North Sea Echoes Interview

Jeremy Saffer

North Sea Echoes is the new project from longtime Fates Warning bandmates Ray Alder and Jim Matheos. Their debut album is Really Good Terrible Things. We caught up with Alder, who explains the genesis of the band, its different musical approach than Fates Warning and other topics.

Chad Bowar: What led you and Jim to make this album as a new entity, instead of as a Fates Warning record?
Ray Alder: Jim called me one day and said that he had been working on some new music for his Tuesday The Sky project, and that he was thinking that it needed vocals even though it was meant to be an instrumental album. He asked if I would be interested in hearing it and maybe singing on it. I said “of course.” He sent me a few songs to listen to and I picked what is now “Open Book” to work on. After that song we agreed that we were on the same page musically. As far as a Fates record, Jim says that he no longer feels he wants to write music for it. So we knew we had to have a different name for the project. Even though it IS the two of us, it’s not Fates album by any means.

Was it liberating to continue your collaboration while also being able to explore different musical paths?
I don’t know about liberating, but it was great to work with Jim again. I wasn’t sure if we would ever collaborate on music together again. And I’ve always loved singing to ambient music. So doing an entire album such as this was refreshing.

Where did the band name come from?
The name actually came from Jim’s notes. While we knew we couldn’t and wouldn’t call it Fates Warning, we needed a name. We both went through our notes and Jim had NSE written down. He doesn’t know where he heard it but it was there. We both do the same thing, if we hear, see or come up with something that sounds interesting we write it down.

The press materials mention Gunnar Olsen plays drums on at least a couple of tracks. Who else plays on the album?
Only one other person, Abel Boquera plays the organ on “We Move Around The Sun”.

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of Really Good Terrible Things?
That I was able to see my friend again. It had been years since I had seen Jim and I flew to his home in New Hampshire for photos and to do a couple of videos. It was great to catch up and have a few laughs.

What was the biggest challenge in its creation?
It wasn’t really challenging at all. The music was perfect. But for me I think it was the lyrics. I always struggle when writing lyrics and for this is was especially tough wondering if they were too obvious, too obscure or vague. Did that matter? So on and so on…

What lyrical topics do you cover?
I wrote whatever the music made me feel. Some are about people dealing with depression. One is about a condition called Cherophobia where that person has a fear that something bad will happen if they are happy. One is about the awkardness some feel when returning to your childhood home.” The Mission” is about a person hearing voices that tell him that he has to eliminate a certain someone or the world will end.

What inspired the album title?
We tried a million names and ended up going back to our notes. I had “Really Good Terrible Things” written down. I have no idea where I had heard it or saw it but it seemed to fit the album very well.

How did you develop the concept for the “Unmoved” video?
The concept came from Jim, really. The actual video is different than the original concept. Originally there was to be clips of different things (rain, sidewalks, streets, nature and so on) but in the end I love how it came out.

Do you enjoy shooting videos, or are they a necessary evil for the promotion process?
Not at all. I do not enjoy them. Never have. But it is necessary.

The album is available on numerous vinyl variants. Are you a vinyl collector?
Not really. I have a lot from my youth but at the moment I don’t buy any. I do however love the idea of vinyl.

Are there any plans to play shows to support this album?
We haven’t really talked about it. But maybe we’ll see how the album does and think about it.

What other tour plans do you have lined up in 2024?
Jim and I are talking about doing some shows this year or early next year. It’s difficult to get everyone together since they are all in different bands at the moment.

What was the response like to last year’s II solo album?
It was very positive. But I still don’t know the actual number of units sold or downloads. Hopefully it did ok.

Give us a preview of the second A-Z record and when it might be released.
It’s much heavier than the first one. Darker and with more attitude. It will probably be out in 2025.

What are some of your non-musical interests and hobbies?
Well, I love my PS5! But actually, I enjoy movies a lot. And traveling when I can.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Just that I hope everyone isn’t expecting this to sound like Fates, because it doesn’t nor is it Fates Mark II. I hope everyone enjoys it for what it is: nice relaxing music.

(interview published February 22, 2024)

Watch North Sea Echoes – “Unmoved” Video

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