Lords of Metal
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Ray Alder: “Finally we agreed that being different is better, to have more diversity on the album, rather than every song being in the same vein so to speak, all of it being heavy and up-tempo.”

Bijna vijf kwartier heerlijke progressieve metal wordt aangeboden op ‘Long Day Good Night’, het dertiende studioalbum van Fates Warning dat onlangs uitkwam. Verspreid over – ook alweer – dertien songs laat de band nog eens horen hoe geweldig men is. We keken dan ook uit naar een gesprek met zanger Ray Alder die tegenwoordig woonachtig is in Spanje.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 18 november 2020

In 2016 the previous album ‘Theories Of Flight’ came out. How do you look back at the four years that have gone by since then?
Wow, it looks like time flies by so quickly, you know. With the release of that album, we did a lot of touring. We were very busy for about three years, just touring and videos and then settling down to write the new album. We were all pretty busy. Jim did an Arch/Matheos album and I did a solo album even in that time. And here we are now, with a new album.

When did you actually start collecting ideas and writing songs for this album?
It was around March 2019 I think, or May, I cannot remember. We did a Queensrÿche tour in America and since we were finished with that and we came home, I finished my solo album and Jim and I started writing for the new album. We wrote for about a year, kind of taking our time and we knew we wanted to have an album out in 2020, but everything went to shit with the covid thing, so… but we are still able to have the album out this year, which is a good thing. I hope.

Yes, I think so. People need solace with good new music now that they cannot go to concerts…
Yes, people have asked me if it was a good idea to have an album out in 2020 while everything was going on and I think it is, since there’s no live concerts to go to. All we have is music to look forward to, so at least it is one more new album that people can get their hands on and listen to it until it is time to go back out on the road. There’s a lot of new albums coming out. Armored Saint just came out, ours is coming out, there is a lot new music coming out and again, with that whole covid thing, musicians have nothing else, except to write. I can imagine in 2021 there’s going to be a flood of albums from everyone and that is a good thing as well.

In this situation, the recording process was a special adventure, also for you, isn’t it?
Yes, it was just different. Everything was happening and we were near the end of the lockdown in Spain. I was able to make it to the studio, but I had to stay there. I just could not travel back and forth like a normal job. So I had to live in the studio for a couple of weeks. It was something that needed to be done, otherwise the album did not make it to the finish. Well, it was part of the job I guess.

Are you the kind of person that sees the positive side of being alone and rather isolated to do a job like this – singing and concentrating on recording – or was it pretty hard for you since you are really a social beast?
No, I think it was a positive thing. Again, there was nothing to do since Spain was on a total lockdown. No one could leave to anything, so   Normally when I am working on music, I am just home working in my studio anyway, so it was not a big change for me. I enjoy going out, but it did not affect me that much. The only bad thing was going to stores, waiting in line outside to go into a store. That was probably the worst thing of everything. Other than that, the writing process I think benefitted from the fact that we were so concentrated on just writing and there were no distractions. No distractions at all.

I can imagine, the summit of concentration. I always do many interviews, but now even more…
Wow. I can imagine that because, like I said, a lot of artists are doing new music now. Hopefully the record labels are doing well, because for now that is the only outlet for music now, making new albums and things with the lack of touring which is the bulk of musicians’ income in order to make any money at all. I imagine everyone will be doing different projects as well as things with their band and as long as the record companies are behind them, I think everything will be okay, at least for a little while. If this continues for another year, I really don’t know what’s going to happen. No clue how bands are going to manage to make it and survive. Bands like Anathema who already basically said they are kind of giving it up for now. Maybe they’ll come back. At least I hope, they are a great band.

Of course, if you suddenly have no income and all plans are gone up in smoke…
Even if it comes to get a real job is difficult, for anybody, to get a job now. It is a tough spot for musicians, it really is.

There is a lot of diversity on the album. For instance, we have a song like ‘When Snow Falls’ where we meet with electronics and ethereal feelings, very nice incorporated into your own sound. How did you come to the idea to think a bit out of the box?
Originally it was an idea that Jim had and he was not sure it would fit on the album. Finally we agreed that being different is better, to have more diversity on the album, rather than every song being in the same vein so to speak, all of it being heavy and up-tempo. We decided to leave it on the album rather than put it on a bonus disc or something, it think it fits nice on the album. It breaks up everything quite a bit. It was a real cool song, once we started working on it, we both fell in love with it. The vocal part was a cool idea. First when I was working on it, I thought Jim would like to have a kind of ghostly, ethereal kind of vocals, something like The Cure’s ‘Disintegration’. Where he has so many effects on his voice that it becomes a sort of an instrument, other than just a voice. And that is what I kind of wanted for that song and it worked out. It really did. The original demo sounds pretty similar and I think Barresi did a great job with the mixing as far as effects and sounds.

Another thing was that you engaged a string quartet for the first time. Did it have any kind of influence on you or was it just a thing that needed to be done in the United States?
It was a thing that Jim came up with. Originally he had strings in mind for that song ‘Under The Sun’. The original demo had keyboards on it, but the idea was to have a real string section playing the part. In the beginning it was just for the intro, then Jim decided to have it throughout the song which I think is a great idea. It adds so much more colour to the song, so it was a really good idea from Jim’s part. It makes the song a bit more special.

