Yeah, thanks for the invite!
That dial-up connection shows you right there how long the CD was in the works. LOL. That was back in the day before cable and DSL came into the picture. Whenever I'd dial in to the internet, my US Robotics modem would make the "dial-in" noises, and after hearing it hundreds of time, I noticed that there was some sort of a groove to it. Sure enough, I whipped out my metronome and figured out that the tempo was at 132 BPM. Then I transcribed what pitches were there, and thought it would be cool if we actually "played" it on instruments. On some of the parts, I had to just make up pitches because nothing was there but clicking or buzzing. And so the song starts with the modem first dialing, then we play it. At first, I was going to put the modem on the left channel, and the band on the right playing this litle tune simultaneously, but it flowed better with the parts played separate, then going into the song. Maybe on the next pressing of "Ink Compatible" I should have the band and the modem playing it at the same time.
2. In the new album you have some additional vocal contribution by Jason McMaster. How is the whole atmosphere of working together and is his position as the Spastic Inkís singer temporary or permanent?
That's a tricky question because even though having a singer does appeal to a wider audience, you have your die hard fans who want you to be instrumental. The first Spastic Ink CD was all instrumental, and so that's what the fans expected o the 2nd CD. Although I think a bit of a twist or a change is a very cool thing. And on "Ink Compatible" there had to be vocals to get across what I was going for. The ideas that I have for another Spastic Ink CD could have vocals, but it also could be something that we could do just with instruments. There are lots of cool words to play off of the "Ink/Inc" concept, like "Ink Combustible", "Ink Coherent", "Ink. Of course there won't be that many more Spastic Ink CDs , so I was thinking of having the "Ink ???" as the titles of the songs, rather than the "Ink ????" as the title of the CD. Although if we did that, I don't know what the CD would be titled. But if there is going to be another Spastic Ink CD, it will only be 3 or 4 players. I'm not going to try to put someting together like I did for "Ink Compatible", then try to find players to pull it off. If Bobby and Pete can find time to do another CD, then that would be great.
3. Another thing is that in ďInk CompatibleĒ you have a majority of great musicians that youíve worked together to produce the material. How difficult is it to work with other great musicians and produce something so technical?
Actually, it was a bite in the ass. Trying to find people who could pull it off was very difficult. But once I weeded through all of the people who either bailed on me, or didnít work out for whatever reasons, I got to collaborate with some great players and really cool people. I wish Bobby, Pete, Jason and I could have done the whole CD, but with everybody's schedule, it couldn't be done. I wrote the CD myself because Bobby was still in Riot in New York, and he was touring and recording. It took me about a year and a half to write all of the songs, then Bobby landed the Rob Halford gig. So he was in town for a while and recorded "Aquanet", "Little Bit", Melissa" and "Multi-Masking". After that, he was gone for about a year or so recording and touring, then he came back and recorded "Memory" and "Mouse". During the time that he was gone, I found Dave Penna, who recorded the drums on "Read Me" and "Nerds". Pete was living in New York for a while and I was struggling to get any bass tracks recorded. And so I was looking for players for years to get tracks recorded. It all turned out great, but I wish it would have just been the 4 of us recording. Sometimes I feel that with all of the "guests", it takes away from the "band" vibe. But under the circumstances, there was very little I could do about it.
All of the guests got me some killer tracks. Some of them knocked my socks off. Jeff Eber is a kid in his early 20s and he shreds on ACRONYM. Dave Bagsby's synth solo gave me goose bumps the first time I heard it. I was so thrilled that I actually got Jens Johansson to record 2 solos. I had known about his playing since he was dueling solos with Yngwie. Jimmy Pitts is a speed demon on keys. Michael Manring wrote and played a beautiful, melodic fretless solo. Doug Keyser and Ray Riendeau both followed the wacky timing on their tracks with no problems whatsoever. And of course Jason and Daniel both took my simple vocal melodies, added cool harmonies, and brought them to life.
What's kinda funny about the guests is several of them I've never met. Two of them I've never even talked to! I did a lot of communicating through the internet with audio attachments.
4. Tell me one of your most enjoyable moments in recording the album?
Probably making friends along the way. Also, finally putting the songs together after I received tracks from guests. Some of the songs were just sitting there for over a year before anymore tracks were recorded. On most of the songs, I had recorded the rhythm tracks, then didn't record the solos until maybe 2 years later. On the songs that Bobby first recorded, I immediately tracked the rhythms, but didn't get to the solos until it seemed like the songs was coming together. As a matter of fact, I wrote and recorded my solo CD "Solitarily Speaking Of Theoretical Confinement" in between recording the rhythms and solos on those songs. And the solo CD took a bit over a year put together. Usually, when you record, there is waiting around for other tracks to be completed before you get a good idea of what the material will sound like. But on this it was years before some of the tracks came together. And what was really exciting was when I found Jeff Eber, who recorded the drum tracks for ACRONYM. When that happened, I realized that completing the CD was right around the corner.
