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TOM SPITTLE & TROY MONTGOMERY & DAMOND JINIYA ..... (Rebel Pride Band, Under The Gun Project)
ERIC STROTHERS ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 1 of 2
ERIC STROTHERS & ZACH LORTON ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 2 of 2
CHRIS MICHAEL TAYLOR ..... (Carmine & Vinny Appice's Drum Wars, Sunset Strip, Hair Nation)

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A.L.X. ..... (Love Crushed Velvet)
GRAHAM BONNET ..... (Rainbow, Alcatrazz, Graham Bonnet Band)
BRANDYN BURNETTE
JOE DENIZON ..... (Stratospheerius, Mark Work Rock Orchestra Camp, Sweet Plantain)
LESLIE DINICOLA
TOMMY FARESE ..... (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kings Of Christmas)
ANGIE GOODNIGHT ..... (Fill The Void)
CORNELIUS GOODWIN ..... (12/24 Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tribute)
DAMOND JINIYA & TOM SPITTLE & TROY MONTGOMERY ..... (Savatage, Diet Of Worms, Retribution, Rebel Pride Band, Under The Gun Project)
STEFAN KLEIN ..... (Dethcentrik, Dod Beverte, Dod Incarnate Records)
GUY LEMONNIER ..... (Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Kings Of Christmas)
ZACH LORTON & ERIC STROTHERS ..... (Enjoy Church's Tribute To Trans-Siberian Orchestra) Interview 2 of 2
SARAH NICKERSON & JAMES NICKERSON ..... (Bangtown Timebomb)
PARK SIPES ..... (Sunset Strip, Barbarian Way, Standout, Tune In To Mind Radio Kelly Keeling Tribute album)
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SHAYFER JAMES
SCOTT KELLY ..... (Wizards Of Winter)
ERIK NORLANDER ..... (Asia Featuring John Payne, Rocket Scientists, Lana Lane)
DOUG RAUSCH
MICHAEL T. ROSS ..... (Lita Ford, Missing Persons, Raiding The Rock Vault)

BASSISTS
CHRIS NUNES ..... (Ornament Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tribute Orchestra)
JOHN WETTON ..... (Asia, King Crimson, Roxy Music)

DRUMMER
RAFA MARTINEZ ..... (Black Cobra)

SONGWRITER
TROY MONTGOMERY & DAMOND JINIYA & TOM SPITTLE ..... (Under The Gun Project)

MUSIC AUTHOR
ALISON TAYLOR & RODNEY MILES ..... (365 Surprising & Inspirational Rock Star Quotes Book)

MUSIC MARKETING
MATT CHABE ..... (Bangtown Timebomb, Chapter Two Marketing)
JAMES MOORE ..... (Independent Music Promotion, Your Band Is A Virus Book)

Friday, November 23, 2012

"I Do Try My Best Not To Play Teacher" An Interview With CHRIS NUNES

Click here to visit the official website of Ornament.

November 2011 (live broadcast via phone, the Roman Midnight Music Podcast Episode #35)

Ornament is Southern New England's premiere rock orchestra with a focus on re-recreating the annual Christmas stage production of Trans-Siberian Orchestra. In 2010 Limelight magazine voted them "New England Tribute Band of the Year." With a membership make up of professional & hobbyist musicians from around the community, Ornament uses its shows to not just entertain but also raise money for local schools, with over $20,000 raised so far.

When I saw the advertisements for Ornament I couldn't resist but to reach out to bassist, producer & co-founder Chris Nunes to invite him on my podcast for an hour to discuss his project, in my on-going goal to uncover all things inspired by Trans-Siberian Orchestra. We had a great talk together. What I'm particularly proud of in this discussion was sharing a musician's efforts to do more than just play fun music or do a tribute to a favorite band, but also turn it into a fundraising activity for schools. So much more of that can occur than does.

* * * *

CHRIS: We do about a month out of the year, sometimes a month & a half depending on how the schedule works out. We do different concerts, usually schools - middle schools, high schools & try to do the little bit that we can to help raise some money, especially with budget cuts right now. The arts always tend to be one of the first things to get cut, so if we can help raise a little bit of money to help keep the programs in the schools. Whether it be purchase instruments or repair instruments or whatever the case might be. We want to try to do our little bit to help. We got the idea through TSO where they always do one dollar from every ticket sale goes to a local charity in each city, so I kinda pillaged the idea from them, & see if I could kinda do it in a local setting & see if I could make a difference.

