O’Neill put together the Trans-Siberian Orchestra in the mid-’90s. Over the years, dozens of vocalists, guitarists, bassists, drummers, keyboard players and violinists have been part of the group. The group has turned out to be a great training ground for musical talent.
“This is our 14th year of touring,” he said. “One of the rewarding things for me to see is to watch some of these kids — and they’ve been kids — blossom and grow as great musicians. Sometimes they stay for years; sometimes they move on. But we see them grow, we see them come together. That’s what makes this something special, something different than most bands.
O’Neill combines elements of classical, orchestral and even a little bit of Broadway into the troupe’s hard-rock based music. The shorthand label that gets attached to TSO’s music is progressive rock. That’s just fine with O’Neill.
“Progressive rock is the ultimate form of music,” O’Neill said. “Progressive rock has no limits. It’s built into the name. Trans-Siberian Orchestra was built to live and breathe and creatively bring in new members and new sounds. That was back in the ’90s. It’s even more important now. You can’t let it die.”
That said, O’Neill realizes that he’s pulled off a never-to-be repeated success with TSO.
“Trans-Siberian Orchestra had two mind-bogglingly lucky breaks I wasn’t aware of at the time,” he said. “I think we were the last band to have old-fashioned blank check artistic development. We put out our first record in 1996. It didn’t sell in 1997. But we got to put out another record in 1998. In 1999, we started to tour and things started to take off. Today, we’d never get to make that second record. If TSO came out in 2006 rather than 1996, I know we would have been dropped.