Another Theory of Flight ... Jim Matheos Speaks out
Fates Warning are no strangers to the world of Progressive Metal having been on the scene since 82 when the band were formed by long time and founder member Jim Matheos , a wizard at writing song and creating some of the best music in Progressive Metal. Since the band were formed they were featured on the Metal Blade compilation albums 'Metal Massacre' series, it wasn't long before the band were signed to Metal Blade, band released their debut album 'Night on Broken' in 84. With the success of the debut and doing well with sales and excellent reviews it wasn't long before the band released 'Spectre Within' and Awaken the Guardian' both in 85-86.
In 87 original singer John Arch left the band and Ray Alder became the new singer, and 'No Exit' was recorded in 88, a superb album with Ray's vocals been more towards Geoff Tate or maybe Rob Halford but in his own unique style and one of the best if not the best singer in Progressive Metal. Ray and Jim & Joey Vera (Armored Saint) are the only 3 long time members and they have added drummer Bobby Jarombek (ex Riot/ Halford) and session live guitarist Mike Abdow a fine young guitarist. With the band recorded 'Darkness in a different Light' and 'Theories of Flight' both albums are superb and well composed.
I managed to chat with Jim Mathoes about the new album and other various questions, here is what Jim had to say to the following questions. In the meantime check out this amazing band, they deserve more credit than they get, for me Fates Warning and Psychotic Waltz and the under dogs of pure genius Progressive Metal.
As this is the 1st interview we have done with the band in probably 10yrs, although I have interviewed you with regards to the Arch/ Matheos project, I would like to ask you looking back at the earlier albums which are you're you favorite albums and why?
"It's good to catch with you, damn 10yrs that's a long time. To answer you're question it is always hard with so many albums been released and the closer you get to them like the new album and the previous one before that 'A Different Shade of Light' and the new one 'Theories of Flight' I can't give you an opinion until later on when I am further away from them. If I look back I would have to say my favourites are 'Parallels' and 'Pleasant Shade of Grey' (Ed: Was it the fact you liked 'Pleasant Shade...' as it was a concept album?) No not at all, these are the 2 I can still listen too that I would not change or do different. It is hard to have favourites when you have so many albums. If I listen to them too much with the older albums I tend to think I wish we could of done them a lot better."
What about the albums that you recorded with original singer John Arch, which of the 3 do you like best and why?
"I do like 'Awaken the Guardian' as we all know it is our 30th anniversary and we did the live 2 shows last year here in Europe and U.S. and it was released recently with live CDs, DVDs etc...(Ed I do like 'Spectre Within' as it was my 1st album I bought by you aged 15 in 85). Yeah a lot of people like that, it is a little rawer, but with 'Guardian' we felt like we were firing on all cylinders."
Didn't you're debut album have 3 different covers, what were they for those who don't know about it 'Night on Broken'?
"Well the 1st cover had a green cover which is the original one with a church and a girl lying on the rocks and then they did a burning witch for the 2nd cover and the 3d one had a full moon on the cover. We had no say in any of those covers and we knew the 1st one was really bad and then Metal Blade took it upon themselves to come up with something different and I hated all 3 cover to be honest. I think if I had to pick one it would be the original cover as it is rather catchy."
Just how many record labels have you been with so far? Just Metal Blade and Inside Out & Massacre?
"Well we signed with Inside Out for the last album and the new record and we have been with them for 5-6 yrs now. We are with them on a worldwide basis. We have been with the 3 labels so far."
How did the idea come about to record the 'Awaken the Guardian' album as a live CD/ DVD and re-release?
"Well it was our 30th anniversary of the album and we just thought it would be fun to do the record and we thought that these little reunion would be cool and we got together a few years ago and were hanging out and talking about the good old days when we were younger and and we talked about the 30th anniversary of that album and how cool it would be to film and record some shows. It was all a joke bases at 1st but then we realized that it would be fun to play live.
We knew that the fans would be interested in it so we went ahead and did the 2 shows, 1st one in U.S. at 'ProgPower' and the other at 'Keep it True' in Germany. We knew we could not do a full tour for that album we the guys have jobs and families and they could not take time off work for a tour.
Some of the guys in the band are not really involved with the music scene anymore. (Ed: Did you think about doing a live DVD for the album 'Spectre Within' album too?) We just talked about it and it was a lot of peoples favourite album but but there was not as much of a overall interests in that album as appose to the 'Awaken of the Guardian' album. We may do the anniversary of that album for the 40th anniversary who know?"
That tour saw you sell out of t-Shirts in a matter on minutes why was that?
"Well they did sell out in a matter of minutes when the doors opened. We wasn't sure if we made a small amount of over 1000 t shirt and they didn't sell we would be screwed!! So we wanted to play it safe. Looking back we should of printed more."
Jim tell me about the ltd booklet that comes with the ltd package? What's in the book as I never saw it?
"Well it came out really nice, it has something like 65 pages of illustrated artwork, lyrics and pictures. It has a couple of additional artwork pieces and it is pretty cool, I am impressed with it."
I guess it is still really well for the band?
"Yeah so fat it's doing really well and we are all happy with it, and it is in the charts over in the U.S.."
Was it difficult to add additional songs for the live album/ DVD/ Blu Ray?
"Well it really wasn't, we sent some an email chain around and and we said pick 3-5 songs that you would want to do and we would see what the end results were. So picking the end additional songs was not hard to ad at all, it worked out really well."
I have noticed that there are no interviews with the band or additional material which really sucks why was that?
