Sacred Metal Interview with Alchemy X

Interview

1) When did this band actually form? What happened with the original singer after the release of “A Delicate Balance”, since he had a helluva voice?

Chris Fox: Around 1992 I met Rob and we began Jamming and I showed him a few songs which ended up on our 1st CD. Then we began a long search to fill in the missing pieces.

Chris Scorsese: Well I had ran an add in the East Coast Rocker with my friend Evil (?) that said Bass and drums looking to form orginal band don’t be a fool, call now and become rich like us! Eventually, Chris and Rob called it but to there surprise we where poor! As for Marty he went his own way to follow his own silent quest.

Rob Schrieber: The band was fully formed in october of 1996. Chris Fox and myself had several different outfits before then with no real name or agenda.. Scorsese came in around late 1995, Marty (original singer) summer of 1996 and Ratchen in october of same year.. That was the line up until January of 2000 when Marty decided to leave and move to Seattle, Washington in pursuit of whatever. As for Marty, basically he wasn’t happy with the direction of the music and wasn’t patient to let things run their course as well as the success of the band or lack there of…….. It made it very hard for everyone… He left on a down note and no one really cared…

Steve Ratchen: As Rob alluded to, I was actually the last to join the band, which was called “Time” back in 1996, I believe I suggested “Alchemy” which we played under for 1997 and most of 1998 when our legal advisors suggested a slight change, hence the “X” Martin left the band in 2000 to pursue other opportunities.

2) So, who are the brains behind Alchemy X? Introduce yourself to the readers of our magazine.

CF: The nucleus has always been me Rob and Scors then Steve in different combos I think I actually force fed Dream Theater to everyone in the very beginning trying to program the guys to play music I wanted to write- it worked out better than I could have planned or imagined. Everyone has a very unique talent and we complement each other well, or sometimes, we scream at each other ..but it’s all in the name of Art.

RS: Brains of the outfit? That is a comical statement but I would honestly say we try to keep it pretty democratic… Chris Fox and I have tried to set the tied with how the music usually will pan out but Steve has really kind of rounded it all out with his experiences and talent.. Steve writes the majority of the melodies and lyrics.. We all work at different points on the music.. Who ever has the most inspirational idea at the time takes the floor at the studio. On the business end we are self contained as well.. I used to do the majority of the phone work, follow-ups and public relations stuff. after about 3 years I burnt out and at the same time as Marty was having his issues I backed out from those responsibilities and gave them to Steve. I’ve taken on another Identity as well though.. that being “Engineer” Yes.. We have put together 2 – 32 track home recording studios. One is at Scorsese’s and the other at mine. Makes for a convenient work, environment…

CF: The nucleus has always been me Rob and Scors then Steve in different combos I think I actually force fed Dream Theater to everyone in the very beginning trying to program the guys to play music I wanted to write- it worked out better than I could have planned or imagined. Everyone has a very unique talent and we complement each other well, or, we scream at each other ..but it’s all in the name of Art.

SR: Rob, Chris Fox and I write the music, and I have written the vast majority of the lyrics, though Bob and I are collaborating on the lyrics for “11:59:59”

CS: I would have to say all of us we really work great together and have fun doing it!

3) Your style is somehow hard to put into certain drawer. It is too heavy and traditional to be labeled prog-metal, it is too sophisticated to be just ordinary heavy metal, it is melodic and accessible on the one side but the melodies are different from the typical lines that Metal bands use. Quite outstanding if you ask me. What do you guys call your style?

RS: I would still say we classify as ourselves as “progressive rock/metal”

SR: We’ve always considered ourselves a progressive metal band, though your point is well taken.

CF: We like to call our genre “our music” it’s just an infusion of all the things we’ve each listened to, admired, and played in our rooms by ourselves for hours -hell for years until we all met. so it’s a little bit of everyone – let’s just say it’s prog from the heart and soul and sometimes even dreams as in the case of Seventh Sign.

CS: I don’t know, I think we just play what we feel. All the guys have so much talent its kind of like the music finds its own path.

4) Does this band play allot of concerts? What is the situation like for a band like Alchemy X in your area? Do the Metal heads understand and accept you? How do we have to imagine a typical Alchemy X concert? Some guys in denim and leather or a real theatrical show?

RS: We haven’t had a lot of success over here in the club atmosphere.. We seem to have a better following at festivals and such.. We haven’t done any major shows in over a year and half.. mainly to do with lack of a vocalist.

