Jim Matheos (Fates Warning): I hate labels, but they are a necessary evil

Few bands can say that theyâ’ve helped create an entirely new genre of metal, which ended up becoming a tradition, followed with devotement by other musicians.

Progressive metal wouldnâ’t have been the same without the veterans from Fates Warning, who are considered to be its ‘founding-fathersâ’. Soon, their fans from Romania, and not only, will have the chance to see them live, in a special concert hailed as one of the most important metal events of the year.

The gig will take place in Bucharest, on the 21st of March 2012, at Jukebox Club.

Maximum Rock Magazine, co-organizer of the event (together with Promusic Events), spoke with epic guitarist Jim Matheos, in an attempt to extract some wisdom from the heart and soul of one of metal cultureâ’s most emblematic figures.

Read an exclusive interview below.  

It’s your first-ever time in Romania, and we can’t wait to see you live! For a band as experienced as yours, do you still feel any sort of emotional vibe when you play somewhere for the first time?
Jim Matheos: We always enjoy playing new territories. In fact, one of the main reasons for putting this small tour together was to allow us to pay some Eastern countries that we havenâ’t made it to before.

Do you have any special expectations from the Romanian gig, considering you can’t be seen that much in Europe?
Jim Matheos: We have found that fans in Eastern Europe make great audiences! We hope Romania will be no exception.

Related to this, why haven’t we seen you more often in the Old World?
Jim Matheos: Many reasons, but mostly the economics of small-scale touring. Itâ’s hard to be a musician and to have to think about the financial aspect of your work. If we havenâ’t been that often in Europe, it doesnâ’t mean we didnâ’t want to visit you.

Is there any difference between the audience back at home, and the people in smaller countries?
Jim Matheos: In general, fans in Europe are more appreciative and enthusiastic than fans in the US.  Maybe this is because theyâ’re not over-exposed, so to say. Not so many American bands get to visit Europe as often as theyâ’d like, so, when they actually get there, the people are more than happy to go to the concert and have a great time.

You’re currently working on a new album, the long-awaited follow-up to 2004’s FWX. What can we expect from this material?
Jim Matheos: Weâ’re very early in the writing stages right now, so itâ’s hard to say what final shape the record will take. Weâ’re just giving it our best and that means that the material will express our desire to write something emblematic.

Will it be a concept album, or something more straightforward?
Jim Matheos: I donâ’t believe it will be a concept. But, again, itâ’s very early and anything could happen at this point. I think weâ’ll go for the straightforward version.

What music have you been listening to lately and how has it influenced you?
Jim Matheos: Most of the music I listen to is quite different than what I do with FW, so it probably doesnâ’t influence me, at least consciously. Some recent favorites are Gillian Welch-The Harrow and The Harvest, and Death Can For Cutie-Codes and Keys.

Is it hard to write an original album nowadays? Do you feel like everything has been said & done in metal?
Jim Matheos: For me it is very difficult, and it feels like it is getting harder and harder. There is so much music out there, it really does feel like itâ’s all been said and done. I think this is part of the reason I donâ’t really listen to much metal these days.

You guys are considered the "founding-fathers" of Progressive-Metal. Looking back to when you started making music, did you ever imagine you’d change the history of metal, as a genre?
Jim Matheos: With all honesty, no. There are many bands out there that say that you have to think youâ’re the best of the best in order to succeed. These are the same people who are mad enough to believe that theyâ’ve been ‘chosenâ’. It wasnâ’t the case with us. We were hoping to release a record and maybe tour Europe someday, but thatâ’s about it.

What’s your take on labels in music? Are they useful or are they too limitative?
Jim Matheos: I think we all dislike them and yet we all use them. They are a necessary evil. It doesnâ’t bother me that people label us, as long as they donâ’t try to put us in a little box.

You started off as a band that was more heavy-metal driven, stylistically speaking, and then you evolved into a full-blown progressive act. What triggered the change?
Jim Matheos: It was a natural progression. We all had a variety of influences, from traditional metal, Sabbath, Deep Purple, to NWOBHM bands, but also a lot of more prog type bands as well, Genesis, ELP, Uriah Heep etc. The first record was heavily influenced by Maiden. After we got that out of our system we started exploring the full range of our influences.

You’ve reissued your first six albums. Why did you sense the need to go through that process?
Jim Matheos: Some of them needed to be remastered. But, we also have a lot of extra material, demos, live, from each period and we wanted to release those. Weâ’re working on the re-issue for ‘Inside Outâ’ right now.

Do you have a favorite/ least-favorite album from your discography? If yes, which are they, and what are your reasons?
Jim Matheos: Least favorite: definitely Night On Brocken, because itâ’s absolutely horrible. Favorite: ‘Apsogâ’, because itâ’s a very personal record for me. and one of the few in my discography that I can still occasional enjoy.

What do you think about contemporary trends like metalcore, alternative, screamo, pop-metal etc?
Jim Matheos: Except for alternative, I honestly have no idea what any of those are.

What do you think will happen to the music market if people keep downloading their albums, instead of buying them? Did this process affect you?
Jim Matheos: I donâ’t know what the future holds for the music industry. Itâ’s a very unfortunate situation right now. Thankfully, for a band such as FW, thereâ’s a core dedicated following that will continue to purchase music instead of stealing it. For new bands just starting out I donâ’t see how they ever have a chance at making a living by doing what they love.

Special thanks to Jim Matheos and Fates Warning for this interview!

(Alexandra Furnea)

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