Ron Jarzombek interview with Cesar Fuentes Rodriguez

1. Why did you decide to start with your new project Spastic Ink? Is it a band or just a short-term project?

Bobby and I started Spastic Ink because it was an opportunity to write some wild music and have no boundaries on what we could do. I was also frustrated with the musical direction of WatchTower. I had just recovered from having hand problems, and wanted to do some serious playing.

Spastic Ink started as a project, developed into a band, and is now a project. I haven't talked to Bobby or Pete in a few months. They both rejoined RIOT, because they were put on salary. Bobby got tired of gigging with local bands and teaching so he's doing something else to support himself. Right now, I'm writing material for the next CD on my own. Bobby will come back into town after RIOT does some recording and touring, and we'll see what happens.

2. There were some recent line-up changes, please talk about that. Jason McMaster is in, so you are not doing a whole instrumental album?

Pete Perez (bass) is definitely out, due to several reasons - musically and personally. Sean Malone will play bass on the next CD. His latest solo album "Cortlandt" is smokin'. Jason and I were trying get the WatchTower thing going again and some people weren't cooperating. I wanted to have him sing on the next project that I did, so when the Tower "Mathematics" project fell apart, I asked him if he wanted to sing on the next Ink. There might be a few instrumental songs, but I have a strong concept in mind for the whole record and I need vocals for it to work. The next Ink CD will be based on computers, and will be (tentatively) called "Ink Compatible".

3. Why did the brief attempt to finish up "Mathematics" fall apart? Will there ever be a new Watchtower record? Do you feel frustrated about it?

Yeah, very frustrated! Rick and Doug said that they were too busy with work, family, etc... I guess they've just moved on with their lives. We were trying to write a few new songs, and sift through what we had written. I began writing and recording new tunes, emailing files, mailing tapes, the whole shit..., but nobody else lifted a finger. I don't know if we'll ever finish it. I don't really see it.

What really pissed me off was the fact that we all agreed that it was a great idea to finish up the record, but when it came down to actually doing something about it, nothing was happening.

4. What happened all these years, after the release of "Control And Resistance? Do you think that album and the previous one were ahead of their time?

I don't think either album "Control" or "Energetic" was ahead of their time. If anything, they were behind, because a lot of the progressive stuff was accepted years before that - Rush, Yes, Genesis, etc... I think what "happened" all these years, is everybody continued living their lives, and some people are taking a different direction. I'm still teaching music 6 days a week, Rick and Doug have pretty good jobs in Austin. I had severe hand problems and couldn't play for about two and a half years. Rick and Doug joined a funk/rap band called Retarted Elf (I guess to have a musical outlet).

5. How would you define the music of Spastic Ink?

It's somewhat of a controlled WatchTower, without vocals. A little more technical, and a lot more adventurous. I think what's cool about "Ink Complete" is that all of the songs are different. I don't mind the label "progressive metal", although a few setions on the CD take a different direction.

6. Are there any plans of hitting the road with Spastic Ink?

No, right now it's a project. Everybody is doing different things, and arranging some kind of tour would be too expensive. If it was supported, I'd think about it. WatchTower had a great time in Europe on the "Control" tour. I wouldn't mind doing that again. I've received so much email from Europe. It would be cool to meet some of the people who I've had internet contact with.

7. Is it true that some of the stuff was inspired by cartoons?

Oh yeah, there's a song called "A Morning with Squeakie" which is the music for a cartoon about a squirrel in a park. I listen to Carl Stalling (Bugs Bunny) quite a bit, and transcribe his stuff and analyze it.

8. How do you see the music scene nowadays?

It's awful. I wish rap would die. It's destroying music. I've noticed that a lot of bands that split up years and years ago are reforming because there are no decent new bands. It all comes down to the listener. If they keep buying rap albums, then the music industry will keep putting out product aimed at that market.

9. What are your goals as a musician and an artist? How important is technique and creativity for you?

Creativity is the whole thing, that's how you express yourself. Technique is important because it shows well you know your craft. My goals as a musician are to get out everything I can as a writer, and try to perform to the best of my abilities. I really wish I could stop teaching, and support myself by writing or performing.