CF: As far as shows go we used to play out frequently but got burned out from a poor club scene here . Although we always had great audience response , we felt like we weren’t getting anywhere playing live. Performance-wise we just play, no real show our music is often very intense and intricate at times so there’s little time for theatrics but metal heads headbang to it!!!

SR: Alchemy X has concentrated completely on recording, though we have played some high profile shows at places like the Birch Hill and Club Bene in the NYC area. Unfortunately, our genre is not very popular in the U.S. but we have established something of a following in Europe.

CS: Well it felt like every time we played here in America, the clubs aren’t anything to boast about and there are allot of young kids that we wind up playing out with which sucks because they don’t really accept our type of sound. I think we’re more of a musicians band anyway.

5) Since “A Delicate Balance” is now two years old, do you have any new material and how does it sound like? Did you straighten up the material or did you stay playful but still accessible? How do Bobs vocals differ from those of Martin?

RS: As far as the new material… We have definitely “straightened up” in a few of the songs.. but we have also got a couple of things in there that will completely lose the average listener.

CF: The music has gotten heavier Steve, Rob and I all play 7-string instruments . I do force myself a lot into the writing as far as heaviness and rhythms go -I’m a big fan of low and heavy sounds…and it will be obvious to an AX fan that we’ve delved deeper into ourselves and gotten heavier both lyrically and musically as well . Although we haven’t really, purposely written intricate sections as in “A Delicate Balance ” our signature stylings are apparent – it just happens it’s one of the magical things about connecting with other artists you respect and admire- as we call it “the schwartz” or way of expressing the moment when you know something works and kicks ass- you feel it like some tangible energy. It’s very weird and addictive. We really just play what’s on our minds and whatever comes out is AX. Anytime we’ve consciously tried to write a certain way it came out contrived and stale. I think both Bob and Martin have very distinct vocal stylings and there is no comparison in and of each other. They both have voices that as soon as you hear you know who it is. I would consider Marty operatic and melodic and Bob would be more “metal and in your face.”

CS: We’re finishing up the drums for the new cd on Thanksgiving night, so we will have the new stuff out very soon which I think is going to be better than the first album. I really like working with Bob. I feel he will add some taste to the new album!

SR: 11:59:59 is our new album, due out tentatively in spring 2002. My original idea was a homage to Marillion’s “Misplaced Childhood”, an album of songs that are connected and part of a thematic concept record, but which can also exist as singular pieces, and that basic tenet remains. Bob’s vocals are completely different from Marty’s, though I don’t know that we consciously changed any of the music due to that, but certainly, hearing these tracks sung by Bob is very reminiscent of Ian Gillan or Jon OIiva, whereas Marty sounded more like James Labrie of Dream Theater.

6) I asked Bob before how he got to be a member of Alchemy X, Steve, now it is your turn to tell how you found this excellent singer.

SR: Well Sascha, Frank Oquendo, an old friend of mine, who is now playing with Bob and I in Denim and Leather suggested I call Bob, the two of them have been close friends since childhood, in any event, Frank thought his style would be an interesting compliment for our sound, and in retrospect, he was correct in his assessment

7) By the way, what happened following the release of “A Delicate Balance”? Why did Martin leave the band? Were there any more line up changes? How are the responses from the Metal fans? What quantities of the CD did you sell already? Was there any label interest in Alchemy X since then?

CF: Well ” A Delicate Balance” has received scores of great reviews and favorable responses from the Prog and Metal circuit and record labels/distributors worldwide. Thus we have sold a modest amount of CD’s and have received offers from Europe and Asia – mostly distribution and headlining gig’s at Prog festivals- which we regrettably have to turn down due to financial and time constraints alike .Marty left the band to pursue a “normal ” life with his wife in Seattle,WA .There were some differences as far as direction and writing went but he tried hard and gave his best . We all appreciate his time and effort and ultimately for helping us figure out what we were looking for.

RS: After the release of “A Delicate Balance” we went on a rampage of shows to get it kicked off… We had attorneys shopping to quite a few different labels and managed to get onto The Howard Stern Radio Show… after little to no response from the labels our attorney gave up and as a result put more pressure on us to get something to happen.. which in-return led to allot of pressure, arguing and the departure of Marty.

SR: “A Delicate Balance” has sold modestly well in Europe and Asia, and we have been approached by a few companies, but as of yet remain unsigned. We’re constantly seeing the Alchemy X name on web search engines, particularly in Europe, so that’s always a confidence boost for us. The lineup is intact, except, of course for adding Bob Mitchell to replace Martin on vocals.

CS: Yes there David Chastain from Leviathan Records he’s waiting for the new CD. He liked “…Balance”, he was very cool about it.