AJ: & you say this, Chris, as a band teacher yourself in a middle school in Massachusetts.

CHRIS: Exactly, I teach at Westport Middle School. I'm the band director there. & we've gone through some budget cuts & a lot of the schools in the area have gone through the cuts. & as much as we try & stem it as much as we can, its an expensive program to run, there's no way around it. Instruments aren't cheap. So, if we can do any little bit to help, we try & do what we can.

AJ: It's a very good cause. Well, here in Manhattan there was threats of closing some 40-something schools this year & the budget cuts have been humongous. I think a lot of people, when they think about the education system go 'oh, we'll leave that to the Mayor, the City Council, the tax money,' but they may not realize that there's a way that they can help support the education system. & you obviously realized that you could help just as an average person & also a teacher by bringing money in through ORNAMENT.

CHRIS: Absolutely & its been nice to be able to see some of the things we done. When we work with the schools we try & bring in, you know, a select chorus or 25-30 student chorus to sing some songs with us. The great part about TSO is that they have some songs like "Christmas Canon", "Promises To Keep", things like that that were originally done with children's choirs. So, we just take those arrangements, we bring the kids in, they get a chance to perform with us & the parents get to see the show. They always seem to enjoy it. & it goes from there, word of mouth spreads & next year more people come to the show & we're able to help raise that much more.

AJ: Let's talk about how ORNAMENT got started. Will you fill me on what happened 6 years ago.

CHRIS: Well, it goes back to ... kinda just, I guess, like everybody else did. I was driving in my car & I heard "Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)" on the radio. I was just blown away by it. I hadn't heard anything in that style before. & I started to look up the band & I found the album & from there I'm listening to it & I started hearing songs like "This Christmas Day" & "The Angel Returns" with these big full choral parts & backing vocals. My first thought was not even to do TSO tribute, but the teacher in me went 'I gotta perform this with my students.' I want to take this & I want to do a chorus concert of this. I want to do a band concert with this. & from there I was able to do that a couple of times when I was teaching, with my buddy, Mike, who was the other gentleman that founded the band with me. We were able to do a couple of concerts. We did a small TV recording of some of the songs with our students. & from there it just ... steamrolled, is a good word. We started going 'Alright, what if we started doing this with some adults & some semi-professional musicians?' We started putting it together & we talked about it, threw it back & forth for a couple of years, & then finally said 'We've just got to do it.' So, lo & behold, round about October one year we decided to throw it together & did 2 quick little concerts in, I believe it was, 2004 that we did. & it went over pretty well. It was kind of thrown together last minute, but it set the seed. & 2 years later it kinda really picked up its momentum & its gone from where it is now, where we went from, I guess, 8 or 9 people & enough lights so that you could put everything in a mini-van to having to carry everything around in a 24 foot Ryder truck. So, every year just adding to the show just trying to make it a little bit bigger & more of an experience. & what you see is what you get.

AJ: You're sounding like the TSO folks. That's what they always say, every year it gets a little bit bigger. & remember, they started off with 8 shows.

CHRIS: Yeah, in a way it's turned into that. That wasn't necessarily ever my intention. My intention was never actually for it to get this big. It was just, 'Let's play some high schools. Let's help raise some money.' &, you know, it was kind of a combination of I wanted to get back into playing & I wanted to get with some people that wanted to do something that was different, other than just the regular traditional bar band type of thing. &, that's no slight to anybody that the bar band thing. It's just wanted to do something different & was able to find some people that shared that passion & this is where its taken us. We've gone from doing high schools to being able to do some local casinos, some small theaters in the area, as well as still doing the high schools. So, its kinda accidentally gotten bigger. But, I wouldn't trade it.

AJ: Well, I was gonna ... I was curious about what you were doing before, because as a school teacher that doesn't exactly leave you a lot of time always for the band gig. But, with what you're doing now, versus a bar band, you can invite your students. You can't invite your students to a local bar.

CHRIS: Yeah, exactly, that's kind of a cool thing. & actually at the show we have coming up at Westport, which is going to be the first show at Westport High School on December 2nd, we have a 15 year old, who was actually at rehearsal with us tonight. I had rehearsal before I was on the air with you tonight. & he was at rehearsal, he's gonna sit in. He's gonna play 3 or 4 numbers with us type of thing. So, its kinda cool to be able to give them an opportunity to do something like this, too, that they wouldn't necessarily have the chance to do.

