Spastic Ink - Ink Complete
Review and interview by Asgeir Mickelson, SCREAM magazine, Norway

What is 'techno metal'? The answer is simple: Some bands plays so complex music the description 'progressive metal' isn't enough to cover the band. That's when a band plays 'techo metal'. The meaning of 'progressive metal' has become so - excuse the language - fucked up and used so wrong during the last couple of years that any bands that doesn't play 100% straight forward now easily get categorized as a band within that genre. Dream Theater has undoubtedly set the standard for the genre, and they shall have every honour for clearing the way. They are known for the progressive, yet commercial music, but in the more extreme landscape you'll find bands such as Cynic and WatchTower. Both super-superb bands, but - sad to say - they exist not anymore. Despair not! There is hope! In the ruins of Cynic you'll find Ever, and from the ashes of WatchTower you'll find the excellent band Spastic Ink. Guitarist Ron Jarzombek has continued the hypertechnical music in this new band and they just released their debut-album "Ink Complete".

1. Is Spastic Ink a band? I ask this question as while there's no problem recognizing you from the WatchTower days, the superb efforts of your brother and Perez is more of a pleasant surprise considering what we've heard from them previously. So, is the CD composed with the band Spastic Ink in mind? Or is there things originally written for the WatchTower's never to be third release?

That's a great question. When I started to play again after my hand surgeries, I was writing anything that popped in my head, not really thinking about what it was for. I started driving up to Austin again for Tower rehearsals while Bobby and I were talking about getting something going. I remember writing tunes and not knowing whether to bring the tune in to Bobby (Spastic Ink) or Rick and Doug (WatchTower). WatchTower was heading in a different musical direction and it seemed that the wild, off the wall extreme stuff wasn't fitting in. I can remember bringing in tunes that had worked for Ink and when Tower tried to play the same tune, it was butchered. Tower was always freeform, somewhat hit or miss, and hope it works. The first tune I brought to Bobby he wrote out six different drum parts for it. I flipped out that I got so much feedback off of one small part, that I realized this was something to go for. Since our schedules conflicted we wrote through sheet music and cassette tapes. It was different than how Tower wrote, so much more organized and structured. Parts that were written were actually being played. Bobby and I write extremely well together, I guess it's some brother thing or something, I don't know. Bobby was always restricted to heavy metal double bass drumming stuff with Riot, and I'm sure it was getting old. Pete never could show what he was capable of with Riot.

2. When was the CD released? Any new tunes or re-recordings since your two demos? Which label and what kind of distribution does it have?

When we finished recording the last seven songs, that was it. We sent out copies to labels, managements, etc. and got the never ending "This is cool stuff, and great playing, but I don't think there is a market for this kind of music". I think if the CD was released when it was completed (instead of shopping it for two years), we'd probably be releasing the second one right now. I'd like to do another Ink record, but I think this time I would have Jason McMaster (former Tower vocalist) do some vocals if he was into it. I thought about having him add something to what Ink already had, but it would mean reworking the entire songs and ruining them. They just were not written for vocals. We even sent copies to GRP and Relativity (instrumental labels) and they said they were only taking in alternative and hip-hop. I really didn't know who to send it to, or how. At that point I practically gave up and called up Chris (Leibundgut) and told him to forget about anything in the States. You have to remember that all of my contacts from WatchTower were gone. The CD was supposed to be out in early January, but some distribution problem happened. It finally was released in Europe in April, a month after that in the U.S. If it wasn't for Ole Bregfleth at Dream Circle, I don't think it ever would have been released. The distribution is through Intercord.

3. Are there any plans of hitting the road with Spastic Ink? Are any of you guys doing clinics?

I think it would be cool doing a tour. We'll have to see how the CD does. I think it would be difficult working the crowd without a frontman. I always had Jason or Alan up there, and I'd have to adjust to being the focal point. With Tower, it was nuts. We were always chasing each other around onstage, falling down and shit, and it would be the same with Ink. I think it would be funny making up stupid stories about what the songs were about, since they are instrumental. "This one's about when I take a shower with my rubber ducky, it's called A Morning With Squeakie". I'd like to do clinics, but right now I'm just teaching. I've been teaching music / guitar for over 12 years and have tons of ideas for clinics.

4. Your demos are awesome - what kind of reactions have you got from it? How has the response been from record labels?

Just about everyone who has given the Ink stuff a listen, can relate to it. They might not totally understand it, but they find it interesting. Of course it goes over a lot of people's heads. I appreciate it when people say something other that "Great musicianship". I'm tired of that. That's all WatchTower ever got. "Control and Resistance" has some good songs on it. It's not just good playing. Check out "Mosquito Brain Surgery" on the Ink CD. If you think the playing is great, forget about it, and just listen to the song. I think it's cool that people are reading the CD write-ups on the Ink tunes and trying to figure things out. Some people actually listen to "A Morning With Squeakie" and can fit the music with the story. The reason the CD took so long to be released is that labels aren't into instrumental stuff. We had planned to rerecord the whole thing in a real recording studio, but it didn't happen. I just got an ADAT, cleaned everything up, and remixed it.