8)What is the deeper meaning of the band name? Doesn’t it cause some confusion among the Metalheads? There are Symphony X, King’s X and now Alchemy X. Maybe this question is stupid as the bands’ names are as different as the sound but doesn’t this happen sometimes?

RS: Band name?? Ask Steve.. It was just suppose to be called Alchemy but for legal reasons we put an X on it. gives it a whole new twist.. wouldn’t you agree.. I mean no one else would ever think of using an X ???????

SR: Quite honestly, I had never even heard of Symphony X, much less any of the other “X” bands prior to our decision to alter the name-so we certainly weren’t looking to expound on any trend. As is usually the case, the truth is never quite as interesting as fiction-I wish I could give you some intricate and exotic story, but we had fooled around with so many derivatives, that Alchemy X just seemed to be a good fit. CF: To me A-X is a cohesive unit of 5 talented people that have unique energy and writing ability . Alchemy is by definition a science by which people would try changing something plain or simple, like lead, into something very special and unique like gold . We feel the music we create always evolves from the simple idea into a great piece of music with intensity and dynamics. The X is the unknown that exists in all of us and around us ….very deep eh? Actually we had to add the x in order to keep the name Alchemy because, apparently, it’s a very popular name on the web and within the music /art realm .

9) Well, where am I? Okay, here we go, what was before Alchemy X was? In the beginning there was silence and then someone created Alchemy X. Has there been any band in the life of the other members except for Bob (who is already famous) before Alchemy X? Any releases?

RS: Everyone in this band has done tons of other work.. As for myself before moving to New York in 1993 I released a CD back home in Wisconsin with a trio called “Vision” that was picked by a really small Indy labels and went no where. It was a very pop/rock sound with a bit of guitar show casing on it. Reminiscing to a God forbid Poison meets Journey.. Although I really enjoy both bands. When I hit the big city I worked my way around in out of different projects most going no where until I managed to get hooked up as a side guitarist for Rob Balducci. He was shopping his debut release of guitar instrumental rock and had an entire east coast tour set up when I was let go a week before it was set to hit off. After that I’d had enough of that whole scene.. Chris Fox and I had been friends at the time being co-workers and all.. Chris was having his fill of disappointments as well and since the two of us were fans of each others styles/influences/guitars and all that jazz we decided to put our heads together and form what is now called Alchemy X. In between our down time here this past year I co-wrote, played and produced a record for Chris Wilson called the King of Delay. Its a poppy/folk thingy with a couple heavy hitters in there just to break it up. Something way off the beaten path for me but it sure was fun… and here we are again with the new record.. But still I have a few things hidden under my sleeve for a “Rob” project for the future!!

CF: Everybody has been in projects and bands before AX. I myself have been in a few bands mostly metal/prog. One project I was in was recorded by Josh Silver from Type O Negative at his Brooklyn home.

SR: I was the vocalist/bassist/keyboardist for a 3-piece prog band called Trinity back in the mid to late 80’s, we were a Rush meets Mercyful Fate type outfit, released an independent record in 1989, unfortunately, people in the US were no more ready for my 15 minute epics in the 80’s then they are now!

10) So, since Alchemy X is one of the most intergalactic space bands on this planet, do you guys have some really scary or funny stories for us? We post everything!

RS: Crazy stories… The funniest thing I can remember is playing this small club up in the Bronx… the house drum kit was basically a 2 piece. Luckily Scorsese brought a couple of extra toms.. it was a thunder storm and the roof was leaking right over the drum set.. the stage was just big enough for everyone to stand as long as no one moved we looked fine… at one point I remember leaning back a little and knocked the cymbals over into the kit as well as the water was dripping on everything, the power kept going on and off, we managed to keep it together and had a great show.

CF: Funny story would be us thinking about recording a cd at Bear tracks Studios where Dream Theater records with Doug Oberkircher their engineer. It was so absurd of an idea clear across the board for a number of reasons, mostly financial, but the craziest idea actually came true and we’ve met and hung out with Dream Theater while both of us were recording.

11) Your song “Alchemy” is a real minor hit, could you imagine turning it into a major hit?

RS: “Alchemy” a hit? Our producer Doug Oberkircher figured that would be the one to do something for us. I never did???? Go figure.

CF: “Alchemy” is probably our most Metal song – in my opinion not at the very top of my list …although I do a ripping solo on it.

CS: That’s great! I always had a quest that some day, I would be able to do what I like to do for money and that is play my drums and make music. This the longest time, with a band, that I have ever been in and got something out of it even being on the great radio king Howard Stern’s show. It seems to me that we’re very well liked over seas so I think it’s great! I’m glad I can give something to the people that they can enjoy. I would like to play over there for you guys so keep listening to us please forward our music to one and all who will appreciate our music. The new cd will be over to all of you ASAP!

