Interview with Ron Jarzombek
by Thiago Sarkis

1. Well, let's talk a bit about your solo career. You recorded two albums and both are very good. On the first one PHHHP!, why did you put the CD together? Did you have fans asking for a solo CD, or did you just make it? How was the response? Did you expect it? You even changed the front cover of PHHHP!...

I changed all of the graphics on PHHHP! because distributors were asking to carry the CD(-R) in their music stores. I thought it would be very cheesy to have black and white graphics printed on gray paper. If people were paying the regular CD price for PHHHP!, then it needs to look like a real CD. I never got real CDs made for PHHHP! because I didn't think it would sell that much. I should have done that years ago, I'd be on my 2nd batch right now. I "officially" released the songs because too many Ink and Tower fans had heard of various Ron Jarzombek songs floating around on the net, and wanted to know what they were, and wanted copies. So I put all of the old finished 4 track solo songs together and made a CD.

2. Your second solo album is something from another planet (maybe a Zappian planet?) How was the composition process for this album?

I started writing the CD when I ran into a wall trying to pull "Ink Compatible" together. I really wanted to get a recording done and WatchTower wasn't moving at all, so I figured that I could write everything myself, and record it totally alone. I knew I could pull it off, so that what I did. I've always been into music theory and various different ways of composing tunes, and I thought that it would be a really cool concept, using Morse code, the chromatic alphabet, various patterned formulas, etc... And I could not be any happier with the final result of the CD. It's exactly what I wanted. The whole process of writing and recording took a bit over a year. That's quite a bit of time, but you have to figure in teaching 5 days a week, and gigging between 3 and 5 times a week.

3. I must congratulate you because I never believed that an album of 45 minutes, only instrumental and complex instrumental would not really irritate my mind and don't get me bothered. How did you accomplish this perfect way for this album where you have 45 tracks and they sound just like one? Did you choose the order of the tracks thinking about this?

The arrangement of the CD came together after I had about 2/3 of the material written. I had to keep track of how many minutes I was working with because when you write something with so many sections pieced together, it's easy to lose track of where you're at, and where you'll end up. After I had written about 25 minutes of material, I spent two or three days just arranging the parts, and got a good idea of what songs would have solos, where the slow pretty sections were, where the aggressive stuff would be, etc... and tried to balance everything out evenly. I would make CD-Rs of all of the tunes that I had and would try to put the songs in a flowing order. I was going for 50-55 minutes and after editing and adding a few things, I ended up at 45 minutes. A year after releasing the CD, there are a few songs that I think should have been extended a bit, namely Sick, Dirty, Sick.

4. Maybe this is a raw question, but I really need to do it. You said once that you didn't like when people mailed you calling you a genious and things like that. But in this music style, composing these kind of songs, don't you think that maybe this is the only way to classify you? Don't you really want to be called a genious? I mean, your fans will listen to your music with attention. It's not easy listenin', you're not dancing, you're not hot, at least for me.

Am I a genius??, Hardly!! Although I do think I'm rather creative. And to be honest, I don't know how I'd top that CD. I'm not praising or knocking myself, it's just the way it is. I play my ass off on that CD, I wrote every note, and programmed and played everything, with no assistance from anybody on anything. However, I totally understand that the CD isn't for everybody, but it's exactly where I'm at. If someone just hates the CD, that's totally understandable. Of course I think it's the greatest thing on earth (LOL), but hey, not everybody has my opinions or thinks like I do. I'm sure some people put the CD on and shut it off after the first m2 cluster hit on track 2. They probably wouldn't cut it off during track 1 because they'd have to be pretty quick, since the whole song is a 7 second fade in.

About me not being "hot". Well, my wife thinks I'm pretty hot, but she hates that solo CD! Go figure that one out!

5. You did a very recent tour with Marty Friedman. How did came this opportunity and how was it for you? What did you play? How was the response from the crowd?

