Cryptic Rock interview with Ray Alder (11/14/2013)
INTERVIEW – RAY ALDER OF FATES WARNING
Progressive metal has been an evolving sub-genre of metal since the 1980′s. Bands like Dream Theater and Queensrÿche were some of the pioneer’s to make the genre commercially successful. One of the most influential pioneers from the scene are Fates Warning. On the scene for 3 decades now, the band has built a massive international following as well as released 11 full length records over that period. When John Arch departed from the band in 1987 a new bright star took over at vocals in Ray Alder. Fates Warning has not looked back since and Adler has remained the voice of the band all these years later. Now ready to breakout new material for the first time in 8 years Fates Warning releases Darkness In A Different Light. Recently we sat down with vocalist Ray Alder for a personal look at the history of Fates Warning, his love for music, continuing Fates Warning into the next century, and much more.
Crypticrock.com – Fates Warning has been together since 1983 and released have released 10 albums in that time not including your newest record to be release. You have been the lead vocalist of the band since 1986 and the first record you sang on was No Exit in 1988. What was it like coming into the band when they were already 3 albums deep into their career?
Ray Alder – It was exciting. I was young, spry, full of hopes and dreams (laughs). It’s funny, cause I’d only been signing for a couple of years in local bands and places. In San Antonio they actually used to play Fate’s Warning on the radio, the DJ, they called him “The Godfather”. Fate’s was actually my favorite band at the time, and John was my favorite singer. So they got rid of John I never thought I’d be able to listen to the band again. When it was official I got the gig it was great, totally amazing. The sound was different, obviously No Exit (1988) was completely different than Awaken The Guardian (1986). So that was exciting too, going to a different sound. It was amazing, and touring… it was the first time the band had actually gone on tour. It was a good time.
Crypticrock.com – That had to be cool to become part of something that was your favorite band a the time. It was like a dream come true, so that’s really cool. Fates Warning is one of the original progressive metal bands in the 1980′s along with Dream Theater and Queensryche which really made the genre as popular as it is. How does it feel after all these years to have been part of the progressive metal movement back then and see the extensive amount of bands in the genre today?
Ray Alder – It feels great actually. I’m always honored to hear it from musicians and singers that in some way shape or form we influenced their path. It’s funny cause when I joined I was just a heavy metal kid, it wasn’t really a progressive thing for me. When Jim began writing the more progressive style, I was proud to be a part of it. It was something different than what was out there, you know, and to be lumped into that category is an honor. I love what we do, I love how different we are than most things out there.
Crypticrock.com – It’s got to be a great feeling, and you definitely are an intricate part of all of that and what we hear today in the progressive metal scene. Yourself and Jim have been the anchors in Fates Warning all these years. What do you think the key to chemistry you two share together to keep things going this long?
Ray Alder – I think the key thing is that we don’t live in the same cities (laughs). We get along so well and we like a lot of the same different things. The key is to listen to one another obviously, to understand what one wants and what the other wants, and to find a common ground in between. There’s never been a big battle between Jim and myself other than maybe miscommunication on the last work we were doing before which was the Arch Matheos, a few of those songs were slated to be on the new Fates Warning album. It was just something the music I was really feeling inside so it was taking me long to work on it. That was the biggest miscommunication we ever had, I should have just told Jim a long time before it was just something I discussed with him later on. Other than that you have to get along, listen to one another, and try and work things out.
Crypticrock.com – Right and you have obviously been able to do that over this long period of time. Frank Aresti came back into the band in 2003 after an 8 year break. What was it like having him come back into the band and what ignited the reunion?
Ray Alder – It was amazing, it was great. Frank and I are great friends and a matter of fact the whole time we were touring I was probably better friends with Frank than anybody. We were young, single, and having the time of our lives. He just had enough and wanted a normal job when he left. Eventually that scratch began to itch him and he wanted to be back in the music scene. When you are leaving something you know so well behind for him I imagine he wanted to get back into it, tour and be part of something else again. It was great to have him back. It was great to have him on this new album but unfortunately he won’t be able to do this tour with us because of work and life which are great things for him actually, not bad things at all, he just can’t make it on this tour. That is disappointing but we have a fill in guitar player for him.
Crypticrock.com – It is a bit disappointing he won’t be on the tour but at least he was able to perform on the new record. The band’s new album Darkness In A Different Light was released September 27th. It’s the band’s first album in nearly a decade. What was the recording and writing process like for the new record?
Ray Alder – It wasn’t amazingly easy but once we got the ball rolling everything fell into place. The discussion Jim and I had while touring in Europe was what direction we wanted to go in with the new album. I mentioned I wanted to do maybe some shorter songs, something a little catchier, with hooks, sort of back to Parallels (1991) and Inside Out (1994) days. That was kind of the direction we started going in. We wrote a few songs and once “Firefly” came out it was like ok this is the direction we want, this is where we are going. After that the songs just flew out, like three songs at one time and Jim was like slow down dude give me a little time (laughs). Jim asked me to do the lyrics and that was a big deal to me because I feel Fates Warnings fans expect a lot out of you, he actually wanted me to write all the lyrics on the album. Thankfully he came up with lyrics for a few of them. It was a great experience. Everyone has a studio in their homes now , I have pro tools, Jim will send me something and I will work on it in my bedroom and send it back to him. Once I started hearing things back from Bobby Jarombek (drummer) and Joey Vera (bassist) it changed everything, I loved it. Bobby’s drumming is fantastic and he’s a great drummer, I am very honored to be in a band with that guy.
