Alternative Matter interview with John Arch (09/2011)

By Raymond
Original article: http://alternativematter.net/interviews/interview-with-archmatheos


Some time ago I had the pleasure of doing an interview with former Fates Warning vocalist John Arch about his part in the new Arch/Matheos project. Things turned rather personal when we started to talk about the deeper meanings behind the lyrics he has written for Sympathetic Resonance. Other topics we touched include working together again with Jim Matheos, being back in the music game and how John got his vocals back in shape…

Hi John, thank you for doing this interview. Your vocal contributions to the new Arch/Matheos album is your first job as a singer since your Fates Warning days. Where have you been?

Yes, I’ve been away from the music business for the better part of 15 years. I was lucky enough to do a project with Jim Matheos under my own name, but that’s pretty much it.

So how does it feel to be back in a band situation again?

It’s cool, I’m fortunate enough to do a follow-up to the Twist Of Fate EP (John’s own project) in the form of a full album. Before I went into this I was nervous as hell, because I’ve been out of it for so long without any real singing experience. I never take things for granted that they will turn out good, but after all is said and done and the work that has been put into it as far as writing and recording is concerned, I’m relieved how it came out. I read all the comments on Facebook from people who have the album already and that they’re happy with it, so I’m happy the fans are enjoying the music.

Considering the time you’ve been away you did an astonishing job in the vocal department. How did you get your vocals back in shape?

It was a constant battle and in my humble opinion I’m still not at the level I would like to be. It was kind of a long process with the writing and doing the demos, so in parallel with that my singing grew simultaneously, so my vocals were kind of getting back to an acceptable shape. Every time I do this I seem to squeak by and by the time I was done recording it sounded okey. To answer your question, I’ll be probably never satisfied with my singing, but overall in light of my age and taken the amount of time I’ve been away I have to be satisfied with the results and I’m very happy with the songwriting. I’m rehearsing now for our performance for the Keep It True festival in Germany. It has been a couple of rough nights, man. There were  some nights where I sounded like shit and there were nights I sounded okey.

This German date will be in support of Sympathetic Resonance?

Yes, we’re in the process of coming up with a setlist, so it will be a combination some of the old Fates Warning stuff and material off the new album.

So which moniker are you going to use?

We will be performing under the Arch/Matheos name. In Jim’s opinion we are going to promote the new album. In Europe there are some die hard fans who are craving to hear the old Fates Warning material. I’m so amazed that people still want to hear the old songs. So the old material will be a part of of our show.

You’re going to perform the old FA material, all the people involved are somehow connected to that band, up until your departure in 1987 you were a band member, so why aren’t you guys using that name?

That’s a fair question and a fair response to that would be that in all honesty I’m not the lead singer for Fates Warning. I do have a past and a history with that band I’m very proud of, but strictly speaking Ray Alder is the lead singer for Fates Warning and he’s proven himself to be the right man for the job. I’ve been away for so long and he’s touring and recording with that band. So it would be unfair to him to perform under the FW moniker. He’s the lead singer and I’m not. Plus there are some contractual obligations with some other record company where FA needs to produce one more album. We need to be fair and smart about it and I think the fans should understand this. I think it’s a great opportunity for everyone involved and for me personally it’s great opportunity to write and record again and to play with some really great musicians.

Fair enough. Let’s move on to Sympathetic Resonance. What I really like is the interaction between the longer songs, like Stained Glass Sky and Neurotically Wired and the shorter, less complicated ones, like Midnight Serenade and Incense And Myrrh. This in combination of your signature vocals gives the album a distinct face of its own. What is your take on this?

I’m glad that you mentioned Neurotically Wired, because it’s kind of an extension of Twist Of Fate lyrically and musically. It also touches the old style Fates Warning and it has the overtones of Jim and I working together in terms of fire and chemistry. It always turns into long and theatrical songs when the two of us are working on something. I enjoy composing to Jim’s style of writing. There’s also a lot of different stuff on the album, like Incense And Myrrh. For instance Midnight Serenade is a shorter and less complicated song. All the songs are lyrically and musically connected and it’s almost like a a concept album when you listen to it. There’s a lot going on there and I do agree with you there that are a lot of different elements on the album.

The main guitar riff of Midnight Serenade is particularly memorable. You only need to listen to song once or twice and you sing along with ease.

That’s cool, because that was the second song I worked on and I was little taking back by it, because of it sounded a little simplistic compared to the rest of the material. I took the song home with me and listened over and over again and the melody line came very quickly. It was actually very refreshing to do something which was a little bit less technical. I think the song has some really nice melody lines and it has some really cool concept to the lyrics.

I think that Midnight Serenade is the perfect marriage between relative accessibility and technical prowess. I mean Bobby Jarzombek really shows his worth on the drums on that song.

He certainly does. What I really like about what he did is that he wrote down all the music of those songs and he did his homework before we ever met in the studio. What he did with his drumming is that he actually complemented the songs. He really brought the album to life. I really like his style of drumming. It’s tasty, but not overdone.

I’ve read that your lyrics are very personal. Can you elaborate on this?

I don’t know who deep I want to go into them, but they are definitely of a personal nature. I really enjoy writing things from a more personal point of view. I’ve had a lot of angst to share and they’re mostly about the curve balls life throws at you. Incense And Myrrh is a very personal song and it’s based on a experience I had with coming off Prozac. That was one of the most terrifying experiences I had in my life. The song is about suicide idolisation.

Pretty scary stuff if you ask me..

It’s as personal as I can get. It is serious and it may not be for everybody. During the time I experienced this there was some funky stuff going on that I still can’t explain to this day. All this music is about something I can’t understand and probably never will, but putting this to music and sharing it with everyone has been very therapeutic for me. I hope that everyone who reads the lyrics can relate to this on a humanistic level. It’s interesting for me to let everyone have their own interpretation of my lyrics. It’s basically about life and the things that happen that catch us unprepared.

Oddly enough I had an interview with Nick van Dyke from Redemption and the new album by his band touches the same kind of subject..

That is exactly what I mean. Sympathetic Resonance in itself a musical term for striking an instrument and harmonise it with other instruments. We took that and expended on it as far as we could on a human level. It comes down to how the music affects other people and how the lyrics and the melodies I sing over resonates with other persons. I think that everyone who is alive and has a pulse and walks around this earth for any amount of time will be able to relate with these kind of things. I think it’s great that I can share my experiences with other people and they will feel validated and they’re not alone. That’s an important message. Many pretend to be strong and you know what, they’re not. When listeners come and talk to you about how your music and lyrics have touched them, that’s the biggest compliment you can get as an artist.

On that bombshell I would like to end this interview. Thank you very much for your time. Do you have any final thoughts?

Please tell the fans that I’m very grateful for their longevity and all their positive comments on Facebook and it means a lot to me that they’re enjoying Sympathetic Resonance. I hope it will bring back some memories and I hope they will enjoy it as much I was making it. It has been a pleasure talking to you and take care!