Paul O'Neill (rock producer)

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Paul O'Neill
Paul O'Neill (rock producer).jpg
O'Neill in 2011
Background information
Born (1956-02-23)February 23, 1956
New York City, New York, United States
Died April 5, 2017(2017-04-05) (aged 61)
Tampa, Florida
Genres Rock, rock opera, progressive metal
Occupation(s) Composer, lyricist, producer, songwriter
Associated acts Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Savatage, Badlands

Paul O'Neill (February 23, 1956 – April 5, 2017) was an American music composer, lyricist, producer, and songwriter.


Early years[edit]

A New York City native,[1] the second of his parents' ten children, Paul O'Neill's music and literary influences, as well as his own artistic visions were well established before he began working full-time in the industry in his late teens. O'Neill began playing guitar with a number of rock bands in high school and quickly graduated to folk guitar gigs at downtown clubs. O'Neill took his first serious musical steps in the mid 1970s when he took his first progressive rock band, Slowburn, into Jimi Hendrix's Electric Lady Studios in New York City.[2] It was there that he first met engineer Dave Wittman [3] who had the ability to capture on tape the sounds O'Neill was hearing in his head. Paul ended up shelving the project because he was not happy with final results. (A habit Paul would repeat over the decades much to the frustration of his accountants.) However he has credited Slowburn's initial failure as one of the luckiest things that could have ever happened to him for it gave him the opportunity to learn the recording and concert business from the inside out. All the little nuances of how you broke acts in America and Canada, which was different from, Europe, Asia but more importantly how to make your artist success last. In addition, touring the planet with some of the world's biggest bands gave him an insight not only to the how the music industry differed from country to country but also a better sense of history, peoples and finance than you could learn from books alone.[4]

He landed a position at Leber-Krebs Inc., the management company that launched the careers of Aerosmith, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Ted Nugent, The New York Dolls, Scorpions and Joan Jett among others. Specifically, he worked as the personal assistant of manager David Krebs.[5][6][7] In the 1980s, O'Neill became a large rock promoter in Japan, promoting every tour of Madonna and Sting done in that decade, as well the largest rock festivals done in Japan until that time, with such acts as Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake and Ronnie James Dio.[8]

Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra[edit]

"Criss had a feel that was staggering and a sound that was unbelievable. I simply had never heard a better guitar player."

Paul O'Neill , Savatage producer[9]

Among other bands, O'Neill helmed Aerosmith's Classics Live I and Classics Live II [10] albums before beginning a fortuitous relationship with the band Savatage that led to conceptual pieces such as Hall of the Mountain King, Gutter Ballet, Streets: A Rock Opera and Dead Winter Dead. It also introduced him to Jon Oliva,[11] Bob Kinkel and Al Pitrelli, as well as reconnecting him with legendary studio engineer Dave Wittman, who all became key original collaborators in O'Neill's grand vision – Trans-Siberian Orchestra.[12][13]

"I wanted to take the very best of all the forms of music I grew up on and merge them into a new style," O'Neill says. "Basically I was building on the work of everybody I worshipped: the rock opera parts from bands like the Who; the marriage of classical and rock from bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Queen; the over-the-top light show from bands like Pink Floyd...I always wanted to do a full rock opera with a full progressive band and at least 24 lead singers.[14][15]

O'Neill took the idea to Atlantic Records which, to his surprise, went for it and financed the creation of Romanov which was initially to be TSO’s first release. "We were very fortunate," he says. "It was one of the only labels left that still did an “old school” kind of artist development." My original concept was; "We were going to do six rock operas, a trilogy about Christmas and maybe one or two regular albums."

"Criss could play anything you could imagine. He could work a solo around a vocal without stepping on it, and he was one of the few guitarists who knew how to convey the emotion of the human voice with a guitar. He was a combination of the angst of Duane Allman on "Layla,’ the excitement of Jimmy Page, the emotion of Eric Clapton, the raw feel of Joe Perry and the dexterity of Eddie Van Halen or Allan Holdsworth."