AJ: Yeah, you not just can include them in the audience & parents, but they can be a part of their teacher's thing, right next to the teacher. Which, I remember my high school days & my middle school days, that was often the best thing was being able to work with a teacher outside of the normal classroom. So ... not that you want to be a teacher on your time-off, but it is the indirect result of it.

CHRIS: Absolutely. You can't necessarily get away from your trade. It travels around with you all the time, even in rehearsals I find myself falling back into teacher mode sometimes. So, it gets a little interesting sometimes, but I try to do my best not to play teacher during rehearsal.

AJ: There's also a good thing is with this group you only rehearse for a month or 2 months & its not a steady band gig that you're burdened with all year, too.

CHRIS: Actually, truth be told, its kinda become a year round rehearsal thing. We don't rehearse all the time. We usually start rehearsing around March. We'll start getting together like once a month just to kinda shake the dust off of some stuff & start working on some of the instrumental tunes that have more layers & parts to them. We'll start shedding those out a little bit. Round the summertime we'll pick it up a couple times a month type of thing. Then, around September we start to hit pretty heavy once a week or so. It used to be nice that we would be able to get away doing it from October on, but like I said, it kinda got a little bit bigger & its become a whole lot more time-consuming.

AJ: A couple years ago, well, more than a couple, you actually moved from an assistant director to a producer position.

CHRIS: Right. My buddy Mike, that I started it with, he was also a teacher. Still is a teacher. He teaches down in Washington, D.C. now, so he ened up switching jobs & moving away, so kind of decided that I wanted to keep it going & decided to take the reigns to it, type of thing, & went from there. Had his blessing to do it. We talked about it beforehand. He told me to go for it. I still talk to him all the time about it. We still laugh about it. He tells me he misses it all the time & wishes he could be onstage with uu & everything. So, I'm hoping to have him back at some point. Come in & sit with us for a little while. Just like old times.

AJ: TSO has become a very visual band with lots of lights & smoke. Chris, you guys follow suite. You guys do a very visual show with all the lights. Slightly smaller venue but its the same idea.

CHRIS: Yeah, we try to keep it as true to the original show as possible. I like to picture it as the way they did it when they first started out. A nice ... I miss the intimate venues. I love the arena shows, don't get me wrong. I love the big stage. You know, 12 tractor trailers full of lights & all that, but I miss the intimacy of the nice places, like the Beacon Theater [in Manhattan] or the one we always go to, the Providence Performing Arts Center. & seeing them in that close in a venue where everything's scaled down a little bit, but you look at it & go 'How did they manage to get all of that on this stage?' So, I try & go to it on that route if I can. I try to put as much up there as possible, but still not make it to the point where its distracting from the overall show.

AJ: Yeah, that's really important. I think a lot of fans also say, the bigger the venue someway it loses some of the intimacy of the music. How close, though, do you follow the TSO concerts? Are you doing the full Christmas Eve & Other Stories with a bunch of other songs added at the end, just like TSO does? Christ, what's a concert like for ORNAMENT?

CHRIS: We do. We do the Christmas Eve & Other Stories album just like they do at the beginning. Usually, sometimes though, we'll change out where they usually do "Prince Of Peace", you know third or fourth number in, we'll trade that out for different songs over the years. We've done "For The Sake Of Our Brother" for a few years. A great tune by Daryl Peddiford who unfortunately passed away way too soon. We also do our own version of "Hallejuah" from Leonard Cohen. We'll put that in in that place sometimes just to change things up. But, beyond that we do the story with the narration top to bottom just like they do. We do "Old City Bar," we do "Ornament", we do "Good King Joy," "Mad Russian" & all of those. & then we'll do the same thing. We'll take a quick little 10-15 minute break & then we'll come out, we'll do a second set. We'll blast through anything from stuff off The Lost Christmas Eve, The Christmas Attic, Beethoven's Last Night. Some stuff off of Night Castle now. So, we have a good time. It ends up being about 26 songs when the night's over & runs about 2.5 hours. We try to give people their money's worth.

