TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This phone interview with guitarist Chris Caffery was done by Vincent Eldefors on September 23rd, 2004.
Chris Caffery is a name which is well-known to most fans of hard rock / heavy metal as he has been showing off his guitar talent with Savatage since the late 80s. Now he is also active as a solo artist and has released the album "Faces" on the Greek label Black Lotus Records.
Hello, how are you?
I'm fine, how are you?
I'm fine too. First of all, congratulations on your solo debut.
Are you happy with the response to it so far?
Yeah, actually so far the response has been great. I'm really, really with this. It's funny 'cause the only negative thing I think I have heard so far is that they think with the two cds I recorded too much music and that it was a little too diverse. I can live with that, if I give out too much music I'm ok.
Do you know how many interviews you have done so far for this album?
Well, I've been doing interviews since the beginning of July. I don't know the number, somewhere around a couple of hundred.
That's more than you did with Savatage?
What are the worst questions people ask you?
Everybody ask me why it took so long to do this solo album. They ask me what is up with Savatage and they want to know if there are going to be more records and if we're going to tour. Those are the most popular questions.
Do you have any expectations on the album?
I think the album is being released in Greece tomorrow and in Germany next week. I'd like to see the label making the money they invested into the music and then we'll take it from there. I want to get out on the road. I want the fans to be able to see it live and to make everybody involved some money and to be able to keep making more records. I mean, I am very happy with the result and I just want everyone to hear it and see if they like it.
You have signed a record contract with the Greek metal label Black Lotus Records, which most Americans probably haven't heard of. How did you end up signing with them?
Well, I was looking for a label that was going to focus their attention on what I wanted to do as an artist. A lot of the labels, including the one I was on, were looking on what Savatage sold and were basically saying "if Savatage sold this we think that the guitar player from Savatage can sell this" and that was before they even listened to the music so I was having sales figures thrown at me before people even knew what was going on or what I was doing and I didn't want that. As time went on I was approached by Black Lotus and they flew me to Athens and they listened to the music and asked me what I wanted and what I wanted to do. I told them and they agreed and for me it has been the perfect situation because we are both kind of working for the same thing. They are working to become a bigger label and I am working to become successful on my own and together we are really trying to accomplish something special here. I think if there's any goal I want to achieve it is to make them successful.
Ok, so you are happy with the label so far?
Did you know of them before?
No, I didn't know them before. They approached me. I mean, I heard about them from some friends but I had very little knowledge of them.
For how long have you had plans to record this solo album?
I started recording the demos a couple of years ago when I wrote around 65 songs and I narrowed it down to the ones I wanted to record. I began with that in January and was finished with the mixing and mastering and everything towards the middle of June. The actual recording I was finished with in the beginning of May.
Was this something you had wanted to do ever since you began playing the guitar?
I think I really wanted to make a record where I could show people me and what it is like to be on my own. The singing part I think is something I always wanted to do but I never thought I was good enough and I realized when I started doing the demos that I could really develop the voice and make it a lot better. I think that is the most exciting part because every day, every minute my voice gets a little bit better and I'm really excited to get on the road and sing and even more excited to go do another cd. I can't wait to see what I can do with it next.
Who are the best vocalists in the world today do you think?
There are so many but no matter what you've got the old one, the classics that you can't beat. Ronnie Dio, I saw him in Washington and he's still kicking everyone's butt. I love "Ripper" Owens' voice, I think he's incredible. There are a lot of great vocalists. Throughout the years I think the music has strayed away but I'm actually kind of happy to see the way a lot of the prog metal is starting to come back and even the modern bands with the female vocals are bringing the melody back into the music. We just headlined the prog metal festival in Atlanta over the weekend and I got to see Kamelot sing and the guy in that band is amazing. There are a lot of great singers and I think heavy metal music is starting to go back more towards the melody again and the vocals and I am happy to see that.
Do you listen to a lot of new bands?
I don't listen to tons because I don't have a lot of time. I try to but there are so many records that come my way and so many things that if I were going to name one favorite one that I hear it is going to be very difficult. I tend to listen to what I hear other people play. Recently here in America you hear a lot of Velvet Revolver because that is what people is playing a lot of over here. As far as the new young bands I try to listen to a lot of everybody but I don't have any one favorite.
You know Dave and Jeff from before but how come you invited Paul Morris of Rainbow to play on the album?
Well, I was working with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and I've been friends with him for a while. We were both watching a show from our bass player Dave Z. who played on my record. He and his brother had a band called ZO2 and they were opening for us this summer and Paul was there at one of the final shows. He asked me what I was doing and I told him that I was recording a solo record and he wanted to stop by the studio and hear it and after he listened to some songs he said that he had to play on the record. I think it was great, he really added a lot to the record, he is just an amazing player.
