Fates Warning – Striding into a Long DayMonday, 16th November 2020
Confidence is high in the Fates Warning camp. Veterans of the progressive metal scene, they can pretty much go where their creative muscles desire – which is why when the group wants to execute a longer album with their latest effort Long Day Good Night, most followers will be more than appeased. Combining shorter, more focused material with some softer and epic efforts, you can be assured that the record will take you on a journey that will not be forgotten. We reached out to drummer Bobby Jarzombek who was happy to bring us up to speed on the back and forth process that it takes from his end when executing material in the studio – the challenges that crop up from the demo to final recording stages, and talk of whether this could be the band’s last album – plus how the drummer is handling his downtime away from the road.
Dead Rhetoric: After two successful records with Darkness in a Different Light and Theories of Flight, what would you say the band wanted to accomplish in terms of songwriting and performances for the latest album Long Day Good Night?
Bobby Jarzombek: That’s interesting. I don’t think we had anything in particular. I don’t think Jim had any sort of expectation of what to do with this record. I know the way it has turned out, as I started getting demos from Jim and some of the songs I noticed that there is a little bit of everything on the record. There’s some straightforward, sort of heavy stuff, there’s a little ballady sort of things, a little lighter, nice songs. And there are some epic things. I started working on the material, I noticed that he wanted something easy and something hard depending on the song.
I think the record is very diverse than the previous records. I’d say in a way it’s a little more Darkness in a Different Light with cooler songs. A little more refined in that way, a longer record. The songs are slightly shorter, but that’s not true for all of them.
Dead Rhetoric: At thirteen songs and over 72 minutes of music, did any fears or worries set in regarding the amount of information you placed on this record – or is it a case that you believe people accept longer albums in the progressive metal genre in general?
Jarzombek: We did talk about it when all the material and songs kept coming. We all talked about it, if some of these songs were going to be bonus tracks sort of thing. And that was a little bit of what we were thinking, but I’m not sure how that was all decided upon with Metal Blade. Jim sent us the potential track listing, and the flow of the record – it sounded really good that way. I know working on the material, I started to realize it was a long record. I worked on the record off and on for six months.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any specific challenges or songs that took more of an evolution from the initial demo stage to the final competition?
Jarzombek: Yes there is. There are a couple … when I get stuff from Jim, I get sort of a drum programming version and I sort through that. Depending on how adventurous the song, if it’s a straightforward song I know what kind of framework I’m working within. Straight up groove and that sort of thing and hitting fills here and there. But if the song is more aggressive and progressive, there are a lot of variables I can do in a lot of different ways. Some of the stuff he sent me were not things that a typical drummer can play. I had to have two sets of arms to play these things – so I had to make sense of all the parts and how it all fit together. Each section may have a specific pattern, and how can I make that pattern gel with the next section and builds into the next thing. There is always that sort of challenge of how I can take whatever is given to me and make it into this cohesive piece of music.
And the song “The Longest Shadow of the Day” – the whole front of the song is instrumental. That was pretty crazy, probably the most craziest Fates Warning song I’ve ever played on, as far as the song and the music. It goes into all kinds of different directions, and I think people will dig it. And the thing about that, there was this little thing that was in one of the main sections of the songs, where we were debating if we would put in 32nd notes or triplet 16th notes. The whole section ended up being a little different than what Jim initially had planned. We had to go through each section of that song to see if this works, does that work, and so on. Four minutes where we went through every single part, and there are ten sections in that. We had to make sure those parts fit together with the drumming and the guitar playing, the bass playing.
I like when I get certain stuff from Jim, because it will be wide open, and yet I don’t quite know where I am going to go with it. We do a lot of trading back and forth with files until we get it all pieced together.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you think there were standout moments from your end as a drummer – and is it always a balancing act between your proficiency/technical abilities and serving the needs of the individual song?
Jarzombek: There’s plenty of places for me to be creative on those epic sort of songs. Before Jim started sending me ideas, I was hoping he would send me stuff that was a little more straight, just to the point. Some things that were not typical Fates Warning, and we could reach out and be creative within basic grooves. When he started sending me songs like “Under the Sun” and “Begin Again”, I was happy I was getting those because I could play some grooves and create some nice fills to go with it that are unique. Rather than having to play crazy all the time. I like a little of both. If it’s a basic song with a sort of groove, I can still add little elements and play a little different, esoteric that adds a little more spice to it. I like having to do that.
Dead Rhetoric: Considering everyone in Fates Warning is spread out across the world, you usually end up recording a lot of material remotely versus getting all together to hash things out in the studio. Do you have a preference when it comes to making records separately or together – or do you think it only matters based on the preparation and skill levels of the musicians involved?
Jarzombek: Most of the bands I have played with over the years never get into the old school, everybody sitting in the room. I know if you sit all in the room, and there are progressive bands that still do that, but that’s more difficult for me because to me I don’t get to be as creative. If I’m hearing a guitar player playing something, one guitar is playing one rhythmic pattern and another guitar is playing another guitar pattern – if they say it’s like this, but the other guitar is playing something different, I have no idea where to go with it. I would just latch onto one player, I’m not going to hear each individual part. If I listen to a section of a song and hear each guitar, I’m sort of able to pick out where I play off the bass or the guitar. Try to create something. And when you are doing stuff with odd time signatures, if you are playing with a band and you are doing something in 15/16, that’s very rigid and it sounds almost like it’s falling off the edge compared to 4/4 – if you can sit down with a pattern that’s crazy, you can place the snare in different places and try different things. It’s a lot better experience musically than having to sit down together in a room and hash things out within a few minutes where everyone is happy. Even if you do it that way, you tape it during the jam session, you will change it, or settle with the first thing, and it’s not going to be the best pattern or musical idea in my opinion.