AJ: Well, you just listed all 5 albums, even Night Castle which TSO barely touches. Do you do anything from SAVATAGE or are you sticking just to TSO?

CHRIS: At this point we're still doing just TSO. I would love to branch out & ... this is all things I'm thinking of down the road, I haven't necessarily even brought to my bandmates yet, so they may kill me later ... but, right now I would love to go back & do some stuff off of Streets: A Rock Opera. We're gonna do "Believe" this year, which is originally from the Streets album anyways & now is off of Night Castle. I'd love to go back & do Gutter Ballet. We do "The Mountain", which was originally "Prelude To Madness" from the Hall Of The Mountain King album. Definitely I wouldn't mind doing some stuff off of The Wake Of Magellan, even grabbing a couple more off of Dead Winter Dead. Such a great album.

AJ: You know you're SAVATAGE. You've done your homework, teacher.

CHRIS: It was TSO that actually turned me on to SAVATAGE & got me into all that stuff. Once I heard "Sarajevo / Christmas Eve 12/24" I went back. I found the Dead Winter Dead album.

AJ: That happened to a lot of people. I actually was the opposite. I heard SAVATAGE first.

CHRIS: I wasn't a metalhead growing up. I really wasn't. But, I kinda half turned into one since then. I've discovered a new appreciation for it.

AJ: I think there's some things out there of maybe expanding beyond TSO to Broadway or stuff like that, right?

CHRIS: Yeah, its some things we've thrown around that we haven't been able to actually put them into anything concrete yet, but, you know, we've talked about. We've thrown some ideas around. You know some of the musicals that are out there some of them already tend to have a little bit more of an edge. Something like a Jekyll & Hyde, where Rob Evan & Alex Skolnick did the Resurrection album which was already a little heavy metal themed anyways. Doing some songs off of something like that, you know, or taking things ... Karry Ellis & Brian May did a really cool version of "Defying Gravity" from Wicked. Things of that nature. Then taking some others & just kinda giving them our own little twist & seeing what we can do about it. Just maybe play a little bit more year-round, but some of the guys in the band have other bands that they play with during the rest of the year & they kinda put those on hold for the months of October, November, December for what we do. So, it gets a little tricky time wise. If it's something we can put together we're definitely going to do it. If we can't, then it was just something that wasn't meant to be. You never know down the road, it might happen, it might not. But, the ideas are there. The ideas are always spinning in my head. I'm already contemplating things I can do for next winter right now & we haven't even started this year's tour. It is kinda funny, because its just a constant thing. 'Ah, I should have done that. Alright, I'll do it next year.' & the ideas just start rowing & by July next year my wife's looking at me like I got 4 heads & everything.

AJ: But, you just mentioned Jekyll & Hyde. Well, you know the show Jekyll & Hyde at one point featured Sebastian Bach of SKID ROW, so there's the heavy metal connection.

CHRIS: Oh yeah.

AJ: & after Sebastian left the show on Broadway & he was touring with his solo band for a couple weeks his guitar player was Al Pitrelli of TSO!

CHRIS: I remember reading something about that. I'm sure he played with everybody.

AJ: So, there you go. Jekyll & Hyde has a direct TSO connection.

CHRIS: Al, Rob Evan, Alex Skolnick. It's like seven degrees of TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA.

AJ: I love that game. Let me ask, how difficult is it to bring TSO to the stage?

CHRIS: Truthfully, it depends on the song, it depends on the musicians you have. I've got a great bunch of musicians that I'm playing with. Everybody is wholly dedicated to what we do. They go down & they work on the nuances, the little tiny things that maybe the average person would miss, but they'll listen to the album & they'll find it. Or, we'll find something. We're always scouring youtube looking at shows & everything. All of a sudden we find something we see & we're like 'Oh, I like the fact that they did that, its a little bit different.' & we'll take it & try to put it into ours, just to try & keep it as authentic as possible. So, just something as simple as [the song] "Sarajevo (Christmas Eve 12/24)" when it kicks back in, the little guitar lick that my guitar player Mike Mooney plays, that I heard goes back to 2006/2007 on [TSO West's] tour. I just happened to catch a youtube clip of it & I heard it & I went 'I like that.' & I brought it to him & started playing it. & it's just kinda become a staple with what we do now. I tend to take from both tours, East & West. They tend to play some things a little bit different.

