Paul O'Neill (producer)

Last updated
Paul O'Neill
Paul O'Neill (rock producer).jpg
O'Neill in 2011
Background information
Born(1956-02-23)February 23, 1956
Queens, New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedApril 5, 2017(2017-04-05) (aged 61)
Tampa, Florida, U.S.
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 and producer.



Early years

Paul O'Neill was born in Flushing, Queens, New York City, [1] [2] the second of his parents' ten children. His 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. He 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. [3] It was there that he first met engineer Dave Wittman [4] who had the ability to capture on tape the sounds O'Neill was hearing in his head. O'Neill ended up shelving the project because he was not happy with final results. He later credited Slowburn's initial failure as one of the luckiest things that could have happened to him, for it gave him the opportunity to learn the recording and concert business from the inside out. Touring with some of the world's biggest bands gave him insight into how the music industry differed from country to country, and a better sense of history, people and finance than books alone could teach. [5]

He landed a position at Leber-Krebs Inc., the management company that launched the careers of Aerosmith, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Ted Nugent, New York Dolls, Scorpions, Joan Jett and others. Specifically, he worked as the personal assistant of manager David Krebs. [6] [7] [8] 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. [9]

Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra

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 studio engineer Dave Wittman, who all became original collaborators in O'Neill's next group, 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 said in 2011. "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."

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 single "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24" (originally released on the Savatage concept album Dead Winter Dead ) 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, Beethoven's Last Night . [1]


O'Neill's body was discovered in an Embassy Suites hotel room in Tampa, Florida. [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] 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. The Hillsborough, Florida medical examiner's office determined the official cause of Paul O’Neill's death as accidental, resulting from an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications to treat his numerous chronic illnesses (including bone augmentation surgery, complications from spinal fusion surgery, heart disease, and hypertension). [22] Found along with O'Neill's body were more than 30 prescription pill bottles in his name. [23]

O'Neill was in the midst of a number of projects, and their continuation was in doubt. [21] On June 24, 2017, TSO announced on their Facebook page that the band would continue the 2017 Winter Tour of "The Ghost of Christmas Eve" in O'Neill's legacy and honor. During the tour, the band (with Kayla Reeves on the east, and Dino Jelusic on the west) honored O'Neill while playing "The Safest Way Into Tomorrow", with images of sunglasses and motorcycle gloves (both trademarks of O'Neill's) projected on the stage's video display. [24]






Metal Church


Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Related Research Articles

Trans-Siberian Orchestra American rock band

Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) is an American rock band founded in 1996 by producer, composer, and lyricist Paul O'Neill, who brought together Jon Oliva and Al Pitrelli and keyboardist and co-producer Robert Kinkel to form the core of the creative team. O'Neill died on April 5, 2017. The band gained in popularity when they began touring in 1999 after completing their second album, The Christmas Attic, the year previous. In 2007, the Washington Post referred to them as "an arena-rock juggernaut" and described their music as "Pink Floyd meets Yes and the Who at Radio City Music Hall." TSO has sold more than 10 million concert tickets and over 10 million albums. The band has released a series of rock operas: Christmas Eve and Other Stories, The Christmas Attic, Beethoven's Last Night, The Lost Christmas Eve, their two-disc Night Castle and Letters From the Labyrinth. Trans-Siberian Orchestra is also known for their extensive charity work and elaborate concerts, which include a string section, a light show, lasers, moving trusses, video screens, and effects synchronized to music.

<i>Dead Winter Dead</i> 1995 studio album by Savatage

Dead Winter Dead is the ninth studio album by the American heavy metal band Savatage, released in 1995. It is a concept album, dealing with a Serb boy and a Muslim girl who fall in love. The story of the album also focused on the Bosnian War, which was ongoing at the time.

