Exclusive interview with Fates Warning's guitarist Jim Matheos (MTV.com - 1994)
Note: All typos and misconstrued album, song and band titles are MTV's fault (grin).

For those who have long been in the underground, Fates Warning are not big news. Under the name of Misfits, they started as a melodic hard rock band in Cincinnati, early 80s, and soon they changed their name to Fates Warning and released "Night of the Broken" (1984) through Metal Blade. The contract came after the very nice reviews they received with their appearance in Metal Blade's Metal Massacre V compilation album earlier that year (just a reminder that Metal Massacre I featured bands as Ratt and Metallica!).

Many albums followed and Fates Warning made their name big in the heavy/epic metal underground scene. Unlike other bands of the same era, Queensryche for example, they didn't manage to have the big breakthrough although their latest effort, "Parallels", received some amazing reviews from press worldwide three years ago. It is now 1994, and July signals the month that Fates Warning release their 7th studio album. "Inside Out", the title of the album, is also a turning-point to some older music formulas, more heavy and progressive than commercial and straightforward as "Parallels" by popular belief was. Jim Matheos, guitarist composer and founder member of the band, is on the other side of the line giving us the last details before the album hit the streets, July 21st.

MTV: "It is strange that all five members of the band, Jim, vocalist Ray Alder, guitarist Frank Aresti, bassist Joe Dibiase and (and ex ledgendary Warlord) drummer Mark Zonder live in different parts of the States and composing the stuff happens through ... mail!"

Jim Matheos: "Well, that's the way we always composed the stuff for our albums. Last time it was the first time that we also spend about four months to rehearse the stuff before we entered the studio. This time we directly entered the studio and start recording the album, we learnt the material from tapes and we directly recorded it."

MTV: "How difficult is to do the job this way and in which way does it affect the final project?"

JM: "Well...it's not as difficult as in the first place it seems to be, you loose some of the interaction that you have in a rehearsal type of situation, but everybody has his input in the end, I don't think it lacks anything if it was done in another way. When you also record, you record by yourself, so it's the same kind of thing."

MTV: "Yeah, but if you rehearse live, you have the other members putting their touch in the songs while if you rehearse alone then it's a one-man-product I suppose."

JM: "We send tapes to each other, we communicate through phone all the time, we give suggestions, so this kind of interaction exists, in another form though. What you eventually hear on the advance tape is a combination of input of all five, not only me. It is also the fact that I was always writing more of the music, basic structures, and lyrics, and this happened this time too, that I wrote all music and all lyrics except two songs that Frank and Ray wrote the stuff."

MTV: "Why did it take that much time to release 'Inside Out', it's about three years since you released 'Parallels'?"

JM: "We released 'Parallels' in the summer of 1991, then we toured the States and we wanted to tour Europe too but there was not that much of a support from the label at that time. Maybe they thought that a European tour will not be that much beneficial for us, or they didn't want to spend money supporting the tour. At that point our contract also expired and we were shopping deals with different labels overseas, we end up with a different label in Europe and Japan for 'Inside Out' than the one we have in the US (Metal Blade). I guess the new labels we got over there will support us more for the new tour. It is also the fact that we sat down and we tried to figure out were things were going."

MTV: "What do you mean? About what you should do with Fates Warning, split or go further on with the band?"

JM: "That was out initial thought. We've been together for 12 years, recording and touring all the time, and you come to the point you get tired seeing things not working out the way you wanted them to work. 'Parallels' was doing great when it was first released, and we received some great reviews, but it didn't sound that the label supported the 'Eye to Eye' single/video the way they should. That was kind of sad, myself listening back to 'Parallels' I still like the album. Although it is three years old, I like it as much as I do like the new album. This is kind of strange for me, I usually find a lot of stuff to my previous albums that I don't like as year go passing by and I listen them over and over again."

MTV: "It was also the rumours of the Warlord re-union and Mark leaving the band to play there..."

