Fates Warning, one of the best progressive metal bands, was formed in Hartford in 1983. Their early works like “Night on Brocken” (1984) or “The Spectre Within” (1985) are not really my cup of tea, but as from “No Exit”, where singer Ray Alder joined the band, I was a fan. Their best album still is their concept album from 1997 “A Pleasant Shade Of Gray” and their last CD “FWX” – which was a bit disappointing – was released almost 4 years ago…

Before the show in Weert I had the chance to talk to Ray and Jim and I must say that they were not really very talkative….. Rather cranky actually……. But anyway this is what they said.

So, you guys, almost 4 years of silence, what’s going on with FW nowadays?

“Well, it’s less than 4 years actually; we were kind of busy with lots of side projects like Redemption and other stuff, so…. In fact as we get older it is getting harder to write new stuff and do more records. We are not 20 anymore and it gets harder and harder to write new songs.”

When is the new album due, according to Metal Blade you will release a new CD next year…..

“Then they know more than we do….. We have absolutely no plans right now.”

Also no ideas?

“We have lots of new ideas but we have not really decided yet what and when we are going to do something. We are still discussing this, so you and the fans will have to be a little bit more patient.”

So, Mark (Zonder, drums, MK) has definitely left the band.

“Yeah, pretty much so, he wanted to do other things and we were ok with that.”

His replacement is…..

“On the tour Bobby Jarzombek will be behind the drum kit. But we will not have a permanent drummer, I guess as really good ones are hard to find. Our FW trio is functioning fine at the moment, so.. And as we only do a record every 4 years and we do not tour that much, it is hard to say to a drummer, all right you are in this band now. In fact, I do not know what that means, saying that you are in this band…..”

Is it not difficult to work like that, every time with a new drummer?

“No, if you get someone like Bobby, he is such a pro. He writes all the stuff out and rehearses the songs and that is just a matter of time, so no problems there.”

So, the tour with Nick from Spock’s Beard was a one time experience?

“Yes. It was great experience tough; Nick is such a great drummer. But he could not play with us on this tour as he has other things to do with Spock’s Beard. This is totally under stable of course as he has no commitments to us. He was really too busy, so we looked for someone else and then Bobby came along….”

Could you tell something more about your side projects?

“Well, we have got our hands full with them.”

Engine? Redemption?

“Engine is kaput, but Redemption is another story as I do not write stuff for that project. Both projects were really nice to do actually.”

Well, here’s the obvious question again, why did FW always stay an underground cult band as Dream Theater seems to have made it….

“We get asked this question all the time indeed, ha ha… They are very consistent, they make records on a regular basis, I do not know. We are two different bands as DT was never a comparison for us. But if you ask me why they have “made” it, I really would not know. People like them better than us, ha ha …… That is obviously true because they sell much more records than we do. Maybe there is a sort of mass appeal for Dream Theater, who knows?”

How is the prog metal scene in the USA nowadays?

 “I would not know, I hate prog metal, ha ha..."

All right, what is your favourite FW album?

“Pleasant Shade”, I can still listen to that one. “Parallels” is also rather good actually… We always made albums that we wanted to; there was never any pressure from the record company. Metal Blade does not interfere with our music.”

Don’t you miss a keyboard player in the band, especially if you play songs from PSOG?

 “Well, I am really happy with our line up, but I sometimes miss those keys, yes I do.”

Have you ever considered composing some radio friendly stuff to “sell” more records?

“I think that Parallels is kind of radio friendly although it is almost never on the radio….”

How do you guys feel about downloading music?

“It is stealing, I hate it. But you can do nothing about it, there is no stopping it. Record companies can also do almost nothing because you can not compete with free!! Look at the Radiohead experiment, they offered their new album on the internet for free or you could pay for it, which you think it is worth. Well, almost 80% paid nothing for the album, so there you go! Records companies are getting scared, they are dropping off. The music business is very hard nowadays; new bands almost stand no chance.”

Interview by Martien Koolen
(c) 2007 RockUnited.Com, 14 Dec