Fan reaction played an integral role in crafting the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "The Lost Christmas Eve," according to songwriter/composer/co-producer Bob Kinkel.

Fan reaction played an integral role in crafting the Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "The Lost Christmas Eve," according to songwriter/composer/co-producer Bob Kinkel. Released Oct. 12 via Lava, the set is the final installment of a holiday trilogy that also includes 1996's "Christmas Eve and Other Stories" and 1998's "The Christmas Attic."

"You want to present music that is going to touch people's souls and a lot of people wrote in saying that 'Christmas Canon' [from 'The Christmas Attic'] was their favorite song," Kinkel tells Billboard.com. "And we wanted to figure out a way to play it live but there is no way we can take a children's choir [on tour]. It would be impossible. So, we performed it live last year [as a rock song] and decided to record 'Christmas Canon Rock' for the record as well."

This year, TSO has split into two touring groups -- each production features 22 musicians/singers, including a full rock band and an eight-piece string section -- hitting more than 80 cities in a seven-week leg through New Year's Eve. The outfit is on pace to play for more than 600,000 concertgoers this year before all is said and done.

Perhaps the last hurdle of sorts for TSO is transcending the seasonal label. On the heels of the 2000 release of its first secular album, "Beethoven's Last Night," the group is slated to finish its follow-up, "Nightcastle," in time for a tentative late spring/early summer 2005 release.

"We're aiming for that, but it could be later," says Kinkel. "The way we go ... you aim for a deadline because if you don't, then there is no way you'll ever finish because we are all extremely critical of ourselves. But we have the first deadline and sometimes we make it, and sometimes we don't. It will definitely be out sooner because this was like a four-year gap between [album releases]."

Promises of a non-holiday tour have been broken before by TSO, so the question remains: will secular success legitimatize the act?

"We're definitely legit right now," says Kinkel. "The Christmas tour and all of the writing, right now, is so time consuming. When we hit the summer, we want to [tour] on a level that people will expect from [our] Christmas [productions] and we are getting very close to that."

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