Interview with Bobby Jarzombek in April 2008

Years ago I talked to Rick Colaluca (WATCHTOWER) about technical abilities and creativity on the drumkit. When I said "Rick, on my opinion you are a technically very advanced player and a real master of creativity", he answered modestly "Oh no, you exaggerate totally but your description applies perfectly to Bobby the brother of our guitar player Ron Jarzombek. Hes a real monster!!!" So read - at your own risk - about the creature that frightens even brave men like Rick Colaluca...

ragazzi: "I think the Jarzombek house was filled with musik in former times - did you have any problems with your neighborhood or parents as teenagers? Why did you choose the drumset while Ron decided to play guitar? Did you play together in a band as teenagers?"

Bobby Jarzombek: "Our mom was always very supportive and encouraged us with our musical endeavors. It's not that Dad wasn't supportive but he didn't really understand where we were going with music. Our dad was very "old school" in thinking. He always thought you should get a job that pays well, has security, a dental plan, retirement, etc. and everything else should just be a hobby.When we were young the radio was always on in our house and my 2 brothers and I followed the hits of rock and pop radio. I remember we were interested in learning to play musical instruments (and Christmas was right around the corner) so our parents got us a cheap little drumset and a small keyboard organ. I remember, later Christmas evening Ron was already playing little songs on the keyboard. Over the next couple of weeks, our older brother Ralph and I didn't show too much interest in the drums (other than occasionally banging on them). Ron started taking piano lessons right away and was learning to read music. My mom approached me about taking drum lessons. I said "I guess I could try it to see if I liked it". Obviously I liked it and took lessons for 3 months or so and then joined the school band. I didn't have very good drum instructors but learning to read music was great for me because I continued to buy drum books to learn new techniques, patterns, etc.. Ron and I played together (piano and drums) a little bit and even wrote a few songs. Some silly stuff; there was a song called "The Naggertig" about a animal that was half bear and half tiger. Another song called "Trash Can Eater". I wish we had recordings of those now. A short time later, we started listening to heavier stuff and so our parents bought Ron a guitar. We played together more often playing bits and pieces of songs and some medleys. Soon after Ron started on the guitar, our older brother started playing bass and we formed a band called "Jarz" - that's short for "Jarzombek", of course, ha ha! We played talent shows, local gigs, parties, etc.. Playing songs by our favorites - Rush, Kiss, UFO, AC/DC, and others. We also played a few original songs. A few titles were: "The Black Rose of Death", "Sabre Sabotage", and "Kings Of Persia"."

ragazzi. "Was there a rivalry between Ron and you about being the better musician?"

B.J.: "There was never a rivalry between us but I think we closely watched each others success and achievements and make some sort of comparisons. I remember early on I was a little envious because I thought that Ron had more natural talent than I did. He can basically do anything that he wants to in life (and make a hell of a lot more money) but he chooses to play music. I always feel like drums are the only thing that I can do well."

ragazzi: "On my opinion one of the most interesting projects in music is Spastic Ink (together with The Fractured Dimension); do you have any plans for a third CD? Are there any songs in the works?"

B.J.: "Right now there are no plans for a 3rd Ink CD. I'm sure Ron and I will work on something together in the future but don't know if it will be a Spastic Ink CD. We wrote most of the songs together on "Ink Complete". When we were going to start on the 2nd CD, I got busy with Halford and I couldn't contribute to the writing process so Ron wrote everything on "Ink Compatible". I think maybe the only way a 3rd Ink CD would be possible is if we were both involved in writing. It's too much work for one person and I know Ron prefers to have some collaboration on those sort of things."

ragazzi: "In Spastic Ink you play more effect cymbals than in your other projects/bands. What do you think about incorporating more splashes (more than two), chinas (more than two), rides (one on each side), hi-hats (one or two on each side), cymbal stacks and bells in your drumset?" As a PAISTE-endorsee it should be very easy for you to widen your cymbal setup and especially the bell sounds of PAISTE on my opinion are the best all over the world! Many different metal sounds like the FACTORY METAL products should be a must for each "metal" drummer!!!"

