It’s big news in the metal world when an album (or EP, or whatever) arrives with John Arch’s vocals on it. His Bruce Dickinson-like tenor was a beacon in the mid-’80s U.S. metal scene when he fronted Fates Warning on their now-classic first three albums. After he left the band, however, he basically put music aside for the better part of the next two decades, and the metal world lost one of its finest voices.
Though Fates Warning, which featured guitarist Jim Matheos, carried on in a more progressive direction with new vocalist Ray Alder, the Arch-era material remains a beloved part of the band’s discography. Arch and Matheos reunited for 2003’s Twist of Fate EP, and have once again combined forces (along with other current FW members bassist Joey Vera, drummer Bobby Jarzombek and guitarist Frank Aresti) in Arch/Matheos. Their new Metal Blade album, released today, is called Sympathetic Resonance, and here’s what John Arch had to say about getting back to making music.
You seem to reappear on the metal scene so infrequently anymore and Jim Matheos always seems to be involved when you do. Explain the power or chemistry behind this relationship?
JOHN ARCH: Yes, It does seem like it. It must be a combination of persistence on Jim’s part and a familiar working environment where we both feel comfortable in knowing that until we are both happy with the music, it isn’t done yet. I wasn’t seeking to dive into the music again, but this seemed a good opportunity to give it a go and see if we could do a follow up to A Twist Of Fate [Arch’s 2003 EP].
How did this latest collaboration start up again? Who initiated it?
ARCH: Jim approached me to see if I might be interested in listening to some music he had been working on, and added that if I liked the direction, would I be interested in working towards a possible album.
Did one or the other of you already have material written, or was everything written specifically for this collaboration?
ARCH: Jim had two songs and was working on the third when I started working on my first challenge, which became “Neurotically Wired.”
Talk about the challenges of writing three 10-plus-minute songs for an album (and one eight-minute long song). Is it tougher to put vocals to such epics, or to create a cohesive musical structure?
ARCH: Well it really starts with Jim, and I think the way he composes the music, the changes are more like movements that flow and have a connectivity that comes full circle. The music, with its intensity and emotion, inspires me to a subject matter and lyrics that are emotionally driven on this album. I actually enjoy the challenge of weaving the melodies and lyrics between and in unison with what Jim has written. I think this has become the end result when Arch/Matheos collaborate.
You guys have known each other for about 30 years, how have you seen your musical relationship change since the early Fates Warning days?
ARCH: Well we obviously took two very different career paths, and a lot has happened in
that time frame. [It’s] mainly that Fates has gone through many changes as well, but through it all has stood the test of time and has gifted much diverse music to the fans over the years. I am glad to have been part of that, and I am pleased that Jim and I can still work together after all this time .
What’s the relevance of the album title in regard to the music and lyrics? Or is there a connection?
ARCH: For sure, “sympathetic resonance” by definition is a harmonic phenomenon wherein a formerly passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness. This idea runs parallels with human emotions, and the lyrics are interwoven with colorful metaphors and story lines based on very real life experiences I hope will resonate with the listener in the same way.
Will fans get the chance to hear this material live at some point?
ARCH: Keep It True festival in Germany is confirmed, we will see where that takes us.
Can we expect more material from Arch/Matheos in the future?
ARCH: I’m not complaining mind you, but this was a ton of work [as a result of me] being out of [music] for so long. The common denominator to more music in the future from me is that I stay in respectable vocal shape, cause sometimes when you let something go, It’s gone for good.
Did the decision to have Arch’s name come first in the band name involve any fisticuffs or lawyers?
ARCH: Sorry, there is no $ left for any lawyers.