Interview with Frank Aresti – 4/18/01
by Daryl Mitchell (webmaster of fateswarning.com in 2001)
fateswarning.com: Where were you musically before joining Fates Warning? (what were your influences, path of study, bands you’ve played with, etc)
Frank Aresti: My main influences when I was younger were Randy Rhoads and Malmsteen. I loved the band Boston, but more from an overall musical perspective, as opposed to a technical.
I was always into the cerebral side of playing: that is to say, music and playing that had lots of thought behind it. I guess that’s why I was attracted to the classical music influenced players; and some of the jazz influenced players like DiMeola.
A little later, say in my junior year of high school, I was in a local band called Demonax. We were pretty heavy. At that time I started getting into the underground metal scene and bands like Slayer, Exodus, Metallica, Anthrax, etc. I recognized the technique that those players used, and was attracted to the energy.
fateswarning.com: How did the course of you joining FW come about?
Frank Aresti: Being in a local band, I naturally knew of those guys. We ended up meeting through a friend who was a writer at a local magazine. Jim and I got along really well from the start. We saw a lot of things in the same way. We were both attracted to the “sophisticated” side of playing heavy metal, and we both played classical guitar.
We used to get together to jam once a week, but not with electric guitars through Marshall stacks: with classical guitars and sheet music. It was a lot of fun, and an opportunity for each of us to play for an “audience”, and to experience the education of the give-and-take.
When the opening came up, when Vic left the band, Demonax was in a sort of hiatus….we started going separate ways after graduation, and I think some of those guys weren’t really interested in trying to make a living at it. I had admired the guys in Fates because of their focus and determination. So, naturally, I decided to audition. I fit in musically, and personally, and they decided to “try me out” for the “Spectre” tour….and I never left!!
fateswarning.com: In retrospect, what are your feelings about the years you spent in FW? And your feelings about the material you had written for FW?
Frank Aresti: The years I spent with FW are very dear to me. We all went through an awful lot together, and it was quite something to stick together through it all like we did. We were very close, there was mutual admiration, and respect. And even when we got on each other’s nerves, (admittedly, I did my share!!!), the arguing, the disagreements, the fighting (never physical), seemed to, ironically, cement the relationships together even more. Much like a marriage.
fateswarning.com: What were some of the highlights during your FW ‘tour of duty’?
Frank Aresti: Mainly, when we traveled together. Whether we were going on a trip to New York to meet with our manager, or going on tour, or traveling to CA for a week of pre-production, recording records, etc. As long as we were together, there was always something interesting going on. We even recorded a short movie once. We used one of our roadie’s video cameras, and wrote a weird horror story starring the band and crew members….I wish I had a copy of that!!!
fateswarning.com: What were some of the lowlights if any?
Frank Aresti: There were times when things seemed to get pretty dark; when on tour it would seem that bad luck was around every corner and out to get us personally! Or if we were working on a record and nothing seemed to go right, or we couldn’t agree on ANYTHING!! But, I must admit, that when I look back on all of that, and not being in the middle of it gives me the ability to step back and see the whole picture, those times are not so dark at all. In fact, those times seem like the best precisely because we were able to stand together, even if taking opposite sides, and get the job done to the best of our abilities.
In fact, I think Parallels was the hardest time we spent together. But it gave us the best album of that period of Fates. It was, by the way, some of the best times we spent together as well.
fateswarning.com: What type of gear would you typically find in Frank Aresti’s rig during the FW years?
Frank Aresti: It depends on the phase we were going through. For No Exit, I used BC Rich American made guitars and Marshall amps. For Perfect Symmetry we used Gallien Kruegger amps. For Parallels we used Mesa Boogie amps. I had a rack the size of a refrigerator! Jackson made me custom guitars. I ran those through a Boogie Triaxis through a 395 power amp. A couple of ART multi-effects units, noise gate, MP1 harmonizers, parametric eq’s, and an Abacus midi controller. That set-up, but with a smaller rack, was used for Inside Out as well.
fateswarning.com: What were the circumstances that led to your departure from the band?
