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The best kept secret in music


"Sea of Tranquility"

From the opening electronic bleeps to the crushing guitars that follow on "Just to Feel Alive", it's apparent that this new project from former Fates Warning guitarist Frank Aresti was not intended to mimic his former band one bit. Many have argued that Fates Warning have lost a certain edge since the departure of Aresti, and listening to the results on his debut CD, it's no surprise as this is the mark of a talented musician, singer, and songwriter. What's interesting is that almost the entire album, except for guitars and vocals, was created on Frank's computer. You'd never know from listening to it.

One thing I'd like to mention first is just how much I like Aresti's lead vocals. He sounds remarkably like Robin McAuley, former singer from the Michael Schenker Group, and his melodic vocals fit the album's eclectic mix of industrial metal, electronica/trance, pop, and prog metal. "Devil Gone Too Far" is a great metal tune with hooks that are reminiscant of MSG or Queensryche, while the oozing industrial sludge of "The Winding Ring" has a faint hint of Nine Inch Nails. Aresti's razor sharp guitar work is in fine form throughout these 12 tracks, but don't expect gobs of solos here, as this CD is all about songs and textures rather than technical proficiency. "Breakout" is probably the closest things get to Fates Warning, with intricate guitar work, heavy rhythms, and powerful vocals. There's also a few noodly ambient pieces here, like "The Dream", "Conjuring Grace", and "Favorite Stain", which are compelling yet bizarre, in a weird sort of way. Aresti even throws in a ghoulishly delicious cover of the Cars classic "Moving in Stereo" for good measure, complete with heavy riffs and spooky keyboard sounds.

To say this CD is way off kilter from what I expected is an understatement, yet I really like the direction that Frank Aresti is taking this new project. Full of unique and modern sounds, Dragonspoon is not a sibling to Fates Warning, but more like a distant cousin, and that's a good thing.

Review from www.seaoftranquility.org - Pete Pardo

"Transcending the Mundane"

Interview with vocalist/ guitarist Frank Aresti
Dragonspoon is a new project from musician Frank Aresti. Frank is best known for his work with progressive metallers Fates Warning before departed in 1994 following the release of Inside Out. Dragonspoon is more in an industrial vein as Frank recorded the Dragonspoon debut on his own. He has now incorporated a live drummer and bassist to bring his vision to the stage. Here is Frank to talk about the present, future, and a little about his Fates Warning past.

Explain what you are trying to create with Dragonspoon.
When I left Fates I had pretty much had it with the recording industry, and I thought that I'd had it with music. I soon realized that music is an integral part of me. I cannot not create music. I didn't have much luck working with other musicians. A friend then gave me the idea of using sequencers. That ended up working perfectly for me. I'm not really trying to create something with Dragonspoon. Dragonspoon is just something that is happening naturally, something that I can't help doing.

What do the new members of the band add to your sound?
The live band members have a way of adding their personalities to the mix while still keeping the integrity of the parts, plus everything ends up sounding heavier live.

Explain how you went about recording the new disc.
A song may start out with a bass line, or maybe a drum beat, or a sound, or a guitar part. I then work at getting the basic structure of the song together. The drums are crucial, so I spend a lot of time on that. The rest falls together in no particular order, depending on the song. In "Snap", for example, the guitars were one of the last instruments to be recorded, whereas in "Breakout", the guitars were the first to be recorded. As the song progresses, I modify the parts to fit one another, so things are constantly changing. In working with MIDI, I am also free to experiment with tempo without having to re-record any parts. Getting a final take on the vocals is usually the last thing I do, but sometimes I may change an instrument part to fit with the vocals better, so the writing/ recording process really doesn't follow any rules.

Why do you think it's a good idea to record in this manner?
For one thing, I can work at my own pace, which is like a workaholic. When I have an idea I'm obsessed with getting it down, I can work at any time of the day or night. I don't need to book rehearsal time or studio time, so that saves time and money. I have always been able to hear completed songs in my head. This way makes it easy for me to realize that vision. Being able to change parts as the song progresses is a huge blessing. In a real studio, if you want to change a drum part later on, you have to get the drummer back in to re-record the whole track. That's a big expense. Using MIDI it takes me about two minutes to add a fill, or two seconds to change the tempo, and if an idea comes to me at 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning, the studio, with all the instruments, is right there.

What made you decide to take your musical career in this more industrial rock direction?
I got into industrial in the late 80's, when Ministry and NIN broke. You can sort of hear the influence in "Life in Stillwater" off of Parallels, which was recorded early '91. There's a definite industrial vibe to that song, so this direction is nothing new to me. I love electronic music, whether it's fifty year old recordings from Raymond Scott, or the latest Crystal Method and I love the sound of electric guitar, so I knew I had to fuse those elements. Thankfully, nowadays it doesn't cost a small fortune to get great electronic sounds, just a computer and the software. I'm not an angry person at all, but I'm very aggressive, I'm constantly striving, always taking the extra step in all areas of my life, so I have to create aggressive music, so that's where the heaviness comes in.

