Spirits Of Fire - Chris Caffery

Spirits Of Fire - Chris Caffery

Chris Caffery has his name tied up with lots of amazing things in Metal, and if you'd twist my arm, I would immediately throw out the SAVATAGE name and give goosebumps to those who know... This time, Chris is part of the SPIRITS OF FIRE lineup that features great musicians and, in fact, the debut album is going to hit the stores pretty soon. With all this in mind, METAL KAOZ had the chance to get Chris on the phone and have the following discussion for everything we could squeeze on a 30-minute conversation. Read on!

Spirits Of Fire - Chris Caffery

Hello Chris and welcome to METAL KAOZ! Are you freezing in New York?
Hi Dimitris! Well, it depends on what day it is; yesterday it was 55F and raining, two days before that, it was zero degrees, and today it’s probably about 40F with the sun out. So, today it’s not that bad.

Well, we are zero degrees here in Chicago, so you’re in a better shape, I guess.
I think we’re gonna get that next week.

Anyway, let’s cut to the chase, and first of all, what happened with the PledgeMusic orders?
You know what, I was waking up the other day and I looked into my inbox of messages on Facebook and I saw a fan who said “I was going to buy your record and I’m not going to in advance now because did you see what Danny Vaughn brought on from Pledge? And I was like, “no”, so I looked at the video that Danny Vaughn shot talking about his problems with the PledgeMusic and I sent it over to my guys at Frontiers and they were like “yeah, we’re gonna be closing the stores”. So, apparently there are some major problems with them doing the right thing about sending people their money, so I mean that is basically from what I understand what Danny said it is a business relation problem and it’s unfortunate for us that happened one month before the release of the record. But I know Frontiers will find a place for everything to go on. Luckily, this didn’t happen after the record was released and also nobody has said anything yet, so everybody will get their refunds done the right way. Whoever bought their stuff will be taken care of and Frontiers will get it to a place when people could buy it again.

However, if someone ordered the special edition, will he have priority? I mean, sometimes these things get sold out instantly.
I’m hoping – and I will speak with the Frontiers about that – that they can send stuff directly to me and if I have enough time I would deal with the shipping myself and I can even add a signature to some of those things, in a way to turn around and say “hey, thank you”. Because I don’t know if they send those items to the Pledge people. Like I said this story, the entire thing, is really only a day old, so we’re still trying to figure out how to resolve this. It’s frustrating more than anything because I wanna talk about the record doing these interviews, not talking about who needs money back from buying it.

Well, my question was more like regarding the special editions; you know how some of us are with our things, with our physical items.
Yeah, I understand that. So, like I said, I’m gonna try to do everything I can to help with that, to make sure that those people can get that opportunity.

That’s the best message. I hope Frontiers will decide to make a store here in the US because there are so many good releases that we have to get them as imports the way things are right now. And SPIRITS OF FIRE is one of them.
Hopefully they will change that.

Now, back to music; who had the idea about SPIRITS OF FIRE? I know that Frontiers likes to put together these awesome projects but was this also their idea?
The actual initial idea to put this particular group of people together was them. I mean, I thought for years about doing a record of some form with Ripper. I played one of his solo records and I toured with him opening for HEAVEN AND HELL, and I also toured with him opening for JUDAS PRIEST with SAVATAGE, so we have a long history as friends. So, that whole idea of doing a record with Ripper was something really cool to me, I wanted to do it. Serafino [Perugino] and Frontiers contacted me about “hey, we’re thinking about doing this thing with DiGiorgio and Zonder and I was like “that’s a cool idea” and then, they mentioned about using Roy Z and I was just a really huge fan of a lot of the works that Roy had done and always wanted to get a chance to work with him but never had. Because he was one of the guys that when he did a record with Dickinson it was good as anything I’ve ever heard of Dickinson do. His solo records were as good as the MAIDEN records and I figured Roy Z had to have something to do with that” (laughs). You know, he did these records and I was like “who is this Roy Z?” and I wanted to get a chance to work with him. So that whole package being brought to me saying “do you want to put this together?” and got me really inspired into writing the music I wrote.

So, when you started writing the guitar parts did you have in mind Tim’s voice?
Yeah, of course. I knew he was gonna be singing. The good thing about his voice is I’ve been on tour with him so many times, seeing him so many times, doing so many different things, whether it was Halford, his own music, ICED EARTH’s music, Malmsteen’s music or Ronnie Dio’s music and takes all these things that great singers have sung and did them perfectly and his voice is able to do so much of anything that I really was just like “I’m not gonna really worry about this because I know what it is I write, he is gonna be able to sing something that is gonna work over”. So, I didn’t necessarily say I was gonna write this to be Ripper Owens’ style; there was a couple of things I wrote that I knew it was gonna be a cool song that probably PRIEST could have on their record or SAVATAGE if I was writing music for that record in that particular style, so doing it for his voice, I think it was more of his style of music.

