Rocking.gr interview with Jim Matheos (11/06/2013)
Interview by Manos Paterakis
Fates Warning interview (Jim Matheos)
“I don’t listen to any metal, really”
Sunday night… We had witnessed an incredible show by Fates Warning at Fuzz Club, Athens. They came bearing a new album, which won me over listen after listen, and they prevailed. Great setlist and mind-blowing performance… After the end of the show, I went backstage, where Ray Alder and Bobby Jarzombek were talking with the winners of meet ‘n’ greet competitions. Jim Matheos chose, as usual, to stay in the shadows. He explained that he doesn’t feel comfortable with any publicity… He prefers to talk via his music. He was waiting for me in the nearby room, where we had an interesting and amiable chat. There were a lot of things I didn’t ask him because I didn’t have much time at my disposal and I respected his need to rest after such a show. He talked to me about his new album, his musical preferences, music industry, the future and his love for Greece. Here’s what we talked about.
Hello Jim. I’m pretty amazed by “Darkness In A Different Light”… What is the darkness and what is the light you are talking about?
It’s not really a full concept record. The way the title came about is like that: we had written most of the lyrics for the record and then we read through them and we found that there was this recurring thing that we’re trying to find light. Sometimes physical light, sometimes emotional or psychological light in the lyrics. So, we thought about that and we thought about how most of our records have been very dark musically. And this still is, but we‘ve been trying to portray it in a more positive way and show an optimistic side to it. We ‘re still hopefully a moody dark sounding band but we ‘re trying to show it in a different light. But, as I said, we wrote the lyrics as standalone pieces. When we came back and looked at them, it seemed there was a theme but it was not intentional. I guess it was something in our heads.
So that wasn’t intentional… But, was it intentional that it sounds heavier than one would expect?
I think that was a bit intentional. You know, a lot of it has to do with playing with Bobby (Jarzombek-drummer) for the last six or seven years. He’s a much more metal-type player…
Yeah. And playing with him live for the last six or seven years has just opened up that side of us and then made me want to write more in that vein. I don’t mean it’s 100% that, but it was something I was ready to do. Because I had explored other things with O.S.I. and the last couple of Fates records so it all lined-up…
I kind of expected something heavy because you released Arch/Matheos. It was mindblowing.
Have your tastes come back to metal? When you sit in your room and listen to music…
I don’t listen to any metal, really. It’s fun for me to write these kind of things and I think maybe staying away from it makes it more interesting for me. If I listen to it all the time I don’t think I would be that interesting in writing that kind of music. So I very rarely listen to any metal. I listen to Opeth a little bit, but that’s of course little metal. I listen to a few bands that I like, bust mostly I listen to electronic music or singer/songwriters, a lot of things… But metal, not so much.
Have you ever considered incorporating more of these elements in Fates Warning’s music?
I think I do, a little bit. I think that is one of the things that make Fates a bit different, hopefully. We incorporate, not just straight metal. There’s electronic influences that were on the last record, not so much on this one. There’s singer songwriter stuff in there hopefully.
Yes we can see all these things. And I agree that there is some distance between your two last albums. I think that “Darkness In A Different Light” is closer to “Disconnected”, rather than “FWX”…
Other than that, it took you many years to release an album as Fates Warning. How did that happen?
We did the X record and then we decided that on that point we needed a little break. We didn’t know it was going to be nine years. We needed the break because we’ve been recording and touring together for a long time and we all wanted to just step away for a few years. But that few years just turned into nine years. You know, time just flies. (“A Handful Of Doubt” reference) So, I got involved with O.S.I., Ray got involved with Redemption, Mark decided to do some other things… We were all having fun with those projects and we knew at the time that we would come back to Fates at some point. It was never a question if this was over. We continued to do live dates every year since 2004 till now. We just didn’t feel right about getting together to record another album. This time it did.
Hopefully it won’t take you as long this time!
No no! (laughts) Everybody keeps asking that.
It’s an obvious question.
Yeah yeah yeah. Of course. Our intention is to get back in maybe two or three years for the new record.
That’s great news. In the meantime, do you have any other projects?
I do have another solo project that’s going to come out hopefully in the next few months. Not acoustic like the last ones. It’s completely different. Kind of an electronic thing.
