This interview was conducted August 22, 1997 by Matt Barber of The Mining Company (no longer online).


Interview With Ray Alder From Fates Warning

Dateline: 8/22/97

Matt Barber: “How did you first get interested in music?”

Ray Alder: “I think it was because of my brother, actually. He started a band with his friends, and I decided that I could sing, and fortunately they let me. So, my big brother was actually the one that got me started, and he’s no longer in music.”

MB: “Who would you say were your biggest influences musically?”

RA: “When I was young, my biggest influences were probably Rob Halford from Judas Priest and Steve Perry from Journey. There were others, but those were probably my biggest influences. Now I listen to a lot of other vocalists. I like mostly female vocalists, now. I like Sarah McLachlan, and also Edie Brickell, although she isn’t around anymore. She had an unusual style of singing. It wasn’t always on key, but she always had a great vibe.”

MB: “What person had the greatest impact on your life?”

RA: “My mother. She was the one who raised my brother and me. She always taught us to go after what we wanted to do. She inspired us to go after it, and do our best at it. Just what most parents teach their kids, I guess.”

MB: “Good advice. What interests you most outside of music? Is there anything else that you’re really into?”

RA: “I’m actually into a lot of older muscle cars – American muscle. I’m a big gear-head, actually. If I had the money, I’d probably go buy a bunch of stuff. I already buy the magazines and go to the shows. I have an old Mustang myself. It fell apart on me today. The transmission went. The clutch went out on it. I’m more interested in muscle cars than anything else.”

MB: “A lot of time had to go into composing and recording A Pleasant Shade Of Grey. How much time did you guys spend on it?”

RA: “To compose it, it took about a year to write the whole entire thing. That’s because we all live in different parts of the country, for one thing. But we all got together and thought about what we wanted to do. To record it, it took about six weeks to record and mix the album. So, it took a long time to do. It was probably one of the longer periods of time we took to write one of our records, but I think it paid off in the end. It was limited to the time we could see each other, so part of the reason it took so long was because we were in different parts of the country.”

MB: “How did that all work, living in different parts of the country?”

RA: “It worked really well. We all have our own studios in our homes, so we were all working on our own thing. It was kind of good in a way, because we all worked on it as individuals, and not really as a band. Because of that, this record pretty much shows a lot of our individual tastes and what we can do on our own. Then when we all got together, it just all worked out. I think it was a good thing, because nobody was hovering over anybody else’s shoulder saying, ‘I like this better.’ ‘Well, I like this better.’ ‘No, this is what I like.'”

MB: “So it gave you all an opportunity to create on your own, and then bring everything together?”

RA: “Yeah, exactly.”

MB: “What is the concept behind the album that you are trying to portray? It seems to have a common thread throughout.”

RA: “It’s more a common thread than a concept, really. There’s really no concept that the entire album is built on. The lyrics all deal with different things, although there is a reoccurring main theme throughout the songs. Basically it’s about the emotion… We’ve all laid in bed at night and wondered, ‘What the hell is going on? Where am I going?’ That’s what it deals with.”

MB: “Is their anything you’ve done differently for this album that you haven’t done in the past?”

RA: “Well, for one thing, because of it just being the three of us now, instead of five, we are a tighter knit group. We come up with rough ideas all the time, and we’ll record them, but Jim writes all the music. The lyrics we all work on together, as individuals. So I think being a tighter knit group makes a lot of difference. But we used Terry Brown to record, again, which brought a continuity to everything.”

MB: “A lot of people are curious as to why Frank Aresti left the band.”

RA: “We really don’t know why he did. He just called one night and said that he didn’t want to tour anymore. He wanted to do his own thing. Actually, he didn’t even say anymore. He didn’t talk to us for quite a while. He’d told us the past couple of years that he couldn’t really take it anymore, that he just wanted to do his own thing. So I think that’s mostly what it was.”

MB: “So, it’s just the three of you, and you brought some other people in for recording the album.”

RA: “Yeah. We brought in Joey Vera, who used to be with Armored Saint, to play bass, and Kevin Moore from Dream Theatre for the keys. They came in for the recording. A lot of people think that Kevin wrote the keyboard parts for the album, but he just came in and played what Jim had already written. Jim wrote all the keyboard parts.”

