Catching up with John Arch, 7/5/2013
My love for Fates Warning’s early work runs deep. Much of that is because of the magical vocals of John Arch. I recently caught up with John and he graciously agreed to answer some questions. Enjoy!
It’s been just over a year now from your shows at KIT 2012 and Hartford. Time has flown by and I must say that I’m still a bit in awe from the Hartford show. It was the best show I’ve ever seen. But enough out of me…
Can you describe your experiences from those 2 shows? Any after-effects?
JA: Well Sean, everything leading up to the shows caused a few sleepless nights. Although I had a reasonable time to prepare, it was still a daunting task for me. Besides having the Type A personality and not performing for the better par of two decades, I was most concerned about my voice holding up to the rigors of music I found difficult to sing 20 years ago. I guess there was no point stressing because contracts were signed, and there was no turning back. It was a better part of seven months of singing directly into a concrete wall so everything would sound as dead as possible, and that really helped with my pitch, vibrato and endurance. There were some good nights and some not so good nights, but as the dates quickly approached there came the realization that though I never feel fully prepared, I had to accept that whatever I bring to the table will have to be the best I can do. I found myself in Germany thinking, holy shit, how did I end up here?! We had little time as there was only two and a half days to rehearse as a band for the first time together ever. I hate to use the word surreal, but that is the best way to describe the feeling when we hit the stage. I guess I was so amped up that an hour and a half felt like fifteen minutes, and before I realized it was time for an encore. How we made it though with very few if any major blips that I noticed, I’ll never know. I guess everyone did their homework and came prepared. I know there are professional musicians like the guys that shared the stage that night with me that do this often, but for me it was a personal high point.
You ask about after effects, Sean. After the Webster show there were many pictures taken with myself and the fans, and in everyone of them I had a huge smile for the sense of relief that we had brought back to life the music of the past 28 + years, and everyone at the shows really enjoyed it. After a slight decompression and some sleep, what I walked away with from this experience is that the most rewarding part was the fans. The more energy I threw at them, they gave it back ten fold. It was that energy, the heads banging, and the fists in the air that motivated us.
While we could sit and talk Fates Warning all day (or at least I could), how was it writing and recording both the solo album (2003) and the Arch/Matheos (2011) records?
JA: Well Sean, as for myself, A Twist and Sympathetic Resonance respectfully had the same protocol.
I think there was a bit more apprehension with the solo effort because of the two decades between my last recording and ATOF. I think both Jim and I were both curious as to see if there was any creative energy left for a collaboration of musical ideas. I think once all the formalities are put aside, the work begins with a hyper focused vigilance which leaves one banging their head against the wall for the next line. It must be like writing a novel or something where the first word or idea that is the hardest. After such a long hiatus, creating something from nothing becomes a curious concept, but once the ideas start to flow you enter a zone where life’s problems are less intrusive and the mission to see the light at the end of the tunnel becomes paramount. That is the part I enjoy the most. The solo effort was cut short because Jim had prior commitments, which was unfortunate because the ideas were still coming.
Here we are years later, but not two more decades at least. Sympathetic Resonance was finally an effort for a full album. I think because of A Twist of Fate, the studio seemed a bit more familiar to me. Jim and I resurrected our collaborative nature, and maybe it might happen again. I think when some time goes by, and you have true life experiences to draw from, It makes for more honest unpretentious lyrics.
I was actually enjoying the self indulgent theme the lyrical concept was heading. I had a well of personal experience to draw from and Jim’s compositions were driving this energy out of me which was kind of therapeutic. We had a good head start because Jim had quite a bit written and things came together at a good clip. I think because Jim and I have very similar work ethic, and neither one of us is ever satisfied,
It is a comfortable working environment for me. All said and done, it was a rewarding experience. I was able to silence some of the demons I deal with and find the courage to put myself out there. The true sense of relief comes when it falls on different ears and positive things come from it.
To deviate away from the same old music questions for a bit, I’d like to hit you up on a more personal level. You spent time in the Air Force (San Antonio?), how long did you serve and what was your role? Thanks for your service.
JA: Since I am long winded, I’ll keep this one short. Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, Texas for boot camp. Chanute AFB Illinois for military vehicle mechanic training and I was stationed 103rd tactical fighter unit Windsor Locks Ct.
I know that you’re a bicycle enthusiast as well as a Harley rider. What bikes do you currently own? Do you have any favorite places to ride either cycle?
