Ron Jarzombek of Blotted Science

Photos by Gerrie Lemmens and Nico Wobben

Nick: Hey Ron! Let’s start the interview by discussing one of your latest releases, a brand new album of music by Watchtower called Mathematics. In April you released The Size of Matter, are the first bits of music since your 1989 album Control and Resistance. How do you feel about it and the band in general, considering you’ve announced that you’re in need of a new vocalist?

Ron: Yeah, too bad we ran into the vocalist issue this time. Seems like whenever we try to complete Mathematics, we hit a snag, roadblock, or wall. We reworked the material for the third time now (2000, 2004, and now 2010), and I’m just tired of talking about it. It’s REALLY getting old. We need to get the damn thing done sometime, somehow, some way. But we have over an hour of good material sitting around waiting to be recorded and released. If we can just get this vocalist situation worked out, we should be fine.

Nick: WatchTower’s Control and Resistance was your first album with the band, after which the band went on an eleven year hiatus, although you reunited in 2000 to play few concerts. What was it like joining them and what happened after the release of Control and Resistance?

Ron: The main issue was my hand problems, which started during the recording of ‘Control And Resistance’. Alan soon realized that we wouldn’t be doing anything anytime soon without a guitarist, so he moved back to New York. We kept writing while my hand was wasted, but we got lost with our musical direction. When I did start playing again 3 years later, I was in a different musical place than Doug and Rick, so I started Spastic Ink with my brother. WatchTower did continue writing, but without a vocalist, and without a sense of where we were headed musically (plus I couldn’t play much of anything). When we got back together in 2000, that’s when most of the writing for what is currently on Mathematics happened. Then in 2004 the same musical direction continued. As far as the live European festival dates go, it’s always good to get back onstage with those guys.

Nick: Would you mind telling us about your musical background and beginnings? As far as I know you S.A Slayer way back in the day, with whom you

Ron Jarzombek / S.A. Slayer days

recorded an album called “Go for the Throat”. What can you tell us about it?

Ron: Yes, my first real live/recording band was S. A. Slayer (from San Antonio). We used to play around Texas with WatchTower and Helstar quite a bit. It was more of a straight ahead metal kind of thing. I wore black spandex and a leather vest (which was actually made out of vinyl LOL) and I always felt a bit out of place, but went along with it because it was a cool gig. The other guys in the band were listening to Motorhead and Iron Maiden while I was into Rush. It all was working pretty well until Don and Dave decided that they wanted to form a band with Mark Reale from Riot, which fell apart almost as soon as it started. S.A. Slayer was then over and I was I in WatchTower shortly after, which was just fine with me, although I had a bitch of a time trying to fill Billy’s shoes.

Nick: In 1993, you joined forces with Bobby on drums and Pete Perez on bass to form Spastic Ink, which is one of my favorite projects of yours and one of my favorites from the 90’s in general. Why would you say it took so long to release the first album?

Ron: I had that hand problem from ’90 to ’93 or so. Spastic Ink started in ‘94 and we wrote and recorded the material in a little over a year, I think. We had the stuff sitting around for a while and didn’t know how to release it. We had some cassette tapes floating around but this was before the internet and we didn’t have any contacts at all. Finally, over 2 years later, Ole Bergfleth came around and printed up the copies on his label Dream Circle.

Nick: Spastic Ink in general is probably your most experimental project out to date. Do you agree? What inspired you to create such “mad” music?

Ron: I guess 3 years of being unable to really play sparked something. Bobby, Pete and I came up with some real cool timing things to do as a band, and unlike WatchTower, I had the total freedom to be as goofy and humorous as I wanted. I was always writing and recording solo stuff while in WatchTower, and I think Spastic Ink just evolved from those solo ideas, but was a full band. When Spastic Ink was over, my solo ideas then went into ‘Solitarily Speaking…’ which is my favorite CD to date.

Ron Jarzombek / Ink Complete session

Nick: Spastic Ink’s second album “Ink Compatible”, released in 2004, brought a bit different approach I would say. There were several musicians that contributed to the creation process of the album. It seems like it was a pretty stressful period for you, concerning the creating process of the album itself, right? What can you tell us about it?