B.J.: "This is an interesting question and I wanted to take some time answering it because I think it helps people to understand some of the obstacles/dilemmas we drummers have to think about. Sure, I would like to add more Paiste cymbals and effects into my setup but I've found out over the years (due to studio vs. live performance) that it's not always a practical thing to do. Bands like Tool, Dream Theater or Rush can afford to ship their own equipment to wherever they're playing but If I use a bunch of splashes, bells, etc. on a recording and then need to reproduce those drum parts live, I could run into problems. Depending on the band's budget and touring situation, I can rarely ship my drumkit, cymbals, and hardware to wherever I'm playing. If there's a huge budget and tour, then I can take every Paiste that I have in my collection. But it's difficult if we're flying in for "one-offs" to different countries every day. The promoters of the shows work with my endorsement companies to get me everything specified on my equipment list. With Fates Warning I'm using 8 cymbal stands, with Sebastian Bach I'm using 11 cymbal stands (6 crashes, 2 chinas, ride, cowbell, metronome stand), and with Halford there were 2 more splashes to that list. That means that they have to have (11-13) DW cymbal stands in their stock just to get me what I need. Sometimes they freak out, ha ha! Most drummers use 4 - 6 stands. On the festival shows there are multiple stages, sometimes the festival organizers don't have all the necessary equipment to cover all the stages. Maybe the promoters should be totally liable for providing all the equipment required by the bands but with their limited budgets also, it doesn't always happen. Then chances are that if you see me on a festival show or a tour with that band I won't have all that stuff - and then the fans feel cheated and wonder why I'm not using the big setup with tons of cymbals. And for me it makes things difficult because I have to change what I'm playing because I'm using less cymbals. Anyway, I don't know if I needed to explain all this, I guess I'm just in the mood to vent a little. BTW, I'm also endorsed by Factory Metal Percussion. Jim at FMP is a very cool guy."

ragazzi: "On your DVD "Performance & Technique" you demonstrate the open handed playing - what do think of a totally symmetrical setup with hi-hats, rides, stacks, bells, floor toms and gong bass drums (high in the air behind you) on both sides and of ambidextrous playing like Mike Mangini does?"

B.J.: "I think that's great. It's a long process to get to the level of not just learning to play patterns ambidextrous but also making the patterns feel good. Mike has that stuff down!"

ragazzi: "The regular part of your DVD is relatively short (about 57 minutes) - why? (You could have been playing more songs of Spastic Ink or a third drum solo.)"

B.J.: "I'm glad you asked this. When I shot the footage for P&T, I based the format around the VHS videos like Dave Weckl or Tommy Aldridge. The longer DVDs hadn't come out yet. My friend Vince at Allie Cat Productions had great camera equipment and was doing a lot of work for television news but had never done an instructional video. And since I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, I didn't want to spend multiple days working on it since I was financing it myself. You might notice there are no "picture in picture" shots in my DVD. Vince's editing equipments didn't allow for these maneuvers. I thought 3 songs, 2 drum solos, a lesson demonstration, etc. was going be a good amount of material. When I checked out the footage we shot I was pleasantly surprised at how good it looked and sounded. I then decided to press 500 VHS copies and mail them out to various music stores and distributors. The word spread to Warner Bros. about my video and they agreed to release my VHS program on DVD. I was exciting but knew that it was short compared to the newer DVDs by Virgil Donati, Thomas Lang and others. They said that it didn't matter to them that it was shorter but I felt that I needed to give the buyer as much as I could for the money spent. I then decided to add bonus material in which I could focus more on educating drummers. I spent some time (and more money) putting together the "Soundchecking The Drumset", "Selecting Cymbals At Paiste", and "In The Studio" segments. I think it was worth it."

ragazzi: "So It Ain`t!" is a fantastic song with latin flavour; are there any plans to write more songs in a non-metal context?"

B.J.: "Sure, I would like to. Of course, whatever I would write would still have a metal edge to it. I like a lot of different kinds of music and am working of songs within other styles. The title "So It Ain't" was my reaction to anyone who would say "Hey, that's not a true Latin sound or beat!" and I would say, as if I didn't care, "Well, So It Ain't!"

ragazzi: "Is heavy metal your favoured style then or could you imagine playing in a fusion band? (Wasn`t there an Al DiMeola cover version on my fave Riot record "Privilege To Power"???) Isn`t it frustrating for a drummer with your technical abilities to be known only as a heavy metal drummer?"

B.J.: "As I mentioned, I like (and play) all kinds of music. I wouldn't be truly happy playing only one style of music. I get called for more heavy metal gigs than anything else because of my history playing that style of music. But I would welcome anything that's a cool musical situation. The DiMeola cover was interesting. Riot had come off the road and we were starting rehearsals for TPOP. Mark and Don used to play around with the main riff of that song and talk about how cool it would be to do it. We worked it up in rehearsals and mentioned it to the producer. It was the last thing we recorded for that CD. I remember after finishing the rest of the songs, we took a full day to practice it, getting it tight before attempting to record it. It's still one of my favorite things that I've done."

ragazzi: "How important is showmanship for you? Showmanship makes you a "better" drummer for non-musicians in the audience, especially during a drum solo, do you agree?"