Connected to this question, how did you split the songwriting?
I had probably about 14 songs written for that record and nine of them made it to the record and I actually finished a bunch of them, three or four of them with the lyrics too, Tim finished some parts that I hadn’t finished completely. He was very busy in one point doing some travelling and he just said “you know, we want this schedule to move a little bit faster, so throw me down some ideas of what you might be singing in this one particular song”. So, I was in the middle of writing for my latest solo record, “The Jester’s Court”, and I just had my studio on and microphones on, so I laid down some vocals, and some of those songs, like  “Light Speed Marching” and “Spirits Of Fire”, they were the ones that I had finished the lyrics and the melodies for myself. That just happened that way because I was trying to help speed the process and getting the record done a little bit faster but Ripper really liked what I did.

Awesome! You said you wrote 14 songs, so do you have the ones that you didn’t use this time ready for something special? Or did you throw them away?
They are sitting around; we never finished them and recorded them – I mean, I need to piece together what’s gonna be the next record because we are gonna do another album with this, so I’m just kind of putting that together, but a lot of times with that, if I didn’t use a song in one record, there is usually a reason. Maybe the other ones I thought were a little bit better. So, I usually like to try to write something new before taking the stuff that I didn’t use for the last one. And that’s kind of weird that with my new solo record I did, there were a couple of songs that I finally used music that I wrote for my very first solo record and I hadn’t even listened to them for over ten years and now I was just like “wow”. And then I remembered why I didn’t use that song; like there wasn’t anything I really thought had place on that record or something I didn’t think my voice would fit really well until my singing got better, so I think with that we’ll see. I mean, I have a lot of music around so we’ll see what I’ll decide to do with it.

You said that you have already decided to release a second SPIRITS OF FIRE album; that would be the end of this project or are you taking this one step at a time?
I think that’s gonna be decided once we’ll see the fans’ reaction. This record comes out and there is a couple of thousands of people in Athens, Greece that wanna see SPIRITS OF FIRE play, we’re not gonna say “no” (laughs). It’s one of these things where, you know, if there is a festival in Germany or South America that the promoter listens to this record and goes “hey, we’d like to put this band on the show” or maybe is a time when Tim has got the Dio Hologram thing going on, or maybe TESTAMENT will have  a show on a Saturday then we can do something the day before… I’m just hoping we’re gonna landed in one of these festival situations and then get the thing seeing by some people and do some touring and create the vibe as a band then this is the type of thing that is gonna just keep going. I don’t see a reason why not.

And speaking of playing live, it will be only you on guitar or are you considering of having someone helping you out with the rhythm sections?
You know, as of now, we are in a situation where it’s only me. Maybe I think it would be cool to bring somebody like I did in my solo tours where I had a guitar player who played keyboards too, which a lot of times people will get a keyboard player or add an extra guitar player but these songs did have some keyboards added to them in the studio and I just like melodically what you can do with these songs in the spaces if I’d be adding that. As of right now, if anything happens is obviously gonna be just us four to start but if that does happen, it may be one of those situations where I’d like to do like it’s something that I did in my solo stuff; bringing someone, like Michael Schenker use to do too – he would have a guitar player that could play keyboards and just add that element into it as well.

That makes sense. And speaking of keyboards, there are some Hammond-sounding keys on “Devil Of The Soul”, right?

So, who did those?
That was Alessandro Del Vecchio; he does a lot of stuff for different bands that work with Frontiers and he was hired to do the record and his stuff is really cool. It’s one of those things where you hear it and a lot of times people add keyboards into Heavy Metal and to me it makes it sound too much like - lack of a better term - like if somebody is trying to order a fricking popcorn in a baseball game where you hear that typical organ keyboard sound that’s just kind of annoying and in the way. He would add keyboards to songs that added to the song and made the song better and cool, so when I was doing my solo record too I said “do you wanna try to do a couple of things?” and he said “I’m a huge SAVATAGE fan, I’d love to”. He ended up doing keys on a lot of my songs and that was that same thing; and he would do eight different keyboard parts, things you didn’t even know that somebody was doing they would be able to get mixed into your music to make your song sound better and fuller when you’re putting it together in the studio and that’s what he did with this record; he is a very great musician and it was an awesome add into the album.

Awesome! It sounds great. I mean, it sounds very vintage-y on that specific song.
Yes, exactly and he did this in a form that otherwise you’d miss it.

Ok, you mentioned a couple of times your solo album and, in all honesty, after getting this promo, I started looking back and I saw that you had released last year in June an album, and I checked on some songs of that album and it sounds really, really good. I can see the resemblance; there is some connection on the guitars between the two albums, right?
Yes, I was writing the two and recording the two pretty much at the same time in the same studio and actually when I was starting mixing my record, it was a little bit ahead of the game when Roy was mixing this one and I sent it to him and he was just like “what did you do to your rhythm guitars?” and I’m like “what do you mean?” and he answered “well, you recorded them, but I like what you did with yours better than the ones you sent me”. And it wasn’t that I did something too different, I just added two additional stereo tracks with basically the same type of guitar unit I was using a different brain on it, so it added an element that put the four guitars together and kind of stacked it up to be a little bit different and fuller and slightly more Metal, and he wanted me to do that, so I had to go back and record two new tracks for all the songs that I did that were mine where I thought I sent the complete guitars to him and then, there was songs that he wrote for the record where I did lead work on he was doing rhythm work and he was like “guess what, I want four tracks for at least those two”, so I had to go back and re-record the whole entire album again and sent him tracks for all the stuff that he wrote as well. So yeah, that’s got to be a little similarity in there – obviously he mixed it and I mixed it and there were different masters but there were some of the elements that were done at the same time.

