This interview was conducted by Zoltan Koncsok on 1-10-2006 for Metal Express Radio
The original article is located at: http://www.metalexpressradio.com/menu.php?main=interviews&id=497
The facts you always wanted to know but never really got the chance to ask.
by: Zoltan Koncsok – 1-10-2006 11:49:33
email: zoltan(AT) metalexpressradio(DOT)com
When and where were you born?
I was born in Westfield, Massachusetts on November 22nd.
Can you tell me about your childhood? Were you a good or a bad kid?
I think I was probably be considered a good kid until I reached about nine or ten and then I turned into a very bad kid. Probably like a lot of other kids at that age I was very rebellious. I didn’t want to do what my parents told me to do. I didn’t wanna go to school, I didn’t wanna learn and I eventually ended up dropping out of school when I was about 15. So, I only took normal public school.
Never even thought about continuing your studies?
No, just from a very early age I knew that I wanted to be a musician and I kind of said to myself, “Why do I need to be learning all this stuff that I’m not gonna be using.”, which looking back at it now, was kind of stupid of me. And I’ve spent a lot of time since then studying on my own.
So, you never had any other dreams as a kid?
The first one I can really think of from an early age was a musician. Other than that just the kid’s stuff. You wanna be a fireman or whatever when you’re real young. But from an early age I knew that I wanted to have something to do with music. Music always had a real strong hold over me.
When was the first time you picked an instrument?
Probably right about the time when I started turning into a bad kid. (Laughs) I think I was probably about 9 or 10.
How many instruments you play?
I would say the only one I really play is guitar. I can play some other thing like other string instruments, but the only one I’m relatively competent is guitar.
Do you also compose your songs on guitar?
No, I write on different instruments, because I think just the fact that I’m not competent on, say, piano and keyboard, if I sit down at a keyboard it’s easier to stumble across something and try different ideas that I wouldn’t try on guitar. So, it’s more interesting for me a lot of times to try and write on instruments that I’m not familiar with at all.
What did your parents think about the music you’re playing?
Both my parents are passed away now, but they were really proud of me when they were around. But in the early days they were like any parents, they would be worried. They were sceptical about someone’s making a living from playing music. But they supported me. My dad bought me my first guitar and they offered me to send me to music school if I wanted to go, which I wasn’t interested in. That was a stupid mistake on my part.
Did they go to your shows back then?
Oh yeah. They were very proud to see what I’ve become.
What were your first influences?
Well, I’d have to say my biggest influence was probably my older brother. He had a guitar and he was listening to bands like Black Sabbath and Emerson Lake & Palmer, kind of heavy stuff and progressive stuff. And that’s kinda what I started listening to, just because he was at the house and always playing that kind of stuff. That’s really why I first started. But then I had my own influences after that.
Do you remember the first song you ever learned to play?
No, I don’t actually. It would probably be an early Black Sabbath song or something.
What was the first vinyl you ever bought?
I think the first album I ever bought was Black Sabbath’s Paranoid.
And last CD you bought?
That would be a CD by an American country guy named Rodney Crawl.
Do you purchase CDs regularly?
Yep. That’s what I do all the time. I listen to a lot of different things. I listen to country just as I mentioned this Rodney Crowell album. I listen to a lot of bluegrass music, I listen to electronica, I listen to rock, I listen to classic. I pretty much listen to everything besides rap, which is the only thing I don’t like.
Could you mention three of your all time favourite albums?
Boy, that’s kind of questions are really hard. There’s so many different periods and different genres. It’s really hard to pick. But considering early metal it would be maybe Stained Class by Judas Priest, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath by Black Sabbath, Force It by UFO.
Do you have a favourite Fates Warning record?
That’s another one of those questions that’s really hard to answer. If I really had to pick it would probably be A Pleasant Shade Of Grey.
So, you’re not that kind of guy that always prefers the last one?
No, I don’t think that’s necessarily true.
Is there any albums that you are not satisfied with anymore?
I would have to say that I’m just one of those people that looks back and always want to do things differently. But fortunately I would have to say on lot of the back catalogue it’s like that. I always just hear the things I don’t like and the things I’d like to do different.
Even on the last one, FWX?
Yeah, sure! I can always find something. Even, I told you A Pleasant Shade of Grey was my favourite, and still stuff on there I wish I could have done differently.
Do you remember your first live experience as a fan?
Yeah, the first show I ever went to was actually Ronnie Montrose with Frampton. It would have been sometimes in 1977. I was very impressed. It was great. It was cool to be around people kind of like myself. It was the first time I’ve ever gotten away from my school and found a bunch of other music lovers. It was a great experience.
Do you still go to shows?