AJ: Yes, they do.

CHRIS: So, I try to pay homage to both sides.

AJ: You kinda just answered what I was wondering about. A lot of the stuff in TSO isn't necessarily in books you can go down to the music store & pick up. So, you guys must be doing, whether its Night Castle or SAVATAGE, you guys must be just listening to the recordings & pulling it off by ear, right?

CHRIS: A lot of it is done by ear. For the first 3 Christmas albums & the Beethoven's Last Night album you can get, you know, the traditional piano-vocal with the guitar chords on top type of thing. So, I'll sit down with that. I have a computer writing program on my computer, so I'll sit down & I'll do piano arrangements. Split it into 2 parts for the piano players. I'll do parts for my violin player & everything, so that they have specific things they can play. Then neither of my guitar players actually read sheet music, so they just pick everything up by ear. They talk amongst themselves to figure out who wants to play what solo, 'I'll play this part, you play that part. I'll play this & you play that.' & we go from there. & even with the keyboard players I'll tell them, they play the instruments, I don't. My piano playing is not good. So, I score things out & then I look at them & say 'If it doesn't work change it, by all means. As long as it stays true to what we're doing then I'm okay with it.' I don't say it has to be exactly like this. I try to keep it as authentic as possible, while still letting us put our own little twists on things.

AJ: When you say authentic, when you guys are rehearsing something ... I don't know, when you're trying something new or whatever - do you ever reach a point where you go 'You know what, that sounds nothing like TSO. We're off in the wrong direction.'

CHRIS: Not really, because we try to keep it grounded in the actual song. When I say we go off in our own direction, it might be we take the solo & instead of being exactly like the lick we'll try something a little bit different, or things of that nature. But, we're not gonna take their arrangement & completely flip it upside down & do something different & say 'Oh, its a TSO tribute ... no its not.' We try to keep it as true as possible but still putting our own little flavor on it.

AJ: Its the spirit of TSO.

CHRIS: Exactly.

AJ: Now, you know, Chris, I'm also a bass player. Of course, I've watched SAVATAGE & TSO with Johnny Lee Middleton, the primary bassist for the band. & I'm just gonna tell you, sometimes I'm watching him playing these notes & I feel like its not enough. It's kinda like its a weak bass line in my mind. What do you think, as a bassist you're up there playing these classical songs, which were not written for bass guitar, as a bassist, the most under-rated person in the band some days I'm sure, what's your thoughts?

CHRIS: I could go all ego & say its never enough. Truth be told, I picked up bass more out of necessity from playing with friends & everything. I was a saxophone player by trade & I just kinda, we couldn't find a bass player after a while, so I just said 'To heck with it, I'm gonna go out & buy one. I'll play bass for us.' So, I don't claim to be the world's greatest bass player, so just locking in with the drummer & staying in the pocket is perfectly fine with me. I don't need to go out out & be a lead guitar player. I have 2 people in the band that can do that for us.

AJ: Because,  that's what Johnny Lee is like. He's an in the pocket type of guy.

CHRIS: Johnny Lee is a great player. I gotta say that people like him or [guitarists] Chris Caffery or even Alex [Skolnick], Joel [Hoekstra], I've shot them messages or facebook & things like that, 'Hey, I'm working on this song type of thing. What did you do here? Because, we're trying to figure something out. Can you kinda throw me a bone, let me know what's going on here. How did you do it?' Whether it be alternative tunings or whatever & usually they get back to me & everything, so I'm able to tie it in that way too. Which is very much appreciated, because its not something they have to do. They could just say 'Let them figure it out on their own.' It's like 'No problem at all, yeah, here's the tuning I used on my bass on the "Mountain" type of thing.' Or, Joel's gotten back to me with "You know this run that we do in "Good King Joy", you know Chris & I do this & then after that we do this just for fun to make it a little more tricky.' So, it's like 'Alright, guys, here's what they do. See if we can make this happen.'

AJ: That's Joel Hoekstra whose also in NIGHT RANGER & whose also doing a Broadway gig.

CHRIS: Rock Of Ages.

AJ: There's lots of TSO people who do Broadway stuff. There's definetly a connection there. How much communication, you've mentioned some of it, what type of communication have you had with the TSO folks?

