AN INTERVIEW WITH
When did I get into Fates Warning? I don't recall exactly. I do know that I'd been walking around literally for ages with the knowledge that they were very much like Queensrÿche (or at least supposedly so) and that I should dig them one day.
At a certain instance, Metal Blade released the first four albums as two double CDs at single CD price, so I decided to grasp my chance and got them. They were really good CDs. A friend of mine had "Parallels" so I taped that off him, the day after which I decided I liked that tape so much that I actually got the CD, too. "Perfect Symmetry" was the only album that lacked in my collection, so I reckoned I might get that one as well. Ever since that time I've liked Fates Warning and grouped them together with bands like Rush, Queensrÿche and Dream Theater in the much appreciated "progressive rock" genre.
Massacre contact person Jaap Wagemaker was communicated with, who made a 15:30 appointment for me with main Fates Warning man Jim Mattheos.
Jim was an hour and a half late, apparently after having found the way to Utrecht's best record shop, White Noise. But eventually he turned up and sat down to have a rather relaxing talk. I immediately started with the usual question...
Alright, when and where were you born?
Jim: On November 22nd 1962, in Springfield, Massachusetts.
What did you do before Fates Warning? I believe you were called Misfit for a while?
Jim: Only very briefly, for about 6 months or 4 months. Myself and Steve Zimmermann, our first drummer, had kindof a cover band together, we played Accept and early Scorpions, Angelwitch, Picture and Iron Maiden and stuff like that. We played together for a while and decided we wanted to do originals. Through various channels we hooked up with John (Arch, ED.) and Vic (Victor Arduini, guitar, ED.). I think I met Steve through an ad in the paper actually. I was starting to get into a band and he was looking for a cover band that was into the obscure things we were doing.
I guess you could say that you are the most important music writer in Fates Warning. I'd like to know who influences you most.
Jim: These days I don't really think I am consciously influenced by a lot of people. Sure, subconsciously I am influenced by a lot of people. When I think of infuences I think of people that originally made me want to write and become a guitar player. And then I go back to my really early influences, early seventies, like Genesis and even [Black] Sabbath and Rainbow and things like that. And you don't see those influences in our music now, at least I don't think you will.
Now let's get back in time to 1984, to your first album, "Night on Brocken". Why was the original artwork replaced?
Jim: Well, you've obviously seen the original artwork, which was really hideous. We were never really happen with it. I believe Metal Blade at the time thought it might boost sales if we did another cover for it. So they did a second cover which was almost as bad as the first one. The second one was a witch burning at the stake, a kindof greyish blue cover. Then there came a third one, with the moon and the logos. We didn't have control over the second two. We just happened to see them in a record store one day, so we had no control over that.
Forward to 1988, was there a special idea behind the entire B side of "No Exit", the long song "The Ivory Gate of Dreams"?
Jim: Of course, yeah. This is hard for me to remember and it's difficult to catch a 22 minute song in a brief conversation. I think it had to do a lot with losing your idealism and your dreams as you get older, finding out that you're not going to be able to do all the things you wanted to do. I guess the current of disillusion runs through the whole song. Of course I was disillusioned with the music business, that's always a big theme. And just personal goals. I am sure everyone has personal goals when they're young. You're trying for those things and reaching for those goals and due to circumstances you don't always get what you want. It's just the process of growing up.
Some people say "Inside Out", your latest album, is very much or perhaps even too much like your previous effort, "Parallels". What's your reaction to that?
Jim: I think there's a grain of truth in that. A lot of times there's a drastic change from album to album. From "Awaken the Guardian" to "No Exit" there was a drastic change, and from "No Exit" to "Perfect Symmetry" there was a drastic change. I guess a lot of times it had to do with the writer, myself, being not really happy with the previous effort. Whereas "Parallels", for the first time, I can speak for myself, I was really happy with the album. Even two years later I can listen to the album and feel really pleased with it the whole way through. And due to that, when it became time to write the next album, I didn't feel a great need to go off in a different direction, I was very happy with the style of music I'd done on the last album. To be totally objective about it, I think it might be a bit too close to "Parallels", I think I can say that. It's not bad, though, because it's my favourite album to this point.
I understand you've released a compilation album. Please tell me why fans should or should not get it.
Jim: I hope they'll get it. There are some things on there that the ardent Fates Warning fans would like to hear. There's a remix done by Jimbo Barton of "When I Say Goodbye". It's a really interesting remix actually, it takes a really different direction from what's on the album. There's an unreleased song from "Inside out" which is actually kindof an early version of "Shelter Me". Em...what else is on there? There's a version of "At Fate's Hands" on there called "At Fate's Fingers" which was a re- recording of that song for the "Guitar for the Practising Musician" compilation album (Volume 2, ED.). It's instrumental, and there's a few extra guitar solos and a few bits that we left off when we originally recorded it, that got mixed back in.
