This interview was conducted in 2005 by George Dionne of Rock-is-Life.com
Also available here: http://blogcritics.org/music/article/interview-ray-alder-of-fates-warning/
Fates Warning vocalist
(Winter 2005) by George Dionne
Fates Warning got their start in Connecticut back in 1983. The band started off as a straight-up heavy metal band, but started changing their sound as the years progressed. In 1986 they released Awaken the Guardian; an album that officially dubbed them the purveyors of progressive metal. The album was their first to make the billboard charts, and it influenced the numerous progressive metal acts that followed. It was a year later the current vocalist Ray Alder joined the fold.
Fates Warning went on the release seven more albums with Alder at the helm. They may not have been mega-chart toppers in the music industry, but as any progressive metal fan can tell you, they were all winners. It’s tough to beat the complexity and arraignments set forth by Fates Warning. While the group is currently on hiatus, they decided to keep their fans happy with a live performance DVD from the 2005 FWX Tour entitled Live in Athens (read DVD review).
RIL: If I knew absolutely nothing about Fates Warning, how would you describe the group’s music to me?
RA: I guess what everybody else says, we’re a progressive metal band. We let the music speak for itself. No glamour shots going on here, just music.
RIL: You’re currently promoting your live DVD Live in Athens; can you tell us a little about the DVD?
RA: We were going to do a couple of shows in Greece, and I had the idea that maybe we should film the whole thing. The last time we played in Athens it was amazingly insane, and we thought we could capture that on camera and on tape. We thought maybe the fans in America and around the world would want to see it too. It was a good idea. It was a lot of fun to end up doing a lot of other shows while we were there.
RIL: How did you decide on the set list? Is that the set you always use, or did you do something special for that concert?
RA: We did a couple of songs that we haven’t played in years and years, and years, and years. As a matter of fact, we did a song called “Through Different Eyes” that we haven’t done in probably ten years or so. Unfortunately for some reason, all the tape on the film went out for that song. It was kind of a drag.
RIL: So you filmed the DVD in one show?
RA: Yes, just the one show in Athens. There’s some footage from a Bulgarian television show on the DVD, but we really had nothing to do with that. We had the footage, so we decided we would put it on as an extra.
RIL: Did the band prepare differently for this show than a regular show?
RA: Yeah. Basically we didn’t rehearse. We all flew in and we rehearsed on our own. Then we flew to Greece and only rehearsed for two days. Once we got there it was kind of strange, because we were playing with Nick D’Virgilio on drums. He was unfamiliar with a lot of the songs we were playing, so that was real difficult for him. Again, it was songs we had been playing for years and years, so we were like come on, get with it (laughs)! We didn’t pick on him, he’s a great drummer. It’s amazing he picked it up as soon as he did. That was definitely unusual for us, as we haven’t played together for over a year. It was pretty hectic.
RIL: How involved were you personally in the production aspects of the DVD?
RA: I knew what we wanted as far as cameras. We wanted cranes, we wanted the new mini TV’s, and we wanted it to be clear as possible. We wanted the sound to be great as possible. We hired a long time friend and producer to come down with us and do that. Once that was all done, we got all the footage together and Joe and I decided as to what we wanted to go on the DVD. We had so much extra stuff that we cut out a lot actually. We had four to five hours of extra footage that we just didn’t know if people wanted to see that right now. We sacrificed that for now, but maybe we will come back later with it.
RIL: Will you be touring in support of the DVD?
RA: We have talked about it, but I don’t know what the deal is now. I think it might be a little late in the game, because the record came out a while back. I think we are trying to do as many interviews as we can so people will know about it. It was just something to tide people over because we haven’t done anything in a while. We thought would be nice for the fans, to let them know we are still around.
RIL: The DVD was released through Inside Out Music; what happen to your long relationship with Metal Blade records?
RA: At this point we are free agents. The last record we did with Metal Blade was a one-off deal. Normally every time we sign a deal with Metal Blade, it’s for three of four records. Then it changed to two records. Then we decided we’ll just do one and see what happens at this point. Metal Blade is really, really excited about their new bands As I Lay Dying, Unearthed, and bands like that, so their really busy with other things right now. We’re an older band; we’ve been on the label, Jesus Christ, twenty years or so. That’s scary just to think of.