MB: “Do you think that this is your strongest offering so far?”

RA: “I think so. We kind of lost touch with what we wanted to do for a while, but we definitely did what we wanted to do this time. We didn’t want to get away from what we wanted to record, and do what somebody else thought we should do. That’s not being true to ourselves and what we can do. We didn’t really care about radio play, or anything like that. I mean, there’s not a lot of radio stations that would pick this up, but it’s more important that we picked out what we are doing. So, yeah, I definitely think this is our best record. We didn’t have to make hit singles just to sell records.”

MB: “Do you think that that makes for more honesty in the music? That it’s truer to what you wanted to do?”

RA: “Definitely. I definitely think it was done with more honesty. It’s more of ourselves. With Parallels, which was our most successful record, we purposely tried to go with a more commercial sound, and that didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. So, we just decided to forget that and write the type of music we wanted to.”

MB: “Would you ever consider doing another album like this?”

RA: “I don’t think so. We did this one this way, but I don’t think we’d do it again.”

MB: “When you guys play live, do you play the whole thing?”

RA: “Yeah, we play it all, and then we play a few songs from the other albums after that.”

MB: “From what I’ve seen, your U.S. tour is supposed to run through August 23. Are there going to be any more dates after that?”

RA: “No. As far as I know, that’s all we have, but we’ll have to wait and see.”

MB: “I’ve had several Australian fans request that you tour down under, any plans to tour there in the near future?”

RA: “I would love to, but it all depends on the size of the fan base, and we just don’t have a big enough following down there, yet.”

MB: “What type of responses have you been getting from the live show?”

RA: “The shows have been fantastic. The fans in Europe were very responsive. I can’t say enough about them. They all love music so much over there. Hopefully, we’ll get the same type of response in the States.”

MB: “How would you describe a typical day out on tour?”

RA: “Pretty boring, actually. We show up during the day, and have nothing to do unless we want to take a tour through the city. Out on the road, we have a lot of free time during the day, and there’s not much to do up until the sound check. After that, we just wait until it’s time for the show to begin. It pretty boring, actually, other then that we’re going to all these different cities and seeing all the fans.”

MB: “Have you guys started thinking about what you’re going to do next, as far as a follow up album?”

RA: “No, not yet.”

MB: “What would you say is the critical ingredient in creating quality music?”

RA: “I’d say honesty. There are a lot of bands [Image] that could put out records a lot better than what they do, because of the fact that they’re too concerned with selling records. You shouldn’t be concerned with keeping up with everybody else. The main thing is to keep up with yourself, to create and deal with the things you have been through and seen. No matter what you have done. We even got caught up in that shuffle ourselves, so…”

MB: “What drives you to keep going in what seems to be such a tough field?”

RA: “I don’t know. Probably, it’s just to be able to play your own music, write your own music. Just to play vibes. My thing is to play vibes. Every night I lay there, and I’m thinking about being out on tour. Touring is the best. Seeing different places, different towns… Personally, I just like to be able to perform for an audience.”

MB: “Would you say then, that the thing that gives you the greatest satisfaction about making music is to be able to perform for a crowd?”

RA: “Definitely.”

MB: “How would you describe your personal philosophy as far as life?”

RA: “I don’t know, I’m still searching for that.”

MB: “Are you on the Internet at all?”

RA: “No, not really.”

MB: “I don’t know if you know this, but you guys have a whole discussion group dedicated to you on the Internet.”

RA: “Yeah, I knew that. That’s really nice. It really is, just that people like us that much. It’s flattering, really.”

MB: “If you could script out the next five years for Fates Warning, how would they go?”

RA: “I would just like to keep going with what we’re doing, writing music and touring. I would like to write another record and have it be our most successful record ever. I could do that for the next forty years.”

MB: “What is the one thing that you would most like to accomplish before you’re done?”

RA: “It would be nice to have a Gold or Platinum record, but there’s more important things than that. We definitely want to stick around. We feel that we are one of the best bands at what we do, and we would like to see Heavy Metal appreciated for what it is.”

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