So, you squeezed yourself into the production of the album for SPIRITS OF FIRE, right?
Yes. I paused the finish of my record for another week (laughs).

Your last solo album came out three years after “The Heaven Is Real”, so does this mean that you’re getting busier with your solo project and putting out albums more frequently?
In the beginning I had recorded my first solo record and I was so excited about getting a deal and singing for the first time and I had like 29 songs, like two records at once, and then I had still a lot of material – 70-something songs – so the third record came out pretty quick and then, I just had [interrupting himself] the business started changing. When I went out to do my first solo tours, it was very stressful and expensive to handle all of that on your own; there is a difference between playing in a band and playing as a solo artist. When you play for some as a solo artist, they tend to have all the responsibility whether that’s business-wise or music-wise or production-wise so when I did this on my own I was like “oh my God, I have to handle all of this by myself basically” (laughs). And it was just kind of stressful so I kind of slowed down the whole process a little bit and some of the festivals that I wanted to play they really wanted to get the whole of Jon and Zak to come over there and do their sets of doing SAVATAGE songs and we don’t need the guitar player, we’ll have the singers coming to do a “Streets” show or whatever it was that was happening, so I was in a lot of competition as far as I would get myself out on the road. And that’s kind of where you set your bands in place like you get the festival shows and then you work around them and you set your budget up in that kind of thing. So, it was getting to a point where it was a little bit stressful for me all around so I just kind of took a break.

You mentioned a couple of times SAVATAGE; so of course I’m gonna ask you about that. First of all, do you have any updates about Jon Oliva’s health? Do you know how he is? Because I know he had this health adventure for some time.
Jon is fine, I see him all the time. He is a big part of putting together the TSO every year and he has got a pretty emotional role because he is working with Paul [O’Neill] family to make sure we setting up TSO to play every year. But he is doing fine. He is working on a new Jon Oliva record now and I think I might be going in the studio to do some lead work with him in the next couple of months.

That’s great news, Chris!
I talk to Jon all the time. He’s taking care of himself and he continues to make music. He is the Mountain King; he is one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever work with in my life and I’m really lucky to have had him as part of my career.

Oh my goodness, thank you for sharing this news because it has become silent online so you never know.
Jon doesn’t even look on his computer. I think only once in a while he does.

So, are there any talks about doing anything with SAVATAGE?
Yeah, we talked about it for 20 years (laughs). For me, I would do it tomorrow. I’m the guy that wants to do it every single time so if gods of SAVATAGE lined things up to do it, it would be great but I always tell people “look, I can’t force it to happen, it has to happen when everybody wants it to happen”, and like I said, the gods of SAVATAGE have to give their blessing. I wouldn’t be who I am and where my career is without him. So, I have to take it both ways and I have to look it whatever it was I did with SAVATAGE and realize that it was a really special thing. And that thing that happened, at least I was blessed with that. And if it happens again, I’m gonna pack my bags and go tomorrow. That’s the way I look at it. But we talk about it all the time, and when we had a chance at the TSO shows last year – that was a decision by Paul’s family to put out a little bit more of something that Paul had done into that set and it had a really great reaction. Not just from the SAVATAGE fans that were at that show, but from the TSO fans that have never heard that song. So, I never say never with that and I also believe that there is a lot more SAVATAGE fans out there.

We are a lot, still we are a lot.
Even young kids that might be three or five years old last time we toured and they are going into their 20s now and never got a chance to see that band that never reunited to play. Everybody else has, so I think there is a demand for it I just have to hope that that happens.

We’ll be praying to the SAVATAGE gods then. So, my last question is if you have something else that you’re working on. I know you’re pretty busy all the time.
Hmm, as far as music, like I said, I’m just kind of writing on working on the next SPIRITS OF FIRE record. I do wanna work on some other guitar music, I might be doing an instrumental record for the very first time. Also, I’m working on some songs for a very classic Rock band right now that I may be doing a record with the original singer but I haven’t finalized all that, so I don’t wanna give out any news on that until there is a definite yes or no. There is a chance of doing a record and maybe tour with this really amazing singer that was a part of the bigger bands in Progressive and Hard and Rock ‘n Roll history, so we have to see what happens. Other than that, I still keep my hot sauce thing going on and I work on some art and jewelry stuff and I work on that Metal fund thing that I give donations to this charity for. I’m just always staying busy.

That’s great, Chris! Thank you very much for your time and hopefully you’ll come to Chicago with any band and we can see you live again here.
Thanks, Dimitris! See you soon.