Yeah, sometimes. Not very often. I kinda live out in the middle of nowhere, so not real close to anything. But now and then if somebody that I really like comes around I go.
And what was your first gig as a professional musician?
First show I ever played actually in front of anybody would have been Fates Warning’s first show. I don’t remember the name of the place, it was some bar in Connecticut.
I know that it’s impossible to pick just one, but what were your best shows with Fates?
Yeah, that’s definitely impossible. The shows we played in Greece have always been great. The whole tour we did with Dream Theater and Queensryche was fantastic for us. It’s really hard to pick one.
And was there any show that turned out to be a nightmare for you?
Yeah, I mean, without a doubt the worst show we’ve ever done was the show when we opened up for Pantera in Chicago in 1989 or so. The fans wanted to kill us. From the moment we got on stage they were basically throwing everything they could find at us the whole time. It wasn’t a lot of fun.
What was the best band to tour together with?
The best time we’ve ever had on the road was really the last Dream Theater/Queensryche tour we did. Both bands are great friends and we got along great. We had such fun with all of them.
Do you prefer playing in front of large or small audiences?
I think both have their benefits. It’s fun to play in front of kind of a small crowd and be comfortable, but also the adrenaline rush when you get to play in front of a lot of people.
What was the largest and the smallest crowd you played in front of?
The largest would probably be the year we played the Dynamo Festival in Holland. The smallest… I don’t know. We’ve played to probably 20 people before.
What’s the first thing you do after getting offstage?
I have a glass of wine. Any kind of red wine.
What was the strangest thing that ever happened to you on stage?
Strangest thing…? I don’t know. You’ve got me now. I haven’t got too many strange experiences. Having Ray fallen off from stage was a lot of fun once.
If you were up to put together an all star musician line-up, who would you go for?
Boy, that’s a tough one too. Would I have to be in it or would I not be in it?
Yeah, sure. You’re picking members around yourself.
Ah, it’s around me? There’s people I would certainly like to work with. I’d love to do something with Steve Hogarth some time in the future. He’s one of my favourite vocalists. Anything with Steven Wilson is fantastic. As for other guys, I don’t have a list of players. I’m working right now with people I like to work with. There’s other people I’d like to work with in the future, but I can’t think of one single band I’d love to put together.
Do you care about what the media says about your work?
To a certain extent. I read up on some of the things, but it’s not all consuming for me. I don’t let it bother me. But I keep up with it and I like to see things especially when we have a new record, I like to read reviews or reviews of live shows. But it’s not that important to me.
What’s the most common question you’re asked in interviews?
Tell us about the band. It’s kind of tiring if you’re doing like a bunch of press and you get people on the phone that have never heard of the band before and they want you to give them a description of the band. They haven’t really done their homework I guess.
What is the best and the worst thing about being a musician?
More certainly I think the best outweighs the worst. The best would be kind of being able to be your own boss to a certain extent. And for me personally being able to do what I love to do. I love music and I get to do it for a living and that’s really an honour. I think about that all the time. The worst thing is probably sometimes the schedule can be a little hectic. Sometimes it can be totally boring. I don’t have any things to do for weeks and then other times there’s just too many things to get done in one day; have to be away from home for a long time, but that’s really nitpicking. I think the good outweighs the bad. And another bad thing about it actually is just the business side of it. The music business is a real pain in the ass sometimes.
What would be your day job if you weren’t a musician?
Boy, I don’t know. I have no skills whatsoever outside the skill I have in music. I really don’t know. I hate to think about it.
Do you have a family?
I have a wife and one child. My daughter is 9 years old.
Is she into Dad’s music?
She’s into music and she finds the music that I play interesting, but she’s like a normal 9-year-old girl. She likes everything that’s pop right now. She’s been to a couple of our shows though and she liked it.
Do you have any hobbies besides playing music?
Yeah, I think most of my time besides doing music would be spent either one or two things: reading or playing chess.
Are you familiar with some Hungarian players?
Sure. The Polgár sisters are from Hungary.
You mentioned about books. What kind of books you like to read?
That’s a real wide list of things. It tends to be either fiction like 20th Century literature, American mostly and a lot of non-fiction would be science and history.
How many languages you speak?
I was really studying the last year to try and learn Greek, but it’s not going so well. I’m Greek and I grew up with my grandmother and people around me speaking a lot of Greek and I never took notice of it. And now that you get older, I’d like to learn it. And I’ve been to Greece a few times and it’s be nice to speak the mother language.
Are you into politics?
To a certain extent. I get a little exercise about it at home here, but it’s not something I talk about a lot in interviews and things. I keep politics and religion to myself, but I do have strong views on both.
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