Thursday, April 6, 2017

NEWS: Paul O'Neill (1956-2017)

Paul O'Neill, producer known for Trans-Siberian Orchestra and his work with Savatage, died on Wednesday, April 5th, 2017. Savatage and TSO guitarist Chris Caffery issued the following statement.
OFFICIAL: When I was a teenager I used to hang out in the rock 'n' roll club scene of New York City. There was a club called L'Amour East that used to have a lot of national acts and I would pretty much go see every one! There was always this one guy there. I didn't know who he was but he was always there. He had long hair and would wander around in a leather jacket with a white shirt. He seemed pretty important, he wasn't in the bands but he was always with the bands. Later in the year when I was 17 I was hanging out at a club called Nirvana in New York City. I had met a couple different people that were managed by a company called Contemporary Communications. This company was formerly known as Leber & Krebs.They had managed just about every major rock 'n' roll band on the planet at the time. One of the people I ran into was the late great Allan Fryer from the band Heaven. I wound up getting an audition with the band and eventually got the gig. I remember walking into the offices of Contemporary Communications for the first time. All of a sudden I see that guy from the club! It was Mr. Paul Oneill. Paul managed and produced Heaven and my very first professional paycheck came from him when I was a 17-year-old kid.
33 years later I look back on my career and think of how lucky I am. How lucky I was to live just about every single dream I ever had as a kid about being a rock 'n' roll musician and a rockstar. The man who created that magic has passed away from us and the emptiness that I'm feeling cannot be described in words.
They always say they are moments in your life in which from that moment on things will never be the same. Meeting Paul was one of those moments and losing Paul is definitely one of those moments as well.
There are 1 million different things that I want to say right now. I can't really put them into words. I'm praying for his family, his daughter especially. Im praying for all of us in the TSO and Savatage family we lost our big brother, a mentor...our hero...our leader.
All Paul ever wanted to do was change the world through his music he did that and so much more. Rest In Peace Paul.
It's time to catch up on that sleep you have been missing for the past 20 years... I love you and I'm gonna miss u.
Paul O'Neill (February 23, 1956 – April 5, 2017) was an American music composer, lyricist, producer, and songwriter.
A New York City native, the second of his parents' ten children, Paul O'Neill's music and literary influences, as well as his own artistic visions were well established before he began working full-time in the industry in his late teens. O'Neill began playing guitar with a number of rock bands in high school and quickly graduated to folk guitar gigs at downtown clubs. O'Neill took his first serious musical steps in the mid 1970s when he took his first progressive rock band, Slowburn, into Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios in New York City. It was there that he first met engineer Dave Wittman who had the ability to capture on tape the sounds O'Neill was hearing in his head. Paul ended up shelving the project because he was not happy with final results. (A habit Paul would repeat over the decades much to the frustration of his accountants.) However he has credited Slowburn's initial failure as one of the luckiest thing that could have ever happened to him for it gave him the opportunity to learn the recording and concert business from the inside out. All the little nuances of how you broke acts in America and Canada, which was different from, Europe, Asia but more importantly how to make your artist success last. In addition, touring the planet with some of the world's biggest bands gave him an insight not only to the how the music industry differed from country to country but also a better sense of history, peoples and finance than you could learn from books alone.
He landed a position at Leber-Krebs Inc., the management company that launched the careers of Aerosmith, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Ted Nugent, The New York Dolls, Scorpions and Joan Jett among others. Specifically, he worked as the personal assistant of manager David Krebs. In the 1980s, O'Neill became a large rock promoter in Japan, promoting every tour of Madonna and Sting done in that decade, as well the largest rock festivals done in Japan till that time with such acts as Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Ronnie James Dio.
Among other bands, O'Neill helmed Aerosmith's Classics Live I and Classics Live II albums before beginning a fortuitous relationship with the band Savatage that led to conceptual pieces such as Hall of the Mountain King, Gutter Ballet, Streets: A Rock Opera and Dead Winter Dead. It also introduced him to Jon Oliva, Bob Kinkel and Al Pitrelli, as well as reconnecting him with legendary studio engineer Dave Wittman, who all became key original collaborators in O'Neill's grand vision – Trans-Siberian Orchestra.