Ron: That album should have been a Ron Jarzombek solo album. I wrote everything on it, got all the players myself, and it was my first adventure into the real self-release world where I nearly all the production and run everything. And yeah, it was pretty stressful. There are so many guests on that CD that it’s totally obvious it’s not a cohesive unit. I did my best to make the CD appear as Spastic Ink because I wanted to hang on to it. By that time Bobby and Pete were heavily involved with other bands and I pretty much had to hound them to get them to participate. But trying to round up all those other players sucked. I made a few enemies in the process too. So many people were bailing on me, sending me crappy tracks, and I got fed up with it. That’s when I did ‘Solitarily Speaking…’. About a year after I gave up, I finally found two drummers to record the last 3 songs, and then it was completed.

Nick: How would you describe Spastic Ink’s musical style? Surely there are elements of fusion, which is complex by itself, but I may say that you multiply its complexity by adding your own touch.

Ron: Fusion? Hm, not sure. I just write what I write. I used to be part of “progressive metal”, but that has been so distorted by cheesy Dream Theater clone “keyboard metal” bands who don’t even know what a measure of 7/4 is. I think I fit in a bit better with what they now call “technical metal” or “tech metal”, which is fine with me. Sometimes my music is described as jazz, which I do not hear at all. I’m not a fan of jazz and actually whenever I try to work with heavily influenced jazz guys, I have problems. If a musician isn’t grounded in rock or metal and they have a bunch of jazz wanker guys listed as their influences, a bright red flag goes up for me. Don’t get me wrong, I totally respect and admire players like Larry Carlton, Allan Holdsworth, Al DiMeola, Frank Gambale, etc… but I don’t want to write/play with drummers and bass players who don’t have clue what they are supposed to be playing in a rock/metal context. Figure out all your widdling going nowhere crap on your own time, then when you figure out what you’re going to play, THEN hit the record button. LOL To me, there is a HUGE difference between being “technical” and “jazz”. Both have a lot of notes going on, but one has notes hit in specific places at specific times for a purpose, the other is just play whatever you want, whenever you want, and pray that it all comes together somehow for whatever reason you can think of at the time. Man, I better stop now… LOL

Nick: “Solitarily Speaking Of Theoretical Confinement” is an album that we could say brings together all of the elements that come together to form your

Ron Jarzombek / SSoTC session

guitar style. What’s the secret behind establishing such a great connection between technique and feelings? You managed to do very well, especially on this record. It’s like you made a robot with emotions!

Ron: I think that CD came out as well as it did because that was the happiest I’ve ever been in my musical life. I was so tired of farting around with trying to get players for ‘Ink Compatible’, and I had such a cool, specific concept in mind, followed it up ‘til the very end and totally nailed what I was going for. When I found out that Rush did the morse code bit with ‘YYZ’, from then on I was always trying to find patterns to base tunes on, got more into music theory, and I wanted to do a whole CD of working with word phrases and incorporating them into music. For the people who don’t have an actual copy of the CD with the liner notes explaining what is going on with the music, you are missing the entire point of the CD. Sure, if you want to think the music and playing is good, that’s fine, but there so much more to it that that.

Nick: How did you get in touch with Marty Friedman for the “Music for Speeding” tour and what is it like to have such a situation? Most people probably think that you guys mostly talk about guitar techniques, pedals and so on, but is it really like that?

Ron: My manager found out that Marty was looking for 2nd guitarist for a tour, so I got in touch with Marty and sent him mp3s of me playing a few of his songs. I guess I did OK because I got the gig. It was great playing alongside Marty, but there were lots of things I didn’t care for. I’m used to running things and this was a situation where I was just a hired guy and didn’t have much input on anything. What works best for me is a “band” situation where everybody has input. I can tolerate where I run things, but after a while that takes its toll.

