Last month on one of the coldest, wettest, and iciest nights of the year I was at Trees to do two things: 1. See FATES WARNING for the first time, and 2. Have a sit-down interview with one of my favorite drummers since 2000, Bobby Jarzombek. He was such a nice guy, and I know how hectic things are on show day, so the fact he was willing to give me a few minutes was really nice. We talked about new album Darkness In a Different Light, Christmas tree cutting, and his eclectic musical tastes. Check it out:
Amps: Bobby thanks for sitting down with me. I’ve been a fan since the first HALFORD record. When I heard the drums I was like, “Who IS this?!?” and I was lucky enough to catch you live on that tour. Then I saw you in 2011 with SEBASTIAN BACH, and now here tonight. I’m very much looking forward to the show.
Bobby: Well thank you.
Amps: How is the tour going?
Bobby: Very good. This is the first US tour that I’ve done with the band. I’ve been with FATES since 2007, and it seems like we go to Europe every six months to a year. We do about three weeks of shows, and we’ve been doing that for six, seven years, but this is the first time we’ve gotten to do it in the States. It’s going great, you know? It’s a great bunch of guys; everybody has been around the block a little bit and is respectful and great musicians, so it’s so cool to be on the road with the band finally in the States and supporting our new record.
Amps: How was your hometown gig in San Antonio last night?
Bobby: It was kind of a crazy day. My wife picked me up from the bus right around noon and she kind of had a list of things that she wanted to do. Buy a Christmas tree; put it up on the stand so she could decorate it. I had to wash my clothes and do some shopping for some cool little things I wanted for the bus, some food items that aren’t on our rider, so it was pretty chaotic. Then I had to run back and do sound check, I bought the tree before, but afterwards, you know you’ve gotta cut an inch off the bottom of the tree and all that, so literally an hour and a half before we went onstage I had the wood saw out, cutting the tree down! But the show went great and I was glad to see a lot of my friends and family there so that was really cool.
Amps: So you’re a Spurs fan, I take it? Don’t hate me for my Mavericks hat!
Bobby: No, no not at all. I’m a Spurs guy but I’m also a Dallas Cowboys guy.
Amps: Oh, my condolences (Bobby laughs, taking it in stride). How much were you involved in the writing for this record?
Bobby: Jim (Matheos) wrote most all of the music. I think there’s a couple of pieces that Frank Aresti wrote in there, and I wrote interestingly enough, in one of the songs we’re playing tonight “I Am”, I came up with ten different drum patterns, I guess that fell within that 5/4 groove and I sent those to Jim. He started writing riffs around that and what’s strange is that he only used two or three of the patterns I programmed that he had kind of looping, so I had to come up with other stuff, but he used that as sort of a template. That was my extent of writing but it’s cool because this first record I was somewhat a part of the writing and it leads me to think about the next record and some ideas I might want to give Jim for that. So maybe I can have a little bit more input and collaborate more with him on that level.
But the rest of the stuff Jim writes the music and sends it to me in a demo form with drum programming and I listen to what he did and come up with my own ideas and record myself at my home studio and I send it back to him. He listens to it and makes notes of what he likes and doesn’t like. Sometimes I stick close to his programming and sometimes I venture off and try something completely different if I feel like it could be more interesting in a different way. But we do it back and forth until we decide on everything and once that was done I flew over to Connecticut and cut the tracks in four days. It was great. I think it turned out really nice at the Carriage House, longtime recording home for the band.
Amps: As far as your approach to writing goes, you’ve got such an all over the map body of work. Tell me a little about your different approaches go say for writing on a FATES record vs. a HALFORD record or a RIOT record. How does it differ with each band?
Bobby: You know I think it’s just different because the bands are different. The guitar playing is different, the styles are different. I grew up playing a lot of cover music, you know? Everything from basic rock and different styles, country music, whatever, plus progressive stuff like RUSH, YES and bands like that. So I think when you hear something you automatically identify it as sort of here and sort of there. So I just listen to it and try not to step a little bit- I mean, I want to step out from the norm and create something interesting, but how far I step is up to me. Because if there was something that was just a basic chugging riff I could play something crazy over it. I think about the band and what’s appropriate but I also it’s a little more identifiable, so it’s kind of a fine line. And sometimes that stuff works, you know? And sometimes it just needs a little tweaking, but I just listen and try to feel my way around the material.
And one cool thing when you listen to programming from something a guitar player will write, you can kind of hear where they’re going with it, what they’re hearing from the drums. Sometimes there’s crazy stuff that doesn’t really work because guitar players can’t program very well typically (laughs), but sometimes there’s some interesting stuff. Jim does really well with that and so do some of the artists I’ve worked with.
Amps: Do you have a favorite song off this record, or is it “I Am”? That’s mine, by the way.
Bobby: You know, I like a lot of the record for different things. I like the song “Lighthouse” where I only play at the end of it, some ambient drum stuff. I really love Ray’s voice on that song and just how dark it is. I like the progressive stuff on it and then there’s some stuff that’s a little more song-oriented, which I think is nice. Anytime you have Fates Warning fans you’re gonna have somebody that is a fan of maybe some of the poppier songs that aren’t so adventurous but they like the music in them. I’ve met several people on this tour that really like the last song “And Yet It Moves” just because it is an adventurous piece of music. So that’s cool, too.
Amps: What’s an album you’ve played on from all the artists and bands you’ve worked with that maybe stands out more to you from all the others?
Bobby: man, I think there’s several records that I’ve played on that I like for different reasons, like the SPASTIC INK stuff I did with my brother, that’s so progressive. Those two records stand out as being just crazy music and I’m proud of those for that reason. As well as I’m proud of Live Insurrection with HALFORD, double live record (my smile is ear-to-ear at this point!) because being onstage with Rob and doing those tours that we did, either supporting IRON MAIDEN or the solo stuff we did, and have it documented, playing the Resurrection material as well as the FIGHT stuff, PRIEST stuff, and growing up knowing how much of an icon he is and being able to play with him on two studio records and actually record live is just an amazing thing.
Amps: What do you listen to when you’re away from all your projects?
Bobby: You know, I listen to a lot of different things. I listen to some progressive stuff like PORCUPINE TREE, OPETH, KATATONIA, stuff like that. I’ll listen to country music because being from Texas and I grew up playing it and so I’m listening to country while I’m driving around town in my truck or whatever. I like the old 50’s classics, the Songbook stuff, ELLA FITZGERALD, FRANK SINATRA. My mood changes and my iPod is very weird as a result. Good music is good music.
Truer words were never said. Bobby Jarzombek and FATES WARNING put on a monster show later that night, and I have to admit I smiled just a bit more when “I Am” came on, knowing all that went into it. Darkness In A Different Light is available everywhere, so you really have no excuses. Go get your copy, already. And if it’s powerhouse drumming you’re looking for, the HALFORD stuff is skull-crushing, to say the least.