I had just completed SSoTC and I was sending out promos all over the place, and my manager suggested that I send a copy to Marty. I really didn't know what could come of it, but I played along and just sent him one. I told Marty that if he ever needed a 2nd guitarist for anything that he was working on, to give me a shot. Well, it turned out that I got an email a few months later, and I guess he liked the CD because he asked me how long would it take for me to learn about 45 minutes of his solo material. I learned about 4 or 5 of his tunes, recorded what would be the 2nd guitar parts (rhythms under main melodies, lots of higher harmonies, etc...) and sent him mp3s of me playing along to his tunes. I guess that made a good impression because from then on, it seemed like it was my gig to lose. After a few weeks, Marty gets the tour details worked out and I get the gig, but it's just several shows, not really a "tour". Actually, not even a leg, more like a foot (LOL). We did the shows in California and Arizona and they went very well. But by the time we were all on the same page musically, it was over. They were thinking of doing the Guitarevolution tour (with Marty, Chris Poland's Ohm, and Alex Skolnick) again this January, but it didn't happen. I'm not sure why. We will be doing another show in Baltimore in a few months. I know very little details, but it will be the same line up of Marty, me, Jimmy DeGrasso and Chris Catero. About Marty's career with Megadeth, what can you say. He did it all. I heard some really cool, funny and informative stories while hanging out with Marty. I have both Cacophany CDs with him and Jason Becker, and again, what can you say? Hardly anybody can touch that stuff. I was hoping that some band or project would happen with me, Marty and my brother, but after the mini-tour, that was pretty much the end of it. Marty's got so many things going on in Japan right now. I did get him to do a solo on "Ink Compatible". Nothing cooler than doing trade-offs with Marty.

6. During this time without Spastic Ink releases, you also played in a cover band. How it was? Did the people recognize you being the guy from WatchTower, Spastic Ink?

I'm still playing with a cover band called Dragonfly here in San Antonio. We cover bands like Tool, Pantera, Metallica, Alice In Chains, STP, etc... I dropped off for a few months to do the Marty gigs, and get "Ink Compatible" ready to release, but I rejoined them a few weeks ago. And yep, sometimes there are people that recognize me from Tower, Ink, and my first band S.A. Slayer. It's pretty cool but they realize that it's just covers and they won't hear their favorite progressive tunes. There are a few of the cover songs that I don't care to play, but overall, it's not a bad gig. It's a good way to stay active and keep your chops up. Plus, around here I'd rather be known as a guitar player rather than a guitar teacher, that's for sure. And that's what I get when people see me out playing. Even when Tower was gigging regularly in Texas, we rarely did more than one show a month. With Dragonfly, I play a minimum of 3 times a week.

7. I did talk with Greg Howe last week, and you know... he was with 'N Sync and Justin Timberlake on tour and at the same time he just released an album with Victor Wooten on bass and Dennis Chambers on drums. We did talk about how hard is for a guitarist following this instrumental direction to make a life, pay the bills, etc. With those side projects and Spastic Ink, do you receive enough money to pay your bills? How is that for you? Would you accept playing for 'N Sync or a band like that like Greg did?

Money is not much of a problem these days. If I relied on Spastic Ink to keep me afloat financially, I'd have to move back home. Right now I'm supporting myself just fine with the cover band, teaching, and CD sales. I have very little to complain about. Of course I wish I could support myself writing and playing the music that I want, but being progressive in this day just doesn't work out for too many people. I'm always baffled by Dream Theater and what they've managed to accomplish over the last decade. It's truly amazing that those guys are doing so well by writing and recording their music. But honestly, I'd rather be doing exactly what I'm doing right now than give in to nu-metal bullshit. For some musicians, it's tollerable, and for some like myself, we can't stand it. As for your question, if Britney Spears called me up and asked me to play for a tour, believe it or not, I'd do it. But if Fred Durst called me, hell no. I don't have much against pop, country, or any other form of music that has melodies and people are really musicians. Well, Britney can't sing but does that really matter!?? LOL...