5. One of the guest musicians is Marty Friedman. How well do you know each other and is there any possibility in seeing together in an album as Friedman-Jarzombek duo?
In September of '03, Marty and did several shows together for his solo CDs. I send him a copy of my solo CD "Solitarily Speaking", and told him to give me a shot if he needed a 2nd guitarist for any performances. Sure enough, he liked the CD and got in touch with me when he as setting up a quick west coast tour with Alex Skolnick (Testament) and Chris Poland (Megadeth, Ohm). We also did a gig in at a Baltimore music festival a few months ago. I don't know if anything else will happen. Marty is doing quite well playing with major acts in Japan, and I don't think he feels a need to come over here and put something else together. We email back and forth maybe every month or so. He is working on outside material but I have no idea what his up to. It would very cool if we could put some heavy, progressive Friedman/Jarzombek project together. That's what I was hoping would happen after the west coast gigs, but that was pretty much the end of it.
6. Since this is our first interview I would like you to tell us how this whole thing with Spastic Ink first started? Was there any additional collaboration with other musicians who during the period of time changed their mind in working together?
Spastic Ink started writing our first CD together way back in '94. We finished putting together a full CD a few years later, but didn't release anything because we didn't have any contacts. This was before any of us were on the net, so we were very limited with options. In '97, Dream Circle records finally released "Ink Complete" and a few years later, we pressed up our own copies under the labels "Eclectic Electric" and "Mr. Kitty". This first CD was all instrumental, featuring my brother Bobby on drums, Pete Perez on bass, and me on guitar. My brother and I wrote the material and I'd say that the music was more "experimental" back then. After receiving killer reviews for the CD, I really wanted to write and record another CD, but Bobby and Pete were busy recording and touring with Riot. You have to remember that at least 2 years had passed since we first recorded the material for the first CD. I was still working with WatchTower, and so I was the only one still in town. So I began writing the material for the next Spastic Ink CD, but didn't really have the players that were in place for "Ink Complete". That's when all of the guests came in to play. This was the beginning of a headache that didn't go away until I found Jeff Eber to record the final drum tracks. And yes, there were lots of players that I was talking to. I got so tired of running off music sheets and CD-Rs for players only to find out that I was dealing with a bunch of flakes. Over and over. There were a few players that really waned to play on the CD, and gave it their best shot, but couldn't pull off the material. It got so bad that I gave up halfway through and put together my solo CD "Solitarily Speaking..." right in the middle of it. And that took over a year to do. So that puts into perspective how long "Ink Compatible" was in the works.
7. Describe the musical relationship between you and your brother Bobby. Did you compose music as kids and if yes is there any material available?
Bobby and I did our first gig together at a talent show at our school when we were in the 4th and 5th grade. We played the old TV show theme song for Hawaii 50. We put together a few bands with our older brother and later, a friend from high school. We played lots of bars in San Antonio under the name Tarrot, but never did anything else. We had a few originals, but it was mostly covers by Rush, Scorpions, UFO, AC/DC, etc... Eventually, that ran it's course, and I eventually joined S.A.Slayer, and Bobby joined Juggernaut. We also did a two-song recording under the name "Happy Kitties". Years later, Bobby hooked up with Riot, and I found myself in WatchTower. It was nearly a decade later that we got together to start writing the material that became "Ink Complete". We had also jammed on Rush songs with Pete when we were kids, but never did any gigs. I wish Bobby and I could keep working together but he's in California right now, and who knows long he'll be there. It also seems that he's in a bit of a different place musically too. I seem to stay pretty much with the progressive side of things, and he's moved on to other things.
8. Your music is too technical and rather too progressive! How do this ideas pop up into your head? How these ideas are reproduced into a musical theme while rehearsing and what is your source of inspiration?
Most of the time I write tunes when I donít have a guitar in my hand. I do a lot of working out note and theoretical patterns on paper, then apply them to rhythms and you get a musical tune. I think up a lot of music when Iím driving, taking a shower, eating, etcÖ Then I pick up my guitar and figure out what I was thinking. I have a few of those audio recorders and I sometimes hum out the part, or tap out a rhythmic pattern.
As far as writing music thatís too technical or progressive, I usually donít attempt to write anything technical, it just comes out that way. If a pattern of notes, or a phrase happens to take up 5 counts, then the measure will be 5/4 or 5/8. If it takes up 7 counts, then make it 7/4. Trying to make everything 4 or 8 means that you have to either take off a few notes, or add a few to make the note phrase work. Sometimes I want a phrase accented a certain way, after a certain amount of notes are played, and things have to be subdivided accordingly. Sometimes licks go by really fast and you want a set of 5 or 7 notes to be repeated an odd number of times and thatís where the measures of ?/16 come into play. Having patterns that work out to be 4, 6 or 8 happens occasionally, but it could be any number.
9. Will there be any European appearances for the promotion of the new album and is there any possibility to see you live in Greece?
