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Jim Matheos (Fates Warning)

Interview with Jim Matheos from Fates Warning
by Alex Z. at 10 December 2007, 12:45 PM

A few hours before FATES WARNING's brilliant live performance, we got ourselves the precious chance to have a nice face-to-face conversation with the veteran progsters' leader, Jim Matheos. Here's what we found out…

So, Jim, you’re going to be playing another live gig tonight… Are you up for it?

Oh yeah, I’m excited! We’re all excited to be here, playing in Athens!

Do you like Athens?

Obviously, I wanna move here(laughs)!

You want to move here?

I love it here, yeah!

Any moves or plans in that direction?

No, not yet…

Best places to play as the leader of FATES WARNING… Which would they be?

Here! Athens, absolutely…!

…which is underlined by the recently released live DVD you recorded in Athens. Energy-wise, did those gigs end up as good as you expected them to?

I was a little disappointed in the camera work, to tell you the truth… I think we played good… Ray \[Alder] and I were both sick that night, but I was pretty happy with it… I don’t like the final edit of it, I don’t think the camera work is so good, the close ups, you know, technically speaking, but the crowd was absolutely as expected, they were great, fantastic!

Nice to know that… How did the market respond to that release?

It was good, it did really well…

What is FATES WARNING’s current status? Are you working on new stuff?

(laughs and then mumbles, slightly disappointed)…Everybody asks that…

If you don’t feel like it, I’ve got other questions, we can proceed…

No, no, no it’s ok, it’s just that I don’t have a simple answer for it… There really is no current status, we’re touring… And Ray and I are discussing whether we wanna do another record or not… We’re gonna see, you know, we don’t really know at this point.

So, you’re facing not doing another record as a serious possibility?

We really haven’t thought of… We haven’t said well, maybe we’re not gonna do another record, we just haven’t sat down and say ok, let’s do it now, because he is doing REDEMPTION, and I am doing OSI, and we are touring, we don’t really have anything scheduled.

Can Bobby Jarzombek be considered as your ’permanent’ drummer at this point?

We’re not gonna really get a permanent drummer. I think that Bobby’s worked out amazing and whenever he is available and we’re doing something, we want him to do it, but I don’t see us at this point of our career hiring somebody as a new member of FATES WARNING. I think it’s gonna remain Ray and I…

Is that decision related to a sense of commitment to Mark Zonder, or should it be seen as something separate, more technical?

I think it’s just.. It’s been Ray and I and Mark for so long, it’s hard to bring in a new member… I don’t know, I don’t see the benefit, or the difference of saying ok, you’re a member of the band or we’re just gonna use you whenever we do a record or tour. There’s really no difference, it’s not like they’re gonna share all the profits we make, because we don’t make a lot of profits, right? And if they are not part of the band then it’s easier for them to do other things, to make a living on the side.

Let’s go to something different that maybe you’ll find a bit irritating… Back in the ?’s MAIDEN, PRIEST and all these metal heroes had really taken over, and FATES early releases seem to be heavily influenced by that kind of sound. Of course you moved on to employ different approaches to music, but, my question is, does that kind of music mean anything to you now? Does it disturb you? To what extent can you still enjoy it?

Hmm… Not their newer stuff, but the stuff that I listened to when I was younger, you know, all of the bands that influenced me a lot, that I can still listen to occasionally, and really be into it and get some inspiration from it. Not a lot, I don’t listen to old stuff a lot…

…But you don’t find it disturbing.

No, why would I find it disturbing? How so?

There are lots of prog-people that, once they make their leap into other genres of music, they become snobbish of…

Ah, I see what you’re saying… Well, no, I mean it meant so much to me then… Again, I wouldn’t say that we’re huge fans of the newer stuff they’ve done.

You find it to be a bit of recycling?

I guess it’s just that I don’t like that style of music that much anymore. …But their earlier stuff had such an influence on me, it’s like going back when you were still a child, I can still listen to Killers or ?umber Of The Beast and say man, that’s an amazing record, they were breaking new ground at that point. The same thing with PRIEST, Sad Wings Of Destiny it’s been, you know…

And maybe this older stuff also reminds you of things you were experiencing at the time…

Exactly… I think it’s the same thing with FATES fans who listen to ?waken The Guardian or ?? ?xit, any of those… There is a lot more to it than just the music. It’s where you were at at that time, where you were at in your life that makes an impression on you, it’s not just the music, I mean, you could put out Number Of The Beast right now and it will be like puff… this just sounds like metal, but, you know, when it came out when it did it was amazing to me, and I still have those reflections when I listen to it.

Do you agree with the way modern records are produced sound-wise? The over-compression…

…Yeah, they are a little loud, I think they’re too loud nowadays… The dynamics are being hurt by that, but there’s good quality too. They are a lot clearer, a lot less of noise on them… Overall, I’d say I like the modern production sound.

Does the passing of time scare you?

(hesitates a little)

I mean, if we take a look at most of your lyrics…

Yeah, I know, it’s been a recurrent theme for a long time. I think that when you’re writing, sadness as an expression is easier to put forth than any kind of joy that you have, when I wanna write, it’s what I’m feeling, it’s not that I’m like that 24 hours a day, 365 days a year… I’m not afraid of it \[the passing of time], I think I think about it a lot. It’s there.

In Nothing Left To Say we get the line And behind the disguise / of a man with a cause / there’s a child screaming / with nothing left to say. Do you ever feel that scream in you?

Yeah… Yeah, I’ve been hearing it since, you know, it’s that fear of not having anything else to say writing-wise for me, it’s on that record and obviously those records after that…

One can express himself through music. At the same time, one can connect to others using music as a means to express them, be their voice. Have these two options raised any contradictions during your many years in the business?

Yeah, there’s always been that, but it doesn’t affect me.

Don’t you feel it as a burden?

No, not at all.

Who do you think are threatened more by the widespread file-sharing? Record companies or the artists themselves?

That’s a good question… I think both of them are doomed aren’t they…? The way things are going… I guess record companies, really, but it’s no walk in the park for the artist either. It’s a very tough environment.

What about all the possibilities the internet can give an artist to promote his work without the need of…

(surprisingly surprised) Without a record company?

…Yes, without a record company helping with, or, maybe, controlling his output.

Well, we’ve never had problem with control. We’ve had freedom the whole time we’ve been doing it, thus the record company has been mostly a positive thing for us. They’ve allowed us to tour, when we wouldn’t have been able to tour, they’ve allowed us to put out records that we wouldn’t have been able to put out… I don’t really have a bad relationship with record companies, I can see how some people would with a controlling type of record company, we’ve never had that problem. I’m glad that I’m not really on to starting a band right now, ’cause I think it’s a lot more difficult nowadays than it was when we started.

 \[my time was up, and Jim took a quick read through my remaining questions. Having politely refused to discuss non-music topics such as earth’s severely endangered environment  (I’d like to know that about people I listen to, but I just don’t feel comfortable answering, i’ll only deal with music he said) he stopped at my very last multiple choice question:] I-Pod, CD or LP?

One of the first two options, definitely.


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