Bobby Jarzombek - Fates Warning "Worth the Time Spent"
Interview with Bobby Jarzombek, drummer of Fates Warning about their new release 'Long Day Good Night'.
By: Mark Cubbedge | Published: Tuesday, November 10, 2020
Bobby Jarzombek. Copyright Mark Cubbedge [website]
Maximum Metal: Bobby, thank you for taking the time to chat a little bit about the new Fates Warning release Long Day Good Night, which is out now on Metal Blade records. There's quite a collection of different styles on this record. Is it fair to say this is, stylistically, one of the more eclectic records you've been on?
Bobby Jarzombek: In general with Fates Warning, because the influences of the band are so wide, like all of us like anything as heavy as Opeth and that sort of thing and then we have the influences of UFO and bands that are more classic. And then Jim also has personal influences like Pink Floyd where the music is really sort of sparse and airy sounding.
With Fates Warning, you hear those influences peeking out at different times. That's why a lot of time the material, and the catalog, can be pretty wide at times as far as the sound from one song to the other while always still having our sound. This album, in particular, I group songs that are straight ahead, sort of metal, hard rock, slightly progressive; then there are songs that are not as edgy and maybe ballady, and then there are epics, which we have three of on this record. They take the road of being really progressive and have mood swings throughout the songs and a lot of dynamics; a lot of layers of sound. This record has all those elements in it of the straightforward stuff, the heavy stuff and then the real progressive stuff. Being a long record, 72 minutes, there is a lot of room to explore those areas.
MM: Before we get into some of the specifics about this record, can you give an overview of what the process was like for you tracking this record? It was like a 6-month effort if I remember correctly.
BJ: Jim started working on the record in the Spring 2019 or somewhere around there. I wasn't getting the tracks until around November and I was on tour with Sebastian last year at this time and I took a week or so off and then I got right into the studio and started learning my way through the material.
As we were going through the process, Christmas comes up and then we got into the new year and I didn't get to finish tracking things until May. So, it took about a six-month process of putting all that together and going back and forth with Jim. It is always a process. Some of the easy songs it takes maybe a week or so to put them together but some of the more difficult songs it might take as long as three weeks to go back and forth, exchanging emails and texts with all of these different parts.
MM: The opening track, The Destination Onward, is a great one. I actually listened to it a few times on repeat before letting the rest of the album play. It's a great track to lead off with and pull the listener in.
BJ: I think that is a good way to listen to a song or listen to an album instead of just scrolling through the whole record. Listen to a song a few times so you can kind of get a bearing on what the song is, especially with progressive music, that's a great way to do it. It's not a pop song so it's not like 'Oh that's a catchy chorus', then you hear it a second time and third time and by the third time you hear it it's like 'Ah, shit I'm already done with that.'
The Destination Onward was a song when Jim wrote it, and we were working on it, we thought that could be an opener for the record. Even in the demo phase, it just built up in that way. Maybe sort of similar to From The Rooftops where it has those elements at the opening of the song where you anticipate something coming up that's going to be big and I think that's a good way to open up a record. Think about an album like Farewell to Kings from Rush. There are certain elements that make the listener anticipate certain things and when it all kicks in it's one of those things where you say 'This is a great opening track.'
MM: Last week you and I were talking a little bit about some of the tracks and you really like Under the Sun, which features a full string section for the first time in a Fates song. Can you talk about why you like the song so much and what it was like putting it all together?
BJ: When Jim sent me the track to actually work on I listened to it as a listener, the same as everybody else. I am listening to the song and it's just straight forward; has a nice groove. And then I heard Ray's vocals ... when it kicks into the chorus I thought, 'Wow!' To me it sounded commercial and it sounds progressive at the same time. I texted Ray in Spain and I was like, 'What the hell? This is one of your greatest melodic performances on a song.' Then Ray started telling me the story about how it was originally going to be a small section in one of the big epics. Ray started coming up with the vocal parts to that and Ray suggested it be turned into a full song on its own. I don't see how it could have been anything else because I think that song is so strong with Ray's melodies and his vocals. I texted him and said that could be on a Sunlight dishwashing commercial. I hear that song, that melody that he is singing and the vocals, and I can hear that anywhere--radio, TV, etc. I just love that song. To me, it's something really special that Ray and Jim put together.
MM: There are a couple of songs on Long Day Good Night where there is really a lot of ebb and flow; you can feel the tension building and building, and then it crescendos and then backs off and breathes some and ramps back up. The Way Home is one of those tracks with the cymbal or hat work from the 2:27-3:05 mark and then you really punch it up until the 3:41 mark and the song soars and really grooves for a bit.
BJ: That would be one of what I consider the three epic songs on the record. That song was particularly crazy because it opens with Ray doing that really nice melody -- which is also one of Ray's really great moments on the record -- and the song goes into some weird sort of tight hi-hat. I used the blast cymbal actually. I set it on top of my 10-inch tom and that was one sound, and then I have a little cymbal stack on the other side. So I have three sound sources that are sort of cymbals. Initially when Jim sent me that song there wasn't a drum part there. There was this electronic [noise] ... it's not something you could play as a drummer. I asked him what are you going to do with that part and he said why don't you come up with something for that. I listened to the phrases, that one is really weird because it's like 15 measures and I had to group them in a way where I grouped three measures in a repetitive sort of thing three times five measures each. As I mentioned I put these cymbals in weird places and created a pattern based on a 5 measure phrase and put this thing together. Then I added a kick pattern to it and the next part that comes in where I'm playing between a kick, hi-hat, and snare, it's the same phrase only played between kick and snare. It's the same pattern. Maybe it sounds dramatically different. With progressive music the sort of things you can create like that is endless. That all came from hearing Jim's electronic noise. It made for a really cool part. It's a really cool track.