It was necessity years ago to do things that way. Most bands did live in the same town, same area, and you were able to get together. Now with technology, you can use that and you can come up with a lot more interesting music I think this new way.
Dead Rhetoric: You were able to do some touring for the last record with Queensrÿche – do you believe that helped elevate the profile of the band, not just with the old-timers but hopefully expose you to some younger generation people who may not necessarily be as familiar with the decades of work from the band?
Jarzombek: Yeah, maybe a little. Queensrÿche and Fates Warning, it’s sort of in the similar vein as far as fans – but there were fans that came to the gig that maybe only knew the Parallels stuff. Coming out and playing some of the new material from Theories of Flight at the time, it sounds a little different than what people remember and they found something they liked about it and did more research. That happens. It was a good bill because of the fact that a certain fan may not go just to see Fates Warning or Queensrÿche, being that it was a double bill with us as special guests it gave more of the progressive music metal fan a reason to go and see both bands. It was a really successful tour, a lot of sold out shows. I don’t remember seeing any being weak in attendance, it was a really good tour for us. I would love to do it again.
Dead Rhetoric: I’m sure this question will come up endlessly due to the positioning and lyrics of “The Last Song”. Is this a subtle hint of Fates Warning ending their career on this studio album?
Jarzombek: (laughs). Well, it’s funny. I think everybody could assume that at different points. I remember after recording Theories of Flight and how that was done, the fact that was the end of the deal with InsideOut. At that point there was some communication of how that could be interpreted as the last studio record more so than this one. Clearly that wasn’t the case. I don’t think so at all. I just think it’s the last song on the record.
Dead Rhetoric: Can you tell us about the impetus behind South Texas Legion, which celebrates the heritage and legacy of Texas metal – and how you feel that movement has been accepted globally even if certain bands didn’t take off as much as they should have back in the 80’s?
Jarzombek: That’s a change of questioning. That’s a cool project, unfortunately we haven’t been able to do more shows with that. I was asked by Art Villarreal to do that. I think it’s really cool to pay tribute to bands like Juggernaut, Karion, Watchtower, Militia, Helstar, all the bands that were a part of that scene with those members. It’s funny though, everyone that comes from a certain city that has a strong metal scene during that time – I’m not discounting or downplaying the San Antonio scene at all – but the Bay Area had Metallica, Death Angel, Megadeth and all those bands, and in New York there was Anthrax and all those bands for that area. San Antonio did have a little pocket of bands that for whatever reason we had the avenue to pursue that. At that time what happened was, bands emerged like Juggernaut because we were able to see other bands in other cities that were getting record deals. When Juggernaut got the deal with Metal Blade, it showed people in San Antonio that anybody can do it, if you work at it and write some original material. We were all influenced by each other and the British wave of heavy metal, that sort of thing. Priest, Saxon, The Scorpions, that sort of stuff.
There are albums that are out there, the underground bands like Karion got out there a little bit. Not everybody could have gotten a record deal. There were so many bands being signed by all the small labels like Megaforce, Metal Blade, and others coming up at the time. Everyone wishes that the San Antonio scene would have been a little more successful, be it S.A. Slayer and Watchtower, but they weren’t anything mainstream. Juggernaut had a little success with the two records. There were so many bands all over the place.
Dead Rhetoric: How have you been personally handling the extended downtime away from touring due to the global pandemic – and do you believe the impact on the music industry will be long-lasting because of its impact?
Jarzombek: I have no idea. I’ve been staying busy, been doing some recording projects and getting calls for that sort of thing. Don Van Stavern and I collaborated on a few songs. I’ve been doing a lot of house projects, a lot of yard and home stuff. Trying to put some sort of thing to keep me busy here and there. Whether it’s a drumming thing or just some ideas. I try to stay busy. I have no idea what is going to happen with all of this. Next year when and if this all starts opening up, it will be chaos because every band will want to tour at the same time. There will be too many bands, to the point where every city in the United States – it’s Friday night it will be Judas Priest at the big venue, Dream Theater at some theater, and Sebastian Bach at a medium club, and then a smaller venue with an up and coming band. There will be too much happening at the same time every day, and it will be hard for bands, guarantees will go down from the promoters. It will be an effect that takes a little while to get over.
Dead Rhetoric: If you had the opportunity to teach a high school or college course on any subject outside of music, what subject(s) do you believe you would be excellent at teaching – or course work that you think needs to be taught at some level before adulthood and isn’t covered in today’s educational realm?
Jarzombek: Wow, that’s a different question. Not to do with music… I think it should go back to a little bit of what we would do in 1960, or the 50’s. Specifically for males, I think it would be basic woodwork, basic gardening, basic auto maintenance. An overall course of stuff that guys should know how to do that wasn’t required. Maintenance on your house, day to day stuff that you need to take care of instead of hiring somebody to come in and do it. So many guys these days don’t know how to do woodwork. It’s not difficult to build a doghouse, or if you have a small item or a hole in the wall, basic patchwork with spackling and whatever. There should be more of that then there is.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the next twelve months playing out for yourself as far as recording activities and music promotion while riding out the lack of touring/shows?
Jarzombek: I see it as what’s happening now. More sessions that come in, more people recording than playing live. I see it coming around eventually. We are all going to have to wait it out and see what happens. Keep being careful and hope that we get over this.