In a recent interview with BW&BK, Savatage / Trans-Siberian Orchestra guitarist Chris Caffery revealed that when it came time to work on a new solo album he committed himself to doing it on his own. As in locking himself away from the world in the name of his music for months at a time, surfacing occasionally for a dose of sunlight and to conscript a select few musician friends to fill in the blanks as needed. Once the material for the aptly named House Of Insanity had been hammered into a shape he was happy with, Caffery was left with the problem of mastering the record; a potentially monstrous task in its own right. Rather than take it on alone as well he turned to a member of his extended Savatage family, Jon Oliva’s Pain drummer Chris Kinder, both to preserve his sanity and to ensure a quality album. Caffery has gone on record as saying Kinder brought the songs on House Of Insanity together, citing the drummer’s production work with JOP as more than enough proof he was the right man for the job. Kinder is likewise pleased with the end result and considers the album yet another important step in his development as a producer and, ultimately, a musician.
“It’s kind of weird because since the last Jon Oliva’s Pain record, Global Warning, and (producer/long time friend) Greg Marchak’s passing I kind of got thrown into producing,” Kinder begins. “I co-produced Maniacal Renderings with Greg, Jim Morris and Tom Morris, and that’s where I really started getting into the Pro-Tools and the mastering thing. I started out as a piano player when I was a kid so I have a musical background, and I was always interested in the production end of things. Greg was such a sweet, kind and open person that I had no problem telling him that I wanted to be a sponge and just soak up everything he knew, and that’s really how it started. Greg was great because he was from the old school. He was from New York, Manhattan, Long Island, he was all Motown old school and believed in mixing by ear instead of all this technical stuff, so I just really paid attention to what he had to say. We had decided that we were going to work together on Global Warning, and when Greg passed away Jon basically looked at me one day and said ‘What are we gonna do?’ I told him ‘The best we can…’ (laughs). I mean, there weren’t any other options.”
Kinder admits to being impressed by Caffery’s commitment House Of Insanity, and is possibly even slightly appalled by Caffery’s decision to do the bulk of the work without and hands-on outside assistance.
“Coming from the standpoint of being a single individual he really took on a massive responsibility. To be able to write the whole record himself, sing everything, play all the guitars and most of the bass on the record, record it, edit it, mix it… that’s an unbelievable feat that I can’t imagine anybody would want to take on. It’s almost kind of crazy in the sense that not only does it drive you nuts personally, but I can’t imagine he wasn’t thinking ‘Am I taking on way too much? Is the record going to suffer? Are the songs going to suffer in any way?’ at some point. At the end of it I told Chris the best thing he could do was walk away from it.”
Once inside, Kinder approached House Of Insanity with a Jon Oliva’s Pain mindset…
“There was a congnizant effort to make sure that all the nuances of the songs were able to translate through the speakers. We weren’t trying to make the typical metal record you hear these days where everything is crazy and louder than everything else. Much like when we were recording and mixing Global Warning at Morrisound, it was laid out so that Tom Morris would do all the tracking and Jim Morris was going to mix it, then we would take a big break, and then the three of us would sit together and master it collectively once we had enough time to get away from it. With Chris having absorbed all the responsibility for the record I think it was impossible for him to distance himself enough from it to where he could make the right decisions creatively when it came to the mastering.”
“What Chris wasn’t willing to do with the record, and I totally appreciate this, was let it fly blind,” he adds. “He had enough of an ear left that he felt we could bounce ideas back and forth, and we did. We made five, maybe six passes at the record, and since he had the ability to make certain adjustments to the instruments I made suggestions of what to fix in the mix. It was probably a four week process of bouncing files to one another to where I could give him fresh ear and he could adjust things while remaining true to his original ideas.”
Kinder offers his take on House Of Insanity versus Caffery’s previous solo outings. It comes as no surprise to learn he prefers the new one, but his accolades aren’t all-in-the-family ass kissing.
“While I was doing the mastering I tried to put myself in the position of somebody who wrote and played and did everything. The first record, I thought that was a really great introduction to what Chris is capable of doing. I wasn’t really a big fan of the Pins And Needles record, but that’s only because it was so experimental that things were bouncing off the page left and right. It was kind of hard to grasp for an album perspective. I think he got a little more grounded on House Of Insanity, and some of the guitar solos are simply amazing. His performance on the album is amazing, and I told him that I can’t give him enough praise for what he pulled off. I definitely enjoy it.”
That said, Kinder has moved onto the next Jon Oliva’s Pain album with, once again, a seat behind the drum kit and in the studio’s control room. He offers a taste of what’s on the horizon for the fans.
“We’re deep in the throes of it. We’ve got 13 songs that Jon and I have been working on for about three months, and there are half a dozen or more that are still on the plate. There’s a definite feeling with Jon, and I see this on a regular basis, of a renewed spirit of wanting to stuff the hardest material he can down everybody’s throats (laughs). I think it’s going to end up being a Global Warning meets Doctor Butcher thing. It’s really true, and now that I’m so deep into the record with him I can honestly say that’s probably the direction the new record is headed. We’re leaning off the ballads a bit and we have a couple epic songs, of course, but Jon really wants to get back to where its killer riffs, old school Criss Oliva stuff that we’re still digging out of the closet.”
“Jon is kind of on a mission, I think,” Kinder adds. “I don’t know if he’s going old school or whatever, but when we were getting into working on the demos we were sitting here at the house and he told me that he just wanted to punch everybody right in the face with the first five or six songs on the new record. Jon is going to be 50 this year, and the amount of energy he has for the music… I’m at a loss for words. To watch him sit and think about what’s going on as we try to record these songs, it’s interesting to say the least, and maybe even a bit scary (laughs).”
Soundboard and Chris Kinder “thumb” photo: Carl Begai
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