Fates Warning's Ray Alder on How the Band Almost Broke Up and What Brought Them Back
From the Fates Warning "I Am" official live video.
To many, Connecticut's Fates Warning is the first progressive metal act. Started in 1983, the band has gone through a dizzying array of member changes including replacing original lead singer John Arch with San Antonio native Ray Alder in 1985. Through it all, however, Fates Warning remained true to its roots, producing album after album of quality progressive metal, culminating in 1991's Parallels.
After that, the band's fortunes went decidedly downhill and resulted in a three year hiatus. Various incarnations of Fates Warning kept touring and recording throughout the 90's and beyond, but the band's recent effort, Darkness in a Different Light, was finally released after seemingly endless delays. Speaking from Houston and in anticipation of Thursday's show at Trees, singer Ray Alder talked with DC9 about how he came to join Fates Warning and how he and his band mates have persevered through many difficult transitions.
You joined Fates Warning about five years into the band's existence?
Yes, around 1987.
How did that process work? Did you already know the other members? You get a phone call out of the blue?
When John Arch left the group, they put out feelers with promoters and other people they had worked with. They were asking if these people knew of any singers and one of the guys was from San Antonio and had managed one of the bands that I was in. They threw out my name and I did an audition tape for them. That's how it worked out.
Were you already a big fan?
Yes, I definitely was. They were one of my favorites.
After the tape, did you have to meet with the guys and audition live?
Yes, I had to fly to Connecticut and meet them there.
Were you nervous?
Yes, definitely. It was a crazy deal. It was my first time out of Texas. I had just turned 20 years old. It was a little strange, but we worked through it.
We you worried that fans of the original singer would not accept you?
No, all I knew was that I was the singer of Fates Warning. That's all I was thinking about. I wasn't worried about it at all.
What about the new album that is different from your other releases?
It's our first album in such a long, long time. We had to decide which direction we wanted to go, had to pick up where we left off. We came back and talked about it, about doing songs that were catchier. We wanted more hooks than you might probably hear on a progressive metal album. We wanted to do something that would stick in people's ears and that's what we've done. We wanted a heavier, but very melodic sort of thing.
What do you think about the term progressive metal?
It's a label we've been given. I'll take it. It doesn't piss me off, but I don't think about us as a metal band. We are a heavy rock band, although the term heavy metal seems dated to me. I don't want to dismiss any body or any genre. I don't know if there is a correct term for us.
Many people say Fates Warning were the first progressive metal band.
That's what I keep hearing. There were some others playing progressive music, like ELP. It's been out there. There was Rush. We were definitely not the beginning of the genre.