B.J.: "I think showmanship is important in a live situation. On most gigs I'll incorporate stick twirling into the songs and work out parts with the cymbals behind me. But it always depends on the situation. I wouldn't do all that stuff if I played in a jazz band. For instance, with a band like Fates Warning, the music is technical and more cerebral. I opted not to do the whole stick twirling thing with that gig. The back cymbals thing might have been cool but that comes back into the extra drum hardware situation."

ragazzi: "Ron seems not to be very amused with working on the third Watchtower-CD "Mathematics". Wouldn`t it be a good idea to record the material already written with Pete Perez on bass guitar and yourself on drums under a different name maybe Spastic Ink? (Jason McMaster sang on the second Spastic Ink-CD anyway!)"

B.J.: "No, I don't think so. That music was written specifically for the Watchtower guys and their sound and approach to their instruments. I think anytime you start working on a project it means that you are excited about the guys that you're working with and you want to start fresh and write new material. I know Ron was always pushing for 'Mathematics' to get done but it doesn't really look like it will ever happen. I think he's OK with moving on and is now doing heavier stuff with Blotted Science."

ragazzi: "The Jarzombek family produced some fantastic musicians: your brother (and guitar genius) Ron and yourself. Are there other Jarzombek musicians - sisters, brothers, cousins or maybe the next generation waiting for their breakthrough? Do you believe in a "music gene"?"

B.J.: "As I mentioned earlier, we have an older brother that played bass. I'm not sure if he's picked it up over the last few years. We also have 2 younger sisters that played (drums and flute) years ago. But it was for a short while and nothing came of it. We also have a crazy cousin named Bryan that talks of going to our native heritage land of Poland and playing some shows. He just e-mails these nutty ideas for our amusement, ha ha!"

ragazzi: "Last year you toured with Fates Warning - are there any plans to record a new album?"

B.J.: "I'm not sure what my future is with Fates Warning. Last summer I played one show with them in Italy (Evolution Festival) and it was great. They mentioned a possibility of doing some more shows in the future and I said I would definitely be into it. And so we continued talking and worked out the details for the European tour this past November. The shows were awesome and we were able to hang out as a band on the road. I get along great with the guys and we all pretty much come from the same place musically and personally. Jim and Joey have been married for 15+ years and so am I. Ray and I both grew up in San Antonio, Texas. And Frank is one of the coolest people I've ever met. The guys are laid back and have a unique sense of humor and camaraderie. I'd love go back out again on tour with the guys - or maybe record a CD with them. I guess we'll have to see how things shape up in the future."

ragazzi: "Are you working on new drumming concepts?"

B.J.: "You know, it's a strange thing "drum concepts". I love discovering and practicing new concepts. But recently I've discovered that I've become much more selective when choosing which "drum concepts" to work on. Let's face it - there are so many things that we as humans (drummers) just cannot do but we still strive to conquer the impossible. Most of these "impossible" things involve either speed and coordination - or both simultaneously. And sometimes I'll stumble onto an idea and say to myself "Wow, this is interesting and difficult. I need to practice this more to master it", and I'll start to work on these things just based upon the fact that I can't do them.I think this is fine for younger drummers that are starting out and need to reach a necessary level in order to effectively play drums and to convey their ideas but to devote weeks or months working on a technical, rudimental, or speed exercise is not (at this stage of my career) what I feel I should be doing. But, believe me it sometimes is tempting. I came to this realization when I was listening back to some of these ideas I was practicing and thought to myself "You know, this is difficult but it's not really musical!" Then I started thinking back to the things that excited me about drums and drumming. One very inspirational and prolific period for me was in the early '90s when I discovered Deen Castronovo. He definitely paved a path for heavy metal drumming. Deen doesn't read music and (believe it or not) doesn't know technically what he's doing most of the time. And this can actually be a good thing. Everything he plays is rooted in feel, emotion, vibe, power, aggression, etc. and these are the essential elements required to play "heavy metal music" on the drumset. With all that said - yes, I am working on a couple new "drumming concepts"."

ragazzi: "What are your plans for the future?"

B.J.: "I just want to continue to work, play, and survive playing music. I always wanted to start a band of my own. Something that was technical musically but also mainstream enough for the casual listener. A band that I could record with and take on the road and build a following. I've been a hired guy on almost everything that I've done. So when a recording or a tour is over I'm unemployed and I'll have to try and secure work again. It would be nice to have a percentage of something that's successful."

Frank Bender