Is it important to know the musicians you're working with on a personal level do you think?
I think with this record it was for me because there was a tremendous amount of pressure doing all the work I was doing, producing, writing, singing and the guitars and it felt good to have friends working with you because it was a little bit of security. I was able to have people around me who were supporting what I was doing, who knew, and I felt that it was very important.
Do you know who will be with you on tour?
I hope so, I mean I can't say 100%. On my album I didn't include any photos because I saw what happened to Zachary Stevens with Circle II Circle where he had a band on the record and a year later they were out of the band and I didn't want that to happen. I know for sure Jeff will be there and I hope the other guys too but Dave has a band with his brother and it's hard to say whether or not they will be on tour. I hope to have Paul Morris with me also but his shcedule for next year is not fixed either.
How much touring will you be doing as a solo artist?
I want to do as much as possible. I want to get out on the road as a band and play as many shows and as many festivals as I can. That's the way I can get out and have people hear the music. I need to get out to play and I want to.
You enjoy playing live more than working in the studio?
Yeah, I mean it's two different things. The studio is very fulfilling as a musician, as an artist, you get to watch what you're creating come to life and you hear it every day and it's an amazing experience.
What are the best and worst experiences from your life on the road?
There are so many. With Savatage we played Dynamo in 1996, I think that was incredible, there were over 100,000 people watching us on stage. I had never played before an audience that large before. To go to new places is very special for me as I get to see the world. The first time I travelled to Japan and the first time I went to Brazil, even this year when I played with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra and we headlined at the Madison Square Garden in New York City. That was something I had wanted to do since I was a little kid. I have been fortunate because I have seen a lot of things I've dreamed of happen to me.
Do you feel that it is very different to play in Europe or Japan compared to the United States?
It's actually very different everywhere. Europe is very heavy metal and it's very different the way the kids and media treat us. The United States have gotten very corporate so it's very difficult sometimes to be a metal band but the fans are still there, it's the business that is different. In Japan the economy is very different than it was in the 90s so it's different playing there. The fans are still there but the whole scene is strange.
As I understand you have already written a lot of new music. Do you have a time plan for the next album?
Yeah, actually, I wrote 65 songs when I was doing this one so there are ones that I could use for the next record, whether or not I rewrite them is yet to be seen. The first thing I am going to do is go into the studio and record the additional songs I have written for the "War" cd and some time over the next summer the whole "God Damn War" cd is going to be released seperately.
Will the next album be in a similar style or is there anything you would like to do different?
As far as the next complete solo album I really don't know. I think I just want to try and experiment a little bit more with my voice and see what I can do with that. I actually think that maybe on the next album I might concentrate more on the electric guitar stuff because I was so focused on making sure that the vocals were good on this one and on the next one I think I want to go and do what people were expecting more of on this one, maybe a couple of different instrumentals which I didn't do on this one as I had so much to say musically and a lot of things lyrically. I might actually be a little bit more of a guitar player also on the next record but we'll have to see.
Do you work with any other bands or musicians now like you did with Metalium?
Well, no, I really don't have that much time. I'm working with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, we're getting ready to do our next tour here so between that and all the work I have been doing with my solo cd I really don't have that kind of time for anything. I have a couple of songs that are going to be on Jon's solo album and I have a couple of songs that are on Zach's solo record and I have a few songs that will be on John West's new record but I don't really have time for anything else right now.
You have said that you would want to work with Dio on something? Do you have anything planned?
I would love to. When you look at Dio, Rainbow and Black Sabbath he has been in three of my all-time favorite bands ever. It's a big thing and I would really love to do a record with him.
Were they the bands you grew up with?
Yeah, everybody. It started with the Beatles which I think was the first I listened to and I moved on to Paul McCartney and "Wings..." and then I started liking heavier music. I think on the same day I bought the first Boston record, from there I looked for anything heavy. I was listening to Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Saxon, Accept, Riot, Triumph, Rush, Queen... I was a huge fan of really good heavy metal music.
You have been in the music business for a long time now. What are the biggest differences between today and say 15 years ago?
