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Alex Skolnick Reflects on His Time In Trans-Siberian Orchestra in Wake of Founder Paul O’Neill’s Death

Kathy Flynn, WickedGoddessPhotography.com
Kathy Flynn, WickedGoddessPhotography.com

Yesterday (April 6), we reported on the tragic passing of Trans-Siberian Orchestra mastermind Paul O’Neill. The band had issued a statement that the founding member and leader died from “chronic illness” and the reaction from the rock and metal community and beyond has been touching. Testament‘s Alex Skolnick was among those who offered tributes to O’Neill, penning a lengthy reflection on his tenure in TSO.

Skolnick wrote on Facebook, “From 2000-2009, the TSO Winter Tour was my ritual, as East Coast stage left guitarist during Nov. / Dec. Although it’s been a number of years since I moved on from the annual multi-month holiday trek, news of Paul O’Neill’s passing is no less sad and shocking.” He then chronicled the group’s humble beginnings, graduating from small theatrical shows to “packed arenas” and even television performances on Good Morning America and Regis & Kelly, also reveling in sharing the stage with greats like Joan Jett, Joe Walsh, Roger Daltrey and Steven Tyler.

Confessing that some of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra music didn’t always align with his own personal tastes, “there were enough cool musical moments to balance things out and more importantly, audiences so intensely appreciative that for 2+ hours onstage, a performer’s private tastes (along with the unavoidable exhaustion, inevitable aches and occasional ailments such a grueling tour will bring), faded away as though by the magic described within the show’s narrative.”

“TSO became ‘The Nutcracker’ for the classic rock generation and their families; Paul somehow knew this was needed before the audiences knew themselves,” continued Skolnick, adding, “This was something for a market as massively ignored by the music industry as it was massive. Besides, show me any prestigious artist of classical, jazz, visual art, [indie] rock or anyone else ever considered ‘cool,’ ‘critically lauded’ or other terms not often associated with TSO and I’ll show you someone near and dear to them — aunt, nephew, mom, cousin, grandma or other relative — who’s a massive TSO fan.”

Discussing how TSO shook him from his “own self-imposed touring hiatus for music studies in the early ’00s,” Skolnick attributed his “coming out of the proverbial shell while on the bandshell (along with many great experiences, friendships, music biz connections etc…) to this admittedly crazy, wildly generous, fiercely creative and inhumanly driven character, who’d often call me and others “Boss” as a term of endearment,” referring, of course, to O’Neill.

“Rest in peace, Boss,” said Skolnick in closing. Read the full post directly below.

O’Neill’s legacy will live on forever as millions of fans around the world keep Trans-Siberian Orchestra in their hearts. Since the band’s inception in 1996, they’ve released six studio albums that have collectively sold over 10 million copies.

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