"I don't know if there is ever a 12/8 piece of music in the Fates Warning catalog. That may sound a little odd for a progressive band but I think that is one of the reasons that part sounds so different.." --Bobby
Bobby Jarzombek, The Way Home, and a blast cymbal on a 10-inch tom.
MM: The Way Home seems like it would be one of those fun songs to play and see live. There are actually a few songs that I think would go over well live. Is there a song or three from this record that you'd really like to see make a set list once touring resumes?
BJ: Scars might be on the set list. That was the first track that everybody heard. The Destination Onward would be cool, and even some of the songs that are a little bit more ballady would be cool on the set list. There are some good songs all the way around. Fates likes to do at least three new tracks on a tour. There are a lot of records to choose from but it would be nice to play at least three new tracks.
MM: One song, When the Snow Falls, features Gavin Harrison on drums instead of yourself. How did Gavin come into the fold and end up playing on that song?
The most stressful part of this whole recording process for this record was, as I mentioned, I started working on the record in November and I was making progress and following the regular timeline, then Christmas came around and I had some one-offs with Sebastian and a tour schedule with Sebastian. It was going to be mid-March, April and May. Maybe in January I looked at my timeline and I mentioned to Jim that I won't be able to finish this record before I leave on tour in March. The big goal we had was to finish the record before the end of 2020 (pre-COVID of course). So we started thinking of scenarios how I could finish most of the tracks. One of the solutions to the dilemma was to have another drummer play on a couple of tracks. I didn't like the idea, Jim didn't like the idea. We even talked about flying me into a studio during the Sebastian tour. It was crazy.
Jim found some Gavin files he had from working with him, and Jim put the whole song together with this pre-recorded drumming of Gavin. At that point I was relieved there was one more song I didn't have to worry about with the upcoming Sebastian tour. So March comes around and the whole COVID thing is blowing up and I am not going on tour. As it turned out I was able to do the rest of the record and play on everything instead of us leaving a track off the record or having bonus tracks maybe released later. I went back in the studio and finished tracking my drums in May. Those extra two months that I didn't have to be on tour was really beneficial for me to finish the record. In the meantime we had this Gavin song and it was like, 'What do we do? Do you play your drums on it?' I was like, 'No it's fine the way it is.' So we left it and that's why Gavin is on the record.
MM: For me the show-stealer on the album is The Longest Shadow of the Day. It's probably my favorite song of the year, and will be one of those Fates classics like Epitaph, or The Eleventh Hour or Light and Shade that just gets better with each listen. Did you guys feel like you were working on something special when this was coming together?
For me it's the most difficult song I've ever played with Fates. I told Jim when I started working on it, "I'm never going to play this song live. Don't put it on the set list because it's just too hard for me to play." I'm joking a little bit, but it's very difficult.
The first opening section to around 2:30 is amazing to hear the back and forth with Joey and Mike and Jim doing the trade-off solo thing.
A little crazy thing that nobody knows is when Jim sent the demos to all of us there was saxophone in a lot of those sections. He had sax in there! There was no real intention to put saxophone in that but I think that set the mood that this is going to be very different. It's going to be a very different sort of thing, a stretch-the-boundaries sort of thing.
When the song really kicks in at about the 2:45 mark we kick into this 12/8 groove. It's what we describe as the second section of the song. The programming Jim had on that was based on 16th notes or 32nd notes. It was a lot of 1-e-and-a, 2-e-and-a, 3-e-and-a, 4-e-and-a. It was not 12/8. It was not triplet based. His programming was 16th-note based. While I am listening to it and trying to come up with some drumming on it, his picking is playing triplets on a lot of this but his programming was playing 16ths. I heard the clash of that and I said, 'How do you want this to go?' That section from about 2:45-5:30 we went through each individual section of that and back and forth with files, emails, and phone calls and texts to try to sort through that whole 12/8 section. I don't know if there is ever a 12/8 piece of music in the Fates Warning catalog. That may sound a little odd for a progressive band but I think that is one of the reasons that part sounds so different.
Then we get to the third part of the song and it comes down and Ray comes in with the vocals. There is a lot of layering in that third section of the song. From me there are a lot of press rolls and splash cymbals. It's a really light groove. It's cool how it comes down and introduces the vocals.
The whole last section with Mike taking off on that ending solo was great. Overall it's an epic song. It was a hard one. It took at least three weeks to put that all together just for me and with Jim. It was worth the time spent on it it seems like. Sometimes you spend a lot of time on something and then people don't get it.
MM: Jim, of course, is a brilliant musician and composer, and a lot has been written about that over the years. On The Longest Shadow though Mike Adbow has three solos. What does Mike bring to the band?
Jim is always the main guitar player and main writer. He is taking care of the guitars on the record. But having Mike come in and play solos and add things here and there, it makes the record a little more diverse and it makes the record more sophisticated in my mind too because Mike, though he is younger than all of us, he has a wealth of knowledge and chord structure and different phrasing. I can pick it out immediately when Jim sends me the final track with Mike playing in it. I'm like, 'What's up with that Al Di Meola picking Mike is doing in The Longest Shadow of the Day. It's so cool that he has this legato phrasing that he plays and he has this Al Di Meola stuff going on. He is really diverse for a guy his age. A very mature player.
MM: Bobby, again brilliant work. Thank you for sharing your time today and congratulations on the worldwide release of Long Day Good Night.
BJ: Glad to speak with you Mark. Call me any time.