There was one time where the Marty band was supposed to do a rap/hiphop version of a song for the Japanese DVD and I was making up stupid excuses why I couldn’t do it that way. LOL. Luckily, that didn’t happen, and we just played the song as it was on ‘Loudspeaker’. If I would have had a say I would have shot that down IMMEDIATELY. We didn’t really talk much about guitars and stuff. There were lots of teen magazines on the tour bus though with Hillary Duff and Britney Spears. So we mostly talked about hot chicks… I was hoping that the Marty situation would evolve into a Friedman/Becker type of thing, but it never went anywhere near that. The closest it came was I played on Marty’s live DVD and CD, and he played a solo on Spastic Ink’s ‘Ink Compatible’.

Photo: Alison Webster

Nick: 2005 brought another project initiated by you, Blotted Science, this time presenting an instrumental form of extreme tech metal, together with Alex Webster and Charlie Zeleny, whose names speak for themselves. How did it all begin? You’ve recorded an album “The Machinations of Dementia”, so please tell us something more about its creation process.

Ron: I wanted to do something other than this super techy metal where I’m supposed to “outtech” the other guy. I’m mean seriously, how many tech CDs am I supposed to do?! I wanted to do a full band with two guitars, bass, drums and vocals. Alex and Chris (Adler, original drummer) wanted to keep it instrumental, so I went along and started writing with Alex. One tech guy, a death metal guy, and an extreme metal guy. Let’s see what we can come up with… For me it was a chance to get into different types of music/playing, and it turned out GREAT. Chris couldn’t complete the project because of Lamb Of God’s schedule, so Charlie came on board and totally ruled. Our drummer now is Hannes Grossman (Obscura, Necrophagist), who we feel is the absolute perfect match for us. Blotted Science released ‘The Machinations Of Dementia’ in Sept ’07, which does bring in lots of tech, but also has quite a bit of death metal mixed in, and lots of other music that I don’t quite know how to describe. The fact that we’re tuning down to low A opened up even more doors for writing. We incorporated the Circle Of 12 Tones writing system that Alex and I we are still using, and actually have a pretty interesting thing going. On the upcoming EP we have a VERY cool concept of what we are writing music to, and to be quite honest I don’t think any band has done it before. I’ve dabbled in it before with Spastic Ink , but this is EXTREME! and I’m sure this will knock people’s socks off. It’s a little too involved to do a whole album, so we’re going to see how all goes with this EP.

Nick: Heh, I almost forgot your involvement with Gordian Knot. It seems like I should write all of your projects and involvements as a reminder to myself! You contributed to the selftitled album back in 1998, would you share some thoughts about this remarkable record with us?

Ron: Eh, I did a few solos on the CD, and Sean played a bit on Ink Compatible. That’s about it. I think I was supposed to play on the 2nd GK CD, but Sean and I had a bit of a falling out.

Nick: Since you DO have so many projects, would you like to mention more I might have left out?

Ron: I’ve been working on 3 gtr instructional DVDs for a few years now, but keep pushing them aside whenever a band/project is my main focus. I’ve been dying to get back to them and will as soon as the Blotted Science EP is done. The 1st DVD will be on common scale use and abuse, the 2nd on timing, and the 3rd on 12 tone uses. The material on the DVDs will be taken from the Blotted Science CD, Spastic Ink CDs, and my solo CDs. There is a preview up at

http://www.ronjarzombek.com/RonJarzombek_OscillationCycles.wmv

Nick: I have to ask you for the PHHHP! and PHHHP! Plus demo collections, are they named after PHP programming language? I know that you’re into the IT world, which is why I ask.

Ron: No, it explains that on the liner notes… “For best results, close your mouth real tight, tuck lips in, puff cheeks slightly, then blow out…” See there, I’m not all tech!

Nick: I think I’m out of questions, is there anything you would like to add?

Ron: Nope, but many thanks for the great questions. I love an interview where the interviewer knows his stuff and does his homework.

Nikola Savić is a prog enthusiast, blogger and author, in addition to being the founder of Prog Sphere, Progify, ProgLyrics and the ongoing Progstravaganza compilation series.
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