alchemy x interview
Posted 7 years ago, Sep 1, 2005, by Josh Snider.
Tom Engel - Vocals/Keyboards
Chris Fox - Guitar
Rob Schreiber - Guitar
Steve Ratchen - Bass/Keyboards/Vocals
Chris Scorsese - Drums
A lot of people like to compare you guys to other bands? How do you feel about that? It’s very flattering. We get compare to bands like Dream Theater and Fates Warning, but I think we are moving away from that, our newer stuff is more, if you have to use a comparison: Tea Party, Tool, that kind of stuff. We don’t get offended by that at all. We understand it’s a necessary evil, I guess, to label bands.
Do you guys consider yourself under-ground? We are underground, to a certain extent. This music is making it slightly more mainstream these days, with bands like Dream Theater. They don’t get that much radio play but are big as far as the underground local scene goes. The first album, “A Delicate Balance”, we did ourselves. The second album, “11:59:59”, we did with a Greek label called Unisound Records. If you were to Google us on the net, I think, may-be, ninety-nine percent will be European and some Asian. I don’t know if we are underground there. Not that we are a household name there, or anything. I think that we are underground in the U.S. because the style of music that we play. I think that we are closer to mainstream in Europe.
How did you come up with your band name? Steve: When I joined these guys in ‘96, they were going by "Time" and I came up with Alchemy because we saw the parallel through five diverging parts playing together; the group being greater than the sum of the parts. I thought, Alchemy was the ancient science of turning base metals into gold, and that was relevant. We stuck with Alchemy for ‘96 and ‘97. Then, Chris Scorsese’s uncle’s legal people suggested that we change it a little because they didn’t want any lawsuits since there had to be a bunch of bands using Alchemy, so we added the X. In retrospect, there are a lot of bands with the X, there’s Symphony X, Eternity X, we didn’t know that at that point. We had never really heard of those guys or else we would have probably tried to be a little more creative. At the time it sounded good. That’s basically how that came about.
Where was your best show? In my opinion, our best show was at a CD release party at a club in New York City. It was called Downtime, it had a studio attached to it. There’s a live recording of it. That was a great show.
What is the theme of most of your lyrics? “A Delicate Balance” was walking the tight rope in our own personal lives, what was going on making a record, and the ruminations of previous and ongoing relationships. Conversely, 11:59:59 was basically a story of an individual who was very compromised and is trying to recount the missteps of his life in a flashback sequence.
Tom, Have you been through any lyrical or musical training? Musically, I’ve been doing it since fifth or sixth grade. Started off as a French horn player, did that all through high school, did orchestra, chorus, extracurricular. No real, formal training.
What are your goals as a band? The whole rock star image would have been a dream come true 10 years ago. At this point, though, I just want us to all make good music that we will be happy to listen back to and it’s always great to hear feedback from a fan base. It’s always flattering to hear somebody say “You guys are awesome,” or “You’re inspiring.” We’re happy with what we are doing now. I wish that our music could get out to more local radio stations. I'd like to see in general the whole music industry open up to more artists. Then we could attract more fans, as we are limited to how many shows we can play and to how many people we can reach. If we were on the radio/had more visibility, we could reach a lot more people.
Do you have anything to say to any fans that may be reading this? Chris (guitar): We appreciate the support and we wish we could reach out to more people and do more shows for them.
Do you have any advice for starting bands? Don’t quit your day job! Do what you’re happy doing. The biggest disaster that I think you can have is when you write things that people expect. You have to be completely true to yourself in that regard and write what comes out of you. If its 4 minutes or 10 minutes, we like to be eclectic. When a band like Led Zeppelin came out you could listen to 30 of their songs and each one of them had a different feel and could be placed into a different genre and that’s the kind of thing that we aspire to, not to get pigeon-holed into one genre. So I would say if somebody has a good song, hey, it’s music. So don’t limit yourself and what feels right lyrically, musically, the whole nine yards, you know. I also think that it’s very important to like the people that you are working with. I’ve been in various projects where there was a lot of drama, lack of maturity, ego, you name it. I think it’s very important for people, to first off, get along with the people they’re working with. Otherwise it be-comes more of a job or anchor than a passion.
What do you guys think about UFO's? Chris (drummer): There’s something definitely out there. We cant possibly determine whether its true or fake, but I haven’t seen any! If I do see one, I’ll call you and let you know.
What do you guys do for work besides play in the band? Chris (drummer): I own a tattoo shop called Big City Ink and I do a few home improvement things here and there. We started the band with some hopes to make a living doing this eventually. Steve: I am an executive at a publishing company. Chris (guitar): I’m a part owner of a transportation company and that takes up most of my time. The rest of my time goes to the band. Tom: I work for a pharmaceutical company, as a packaging and manufacturing member. Basically, just making the ointments and creams.
Have you guys ever been on tour? Steve: We’ve done metal feast circuits but those are like a weekend where you play once or twice. We did Chicago, we did Baltimore, and we did Connecticut, between ‘99 and ‘03. As far as tours, our drummer Chris was on the Howard Stern show in ‘99 we tried to take advantage of that fact by creating a little bit of a buzz. We scheduled 3 or 4 shows in New York City to coincide, and I think that we did this in a 3 week period. I think that’s the closest thing that we have ever had to a tour.
Would you be interested in touring? Definitely. We would love to do something like that. It’s something that we have been waiting our whole lives for. Especially if we could make a living off of that, which I know is pretty difficult in this day and age. There’s a great rush behind it. Even when we play one gig, there’s a great feeling to see people out there that actually appreciate what we are doing.
When you guys are on your “tours,” what do you guys do to keep busy? Chris Fox and I (Chris Scorsese) tend to engage in some extracurricular activities when we are out on the road. We don’t know when to go to bed. Usually, Steve will lock me out of the hotel room, etc., because of my smoking, my screaming or my non-sleeping habits. Chris and me are the party twins on the road when we are out there. We like to be out socializing and what-not. Having a good time so that we have the funny stories to talk about later on in life.
What is the meaning behind your last album 11:59:50? It was a mini opera. Kind of inspired by Marillions “Misplaced Childhood”. The title evoked 1 second before the zero hour, which was more metaphorical than anything else because it was about a central character; it wasn’t about a great time disparity. I thought it was a very cool sounding title. It was recorded in 2002 and we released it through Unisound Records, a Greek label in January 2003.
Where can we get your latest cd? Online both off of our main website as well as our myspace page , or you can do a Google search of our name and you can find hundreds of places.
How do you feel about getting signed if you were given the opportunity to be? I would definitely love it. I do know that there is a lot of competition out there and a lot of political stuff with the labels and management but if it was someone small, and supportive and someone that was going to believe and support us completely, then why not? We would really like to branch out to the west coast and we understand that there are still some rock/meta fans out there, as well as the middle of the country, but here where we live in the NY Metro area, that are a limited number of clubs that would play our stuff. It’s very hard to find an established place that plays that sort of music. If we could branch out to CA it would be great.