Do you feel you still apply some of the same writing techniques with Dragonspoon like you did with Fates Warning or are you a totally different musician/ songwriter now?
A lot of time has passed since I left Fates so in a sense, I am a different songwriter, just as I am a different person than I was when I was in Fates. On the other hand, I can't say my songwriting technique has changed even from when I was sixteen and playing with Demonax. Simply put, I come up with an idea, and I explore it, and I expand on it. At the end of the day, it's about quality control and that's what's important: it's not the ideas you come up with, it's the ideas you keep that matters.

What led to your departure from Fates Warning? Was it a nasty split?
I left Fates because I needed to explore a different direction musically speaking. It was an amicable split, though perhaps communication wasn't very clear among the members as to why I left, but nowadays everything is fine and we're all friends. When we see each other we still have all the fun we did before I left. When we all got together during the recording of Disconnected, it felt like Joe and I had never left, that we were still a band.

Do you feel that Jim Matheos control limited the amount of songwriting in Fates Warning?
No. Jim didn't exercise any sort of control. For some reason I get that question a lot, so let me clarify things: Fates Warning is Jim's baby, just like Van Halen is Eddie's baby, just like the Police is Sting's baby. I knew that when I joined the band, and everyone else did too. That was clear. What was also clear was that the band was a democracy, every one had a voice that counted. There was as much pressure on Jim as there was on me to write songs that fit into what Fates was. I respected Jim's vision and his place in the band so all the songs were purposely written with him basically acting as producer. When Fates went through major changes, like from No Exit to Perfect Symmetry, every band member was in on the decision. I was even in on the meetings between Inside Out and A Pleasant Shade of Grey, and even then everyone was involved in the decision to make an album that would be one song. Anytime there was a disagreement, things would be worked out fairly and democratically. I left Fates because of my respect for Jim's vision. I knew I had developed a vision that did not fit into Fates, so the fair thing for all involved was to break out on my own.

How did you approach the vocals with Dragonspoon? How have you learned to utilize you voice most effectively?
I'm not sure how to answer that: I guess, I just do what comes naturally. I learn new things about my voice everyday, so my vocalizations are always changing as well. The voice is a muscle, and the more you use a muscle the stronger it gets.

Did you feel limited in any way while recording the Dragonspoon disc? Would you have preferred to record as a full band?
In recording the way I did, I felt like there was no limit to what I could do. I think I would feel limited with a live band. If only because of financial limitations.

What artists have impacted you the most in your songwriting?
NIN, Bjork, Crystal Method, Massive Attack, and, believe it or not, Madonna. All those artists have used electronic music in extraordinary ways. I love Madonna, Bjork and NIN for the way they are each faithful to an evolving vision, and never afraid to change. Lately I've also been listening to Hive and Orbital a lot.

How have you evolved as a guitarist in the past decade? Do you feel you are an open minded/ experimental musician?
I think I am, definitely. There aren't many guitarists that will spend more time working on drum parts than on tracking guitar parts, or that will write songs in which the guitar is a secondary instrument. I think I always played tastefully, but, as a guitarist nowadays, I'm more interested in the guitar as a voice, as opposed to a tool for demonstrating technique.

Many prog metal fans have expressed disappointment in Geoff Tate's solo disc and I have a feeling your disc will get the same negative feedback from this crowd, do you feel like there are certain expectations for Dragonspoon from this audience? Do you feel your past recordings should have no bearing or significance with Dragonspoon?
To be honest, and I don't mean to sound pretentious, but I never think about anyone's expectations but my own. My only expectation is to create music that I like to listen to, and music that effectively creates many moods in the listener. An artist cannot possibly create something of worth unless he's true to his voice.

What are your plans for the coming year? Will you be touring?
I'm taking it as it goes. We have a show with Bile at the Webster Theater in Hartford on January 24, then after that I'm not sure. We'll probably be doing some shows around the northeast. I'm also working on Dragonspoon 2, because I just can't help it.

Final comments?
Thanks for your time as well. Dragonspoon is an important project for me, and something very personal and I think the music shows that, and I think it came out great. I highly recommend it.

- Brett Van Put


Dragonspoon (2002)


Feeling a bit camera shy


After a very long and successful career as guitarist for the legendary progressive metal band Fates Warning, Frank Aresti has taken a new direction in the creation of Dragonspoon. Dragonspoon is an electronic fusion of the worlds of progressive and industrial metal.
Dragonspoon was created out of Frank’s desire to be able to create something with total creative control. Dragonspoon is all Frank Aresti, as it was totally created with a PC. However, you would never guess that in listening to it. The only traditionally recorded elements are the guitars and vocals. This gave Frank total creative power in Dragonspoon, and his songwriting prowess comes through strong.
Frank’s desire to have total creative control is seen in a phrase printed in the album credits. In Frank’s own words: “Ever since I started writing songs when I was fourteen, I could always hear in my mind what the other instruments would play. Sometimes it would be difficult to convey ideas to my fellow musicians. Therefore, having the instruments at my disposal was a natural next step for me. It was very liberating for me to be able to experiment with all of the instruments, and to work those parts into the song until they sounded just as I had imagined them to.
Dragonspoon’s influences are unique, from Nine Inch Nails, to Bjork, and the unmistakable progressive metal riffing from Fates Warning, the sound of Dragonspoon is totally unique. Dragonspoon is definitely heavier than Fates Warning, however, does change moods, often going from heavy, sludgy, metal, to dark, eerie, electronic trance.