Eternal Flame – John Arch Interview (1996)

//Eternal Flame – John Arch Interview (1996)

Eternal Flame – John Arch Interview (1996)

Eternal Flame – John Arch Interview (1996)

This is an interview that the German fanzine, Eternal Flame, conducted via mail for it’s second issue in 1996 (Although it appears that the interview was conducted in 1995). John Arch answered their questions with 17 handwritten pages and a couple of personal photographs (scans of which are located on this page).

Eternal Flame is published once per year and is almost 200 pages in length (only in German). You can visit their website at

(A special thanks to Barbara Schnepf ( for typing up all of these letters and getting permission to reproduce them.)

ja_ltr01John Arch: “Hi! Thanks for writing. I am amazed so much time has passed so quickly and fans still remember. It’s been at least eight years since my departure from Fates, so forgive me if my memory doesn’t serve me well on some questions.”

Eternal Flame: “Why did you leave Fates Warning? We have never read anything about your point of view…”

JA: “I guess when members start having band meetings without you, you might sense you’re the topic of discussion. The facts are: There is an age difference of eight to ten years between myself and the rest of the guys and for the most part we got along really well. I have a certain standard of living though, which required working full time since I lived on my own. I had a great job that allowed me to tour, record or whatever I needed, because my boss realized we were shooting to better ourselves. And I always had work to come back to when we were finished touring etc… The point I’m trying get to is, there came a time when I was given an ultimatum by Fates to; say I ‘would’ quit as a gesture or sign of my commitment or else. I thought the whole scene was unnecessary because I felt I was always there for rehearsals – interviews – albums – tours and wrote late at night lying in bed and would have continued to. I felt my commitment was shown through the first three albums and I was looking forward to the next. I think they were testing me, so I thought I’d test their faith in me and did not dignify their question with an answer… I think anyone with any measure of pride would have done the same. Well the self appointed jury met behind closed doors and decided I was out. I spent the rest of that night with my friend Mr. Pride, drinking Vodka and feeling sorry for my self till I puked. Well that was a long time ago and even though there are other mitigating factors, that is the long and short of it. In the end I wouldn’t trade those times for anything. I had a blast while working hard with Fates and we are all still friends today.”

EF: “Where is Arcana? Please tell us all about the concept behind ‘Awaken the Guardian’.”

JA: “Arcana is somewhere between Kansas and Arkansas, only Dorothy knows for sure. ‘Awaken the Guardian’, the title came after all the songs were completed. Although each song had its own story or meaning they are all incorporated in pretty much the same mood and theme. When writing it was always my goal to stay away from the mainstream Grunge / Death / or songs about riding in my car with my girlfriend. No offense to any of the above, anyway it forces you to be more creative. The concept for the album title was derived from the song ‘Guardian’ which pays tribute to all challenged kids young and old, who will never know what it’s like to walk – see – hear etc… Gee, ‘how unprofessional’. (Sorry that was uncalled for). I have a brother who is quadriplegic and has no will left, but for some reason outlives his life expectancy by almost 20 years. That inspired the mood for that song. This past year Jim asked me to sing Guardian with them and after the show a guy walked up to me and told me he had been in a bad accident and he was told he probably wouldn’t walk again. He said while he was in the hospital listening to Guardian he realized the message and what it meant to him. I felt really good knowing it helped him through a tough time in his life.”

EF: “Among several people in Germany you have an almost God-like status for your work with Fates Warning. Are you aware of the fact and if so, how do you handle it? Do you still have contact with your fans all over the world?”

JA: “I’m humbled, but that’s too much responsibility for me. I’m just an average guy with plenty of flaws. If you want to talk to a real God call 1-800-FRANK. I suppose I never realized the impact the music would have on anyone, and how big ‘worldwide’ really is. I’m grateful to everyone for their support and often wish I could have done more. I still keep in touch with friends in the industry but my schedule doesn’t allow for much corresponding.”

