He’s fronted Savatage and continues to lend his considerable vocal talents to Trans Siberian Orchestra and Jon Oliva’s Pain – Jon Oliva has been one of rock’s finest singers for three decades.

With the new JOP album, Festival, gaining critical acclaim across the world and a full raft of Savatage reissues on the way 2010 is already shaping up to be a big year for the big man.

We caught up with Jon Oliva to bring you the latest rushonrock exclusive. Enjoy. rushonrock: Did you always intend Festival to follow on so soon from Global Warning?

Jon Oliva: You never expect anything in this business but I just wanted to produce an album which was a little bit different and it happened pretty quickly. I didn’t want to repeat myself – I never have done. I just worked really hard to make sure this was the best record I could make at that time. Festival is basically a brand new album with a few bits and pieces Cris (Oliva) recorded before his death.

rushonrock: How do you maintain quality and quantity in terms of songwriting year in, year out?

JO: I’m just very lucky when it comes to writing for some reason. I don’t know what it is but I’ve been blessed in some way with a particular talent. I never really run out of ideas and shit just seems to pop up. The last thing you want to happen as a musician or a songwriter is for that to change – you don’t want the lake to dry up.

rushonrock: Does your versatility ensure that lake never runs dry?

JO: I want absolutely to be versatile and I make a point of doing different things from one album to the next. I don’t want people to know what to expect from one of my records – I want people to be thinking ‘what’s he going to do next?’. With a Slayer album I know what to expect and I know what I’m going to hear. That’s Ok but it’s not how I work. Keeping people guessing and remaining versatile has always been important to me. It keeps me fresh and even with Savatage that’s what we used to do – I know that band was a little more one-dimensional than JOP but we liked to experiment with styles.

rushonrock: JOP continues to push rock’s boundaries – how do you do that?

JO: The guys that I’m playing with in JOP come from a lot of different backgrounds and play a number of varied styles. I bring a song to the table and think ‘let’s see what these guys can do with this’. I’m working with guys who’ve contributed to everything from jazz to Top 40 to death metal and the rest.

rushonrock: Festival follows your model of diversity and keeping the fans guessing with songs such as Now sitting alongside some pretty heavy stuff – has it worked out how you imagined?

JO: I don’t know why it became the record it is but Now is an interesting one. I wasn’t going to use that song on Festival at all. I was thinking about giving that one to Trans Siberian Orchestra. But when I demoed it up with the guys there was something about the way we did it as a band which persuaded me to use it on Festival. I thought I’d use it as the last song and see what happens. It’s the same with Look For Nothing – that was a song I just laid down with my drummer and it was another we demoed up for TSO. But I listened back to what we’d done and decided that I wanted the song for myself!

rushonrock: Can you pigeon-hole Jon Oliva’s Pain as a band or do you set out to make sure that doesn’t happen?

JO: I would hate it if you could pigeon hole this band! We’ve put six years into establishing our own identity and we’ve worked very hard for that. This started out as one solo album and has become something very important. I’ve played with these guys for a year or two now and the fact is I’ve become very fond of them as people and musicians. Festival is our fourth record and this is by far the strongest we’ve made to date. Because I care so much about the guys in my band it makes it easier for me to focus on the future and plan ahead. It’s not just me I need to worry about!

rushonrock: How did you settle on the name Pain for your band?

JO: It actually started out as a joke. When we were doing the first record we wanted to call ourselves Taj Mahal – it was the same situation as when we wanted to call Savatage by the name Avatar. Anyway it turned out there was a blues guitarist called Taj Mahal – it was two days before the CD was due to be pressed and we didn’t have a name we could use. We just couldn’t settle on anything and I said ‘this is a pain in the ass’. The other guys said why don’t we call the band Pain In The Ass and that became Pain. Everyone calls us JOP anyway which I like – a bit like ELP if you like.