John Arch (Arch / Matheos) – “Vzel sem mikrofon in začel peti Victim of Changes, in to je bilo to”

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John Arch (na zgornji fotografiji desno) je vrsta kultne figure klasičnih dni heavy metala! Med letoma 1982 in 1987 je prepeval v prvi inkarnaciji nepozabnih Fates Warning, kjer sta s kitaristom Jimom Matheosom predstavljala kreativni nukleus prve ere skupine. Arch je večinski soavtor glavnine kompozicij zgodnjih Fates Warning albumov, obenem pa je veljal za temeljnega tekstopisca skupine. Njegov neverjetno prodoren, avtoritativen, eksploziven, kristalno čist in pečaten, skorajda operetni vokal, ki je sicer kot tenor izdatno podprt s “head voice” petjem, sorodnim Midnightu (Crimson Glory) ali Geoffu Tateu (Queensryche), je vtisnil v slogovno podobo skupine in njenih zgodnjih albumov neizbrisen pečat, ki v srcih njenih oboževalcev zaseda posebno mesto. Unikat. Potem ko je zapustil Fates Warning, ga ni bilo na spregled polnih sedemnajst let, vse do izdaje EP-ja “A Twist Of Fate” leta 2003, s katerim je opozoril, da ostaja vražji vokalist. Sledila je nova dolga pavza. Vse do leta 2011 in združitve z nekdanjimi Fates Warning tovariši oziroma s klasično Fates Warning postavo (brez Raya Adlerja). Tako je nastal Arch/Matheos projekt, v sklopu katerega je septembra 2011 izšel odličen album “Sympathetic Resonance”. Osem let kasneje, v lanskem letu, ga je nasledil nič manj fascinanten “Winter Ethereal”, ki je znova obudil tisto nepozabno magijo pradavnih časov, ko so bili Fates Warning in z njimi metal še mladi.

Živjo John! Kako se je porodila zamisel, da bi se ponovno zbrali in posneli nov album v živo v klasični postavi? Kakšna zgodba se skriva za tem? Zveneli ste odlično in spet ste razturali. To je eden najboljših albumov v živo zadnjih nekaj let.
John: Najprej hvala za komplimente, veseli me, da ti je DVD všeč. Kot si morda uganil, sam nisem ravno pristaš snemanja v živo. Preden me je Jim kontaktiral, so se najbrž vsi vpleteni prepričali, če se se vsi strinjajo z idejo.

John: Skozi leta je trenutna postava benda albume proslavljala s številnimi nastopi ob obletnicah in ponovnimi izdajami. 30-letnico albuma Awaken the Guardian, ki se je mnogim zapisal v srce, je bilo res vredno proslaviti. Ko me je Jim Matheos poklical, sem vedel, da je treba nekaj narediti. Po številnih pogovorih smo si zamislili, da bi se oboževalci najbolj razveselili DVD-ja v živo. Z njim bi namreč dobili priložnost izkusiti takratno obdobje Fatesov v živo vsi tisti, ki tega niso bili deležni. Moj srčni utrip je skočil do neba ob misli, da bom stopil na oder in skušal zavrteti čas za tri desetletja nazaj, a vedel sem, da si ne bi nikoli oprostil, če ne bi vsaj poskusil.

Kako ti je uspelo obdržati tako dober glas in odpeti vse tiste visoke tone na albumu? Ali vadiš? Že dolgo te nismo slišali peti v živo. Imaš melodije še vedno v glavi, še vedno pišeš glasbo ali poješ?
John: Še enkrat hvala, a ker sem po naravi nagnjen h kritiki, z lahkoto rečem, da moj glas ni več tak, kot je bil v mladosti. Vedel sem, da se bo z leti in neprestanimi nastopi moje petje v živo znašlo pred novimi izzivi. Moj cilj je bil ogromno vaditi in se tako čim bolj približati nekdanjemu glasu, odpeti pesmi tako, kot si zaslužijo, in oditi v upanju, da feni vedo, da sem dal vse od sebe. Najbrž so bila pričakovanja obeh strani dokaj realna, oboževalci so bili prizanesljivi in vsi smo se imeli super.

Nameravate posneti nov Arch/Matheos album v bližnji prihodnosti? Kako je bilo znova sodelovati z Joejem? Kako poteka vajino skupno ustvarjanje glasbe?
John: Trenutno intenzivno pišem in vadim material, ki bo, upam, pristal na novem A/M albumu. To ni uradna izjava o novi izdaji, a pogovori vseh strani gredo v to smer. Sam bom nadaljeval s pisanjem in upam, da se projekt uresniči. Z Jimom delava enako od vsega začetka. Medtem ko on zapisuje ideje po občutku, jih sam še emocionalno in razumsko preučim, da se z melodijo in besedilom čim bolj približam čustvenemu vzdušju napisanega. Nimava nekega določenega vrstnega reda, včasih najprej nastane močna melodija ali morda ritem ali pa ob slišanem najprej dobim idejo za temo in besedilo … Vem samo, da ne moreš ničesar izsiliti, zgodilo se bo, ko bo čas za to. Seveda se ob tem dogajajo tudi mučne stvari, a na splošno kar dobro usklajujeva ideje in sklepava kompromise. Končni cilj je, da sva oba zadovoljna in – upam – tudi feni.