The biggest difference is the industry itself. There were 15 major record labels back then and there are two or three now. Record labels used to find artists and develop them more than try to make them something. I think MTV hit and things became very formulated. The TV format took over and patterns have changed. It has become very corporate and I don't think there is really much of a focus on music. It's more like they're trying to sell kids' toys. They look at what kids are buying and what interests them and they play it safe. It's like the song "The Mole". Everybody in the industry wants to take the easy way out and they're afraid to lose their jobs so they sign exactly what they know can sell. They sign safe things and guarantees and I don't think there are any artistic people in the business anymore. I mean, there are a few but they are now with the smaller labels. I think the major labels are corporate giants and they're running music like a corporation and I think it's really a shame because I think the art is suffering.
Are these the reasons why you didn't sign with a major label this time?
Yeah, it's one of the huge reasons. Like I said, they wanted me to fit a certain mould and they were looking at certain numbers and the money and the attention and everything, it was just a different thing. I wanted to create music and be an artist. I have my fans and I know what I can do. I just wanted to go out and make a solo record in every true sense and didn't want to have people tell me what to do with that. If that was the case, I would have just recorded the thing myself and released it on the internet without a record company. I wanted to make music and create art, I didn't want to have somebody telling me what to do.
You have your own website. Do you think internet is an important marketing tool today?
It is extremely important. It is an amazing thing because a lot of people talk about downloading and what it has done to music and in some ways I think it is one of the best things that have happened to us and in some ways it can also be considered one of the worst. I think artists need to get creative with that, you need to make your releases worth buying. That's one of the reasons why I decided to have a second cd with all the extra music and my main cd is almost 80 minutes long. It's the longest you can make it and I wanted to give people something that was worth buying at a time when everybody was stealing music. The internet is great, the fans from all over the world can communicate and you can get a really good idea of what different markets are like. It's kind of dangerous sometimes if you take things too seriously because people can express their opinions about what you do and with one push of a button it appears right in front of your face so you have to keep in mind that you're dealing with human beings even though it is through a machine. It is an incredible tool and it is not going anywhere so you have to learn how to work with it.
How much do you use the internet yourself?
I actually use it a lot because I am very involved with my website. I do many updates on it and I put up photos, tour diaries and lots of other things that many artists don't do. I think I was one of the first artists ever to have a documented tour diary. I actually pioneered the band tour diary on the internet. I think it's good too because I like to use my mind and to write. Actually, one day I want to write a book and I prepare myself with the amount of writing I do on the internet.
What would the book be about? Your life as a musician?
I think I want to start with horror stories and children's books. I like the way the old cartoons used to do entertainment for kids. They were really sarcastic and had an adult back to the sense of humour. I'd really like to have children's books which were entertaining for kids but funny when an adult reads them to the kids because they would catch the jokes inside of it. The horror I'd like to do because I was a big fan of it when I was a kid and I don't think people are making things that are scary anymore. A lot of horror movies are not nearly as scary as the old ones.
What are your favorites?
I think the scariest movie for me was the first "Halloween". I think there was something about that white face you could see everywhere in the dark if you looked. It was extremely frightening. There was a lot of scary movies. The actual original "Friday the 13th" before Jason became like a superhero, I think the real killers are way more frightening than the monsters. When you have killers that are tangible, that people see in their everyday lives, I think that is scarier. "Halloween" was very scary, something that could happen for real but then he became a superhero too.
You're not a big fan of the newer "Scream" movies and things like that?
Nah, there are some good stuff but not like the old ones. I mean, the kind of humour I was talking about with the children's books, everybody is trying to do that but with the horror movies. I think Freddy Krueger changed the way people make horror, everybody tries to have funny things happening and it's almost like an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie where you have these little stapled lines all the time like "I'll be back". Horror had to become funny.
That was about it. Do you have any final words or a message to our readers?
No, not really. I hope that everybody who buys the album enjoys it. I am very happy to be able to release my first solo record.
Do you know who will be releasing the album outside Europe?
I am actually pretty sure that I'll be working with Black Lotus all around the world. The Japanese deal I'm not quite sure about but Black Lotus has distribution in America through a record company called The End and I believe we're going to release it through them here. I was speaking to some other American agents but in many ways I encountered what I was talking about before, they were generalizing sales based on Savatage and not really looking to develop the thing the way I wanted to. People can get the album anywhere they want it. I forgot the name but but there was a band who were taking pre-orders from their fans for the albums and they would send the money for the record before they made it. They took all the money from their fans and made the record that way. I think that was an incredibly huge statement. The industry is trying to dictate who can and who can't make music and it's really frustrating as an artist. This is what you do and it's difficult when people tell you that you can't because... Black Lotus are letting me free to create music the way I want to.
Thanks a lot for the interview and good luck in the future.
Thanks a lot. I hope to see you on tour.
Links of interest:
Black Lotus Records
The End Records