Ray Alder Interview
October 10, 1998
by Steph Perry
We talked to Ray Alder, lead singer of Fates Warning, about the new live record and the band’s future. He called from his home in Los Angeles a few days after the record was released. The record is a double set called Still Life (on Metal Blade Records) and is a culmination of performances from earlier this year. The first CD is a live version of A Pleasant Shade of Gray, the band’s last studio record. The second CD is a mix of older songs. The group also put out a live video earlier this year which relates a live performance of A Pleasant Shade of Gray with some very interesting dramatic interludes, ala Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Ray said that he and his bandmates are taking a much-needed rest from almost two years of touring, and will hook up early next year to start working on the next release.
Still Life is the first live record from Fates Warning and we understand that the fans voted on what was included on the second CD?
In a round about way, it was basically what people yell out to us every time we play. We just took all those notes and made a record out of it.
Do you have any moments from this past tour that really stand out in your mind?
Maybe one of the ones that stood out the most was just the fact that most of the music that’s recorded on the record is from Offenbach, Germany, which was this incredible show. I think we were lucky to be able to capture the energy of that show for a live CD.
Can you tell me about the live video?
It’s like 21 days of video from the first part of the tour. There should have been more footage of the band. We had a film crew with us that followed us around and unfortunately they didn’t do very good work. They were supposed to get us on the bus, eating, and sleeping, but they lacked so we kind of fired them in the middle of the thing and just finished it ourselves.
And the dramatic parts? How was all that put together?
That was all Joey Vera — he’s a very artistic person. He had all these views and we said go for it.
Any tour plans in the near future?
We were supposed to tour with King’s X and Galactic Cowboys, but that fell through. We may go out in January but I don’t know how realistic that is. We’ve headlined for this record now four times for four separate tours. I think the record has pretty much run its course, I don’t see the point in headlining again. If we got an opening slot I think it would be great but at this point in time I don’t think it’s going to happen until we write a new record.
And what’s up with the new record?
Right now Jim is working on a solo record and I’m working on some stuff with some friends. We’re keeping busy and I’d say in two months we’ll start writing for the new record and try to get it out in the year 1999.
Can you tell me about your solo effort?
It’s going to be a very eclectic mix of music, because my musical taste is just so vast. I love the Deftones, Soul Fly, Sarah McLaughlin, Spock’s Beard, and Dream Theater. I want to kind of mix them all together and maybe make about eight songs. Some really slow, almost Tori Amos style, and then some heavy Deftones style songs, and really just kind of freak people out.
What’s the deal with the brain and the umbrella?
Well, we were brainstorming, ha – no pun intended, and were trying to think of something to represent A Pleasant Shade of Gray. One of the ideas for the album cover was a barren desert with maybe one dying weed on the front and then on the back would be gray rain clouds coming towards the desert. Another one was the brain and the umbrella. Gray matter in the brain and the umbrella is shade.
Can you tell me about the story behind A Pleasant Shade of Gray?
It’s basically what we deal with in our everyday lives. I’m sure we’ve all had those times when you lay awake in bed at night wondering where our life has been and where it’s taking us, and what should we do to improve it. Basically good times and bad times. The whole story deals with a person lying in bed at night and he can’t sleep and all these thoughts are going through his head. At the end when he’s talking about “this pleasant shade of gray” he basically just comes to terms with what his life has dealt him. And then the alarm clock goes off and wakes him up. Jim could explain it a lot better [laughs].
Now you’ve been with the band for about ten years, can you reflect on how you’ve progressed as a musician?
When I first started, I think I was trying to impress everyone with the high screams, because that was what was “in”. As a vocalist, I’ve realized that’s not all there is to music. Over the years I’ve gotten a lot more control over my voice. I know what I want to do as far as melodies and harmonies. I’m still singing the same sort of style but just toned down a bit. My musical tastes have changed. I was a total heavy metal kid when I was young, now I love all sorts of music.
How do you describe the style of Fates Warning’s music and the direction its heading?
The style, I guess, you would call progressive rock. Everyone calls us progressive metal but it’s just really progressive music with an edge to it. I think that the progressive style right now is growing, maybe that’s a positive thing that will continue. Like I said, we haven’t started writing the new record so it will be very interesting when the three of us get back together.