Well, Spastic Ink was asked to play the Headway festival last year, but I brought up WatchTower instead, and that happened. I know that there are some die hard progressive metal fans in Greece, so it would be cool to make it out there, either with WatchTower or Spastic Ink. I get lots of email and CD orders from Greece. When WatchTower played in Holland a few months ago at the Headway festival, we were asked by a promoter to play a festival in Greece, but we would have had to stay in Europe for too long, to make both festivals, and were having a hard time trying to make ends meet. A few shows in between the festivals were planned, but nothing could be properly set up.
10. What is this thing that is happening with Watchtower. Do we have a reunion and should we hope for a new album release?
WatchTower finished writing the material for the next CD to be called "Mathematics" and we are booking studio time right now. We are going to record the songs in two sessions. After Rick records the first half of the song, the rest of will record our parts for those songs. After we get the first half of songs done, we'll start shopping the CD while were are recording the 2nd set of songs. I have no idea about a tentative release date, and I don't want to go through that again. "Ink Compatible" came out nearly 4 years after I first predicted it would be done, so I'm not even going to attempt to go there. This next WatchTower CD has been in the works ever since we got back from the "Control And Resistance" tour in '90.
About any more "reunion" shows, I told the Tower guys that I refuse to do any more shows unless we get a CD out. I get tired of playing the same songs that we've done before thousands of times before, without anything new. Plus, since we don't have anything to promote, I think gigs without a current release are pointless. Unless you're doing a major tour, and are doing it strictly for money. We aren't anywhere near that.
11. As I have perceived from the ďInk CompatibleĒ the technological improvement in the computing sector is something that amazes you most. What is your opinion in the whole idea Computing, Technology and composing music merging into one. Is it for the best for the future of music or is it a threat, since anyone who is clueless in music can produce a musical piece that can easily be absorbed by the market?
Techno music has been around for decades so I don't think much has changed as far as the writing of the music is concerned. Bands have used synth and other programming devices to get their songs and ideas across since disco, or probably even before that. Maybe nowadays it's easier to do, and sounds have improved. Iíve never been into writing music with preprogrammed drum beats or existing tunes. Iíve always written totally from scratch. But I do think itís possible for someone who doesnít know athing about music to put a song together with todayís technology. There are drum software programs like Acid that have beats already programmed in, you just manipulate them. But before that, you could have done the same thing with drum machines.
However, I know that recording methods have seriously improved. Playing parts correctly and in time with everyone else used to be a matter of rolling tape, waiting for the machine to rewind, missing punching in and outs, etc... With computers and editing software, you can get your parts played exactly how you want them by choosing from different takes, and putting things together on a computer screen. The bottom line is you still have to play your parts. With computers, things can be a lot more accurate, and you don't have to kill yourself doing take after take. A lot of times, when I have to record a difficult part that's straight triplet sixteenths, or anything that doesn't require the "feel" of the other instruments, I'll just hit the record button on the computer, and play along to a metronome. I'll do maybe 10 takes of the part, then select which parts of the takes I want to use for the final, then splice it together. With the old recording method, you have to keep punching in and out, miss a bunch of times, and sometimes recording over parts that were good takes. Iíve even taken it a bit further by playing anything at random for a few minutes, then selecting which licks are cool and flow together, then constuct the solo on computer. The only way to do that with older recording methods is to cut up 1/4 inch 2 track tape and physically splice licks together. Or have two separate machines, and use one for play and the other for recording.
I don't care for a lot of music that is currently on rock radio, the corporate rock stuff, where you can obviouly tell that there's one guy at the controls, putting together a bunch of sampled sounds, and producing the same exact vibe and sounds of every other band on the radio. And with rap music, singers are so talentless that they have to rely on the "producer" or sampled sounds from other recordings. That's ridiculous.
12. Last but not least, we would like to know what are the future plans for Spastic Ink?
I really wish we could get going on another CD, or play a few shows. When "Ink Compatible" was first released, we were getting invited to play at a few festivals, and it was seriously talked about for a few months. But we realized that we'd be killing ourselves relearning and rehearsing to play maybe 2 or 3 gigs. If we were asked to go on a tour or just play a decent amount of shows, we would have considered it. When I was writing the material for "Ink Compatible", I wasn't really thinking about how the material would be pulled off live. I was just trying to put a recording together. There are so many guitar parts, that we'd probably have to have to find another guitarist, or we'd have to play along to tapes with backing tracks. I know that a lot of bands do that these days, but I'm not too crazy about the idea. Also, on a few of the "Ink Compatible" songs, I use different tunings. To work around that, I built a doubleneck which would be able to cover two different tunings in the same song. I've got lots of ideas for songs and titles for another CD, but we'll just have to see if that can happen. But I won't be too interested in doing it unless Bobby and Pete can do the whole thing. If I don't have a band intact, then we'll have to wait a while.
13. Ok Ron, thank you for your precious time. Say if you like anything to your fans all around the world and for Greece especially and we expect to here from you soon!
Thanks again for the invite, and thanks to the technical/progressive fans for listeningÖ