Longtime Trans-Siberian Orchestra musical director and former Megadeth guitarist Al Pitrelli spoke to Billboard recently about the future of the wildly successful progressive-rock touring spectacle in the wake of founder Paul O'Neill's death earlier this year.

"Paul always said he wanted this to live long past all of us," Pitrelli says. "Long after we leave the planet he wanted the next several generations to run it and carry on, let the art live forever. That was always our definition of heaven, how people remember you 100 years down the road. If they're still talking about us positively then we did our jobs."

Just last week (Aug. 16), TSO cemented those plans, for the upcoming holiday season at least, by announcing the undertaking of a 60-date tour of the United States which kicks off Nov. 16. The trek is being dubbed "The Ghosts of Christmas Eve."

"We want the Orchestra to live forever," Pitrelli says. "We know we're not going to live forever. So it was never a question of 'Will we carry on?' The big question was, 'Okay, how will we carry on?'"

It wasn't easy for Pitrelli in particular, who candidly admits, "I don't want to go forward without Paul, I just don't have a choice in the matter."

One way that the unit is moving ahead without their leader is to give everyone a voice in the on-goings of the group, but to defer to what they collectively think O'Neill would have wanted given each situation.

"In a post-Paul world what was once a monarchy is now a democracy, and the democracy is based on one ideal -- 'What would Paul do?'" Pitrelli says. "We always keep that at the front of every sentence -- 'OK, what would Paul do here? How would he perceive this? What would he think?' We've made some pretty big decisions of late, and that was what we would ask each other and everybody else involved. What I'm proud of most right now is that everybody in the hierarchy of the organization has put their egos and their personal thoughts aside to do that."

A major aspect which missing without O'Neill -- and a welcome one -- is the back and forth arguing, which Pitrelli says he will miss. "We used to love to argue to death with Paul; We would go head to head with him for days about things, and at the end of the day we would throw our hands up and go, 'He's right, again!' We make decisions a little quicker now because we keep that mantra and that focus to keep what Paul started going and not vary from the theme."

That theme will continue, as according to Pitrelli, TSO will move forward with plans in motion already for five potential projects, all in various stages of completion prior to O'Neill's passing.

"I think the conversations about the other [projects] are just starting to happen now that we've booked the dates and everybody exhaled and went, 'Oh, great, they're coming around again.' It's a little different going into the production facility in Tampa without him being there. The walls are there, the staff is still there, the music is still on the computer. But it's different now."

Trans-Siberian Orchestra were dealt another blow recently with the death of one of their touring bassists in David Z., who died in a tragic RV accident while on tour with Adrenaline Mob last month. A tractor-trailer had veered off the highway and struck the band’s RV, which was pulled over on the side of the road to fix a flat tire. The vehicle was engulfed in flames and the members and suffered extensive injuries.

A full list of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra tour dates for the 2017 season can be found here.

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