"Well we did talk about doing interviews for the movie and some pre-production stuff with camera whilst we were rehearsing and time just became a problem and when you're doing this type of stuff you just want to focus on the music that you will be playing and recording. Looking back now I wish we had of done it but at that time we just wanted to get the music sorted. I think the package in the end came out really well so we're happy."
So how did the deal with Inside Out come about and are you happy with them?
"Well it was something like 7yrs between 'X' and the 'The Darker shade of Light' album, and that was because we were doing a bunch of projects both Ray and I so our contract had expired with Metal Blade so we looked about for a new deal. I had known Thomas from Inside Out for for a while as he released my 'OSI' project and he was interested in signing Fates Warning. I am not sure if we will do another OSI album as Kevin is busy other stuff. We had a 2 album deal with Inside Out and I think we are free now, so we will see how the new album sells and if both parties are happy."
What do you all do as a day job? Is music you're full time job?
"Yes I am a musician full time. I don't teach guitar to people I just make music, I don't have time with other projects."
How did you come up with the title for the album 'Darkness in a different Light'?
"Well the titles are always a big search for us, we always come up with a bunchy of titles and narrow them down. It was a phase I came up with and we were talking about the theme of the record and the style of the record and it was typically dark songs on that record but a little bit more uplifting in some way."
Who comes up with the lyrics and music? Is it Ray who does the lyrics and you who does the music?
"Well with the last couple of albums I have been letting Ray handle more of the lyrics and I like that he is doing on the new record and I am happy that I don't have to deal with the lyrics. The music is mainly me, but we have tried to have other members come in with ideas, like Bobby came up with some drum ideas, just drum patterns and send them to me. I would then write around that and it was a lot of fun for me and an new way for me to approach songs which was inspiring for me."
What songs from the 'Darkness in a different Light' did you like and why?
"I enjoyed the whole record, but there is one song I really like are the ones with the way we structured them, ones like 'I am' which Bobby with all these drum beats and I wrote the music around it. It was a good way for both of us to work the songs out and it was refreshing. The big problem for me writing is I like to know what tempo I am working around and what key and with that song I had some time signatures what Bobby came up with for the to structure the rest of the song around.
I like the songs 'Firefly' a great song to play live and I also like 'And yet it Moves' is a great song too."
Looking at you're covers of the albums, how do they reflect within the music you are creating at the point in time & titles of the albums?
"Well back in the day we use to get really involved with the covers with concepts and we try to take that concept to the artist and they would do the cover. In the end I was always disappointed because I had something in my head and I would translate it to them and then they would put their own spin on it too. I am not an artist so I can't do it and in the last few years I have become more comfortable with finding a good artist. I would give them the title and the lyrics and let them work on the covers.
We have moved around with artist over the last few years, the latest one I had found the pre-listed artwork she had done that I thought would fit with the music and title of the album. Her name is Graceann Warn and she has real artwork in galleries. I just found her artwork on the internet and thought it was interesting and suited the title of the album 'Theories of Flight'. The painting was the same name as I had in mind for the album, so it was a perfect match."
So how long did it take to record 'Theories of Flight' album?
"I think it took something like 6 months of recording over a period of time, it wasn't done in one go. We were all doing our own thing. Everybody in the band has their own studios so we all do the at home with pro tools. (Ed: is it difficult to record an album this way?) No I don't find it hard at all, I find it a lot easier and I find it hard been in the same room as another musician.
I don't think you have time for yourself that way, and I think it is a pain in the arse been in the same room as other musicians as they want to put their own opinion in and nothing gets done. Also when you are paying too much money for a studio you have to make snap decisions and would regret later on. Now I can go home and sleep on it and if I want to change anything I can next day."
Which songs from this album do you like and why?
"Well I am really happy with this one, it is hard for me to pick a song and I do like 'The light and shades of Things', 'The ghost of Home' are my 2 favourite songs. (Ed: This comes as a ltd digi pack with bonus songs of acoustic songs, who idea was it to do that?) Well we knew we had to do a bonus track and it is something that I really don't like doing as it is a after thought. So you look around for some live thing or cover tune or a remix and I don't think they are quality for you're money. So we wanted to do something different so I thought of doing an acoustic disc with Ray and it was so much fun and I love the way it turned out. We did them in 3-4 days and I just wish we did more songs."
Moving on just hw many videos have you recorded for this new album?
"We did 2 videos for the song 'SOS', and 'Seven Stars', the 'SOS' video is just straight forward performance video of us in the studio and 'Seven Stars' is a little bit more different with Ray in his new home in Madrid and that is what the song is based on."
Moving on do you still see any of the old band members like Mark?
"Yes I still see Mark from time to time, last time I saw him was a couple of years ago when we played in L.A. which was nice. The rest I still see as I said earlier we all live pretty close now."
As this is the 1st tour here in the UK how excited are you to be playing here and the rest of Europe?
"Well this is the 2nd leg of the European tour, we played Europe a few months ago and this is the 2nd one but it's a short one this time. (Ed: What countries are you still big in?) I think the further east you go the better we do. Greece is a crazy place to play. As for the U.S. it is so big that you go through parts that some places are good and some are not, Texas is a good one for us, Chicago, Hartford. We are playing Rock Hard festival in Germany and Sweden rock too."
Well Jim it's been a pleasure interviewing you again, best of luck with the tours and sales of the record, I love it., Do you have anything to sat before we finish the interview? Let's not leave it so long next time haha!!
"Yes thanks to our fans for their loyal support, thanx for buying our records and coming to the shows. Good to see you again Jason, we will try and come back soon in future.
Thanx to Jim, Martin and JJ for the interview.