Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Ron Jarzombek interview – The shred veteran talks about his new album and upcoming DVD

What steps have you taken to forge a career in the music industry?
Well, I've hung in there for almost a quarter century now. Perseverance counts for a lot. I've never been able to make a living solely off playing original music, whether it was with Slayer who were a pretty big local band in San Antonio at the time, WatchTower where I still haven't seen a dime in royalties almost 20 years after the release of 'Control And Resistance', Spastic Ink, or my solo projects. Although things on that front are improving because the Internet has opened up new avenues for distribution - digital and otherwise - around the world and helps connect you with people everywhere. These are some pretty exciting times, especially for indie artists, although there is obviously also a major downside with all the rampant illegal downloading. But, hopefully enough people value my music enough to where they want 'the real thing' rather than just an mp3 off some torrent. My latest album, BLOTTED SCIENCE - 'The Machinations of Dementia', with Alex Webster from Cannibal Corpse and Charlie Zeleny from Behold... The Arctopus, is doing quite well and it's still early in the game.

What does a normal Day in your life entail?
I teach five days a week for 5-6 hour each day (which happens in the middle of the day) so I usually have a few hours before and after I teach to work on my own things. If I’m working on a CD, I usually write during the day, then record at night. Alex (Webster) and I started writing the BLOTTED SCIENCE material in early ’05, so it’s probably been a few hundred days of staying up until 3:00 or 4:00 AM writing/recording to get it completed. I also do most of the graphics on my CDs, and just about all of the production, so I take care of that stuff whenever I have free time. Since the Blotted CD has been out I’m taking CD orders and filling them, making a few trips to the post office weekly, doing online interviews, keeping track of the bookkeeping, working with my manager/handling distributors details, website updates, etc.. I gig locally once or twice a week (Fridays and Saturdays mostly) with a Rush tribute band here in town. I’m also working on the guitar instructional DVDs right now, so I’m pulling up tracks from both Ink CDs, the solo and the Blotted CDs, getting remixes, muting out guitar tracks that I’m going to be playing over, doing theoretical animations, transcribing LOTS of my songs and solos, practicing them so I can video tape them soon. And now BLOTTED SCIENCE is thinking about taking it to the stage, so I’m running over that material, too.

What makes Blotted Science unique in terms of style, band dynamics, etc?
For me it was something new because I wanted different influences on this recording. Of course, I had to pull up some death metal CDs since I was working with the chief of death metal in Alex Webster. I had to learn where the music was coming from, and try to get the right vibe across. I also listened to lots of Lamb of God recordings (Chris Adler was the original drummer) and also tried to capture that vibe, and put it all together and create something new and different. Alex brought in the extreme heavy shit and it all just came together. The difficult part was when Chris Adler couldn’t get the recordings done mostly due to time constraints and trying to work long distance, and so we were stuck with the task of finding a drummer to take what was written with Chris in mind, but put his own stamp on the material. I heard maybe one Behold… The Arctopus song to realize that Charlie could cut the gig. And watching him play live only confirmed it.

What are you trying to achieve compositionally?
Alex and I had a few dozen or so parts of songs written but it took a few months before we came up with the brain disorder concept and to fit the musical ideas with song titles. The way we wrote ‘Machinations’ was by sending sheet music and mp3s in attachments via the Internet. Alex uses PowerTab and I use Encore for writing/sequencing, so we both had the program on our computers, and just transferred tunes back and forth. I had a list of song titles and ideas that I wanted to convey with the music, noting what songs I wanted near death metal, which were to be rather quiet and spooky, which were more tech-y and complicated, heavy and straightforward, etc.. Lots of music on ‘Machinations’ follows specific themes in song titles and some follow them as if they are film scores. I’ve always been into concepts, which of course came from Rush. We first came up with the sleep concept, and that evolved into the brain disorders. The whole thing really came into place quite easily. Song titles fit the various music segments with very little effort, and I think it shows on the CD.If there is another BLOTTED SCIENCE album, we’ll most likely stick with the idea of staying very tech, and on the EXTREME metal side of things. As far as the playing on the CD, I’ve always believed that you play what the song calls for, and it’s in the writing that you set that up. I hate when players overplay, and I don’t get much into the whole wankfest vibe. Sure that’s fine for some players, but I’m more into instruments working together to get something across. Having a full band pay a simple vamp while some soloist is blowing his wad never really did much for me. Now if you’ve got all band members playing some wacky shit, all focused on the composition rather than forcing in their favorite triplet 32nd lick that they discovered last week, that’s a great thing. You’ll notice that on just about every CD that I’m on, whether it would be solo CDs, WatchTower, Spastic Ink, or BLOTTED SCIENCE, sure there is ‘shredding’ all over the place, but songs come first, what the players do within those organized structures comes after. Listen to the material on ‘Machinations’ - it’s made up of compositions, not a bunch of wanking going nowhere. Again, I think there is WAY too much emphasis on ‘shred’ these days. I’ve seen too many videos on YouTube where some guitar guys is ‘shredding’ his ass off, then comes in a simple eight note riff with a bit of syncopation and the dude is struggling because he never worked on his timing. And I may sound a bit contradictory here because there will be lots of ‘shredding’ on my upcoming DVDs. However! It will all be within the context of something else. There are already too many guitar videos focusing solely on 5 string arpeggios, string skipping, alternate picking, etc.