Frank Aresti: I started to hear music differently. This happened gradually, over a period of many years. And this will answer the question you posed above about my feelings about the material I wrote. I was quite happy for a long time. But as the band’s vision went in one direction, mine went in another. If you notice, I started writing less and less towards the last couple of records. On one hand, it felt as if my writing could not fit in any longer. On the other, the resulting frustration led to my feeling completely uninspired. At that point, I felt I could no longer pull my weight in the manner I thought was expected of me. And I therefore felt like I was a weak link in the band. My frustrations began to affect my relationships with the band and crew members. You could say I became bitter.
Unfortunately, because of the rifts that I felt I had created, I felt I had no one to talk to. So I never really communicated these feelings to anyone. At that point, any communication turned into an argument, and then contempt. I knew in my heart that I loved the band and my bandmates. It just was not coming out that way.
By leaving I thought I was relieving them of the weak link, and that I could get myself together and find an outlet for my creativity. I’m sure that if I had communicated all of this back then they all would have supported me, and I could have stayed while pursuing a side career, much like Jim and Ray are doing with their own side projects.
Incidentally, I chose the time to leave when there was nothing going on. I didn’t want to leave the band at a time when they needed me. As far as I knew, there was talk of a tour, but no confirmed dates, and also talk of just settling into writing for the next record.
fateswarning.com: What did you do after your departure from FW? (personally/professionally)
Frank Aresti: I didn’t know what to do. I started giving lessons just to get out of the house. All That Is came together purely by accident; without trying. That didn’t work out in the same way that Demonax didn’t work out: after a couple of years it seemed the other band members were not willing to give much more than a casual effort.
That’s when I decided to take advantage of today’s technology and just do everything I hear myself.
fateswarning.com: Do you still maintain contact with John Arch, Ray Alder, Joe Dibiase, Jim Matheos, Mark Zonder or Steve Zimmerman?
Frank Aresti: Jim, Ray, Mark, and Joe. Steve Zimmerman felt very bitter about his being asked to leave the band. He felt our reasons were unfounded, and that we were not willing to give him a chance. I saw him play with his next band a couple of times, but he didn’t say much to me. John just lost touch with us. I think Jim was in contact with him periodically. We did play a couple of songs with him once: he sang Guardian with Ray. We got along very well.
fateswarning.com: I heard you made a visit during the recording of FW’s Disconnected. How was that?
Frank Aresti: It was WEIRD!! It felt like no time had passed at all! You must understand that the studio they were mixing in was the same where we recorded Symmetry and No Exit. We lived there for a long time. And, the studio looked the same as it always did. Aside from the setting, the dynamics of the band members’ relationships to each other were also the same as they ever were!! It was great! I had a great time and wish I could have hung out even longer. But they were pretty busy, and it happened to be a critical moment in mixing Disconnected.
fateswarning.com: What are your thoughts about the version of FW without Frank Aresti?
Frank Aresti: It seems very different: like, another world. Before I left, we had meetings about the direction of the “next” record, which was to be APSOG. And those meetings basically set the vibe for the upcoming version of FW. I expected to hear what I heard when I first heard APSOG. It was a natural transition. Fates could not have gone any further in the “old” direction of Parallels/Inside Out.
fateswarning.com: Have you heard A Pleasant Shade of Gray and Disconnected?
Frank Aresti: Both of course!! You think they can come out with anything without my asking Jim for a free copy?!?!
fateswarning.com: I’ve heard the Aresti clips found on http://www.farmclub.com. They seem to have a NIN influence to them? Is it safe to say you’re going for the electronic/industrial side of music these days?
Frank Aresti: Not only safe, but accurate!! I have always been into Industrial. Well, since the late ’80s / early ’90s. I was into Ministry, Jesus and Mary Chain, Sisters of Mercy, later VoiVod, and a CT band called Liquid Circus. In writing Parallels I think you could hear the vibe in my playing, even in the songs Jim wrote. If you listen to Life in Stillwater you will hear what I’m talking about. It’s obvious in that song. Even though Jim wrote it, we all took part in the arranging and in adding our own parts. I did get out of the Industrial scene for a while until about a year ago when a friend of mine let me borrow NIN’s The Fragile and it blew me away. At the same time, All That Is had seen better days so it all came together for me.
fateswarning.com: What do you find interesting about electronic/industrial music?
