The Spinelanguage blog recently conducted an interview with acclaimed guitarist Ron Jarzombek (BLOTTED SCIENCE, WATCHTOWER, SPASTIC INK). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Spinelanguage: Before BLOTTED SCIENCE, a lot of metal fans didn't know who Ron Jarzombek was. Sure, they might have seen a few guitarists mention you or WATCHTOWER as influences every once in a while, but you probably weren't getting all the praise you deserved. While you were doing absolutely unheard of things with metal, like transcribing a visual-to-music soundtrack for scenes in "Bambi" featuring Thumper (right down to imitating the specific voice inflections of the actor with your guitar), the rest of us metal fans were preoccupied sifting through a litany of bands growing more and more brutal with each CD release. You became a ghost in the very genre everyone thought you were going to take over after "Control and Resistance", or at least until those four hand surgeries almost ruined your chances. Fortunately, 2007's "The Machinations of Dementia" was like a grand re-introduction for you into the metal community at large. To make a long story short — how the hell does it feel to be back?
Jarzombek: I didn't know I ever went away! Thanks for telling me! But yeah, those hand surgeries did put me out of commission for a while and WATCHTOWER fizzled out in part because of it. But ever I since got my hands back, I've been doing stuff and putting out records pretty regularly or guesting on other people's albums. Not being in a popular high-profile band and basically being a one-man DIY company obviously has its limits as far as mainstream exposure is concerned. You know, I'm not gonna get a nice two-page feature in Guitar World or whatever because there is no record company behind me that paid for it with a big ad. But BLOTTED SCIENCE has definitely introduced me to a new generation of fans thanks to the Internet and word of mouth. Which is great to see happen. I wouldn't mind being more popular and on the cover of the guitar magazines but I'm not consumed by it. I do my thing and I seem to have a pretty decent following judging by the interest in my albums. And I really want to thank people for actually buying my music rather than stealing it off some torrent.
Spinelanguage: Even after being introduced to you with BLOTTED SCIENCE, I still don't think the new fans are in 100% agreement that you're really a human being and not some hyper-advanced alien fretboard acrobat. Are you still challenged by anything on the guitar? For instance, do you ever struggle or get frustrated while trying to play some of your own riffs and licks?
Jarzombek: Yes, as a matter of fact, playing my stuff can be a bitch. I had to re-learn a bunch of stuff when I started to put my instructional DVDs together and some of it was a headache to remember and get tight. Just to do the BLOTTED SCIENCE rehearsal nearly a year after we recorded the CD was a real bitch. Most of the stuff that I put together these days is written on computer, then is learned on guitar. If things are too fast to play, I have to modify things. And at my age I barely remember anything. Also, a lot of licks that I play on current CDs are barely rehearsed. I get them learned well enough to record them, then hit the record button. Then move on to the next part.
Spinelanguage: I think an even better question might be, do you ever practice any riffs or licks written by other guitarists that give you a lot of trouble? Jeff Loomis, Marty Friedman, and the guys in GORDIAN KNOT and OBSCURA are some of the musicians you've collaborated with; were there ever moments around them when you felt like a guitar student as opposed to a scholar? On the other hand, did you teach them a thing or two?
Jarzombek: No, I never practice riffs or licks by other guitarists anymore, simply because I have enough going on between teaching, gigging and doing my own stuff. Back when I was in my late teens I did that all day. Now I don't figure out anybody's licks unless I have to for a student or if I'm playing it at a gig. The times where I figure something out because I dig something happens once in a while but is rare. Obviously I did have to learn some of Marty's songs for the tour(s) I did with him, and his stuff it not easy to get down, at least the nuances of it because Marty is an unorthodox player. But the guest solos and stuff I've done for Loomis, OBSCURA or GORDIAN KNOT were just writing my own solos, and I didn't have any idea of what licks the other guitarists were going to play. Coming up with really cool lines, to create something out of nothing, is more of a challenge than copying what other people do. To me anyway. If there is one moment where I felt like a student, it was when Marty and I played the World Guitar Congress in Baltimore back in 2004 and Allan Holdsworth was also on the bill. Now Allan is someone who can teach anybody a lesson — I don't care who you are. Talk about being from another planet.
Spinelanguage: The first conception of BLOTTED SCIENCE was a collaboration between yourself, Alex Webster of CANNIBAL CORPSE, and Chris Adler of LAMB OF GOD. Even though Chris had to leave to satisfy LAMB OF GOD's demanding schedule, you said in a previous interview that you initially immersed yourself in their and CANNIBAL CORPSE's music to get yourself in the right mindset for creating what BLOTTED SCIENCE would later become. Still, you're the guy whom Muhammed of tech death giants NECROPHAGIST called his favorite guitarist, the guy whom Chuck Schuldiner came to see play when WATCHTOWER reunited for the Bang Your Head!!! festival in 2000; what drew you to LAMB OF GOD and CANNIBAL CORPSE in particular as opposed to other metal bands more renowned for their technical prowess?
Jarzombek: Well, first of all, I wasn't really looking to do anything mind-boggingly technical at the time but I did want to go in a heavier direction. Obviously, LAMB OF GOD is a band that pretty much anybody into heavier metal was aware of at the time as they were coming up through the ranks, and I thought Chris was a really good drummer. He had groove and he had chops and that's a combination I was looking for. I had heard "Laid To Rest" on a compilation CD and noticed how he took a somewhat normal triplet groove and threw the snare in some wacky places and made the tune something really cool. And his double bass drum work speaks for itself. That's what I wanted for my next project. So I put some feelers out to him and he was into doing something together. When I was thinking about bass players, I came across the CANNIBAL CORPSE DVD and saw Alex rip it up on "Frantic Disembowelment". He did some weird whole-tone licks that caught my attention, and that's also what I was looking for. That all left quite an impression, to say the least. I got in touch with him through a mutual acquaintance, and luckily Alex had the time to do a project because CANNIBAL was off at the time. The combination of what Chris and Alex brought to the table seemed pretty ideal to me so I never really looked for players in what you call "bands more renowned for their technical prowess." Not to mention that I was not really all that in tune with the technical death metal scene at the time because it's not something I really listen to. I've become more aware of that whole world as I've become friendly with guys like Mo from NECROPHAGIST and other players that tell me that their bands are influenced by stuff I've done. Which is great and very flattering. After getting a bit in touch with musicians in the death metal world, I found out that lots of them were into SPASTIC INK, so I went with it.
Read the entire interview at the Spinelanguage blog.