10. Are you still into metal? Is Spastic Ink a metal band in your opinion?

Some of the songs are "metal". I think the next CD will be a bit heavier than "Ink Complete". I've got some feedback on the CD, and more popular songs are the heavier ones - "Data Race", "Mosquito", "Baking Shuffle". They are also my favorites, so that's what I'm going for. I am still into metal, I just wish they were more bands out there. I'm not into the death metal trip, or the low barking vocalists.

11. Your brother returned to Riot for the "Inishmore" album, is he still in Spastic Ink anyway?

We'll see what happens when RIOT gets done with the recordings and touring. Right now, I'm writing the drum parts on computer. I did quite a bit of drum machine stuff on "Ink Complete", then Bobby took what I wrote and did his thing with it. One of the cool things about "Ink Complete" was how the songs were written. Bobby and I had a great time writing that shit, but I'm not going to stop my life because he wants to play burned out '80s metal.

12. Is it true that you build your guitars yourself?, when did you start and how?

My dad got me going on the wood working. I guess I was 10 years old when I started using a jigsaw. I remember building bird houses. Several of my guitars are up on the web page ( It's just easier for me to build a guitar from scratch, than to get something at a music store and carve it up.

13. I have the S.A. Slayer record, how did you get involved with that band? Is it true that you had to change the name not to be confused with Slayer?

My brothers and I (Bobby, and an older brother) used to gig at the same clubs where Bob Catlin's old band (Blizzard) used to play. We became good friends. Bob formed Slayer (S.A.) about a year later, and when they were having problems with their guitarist, he called me up.

Slayer (L.A.) was about to sue us if we didn't change the name. We did a gig with them in San Antonio. It was billed "Slayer vs. Slayer", what a great show. I remember them coming into town, sitting backstage with Dave Lombardo. They were so organized compared to us. Dave was bitching "Your lightman doesn't even know your songs!!!". I told him "We have a lightman?, when did we get a lightman?!!!"

14. What's your opinion on the "guitar virtuoso" solo stuff that was so popular in the eighties? Do you consider yourself a guitar virtuoso?

You have to admire those virtuosos to a degree, but to me, it all sounds the same. They're all going for the same thing - the neoclassical trip. They were all top notch guitarists, but I'd rather listen to something a bit more interesting. I don't consider myself a guitar virtuoso, mainly because I feel my writing is an important part of what I do. Usually, all of those eighties "virtuosos" could solo their ass off, but their writing was just chords in the background. I also like interacting with the other musicians in the band, verses just soloing all day. Just about all of the bands that I grew up with had very strong "rhythm sections". I always worshipped how Geddy and Neil worked out parts.

15. What bands are you listening today?

The only bands currently out that I listen to are Dream Theater and Pantera. I mostly listen to filmscores. My favorite right now is "Flubber" and "Men In Black" by Danny Elfman. Elliot Goldenthal is amazing. If I want to listen to "band" stuff, I pull out my old Rush, UK, and Yes albums.

16. You were tempted to be part of Fates Warning once, am I right? What happened? Did any other bands offered you to join them?

Jim Matheos and I were talking for a while. I sent him a few tapes and he seemed to like what I was doing. I couldn't fly up to audition, mainly because at that time I didn't have the money, and I think my amp was blown up. They found Frank Aresti who fit in very well, a lot better than I think I would have. I haven't got any offers to join any other bands, although I am currently doing a few other project - a track on David Bagsby's upcoming Raymond Scott tribute CD, and a few songs on Sean Malone's next solo record.

17. You always wrote very complicated music, do you write it on paper? Are you working with computers nowadays?

Yeah, Bobby and I wrote just about everything out on paper, that was how we communicated. I sometimes come up with a music section on paper before I play one note on a instrument. "Suspended On All Fours" was written that way. I am doing a lot of that for the next record.

Before I decided to do another Spastic Ink record, I was writing almost strictly on computer, working on filmscore stuff. Guitar was just one of the instruments. The drag about writing on computer is that you are away from your instrument.

18. Any words for your fans in Argentina?

Yeah, get the damn Ink CD!!! If you want to listen to something that will knock your socks off, get it. But have a couple of aspirin around, just in case.

Also, thanks to any fans that are supporting progressive music.

Return to title page