Posted on July 9th. 2018
Questionnaire by Phoenix Van Der Weyden on behalf of METAL TO INFINITY WEBZINE BELGIUM
Sometimes the Heavy Metal world gives us some stories that should become movies, that´s the case of Chris Caffery, a skilled guitar player who dealt with struggle and frustration during his beginnings and then got his big break when he got the gig with Savatage, joining one of the biggest and most influential Metal bands of all time. Add that to his work with the Trans Siberian Orchestra and we have a story of overcoming and success .
I had the pleasure to talk to Chris about his Savatage years, his practicing routine and his new ventures on the guitar world .
Phoenix: Hi Chris ! It´s a pleasure to have you here at Metal To Infinity Belgium ! I can´t imagine what was like joining Savatage at their pike as well as shaping up your heavy and creative solo works. Do you prefer working with a band or having total creative control of your compositions like in your solo albums ?
Chris: First off thanks for the kind words and the interview. It really depends. There is nothing like the feeling of playing with a great band. Cpmposing and writing and laughing and having fun creaing music. However there is something fun and special about listening to a piece of work that you created on your own for the first time. Perhaps its our human nature but we tend to be very proud of what we do individually as an artist and with these solo records its just that. The chance for me to do something on my own, to let people hear something that was completely created by me. Love it or hate it the results are a parto f me and my soul.
Phoenix: You´re about to realease a new solo album entitled “The Jester´s Court “ . Every solo album of yours has a touch of its own, they never sound the same. Can you tell us about your song writting process and creative influences ?
Chris: Well a loto f times the writing process starts and ends with my mood and personal life at the time. Life is never the same every year so the songs I write are never the same. Happiness, sadness, frustration, anger, love, hate…these emotions can all trigger diferente parts of the creative mind. There have been a lot of losses in my life recently . So many people have passed away. Since my dad died in 2016 I have lost 16 very close friends and Family members. I used that love of my friends and the emotions surrounding their loss to give me the strength for this record. There are some sad moments in the writing but I channeled my memories and love into a writing process this time that became fun and exciting. I wanted to make them all proud and it made me work harder. I sang for them, myself and all of the fans. As time has gone on I find I enjoy singing so much, actually more than the guitar playing sometimes because i can speak through words as well as the musical expression.. It is a powerful outlet.
When I write sometimes the music comes first, sometimes the lyrics do. Other times I will have a chorus in min dor write a song around a News item that inspired me. It really like I said depends on my mood.
Phoenix: Do you plan on touring with your new solo release?
Chris: I really want to tour this time! My voice has gotten much stronger and I think it would be fun to get bck out there and let people hear just how it has developed over the last 15 years.
Phoenix: What gear did you use to record “ The Jester´s Court “ ?
Chris: Myself personally I used a couple diferente bass guitars. I used an old Rickenbacher and a Dean.
My electric guitars were a loto of different ones! There was a Gibson V, two Les PAuls, a couple Strats, my Dean Nightcastle…
Acoustic I used a Martin, a Dean and a Babicz Spider.
For amps I was all digital! I used a couple diferente Digitech units. My 1101 rack and a simple floor unit that has some cool pre-amps. I also used a Line 6 Pod, one of the first fack units they made. Any of the effects were in their own banks or plug-ins from my Pro Tools.
My Mic was an AKG.
My Keyboard is a Casio Privia.
Phoenix: You started playing the guitar at na early age , you focused a lot on the recording side of the thing also. After all these years do you still practice ?
Chris: That actually depends on my mood, whether or not I need to rehearse for live situations and how bad I think I stink when I hear a guitarist that blows me away! But there are time when I practice a lot and other times when its not much at all. My life gets very busy, some times there just isnt enough time in the day for everything that I would like to do!
Phoenix: You got involved with Savatage during the “Gutter Ballet “ era. Can you tell us a bit about this big break of your career ?
Chris: I actually got involved before the Hall of the Mountain King tour. I auditioned and got the gig playing guitar in the band Heaven. They were on Columbia Records and produced and managed by Paul O’Neill. Paul saw something he really liked in me and while he was producing the Mt King record told me about this band Savatage. I knew them from the radio. He said “the sound is too big for one guitar live and I want you to tour with them when they open for Dio. I was hired to play that tour sidestage. I played guitar and keyboards for a few months with them. We got along great as friends and they asked me to join the band for the Gutter Ballet record and tour.
Phoenix: How was the songwriting process with the great late Criss Oliva ? It must have been great working with arrangements and solos with him .
Chris: He was such a brilliant guitarist but he also was my best friend on the road. On the Gutter tour when his wife wasnt around me and him were pretty much inseparable. He taught me a lot. About tone, technique, his riffs and solos and about life. I really miss him a lot. The songwtiting was mostly him and Jon at the time. Criss would sometimes finish complete songs musically but he didnt write lyrics. He had an infinite arsenal of riffs in his head. I can only imagine what he would have written in 25 years if he had remained alive. His death was such a tragedy, he was so Young.
Phoenix: There was a point of your career that you almost joined Megadeth. How do you think things would´ve been to you on that band ?
Chris: I had the opportunity to audition for them. They were taking a break for personal reasons and the final auditions werent happening for a few months that is when Savatage asked me to join. I didnt want to miss that opportunity and didnt ever make it to the final audition process for Megadeth. That is when they chose Marty Friedman. I would have loved playing that music, Dave is one of my favorite musicians and writers ever and his relentless touring and work ethic is something I admire so much. He has accomplished an awful lot and I am proud to call him and David friends.
Phoenix: Kiss was a massive influence to you when you started playing. Do you still go back to your first influences as an ispiration for songwriting ?
Chris: I think you Always do that. Those bands were etched in my soul musically. Priest, Maiden, Kiss, Sabbath, Accept, Queen…its impossible not to have those influences come into your writing.
Phoenix: Thank you very much Chris for granting us this interview. To finish the questionnaire, you´re the type of person that is always involved with art, from music to sea glass pictures. Do you intend to venture on this path and become a painter ? Also do you plan to sell your art to the public ?
Chris: Thank you again for the interview. My sea glass art I already sell online in my store at www.chriscaffery.com My company Metalphant and side kick Wilbur are the platform that I use to sell a lot of the art pieces. They are mor like glass sculptures than paintings. I do incorporate them into paintings and some I paint characters into the glass to make them come a live but they start with simple pieces of sea glass that I find all over the world in my travels. I really enjoy making these pieces of art and I know it is something that I will do for a long time!