Frank Aresti: The vibe, and the fact that an artist can use electronic instruments in the same way a painter uses a palette of pigments. For the vibe, I like the energy, the darkness, and the moodiness. And I like the fact that one can use a really weird sound for a riff. You see, it’s not just about songwriting for me; it’s also about finding the right sound for the right part, and then the sound becomes part of the songwriting. Once I have an idea, or a riff (conventional or otherwise), I then have a seemingly endless array of sounds to use. I can add instruments for shading just like a painter would use light and darkness for depth. I can add sounds to create character to the music. It’s amazing. And being able to do it all in my room, I can work whenever the idea strikes me. It has opened a whole new musical world to me; more than I even imagined. And I’m still surprised all the time when I discover something totally new.
After all, at the quantum level there is no difference between, for example, a real drum and the sound of an electronic drum. They are both the same electricity at their most fundamental level.
fateswarning.com: I must say that many folks from the http://www.fateswarning.com Web Board, that have heard All That Is and Aresti, say you have a very good voice and I agree.
Frank Aresti: Thank you very much. I love to sing. Few people know that I auditioned for Fates as a vocalist before Ray got the gig. In fact, I think Jim is the only one that knows!!. Basically, I ripped off Ray’s version of his Quietus demo. Jim agreed I should try and I agreed on the condition that if I didn’t make it he wouldn’t tell anyone. Back then I didn’t sing a lot, and my voice was not in shape at all.
fateswarning.com: How has your writing style evolved over the years?
Frank Aresti: I think that I’m hearing things in a more complete state. I no longer try to write a good riff only to try and put the pieces together to form a song. Now I am hearing the different instruments and how they interact, or react, with each other. I’m into creating a mood, or a vibe. I want to be able to write something with enough depth so that the listener is transported with me.
fateswarning.com: What’s your thoughts on the music scene today?
Frank Aresti: I don’t listen to much of it. The recording industry is so focused on the bottom line, and with having to answer to shareholders, that they’ve lost sight of what music is all about: art as communication. Much in the same way that Van Gogh paintings have become art for mass consumption, we have music for mass consumption. Most people buying Van Gogh prints are buying them because they’re the “soup du jour” and not appreciating the depth and meaning, and not perceiving the message. So we have music that caters to similar needs: vacuous entertainment for a consumer more concerned with the trappings than with the heart.
fateswarning.com: What music do you find yourself listening to now? Bands?
Frank Aresti: Mostly industrial and electronic. It seems to be one of the areas of music still not Pop enough to have spawned anything vacuous. Lately, I especially like Trip-Hop: bands like Hooverphonic and Massive Attack. But I still need a steady dose of NIN.
fateswarning.com: Has your gear (guitar rig, etc) changed over the years? and how so?
Frank Aresti: Oh yes!!! I don’t have any more amps. I went from the “fridge” rack with a souped-up Jackson, to a combo amp with a semi-hollow acoustic/electric guitar. Nowadays I play a Hamer Silver Sparkle Vanguard with P-90’s and I use amp modeling that’s built into my BR-8 recorder. I am currently putting together a guitar that I bought from Carvin as a kit. I painted it with nitro-cellulose lacquer in the Van Halen 1 style stripe job, except that it’ s white stripes over a black background. I did that to honor one of the most important electric guitarists of our time, and a time when I could listen to a musician and be completely moved by their abilities. After all, when Van Halen 1 came out it was guitar in a foreign language!!
fateswarning.com: What keeps you busy outside of music?
Frank Aresti: I work at Kaman Music Corporation in the Logistics department. I track production in our overseas factories and the importation of Ovation, Takamine, and Hamer guitars. I love a good horror movie and spending time with my beautiful wife.
fateswarning.com: Thank you for taking the time out for this interview. I hope your future endeavors are fruitful and I wish you the best of luck. Thanks again.
Frank Aresti: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to “let it all out”!! I’m constantly updating songs, etc, at the Farmclub site so be sure to keep an eye out for new songs. I will be designing a web site soon too!
Lastly, there’s a small record company that is releasing the Demonax record that was recorded just before I joined Fates back in 1985. It will be available only on vinyl !! For more info visit www.opmrecords.com