Al Pitrelli interview
October 9, 1997
by John Perry
We chatted this week with Al Pitrelli about the new Savatage release, The Wake Of Magellan, and the upcoming European tour. Al is one of two guitarists with Savatage and is the newest member of the band.
Pitrelli is a reknowned studio and touring musician. He’s played with the likes of Alice Cooper, Widowmaker, and Asia. On Asia, Al said that playing with the founders of Yes and ELP was awe-inspiring. He was asked to tour with Asia in support of the Aqua album but was unable to due to a commitment to Dee Snider/Widowmaker. After Widowmaker he joined Savatage.
This is his second album with the band and he said that this lineup works well together. Al was asked by Paul O’Neill to join Savatage while they were recording Dead Winter Dead, and he commented about what it was like to join: “It was instant chemistry right out of the gate – I loved the music, the guys were really cool – it was like we had been friends for ten years already.”
Al commented on how Savatage is so much bigger over seas but he knows that there’s a strong fan base in the states as well. He told me about being greeted at the airport in Greece by thousands of screaming fans, “It’s like the fucking Beatles.” I asked Al what it was like to be so huge over seas, being mobbed by fans, etc., while back home in the states he’s able to walk down the street and he’s hardly recognized. He replied: “It’s kinda a bummer in some ways but I actually enjoy it. At this point to be a working musician is fortunate, to say the very least, and to have anonymity over here in the states means you can come and go as you please, do your thing, and not get hassled. Now I enjoy being hassled but at the same time when you’re out with your wife and kids, or whatever, ya know? I remember going out with Alice Cooper on a social situation and he couldn’t even get out of the parking lot without being mobbed! It’s kinda like having your cake and eating it too. So it’s fun.” He said getting ready for the tour entails a lot of singing, “We have some pretty complex background vocals. Basically you learn your parts and hope to God that you’re singing in key every night. We could do it the easy way and use samplers but that’s not right.”
When describing The Wake Of Magellan he said one should follow along with the lyrics when listening to it for the first time. “It’s got a lot of depth – it’s not a one-listen record…We’re playing music that we like to play…It’s not about keeping up with what happens to be fashionable because that’s not what the band’s about.”
Al’s first concert experience was the Steve Miller Book Of Dreams Tour in 1976. He saw the show with his junior high school history teacher. Al likes to listen to his old Miles Davis CD’s and said he’s a jazz junky. He uses Peavey amps, Gibson Les Paul guitars and a new Brian Moore guitar which he loves. I asked Al if we should expect anything different at the Danbury show and he said: “Yeah, I’ll be in tune! (laughing).” Looks like they will be playing a lot of new stuff off of The Wake Of Magellan. He said it should be lots of fun. This is the first of three U.S. shows for the band before heading out on their European tour. Al lives on Long Island with his wife, kids and dogs. When he’s home he enjoys playing with his cover band Ethel Mertz. They play stuff like Travers, Allman Bros., Humble Pie, Bad Co.,etc. Good old seventies rock! He said the crowd will shout requests like Bush or Hole. “Yeah, right!” He said: “There’s nothing wrong with those type of bands, but when I want to go play, I don’t want to play the shit that makes me feel older than I really am.”
Check out Savatage at Tuxedo Junction on Oct. 16th. Also, surf over to the official Savatage.com website for news on the band.