Crypticrock.com – A lot of fans are really looking forward to this record. As stated Darkness In A Different Light is your first album since FWX in 2004. What caused the band to wait so long to record this new record?
Ray Alder – I think obviously when we did FWX (2004) and we didn’t really tour for it for a long time. We did the Queensryche and Dream Theater tour and that was amazing. Then after that we decided to take a little break and work on our own projects and we’d get back to Fates Warning soon enough. One project lead to another and if somebody was doing something no one sit around and wait for the other person. That just snow balled and kept going different directions. Finally 4 years ago we started working on music and that ended up being the Arch Matheos album. Again I wasn’t putting my heart and soul into it so Jim asked if he could take it somewhere else and I said yes that’s fine, I’ll be here for the next one, I will always be here. That is pretty much what happened. 9 years is ridiculous though, it really is, it’s nothing we planned on happening I will tell you that.
Crypticrock.com – Yes but like you said people are involved in their own projects and before you know it 9 years fly by.
Ray Alder – Totally, it’s ridiculous, it really is. When we look back we can’t believe it, it just went by so fast. We all know Fates Warning is our baby, it’s my main thing in life. I’ve always been itching to do an album but again it was just projects overlapping projects. Hopefully we have sorted that out now.
Crypticrock.com – You guys hit the road in October playing over in Europe and then hitting the states in November. How excited is the band to get out there and play some new material in front of fans?
Ray Alder – It’s very exciting. I am so happy. The main thing is I love touring, I don’t really like writing but I’ll do it. Obviously it’s the necessary evil with recording. To me touring is the greatest thing ever. I love touring, I love playing live. I love seeing the fans, talking to people, and being in different countries. I love that I have this opportunity in my life and don’t take it for granted at all. We just keep saying the same thing over, it’s so great to get out and play some new music, finally, we’ve playing the same shit for the last 10 years (laughs). That is exciting to go out and play these songs live. There are a few songs pm the album when I was writing that live I would have so much fun with it. That is yet to be seen but I hope people will like it and I’m sure we’ll have a great time. I couldn’t be more excited honestly to go out and do it.
Crypticrock.com – It has to be really exciting. You said you were a metal head, what are some of your musical influences?
Ray Alder – Judas Priest when I was growing up. Unleash From The East was probably my first favorite eye opening album. That to me that guy and his voice was incredible and the songs were great. That was probably one of the first albums that made we want to become a singer. Before that my big brother was the one who turned me on to everything. I was a huge Journey fan when I was growing up. Steve Perry was probably one of my biggest influences as a kid. I thought he had just the most incredible voice I’d ever heard in my life and the music was great. Neal Schon was throwing out the fucking greatest solos I had ever heard in my life. Obviously it moves on, Iron Maiden, Scorpions, a million different things. Than Fates Warning, the first time I heard John Arch sing I was blown away. I never heard anything like that in my life. I was a heavy metal kid. John Arch was one of my favorite singers. Also Armored Saint, the funny thing is Joey Vera is in Fates Warning now. When I was probably 16 years old I went into a record store for their very first album and I bought that album because I thought it looked cool (laughs). I literally bought that album, never even heard it, I just thought the band looked cool. Low and behold their bass player is in my band now. I tell Joey and he still doesn’t believe it (laughs). I still have that album, I think it’s at my mom’s house (laughs).
Crypticrock.com – That is a funny and ironic story. My last question for you is regarding films. Crypticrock.com is a rock/metal and horror news site so we like to focus on all genres. Are you a fan of horror films and if so what are some of your favorite horror films?
Ray Alder – Evil Dead (1981), when I saw that I was floored, it was the greatest thing I’d ever seen in my life. Evil Dead 2 (1987), again those were films when I younger that I just loved. Even still horror films now I think it’s funny when you get PG-13 film. Horror films now a days just don’t affect me with a big crash in the background. A scary movie was like The Exorcist (1973), The Omen (1976), movies like that, those were the great movies. Anything with Jack Nicholson (laughs). I do love movies. One of my best friends is Evan Helmuth which was just in that indie horror movie that came out in 2012 Devil Inside that was pretty amazing. I’m into more of sci-fi, I am definitely more a sci-fi guy than horror guy. Sci-fi is like the be all end all for me. Serenity (2005) and Firefly (2002). A matter of fact the song “Firefly” on the new album is sort of my homage to the TV show. I never told anybody that but it’s true (laughs).
Crypticrock.com – That is cool that you dig sci-fi stuff. What do you think of the direction horror and sci-fi has gone in with all the CGI in the mainstream films?
Ray Alder – I think it’s great. I love the visuals, I absolutely love what they can do now. Sometimes some movies depend way too much on it instead of the story. Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986) were amazing. I love what they are doing visually but I think the story is obviously the greatest thing and that should be the first part. That’s again why a small film like Serenity was so great to me. I love the story and the characters. I try to watch movies if I have the time, that is probably my favorite pass time.