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Trans-Siberian Orchestra Leader Calls Beethoven First Heavy Metal Star

Trans-Siberian Orchestra creator Paul O’Neill calls Beethoven the “world’s first heavy metal musician.” After all, the main theme in Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 5′ could easily have been written by Led Zeppelin or Black Sabbath, he said.

“So many of his musical motifs were guitar riffs,” O’Neill told Noisecreep. “Unfortunately, nobody realized the dangers of PA systems and their decibels. A lot of rock stars I know from the ’60s and ’70s lost their hearing. Beethoven lost his hearing in his 20s. He was ahead of his time with his musical style. A nod to the teacher, he went deaf before his time. It’s really interesting.”

In tribute to his musical hero, O’Neill, along with his band, penned the 2000 concept album ‘Beethoven’s Last Night.’ Trans-Siberian Orchestra will debut it on stage in its entirety with a jaunt beginning March 25 in Cincinnati. It’s no coincidence that the tour is starting then, as Beethoven died March 26, 1827.

“When we were writing ‘Beethoven’s Last Night,’ we had instrumentals and said, ‘This is great,’” O’Neill said. “Then we listened to Beethoven and we were like, ‘This sucks.’ Him and Mozart are my two idols. I love a lot of the great classical composers. Mozart and Beethoven were the biggest influences on me.”

While the tour is primarily featuring cuts from ‘Beethoven’s Last Night,’ for the second half of the show, TSO will be playing selections from their recently released double album ‘Night Castle,’ featuring the new single, ‘Believe.’ For this run, the band is playing in theaters, eschewing its regular arena venues.

“Returning to the theater is a challenge for us but the band will adjust,” O’Neill said. “[Guitarist Al] Pitrelli’s up there rehearsing, getting the band used to it. Basically, we tour with this humungous stage. We’re having this huge field to run around on. Especially for the new members who joined the TSO and have only played arenas that playing theaters, this is a whole different art form. For the kids — again, from 18 to 25 — who joined this as their first professional gig, they’ve never played the theater. Al’s just saying there’s a lot less room to move around, so it has to be a lot more choreographed. You have to be aware of where everybody is. If you’re running around in a small area, you could easily knock another guitar player to the ground. We are just super, super psyched.

“There’s an intimacy to the theater — not just for the fans but for the band — that you can’t reproduce in the coliseums. The Rolling Stones said awhile ago that they were going to go to arena, theater, arena, theater and just said there’s a whole different dynamic. It keeps the band from going into a comfortable rut. In some cities it’s been a decade since the TSO has been in the theater. So we’re like, ‘Let’s do a run where just do the theaters.’ So we booked that tour. Then at some point, we’re going to go to the other end of the extreme. But it has to be the right situation. TSO will never play in daylight. The only reason we’re able to do matinees in the winter is we’re playing indoors and we can turn the lights out.”

O’Neill isn’t sure when Trans-Siberian Orchestra will play outdoor stadiums, but he’s definitely ready for it.

“I can make the production way bigger,” he said. “I can put both of those stages together. There’s no limit to what we can do pyro-wise because there’s no roofs. The only downside to playing outdoors is you can’t control the weather. I know all the bands do tours outdoors in September, October. I’ve seen outdoor shows where it’s pouring rain and the band’s playing. I’ll never do that do our fans and the band. When TSO does tour outdoors, it has to be in the summer. So if it does rain, the fans will be sort of cold. The whole TSO band will be there — four guitar players, four keyboard players, 24 lead singers, two drummer–the whole nine yards.”

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