Clearwater band
takes to the recording studio


By Bob Andelman, C.T. correspondent.

From Clearwater Times, 1985

HTML by Ellen Bakvis


CLEARWATER - Life hasn't reached the fast lane yet for members of heavy metal rock band Savatage, but it may soon.
The locally based quartet is home for a short holiday break from Bearsville, N.Y., where the group is recording it's first album for Atlantic Records.
"It's going great,", reported bass player Keith Collins. "It's cold, it snows there...We have to stay inside and work."
For the past five weeks, Collins, singer Jon Oliva, his brother and guitarist Criss Oliva and drummer Steve Wacholz have been laying down -recording- backing and rhythm tracks for songs like 'Skull Session', 'The Dungeons Are Calling' and 'Necrophilia'.
"A lot of people were afraid of us wimping out," Wacholz said. "We're not wimping out. (The album) is coming out a lot more heavy than we were expecting. There's a few songs that will raise a lot of controversy."

The members of heavy metal
rock band Savatage
from left, are
Keith Collins, Steve Wacholz,
Jon Oliva and Criss Oliva

"THESE SONGS have been written with humor in mind", Jon said.
"Where's the humor?", asked Wacholz.
"I chuckle", Jon retorted. "I think they're funny. We're not saying to do these things, we just sing about them." Savatage has a $100,000 budget for the album, which is being produced by Max Norman, a veteran of records by Ozzy Osbourne.
Bearsville consists of "one road, the studio, two restaurants, a post office and a market." It's near Woodstock in upstate New York. Jon said he believes the region is similar to Florida: "It's pretty boring. There seem to be a few people there that have never left. It makes for a very laid-back, friendly town."
That is in direct contrast to the singer's observations about New York City: "The city is very fast - like a whole 'nother world. There's no rules - it's every man for himself."
Back in Bearsville, things were not entirely dull.

"WE STAYED in a haunted house," according to Jon. "Had a lot of trap doors, weird things. They didn't tell us it was a haunted house until we were gone."
"I slept in the barn," Collins said. "No one else would....I left the lights on. Somebody claimed to see a ghost or feel a presence in there at one time." "
I always had the feeling that somebody or something supernatural was watching me, whether I was showering, eating or or walking in the barn," Jon said.
But the thought that they might be watched was not froghtening to Savatage members. Bearsville is where some of the mightiest names in rock, including the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Todd Rundgren and the Isley Brothers, have recorded. Jon said that "knowing the Stones were (once) there, the vibes are real good."
As if things weren't eerie enough though, producer Max Norman decided to personalize the huge studio. "
Max sent one of the roadies (paid help) to buy candles," Jon recalled. "He burned candles and incense throughout the studios to create a mood. It freaked a lot of people out. ... He definitely makes sure the mood is right. He's a strange character."
Savatage expects to complete recording in four more weeks, with the album tentatively slated for an April release. In the meantime, the band expects to make it's New York debut Jan. 12 at a 2,000-seat club called L'Amour in Brooklyn. Later, a 10-concert warm-up tour of California is planned.
But right now, the band members say they are barely able to support themselves. "
We're paying our dues," Jon said. "Nobody in this city or state can look me in the face and say I haven't paid my dues. I've paid them 1,000 times over. Nobody walked up and handed us this on a silver platter."

SAVATAGE BEGAN seven years ago in Clearwater. The band's first album, Sirens, was independently produced three years ago and is still a top-selling heavy metal album in many countries. The group was discovered by Atlantic Records in the summer of 1983 as the opening act for Zebra at the Bayfront Theater.
For the Oliva brothers, this has made things particularly tight, supporting their wives in Clearwater while they are in New York. Eventually, they all plan to move north. "
All I can say is, look out," Jon warned, "The songs on this album are more suggestive than anything we've ever done." He said Savatage will produce 1985's "heaviest, most controversial" album without "throwing raw meat or spitting blood". ... We're a love/hate band. You're either gonna ' love us or hate us."
"Jon wants to be arrested, " his brother Criss said.
"Thanks," Jon replied. "That's just what Mom wants to hear."