I bought tickets in September for my family’s annual trek to see the Trans-Siberian Orchestra here in Houston. Although the band has changed slightly from year to year, there are a few mainstays that we expect to see. The guy who tops the list is vocalist Tommy Farese, who sings “Ornament” and “This Christmas Day” from the multi-platinum Christmas Eve and Other Stories collection, and acts as the MC. Come to find out, Farese (as well as many other “mainstays”) is not with the band anymore. He was let go in June. So we decided to give him a ring and find out what happened with TSO as well as talk about his new project, The Kings of Christmas, a band consisting of former TSO members Guy LeMonnier, Anthony Gaynor and Maxx Mann.
30 Days Out: What happened with your dismissal from the Trans-Siberian Orchestra?
TF: A bunch of guys who were with TSO, and left TSO for whatever reason, decided they were going to do a record and they asked me if I had any songs that I could contribute. So I wrote a couple of songs and TSO got wind of it and that was their reasoning for letting me go. I ended up joining the guys in The Kings of Christmas shortly afterwards.
30 Days Out: Was there something in the TSO contract that said you could not write for other people?
TF: No, there was nothing like that for me, but obviously that was their reasoning, I don’t know if that was the real reason, but it was a reason.
30 Days Out: Did you have any idea that they were thinking of letting you go?
TF: There were no problems, I think Paulie (creator, producer, composer Paul O’Neill) just wanted to bring in younger, prettier people. Lets face it, I’m an old saloon singer, so I guess he was looking to the future and he wanted to bring in some younger talent to get some more longevity out of the show. I would imagine that was the real reason, but I really have no idea.
30 Days Out: It seems like you were not the only one who was let go by TSO…
TF: Yeah, he pretty much cleaned house this year. All the singers over the years are gone, with the exception of a couple on the East Coast tour, but I guess it was to be expected. You don’t expect it when it happens, but it’s just one of those things.
30 Days Out: Do you miss it?
TF: Of course I do. The memories, and the way it used to be, how could I not miss it? It was probably the greatest time of my life.
30 Days Out: Your close friend, guitarist and musical director Al Pitrelli, is still with the band. How has your dismissal affected your relationship?
TF: I haven’t spoken to Al, but I would imagine we are still fine. He’s been a little busy, so I would guess when he gets back off the road, if he ever gets off the road. As soon as they are done with this tour he goes right back out with the spring tour and start rehearsals for that. You know, Al and I are like brothers so to me it’s always going to be good.
30 Days Out: There has been a bit of confusion on Facebook and other sites about your new venture The Kings of Christmas. Tell me what is going on with that project?
TF: We had a difference of opinion. When I was officially let go from TSO and joined the group I felt that we should just concentrate on the new record, make it the best it can be. I told the guys we shouldn’t concentrate on gigs right now because that takes a lot of planning, a lot goes into it to do it right. So I didn’t see anyway it could happen and two (Gaynor and LeMonnier) out of the three other guys agreed with me.
30 Days Out: So what ended up happening?
TF: By the time November rolled around our record wasn’t even done yet. I told them again that the gig thing wasn’t working and that we had to cancel the gigs we had booked. If it had been done in June or July we would have had time to put a band together, rehearse and get everything together. There’s an old saying in the business “you can cancel a gig and people will eventually forgive you and come back, but if you put on a bad show they will never forget it.” I made the call, Maxx didn’t agree, the booking agent working with us went against our will when we told him we wanted to cancel and backed Maxx and went out and did the shows anyway. It was just a difference of opinion.
30 Days Out: What are the future plans for The Kings of Christmas?
TF: We are going to go back in the studio and record some more stuff. We plan to re-release the new record next year with additional tracks and re-mixed versions of some of the tracks on there now because there are a couple of things we would like to change. We wanted to get it out this year and create a bit of a buzz for the band. Next year we’ll have a full-fledged tour done the right way. It won’t on a grand scale like TSO is now, but more like it was when we first started out playing more intimate venues with good music and a great story.
– George Kovacik
Tommy Farese Official Website
The Kings of Christmas Official Website
The Kings of Christmas Facebook page
Preview and purchase “The Kings of Christmas: 365 Days A Year” at CD Baby