5. The Thumper Impersonation is strange listening to it. In what way does it relate to the Disney - I guess classic - Bambi movie? My last viewing of the movie in question is like 20 years back in time, so a couple of details may be somewhat clouded... Are there musical themes from the film which are being interpreted? Or is the music in any way syncronized with the events as they occur in the film? Just asking...

Yeah. You should listen to "The Thumper Impersonation" / "A Wild Hare" (depending on which version you have) several times, and then pop in the movie "Bambi". The double bass drum intro is when Thumper comes out and stomps his foot repeatedly. I counted every stomp and that is how we play it. I transcribed every line that Thumper says in the film and am playing them on the right channel, (coughs, sniff, laughs, etc...) About 95% of it could be synced up to the movie. In other words if it was done live, there could be a screen behind us playing the film with Thumper talking and I would be playing along with him, (Very similar to how Steve Vai plays all with Frank Zappa on "The Dangerous Kitchen" or with the chick on "I'm So Happy" from Flexable. It would be an extreme edited version of Bambi, because "A Wild Hare" only has the parts of the film that contain Thumper. The most obvious comparison to the movie is the ice skating part. We play the melodies in the film note for note. (check out the attached wav files)

6. Somewhere (a guitar magazine?) I read that you were inspired by cartoon music. Can you please elaborate?

I listen to cartoon music and filmscore stuff for ideas and inspiration. Right now I'm doing computer stuff with violins and other orchestral instruments. I guess it sounds like Spastic Ink meets Danny Elfman meets Carl Stalling. There is so much more music involved with that stuff versus a guitar, bass, and drums instrumentation. The magazine was probably Guitar World.

7. For all of us sitting for years waiting for the follow-up to the amazing album Control And Resistance by WatchTower. How near did you get to a third release? Will there ever be a new WatchTower record?

The next record was going to be titled "Mathematics". We have over an hour worth of music, but no lyrics. I stopped driving to Austin for reheasals and writing when we had enough for another release. We never got a vocalist after Alan left. I called up Jason and he said he would check out the new tunes but they never were completed on 4 track. Rick laid down his parts, I then finished mine. I took the tapes back to Austin to be completed and that was it, I don't know what happened to them. And so we have 11 songs written and floating around somewhere on tape. Jason can't listen to the tunes because we can't give him a tape. For WatchTower to release the third recording, we would have to find new management, label, booking, etc... We lost all of that because of my long layoff with my hand surgeries, and during that time Rick and Doug started doing different things. I don't know if there will be another release, I don't have anything against it. I would like to have something to show for all the work we did writing those songs.

8. I think that Control And Resistance was about 8-10 years ahead of it's time. How do you feel about this? Do you agree?

I'm so frustrated with how music these days is. In the U.S. the number one form of music doesn't have melodies. The "rock and roll" musician guys couldn't play their instruments to save their lives. If anything "Control And Resistance" was 10 years late because back then, there were more forms of music that were accepted. A lot of the progressive bands were happening - Rush; Yes; King Crimson; Lake and Palmer; Genesis; Queen; etc..

9. It was extremely technical and not exactly easy listening. It seems people are still discovering this album, and I guess the WatchTower name will follow you forever. Has the interest for this band ever died.

It's pretty amazing that people still remember "Control". When we were doing the whole Control And Resistance touring, promotions and stuff, it was cool. Europe was awesome. I still wish Jason could redo the vocals on that album.

10. Finally, do you in any way keep in touch with your old band mates in WT? What are they doing now? Have you heard any music from them?

I just saw Doug and Rick last week with Retarted Elf, in San Antonio. It's a rap funk thing. If you want to call rap music, then yes I've heard music from them. Even though I hate rap, they put on a great show. The only time I talk to them is when we talk on the phone about computer stuff. They live in Austin and I'm in San Antonio, so it's not like our paths cross. I might ask what's going on with Elf, or Doug may ask when is the Ink CD going to be released, but that's about it. I stood in Rick's wedding last year. Alan calls me every 6 months or so, just to say Hi and see what's up. I talked to Jason a few weeks ago and sent him a tape of some of my progressive metal/computer/filmscore/cartoon/Ink stuff to see if he wanted to maybe do some vocals. I'm hoping that will happen.

11. What kind of music have you been listening to lately? A personal tip - check out Cynic.

I'm still listening to filmscore stuff and Bugs Bunny cartoons. I'll check out Cynic. When I get time I'm going to download some Cynic and Psychotic Waltz files off the net.

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