The story of Jeff's unique musical journey and career in his own words.


Postby jeffplate » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:26 pm

I was born in the Finger Lakes region of upstate NY. My family and I lived on a 100 acre farm at the southern tip of Seneca Lake, and within earshot of Watkins Glen International Raceway. Plenty of room to roam, and drum.

I was always interested in music thanks to my parents. Why the drums? I'm not sure. I was playing (you could call it banging) on everything from the furniture to coffee cans. Then came the Sears and Roebuck snare drum, which I quickly destroyed.

I remember watching a television special on the band Chicago, recording Chicago7 at Caribou Ranch in 1974, and that got my attention: I wanted to do THAT.

At the time, I was a promising young baseball player with a country boy fastball and no fear, and dreams of also being in the Majors. That following Summer, in a freak accident, my hip literally popped out of joint. 4 pins in my hip, on crutches for 5 months and the doc said no sports for up to three years.

Enter The Midnight Special and KISS.

I caught a commercial for the show and talked my parents into letting me stay up to watch it. It was unbelievable, and it changed everything. It changed my life. I was going to do THAT.

I played drums in school band and never really enjoyed it. I wanted to be behind a kit in a rock-n-roll band. But, looking back, I regret not taking advantage of the theory and knowledge that was there for the taking. I tell all of my young students and fans, learn everything you can and take advantage of your time in school. You will never get that back.

I met some older musicians that really inspired me and drove me to be a better player. And I played. I was being exposed to more progressive music all of the time, and was committed to keeping up with it. My rule was hours of practice everyday, then I could go out. I was playing out every weekend by the time I was 17, making decent money and saving for the move: I knew Horseheads, NY was not the place to be if I wanted to make something happen.

My first move was to Tampa, Florida in 1981. I had all the right intentions, but ran into some bad luck and decided to head home.

From there to Worcester, MA in 1983. I knew some people there playing in a cover band and joined them. I bounced around between several different bands playing bars and functions, and making money.

In 1988, I saw Simon Phillips in a drum clinic. He blew me away. I told myself then and there, that if I was going to really do this, I had to get serious and work harder than ever to get to be as good could as I could be.

I had moved to the South Shore of Boston, and began taking lessons from the incredible Dave Discenso. I learned more from him than anyone. I had stopped playing cover music, got a day job, and concentrated on my technique and chops, and writing original music. In one corner, I had Joe Clapp, Tim Colletti and Alana Hendrickson, writing progressive, rock/pop. In the other I had Matt Leff, THE metal guitarist in the area. Although Joe and Tim and I concocted some very interesting music, the project with Matt clicked. This became Wicked Witch, with Mark Stewart and Zak Stevens.

Wicked Witch wrote constantly and played as much as we could, doing 150 shows in 1990(for no money!), and methodically tightened up our act and became one of the premier metal bands in New England. Victims of a changing music scene, and with no record deal in sight, Zak left the band to become the lead vocalist in the metal band Savatage in 1992. After another year of different vocalists and waning interest in Wicked Witch, I moved back to NY in 1993. After 10 years, it was time for a change.

In the spring of 1994 Zak Stevens called and invited me to join Savatage. The band had just suffered the loss of guitarist Criss Oliva, and was regrouping for another recording and tour. Through the strength of the Wicked Witch demos, and Zak's recommendation, Paul O'Neill and Jon Oliva agreed to give me a shot. And I was in. My career had officially started. All the years of practicing, the gigs, the highs and lows, finally paid off, and I haven't looked back.

The following is a timeline of what I've done since joining Savatage.

Joined Savatage to tour and support the release of Handful of Rain. Following a US tour, we toured Japan and recorded Japan Live '94. I always felt that if I could do one tour and record one album, I would have won. Within 6 months of nearly cutting my hair off and getting a "real" job, I had accomplished what I dreamed of doing as a kid.

Recorded my first studio release, Dead Winter Dead. This concept record contained the hit song "Christmas Eve, Sarajevo 12/24," and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra became a reality. Paul O'Neill had the idea of TSO in his mind for years, and this song became the launching pad for the project.

Two tours in Europe in support of Dead Winter Dead, headlining the Summer Metal Meetings and playing several major festivals. We also toured the US. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra recorded Christmas Eve and Other Stories.

Savatage records The Wake of Magellan. It is released in Europe and debuts at 11 on the German POP charts. Tours of The US, Europe, Japan and South America follow. TSO begins doing television appearances supporting CEAOS.

TSO records The Christmas Attic, and does several television appearances. Christmas Eve and Other Stories is certified gold. Savatage tours the US, Europe and South America.

TSO records a television special, The Ghosts of Christmas Eve, which is broadcast nationally. TSO embarks on its first tour, a seven show run, that proves to be a major success.