Kako je sploh prišlo do tega, da si postal pevec Fates Warning, in kako si začel pisati za prvi album? Vem, da si imel za sabo ogromno priredb v svojem glasovnem razponu, kot na primer Iron Maiden in Judas Priest. V ZDA ste bili s svojo glasbo korak pred časom. Kakšen je bil odziv na vašo avtorsko glasbo in kako vas je sprejela takratna metal scena?
John: Res je, pel sem v cover bendu in nekega večera nas je prišel poslušat Victor Arduini. Po nastopu me je povabil, naj pridem na vaje njegovega benda. Vsi so dobro igrali, vzel sem mikrofon in začel peti Victim of Changes, in to je bilo to. Nadaljevali smo s priredbami, imeli nekaj nastopov. Čez nekaj časa je Jim omenil, da bi morali delati avtorske komade … Začudeno smo se spogledali, bilo je, kot da bi nas nekdo vrgel v vodo, mi pa ne znamo plavat. A zelo hitro smo začeli brcati in se vsi navdušeni lotili novega izziva. Naš prvi poskus so seveda zaznamovali “overtoni” in vpliv vseh naših najljubših bendov, a ko je to slišal Brian od Metal Blade, je moral v tem videti nekaj odrešujočega, saj je hitro nastal demo posnetek kasnejšega “Night on Bröcken. Ker takrat ni bilo družbenih omrežij kot danes, smo odzive dobili od ljudi, v revijah in na nastopih. V bistvu je bila kar pozitivna izkušnja.

Z leti se je vaše ustvarjanje razvijalo, saj ste na vsakem albumu naredili korak naprej. Je do tega prišlo samo po sebi? Kako so nastajali posamezni albumi? (Night on Bröcken – 1984, The Spectre Within – 1985 in Awake the Guardian – 1986)? Tudi tvoj brat je sodeloval pri snemanju, igral je na klaviature, kajne?
John: Prepričan sem, da smo z leti postali boljši glasbeniki, pisci ter bolj povezani kot bend. Z vsakim albumom smo si privoščili več preizkušanja različnih ritmov, kitarskih harmonij, prekrivajočih se vokalov in drugih stvari, ki so ustvarile zanimivejšo in kompleksnejšo glasbo, saj so bile skladbe zelo dinamične, še vedno pa so imele čvrsto (trdno) osnovno linijo pod vokali, da se je vse zlilo v celoto. To je fantastično za tiste, ki radi vidijo, da z vsakim poslušanjem slišijo nekaj novega, ki imajo radi nekaj, kar na prvi vtis ni lahko prebavljivo. Vsaj meni je všeč tako. Prav tako mislim, da nam je včasih dobro uspelo tudi kaj čisto preprostega, torej ni vedno zasičenost v igri. Trudili smo se za razgibanost v vseh delih skladb in pazili, da so smiselne in skladne tako glasbeno kot besedilno.

30-letnico albuma Awake the Guardian ste obeležili z dvema nastopoma leta 2016, na festivalu Keep it true in v Atlanti. Kako je bilo izvajati te pesmi po toliko letih? Lahko poveš kaj več o samem albumu, ki so ga feni razglasili za najboljšega vseh časov? Kakšne spomine imaš nanj, na snemanje, pisanje, koncept …?
John: No, kar se mene tiče, sta bila nastopa strašljiva, a ko se k nečemu zavežeš, ni poti nazaj. Veliko prej smo začeli z individualnimi vajami, vsak je delal svojo domačo nalogo. Po treh, štirih mesecih smo začeli s skupnimi vajami. Znajti se skupaj po tolikem času je bil svojevrsten izziv. Hitro nas je prevzel občutek domačnosti, tako da smo kot včasih bruhnili v smeh ob spominih na dobre čase, ki smo jih preživeli. Na začetku je bilo nekaj težav, a že po nekaj vajah smo zveneli bolje. Ko smo končno stopili na oder, je bilo vse skupaj totalno nadrealistično, a ker so feni ohranjali to glasbo pri življenju toliko let, je na nastopih v trenutku oživela, ko so z navdušenjem in strastjo na ves glas peli vse pesmi. Bilo je fantastično!

