Jim Matheos interview
By Steph Perry
October 25, 2011
I called Jim Matheos at his place in New Hampshire to talk about the new band Arch/Matheos. The project reunites Jim with former Fates Warning vocalist John Arch, together with Joey Vera, Frank Aresti, and Bobby Jarzombek. Although they collaborated on the Twist of Fate EP in 2003, this is the first full-length album John and Jim have done together since 1986. As was their writing method in the 80’s, Jim wrote the music and John wrote the melodies and lyrics. Jim told me, “Originally the first couple songs were written for Fates and even at that point I was planning on giving them to Ray and let him do his thing lyrically.” But when Ray Alder wasn’t available just yet to work on a new Fates Warning record, Jim turned to John Arch and Arch/Matheos was born. Jim mentioned that Arch/Matheos will play one gig at the Keep It True Festival in Germany next April. Only time will tell if there will be more shows.
Jim’s thoughts on his preference for writing long-form music vs. shorter pieces
I think I enjoy writing the longer ones more, it gives you something to sink your teeth into I guess and it’s a bit more rewarding. But having said that I think the shorter ones are sometimes a lot harder, to try to say something in a short concise form.
On presenting the songs on the album in the same order that they were written
I’ve done it a couple times in the past. I did it with A Pleasant Shade of Gray. That may have been the only other one. But I kind of had an idea for the whole sequence after the first song, which was Neurotically Wired was written, I kind of knew where I wanted to go with it from there at least kind of like the arc of the way the album would be. I don’t know it kind of just developed that way and seemed like a cool way to process it.
On if he minded that someone else wrote the lyrics
No, I don’t really like writing lyrics. It’s more or less something I have to do when I have to do it. I put a lot of work and effort into it but it’s not something I enjoy, like doing the music. So whenever I’m working with someone else that’s able to take care of that, I’d rather have them do it so I can focus on the music. It’s much better for me.
On whether he was surprised by the content and themes of John’s lyrics
A little bit because on the first three Fates records he dealt a lot more with fantasy subjects and mythological things. Then in 2003 when we did the Twist of Fate EP he started dealing with more personal subjects, a bit more of an abstract way but still touching on personal things to him and this record even more so. So it was a bit surprising when he first started it, that he was going to be that blatant to come out with a lot of personal things he was going through and write about those.
On how much it meant to him to work with John again
It’s always great. When we did A Twist of Fate in 2003 we hadn’t worked together in 15 or 20 years and that one fell together really easy, so when this one came around with only a few years in between it wasn’t such a shock to me. We just fell back into our old ways. We have a really good chemistry, a familiar pattern the way the work flow goes, it’s really comfortable for both of us.
On if he learned anything new about John
(Laughs). No. We’ve been doing it together for such a long time, I think we both know each other pretty well. Probably better than anyone else.
On what it meant for him to hear John say, “In interpreting some of Jim’s musical arrangements, they evoke emotion”
You really can’t ask for anything more. That’s really what it comes down to as a writer. Trying to get that emotion whether it’s being with your co-writer or the people that are listening to it. That’s the real essence of it what it comes down to. That’s satisfying, yeah. I think with John even more so it’s challenging because a lot of times he’s not really moved by stuff, he’s not someone that’s easily impressed with music or lyrics or anything else. So that’s great to hear, it’s very rewarding.
On the meaning of the album title “Sympathetic Resonance”
Well on the basic level, the literal definition is a musical term. When you have an instrument that resonates, like if you hit a piano note and there’s a guitar in the room, it will kind of make that guitar resonate in sympathy with it even though you’re not striking that instrument. So there’s two levels that work for us besides that: the two of us working together where the music resonates with him emotionally and the same goes for his lyrics and melody lines for me. And hopefully to carry that one level further to the fans, we hope that it resonates with them and strikes a chord with them as well.
On recording with Bobby Jarzombek for the first time
John and I were there tracking the drums with him, and he just blew both of us away. I’ve seen him in action before live but in the studio he just took it to another level. He was so well prepared. A lot of times when I’ve worked with other drummers in the past a lot of it is written out, they know what they’re going to do, but not to the degree that Bobby had his stuff done. I mean, down to the fills and which cymbal he was going to hit where, everything was written out. So he had his stuff down and it made it a lot easier for all of us. He did a great job.
On shooting the video for the song “Midnight Serenade” in New Haven, Connecticut
It’s pretty much just a straight performance video. There’s a location right around Yale, it’s an old church, Christ Church I think it’s called, it’s pretty close to Toad’s Place. So it’s really just a straight performance video. Not a big budget for it. But it came out pretty good, we just saw the finals for it a couple days ago and I think it’s going to have some kind of premiere at Metal Blade at the end of this week or early next week. It came out good, we’re happy with it.
On tour plans for Arch/Matheos
Any kind of extensive touring is out of the question, for various reasons. Mostly because John is a busy man with his work and family life and things like that. We are going to do at least one show next year in Germany and we’ll see how it goes after that. The rest of us, myself, Joey, Frank and Bobby, would love to do as many as possible. But that’s what we do, we record and play live. And John doesn’t really do either of those much so it’s harder for him to get back into it. We’ll see. We’re trying to talk him into it at this point.
On if it’s too soon to discuss what songs they will play at the Keep It True Festival
It’s not too soon (laughs). John likes to get well prepared and he hasn’t been on a stage in 25 years or something like that so he’s ready to start practicing right now. We’ll probably do almost the whole new record. I don’t think we’ll do the whole thing. And of course we gotta do some of the early Fates, at least one song from each of the first three records but we haven’t decided which ones.
On what’s up next for Fates Warning
Well we’re writing. I just started writing in the last couple of weeks. So the plan is to get this record done and hopefully out around this time next year.
On what else he’s working on
We just finished the OSI record and that comes out in February next year. And then Fates will probably do some dates early next year and then we’ll buckle down and work on the record for the rest of the year.
Jim’s closing thoughts
I hope everyone checks out the record and enjoys it.
NOTE: The album Sympathetic Resonance by Arch/Matheos is out now on Metal Blade Records