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November 2011 (phone)
In 2011 branches of the underground music grapevine shook with the news that a new group made up of former members of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, eventually to formally christen themselves The Kings Of Christmas, would be releasing an album & going on tour winter 2011 with the desire to take back Christmas from the template created by TSO with a more intimate presentation. Even more attention was brought to the group because it included singer Tommy Farese who'd been with TSO since it's beginning through 2010 & was as core a member as one could get without being a part of TSO's previous incarnation Savatage but was dismissed due to his support of The Kings Of Christmas. At his side in the new group was also TSO alumni Maxx Mann, Tony Gaynor & Guy LeMonnier on vocals plus keyboardist Paul Morris heading up the band.
Being a prominent & much loved singer of the TSO family I'd featured Tommy on my weekly TSO podcast alongside the belated Daryl Pediford, the only two TSO singers featured in the DVD The Ghosts Of Christmas Eve. Tommy wrote me happy that I featured Pediford & said he wanted to thank me personally sometime. I called him a couple days before Thanksgiving, in the midst of rehearsals for The Kings Of Christmas, to touch base. I took notes while we were talking. This is an abreviated version of the full conversation. Tommy's sentences are exact, mine are a variation of what I really said. About a week after this talk Tommy, Tony & Guy would controversially step out of the band for the current season feeling the result wouldn't live up to standards & expectations without more time to rehearse. Maxx would present a bastardized show with the band to fulfill contractual obligations with the theaters. At present Tommy, Tony & Guy plan to return in 2012 with The Kings Of Christmas while Maxx has said he wishes to leave the Christmas oriented rock show behind him. Though the outcome would be different than what this conversation predicts Tommy still makes some great overall statements. Outside of The Kings Of Christmas & Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tommy has worked with TSO guitarist Al Pitrelli extensively including with O'2L, Ethyl Mertz/A Place Called Rage, Dee Snider's Van Helsing's Curse & more.
Special thanks to fellow TSO fan Dan Roth for keeping me up to date on all things Kings Of Christmas.
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AJ: Tommy, I wanted to give you that chance to thank me in person for bringing Daryl Pediford's name back to the airwaves on my TSO podcast.
TOMMY: I thank you, sir, that was a very nice thing you did. It was about time somebody remembered him.
AJ: I appreciate you getting back to me about my podcast. I say a lot of it off-the-cuff & never know how anyone is going to react.
TOMMY: Keep it that way, don't script anything. Ad-lib just the way you're doing it.
AJ: It means a lot to hear you say that.
TOMMY: We appreciate anyone paying attention to us right now.
AJ: How's the rehearsals for THE KINGS OF CHRISTMAS?
TOMMY: Good. We got a couple weeks left. Hopefully everything will come together.
AJ: I'm sure it's been really stressful.
TOMMY: It's not stressful. You know what it is ... it becomes eventful. It becomes like a challenge. It becomes a game.
AJ: I had Maxx e-mail me recently after a rehearsal & mention some fun dance moves ...
TOMMY: I don't know anything about that.
AJ: I guess you're not the Fred Astaire in the show?
TOMMY: Not at my age, man, out of the question.
AJ: You know that I did an interview over e-mail with Guy LeMonnier. You guys have fans you don't even know about. One comment that came to me ...
TOMMY: You're breaking up.
AJ: I'm on speaker phone cause I'm beginning to prepare dinner. I love to cook. I'm hoping to eventually work in a restaurant. Hey, you're an Italian, you're supposed to love to cook!
TOMMY: Yeah, my father owned 5 restaurants. We love to cook.
AJ: One of the responses that came was that everyone has been surprised by the positive energy that you have been giving out, you on an interview that you did recently & Guy with me. After TSO there's been no regrets in the air here.
TOMMY: Absolutely not. I'm not going to bad mouth anybody or talk about what's going on behind the scenes. That makes you look like an idiot.
AJ: You're right. You know the response to THE KINGS OF CHRISTMAS it's been really good. I wanted you to know that from me cause you know I hear a lot of stuff.
TOMMY: I appreciate it, man. It's nice to know people are actually paying attention & hopefully we'll get this thing off the ground, little by little. You know TSO started in 7 venues. Half full some of the them. Then the band split into 2 & look what it did.
AJ: You guys just kept growing & growing & growing. & now it's a moose, isn't that what Al calls it?
TOMMY: Actually it's Ringling Brothers & Barnum & Bailey Circus with lights & lasers.
AJ: More Cirque De Soleil.
TOMMY: Yeah. Exactly. You don't see anybody on stage anymore.
AJ: I talked on the phone the other night with Cornelius Goodwin of 12/24 & he said to me he really liked what I said on my podcast about THE KINGS OF CHRISTMAS. With you guys there's more personality. We see you. We know who you are. But with TSO it's no longer about the individuals as its become a revolving door.
TOMMY: It's like going to the planetarium now. But what sold the show for the first few years was when we didn't have any of that stuff [lights, lasers, fire]. It was guys on stage. It was personalities. It was New Yorkers doing what they do.
AJ: Cornelius said to me that he thought that was what you guys in THE KINGS OF CHRISTMAS want. They just want a little bit of that personality back.
TOMMY: That's what we're trying to, bro. We're gonna keep the show small no matter how big it gets. The think is I don't want to play arenas anymore, as much as everybody in the world thrives on that stuff.
AJ: How's it feel not to be in TSO after all these years?
TOMMY: It's nice to be home with my family for a change.
AJ: Have fun with the new gig, or with the old team in a new way.
TOMMY: We're gonna have fun, that's what we're here for. If it's not fun it's a job. If it's a job I quit.