OSI Interview


Michelle LaRose talks with Jim Matheos for Caustic Truths! Magazine
Photographs courtesy of OSIband.com

Best known for his guitar wizardry in Fates Warning, Jim Matheos has also spearheaded OSI with Dream Theater founder Kevin Moore. OSI’s second offering to the listening public, Free, could be aptly titled Dream Warning seeing how two members, Jim Matheos [Lead guitar – Fates Warning] and Joey Vera [Bass –Fates Warning] have teamed up with Kevin Moore [Dream Theater founder] and Mike Portnoy [Drums – Dream Theater].

We were able to chat with the elusive Mr. Matheos about his current creative endeavors.

OSICT: You formed OSI in 2003 and you also play in Fates Warning. Do you find it difficult to juggle two projects at once?

Jim: Not really. There’s a lot of time in a day. It’s not been that busy. Fates did a record in 2004 and we didn’t do that much touring really. So no, it’s not that hard. Both bands aren’t really that demanding with my time.

CT: How is OSI different from Fates Warning?

Jim: It’s quite different actually. OSI, I would say is more of a collaborative thing with Kevin and me. Whereas with Fates I write songs and we don’t really change a whole lot from my final version to the version that goes on the record. The other guys obviously have some input regarding their own parts. With Kevin its much more collaborative in that I come up with a song idea and it can change completely from my original idea to the final product on the record. So that’s probably the biggest difference.

CT: OSI’s second album Free was just released. Will OSI tour to promote the album?

Jim: We’re going to try to! I’m not sure at this point if it’s going to come through. We’re talking to a couple of agents in the States and a couple of agents in Europe. We hope that we can bring it out in the States sometime in September and October/November for Europe. There’s nothing confirmed though.

CT: Free is also available as a Special Edition. What is it you get with the Special Edition?

Jim: There are six extra tracks on it. Two of them are songs that didn’t quite make the final cut for one reason or another. They were ideas that I had. For one reason or another we never got around to fully OSI-ing them but we thought they were interesting nonetheless. A couple of the other songs are songs that Kevin had done for a radio show he was working on a few years ago. There’s also one demo from the first record. It’s kind of a cross-section of material. Stuff that we thought was cool that didn’t exactly fit on the main record; it would break up the flow of the real record.

CT: Are there videos with this Special Edition like there were on the first OSI album?

Jim: No. Just six audio tracks.

CT: Do you plan on making any videos for this new album?

Jim: Yeah, we’re currently editing one right now! We shot it a few weeks ago and over the weekend we’ve been getting copies of it and making some final adjustments. It will be done in a few weeks and hopefully you’ll see it on MTV somewhere.

OSICT: The Special Edition is available in Europe only?

Jim: As far as I know. I don’t really know what the deal is with that. I’m not real happy with it not being available in the U.S. I don’t know quite why. It certainly has nothing to do with the band; it’s more of a label decision that was out of our control. I agree it’s kind of unfortunate.

CT: You can still get it on the internet I’m sure.

Jim: Yeah. You can get it through Amazon. There’s also a company we deal first-hand with called Burning Shed. Yeah, there’s a bunch of places you can get it through. I don’t think it’s that much more expensive.

CT: It’s been three years since OSI’s first album. Why such a long span between albums?

Jim: Well I guess that gets back to your first question, that we do have other commitments. Like I said, It’s not really hard for me to juggle both but they certainly both take time. Once we did the first record, Kevin went back to doing what he does with Chroma Key and he did a movie score. I did a Fates record and some touring and a couple other side projects, then we both had holes in our schedules and figured it would be time to do another record.

CT: You had Joey Vera [Fates Warning] play bass on the new album. What happened to Sean Malone [Bass on first album]?

Jim: Well the first record was set up as being a “project.” We never really anticipated doing another record. When we did decide to do another record we wanted to have a different line up pretty much from the first one. We wanted to focus on the band OSI being Kevin and myself. We didn’t really want to have the people that guest appeared on the first record. We didn’t want to give the impression that they were part of the band. They’re really just session musicians. Musically this time around we focused less on the progressive elements or the metal elements that were on the first record. We thought we could do something just a little more groove oriented. Both Kevin and I have worked with Joey a lot and we thought he was perfect for it.

CT: OSI is an interesting name. How did you come up with it?

Jim: Office Of Strategic Influence is actually the name of the first record. OSI is the name of the band. They don’t really mean the same thing. The record was called “OSI; Office Of Strategic Influence.” On the first record the lyrics were very political. The Office Of Strategic Influence was an agency that was started by the… Pentagon? Secretary of Defense? Something like that after late 2001. Basically it was an agency to disseminate positive information on the U.S. and to place that into countries that didn’t have such a positive view of us, so it’s like a propaganda agency. It was kind of a cool idea to base some lyrics around and kind of a mysterious concept for the band. We didn’t really intend to carry it on past one record.

OSICT: The Limited Edition of your first album had a video “concept piece” on it directed by Kevin Moore. What exactly is a concept piece?

Jim: I don’t know. I’ve never heard that term before for that piece. It’s just a video basically. Kevin does a lot of video work.

CT: Your first album had a Pink Floyd and Neil Young cover tune on it. What kind of red tape is involved when an artist wants to record another artist’s work like that?

Jim: Oh, there’s none. They call it a… I forget what the actual phrase for it is… some kind of a mandatory license. No, there’s no red tape at all. You just pay the artist. The owner of the copyright has to be paid publishing royalties on it. There’s no problem at all in doing that.

CT: Can we get a quick update on Fates Warning? Are there any plans for a new album?

Jim: We’re talking about it. Ray and I have been talking about it. Ray and I have been talking recently; we’re doing some dates at the end of this month and early June. It really depends on what happens with OSI, that’s kind of the priority for this year. If the tour that I talked about comes together I won’t be doing anything with Fates this year. If the OSI tour doesn’t happen then I’ll have some free time and we’ll look seriously at doing a record. No solid plans right now other than these dates that are coming up.

CT: Fates Warning only has three dates on their tour itinerary. Why aren’t there more dates?

Jim: Well what happened is we were scheduled to do this festival in Germany. It’s just a one off date rock hard festival in June and we figured we might as well do a couple of warm-up shows. We really didn’t intend to do a whole tour. It was scheduled a year ago for us to do this festival and then we decided to do some warm-up dates before it.

CT: Is it true that Fates Warning plays OSI tunes?

Jim: We have in the past. We don’t make a habit of it. We were out doing the Queensryche/Dream Theater tour, Mike [Portnoy] is obviously in Dream Theater and he played on the first OSI record so we thought it was kind of cool for him to come out during our set and do one song.

CT: You also have two solo albums [Away With Words and First Impressions]. Are there any plans to work on another solo album?

Jim: I would love to. I don’t have any solid plans right now. Financially it’s really hard to do because they don’t sell a lot of records and they take a lot of time to do. It’s a labor of love type of thing. I’d like to do another one. I have to find the time and try to be able to justify taking up that much time to do it. I don’t know, possibly in the next year or two maybe.

CT: Thank you for taking the time to speak with Caustic Truths today Jim.

Jim: O.k. Thank you.