Paul O'Neill, Savatage producer[16]

However, when Romanov got temporarily put on the back burner, the first installment of the Christmas trilogy, Christmas Eve and Other Stories became TSO’s debut album. Fueled by the socially conscious single "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24", the album went double platinum. More platinum certifications followed with 1998’s The Christmas Attic, and the final installment of the Christmas trilogy, The Lost Christmas Eve in 2004. In the midst of completing the trilogy, TSO released their first non-holiday rock opera the gold certified Beethoven's Last Night.[17]

But TSO really cemented its following in concert. The group hit the road in 1999, beginning an annual November–December extravaganza that O'Neill takes pride in being "as over the top as we can make it." "We have, two stages -- with pyro, light and lasers -- on both sides of the arena, as well as in the crowd and the best sound we can find...There's no second-class seats at a Trans-Siberian Orchestra show. I want people to walk out of our shows speechless and...still not believing what they have seen was possible."

"We spend a lot of time planning," O'Neill confesses with a laugh, "and people are always telling me, 'Paul, stop writing and start recording!' It's working out great, though. I feel lucky that it's gone this long and that we get to do what we love for a living. The arts have incredible power, and with that comes incredible responsibility. Someone once said that if you want to change the world, don't become a politician -- write a book, write a great song. I believe in that, and that's what Trans-Siberian Orchestra is about."

"I've always believed that music has the power to transport and transform," O'Neill explained. "The original concept of Trans-Siberian Orchestra was how to make music have the most emotional impact. We always try to write melodies that are so infectious they don't need lyrics and lyrics so poetic that they don’t need a melody, but when you combine the two together they create an alloy where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Once those songs are woven together into a tapestry they create a story which gives each song a third dimension."

"That was so much in the spirit of Trans-Siberian Orchestra", O'Neill explains. "This is a group -- a constantly morphing group -- of extremely creative and talented individuals who are always trying to raise the bar of where a band can take its audience sonically, visually and emotionally. With that as our core ideal, the possibilities are endless."[18]


O'Neill's death was announced in a brief note posted on the Trans-Siberian Orchestra website on April 5, 2017, which cited chronic illness. His body was discovered in an Embassy Suites hotel room in Tampa, Florida.[19][20][21][22][23][24][21] He was in the midst of a number of projects, and their continuation is in doubt.[21]






  • 1985 - Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Metal Church[edit]


Trans-Siberian Orchestra[edit]


  1. ^ Huffington Post, Entertainment, April 25, 2012
  2. ^ Something Else Reviews, February 16, 2012
  3. ^
  4. ^ The Aquarian Weekly Magazine April, 06,2011
  5. ^ Kudlow, Steve; Reiner, Robb (March 13, 2009). Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Bantam Press. p. 151. ISBN 0-593-06364-3. 
  6. ^ The Pure Rock Shop,
  7. ^ The Tale of Artful Dodger, Goldmine, The Music Collectors Magazine, April 13, 2010
  8. ^ Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tour Program 2005 publisher Bravado
  9. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  10. ^ Aerosmith Classics Live I & Classics Live II back cover credits.
  11. ^ Something Else Reviews February 16, 2012
  12. ^ Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tour Program. Bravado Merchandise. 2008. p. 22. 
  13. ^ Guitar World Staff (May 11, 2009). "Criss Oliva: Mountain King". Guitar World. Retrieved April 7, 2017. 
  14. ^ Huffington Post, Entertainment, April 25, 2012
  15. ^ The Aquarian Weekly Magazine, April 6, 2011
  16. ^,1.  Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  17. ^ Huffington Post, Entertainment, April 25, 2012
  18. ^ "Trans-Siberian Orchestra". 2010 Press Page. Trans-Siberian Orchestra. 
  19. ^ "Paul O'Neill". Trans-Siberian Orchestra. April 5, 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2017. 
  20. ^ "MUSIC Paul O'Neill, Founder of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Dies at 61". New York Times. Associated Press. April 6, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2017. 
  21. ^ a b c Graff, Gary (April 6, 2017). "Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Paul O'Neill Dies at 61". Billboard. Retrieved April 7, 2017. O'Neill was working on several projects at the time of his death, both intended for Broadway -- Romanov: What Kings Must Whisper, a rock opera about the Russia's Bolshevik Revolution in 1918, and an expanded, rewritten version of Savatage's Gutter Ballet. There's no word yet on how work will proceed on them without O'Neill. 
  22. ^ Grow, Kory (April 6, 2017). "Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Paul O'Neill Dead at 61". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 6, 2017. 
  23. ^ Cridlin, Jay (April 6, 2017). "Trans-Siberian Orchestra founder Paul O'Neill, 61, found dead in Tampa hotel". Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved April 7, 2017. 
  24. ^ Ahern, Sarah (April 6, 2017). "Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Paul O'Neill Dies at 61". Variety. Retrieved April 7, 2017.