"I wanted to take the very best of all the forms of music I grew up on and merge them into a new style," O'Neill says. "Basically I was building on the work of everybody I worshipped: the rock opera parts from bands like the Who; the marriage of classical and rock from bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Queen; the over-the-top light show from bands like Pink Floyd...I always wanted to do a full rock opera with a full progressive band and at least 24 lead singers.
O'Neill took the idea to Atlantic Records which, to his surprise, went for it and financed the creation of Romanov which was initially to be TSO’s first release. "We were very fortunate," he says. "It was one of the only labels left that still did an “old school” kind of artist development." My original concept was; "We were going to do six rock operas, a trilogy about Christmas and maybe one or two regular albums."
"Criss could play anything you could imagine. He could work a solo around a vocal without stepping on it, and he was one of the few guitarists who knew how to convey the emotion of the human voice with a guitar. He was a combination of the angst of Duane Allman on "Layla,’ the excitement of Jimmy Page, the emotion of Eric Clapton, the raw feel of Joe Perry and the dexterity of Eddie Van Halen or Allan Holdsworth."
However, when Romanov got temporarily put on the back burner, the first installment of the Christmas trilogy, Christmas Eve and Other Stories became TSO’s debut album. Fueled by the socially conscious single "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24", the album went double platinum. More platinum certifications followed with 1998’s The Christmas Attic, and the final installment of the Christmas trilogy, The Lost Christmas Eve in 2004. In the midst of completing the trilogy, TSO released their first non-holiday rock opera the gold certified Beethoven's Last Night.
But TSO really cemented its following in concert. The group hit the road in 1999, beginning an annual November–December extravaganza that O'Neill takes pride in being "as over the top as we can make it." "We have, two stages -- with pyro, light and lasers -- on both sides of the arena, as well as in the crowd and the best sound we can find...There's no second-class seats at a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show. I want people to walk out of our shows speechless and...still not believing what they have seen was possible."
"We spend a lot of time planning," O'Neill confesses with a laugh, "and people are always telling me, 'Paul, stop writing and start recording!' It's working out great, though. I feel lucky that it's gone this long and that we get to do what we love for a living. The arts have incredible power, and with that comes incredible responsibility. Someone once said that if you want to change the world, don't become a politician -- write a book, write a great song. I believe in that, and that's what Trans-Siberian Orchestra is about."
"I've always believed that music has the power to transport and transform," O'Neill explained. "The original concept of Trans-Siberian Orchestra was how to make music have the most emotional impact. We always try to write melodies that are so infectious they don't need lyrics and lyrics so poetic that they don’t need a melody, but when you combine the two together they create an alloy where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Once those songs are woven together into a tapestry they create a story which gives each song a third dimension."
"That was so much in the spirit of Trans-Siberian Orchestra", O'Neill explains. "This is a group -- a constantly morphing group -- of extremely creative and talented individuals who are always trying to raise the bar of where a band can take its audience sonically, visually and emotionally. With that as our core ideal, the possibilities are endless."
O'Neill's death was announced in a brief note posted on the Trans-Siberian Orchestra website on April 5, 2017, which cited chronic illness. [Wikipedia]
1986 - Classics Live I
1987 - Classics Live II
1989 - Badlands
1989 - Escape to Nowhere
1985 - Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Metal Church
1993 - Hanging in the Balance
1987 - Hall of the Mountain King
1989 - Gutter Ballet
1991 - Streets: A Rock Opera
1993 - Edge of Thorns
1994 - Handful of Rain
1994 - Japan Live '94
1995 - Dead Winter Dead
1995 - Final Bell / Ghost in the Ruins
1997 - The Wake of Magellan
2001 - Poets and Madmen
Trans-Siberian Orchestra
1996 - Christmas Eve and Other Stories
1998 - The Christmas Attic
2000 - Beethoven's Last Night
2004 - The Lost Christmas Eve
2009 - Night Castle
2012 - Beethoven's Last Night - The Complete Narrated Version
2012 - Dreams of Fireflies (On a Christmas Night) - EP
2015 - Letters From the Labyrinth
Christmas Eve/ Sarajevo [Timeless Version]

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