EF: “What music / bands did you grow up with, what bands had an influence on you, and what music do you prefer nowadays? What vocalists do you like? What were the last five CDs you bought?”

JA: “I started my first band around 20 years ago, when I was around 14 or 15, playing guitar and singing cover tunes from the likes of Uriah Heep – Grand Funk Railroad – early Elton John – Styx – Zeppelin – Zappa – Derringer – Deep Purple – Aerosmith – AC/DC – Mahogany Rush – Doubie Bros. Then a second band, we did Pat Troyers – Yes – Iron Maiden – Tull – Scorpions – MSG – Rush – Sabbath – UFO – and more. As for what I like nowadays, Steve Morse Band – Dream Theater (Mike Portnoy rules!) – don’t laugh but I do like Yanni, it’s relaxing and it’s refreshing with no vocals for a change. Now I redeem myself with King Diamond – Extreme – King’s X – David Lanz. There is so much out there I haven’t heard cause I’m out of touch. Favourite vocalist, hum? I probably don’t have one in particular but some of my faves are Ronnie James Dio – Dave Byron – Ann Wilson of Heart – Brad Delp (Boston) – Mikey Thomas J. Starship, and I worshiped Bruce Dickinson in Number of the Beast, and of course how could I forget Lenny (M.H.).”

EF: “What can you tell us about the person John Arch 1995 – life, family, job, car, books, movies, pizza, beer, computer games, fantasy role playing, going fishing…?”

ja_kidJA: “John Maurice Archambault, 5/15/59, married for seven years. I have one son Evan John who is 3 years old, and one German Shepard completes my family. I am a cabinet maker and make executive office furniture. My wife Jeanne is a hair stylist. Any spare time I have is spent riding my mountain bike, racing, and fixing my American Flyer Titanium, full XTR bike. We are selling our house to move out to the country. We also hike and camp a lot. About the only thing I watch on television is Seinfield and X-files and of course NFL (Go Detroit Lions!).”

EF: “Do you read fantasy literature or what kind of literature do you prefer? Please tell us your favourite writers/novels!”

JA: “No, I should read more, the extent of my reading pertains to woodworking mags, blueprints and yes, mountain bike mags. I suppose I’ll read more when I’m convalescing in 30 years or so if I don’t crash and burn first.”

EF: “A lot of people are looking for ‘something’ in their lives. Have you already found the ultimate answer (42 as Douglas Adams would say) or are you still a seeker?”

JA: “I think we are all seekers and by nature we’re never really satisfied. We look for new challenges and we are anxious to see what’s around the next bend. Deep down self worth and self preservation is all we begin looking for, and maybe you’ll find lots of it if you’re lucky. I do think people are out of control with being too competitive though.”

EF: “For Fates Warning you wrote some very ‘metaphysical’ lyrics mainly dealing with the live-after-death-topic. Where or how did you get your inspiration for them? Do you think that the fans could follow your thoughts and lyrics?”

JA: “I really don’t know. It may be somewhat subconscious. I was always fascinated by the thought of the supernatural /religion, the unknown or untangable. I wrote lyrics that had meaning to me but could be open for interpretation. Anyone who took the time to read the lyrics, stop and use their imagination either end up with a headache or ended up with an idea of what I meant.”

EF: “Are you a religious person or do you believe in any higher being? What experiences do you have in that field?”

JA: “I was told never talk about religion or politics. But I will say: I went to a catholic school and was surrounded by religion. I led a folk group for years (while playing rock and roll, what a heathen). My mother sent me to a seminary for a week because she always wanted me to become a priest. From my experiences in life and from what I’ve seen I have my own convictions and beliefs, and they are not traditional. I do believe in a higher force. But that vision does not coincide with man’s vain image of Himself sitting on his throne parting the clouds wielding his scepter. I think the native Indians who were in tune with nature had the right *idea*.”