Yeah, it’s all guitar.
Nice. I’d like to point out that this was the first album with Aresti since 1994. What different did he bring in the studio – other than co-writing the first song?
It’s confusing because a lot of people think that he’s actually playing… He plays solos in the record. He plays five or six guitar solos. But that’s it. Everything else is basically as we’ve been doing it. And we’ve been doing it that way since “Perfect Symmetry”, believe it or not. We would play the songs that we wrote. So, if there was a song that I wrote it would be all me. So that was this record. It is all myself and Frank just came in and did the solos. That’s quite a big accomplishment to me because he’s a great lead guitar player. He plays a lot of things that I can’t play or I wouldn’t play – most of it I can’t play. So, he added a lot to it. It was great to have him there. We miss him on tour.
Since you brought it up, how is it to be the mastermind of this group and at the same time to be the most low-profile person on stage? How does it feel?
(laughs) Well, it feels just like it’s natural. That’s me. I don’t like a lot of attention, I don’t like a lot of light. I like to be in the background. I don’t like doing interviews, I don’t like any of this!
I get, I’ll try to be quick! (laughs)
No!! I didn’t mean that to you! I was just being honest.
Personally, I find it a very nice picture of a band having the mastermind in the shadows. So, you have been in the music industry with Fates Warning for almost three decades. You surely have noticed many changes… How do you see music industry today? For example, a little time ago Spotify came to Greece. Music industry struggles to survive… How do you see it as an artist?
I don’t know if this makes sense to the Greek people… I feel more like a car salesman these days. Like I’m selling a product. Back in the day, it was more of an artistic thing. You put your music out there and you relate to the fans. But now you constantly have to just be selling things. And you have to have these social media presents and you have to constantly be selling yourself. And as I just said, I don’t like that. I feel very uncomfortable putting myself out there. I don’t have Facebook, I don’t have Twitter, I don’t have any of that stuff. But it seems that’s where the industry is going. Because sales are so much down they have to find other means to get the name out there. And there’s constantly: ‘You’ve got to get out! You’ve got to tweet something! You’ve got to put it on your Facebook!’ To me, it’s all just shit, I don’t like any of it.
Speaking about changes, this was the first Fates Warning album with InsideOut. Do the guys do anything different? Do they push you that way?
We have a really good relationship with InsideOut, we have a really good relationship with Metal Blade. In fact, O.S.I. was on InsideOut and we switched to Metal Blade. Fates was on Metal Blade and we switched to InsideOut. So it’s really not different for me. We have great connections with both labels. But InsideOut and Century Media are doing a great job so far.
As we approach the end of this interview, I would like you to name five albums you’ve been listening to lately.
It’s always hard. The number one record I’ve been listening to every single day on this tour is by a band called City And Colour.
Oh yeah, they released an album this year.
Yeah, a new one but the one I’m listening to is “Bring Me Your Love”. Every day I listen to that on the road. Also, the last Bon Iver record… So that’s the kind of stuff I listen to, really.
I must say I like a lot both of them.
I listen to them back to back, every day. Especially when we’re driving. Just looking out at the scenery…
Bon Iver are great for travelling. Very moody…
Yes… The song “Holocene” is so beautiful.
And what a video…
Oh the video is amazing! That’s how I first heard them. I love that video! There are also some old stuff. Tangerine Dream… I listen to them all the time. “Phaedra”.
So there you go, there’s three. Now I try to think what’s on my ipod. I flip through it… I’m drawn blank right now, sorry.
No problem, it’s ok. Lastly, I’d like to point out that you are one of the bands that Greeks like a lot. You surely have noticed it…
Of course I have. This is my favorite place in the world to play. Absolutely. I love the Greek fans. I love the passion of the Greek fans.
There are some bands that we’ve got in our hearts and Fates Warning are among them.
I understand. Believe me, I understand. This is the high spot in every tour. Not only for me but for everyone in the band. Whenever we see Greece is going to be on the tour or whenever we have the chance to come here, it’s exciting for us. It feels like home. This is a much better response than we get anywhere in the States. I love it here. I love it here for vacation. I love it here for playing.
We also love having you here.
So I won’t keep you anymore. Go to rest or to party or whatever. Thanks for the interview and the show.
Thank you Manos. Hope to be back soon