Forever Yule

The Prairie Dogg finds the dirt on the Grand Caymans, Groundhog Day and who’s been naughty this year with guitarist Al Pitrelli of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

PD: Is the TSO ready to roll?

AP: Absolutely. We’ve been ready since the last tour ended in January.

Is Christmas still your favorite holiday? I imagine Easter or Flag Day would be more relaxing.

Christmas is just a great time of year. And I get to be a part of this huge experience that’s become almost a holiday tradition.

Do people still say, “What the hell is the Trans-Siberian Orchestra?”

If you walk up to somebody in the mall and ask them who the Trans-Siberian Orchestra is, they may or may not know the name. But if you ask them if they know the band that does the na-na-na-na, na-na-na-na song [“Christmas Eve Sarajevo 12/24”], most people will know.

You’ve split the TSO into two touring groups. Is that just to cover as much ground as possible?

We have from around Thanksgiving until around New Year’s Eve. As talented as our producer Paul O’Neill is, he has not been able to move Christmas.

So do you hang out in the Cayman Islands for the other ten months of the year?

Yeah, we prefer to write our songs in the Caymans. We like the martinis better there. No, we’re busy all year. From August until March, we’re focusing on the tour, and the rest of the year we’re working on the albums.

Is it tough to tour with such a big show during the holidays?

This is the hardest time of the year to get around this country. And we have a huge show. It’s a monster. The logistics can be a nightmare, but our crew makes it painless. We’ve always been able to manage it, doing the same thing every day for six weeks. Kind of like Groundhog Day.

When you were younger, did you think you would be in the next Rolling Stones, or did you think you’d be in an enormous, touring Christmas rock opera?

I just knew I was going to be a guitar player. Paul came to me with this idea about doing traditional Christmas music with rock and roll. We would sell millions of records and tour every year and become a tradition like A Charlie Brown Christmas. I looked at him like he was crazy. But then I said, “OK, I’m in.”

What’s your favorite Christmas song?

I love all of them. There’s such a diversity to our show. We could have this huge Beethoven number, or we can just have me with an acoustic guitar.

Have you been naughty or nice?

Which year?

Let’s go for 2003.

Yeah, I’ve been pretty good this year. They let me talk to you on the phone, so I guess I haven’t been that bad.

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