Interview with Chris Caffery of Savatage
September 24, 1997
by Steph Perry
Rock Notes recently interviewed Chris Caffery, guitarist for Savatage. Chris is looking forward to the upcoming European tour and said that the rest of the band would be heading up north very soon to start rehearsals. The tour is in support of their newest album, The Wake Of Magellan, which will be released in America in 1998. You can see Savatage at one of three warm-up shows at Tuxedo Junction on October 16th before they head overseas.
Chris joined Savatage in 1989 and left the band in 1990 to pursue a side project with his brother. He rejoined Savatage in 1995 and has been with them ever since. He said that he regrets being away from Savatage especially because of the time lost with Criss Oliva (Savatage founder/lead guitarist) who died in 1993. He said that Criss’ spirit lives on through Savatage. He recalled the times when they toured together and Criss would walk across the stage and play his leads right in front of him and kind of turn away and smile. He said he learned a lot from Criss and thinks of him as his inspiration. He said that, “leaving Savatage made me appreciate what’s going on right now alot more…I was lucky enough to get it back again.”
He explained the concept behind Wake, “It’s the last day in the life of an old sailor. The guy basically thinks he’s got nothing to live for and he walks down the beach and passes characters (that become different songs in the story) and pushes his boat out to sea. He wants to die like a viking would and in the middle of a storm he saves a drowning man…And he has something to live for. It has a heavy message.” He said that it does have a happier feeling to it than Dead Winter Dead (1995) did. When asked about the stories behind some of the most recent albums, Chris said that when Paul O’Neill (producer) hears about news that gets him angry, he comes up with these great concepts. He said that the idea behind Dead Winter Dead being about the war in Sarajevo came to them earlier and is evident on the song “Watching The Fall” off the CD Handful Of Rain.
Chris actually learned to play music on the drums at the age of eight. He picked up the guitar around age 10. His first concert was Kiss and Judas Priest. He said he won backstage passes to a Judas Priest show and got to meet K.K. Downing. When K.K. asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up, Chris looked at him and said, “I want to be just like you!” Years later when in Germany promoting Dr. Butcher, Chris ran into K.K. Downing and was pleased to see that not only did K.K. remember him, but he had been an avid Savatage fan!
He and Al Pitrelli split the leads on the new album. Chris said that the current line-up is very solid and they sound great live. He used one of Criss Oliva’s guitars to record most of his leads for The Wake Of Magellan. He enjoys touring in Europe and said that Savatage was voted the number one live band in Germany ahead of #2 Kiss and #3 Metallica.
Chris spends his free time at the gym, collecting toys, cooking, and people watching. He said that he and Jon Oliva are putting Dr. Butcher on hold in order to focus on Savatage. He’s looking foward to touring the US next spring and hopes that album will be as successful here as it’s been in Europe so far.