<i>Streets: A Rock Opera</i> 1991 studio album by Savatage

Streets: A Rock Opera is the sixth studio album by the American heavy metal band Savatage and is a rock opera dealing with the rise and fall of the fictional musician DT Jesus. It was originally released in October 1991 on Atlantic Records. The album took almost a year to record, with pre-production beginning in October 1990. It was also Jon Oliva's last album as lead vocalist until 1995's Dead Winter Dead and 1997's The Wake of Magellan, where he shared lead vocal duties with Zak Stevens. He resumed lead vocal duties exclusively on 2001's Poets and Madmen.


Savatage is an American heavy metal band founded by brothers Jon and Criss Oliva in 1979 at Astro Skate in Tarpon Springs, Florida. The band was first called Avatar, but, shortly before the release of their debut album Sirens (1983), they changed their name to Savatage as Avatar was already taken by another band. Savatage is considered a significant member of the American heavy metal movement of the early-to-mid-1980s and has been cited as a key influence on many genres such as power metal, progressive metal, speed metal, thrash metal, death metal and symphonic metal.

<i>Poets and Madmen</i> 2001 studio album by Savatage

Poets and Madmen is the eleventh studio album by American heavy metal band Savatage, released in 2001. It was their last album before their 12-year hiatus, which lasted from 2002 to 2014. The album has a loose concept inspired by the career and death of journalist Kevin Carter, but has much less narrative in the lyrics than the previous two rock operas penned by Paul O'Neill. Everything said in the album is fiction, except with regards to what is sung about Carter. The album is also noted as it is the only Savatage album to not feature a title song from the album, although the title was taken from lyrics to the track "Symmetry" from the band's 1994 album, Handful of Rain.

<i>Christmas Eve and Other Stories</i> 1996 studio album by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Christmas Eve and Other Stories is the debut studio album by the American rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It was released on October 15, 1996, through Lava Records and Atlantic Records. It is the first album in the band's "Christmas trilogy", with The Christmas Attic (1998) and The Lost Christmas Eve (2004) coming afterward. All three albums, as well as their The Ghosts of Christmas Eve DVD, were featured in the box set of The Christmas Trilogy. The album's cover art was created by Edgar Jerins.

Al Pitrelli

Al Pitrelli is an American guitarist, best known for his work with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Megadeth, Alice Cooper, Joe Lynn Turner, Asia and Savatage.

<i>Gutter Ballet</i> 1989 studio album by Savatage

Gutter Ballet is the fifth full-length album produced by the American progressive metal band Savatage. This was the second album created under the direction of producer Paul O'Neill and was initially released in December 1, 1989.

Jeff Plate

Jeff Plate is an American professional hard rock/heavy metal drummer. He plays with the group Trans-Siberian Orchestra. He is best known as drummer for American heavy metal band Savatage on their albums since Japan Live '94, and was also a member of Metal Church from 2006 to their break up in 2009 and again from their reunion in 2012 to 2017.

Jon Oliva

John Nicholas "Jon" Oliva is an American composer, multi-instrumentalist and singer. He is best known as the co-founder, keyboardist and lead vocalist of the band Savatage, which he co-founded with his younger brother Criss Oliva. Since 1996 he has also been a songwriter, musician and vocalist in Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Producer Paul O'Neill referred to Oliva in numerous interviews as the single greatest vocalist/musician he has ever worked with.

Robert Kinkel

Robert Kinkel is an American professional session keyboardist and music engineer most known for his role as a co-creator/co-producer/co-composer and touring keyboardist with Trans-Siberian Orchestra along with extensive studio work with the progressive metal band Savatage. He attended Hamilton College and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in music with a minor in physics.

Johnny Lee Middleton

Johnny Lee Middleton is an American musician and songwriter, best known as the bass guitar player for Savatage and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Zachary Stevens

Zachary Trussell, known professionally as Zachary "Zak" Stevens, is an American singer and musician, best known as the former lead vocalist of Savatage. He performs with heavy metal band Circle II Circle. Stevens is also a drummer and has a degree in psychology but is not, as is often reported, a licensed, practicing psychologist.

<i>The Christmas Attic</i> 1998 studio album by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

The Christmas Attic is the second album by the American rock band Trans-Siberian Orchestra, released in 1998. The cover art is by Edgar Jerins.

