s what I like about it. I see people at TSO shows who are in their 20s or 30s and bring their kids who are younger and I see them bring their parents as well who are 60 or 70 and they all love the music, everyone has a good time and that is just so amazing to me”. Jon Oliva
1996 – Christmas Eve and Other Stories
1998 – The Christmas Attic
2000 – Beethoven’s Last Night
2004 – The Lost Christmas Eve
2009 – Night Castle
“To me, that’s what music is all about, it’s supposed to be a release, a way to get away and enjoy yourself and I think the TSO show provides that to a large audience across the board, it’s a positive message, it’s always a good story and it’s happy. It’s not “Let’s go slash granny’s throat and tear the block up” which was great 25 years ago but doesn’t appeal to everybody or unite everybody. I think the reason that TSO is so big and is so successful is because of the audience, it’s a HUGE audience and a huge demographic of people from 8 to 80 which is great, you can’t complain about that”. Jon Olvia
JON OLIVA’S PAIN
“I just wanted to get something out there to kind of cap things off because I’ve moved on. Those reunion rumors … some people have been saying things they probably shouldn’t have. There was talk about doing a show to kind of give Savatage a send-off but the logistics of doing so just made it impossible. The guys have the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, I have my JOP stuff, there’s a lot of other things keeping us busy. It’s pretty aggravating, though, with people always asking about when it’s going to happen and pushing to have one. I mean, Savatage hasn’t done anything in almost 10 years! It’s just a small group of people, but they just won’t let it go and I can’t figure out why. You have the Savatage guys in the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, which was spawned from the Dead Winter Dead and Wake of Magellan era of the band, you have Jon Oliva’s Pain doing a lot of the old Savatage material, what more do you want? Don’t get me wrong. I love Savatage and it’ll always be dear to my heart because that was my start, man. I still play the songs, I love playing those songs, but I’ve got a whole new career now. I’m on my fourth record with JOP for crying out loud! It’s like, to the people that keep pushing for a Savatage reunion, just let it go. I’ve got the rights back for the Sirens and Dungeons albums, so I might do something with those in a few years, but JOP is my focus now and I’m hoping people will finally catch on that I have a new band (laughs)”. Jon Oliva
“I hear The Beatles, Deep Purple, ELP, a little YES, a little Sabbath, a little of all of those bands that we grew up learning how to play to and went to go see over and over again in concert”. Jon Oliva