EF: “The Brocken is a mountain in Germany. Why did Fates Warning choose it for the title of their first album? Do you have any relationship to Germany?”

JA: “I stumbled upon Brocken and its legend while reading and thought it fit Fates ominous style so I studied up on it and sort of reenacted Walpurgis night with ficticious characters. Relation – maybe my German shepard does, but I don’t believe I do, I’m of French, Irish and Canadian Indian descent.”

EF: “On some band photos you had a rather ‘martial’ outfit?”

JA: “Just another identity crisis.”

EF: “Under what social conditions did you grow up?”

JA: “I was born in Colorado Springs and moved to a middle class neighborhood in Connecticut when I was two years old (with my parents of course). There are 6 of us in my family, we lived across the street from a cemetery for the next 18 years. Maybe that’s where the metaphysical lyrics came from? It was a good time to grow up, we were sheltered from the social problems of our inner city’s. We went to good schools with an average of 12 – 20 kids per class room, so were close knit, everyone knew everyone. We were all spared from fighting in any wars, I just wish the same for our kids.”

EF: “Did you have influence on the covers Third image created for FW? What do you think about these pictures? What is your own interpretation of them?”

JA: “The picture on the cover of The Spectre within was an existing drawing in the Third Image studio that everyone liked right away. And the cover on Guardian was to give the feeling of transcending from the real world into the imagination, which was the goal of the album musically and lyrically.”

EF: “What have you been doing since you left Fates Warning? Is it true that Dream Theater, Watchtower and Mystic Force wanted you as their new singer? In Germany there was the rumor that John Arch would never perform music again. Why did you change your mind?”

ja_morganJA: “Never performing again was not a preconceived idea, it just worked out that way so far. It is true that touring was hard for me because my nerves would always play havoc with me before a show, but after the first song I would always relax and have a great time. Another challenge was singing hard night after night. I sort of backed myself in the corner by singing so high and hard on the albums, and fans expect that reproduced live. I expected it of myself and the pressure was on to deliver. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not down playing. Guitar players, drummers etc…. sure they can have technical problems, a bad night or even be sick, but they can still perform and maybe no one will notice. It’s a lot different being a vocalist and front man. It’s you and your larynx, and there is no faking it when you’re sick. And when you’ve strained your voice it doesn’t heal overnight. Just ask Bruce Dickinson or Geoff Tate (I’m not trying to compare myself with these guys). Would they be too proud to admit they are only human? Or are they super-human? Who knows. I don’t know how they tour (toured). So much must be the cigarettes Geoff smokes. Anyways, I’m off track again. The three bands you mentioned are all great bands, I thanked them all for considering me, but if any band inspired me it would be Dream Theater. I always loved that band and they are all great musicians and people. They did well with James.”

EF: “Jim Matheos told us, you had been performing ‘Guardian’ with FW during their US-tour. Tell us something about it…”

JA: “It was cool that they asked me to do that. I was nervous (again) and reluctant at first, but once on stage it was like riding a bike, you never forget how. Everyone was really receptive, they blew my mind. I thought they would say ‘Who is this guy?’ But they remembered.”

EF: “What are the most important things in your life?”

JA: “My family, friends, career, hopefully music will become a priority again.”

EF: “What do you thing about the new Fates Warning style – the musical side and the lyrical side?”