In addition to the core line-up, we meet with guest appearances from drummer Gavin Harrison and guitarist Mike Abdow. Can you tell something more about that?
Originally only with ‘When Snow Falls’ we were a little bit behind schedule, time was catching up and we needed to get things done. It was one of the last songs that we did and have written. At first we played with the idea of not having drums on it, just being electronic, but finally we decided we needed drums, but Bobby was still writing chords for other songs and we were about to start tracking. So Jim asked Gavin if he would mind doing the drums tracks for that song and he agreed. Jim and Gavin are friends, they work together in other projects. That’s how that came about and I think it is a different take on what Bobby would have done, but I still love it. And Mike did the more technical guitar solos. Jim’s solos are more melody driven I think. Mike has the technical, the speed, the virtuoso type thing, which adds a proper thing to the music too. Mike is an incredible guitar player and we were glad that he was able to contribute to the album.

What are your feelings about the longest track of the album ‘The Longest Shadow Of The Day’?
That is amazing. I think it is one of the coolest songs that Jim has ever written. It is really different, sort of a jazz vibe, it goes through every element from quiet to heavy to introspective. To me I think it is one of the most interesting songs we have ever done. Musically it is fantastic. I love it. A cool addition.

I can understand you are on the tiptoe of expectations to play this live…
Yeah I was a little bit afraid at first when Jim told me there was an eleven minutes long song. I wasn’t sure how much singing there was involved, then he told me it was just the ending part. Great! (laughs) It is really the prog piece of the album.

For this album you returned to Metal Blade. How did that happen?
I am not sure. I know our contract was up with Inside Out. We only signed a two album deal. So we were sort of free at that point. We have got every album on Metal Blade, except the last two. It was Jim’s decision to go back to Metal Blade. We had a conversation with Brian Slagel, in Las Vegas I remember. We got dinner and talked about getting back to the label. At that point Jim wasn’t even sure if he wanted to do another album. But we went back, they are family, they were the first ones who gave us a chance in the world, so why not going back to them? Again, they are like family. I know everyone who worked there pretty much and I am grown up with them. It is a natural thing.

Was there a certain reason for choosing the title ‘Long Day Good Night’?
That was Jim’s decision. We talked about many different ideas for title names and this one just seemed great. So we went with that.

It has an almost romantic feel that fits very well with the artwork…
Yeah Patrick did a great job with the artwork. We have been struggling with the artwork for the album for a while, going back and forth. A photograph. We wanted an original piece, but we did not know what. So we just looked at the work of different artists and we settled on Patrick, because we both really liked his stuff and I think he did an amazing job. It is a kind of desolate landscape.

Are you living in the city of Madrid or outside, more on the country?
Outside a little bit, but still in Madrid. Not in the center, it is too much. Too busy for us. We have a big dog and he likes to run around, outside. There are a lot of parks where we live.

Are you still in very close contact with the guys in the US or is it more a working engagement?
No, we are friends, we talk now and then. Obviously not as much as we used to (laughs). I used to see Joey a lot more, because we used to live in the same city, but now we just talk now and then. I still consider us friends, not just business. Jim and I are constantly talking about Trump and the election coming up. This is a big source of our conversations. Most of our conversations now.

You have been the singer in Redemption for a long time, why did you leave?
At the time when I decided to leave Redemption I was very busy. We were working on the album. Jim wasn’t sure if there would be another album after that, we did a lot more touring with Fates Warning and it seemed that we were going to stay on that path. I just wanted to focus all my energy on Fates Warning and decided to leave Redemption. Maybe the decision was a little too hasty, because now it seems like we have all this time, but they have a new singer and Tom (Englund – Vera) is great, so I am not going to step on anyone’s toes and continue doing my own thing.

Are you planning a new solo album?
Thinking about it. At the moment I am working on a few different projects, just to stay busy and keep a roof over our heads. Yes I am going to keep busy and maybe, when I am done with these projects, start writing another solo album, we’ll see. I am not even sure how well the first one did. I guess it did okay, but I never saw any numbers. It seemed to be well received, so we’ll see.

The new album ends in a sad way a bit with ‘The Last Song’ and you sing there: ‘now our winter has begun’… I hope it doesn’t mean that Fates Warning is going to stop?
Well, this decision is up to Jim. Again, the last few albums we did, he wasn’t sure if he wanted to even continue for any new music, so it seems now that it may be the last album that we do together, but as far as touring and everything else, there is no end in sight for that. I just think that Jim doesn’t want to continue writing new music.

On the other hand, once he has started, he has written a very long album…
Yeah… go out with a bang I guess… At least we want to tour and support this album, that is still fun for all of us I think. The whole point of being in a band is to play live. That is why I started doing this in the first place and it still is as much fun as it was 36, 37 years ago when I was a kid. Still a great time.

Do you listen a lot to music yourself?
Not so much actually. I have other things to spend my time than listening to music. I wish I did.

Are you having new hobbies, now that you have more time?
No, I don’t have that much time, I wish I did. I am working on projects now, my favourite things are being with my family and watching horror movies with my wife whenever we have downtime at night. Mostly in the weekends, because we are too tired to do anything on the week nights. We used to go to the cinema at least once a week, but now there’s no good horror movies coming out anymore. At the moment.