Talk about the process of recording your album. Are there any tips and trick that you could pass on?
For me, recording just about always starts with playing along to a click track. Since we all recorded our parts at various times in various places, it wouldn’t have been possible without a click track. I remember WatchTower recorded ‘Control And Resistance’ without a click. Looking back at that I just think “Wow, that was nuts!”. But that’s how we did it. Guitars and bass were scratch tracked while we were playing as a band, and we only kept the drums. Then Doug and I went in an after and rerecorded guitars and bass. For the Blotted recordings, Alex was nearly done recording his bass tracks before we even knew who was going to be playing drums. I was about halfway done with my rhythm tracks when Charlie came on board. Alex records on his laptop, I record at my ‘home studio’ and Charlie also has a studio at his place. I didn’t write or record any guitar solos or melodies until drums were recorded because the feel always changes when going from programming to real drums. I compiled all of the tracks over here, mixed it and did all of the production work.

What’s kinda cool for me is when I listen to the CD - it sounds like we are in total sync, yet the 3 of us have never been in the same room together. We are planning on getting together for a few live rehearsals soon, then possibly doing some shows, depending on our schedules. We are getting lots of invites, and it would be all too cool if we could take them up.

When is your instructional DVD coming out?
I’m shooting for a mid ’08 release but it’ll probably be pushed back a bit. I have so much material that I want to cover. It will be at least 2 DVDs, could be 3. I won’t really know until I start the video taping, dialogue, theoretical animations, all the playing examples, additional technique notes, etc.

What material will you cover in your instructional DVD?
The focus will be the progressive/technical aspect of writing and playing, with examples and insight for material from both Spastic Ink CDs, my solo CDs, and the 'Blotted Science - The Machinations Of Dementia' CD. To be covered (with excerpts/examples from), on the first DVD, will be 1. Common simple scales use and abuse, 2. Changing Keys, 3. Simultaneous Major/Minor Keys/Progressions, 4. Floating Parallels, 5. Timing (Syncopation), 6. Trade-Offs, 7. Starts / Stops, and 8. The A/B Switch. The second DVD will focus on the 12-tone aspect of writing. I started using all 12 tones when writing on ‘Nighty Nite’ on my first solo CD ‘PHHHP!’. This evolved into using multiple 12 tone sets, modulating 12 tone sets, then on the BLOTTED SCIENCE CD, I started using what I call ‘The Circle of 12 Tones.’ The DVDs will not have any chapters titled ‘5 String Arpeggios’, ‘Sweeping’, ‘Alternate Picking’, etc. All of the technique stuff will be played but it will be fitted into the context of other theoretical things.

Many thanks to you for asking me questions that made me think a bit and look into things a bit more. Hopefully your readers will get a few things out of it and those that aren’t familiar with my stuff will be curious to check it out. I definitely want to thank everybody that’s picked up a copy of the BLOTTED SCIENCE disc so far rather than just downloading it for free. We appreciate your support.


Boris said...

Thanks for all!!

Anonymous said...

I took a few guitar lessons from Ron in Nov.07 in San Antonio, TX. He is a very laid back, down to earth humble guy. I did not know how talented he was at first. I soon found out about his past musical hx and was in awe of his song writing and shredding. Ron is a great teacher, an excellent musician and a great dude. I can't believe that he has not hit it BIG yet! I wish you the best in everything Ron. Alan

william said...

Simple post but great expression of thoughts.. how do you do that? i think your a veteran blogger! am i right?

anyway I'm william
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