JA: Yes Sean, I like two wheeled things. I got into Mountain biking over 20 years ago and have been hooked ever since. After the initial “fuck this it’s to hard” phase, I found it was good for me. Besides the Endorphins, adrenaline and other good chemicals released, it is just plain fun. I told myself when I first started riding that I wanted to just have fun with no pressure. It wasn’t long before that concept flew out the window and I got involved with racing. After 3 or 4 seasons of that I decided it was a big commitment. In order to stay competitive, there is a lot of training and traveling involved. These days I enter a few select races like 24 mtb race or the Mount Washington auto road race among others, but I’m having more fun without the competition. Favorite rides you ask? Moab Utah, Colorado, and the good old fashion rooty, rocky, slimy, steep terrain of New England. Bikes currently owned are: Santa Cruz Blur LT, Santa Cruz Blur classic, Intense 6.6, Yeti ASR5, SC Heckler, Cannondale Liquagas, Lemond Steel, and a Harley Dyna Low Rider.
Besides the cycling, what are you up to these days?
JA: Just Like any working man that has chosen the path of least resistance, working 50 hour a week, house and yard work, fixing broken shit, like three cars all with duct tape over the flashing engine light, Kid in college, and trying to squeeze in riding time. Not enough hours in a day, and not enough vacation time. Just think these are the good times.
I do want to get back into a music discussion a little bit. As you know, especially from those last 2 shows and via the Internet in general, you’re often referred to as a legend. Are you comfortable with that?
JA: I’m not sure I believe in that term “legends”, and I certainly don’t associate the definition of the word with anything I’ve done. I don’t mean to get all righteous about it, but there are many people in our presence that are far more deserving of accolades such as the single mother working the grave yard shift to feed her children, our brothers and sisters that are no longer with us that died in senseless Wars.
The folks who volunteer to make this world a better place, the list is endless. To answer the question…No Sir.
Can you tell me what you’re currently listening to? How about some of your all time faves?
JA: I’m a fan of many genres of music. Some of my pre-metal day favorites are the early prog of Yes, Uriah Heep, Grand Funk, Queen, Tull, Styx, Zeppelin, Pat Travers, Aerosmith, Kansas, and a ton of others. No use getting all cerebral digging up obscure bands when the fantastic four will do for my main metal influence: Dio, Ozzy, Priest, Maiden.
These days I listen to anything from Revocation, Lamb of God, to Sevendust, and ASG is one of my new favorites. Usually while working on a project or something I will punch in a prog band into Pandora and see what comes up, that has been a way to hear some bands I probably would not have heard otherwise.
Without naming names, some are better than others.
Lately I have been shying away from the airy synthetic keyboard oriented over processed music with operatic singing style, It’s just not my flavor this year. I find myself regressing to the old school stuff to get my fix.
Are there any plans to do any other recordings (solo, Arch/Matheos, guest spots)? Do you tool around at home with any writing even if not intended to put it out?
JA: There is nothing on the burner as we speak, mainly because my schedule is full as it is. I have been approached for projects, but it takes a lot of time and energy for that. Music for me unfortunately not my life’s work and has been like the ebb and flow of the tide. It seems when the time is right, and I am open to the idea is when things happen. I am known to not stray to far from my comfort zone, or step outside the box. There are reasons behind that, some obvious and some not. I have been approached by many bands over the years and either the music had not inspired me in the least, or it was over the top whereas I couldn’t imagine vocals over it. I am satisfied with what I’ve done and how I’ve done it. Life is full of surprises and we will see.
Usually when I’m tooling around the house, it is with some sort of tool in my hand fixing something. Although it would be a good idea to write fleeting thoughts down before I forget them, but honestly I don’t usually walk around with ideas flowing. The creative thinking for me only happens when my ass is to the fire when I have committed to a project. It again feels foreign to me until I become engrossed in the music and engage the left side of the brain which apparently takes extended naps otherwise. Once in the zone, it is undoubtedly where I feel most at peace with the mind being to busy and focused to dwell on negativity. It is a good place to be, and maybe I’ll find myself there sooner than I think.
Do you know how hard it was to write these questions and not end all of them with “…and you’re awesome?” Thanks for your time, John, and thanks for your contribution to the music that is so near and dear to me and will be forever.
JA: Thanks Sean, and peace Bro
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