Indelibly Inked
CoC Interrogates Spastic Ink
by: Brian Meloon
Spastic Ink is the current project of WatchTower guitarist Ron Jarzombek. The band's lineup is rounded out by his brother Bobby on drums and bassist Pete Perez, both formerly of Riot. The band plays an all-instrumental brand of progressive metal (see review in CoC #10), featuring technical playing from all three members, and complex compositions. They are possibly the most technical metal band currently in existence. Their sound is very similar to an instrumental version WatchTower's _Control and Resistence_, or perhaps can be described by the phrase "Meshuggah minus Pantera". That is, if you could purge all the Pantera influence from Meshuggah, leaving only the technicality of the music and the tonalities of the guitar solos, you'd have something that sounds like Spastic Ink.

According to Ron, the future of WatchTower is "Not good. We had this kind of a hope of getting back together. Jason [McMaster, the original WatchTower vocalist] was in the picture. Jason was into it, I was into it, but it seemed like it just really wasn't the thing to do. Rick [Colaluca, drums] and Doug [Keyser, bass] just weren't motivated to get it going. We all talked and stuff, but it seemed like nobody did anything about it. I mean there was always the excuse of us splitting up because we didn't have a singer, but Jason fits in pretty damn good. But me, Rick and Doug wrote about over an hour's worth of material, and it's just kinda sitting around right now." Currently, the band members have gone their separate ways, and are pursuing other interests. _C&R_ vocalist Alan Tecchio is doing session work, having recorded with among others, Power (with Dan Dalley). Rick and Doug were playing together in a funk/punk/metal/rap hybrid band called Retarted Elf, who recently broke up. Jason is currently on tour with Dangerous Toys (who he's been with since he left WatchTower in 1989). Original guitarist Billy White now fronts the Billy White Trio, who just finished up a US tour.

Spastic Ink formed originally as a side project of Ron's, while preparing material for the next WatchTower record. "I had a lot of hand problems after the WatchTower tour," Ron begins, "I just messed up my tendons real bad. I had four surgeries over the course of about two and a half years, and I was even going to Austin, and writing the newer [Watchtower] stuff and playing all of it with two fingers, and I had a splint on my other hand. The Ink thing started when my hand was getting better, and I was writing some more complicated stuff, because I could use my four fingers again, and it was kind of a cool thing to be playing again after about two and a half or three years. The new WatchTower stuff wasn't as crazy as it originally was, so all the wilder stuff got thrown into the Spastic Ink stuff. When you have two projects going on, you write something and it has to fit in with one thing, and it seemed like almost everything that I was doing was going toward Spastic Ink, and if there was a tune that would've worked for both bands, it was played more accurately, or sounded better when it was with Bobby and Pete." The band started working long distance, writing their first song, the 8+ minute long "Mosquito Brain Surgery" (my personal favorite, as well as one of Ron's), without ever being in the same room. Ron explains that Bobby "would put something on tape, and I would bump his tape onto my four-track, and I would put parts to it, and give that back to him, maybe with some other stuff on it, and he would just go off on that. We would just piece it together, and see where the story was going, and it just came out out to be a really cool tune." Eventualy, the band got together and recorded four songs, including "The Thumper Impersonation", a six-section song written to be incidental music for the movie _Bambi_ (yes, the one about the deer). Although as Ron says, "it wasn't really a demo, it was just so people could see what we were doing", these songs made their way to the underground, and garnered the band an offer to release the songs on CD. The band instead decided to wait until more songs were finished to put their work out.

The result of this wait is the 11-song _Ink Complete_ project. It was finished in 1994, but the band had enormous difficulty attracting label interest. Ron explains, "We had been shopping the thing and I don't know how many tapes got sent out, but from what I understand, Chris (their manager) sent probably close to 50 or 100 tapes, along with a glossy and some bio and some other stuff that he did. But we got very few responses. The response that we got was 'Call me when you get a singer.' I mean, it's hard to do anything right now, with the way the whole music market is. I even tried to send Spastic Ink stuff to labels that were jazz and instrumental oriented, and they said the only thing they were taking in was hip-hop and alternative rock. I mean, GRP told me that, Relativity told me, 'If you're not doing what's in, forget it.'" With that in mind, Ron is preparing to release the project independently, commenting, "Right now, I'm transferring all the stuff onto an ADAT, so I'm adding other parts that I couldn't add before because it was done on a four-track. And we need to get a better mix, and just clean it up, so we're going to mix it in a real studio. It should be out in 3 or 4 months if everything goes smooth." At last word, the band was negotiating with Dream Circle records in Germany for a possible release.

Though many describe their particular brand of progressive metal as "jazzy", Ron objects, citing that their music, "Doesn't have any flat-5, sharp-11 chords or anything like that. It's organized, it's complicated and stuff, but it's not really jazz, it's progressive 'jazz' you get more of that music where there's no power in it, and it's real free-form. I like to think of whatever I'm doing as more organized and you know, I've always liked aggression and power. It depends on what you want to label 'jazz' as. 'Jazz' can be Chick Corea, it can be Ella Fitzgerald. It's like saying 'rock n' roll'. Ozzy always calls his music rock n' roll, but I say rock n' roll is Chuck Berry. 'Jazz' is just too broad of a word." As for his personal influences, he states "I don't really have any influences that are jazz guitar players. I mean I like people like Larry Carlton, and Al DiMeola, but the main influences have been not really 'guitar player' guitar players, but like Rush, you know Lifeson, and Trevor Rabin or Steve Howe from Yes, and even bands like UK, who had Allan Holdsworth, but on the second album, they didn't even have a guitar player. So, it's not really guitar like the guitar hero shit that was going on a couple years ago, it's more the band oriented, the whole kind of picture, instead of just one guy."

The future for Spastic Ink is a little uncertain. Worried about the trouble instrumental artists are having at the moment, Ron is currently preparing vocal-oriented material. He says "I would just like to get something that I could have my name on that's crazy and stuff that does have vocals on it, so that they can't say 'where's your singer?'" Ron is writing the material for now on his computer, since he's not sure who will be playing it with him. He guesses that Bobby will end up playing on it, and Jason is the obvious choice for vocalist, as Ron notes "Jason was into the WatchTower thing, he's not really tied down to anything." Currently, the members of Spastic Ink are pursuing other interests, as Ron mentions "Pete did some tour with Riot in Europe, and Bobby's gigging around town, and I'm just doing the teaching thing." But the band members haven't tied themselves down to these other projects, with Ron claiming "We could do it right now, if we sat down."

Ron's view of the future of music is pessimistic, as he explains "I hope the whole Dream Theater craze catches on, but I don't know how long that's going to last. Most of the audience today is pretty stupid. There's just no music really out there now, or I'm not exposed to any of it. I guess I wish I was in Europe, so I could see what was going on, but over here I don't know what road it would have to take for it to turn in any kind of positive direction, because right now, it's just a bunch of shit." Regardless of current trends, Spastic Ink will continue to play their technical, complex style of progressive metal to whoever will listen.

Contact: SPASTIC INK, c/o Ayres Rock Management

6655 Wilkinson Ave. #103, North Hollywood, CA, 91606, USA

(article submitted 12/8/1996)


ALBUMS
9/23/2004 B Meloon 8 Spastic Ink - Ink Compatible
DEMOS
5/10/1996 B Meloon 5 Spastic Ink - Ink Complete
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