SPASTIC INK - "Ink Complete" (review and interview by Keith Menser, BALLBUSTER #4)

"Stop the presses, stop everything" at last the Spastic Ink debut is out. Wow!!! It's finally in my hands and I must say the wait was well worth it. The material was written over 3 years ago, but don't fret because this LP will indeed rip your ears wide open! Spastic Ink is an incredibly masterminded studio project created by members of Watchtower and Riot. The CD, perfectly titled "Ink Complete" displays guitarist Ron Jarzombek (Watchtower), brother and drummer Bobby Jarzombek and bassist Pete Perez (both from Riot) continuously shredding through 11 amazing songs of solid time changing and deranged metal! The opening track, "The Mad Data Race", starts the disc in a mad jazz/metal fury and sets the pace with the (mechanical or computer-like) precise riffing. "Ink Complete" has no vocals whatsoever, but truly needs none because the music in itself grabs the listener's attention and takes your mind in quite a strange and amazing billion-note journey. The band includes linernotes (in place of lyrics) about their concepts of each tune in the form of story bits and pieces. Info about the recording process, time signatures, note patterns, etc. - very cool. "A Morning With Squeakie" is full of interesting structures along with the sweet story of poor little Squeakie getting caught within the "Nature of a Hungry Beast" cycle. All in all, this album is best described as Watchtower on speed, bustin' through the limits with wicked time changes, radical musical instrument abuse and such. Just one listen to the 2:04 minutes of "Suspended On All Fours" will surely make any prog metalhead drool for more, stop any musician in amazement. This monster would even make a great 'musician exercise' workout CD. "Ink Complete" is simply "Ink-Credible"! Get it now while the ink is still wet!"

1. Let's begin with introducing yourself and the other two Spastic musicians who make this outstanding Spastic group (names, instruments, previous bands or works,, etc...

My name is Ron Jarzombek. My mommy used to call me Ronnie Johnny when she woke me up for school, but I told her to knock it off because it ruined my day. My main instrument is guitar (a custom built red, white and black strat). My first band that I was in was with my older brother Bobby, we did a cover of Hawaii50 for a talent show. I was in the 4th grade and Bobby was in the 5th. The first band I had a record released with was S. A. Slayer ("Go For The Throat"). Years after that split up I joined WatchTower. I did that for six years or so. We released a record titled "Control And Resistance".

My brother Bobby is on drums. Mom used to call him Boopsy Bear, but she doesn't anymore. He probably said something to her too. His first band that had a record released was Juggernaut. They had out two records, "Baptism Under Fire" and "Trouble Within". He later joined Riot from New York. They have released several records including "Thundersteel", "The Privelege Of Power", "Live In Japan", "Nightbreaker", and "Brethren Of The Long House".

The bassist is Pete Perez. I don't know what his mom used to call him. He is also a member or Riot appearing on the same records that Bobby has, except "Thundersteel".

2. Explain to our readers just what is the concept behind the name and thoughts of Spastic Ink.

Bobby came up with the name "Spastic Pencil", but was later changed to "Spastic Ink". It means crazy writing (as in music). I wanted to call the band "Two Plus One", meaning Bobby and me (brothers) as the "Two", and Pete as the "One", but that was pretty bland. Bobby and I just decided when we started writing that there was no limit to what we could write. It was a great opportunity to do a progressive metal cover of the movie "Bambi", a cartoon about a squirrel, a song constructed of only two notes, etc...

3. Is this the first studio project recorded together by your brother and yourself?

Yeah, I was always busy doing the WatchTower thing, or Bobby was busy doing the Riot thing. It seemed like the right time to get something going.

4. A few years back I received a Spastic Ink demo featuring 4 tunes which are also on the debut album, were these cuts re-recorded or just remixed to use on the debut entitled "Ink Complete"?

Those were the very first tunes that we wrote and recorded. We planned to rerecord everything in a real studio but it didn't work out that way. We were shopping the tape for over a year, and labels didn't want to have anything to do with an instrumental release. An advance would have given us the opportunity to properly record everything, but it didn't happen. I said screw it, and took all of songs that we recorded on 4 track, bounced them onto an 8 track digital ADAT, and added parts and cleaned everything up. Some of the 4 track tapes were so eaten up that and I had to rerecord a lot of stuff. The entire left channel of "Suspended On All Fours" was wasted. The drums on "The Mad Data Race" were so screwed up. Parts fading in and out. That was a mess. After doing all of the rerecording, I rented lots of studio gear and remixed it. Ole Bergfleth (Dream Circle) covered all the costs of duplicating the CDs. I just had to give him a master CD, artwork and the text.

5. Ron, please explain the concepts behind the song titles and booklet notes about the tunes.

Bobby and I thought it would be cool to write a little bit about each song. I wish we had a movie to go along with "A Wild Hare" and "A Morning with Squeakie", so they could be more understood. "A Wild Hare" does have a movie to go along with it (Bambi), but Disney would sue the living crap out of us if we used it for anything. Some of the songs needed explanations because people would have no idea what was going on. Some songs have cool note patterns happening that would not be recognized by most listeners, so we helped them out a little. The song titles were fun. Since there are no lyrics, we played around with common phrases people might be familiar with. "The Mad Data Race" is of course "The Mad Rat Race", since it's so computer sounding. "Harm And Half-Time Baking Shuffle" is "Arm And Hammer Baking Soda". Bobby gets all the "credit" for that title, so don't look at me. The "Harm" refers to the harmonic minor scale used, "Half-Time Shuffle" refers to the rhythmic pattern used. "To Counter And Groove In E Minor" is "Tocatta And Fugue in D Minor", because of the classical influence. I take the "blame" for that one. "Suspended On All Fours" uses four suspended chords as the theme. "Eighths Is Enough" is the old TV show "Eight Is Enough". That song uses nothing but eighth notes except for solos. A friend of ours, Bill Reed, did all of the illustrations that play off of the titles.