Savatage records Poets and Madmen as a quartet, as Zak Stevens officially leaves the band. TSO records its first non-seasonal CD Beethoven's Last Night. TSO splits into East and West touring companies to meet the demand for its Christmas tour.

Poets And Madmen is released with tours in the US and Europe. TSO's The Ghost of Christmas Eve is released on VHS and DVD. Christmas Eve and Other Stories reaches platinum status. TSO East and West tour again, with shows being added to each coast.

This year I began working with Electric Violinist Mark Wood on some projects outside of TSO. I played on the theme music he wrote for the Tour De France, and later that year he was awarded with an Emmy for his work. This led to other sessions and progressed into working in his Electrify Your Strings Program, which travels around the country working with music programs from elementary to college. Mark and EYS have kept me busy every year since. Check it out at Mark's site:

In my off time I was giving lessons and playing locally to keep the chops up. The TSO Winter Tour marks its fourth year, and as the audience and production grow, we begin moving from theaters into arenas.

I began working extensively with Chris Caffery on a new project, Faces, with plans of recording and touring the following year. The single most significant event in my life was the untimely death of my sister Terry on 11/11/03. She died in a car accident 3 days before I was to leave for tour. Everything was different now. The fifth TSO Winter Tour was another success, and surreal to say the least.

Recorded Chris Caffery's Faces and Music Man CDs. Recorded TSO's The Lost Christmas Eve to complete the Christmas Trilogy. The Last Christmas Eve reaches gold status as TSO launches its 6th Winter Tour, which at this point moved into all arenas.

Recorded Chris Caffery's W.A.R.P.E.D. Tour dates in the US and in Europe opening for Metal Church. Recorded "Inspector Highway" for the Doctor Butcher rerelease. Mark Wood and TSO's 7th Winter Tour fill out the year.

Recorded Long Time No Sing with premier vocalist John West. I became a member of Metal Church and recorded A Light In The Dark, and toured Europe in support of the cd. Mark Wood's EYS program becomes busier, and TSO's 8th Winter Tour plays to over 1 million people between the East and West. Highlights of the tour, performing with Jon Anderson of YES and Greg Lake of ELP.

Metal Church tours the US and Europe. Wicked Witch is reformed under the name Machines of Grace, and begin recording its debut CD in the fall. TSO's DVD The Ghosts of Christmas Eve reaches platinum status. The 9th Winter Tour welcomed Roger Daltrey as a guest. Greg Lake and Ian Hunter perform with TSO in Cleveland on New Year's Eve.

Recorded This Present Wasteland with Metal Church.
And then, Marriage! With a honeymoon and an EYS program in Bermuda... not a bad way to start the year.
Metal Church performs in the US, and with Queensryche in Puerto Rico.
TSO celebrates its 10th year of touring. Steven Tyler performs with TSO in Nassau and The Meadowlands.

Performed with The Mark Wood Experience at Victor High School in Westchester, NY.
Machines Of Grace release our debut cd. Reviews and response from fans and peers is extremely positive. Zack Stevens and I are guests with Eddie Trunk on The Boneyard in August. The band does several shows in NY, and with Stryper in Cleveland and Detroit.
Performed with Metal Church Rocklahoma in Pryor, OK, in temperatures of over 100 degrees. After 25 years, Kurdt Vanderhof decides that this will be the final show for the band. After 3 years, 2 cds and a number of shows, I am very proud to have been part of one the best Classic Metal bands of all time.
TSO releases NightCastle to Gold status. The Winter Tour is another huge success. The band incorporates several new songs into the show, along with more video and lighting production, creating the biggest show yet. Joe Walsh performs with TSO in Tampa.

TSO embarks on it’s first Spring Tour, playing the entire Beethoven’s Last Night cd, with narration, and with several songs from NightCastle. The single band consists of the core musicians that performed with the original band in 1999. The tour went from Canada, down the East Coast, through the Midwest and was another success.
Machines Of Graces continues to promote, but cannot perform due to time constraints and other commitments.
TSO East introduces 11 new members to the Winter Tour, the biggest changeover band has ever gone through. The new band receives great reviews, and is possibly the best yet. Robin Zander from Cheap Trick performs with TSO in Tampa.

TSO takes the Beethoven's Last Night Tour to Europe, playing 11 shows throughout the month of March. For me, the highlight of the tour was a soldout show in Amsterdam... on my birthday!
TSO then returned to the States for another 39 shows, covering the East Coast, Midwest and Eastern Canada. Guitar Icon, Leslie West, performed his legendary song, Mississippi Queen, with the band in Jackson, MS... of course.
TSO continues to work in the studio on several upcoming projects. I was called in to record drums on several songs in late summer.
Machines Of Grace remains on an indefinite hiatus.
TSO introduces a new song, Who I Am, to the 2011 Winter Tour, which is another huge success.

Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 12:27 pm
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Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2011 12:27 pm

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