MTTV: Jeff Plate / “It was such a thrill to join Savatage”

Best known as skinsman for Trans Siberian Orchestra, Savatage and Metal Church, Jeff Plate has carved a name for himself as one of the best, hardest hitting and most versatile drummers on the scene.

With his new project Alta Reign, they have just released the superb album ‘Mother’s Day’, which MetalTalk reported on here.

The album sees a mix of influences come to play, taking it from the big, classic AOR of opener ‘Shine’, through to the Power Metal of ‘Witness’ and beyond into touches of Prog.

Cover of Mother's Day, from Alta Reign

MetalTalk’s Kahmel Farahani sat with Jeff to find out more about the project and Jeff’s work with Savatage and the Trans Siberian Orchestra.

On his new band Alta Reign:

“The idea of Alta Reign started many years ago when I was working with Zak Stevens, so it all began back in Boston in the late 80’s… years later there was a lot of material that had not been used.

“I was a nervous because it was my first time leading a project and I am usually just the drummer! [laughs]. So we just built on riffs but the majority is all original music.

“I used the time in lockdown to finish the album and I have to say I am really happy with the end product. The members of my band all stepped up and did a fantastic job. I am starting to work on the second record right now!”

On Joining Savatage:

“It was very exciting for me. I had known Zak Stevens in Boston and he left to join Savatage which was an awesome move for him. Tragically Criss Oliva died in a car accident in 1993 and I called Zak at the start of 1994 just to see how he was.

“He said Savatage was going to continue and the band liked the demos they had heard of what we had done in Boston and said they want to hire this guy. It blew me away – it was such a thrill to join Savatage.

“It was such a difficult time for them – Jon Oliva had just lost his brother and Zak was the lead singer now. As much as I was excited, I also just felt for those guys because it was not easy.

“It was just such a thrill for me to find a home in a band like that.

“It was just remarkable that Jon and Paul O’Neill had decided to keep it going. That line up between the Dead Winter Dead tour and The Wake Of Magellan tour, it was just on fire.”

On the success of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra:

“Suddenly we had a hit song with ‘Christmas Eve Sarajevo’, and the bigger TSO got, the more time was needed to be focused on that. Savatage became secondary.

“TSO has become such a phenomenon over the years. It has been 20 years and I have been there for every note of it, and somehow it still gets bigger and better every year.

“It is just amazing and I always say I have the best seat in the house!”

On the Savatage and TSO comeback show at Wacken 2015:

‘Paul O’Neill had always wanted to have TSO east and TSO west performing at the same time and we always wondered how that was ever going to happen.

“My part was pretty simple, just playing the drums, but the technical aspect for our crew, was just amazing. We pulled it off and I was just so proud of Paul – he put in so much time and energy and money. He pulled it off.

“When we finished that show we were thrilled but also relieved, because if any one thing had gone wrong it would have wrecked the whole thing.

“Paul was just so happy and I was so happy for him.”

On the future of Savatage:

“Well…obviously when Paul O’Neill died it disrupted everything. Savatage, TSO, everything – we are still figuring this out.

“My response to this is, when I joined Savatage in 1994, I was invited into the world of Paul O’Neill and Jon Oliva and I have always respected that.

“Now these decisions are up to Jon Oliva and Paul’s family. I would certainly love to do something! I think we all would.

“Even if we do not do anything, I am very very proud of what we have done up to this point and I have no regrets at all.

“I will say this, and I think I speak on behalf of the whole band – We are very proud and thankful that people still want to see us!

“We must have done something right.”

You can also catch the episode in Podcast format. Subscribe to MetalTalk on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

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