6. What elements in Spastic Ink do you feel brought about the interests of Dream Circle Records in Germany? Does Spastic Ink have any U.S. label interest at the moment or is it too soon for them to fully understand musical integrity.

That's funny, a label to understand music integrity. That would be nice. I suppose that Dream Circle showed interest mainly because of the WatchTower name. Tower hadn't released anything in several years, and this was something new, something different. Bobby and I had never been on the same recording (aside from a few songs that we recorded under the name "Happy Kitties"), and I'm sure some would wonder how we would work together. We have interest in the U.S., but right now we don't have anything to present to anybody. That's all too far into the future. I have had quite a few distributors around the world asking if they can distribute the CD.

7. Thus far do you know how well the "Ink Complete" lp has done in terms of sales and press.

Dream Circle printed up around 2,500 CDs. I think all of the distributors in the states are out. I have about 30 left here. There are probably a few copies floating around in Europe. Dream Circle printed up a second batch, but they need to do another one. The magazine reviews that we have received have been phenomenal. It's kind of strange because I thought the CD would be shot down because of the fact that it's instrumental, was not recorded in a big name studio, and it's not the most marketable stuff. I guess people appreciate the fact that it's something different and we are playing our asses off. I also think a lot of people are fed up with the lack of musicianship in music these days, and when something like this comes out, they want to give it a listen.

8. Does Spastic Ink tour or do any live activities?

No. The material on "Ink Complete" is over two years old, and Bobby, Pete and I have just continued living our little lives. When we started Ink it was a project, developed into a band, then went back into a project, mostly because labels were looking for the next Green Day or Snoop Doggy Dog. I still teach music 6 days a week, write music on my free time. Bobby teaches, does studio work and gigs locally, and Pete gigs locally with various bands. For me, touring always means losing too much money. WatchTower did a European tour supporting Coroner, and we made $8 each a show. Bobby and Pete have gigged with "Riot" in Japan and have done quite well. If Ink could find someone who could set up a Japan tour, I'd hop on the plane tomorrow.

9. OK...Now for the question all progressive metal fans are wanting to know... Please tell me the status with your group WatchTower (of course on of my personal favs). What's the latest, will there be a follow-up studio album to the now classic "Control And Resistance"?

Doug, Rick and I met up a few months ago, and decided that it would be a great idea to finish up "Mathematics", the album that we started after all of the touring for "Control". "Ink Complete" was being released at that time, and I was making lots of contacts. The name WatchTower kept coming up, and got pretty hyped about the situation. Doug, Rick and I began emailing and talking about the songs that we had written over the last several years, figuring out which songs to keep, which to work on, and which to drop. We never found a replacement for vocals after Alan left, but now Jason McMaster (Tower original vocalist) was free to do whatever he wanted. I called Jason up and he was all for it. It sounded like it was flowing, and then it came down to writing a few more songs to complete the album, Rick and Doug are having problems finding time to record, write and learn parts, and it is moving very slow. I thought we would just shit the whole thing out, but it's not moving as I had hoped. I was so into it, I fired up a web page, scanned in photos and was about to put something up on the net for fans to expect a release sometime next year. We still plan to get it done, but it's going to be a while.

10. What are your favorite listening pleasures...(styles, bands, l.p.'s etc.)

I don't buy too many CDs. I always pull out old Rush (Hemispheres, 2112, All The World's A Stage, Moving Pictures), UK (debut, Danger Money, Live), and Yes (Close To The Edge, Relayer, Tormato, Going For The One), but now I mostly listen to filmscores and cartoons, Danny Elfman (Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Mars Attacks) Elliot Goldenthal (Interview With The Vampire, the second and third Batman movies), Alan Silvestri (Eraser), Richard Band (From Beyond), Trevor Rabin, and of course Carl Stalling. I just got into Pinky And The Brain. I'll ocassionally put on something by The Chick Corea Electric Band, Al Di Meola (Splendido Hotel, Casino) or Debussy.

11. Will we see a second Spastic Ink lp in the near future or is this just a one-off studio project? (The world needs to know....!)

I thought I was going to concentrate mostly on the next Tower album, but I'm getting impatient and want to get another CD going. "Ink Complete" is doing great, and I would like to get the next one going. Bobby and I are talking about concepts and what we want to do musically on the next one. We are thinking about having vocals on the next one, not to drastically change, but just so more people would give it a listen. Some people hear that a band is instrumental and they don't even give it a chance. "Ink Complete" sat on the shelf for over a year because nobody (labels) thought an instrumental progressive metal CD would have a market. I don't know if what makes Ink special is the fact that it is instrumental and we are playing our asses off, or maybe it's the character of the songs. I think it would be a challenge to make it work with vocals. We can't back off instrumentally because that's why we started Spastic Ink. Right now, everything's up in the air. I have been in contact with Sean Malone (ex-bassist from Cynic, currently has a solo CD titled "Cortlandt"), and it would be great if he could work with us on the next record.

13. How is your hand recovering from the many surgeries you've gone through?

That was rough. I had 4 surgeries on my left hand, but now it's perfect. The surgeons had to cut off a little bit of tendon on my ring finger and pinky to stop them from hyperextending, so I've lost about 1/4" of my stretch. My hand positioning is miles better than what is was before, since I had to totally relearn to play. It was a nightmare. I lost two and a half years. I got tired of giving lessons and couldn't even play a C chord, because my fingers couldn't support themselves. I don't even think about that anymore.

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