RIL: Did Metal Blade kind of push the band out? The same scenario kind of happened to GWAR, who was also with the label for a long time.
RA: No, we were definitely not pushed out. We are all great friends, I was just saying it’s a business decision, and it has nothing to do with anything else. Metal Blade wasn’t as interested in the DVD as Inside Out was. So we decided to go with the more enthusiastic group at this point. It is a DVD and not a record, so we’re not looking for huge sales or anything like that. It’s probably going to be sold to our hardcore fans and that’s it. So when it comes down to a record, then we’ll definitely lay it all on the table.
RIL: Metal Blade recently released a three disc special edition of Awaken the Guardian, and I know you didn’t sing on it, but did anybody in the band have any involvement with this release?
RA: It was actually an idea Brian Slagel brought it up to Jim [Matheos]. Jim thought it was a great idea. There is so much stuff we have archived; rehearsal tapes, songs we started to write, video footage, and stuff like that. It’s material we know the hardcore fans would be interested in, especially from those days. Everybody wants to know about John Arch. I mean, he’s John Arch for God’s sake! It was just a great idea to have that. Jim was hard at work on that forever. It was cool because the whole band got together. Those guys are all up east and I’m way down here (S California). It was really cool for those guys to get together. They said they had a great time. They’re actually talking about continuing on with this kind of thing and doing another one. Brian just caught up to me a couple of weeks ago and he wants to do one for No Exit, and then probably continue on down from there; maybe Parallels after that, we’ll see.
RIL: That’s definitely something to look forward to.
RA: It’s going to be fun for sure. Some of the old stuff we haven’t seen in a while. One of my guitar techs, Takumi, he’s been with us from almost the very, very beginning. He’s always in town and he came by a couple of months ago and he told me that he has all these tapes of video that he shot when we were on tour for Perfect Symmetry and Parallels. We sat down and watched them all one night. He had twelve tapes at two hours a piece, so it took us a few days to do it. There was just so much live footage that it would just be a shame to keep it to ourselves. I talked to Brian and he thought it was genius to make a double live CD/DVD of all that stuff. There’s probably thirty hours of video tape that chronicle the history of us being fools (laughs).
RIL: Is the band thinking about another studio album?
RA: Actually, yes. Jim and I were talking about it today. He’s working on the new OSI right now. He’s really involved with it right now. They don’t know what they’re going to do about another drummer, they may have a guest drummer come in and do a few tracks. Jim says that he has so much music, that once he’s done with the OSI thing, I think were just going to go in and do our twentieth record. It’s up in the air. I think we didn’t know what we wanted to do after this. We talked about it when we were in Europe. We didn’t know if we were going to continue Fates Warning. There no reason for us not to do it if we have music and if a label is interested. We’re not bored with the band, and were still pretty good at what we do, so why not share it with everybody else? To answer your question, we are going to do another record.
RIL: Do you anticipate a long time before this record comes out? It was along time between the last two.
RA: I would anticipate it’s going to be long, but not as long as the other two. Again OSI is going to come out, and they’re probably not going to tour for it, but it takes time for it to get together. We’re all kind of broken up in different areas (geographically).
RIL: With all the lineup changes that the band has had in the past years, was it more or less difficult when drummer Matt Zonder left the band after so many years?
RA: I wouldn’t say it was difficult, I would say it was deffinatly strange playing with somebody else after all those years. When we brought Nick out with us, we were touring with Queensryche. It was a lot of fun, as he is a totally different drummer. He’s more of a rock drummer; Mark is more of a Jazz oriented drummer. When we did the last record, we decided that we would have Mark do the record. He wouldn’t do the tour with us, but he would do the studio record, as that’s where he really feels that he shines. Right now nothing has been really difficult. When it comes time to do the next record, we just might ask Mike to come up and do it again.
RIL: As of right now there is no permanent drummer, correct?
RA: No, there is not.
