Paul O’Neill, a producer, songwriter, musician, and friend of ESP who was best known as the founder of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, passed away on April 5 at age 61. ESP has continued to work closely with the TSO, building their promotional guitars and providing guitars for some band members. We send our sincere condolences to the entire TSO organization as well as Paul’s family and friends.
ESP president and CEO Matt Masciandaro was an early friend of Paul, starting out as roomates in NYC around 1980 when they were both getting their start in the music industry. Matt says, "Looking back to the days when we were both trying to get a foothold in the business, I can truly say there was never a more loyal friend to me than Paul O'Neill."
Eventually Paul began working for Leber-Krebs, a music firm that managed bands such as Aerosmith, AC/DC, Def Leppard, The Scorpions, and others. He later began promoting concerts and rock festivals in Japan by artists like Madonna, Sting, Whitesnake, Dio, and many others.
In this photo from August 1984, ESP president Matt Masciandaro (left) and Paul O'Neill work at Super Rock '84 in Japan, a festival with a lineup that included Bon Jovi, Whitesnake, Scorpions, Michael Schenker Group, and Anvil.
“I wanted to take the very best of all the forms of music I grew up on and merge them into a new style,” O'Neill said in a 2012 interview regarding his original vision for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. “Basically I was building on the work of everybody I worshipped: the rock opera parts from bands like the Who; the marriage of classical and rock from bands like Emerson, Lake & Palmer and Queen; the over-the-top light show from bands like Pink Floyd.”
The Trans-Siberian Orchestra recordings sold in excess of 12 million albums, and the intensely theatrical live shows were enjoyed by over 10 million people. TSO was best known for taking classic Christmas songs and reimagining them with a progressive metal vibe.
In a statement released by TSO regarding Paul’s passing, the band said, “He was our friend and our leader -- a truly creative spirit and an altruistic soul. This is a profound and indescribable loss for us all.”