Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Jeff Plate Interview – Alta Reign, Remembering Neil Peart + More

2021-01-04

Interview: Trans-Siberian Orchestra drummer Jeff Plate talks about his new album with Alta Reign, "Mother's Day," as well as his admiration for late Rush drummer Neil Peart

Alta Reign album art – Story by Anne Erickson

Trans-Siberian Orchestra drummer Jeff Plate joins Anne Erickson to discuss his new album with Alta Reign, “Mother’s Day,” as well as his admiration for late Rush drummer Neil Peart

Last year turned the music world upside-down, as pretty much every musical act on the planet was forced to say home and postpone or cancel tours due to the ongoing pandemic. For a band as active as the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, it was a massive change of pace. After all, the group is consistently ranked as one of the top 10 ticket-selling bands but Billboard Magazine and Pollstar.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra drummer Jeff Plate used the downtime to get creative. He worked on his long-awaited new album with Alta Reign, which is 30 years in the making. The new album, “Mother’s Day,” arrives on Jan. 8. It brings together Plate with Trans-Siberian Orchestra keyboardist Jane Mangini, as well as guitarist and vocalist Tommy Cook, guitarist and vocalist Collin Holloway, bassist and vocalist Kevin McCarthy and keyboard player and vocalist Zach Hamilton.

While some of the riffs on “Mother’s Day” date back 30 years, there’s plenty of new material on the album, too. “There are some songs on the this recode, ‘Thin Red Line’ and ‘Immortal’ are two of them, that are completely original, that that we write writing in the past two years,” Plate told Audio Ink Radio. “Some of the other stuff is some riffs that were in the middle of a cassette tape that I just happened to come across and go, ‘Wow. That was really cool. We should do something with that.’ And, we were off and running.”

“Good music is good music,” he added, “and I couldn’t get over the fact there was all this stuff that was sitting there that was so good that wasn’t being used. That was really the inspiration for me to make something out of this and to do something with it, and once we got rolling, everything really just kind of fit into place.”

Looking back on the the previous year, Plate says the holidays felt completely different without being on the road with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. The group usually performs more than 100 concerts during the fall and winter months. He says he has to punch himself once in a while, since it’s such an unfamiliar experience.

“I’m enjoying being home,” Plate said. “My wife and I went crazy decoding the house. I figured, I’m going to be here for the first time in years, so let’s do this up, but boy, it just once in a while hits me that I really shouldn’t be here. I should be on the road, doing my thing. What a tragic thing, not just for the TSO, but for the entire music industry and the world in general. It’s just been completely knocked off track.”

“But, we had to take a bad saturation and make the best of it,” Plate added. “That’s why we just did the (TSO) live stream, which came out extremely well. I’m very very happy with that and the response to that has been tremendous, but as far as the year as a whole, the beginning of the year, everything seemed fine, and then once this covid thing came around, I saw it then. I told my wife, ‘You can expect me being home for the holidays this year. I don’t see this going anywhere.'”

Plate started seriously working on Alta Rain two years ago, putting it together with the people he’s working with, who also happen to perform together in a local cover band. When everything shut down, Plate says they decided, let’s put our focus on this record. Because of COVID-19, band members recorded in their home studios and communicated over phone, email and Zoom to finish the record.

Last year brought a number of high-profile musician deaths, from Eddie Van Halen to Frankie Banali. So, which passing hit closest to home for Plate?

“Neil Peart,” he answered. “Being a drummer, he changed my life. There are two acts- actually, I would say three. The band Chicago, for whatever reason, when I was 11 or 12 years old, I just loved them. And then I saw Kiss on ‘The Midnight Special’ when I was 13, and that completely- I was like, that’s what I’m going to do.”

“And, then along came “2112” by Rush, and as a drummer, it just was like, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. I was just getting some chops and just learning how to play drums, and all of a sudden you listen to this re cord and go, ‘Oh my God. This is exactly what I want to do.’ So, Neil Peart was so critical in my becoming a musician, me becoming a drummer and a lyricist, for that matter. It’s not like I style myself after Neil or anything, but I just always admired the fact that here’s this guy, and he’s a kick-a drummer, but he’s writing all these lyrics and everything, too. That’s awesome.”

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