CHRIS: A lot of it is just through, you know, meeting them & doing the meet & greet after the show when they come to Providence or Connecticut sometimes, we'll go off to see them there. You know, you go through the line & you're talking with them & they're like 'Yeah, I've heard of that band, ORNAMENT. You guys are pretty good. You guys are doing a good job' type of thing. We usually film one of our shows every year for our own sake just so we have a record of everything. So, we'll grab a couple extra copies for that & we'll give them to some of the people in the band. 'Hey, check it out, let us know what you think' type of thing. They usually tend to get back to us, things of that nature. When we did, like I said, when we were doing the school thing we did, I didn't mention, we did a small little CD recording of some of their stuff & everything. We gave it to them. Went down the line & just ... this is going back to 2001, I believe. & lo & behold, about 2 months later I get this package at the school. I open it up & its a platinum album of the Christmas Eve & Other Stories album that they sent to us. I had no idea it was coming, so that was kind of a cool little thing to see. Had it up in my classroom & everything.

AJ: Very cool. Now, you're teaching middle school. I don't expect middle schoolers to know TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA. Maybe they know a song that their parents play. How do your kids respond to this?

CHRIS: Some of them they'd rather be listening to Justin Bieber or whatever the case might be. But, I try to steer them towards a little more rounded of an education. I play them TSO. I play them ELP. A lot of that progressive stuff. I'm like 'Look, even if you don't like it take a listen to it, have an open mind about it. You might find something in there that you actually do like. If you do, great. If you don't, that's okay too. It's not for everybody.' But, I'll do a unit on Beethoven or something when I'm doing classical composers & I'll say 'Alright, here's the original Beethoven's "5th".' Then I'll put out "Requiem" [by TSO] & say 'Here's a different take on it. If Beethoven were alive nowadays would he add some electric guitars & synthesizers? You think he might have done something like this?'

AJ: Without the wig though.

CHRIS: Of course. He's probably just have long hair anyways.

AJ: I actually taught kindergarten for 3 years. It's been some years now. & one of the things I always had ups & downs with was mom & dad. Every teacher says this, that there's a push & pull you do with them. How do they respond to teacher's little side project?

CHRIS: A lot of them actually like it, because they get to see me do something else & it allows me to show them that 'Look, I don't just teach. I practice what I preach, for lack of a better term. Not only am I teaching your kid how to play, I play myself.' Maybe they give a little more credence to what I'm teaching & they can buy into it a little bit more. They come to the show. They have a good time. They see me with my hair down having a good time & all of a sudden it makes the next week when I walk into class a little bit easier. They're talking about it 'That was such a great show. Oh, by the way, you said if I want I can have extra credit. So, can I have my extra credit.' So, its like sure, no problem, here you go. There's always a little bit of bribery involved. It gets them in the door, then after that they come willingly.

AJ: Of course, of course.

CHRIS: Or, at least I hope.

AJ: Nothing obviously, this is something you do outside of work. It's not associated with your school in anyway, even though ORNAMENT does perform in schools & you give money to schools. I want to ask, there is a Christian element, you know, a moral element, to TSO & the story they tell & just the idea of Christmas itself. Have you found any negative reverberations from your fellow teachers, I mean, 'What are you doing? Maybe you shouldn't do this?' Have you had anything come up like that, even though it is an outside project?

CHRIS: Actually, no I haven't. Nobody's ever brought up the whole Christian element to it. They've never approached & said 'You're doing this in the school & its got this Christian element. You can't do that type of thing.' To this point, knock on wood, I've never had anybody that's told us we couldn't come into a school because of that reason.

AJ: You know what I'm asking. Christmas is a word that's something edgy in a public environment.

CHRIS: I've never had that issue & I hope I don't in the future either. It's all about just trying to raise the money for the schools & the kids.

AJ: That eclipses a lot. Chris, one of TSO's popular singers is Tommy Farese, who did "This Christmas Day" in TSO's only DVD.

CHRIS: It's of my favorites to play live.

AJ: Oh, really?

CHRIS: It's just a fun tune to play live.

AJ: He's got that Long Island rough Italian voice. The guy who you have singing it, he's very good but he's not Tommy. Is it difficult for your singers sometimes to take a song & go 'Okay, I don't sound anything like like whoever?'