RIL: Is there any noticeable difference between the fans of the bands music of which analyze the music note for note and those which sit back and just listen to it?
RA: I’m sure there is, but it’s not visible to me; me being the singer. People talk about the technical aspect of what we do all the time.
RIL: Music tends to get over analyzed sometimes.
RA: I know. The last thing I want to hear people say is that we’re doing the same thing over and over again. I’ve actually heard and viewed discussions of people complaining that this record is too different from the last. Other fans say, ‘what do you expect?’ ‘Who wants them to do the same thing over and over again?’ We’re not going to be Awaken the Guardian forever, or Parallels, or anything of that matter. It’s always nice to move on and just do something different. Everyone’s going to critique us, and think it’s a great thing that we have so many fans that are musicians. The guitar player for Slipknot came up to me and said, ‘dude I’ve got all your records.’ I’m like, ‘get the fuck out of here!’ I thought he was blowing smoke up my ass. He said he had the music books and everything. That was pretty fucking amazing. It’s nice to be respected. I did something right, I don’t know what it was but…
RIL: You released two albums with your own side project Engine; will you be doing anymore projects with them?
RA: I don’t know if I’ll do any with Engine. At the time, that’s what I wanted to do. I was totally into the Deftones and stuff like that. I just wanted to do something really heavy, completely off the wall, and something different than Fates Warning. I don’t want to do a solo record and come out sounding like Fates again. I tried to do different styles and explore my voice differently. It was a lot of fun, but none of the labels are interested in that anymore. Music has changed. Bernie [Versaillies] and I have been talking that we want to do something else. Vince, the bass player of Body Count is interested, so we’re thinking about doing some type of crushing metal thing. I don’t know what we’re going to do yet, but it’s going to be really, really heavy. It’s just something interesting and fun, we’re not looking for a gold record. That would be nice, but I don’t know. [Engine] is still under contract to Metal Blade to do another record. It doesn’t really matter if it’s under the Engine moniker, Brian and I have discussed it, and he said I’ll sell records no matter what the name. As long as we get the stamp of approval from Metal Blade, then it’s deal. I will do another record because I’m under contract, I just don’t know what it is going to sound like. It won’t be reggae though (laughs)!
RIL: How did you come to join up with Redemption for their second album The Fullness of Time?
RA: Nick [Van Dyk] the guitar player/songwriter is actually a good friend of mine. We met a while back and he’s a true, true music fan. He’s really into that style of music and I’m not really. I guess it’s more of a power metal, that’s really progressive. I mean, Fates Warning is about all I can take. I helped him produce the first record, and on the last one, the riffs were cool and a lot heavier. I thought that the melodies were greater this time around, and I asked him what he thought me singing. He said, ‘I wasn’t going to ask you but…’ He didn’t think I wanted to do it. It was a pain in the ass though. We worked on it forever and ever, because he has a day job and I was working nights. I was working on this thing until two or three in the morning. We just sat around the studio and tried different things over and over again. In the end it was cool. I think his ideas and melodies were totally cool. I was used to doing things my way, not have someone say I heard it like this. That was the difficult part. A little scotch, a little talking, and everything was great!
RIL: What’s next for you musically after this DVD release?
RA: I don’t know. Right now I’m kind of floating. I’ve been talking to a few people about doing something because I’m just bored out of my mind. The Redemption thing is probably going to start up next month, so I’ll start doing that. Then it’s on to a new Redemption record. It’s already completely written, so I’ll start doing with Bernie. I’ll try to start doing something myself before the Fates Warning thing kicks in. I think next year (2006) is going to be a real busy year. I want a brand new Mustang, so I hope it is.
RIL: You could always do those tribute albums!
RA: I would feel funny about doing those things. We’ve done a few, but it’s always just felt weird. It’s kind of fun. I like doing covers live, but doing it on a record is just funny to me.
RIL: The way Bob Kulick does them, you wouldn’t even hear the final song until the album’s out.
RA: I did an Iron Maiden tribute album a long time ago. I just walked in and did vocals. I think I was there for an hour and a half maybe. It was really weird to me when I heard the final product. It’s a job! You have to make money and whore yourself out from time to time.