Jim Ward says that he's coming back into Sparta after a three-year hiatus with a new outlook on things.
Ward tells Billboard.com that his work away from the band -- leading the group Sleepercar and recording a series of solo EPs that have been grouped together on the new album "Quiet in the Valley, On the Shores the End Begins" -- gave him "a whole new appreciation" for Ton Hajjar, Sparta's drummer and co-writer and a bandmate since the days of At the Drive-In. "I have a whole new level of respect for how he had to put up with me," Ward notes. "I'm not the easiest person to deal with. Dealing myself the last few years I was going, 'God, this dude...' (Hajjar) had to have some days where he wanted to punch me in the face, but he never did."
Sparta, which announced its hiatus in 2008, returns to work on Nov. 17 with a gig at Tricky Falls, one of two venues Ward owns in El Paso. The group then plans to hit the studio to record its fourth album and first since "Threes" in 2006. "Sparta never broke up; it just went on a break," Ward says. "I'm glad I stepped away from it for a bit. Now I can say that it's a f***ing machine, and I love it. I can't wait to get back in there and turn it up and destroy everything." But Ward adds that there's "no timetable" for a new album.
Ward also predicts that he'll resurrect Sleepercar at some point in the near future to record a follow-up to its 2008 debut "West Texas." "It's hard to tell what will happen there until we actually get in a room," he explains. "It's kind of a wandering band of weirdoes half the time. The guys move towns all the time...I played in Austin the other day and the keyboard player (Gabriel Gonzalez) showed up. That's what I love about that band; you've just got to go with the flow. They're all really talented, and there's no rules to it."
Ward, meanwhile, is just wrapping up his solo touring in support of "Quiet in the Valley...," which also includes electric recordings of six of the songs from the EPs. He says that "this is definitely the end of the run for me" as a solo artist -- at least for the time being. "I'm just not very good at being alone," Ward says with a laugh. "Maybe somewhere down the line I'll do it again; I'd love to build it into something that I can do later on in life. But I definitely feel like this has been a really good thing for me. It's like you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone; I have that appreciation now for the guys that I play with in" Sparta and Sleepercar.