Some Gear Now Appearing on eBay?
Any Savatage fans out there? I know there must be, and if Criss Oliva were still alive today there would probably be a lot more (RIP Criss).
I remember the first time I heard “Hall of the Mountain King,” with the classical music intro. I knew I’d heard the classical piece before, but didn’t know what it was (“In the Hall of the Mountain King” by Edvard Grieg – vid below). That use of classical music – second only to the Randy Rhoads-era Ozzy live opening music of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana – and then the absolutely KILLER riff after it made me stop whatever I was doing. It was just so different, so perfectly sinister, I was just blown away and ran out and bought the disc.
I am no expert on Criss, but I can still hear his guitar sound in my head and am still blown away when I hear him. I don’t listen to it often because for me – and again, I’m not a diehard fan – Savatage’s music has a dark feel, a style all its own, that I enjoy but don’t want to listen to all the time.
Not that that makes any difference! The bottom line is that Criss was a heck of a guitar player, had his own style and sound, died too young and deserves to be remembered. I just saw a recent post that a piece of Criss’ gear is now up on eBay (with more apparently coming soon, according to the listing), and was reminded of his fantastic talent.
(I have no way of knowing whether the eBay listings are legit nor who stands to gain from them, so this is not an endorsement!)
I looked around for posts about his gear on the web, and it appears that what he “mostly” used is fairly well known. A couple of websites have the same list (here’s one – tough to tell who copied whom), apparently well-researched, so here it is.
But before reading the list, which appears to be compiled to represent Criss’ career, here’s what Criss’ guitar tech Danny Campbell said about Criss’ equipment during the Hall of the Mountain King era: “This tour Criss is using a Charvel and two ESP guitars. As for his amps and effects, he uses Yamaha amps with Marshall cabinets, an Ibanez delay, and a Boss overdrive pedal. In all of Criss’ guitars he uses DiMarzio pickups.”
I haven’t found a reference to DiMarzio pickups anywhere else, and no specifics, but there you go!
Criss used several ESP and Jackson/Charvel super strats, but his favorite was nicknamed the Gargoyle. It was an ESP that had an ash body, bolt-on unfinished maple neck, 22 medium-jumbo frets, and a Floyd Rose bridge.
Pickups (humbucker bridge, single-coil neck) were said to be Bartolinis (no models mentioned), but dinosaurrockguitar.com had this to say: “Deeper investigations suggest that Criss used Seymour Duncan JBs in the bridge position.” Then there’s the DiMarzio quote above….
Strings were LaBella Hard Rockin’ Steels (no longer made), with the following gauges:
> Standard tuning: 9-42
> Drop D: 9-46
> Whole step down (D to D): 10-48
> Drop C (including Hall of the Mountain King): 10-52
He used stainless-steel picks apparently made by StarPiks, which I believe is now out of business.
Like all guitarists, Criss used various effects throughout his career. But it appears his “standard” pedalboard had the following components, in addition to a tuner:
> 2 Boss Super Overdrives – Both all the way up except one had the Tone rolled all the way off and the other had the Tone all the way up.
> Boss Chorus CE-2 (Rate at 10:30, Depth up all the way).
> 2 Boss TU-12H Chromatic tuner.
> Boss Power Supply, which powered the entire pedalboard.
> A/B switch
Chris also had rack processors, which at various times included:
> Compressor (unnamed)
> Rockman Stereo Chorus and/or Sustainer (used as a clean pre-amp boost)
> Ibanez delay (presumably the one on eBay)
> Peavey 31-band stereo EQ, settings frequently changed but apparently the gain always all the way up.
Other rack-mount units were used, including a noise gate and possibly reverb.
Even though Criss’ tech mentions a Yamaha above (again, no specifics), everyone else talks about Crhis using Marshalls (presumably JCM 800s, possibly hot-rodded) and Laneys: Laney Pro Tube and AOR Pro Tube 50-watters.
Cabs were supposedly Marshall and/or Laney. No word on speakers.
The aforementioned Criss fan sites say: “Criss ran his amps on the clean channel only,” or the lower-gain of two-input, presumably single-channel amps.
Hall of the Mountain King, Live, Cleveland, 1987
> Here’s a good Guitar World article on Criss.
> On his sound (from this 1993 interview): “I’m always working hard on my sound and am constantly trying to improve it. I have Laney amps, Jackson guitars, a small rack. And that’s not even specially adjusted. That’s all…. There’s no mystery. And if any, then it’s hidden between hands, heart and soul. It simply must be the way I play.”
> Amazingly, I don’t think Criss was ever interviewed by any major guitar magazine. (If any of you know for sure, please leave a comment!)
> In this interview, Criss indicates that his favorite guitarist was Jimmy Page. His favorite album: Physical Graffiti.
> In the same interview Criss was asked how he would like to be remembered. He said: “As a great composer, a capable guitarist and a nice person.”
Edvard Grieg’s In the Hall of the Mountain King