JM: "That was something different, he got an offer to do a Warlord re-union album in his spare time, there was never a posibility that he quits Fates Warning or so. I don't know why press wrote that he had to leave Fates Warning and join Warlord, but anyways, the re-union thing finally didn't happen so there's not much to speak about anymore. We also recorded a couple of songs and tried to shop a deal with a major label, but we didn't find any interest from there. This dissapointed us, the whole thing was kind of frustrating for the band and it was then that we start questioning ourselves if we should go on or not. When we decided to release another album, we re-structured our contract with Metal Blade cause they always did a descent job for us in the States, and we started working for the new release."

MTV: "If Fates Warning splitted at that time, would you go on with the music or completely quit it?"

JM: "Definetely I would continue, there's a great amount of things I can do, like the solo album I did a year ago, with the cellos, violins and acoustic guitars, a new-age kind of project."

MTV: "Is it like 'Scenes', the second solo album Megadeth's guitarist Marty Friedman did in late 1992?"

JM: "Being honest I haven't heard the album myself, but I heard a lot of people comparing my work with his, so I would assume that it is kind of similar thing."

MTV: "By the way, what kind of stuff do you listen lately?"

JM: "I always listened to Dream Theatre, I liked this band and supported it from their early demos stage. Then 'Brave' from Marillion and the new Pink Floyd are the albums that I consider the best for 1994 so far."

MTV: "With 'Parallels' Fates Warning were strongly compared to what Queensryche did with their 'Empire' album. 'Inside Out' is much less polished more agressive, raw, and more to the epic heavy metal side Fates Warning were playing in their 'No Exit' and 'Perfect Symmetry' (1987, 1989 respectively) albums."

JM: "Definetely this is true, it might be because we had a different producer this time, Bill Metoyer, or the way that I've written the stuff, it reminded me the way I was writing in past. It is hard to explain why, since I always was writing the way it comes out of me."

MTV: "Do you think that 'Parallels' was too much of a polished album?"

JM: "Well, I kind of disagree but I heard many people saying that, that it was more polished, more formatted, less experimental and there was much less variety in there. This was an issue I tried to address on the writing of the new material, to have a few more different kind of songs in there, some heavier, some more melodic..."

MTV: "There're also some very long epic-anthems in there reminding me the old Fates Warning material..."

JM: "Yes, but this is something that I cannot explain, I cannot find a reason behind since that's the way that I felt when writing it, I did not try to put a limit on how long a song should be and sacrify the completeness of the song. As far as the production is concerned, it was a concious effort to make it sound more heavy."

MTV: "Bill was a guy you've worked with in past, is that right?"

JM: "Yeah, we did our first albums with Bill."

MTV: "How did it feel working with him again?"

JM: "Actually we wanted Bill to work with us again, because it was easier for us, we know him and we're really good friends. He also did my solo album and he did a great job on it, I was kind of impressed. It is easier to work with him since we know him, it feels more comfortable, while last time, when we recorded with Terry Brown we were kind of prejudiced since he's such a great Rush fan." [Terry Brown did nearly all early Rush albums, 2112, Caress of Steel, Fly By Night, Hemispheres, Moving Pictures, and Signals among others. -ED]

MTV: "So what future holds for Fates Warning?"

JM: "Ha-ha...who knows?! I've given up trying to predict the future! We release the album, we are trying to put up a US tour together with Dream Theatre, I think they release a new album later this year, and in the meantime we play some dates in Europe, including one festival supporting Whitesnake."

MTV: "And last question, why do you believe the big-thing didn't happen for Fates Warning, as it did with bands as Queensryche and lately with Dream Theatre?"

JM: "It's hard to say, I don't know really. With the same token there are many bands that had a lot of potential and started at the same time we and Queensryche did and broken up soon after without doing even what we've done. So I consider ourselves being lucky that we are still in the position to record albums for a big indy label [Metal Blade used to be distributed by Warner Bros, but I don't know if it still happens this way. -ED], and do tours. Why we haven't reached the same kind of critical commercial success is something I don't know. We'll try to fix it and get the same success, but it's hard to predict. We just try to do the best we can, and that's the only thing a band can do!"


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