SR: We’re very grateful at the response both to “Alchemy” the song, and the album in general. I don’t necessarily think we’d need to alter the song for radio or anything like that, just perhaps get the record to more people, which, hopefully, your website and others like it will help to accomplish!

12) I heard that Chris Scorsese is related to the great movie director Martin Scorsese, wouldn’t this connection be a chance to get the band into one movie, maybe to contribute to the soundtrack or so?

CF: Yes! The big secret is out! He is Martin Scorsese’s nephew. Great minds think alike! We are working on the movie connection and in due time something will happen. Meanwhile AX will have music in an indie film entitled “Fortunes” filmed in New York ..Coming out soon.

RS: We have approached Chris’s uncle Martin. His staff has offered some help to us but at the moment nothing has come up yet… It would be nice though!

CS: Yes I am. He’s my father’s brother and he is also my god father. He has done some things for us in the past but it’s hard to get sound tracks especially if you’re not on any kind of label. That’s been our problem but I have been seeing my Uncle allot lately and we have been chatting so as soon as the new cd is done, he will be shopping it around for us and we’ll see what he can do. You guys like his movies? I know I do, even if he is my Uncle Marty.

13) What are your personal influences? What bands were you guys listening to when you started with music in general and metal in special, what are your current favorites?

RS: Favorites.. ahhh yes.. Long list. Early days would be Journey, Rush,Van Halen, Dokken, Kansas, anything for me that had a cool riff or catchy hook… in the later days.. Total Dream Theater nut.. Tool, Satriani.

CF: Personally I am influenced greatly by all the bands my father listened to and by hanging out with my older cousins growing up. Mostly the Beatles, Hendrix, Led Zep and Kiss in the early years before picking up the guitar – then – there was Van Halen…”Eruption “! Sealed my fate the 1st time I heard guitar playing like that I was brainwashed . I’ve been record copying and lick stealing ever since. I love Petrucci and Vai ..had a George Lynch phase for awhile and then of course Yngwie, Satriani, Tony McAlpine . On the Blues side would be Stevie Ray and Robben Ford. I often listen to classical music love Vivaldi .But then I also love the new Staind album and even Linkin Park….. very creative stuff .I listen to almost everything and ultimately have been influenced by it all . What’s currently in my cd player? Staind, A-X , Linkin Park, Stravinski, Liquid Tension Project II and also Acoustic Alchemy-the jazz band not us unplugged!

CS: As far as my influences they are, Queensryce, Dream Theater, Rush, Fates Warning, System Of A Down, Yes, Pink Floyd, Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and FUCKING BIOHAZARD Who I happen to be good friends with especially Danny, the drummer.

SR: My influences are very eclectic to be sure- everything from the Beatles and Concrete Blonde to Slayer and Kansas with a lot of classical, Bach, Vivaldi, Brahms, Prokofiev- right now i still listen to a lot of Marillion, Rush, Iron Maiden, Dio, etc.- I think one of the strengths of the songwriting in AX is our diverse influences so you can hear any number of styles in any one song

14) Bob already told me his opinion about the meaning of the term “METAL” and Bob, would you please tell it to our readers also?

SR: I suppose any label is just that, but “Metal” always makes me think of the masters of the genre, the progenitors, like Priest, Maiden, Deep Purple before them, obviously Sabbath.

CF: Metal Rules! Nothing compares, it has an energy and a way of expression without parallels.

15) OK, here is your chance to spread some final nonsense and tell the people in this world what to expect when the Alchemy X crusade begins!

RS: When Alchemy X returns???? I don’t make the rules nor the popular demand but to those who are avid AX listners/followers I think your going to need to have your speakers re-wired for Intensity!!!!!!!

CF: Well 1st comes the inevitable wave of tattoos of the AX logo which half of the band has already. Then we will start impregnating all the women to build the AX legion up then total world domination will soon follow suit….but seriously, we’ll just keep on playing and writing. Hopefully, people will continue to dig our stuff and spread the word that there is something out there that’s deep, melodic, dynamic and powerful that can provoke thoughts and feelings and bring you to a place away from all the insanity that surrounds us in our present lives. So everyone enjoy our music and thanks for all the support !

SR: Spread some final nonsense? I thought we already did that when we released our record!!! All kidding aside, we’ve always taken our music quite seriously, but never ourselves, hence you can always bank on self-deprecating humor with us! wi

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