paul oneill

Paul O’Neill, the Trans Siberian Orchestra and Savatage

I heard about the passing of the TSO’s Paul O’Neill last night. Normally the passing of musicians does not effect me too much, but this one really bummed me out. I was fortunate enough to interview Paul over a handful of times over the years. One of those interviews can be heard here.

I have been very lucky in my career to have interviewed some of the greats and most of them were always cool and gave a great interview. Paul was at the top of my list. The first time I interviewed him was in 1996 when the TSO released their first album. We spoke during my new music show at WROV. We talked for the entire show playing cuts from the album and after it was over he stayed on the phone talking with me another 30-45 minutes just chatting about music and life. No one ever did that. Everyone else couldn’t wait to get off the phone and move on to whatever else they were doing, but not Paul.

When the interview was over he said to me, “Bryan it was funny as I scrolled through my list of interviews and I see all these syndicated shows and high profile people and then at the bottom of my list it says Bryan Shaw WROV 1 station.” He continued, to say he knew I had to have been a fan because I was the only one on the list that wasn’t syndicated. We laughed but I told him what huge fan I was of Savatage and the TSO. He was happy to hear that I was a fan who knew the history and he could tell from the interview that I wasn’t just a guy who had done some research.

I will never forget him asking me have you ever met anyone that you didn’t like? I said the only guy that I thought was a jerk was Eric Singer. He said why was that? I said well I remember him not wanting to talk about Badlands or sign the album I had. Paul laughed and said I am going to have to call him because Bryan I produced that record. I laughed and felt like a dick but it was honest and he laughed it off. He told me that he has told every band that if anyone asks for a picture or autograph you give it to them. The fans are the reason you are not working at McDonalds. The guy was awesome. He got it.

He asked me for my address after that interview and a few days later I received a package in the mail with a bunch of Savatage memorabilia. I was stoked. I thought this was the coolest fucking thing.  I still have those items.

A couple years later when I had moved to Los Angeles I interviewed him again as this time the TSO was out on the road for the first time. He remembered us talking when I was at WROV just a couple years prior. We laughed as we talked about how he mentioned in that interview the TSO would never tour because of the expense. It was another time where he stayed on after the interview and we talked again about all the exciting things that were coming up for the TSO and Savatage.

A few years later I was in Raleigh at WRDU and we spoke again and when he got on the line he laughed at me and said, “Bryan you move around more than the touring musicians I know.”

I was always amazed that he remembered me no matter where I was and we always talked about the previous times we had talked over the years.

It is pretty rare to come across such genuine people in the music industry. Paul was one of those guys. Super talented and was one of the nicest people I ever spoke to.

After my first couple interviews with him the management team always treated me like part of the TSO family. I could reach out to them for interviews and they were always accommodating. I am bummed that such a talented guy has left us way to early. He was only 61. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends and all the musicians that he ever worked with.


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