Ray Alder - A-Z
"Melodies and Lyrics"

Interview with Ray Alder, lead vocalist of Fates Warning, about the new band A-Z!
By: Mark Cubbedge  |  Published: Thursday, August 4, 2022
Ray Alder, Vocals. Pic copyright Mark Cubbedge [website]

Ray Alder: Vocals
Philip Bynoe: Bass Guitar
Vivien Lalu: Keyboards
Joop Wolters: Guitars
Mark Zonder: Drums

Ray Alder was introduced to the world of metal music in 1988 when Fates Warning released 'No Exit', the first of 10 studio albums to feature Alder on vocals.

His credits include a deep discography with Redemption, Engine, and his solo music. His latest work is A-Z's self-titled, debut album out August 12 on Metal Blade Records. Ray took some time to chat with us about working without restraints, how he balances the writing of darker and more upbeat songs, as well as where one of the new A-Z songs rank on his personal resume.

MM: Ray, thank you again for taking the time to chat and shoot some art when you came in for what must have seemed like a whirlwind trip from Spain to Atlanta back in June. Looking back, what feelings did you experience on stage again for the first time in nearly 3 years, and playing your solo music for the first time at ProgPower USA?

RA: I was actually very nervous. I was never nervous before with Fates. But this time being that it had been almost 3 years and I was solo was a big deal. After a couple of songs everything was fine though.

MM: Much like your solo record was different from Fates Warning records, the self-titled A-Z record is an entirely different direction, musically, from either of those. The A-Z songs feel like really comfortable rock and roll. And by comfortable I mean when I listen to them they are so melodic and catchy and memorable it seems like you've grown up listening to them. What's your elevator speech describing the music?

MZ: Elevator speech?! Ha! Well, I find the music to be recognizable since it's probably what we all sort of heard throughout the 80s and 90s. That's what I liked about the music. For me it was a bit easier to write melodies and lyrics for this band. Not much but it was different. And singing in 4/4 was a pleasure.

MM: I want to get into a few specific songs, or parts of songs, here in a minute, but first let me ask you about working with Mark and the guys on this record. You go to some places, vocally, on this record I don't think you've been before with Fates, Redemption, Engine, etc. And the lyrics are powerful, story-telling ones I think will resonate on many different levels with listeners. From what I am hearing, and actually feeling in the music, it seems like it was a very empowering/free-to-do-what-you-want type of approach. Is that accurate, and if so is that part of what makes your performance on this record seem so varied, and truly inspired at points? Or is there something else you would point to for that?

RA: Actually you are pretty much correct. I think with Fates I am a bit more dark and the lyrics reflect that. With A-Z I felt like I could do whatever I wanted and not have to worry about what the listener is going to think. Since it's a debut and all the sky's the limit. Again, going back to songs from the 80s and 90s we all were very familiar with the hooks that were there. Whether we owned the albums or not, there was radio. And back then we all listened to the radio from time to time. And even bands that we would never really listen to, their songs were stuck in our heads. So that's what I was going for with this album.

"I think with Fates I am a bit more dark and the lyrics reflect that. With A-Z I felt like I could do whatever I wanted and not have to worry about what the listener is going to think" --Ray

MM: Mark Zonder and I were talking recently about potential future singles/videos from the record, and we were debating the merits of how each song could stand on its own. It's like you all have managed to sneak a greatest hits album into a debut album. Without diving into every one of those I want to ask you about two in particular.

First is "At the Waters Edge". This one makes you stop and think, not unlike "The Road" from your solo record, about time and life itself. It's concisely written and powerfully performed. Was there any specific inspiration for these lyrics? Is this simply a retrospective viewpoint as we make our way through life? Or something entirely different altogether?

RA: Actually no, it's nothing personal. I just felt the track and these lyrics came to mind. Funny thing is... I found it to be a very upbeat track and I wanted to make it darker. I don't know why but I felt that it could be too happy if I let it. Hence the opposite delivery from the lyrics. I'm not sure if that makes sense but it does to me.

Ray Alder, Vocals. Pic copyright Mark Cubbedge [website]

MM: There is one part in "Waters Edge" that just grips me -- I mean I really feel it -- and I think the lyrics are: "And as I step in, those memories begin, all those fears are shown and I sink like a stone. Holding my last breath it's over." The emotion you deliver these lines with is intense. When you are recording do you find yourself sort of like in actor mode where you immerse yourself in a character to pull out the necessary feeling for what you are singing and trying to get across?

RA: Exactly that. The lyrics are emotion. And for me I want to express that through the melody. Sometimes it can actually be too much and I have to reel it back in a touch.

MM: The second song I want to ask you about is "Stranded". Arguably your strongest vocal performance on the record. Can you talk about this song, how it came to be, and where do you feel it comes in on your resume of work to date?

RA: I love this song. I immediately fell in love with the tune as soon as I heard it. I didn't know what I wanted to do with it at first but I knew I wanted it to be special. At first I sort of heard a Sting vibe going on but it slowly changed to a sort of Sade feel. Sorry, but it's true. The drums and guitars reminded me of a tropical setting so I went with that. The idea of someone who has shut themselves off from other people whether it be from past experiences or a tragic event in their lives then finding the person that they can trust and move on with their life just came about with the feeling of the music. I believe it's my most romantic song to date. Ha!

MM: Ray, thank you again for your time. I know you've got a lot going on with the A-Z release Aug. 12, and finishing up your second solo record. Congratulations again on the A-Z record. It's one I think will make a lot of Album of The Year lists at year's end.

RA: Thank you! I hope everyone enjoys it!

Ray Alder, Vocals. Pic copyright Mark Cubbedge [website]

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Pre-order A-Z at: Metal Blade Records


A-Z Band.

Ray AlderMark Cubbedge8/4/2022"Melodies and Lyrics"
Mark ZonderMark Cubbedge8/1/2021"The Human Side of Rock n' Roll"


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