JA: “I’m going to listen to No Exit, Parallels, Perfect Symmetry and Inside Out to refresh my memory – I’ll be back…. Well there are pros and cons to each album. I don’t like ALL the songs but I like some of them a lot. First how I feel isn’t important and I must credit the band for being together for so many albums. It can’t be easy keeping it all together, I remember facing a lot of adversity and disappointment internally and externally, if anyone tells you it’s one big party they’re full of shit. Along with the changing times, the music will change, because if you look at the big picture and you want to make a living at or above poverty level doing music, you have to compromise. Only a handful of bands in this style of music have made it ‘big’ doing their own thing. And once they have reached a certain level or status they face a greater challenge, staying there or getting bigger. With all bands searching for success you can hear changes with each album, looking for the right sound that with a lot of luck and impeccable timing might take them over the edge. Changing isn’t a bad thing unless what you WERE doing was making you a ton of money, and that brings us back to Fates, songs like Parallel Lives – Eye to Eye – Pale Fire – Shelter me are all well written songs in my opinion, and are harder to write than the more complex stuff with 15 time signatures and enough changes to make your head spin. They are written with the intent to be more commercially accessible. It’s like a great drummer, it’s what he doesn’t play that makes it more tasteful. An example of ‘to mature for my taste’ would be Only Say Goodbye, that song should be on the B-side of a Bay City Roller record. Jim has always been the main song writer and when I was with Fates I wrote most of the lyrics and all of the melody lines and also had an impact on arrangements. For example, Jim would come to practise with a lot of new ideas and show us some rhythms (chops, riffs) that were intended to be under leads or bridges, but I could hear vocals over certain parts, and would like it better than the original verses, so we would interchange parts and write new parts. So we had a lot of parts, so things tended to sound busy. Then I would experiment with melody lines and try to write almost like another song over the rhythms. If that makes any sense? Another reason for the change in styles is that early Fates everyone lived relatively close and we wrote and rehearsed and did everything together so that if someone had an idea or a change when writing it could be made and tried instantly. Now the band members are spread all over the U.S. so I imagine any spontaneity and communication is done via satellite. Maybe that’s better anyway?”

EF: “Jim Matheos spoke very disparagingly about the first three Fates Warning LPs. He used terms like ‘unprofessional’ etc. Comment?”

JA: “There are those who like early Fates, there are those who like later Fates, there are those who like both. The first three albums are part of a foundation which the founding members created, and it had something special like friendship, chemistry, and a dream. Sure there were plenty of mistakes and low budget recordings which gave especially Brocken and Spectre a raw untamed feel to them, and some people like that. Sure I can put those albums on right now and say ‘O my God listen to that K-mart recording’ or ‘My voice sounds horrible there’ or ‘Vic’s guitar is out of tune again’. But who cares, it’s too late to change that now. Everyone begged, borrowed and begged some more to pay for Brocken out of our own pockets. And if I remember back that far we were all almost proud of what we did. I think you can hear improvements with each album, because you live and learn. You mentioned Jim spoke disparagingly of the first three albums, unprofessional etc… the forth album No Exit was on the same independent label and was no technical wonder either.”

EF: “What is your opinion about drugs?”

JA: “I cannot deny having tried and enjoyed a few of the standards, but that was years ago. I think the whole scene is a dead end street. Now that I have a son I look at things differently. I like to be athletic so drinking and drugs wouldn’t mix.”

EF: “Is it true that your brother Jim played keyboards on the first three albums?”

JA: “Yes, on Spectre he sang harmony and played keys on Epitaph, and on Awaken he played keys on Guardian. He was vacationing in California while we were recording, so it was spontaneous. Or was it not?”

EF: “In an old interview Jim Matheos said that when Fates had a new song, you went into the rehearsal room, turned out the lights and lit some candles and listened to the instrumental song to get an inspiration for your lyrics. Is that true?”

JA: “That’s the only way I could write anything because I am easily distracted. I have the attention span of a 4 year old kid in a candy store. Finding a quiet dim place where you can hear yourself think is a good start, then after listening to a tape of spare parts a hundred times it would start to come together, first with the mood then with the subject, the first line which is always the hardest but then it get’s easier cause you know you’re on to something.”


By | 2016-12-02T14:01:19-07:00 January 1st, 1996|Interview|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Drogo September 28, 2019 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    Thank you for publishing this interview. I wondered why the hell after such an amazing album, they lost their best singer and heart of their band. None of albums after Awaken have the heart or mystical vision that Arch had. They should have changed the name of the band after he left, it sounds totally different.

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