5 Questions is a series by Steve Duffy –
Trans-Siberian Orchestra has become a Christmas phenomenon. It boast a massive light show with lasers and pyrotechnics that are all synchronized to music. O’Neill likes to call the show a “Rock Theatre” that will entertain the entire family.
SD: How much of the new material from “Letters from the Labyrinth” will be part of the show this year?
PO: We, basically, are hoping to do at least six songs from the new album. Particularly, songs like, “Madness of Men,” “Forget About the Blame,” “Not the Same.” For this album, we had decided to have one song, we’ve performed live, but never performed on an album. Where we’ll have a female sing a song that was originally done on the album by a male, or a male perform a song that was performed on an album by a female. Originally, I was going to have a male/female duet for, “Not the Same,” which is a song about the Amanda Todd cyberbullying situation.
SD: I’m curious about the song writing itself, how different was it writing a short story versus writing a song for this album. What do you get out of each one?
PO: With TSO, originally, the whole plan was to be rock opera-driven, and eventually we would do one or two regular albums. I decided to write just one short story to go with one song, but I was like, oh, let me write another short story. So, we basically decided that we would make this a series of short stories that were all inter-weaved as time goes by. In some ways it’s easier, when I have the story written I know emotionally where each song should go, I know where the melodies should go, the balance, the dynamic. This is a new action adventure for us, again, it’s not a rock opera, it’s not a regular album where it’s a bunch of songs, it’s kind of a hybrid. It’s really an experiment for us.
SD: What kind of a postmortem do you do?
PO: We are always reflecting back on each show, because we want it to be the best, especially for the audience. We’re lucky because technology keeps advancing. We want to give people the comfort of what they expect, but something new to continue to make it exciting. That’s getting harder and harder every year, as this thing gets larger and larger. We do find it a litter harder to jump the generational walls We’re very aware that we have a very wide audience, and you have to be very careful that there’s something there for everybody, so everybody keeps coming back every year. We really want our music to be the soundtrack of people’s lives.
SD: You brought TSO together almost two decades ago, you’ve released three Christmas themed records, three rock orchestra style records. You’ve really revolutionized how Christmas and rock is viewed by the masses. How do you feel about bringing this unique hybrid to all ages, all background audience and associating that music with Christmas time?
PO: I would love to say that I planned this whole thing, but it wasn’t true. It’s funny, because, I had noticed that over the centuries every generation tends to kick something into the Christmas catalog of great art and great music. It really hadn’t happened recently. The closest thing, to me, and actually it’s really inspirational, I think it was 1975, when Bing Crosby, right before he died, I think it might have been the last thing he recorded, on his Christmas special was him singing “Little Drummer Boy” in counter-point with another song with David Bowie. You can find it on YouTube, it’s a magical little moment. For some reason, rock never was able to turn something into the whole Christmas lexicon. In a lot of ways, we were very intimidated by the Christmas thing because number one, you have multiple other musicians putting out Christmas albums. It’s very scary because everybody is always doing it, and you’re competing against art. But for me, the ultimate critic that you can’t fool and the only critic that counts in the end, is time.
SD: Any plans to take TSO to Broadway?
Yes, our next step is to head towards Broadway. I love the coherent story telling of a Broadway musical. Broadway has never really got the true edge of a rock musical, and whether it’s from a production point-of-view or it’s just rock credibility, they just simply don’t understand it. For me, it’s just a natural marriage. It’s time for rock to enter Broadway. Not that there’s anything wrong with old fashioned Broadway, but it’s more suitable for the forties than it is for the new millennium.