Some time ago there was this story going around about your wanting to do a solo project with former Fates Warning singer John Arch. Is that in the fridge and, if not, what is the current status?
Jim: It was never really a solid plan, it was just more or less, you know, I talked to John often and I'd like to work with him and I am sure he'd like to do something if our schedules could ever meet. There's no solid plans for it but every time when we talk to each other we say, "yeah, we have to do something." But there's a small period of time, I think between "Perfect Symmetry" and "Parallels", when we've written a few songs together. I don't remember what happened, we never got anywhere with it. I have the demo somewhere though. Maybe the future. I'd like to do something with him. Like I said, we talk often and we're still really good friends.
Could you name something good and something bad about being in Fates Warning.
Jim: There's a lot of good things, actually, like just being here. I love travelling, I love to go around the world. It's fun for me. Writing and recording music is something I love to do. I think I could do that with any other band, but this bands allows me a lot of freedom and I can more or less do whatever I want. I have a lot of free reign to express myself, and in another band I might not have that, so that's a good outlet for me.
I don't know if there's anything specifically bad about being in this band. There are many bad things about just being hooked up with the music industry in general, whether you're in Fates Warning or any other band. There's still a lot of politics and you can't do everything creatively in the music business because there are restraints and constraints on you all the time.
If you had to pick a guitar player to trade places with, who would it be?
Jim: I am not sure if I'd want to trade places with anybody. There are certainly a few guitar players that are, you know, like gods to me. Michael Schenker would be one of them, but based on his personal situation I don't know if I'd want to trade places with him. I certainly wouldn't mind having his talent. He's definitely up there, and when I grew up he definitely was the person who I emulated most, I learned all the solos and everything else.
Which book, read recently, made most of an impression on you?
Jim: I read a lot. Most recently I read a book called "The Moral Animal" by Robert Wright, which is very interesting, about evolutionary psychology. Very interesting. And on the fiction side, I read a lot of fiction, too, I'd say Jack Kerouac. I've been reading a lot of him recently.
And what about films?
Jim: I am not a big film guy. People are always amazed at the movies I've not seen. I haven't seen movies in probably something like 10 years.
Which person or persons would you really like to meet one day?
Jim: There's quite a few actually. It's one of those questions where it's difficult to pinpoint one. Maybe Joaquin Rodrigo, he's a big influence. He's a Spanish composer. Maybe Roger Waters. I'd like to meet him, I'm sure, yeah. I loved the Pink Floyd cover that Dream Theater did at yesterday's performance. And Steve Hogarth.
What is to you the music release of 1994?
Jim: I have to say, hands down, Sarah McLoughlin, "Tumbling towards Ecstasy".
What song would you like to be played, in many years from now, on your funeral?
Jim: (Laughs) That's a bit maudlin, isn't it? Em...I can't think of anything too clever for that. I'd say "Concerto di Arague" by Rodrigo.
What was the worst moment in your life so far?
Jim: Certainly there's plenty of them. Everybody has his bad moments. Em...one that pertains to the band would probably opening to Pantera in Chicago, a few years back. We were boo-ed and thrown off the stage. That was a very embarrassing moment. It was an experiment on our part which failed very badly. We simply weren't compatible.
Now for the "words to react to" section. Please react briefly, candidly and spontaneously. It's free association time!
Jim: Boring. Both the trial and him.
Jim: Tedious, especially when you're only doing a 45 minute set.
Chris Cronk (the singer who replaced John Arch before Ray Alder, but who never actually recorded with the band).
Jim: I've already blown the first thing that comes in my mind (laughs). Pass. I don't wanna do that one.
Jim: Nice. I like it here.
That's it for this interview, unless you want to say something about the fact that Fates Warning has a bit of a bad name as to touring and cancelling, a chance to redeem yourself.
Jim: I would say 99% of them were not our fault. The only show that we've actually personally cancelled was the Dynamo Open Air show last year. Everything else, there are shady promoters out there who say we're coming but who've never talked to us. I won't apologise because it wasn't our fault except for the Dynamo festival which I do and have many times apologised for to the press and record company people. If people think we're concert cancellers, well, screw them.
In walks vocalist Ray Alder, so I get the chance to ask him a few questions, too. The first of these being, of course, where and when he was born.
Ray: I was born on August 20th 1967, in Hondo, Texas.
What do you think of Geoff Tate, the singer that you're quite often compared with?
Ray: Good singer. Good voice. Style. I don't see at all why we are compared often. All I see is that we scream high notes every now and again. I think he's a great singer, but he's not my idol, nor was he ever.
Who is your idol then?
Ray: Sarah McLoughlin.
OK. A word to react to...John Arch.
Ray: He's a great singer, I used to look up to him. He was a big influence on my singing.
Do you like singing his stuff - the older Fates Warning tunes?
Ray: Yeah, I enjoy it. It's very high, but I enjoy it. I like the old music as well, it's like doing covers for me.
Written February 1995
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