Jon Oliva, the American composer, multi-instrumentalist and singer who is best known as the founder of and keyboardist and lead vocalist for SAVATAGE, spoke to That Metal Interview about the possibility of new music from the cult metal outfit. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Ever since [SAVATAGE’s 2001 album] ‘Poets And Madmen’, I have been writing SAVATAGE material. Me and [guitarists] Al Pitrelli and Chris Caffery, over the last couple of years, have been putting material together and writing stuff together.
“This is the thing: there is no official thing that we’re going to do a SAVATAGE album; there’s nothing official. Because you know what? As soon as I say, ‘Yeah, we’re gonna do a new SAVATAGE album,’ something will happen to fuck it up. And then I look like a liar. So all I’m gonna say is there are many surprises in the future.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen,” he continued. “We’re not sure. But we’re writers; we write. And we have — dude, just me alone, I have enough songs for three SAVATAGE albums, okay? And so, yeah, we write because we like working together. And because of the pandemic and stuff, a lot of the stuff that we’ve been just fiddling around with each other, we’ve done it over the phone and over the Internet: ‘Here, I’ve got this. What do you think?’ ‘Oh, I love it.’ And I’ll send Al something over the phone. He’ll send me something. Caffery will send me something or I’ll send him something. Because you don’t know.
“The world today is different, and I don’t want to say to people, ‘Hey, we’re gonna do a new SAVATAGE album,’ and have something come along to fuck it all up.
“No one knew that this COVID-19 shit was gonna happen. And who knows? Yeah, there’s the vaccine now, but they’re already saying, ‘Oh, there’s different strands of it now,’ and, ‘Who knows?’, and this and that and blah blah blah blah.”
Oliva went on to say that he and his SAVATAGE bandmates “would all love” to make a new studio album. “But there’s no deal with a record company to do it,” he explained. “There’s no plan — actual plan — saying we’re gonna start recording SAVATAGE. There’s no plan like that. All we’re doing, as being musicians and songwriters, is we’re compiling new material. So if we do get, ‘Hey, why don’t you guys do this? We’ve got a company that wants to give you guys [a deal], we’re gonna be prepared.
“A lot of the fans, which it makes me upset, because SAVATAGE fans, I love them so much, because they have never, ever turned their backs on SAVATAGE — ever. And I just don’t want to lead them down a road of false shit,” he added. “If something happens where we say, ‘Okay, we’re ready to do this. Let’s do it, guys,’ I will be the first person to make a professional press release to tell everybody. But I just don’t want to, because it’s not solidified in stone right now. Do we wanna do it? You bet your fucking ass we wanna do it. But do we have the material for it? You bet your fucking ass we have enough material for another 10-year run. But all I can say is if we do a SAVATAGE thing, it’s gonna fuck you people up — it’s gonna be fucking blowaway.”
This past March, Oliva revealed to “80’s Glam Metalcast” that he battled COVID-19 for two months last year. “I had it for eight weeks, and I wouldn’t have wished it on my worst enemy in the world,” he said. “I would not have wished it on anybody. It was brutal — it really was. It sucked. But I’m okay now. And I’m gonna be getting my vaccination here in the next week or so. And that’s it. So I lived through it. [Laughs] They don’t want me in Heaven. Christ doesn’t me up there because the first thing I’m doing when I get to Heaven is I’m punching Paul O’Neill [late TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA founder and SAVATAGE collaborator] and Criss Oliva [late SAVATAGE guitarist and Jon’s brother] in the face.”
Back in 2016, Jon announced on social media that he suffered a stroke in April of that year. At the time, he said: “It was not as serious as it could have been, but it did leave me with some physical recovery challenges often associated with strokes.”
Despite his health issues, Jon said that he didn’t regret the way he had lived his life. He wrote: “I lived the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle since I was 18. It’s all I knew and I enjoyed the ride very much. But there comes a time in everyone’s life where you have to step back and make some life-changing decisions…which I have.”
Shortly after SAVATAGE’s reunion performance at the 2015 Wacken Open Air festival in Wacken, Germany, Oliva claimed that he felt better than he had in 20 years because he had “stopped drinking and eating” in preparation for the concert. He explained: “It’s my voice that’s freaking me out, because, even when I was in my late 20s, early 30s, doing songs like ’24 Hours Ago’ were always really hard to do. And, of course, I didn’t realize that it was all the drugs and alcohol I was doing. But, after doing that, getting my act together and stuff, singing ’24 Hours Ago’, it’s actually easy now. [Laughs]”
SAVATAGE’s last album release, “Poets And Madmen”, in 2001 was highlighted by Jon Oliva’s return as lead vocalist, replacing Zak Stevens, who left the band citing family reasons, and the departure of Al Pitrelli, who accepted an offer to join MEGADETH in 2000. Pitrelli did record solos for some songs prior to his departure. Another very limited U.S. tour followed, supported by FATES WARNING in the early shows, and then NEVERMORE for the remainder. Around this time, Jon chose Zak’s replacement in the form of Damond Jiniya (DIET OF WORMS). Damond performed Zak’s parts on tour, with Jon having an increased vocal role in proceedings.