CHRIS: Not really. I try & allow my vocalists to put their own spin on things & try to do it in their own way. I don't try to force them to sit there & say 'You have to sound like such & such a person did.' I've done "An Angel Came Down" for many years with a female vocalist, because I like the way it sounds. I don't try to hold anything to 'You have to do it just like this & if your voice doesn't sound like that then you can't do it.' Because, let's face it, there's not too many people that are going to sound like Tommy Farese. To try & do something like that it would take me forever to audition people. Todd does a great job with it. Todd's got a great voice. & we just let him go to town on it & have his own take on it.

AJ: Chris, you said at the beginning of the show that you wanted to do something that wasn't your typical bar band, your typical thing. How has now, 6 years later, ORNAMENT changed Chris Nunes the musician?

CHRIS: Well, for one thing, it's definetly made me a better musician, because if nothing else, I'm getting a classical bass training exercise every week. Because, let's face it, somebody like Liszt or Beethoven when they wrote these songs there wasn't a bass guitar or an electric guitar, so they didn't necessarily write things that were easy to play for those instruments. So, it definitely stretches you as a musician to be able to play these things. That's not a knock on my piano players, because they had to learn "Wish Liszt" & that definitely kicked their but for awhile. But, for the guitar players & myself on bass, its definetly been a challenge for that, because its taking something that's not something you would naturally play on bass all the time, or on electric guitar, & have to make it work.

AJ: Have there ever been any songs where you guys just went 'Will we be able to pull this off?'

CHRIS: We've had a few that we've questioned. We've actually been working on the song "Beethoven" for this year. & its one of those that we started working on in March & we've slowly been shedding the parts out. & here we are about 3 weeks before the first show & its finally starting to come together. We're getting to the last few rehearsals & its like 'Alright, this is starting to work now.' "Wish Liszt" was the same way. It was just one of those giving the music to the keyboard players & saying 'You guys have to play this. You figure out which parts you want to play.' & they got together & they worked through them & said 'Okay, I'll play this, you play that. You play this & I'll play this.' It's just rehearsal & rehearsal & rehearsal & just constantly shedding the parts & going home & doing your homework on them, so that when we come to rehearsal we can break the parts down & start putting everything together. Eventually they come together. It may not always seem like it. You leave rehearsal & you go 'Oh boy, are we actually ever going to get this?' & then over time it starts to see a little bit more & a little bit more & a little bit more. The running joke with "Beethoven" has been our violin player, because he's the one that really had to work on this one. & every time we play through it, he's like 'I got another few notes. I got another 2 notes. I got another one.' So, we figure by the first show he's going to have everything.

AJ: He's going to have all the notes. Well, isn't it said there's too many notes?

CHRIS: Sometimes.

AJ: & "Wish Liszt" is difficult because it includes music by Franz Liszt.

CHRIS: Yeah, "The Hungarian Rhapsody."

AJ: You've got these classical pieces, which as a bass player you're not really called upon to play that often or as a sax player in your previous work. It's not something you did, particularly in a rock'n'roll context.

CHRIS: No, not at all. It keeps it fun for me because it gives me something new to work on all the time & expand my own playing, so I look forward to the challenges.

AJ: Chris, you're in Massachusetts & you're focusing on New England, but where do you guys generally perform? Do you stay in Massachusetts or go outside the state?

CHRIS: This year we're in basically just Massachusetts & Rhode Island. We're looking to branch out towards Connecticut, up towards Maine. We've had some interest out in Maine & out in the Connecticut area, we just haven't been able to find dates that have worked for us & the venue. We're hoping in the next couple years we'll be able to expand out that way. We've had people that are out in Pennsylvania saying 'We wish you guys would come out here too.' If we can, we will. But, right now trying to concentrate on our area & trying to hit the New England area, but you never know.

AJ: There's also the commuting issue, you gotta get the whole band & your stuff up there.

CHRIS: Yeah, there's that part. & with everybody having regular day jobs.

AJ: It's a regular tour.

CHRIS: Right. The day jobs get in the way sometimes.

AJ: Chris, I want to thank you for joining me after a day of teacher & then rehearsals.

CHRIS: It was fun, my pleasure. I appreciate it.

AJ: I like the idea that you guys are doing this tribute & raising money & giving something back more than just music. I just find that really great.

CHRIS: Even if you don't check out ORNAMENT, I know there's a few other TSO tributes out there. We all work for the same idea & its the love of the music.

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