John: Na vprašanje o albumu ATG pa lahko rečem, da je bil rezultat časa in prostora, v katerem smo se nahajali. Od vsega začetka je imel nek nalezljivo mističen občutek, ki nam ga je nekako uspelo ujeti skozi celoten album. Vsi so se trudili na vse pretege, da pridejo na plano z dobrimi idejami. Očitno smo tako z glasbo kot s sporočilnostjo ostali zvesti bistvu Fates Warning. Bili smo popolno nasprotje preprostosti ali glam bendov tistega časa, vedno smo želeli, da bi bila glasba nekakšno popotovanje stran od apatičnosti in povprečnosti vsakdana. Mislim, da je album utelešenje tistega svobodnega duha vseh, ki želimo dati prosto pot domišljiji.

Si morda poslušal tudi kakšno novo stvar od Fates Warning? Kakšen se ti zdi njihov novi stil?
John: Z vsemi nekdanjimi in sedanjimi člani benda smo ostali prijatelji, prav tako podpiram vse njihove podvige, tako da jih grem poslušat, imam pa tudi vse posnetke.

Kaj počne John Arch te dni? Se ukvarja z glasbo ali se posveča drugim stvarem? Boš mogoče še kdaj stopil na oder s Fates Warning ali se podal na turnejo, ko zaključita album z Matheosom? Vem, da ti nastopi ne dišijo najbolj.
John: Kot sem že omenil, John pripravlja nekaj novega, sicer pa življenje vedno poskrbi, da imam pester urnik, zato skušam najti čas tudi za zabavne stvari, ki jih rad počnem.

Za konec … kaj bi sporočili našim bralcem in tvojim fenom po vsem svetu ter vsem tistim, ki so na začetku poti v svet progresivnega metala?
John: Huh, sem zadnji človek, ki lahko daje nasvete (smeh), ampak … delaj tisto, kar ti je všeč. Odmisli občudovanje in vizije grandioznosti. Slediti moraš občutku, pri tem pa poslušati srce. Srečno.

Hvala, ker si si vzel čas in z nami delil svoje misli.

Avtor: Jani “The Sacred Heart” Mihevc Cah
Prevedla in uredila: Nataša Fajon
Uvod v slovenskem jeziku: Aleš Podbrežnik


full english version:

Interview with John Arch

Hi John! How did you guys come up with the idea to have a reunion and record a new live album with the classic line up? Can you tell me the story behind that idea? You sounded great and delivered it again. I think this is one of the best live albums of the past few years.
John: Well first off thank you for the compliment and I am so glad you liked the DVD. I personally was not the impetus for the live shows as you might have guessed. I’m pretty sure everything was discussed with all parties involved to make sure everybody was on board with the idea before I was contacted by Jim. Through the years there have been many anniversary dates played and re-releases in the current lineup of Fates to celebrate the albums. Awaken the Guardian reaching the 30-year mark was really worth celebrating its place in the hearts of many. When Jim Matheos called I knew it was something that had to be done. After much discussion we thought the best way to bring something to the fans was through a live DVD. It would give the fans that didn’t get to see that era of Fates live a way to experience the music live. There was no doubt my heart rate was through the roof at the thought of hitting the stage to attempt turning the clock back three decades, but I knew I would never forgive myself if I didn’t at least try.

How did you continue to have such great voice and hit high notes so well on the live album? Do you practice? It’s been a while since we heard you singing live. Are melodies still in your head, do you still write any music or sing?
John: Well thank you again, but I have a natural tendency to be more critical and can comfortably say that my voice is not what it used to be in my youth. Having said that I went forward knowing that aging and not performing on a constant basis would bring Its challenges singing this music live. My goal was to rehearse as much as possible and hopefully obtain a reasonable resemblance of my former voice to do justice to the songs and walk away hoping the fans knew I did the best I could. I guess it was all about realistic expectations on both sides and the fans were certainly forgiving and gracious and we all had a great experience.

Are there any plans to record a new Arch/Matheos album in the near future? How was it for you to work again with Joe for your Arch/Matheos album? What kind of process do you have when you do music together?
John: Well I am currently immersed in writing and rehearsing for what I hope will be the next A/M release. This is not an official statement of release, but all parties are discussing the good possibility of another album. I will continue the writing and hopefully the future will bring a collaboration to light. The writing process with Jim and I has been the same since the beginning Whereas Jim will compose musical ideas through his inner workings and I will then study it through an emotional and intellectual side to come up with melody lines and lyrics to fit as best I can the emotional side of what he has written. It may be in no particular order as sometimes strong melodies come through first or maybe the tempo or feel of what I’m hearing bring good subject matter and lyrics first… All I know is You can’t rush it and it will come when it’s ready. Of course, there are many other tedious things that go on, but all in all we are pretty good about bouncing ideas off each other and are respectful of how sometimes we hear things differently and meet half way. The end goal is that we are both inspired and hope the fans are too.