8. In past interview, you and I talked about the nu-metal, rap metal, etc. Years after,the scene looks a bit different, don't you think? Do you still have the same feelings about the style? Many legendary artists like Tommy Aldridge, Chuck Wright, Scott Ian, Vinny Appice put bands like Linkin Park and Evanescence between their Top 3 of 2003. How do you see this? Are they going mad or what? (Give your thoughts on nu-metal, those bands, Evanescence, Linkin Park, etc.)

Well, I'd have to put Linkin' Park #3 on my list too if the other choices were 50 cent, Eminem, Snoop Dog, and Master P. #1 and #2 would probably be Foo Fighters and Pantera. Maybe System Of A Down. I wonder what other 2003 releases those guys have picked up. I mean, what else is out there? Linkin Park is a formulated corporarate rock band that probably has so little to say in their music. That rapper guy that they have bugs the crap out of me.

Scott Ian has been into rap from the very beginning. They had an MTV video out with Public Enemy decades ago. Mike Portnoy also is (or used to be) into hard core rap. I guess it's a New York thing. Dream Theater has some rapping on their latest CD. Actually, it ruins track #4 for me. I have a hard time listening to it. That song has a really cool intro tune then that megaphone comes in. Yuk! Fast forward please...

9. What news can you bring for us from the WatchTower camp? Any details about the reunion, the next album, how is being the contact between the members, offers from labels, etc?...

This is a subject that I don't care to elaborate much on. We've had the music written for a whole album, and we will be doing a few upcoming shows. In April, we'll be playing a festival in Holland called the Headway. A few other European gigs were possibly going to be booked around that same time, but unorganized travel arrangements, equipment issues, and other complications kept popping up, so we just decided to play the festival and that's it. Then about a month after that, we have a show here in San Antonio.

10. I'll write some quotes and the name of the author of them and I'd like you to do comments on the quotes and the facts here exposed...

- "Limp Bizkit sucks cocks" - Zakk Wylde

I couldn't agree more. It's a good thing that more people are finally figuring that out.

- "How many people did USA killed in the last 20 years?" Daniel Gildenl÷w on the the WAR when USA decide to attack Iraq

I'd like to have strong opinion on the war (and I probably should), but the truth is that I don't know enough about the situation, what is actually going on, what is being done, what the real purpose was, etc... We only know what CNN tells us. But I, like most of us in the US, would really would like to know where are the supposed "WMD". Isn't that the main reason that we're over there? And now they're trying to justify what they've done to the country. What a pitiful mess. Every day when I log onto the net, I see headlines of how many more people are being killed over there. On the other hand, I'll have to admit that it was damn cool when CNN showed those American tanks parked in Saddam's front yard of his palace. I mean, he's no pope or Santa Claus with all good intentions. And then that stupid information minister comes on and denies everthing. Next thing you know there's Marines in Saddam's living room smoking cigars. Classic stuff. But what was Bush thinking that Saddam would do?? Come into our country and destroy our government, cut off our electricity and water for months, and kill thousand of our citizens???

- "Whatever money they are generating from their site is dirty money. It's being taken out of the hands of the artist and the record labels and put into the hands of another corporation." Lars Ulrich from Metallica on Napster and mp3.

Yep, I'm with Lars on this one. Just look at the mess that's been created. The cat is out of the bag and they're having a hard time getting him back in. Now they're making money by charging a fee and trying to somehow (or hopefully) compensate the bands. I think a better and simpler solution would be to lower the prices for CDs. For me, a big part of any CD purchase is the graphics, and you don't get any of that with an mp3. There's info about the band members, liner notes, production credits, etc... Of course the audio is the most important, but even then you're only getting an mp3, not a high quality recording that appears on the real CD.

10. Ron, I hope you all the success with Spastic Ink's new album and all other projects you're involved with! Leave a message for your fans...

Don't buy any rap albums, get the new Ink CD instead... It will be out in the US and Europe on March 23, and in Japan (on Marquee/Avalon) on April 21.

Return to