Chris Caffery American musician

Christopher Caffery is an American musician, best known for his work as a member of Savatage and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Recently, Chris has been pursuing a solo career, releasing four albums since 2004.

<i>The Lost Christmas Eve</i> 2004 studio album by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

The Lost Christmas Eve is the fourth album by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It was released on October 12, 2004, and is the last album in their "Christmas trilogy", with Christmas Eve and Other Stories (1996) and The Christmas Attic (1998) coming before it. All three albums, as well as their The Ghosts of Christmas Eve DVD, were featured in the box set of The Christmas Trilogy. In 2012 Trans-Siberian Orchestra toured a live production of The Lost Christmas Eve for the first time and performed the Rock Opera in over 100 arena shows across North America. In late October 2013, TSO released a narrated version of The Lost Christmas Eve much like they did in 2012 with Beethoven's Last Night.

<i>Night Castle</i> 2009 studio album by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Night Castle is the fifth rock opera by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It was released on October 28, 2009 as a double CD with a 60-page booklet illustrated by Greg Hildebrandt, and debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard charts and No. 1 on the rock music charts. It was certified gold in eight weeks and is currently a platinum album.

<i>The Ghosts of Christmas Eve</i>

The Ghosts of Christmas Eve is a 1999 made-for-television film showcasing a Christmas music performance by Trans-Siberian Orchestra, starring Ossie Davis and Allie Sheridan. Guest performers included Michael Crawford and Jewel. Other performers include Bob Kinkel, Al Pitrelli, Chris Caffery, Johnny Lee Middleton, Jeff Plate, Tony Gaynor, Daryl Pediford and Tommy Farese.

<i>Letters from the Labyrinth</i> 2015 studio album by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Letters From the Labyrinth is the sixth album by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. It was released on November 13, 2015. The album is a collection of songs and stories. The stories being a nod to their previous full album Night Castle, using the stories written by the protagonist. The album reached #7 on the Billboard 200 album chart and #1 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums chart. This album was the last for TSO members Paul O'Neill and David Z before their deaths in April and July 2017, respectively.


  1. 1 2 Huffington Post, Entertainment, April 25, 2012
  2. Paul O'NeillObituary accessdate December 21, 2017
  3. Something Else Reviews, February 16, 2012
  5. The Aquarian Weekly Magazine April, 06,2011
  6. Kudlow, Steve; Reiner, Robb (March 13, 2009). Anvil: The Story of Anvil. Bantam Press. p. 151. ISBN   0-593-06364-3.
  7. The Pure Rock Shop,
  8. The Tale of Artful Dodger, Goldmine, The Music Collectors Magazine, April 13, 2010
  9. Trans-Siberian Orchestra Tour Program 2005 publisher Bravado
  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.[ permanent dead link ]
  14. Huffington Post , Entertainment, April 25, 2012
  15. The Aquarian Weekly Magazine, April 6, 2011
  16. "Paul O'Neill". Trans-Siberian Orchestra. April 5, 2017. Archived from the original on April 6, 2017. Retrieved April 5, 2017.
  17. "MUSIC Paul O'Neill, Founder of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Dies at 61". New York Times . Associated Press. April 6, 2017. Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  18. Grow, Kory (April 6, 2017). "Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Paul O'Neill Dead at 61". Rolling Stone . Retrieved April 6, 2017.
  19. 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.
  20. Ahern, Sarah (April 6, 2017). "Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Paul O'Neill Dies at 61". Variety . Retrieved April 7, 2017.
  21. 1 2 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. "Report: Trans-Siberian Orchestra Founder Paul O'Neill Died From Prescription Drug Intoxication [Updated]". Loudwire. May 30, 2017. Retrieved May 30, 2017.
  23. Cridlin, Jay (December 17, 2017). "Music without the Maestro". Tampa Bay Times . pp. 1A, 12A. Also published online under the title "Inside Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s first Christmas without leader Paul O'Neill."
  24. "Trans-Siberian Orchestra Emerges Triumphant on First Holiday Tour Following Founder's Death". Billboard. Retrieved 2018-02-19.