Can you tell me the story of how you became the singer in Fates Warning and how you started writing for the first album? I know you did a lot of cover for your vocal range, for example, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest. You guys were ahead of time with your music in the USA. What was the response when you did your own material and how did the metal scene accept you in those days?
John: Yes, as you mentioned I was singing in a cover band and one night Victor Arduini came to see us. After the show Vic approached me and invited me down to a rehearsal with his current band to check them out. We all hit it off pretty well and I grabbed the mic and started singing Victim of Changes with them and that was that. We continued with covers for a while and did some shows. Jim mentioned we should start writing originals and we all just looked at each other like we were about to enter uncharted waters in which we were actually. Everything changed pretty fast and I think we were all excited and hyper focused on our new venture. Understandably our first attempt at writing possessed overtones and influence from all our favorite bands, but upon Brian from Metal Blade hearing it he must have heard something redeeming about it and we quickly made work of finishing what was a demo into “Night on Brocken”. Social media not being what it is today, it really was like an underground experience getting feedback basically through word of mouth, magazines, and through performances. All in all, a pretty positive experience.

Over the years you developed through your albums because you always went a step forward with style on each album. Did it come naturally? What kind of process did you have with each album (Night on Bröcken 1984,The Spectre Within 1985 and Awake the Guardian 1986)? Your brother recorded keyboards, too, right?
John: I believe over the years we became better musicians, better writers, and more cohesive as a band. With each album we became more exploratory with alternating time signatures, guitar harmonies, overlapping vocals and things that made the music more interesting and complex in a good way because there was a lot of movement going on in the songs but still had the heavy root lines under the vocal lines to gel it all together. It is great for the listener that likes to maybe hear something new with each listen and not easily digestible on the first listen. That’s the way I like it anyway. I also think we did simplicity pretty well at times also so it is not always about crushing things. We tried to be dynamic in all the movements of the songs so they make sense and come full circle musically and lyrically. My brother Jim did play Keys and vocal harmonies on Epitaph and did a great job.

You’ve been celebrating 30th anniversary of Awake the Guardian and you did two live shows in 2016 at Keep it True and in Atlanta. How was it for you to play those songs again after so many years, and can you tell me a little more about that album? It became an all time classic in fans’ catalogue. What are the memories, recording, writing, concept of the album, etc.?
John: Well, from my perspective the shows were a daunting task but once you commit to something in good faith, there is no turning back. We began practicing individually and doing our homework with plenty of time before the shows. I think it was about 3 or 4 months out and we started rehearsing together. It was quite a trip getting together for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime. We were all pretty comfortable and we were cracking up like we used to just remember all the good times we had. Things were a little rough around the edges but within a few rehearsals we were sounding tighter. When we finally hit the stage, it was surreal in so many ways, but it was the fans that have kept this music alive for so many years that certainly resurrected it at the shows with the enthusiasm and passion of them singing all the words at the top of their lungs! It was just great. To answer the question about the album ATG I can say it is about a time and a place that we were a part of. From the very first notes written it had a haunting mystical feel to it and somehow, we managed to capture that through the whole album. It seemed like everyone was working hard firing on all cylinders bringing creative things to the table. It seems we were keeping the music and the message true to the Fates Warning perception. We were the polar opposite of simplicity or the Glam bands of that era and always wanted the music to be a journey of sorts away from the doldrum or mediocracy of life. I think the album embodies that free spirit in all of us that want to untether the imagination and let it wander.

Do you listen to any new stuff from Fates Warning? What do you think about the new Fates Warning style?
John: I have remained friends with all current and past members and support everybody in all their musical ventures going to the shows and owning all recordings. I have followed Fates and appreciate every era and the methodology behind all the music. I have my favorites like everyone does of course. I most appreciate the fans that have come together and can appreciate all the colors and eras of Fates Warning and I am grateful we were all able to make a contribution for the fans of music

What is John Arch doing these days? Is he involved in music or is he into other things in life? And do you think you will share stage again with Fates Warning or maybe if you do an album with Matheos and hit the road again? I know you are not much into touring.
John: John is cooking up something musically for the future as I mentioned earlier and life has a way of keeping me very busy and trying to find time for the fun things I like to do.

For the end, what can you tell our readers and your fans over the world and all the people who are starting their journey into the world of progressive metal?
John: Man, I’m the last person that should be giving advise ha-ha, but whatever you do, do it because you love it. Forget about accolades, about visions of grandeur. Follow your instincts but listen to your heart. Best to all!

Thank you for your time and sharing all your thoughts with us!

author: Jani “The Sacred Heart” Mihevc Cah

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