Metal Wani‘s Carl O’Rourke recently sat down with guitar legend John Petrucci of Dream Theater. The two touched on a range of topics, including in-depth conversations on the band’s upcoming new album, Distance Over Time’, returning to the roots of Dream Theater, what keeps the band artistically brave in 2019 as well as shine some light on the debate surrounding the set up for drummer Mike Mangini.
On moving themselves into a country house to record their new album, John shared some of what that experience was like for the band and the influence it had on the record.
“This one, by the nature of how we did it, it really lent itself to make this kind of record a little more, like you said, more rootsy, more primal, more organic. The whole band went away to a location together. It was kind of like being on guys hunting trip or camping trip or something, like a retreat. No distractions, no commuting, just being together and being able to hang out on long days playing music, write, take a break, barbecues, hang out at night drinking bourbon, wake up the next day, make some bacon and eggs and do the whole thing again. So just the environment in which we did it in, and the way in which we did it contributed to this as more of like a bonding experience as a friend and as musicians. So the music, I think, it really oozes that feeling of connection and rootsiness. I’m really happy with the way it came out.”
Asked if he agreed that the connection he felt with his band-mates was reflected in the songs, John said,
“I think you’re absolutely right because we really did enjoy each others company. As much as we spend a lot of time together on the road, as long as we’ve known each other, it’s not the same when you’re kind of traveling and you have the show, or you have a day off or you’re in the studio, it’s late at night when you drive back home. When you’re able to just go and hang out and just talk and watch TV together or have a meal or cook or whatever, it creates a different kind of environment. So everybody felt very much a part of what was going on and very invested in the outcome. You’re doing this project together, and you’re feeling really positive and proud of what you’re doing. So it really was a great environment to do it in.”
In the hope of ending the discussion as to why drummer Mike Mangini has his cymbals perched so high in the studio video of “Untethered Angel”, John offered what he thinks the reason may be.
“[Laughs] A couple of reasons! I think being the caring person that he is, I think Mike originally raised the cymbals out of the way so they wouldn’t interfere with James onstage. Because of James’ height and him holding his microphone, and the drum riser, the cymbals are like right at his head level. So I think part of the reason he pushed them out of the way was to help out James. And the other reason, if I’m not mistaken, you’d have to really ask Mike, but I think he wanted to create more of a window, like more visual access so you can see what he’s actually doing. it doesn’t physically look very convenient! [Laughs] I don’t know how he does that. That has to be hell on your shoulders. But only Mike could do that.”
Active since 1985, Dream Theater remain artistically brave in 2019 and continue to motivate themselves to push the envelope. This results in adapting their core sound to their current incarnation upon each record. John shared his thoughts, stating.
“That’s definitely accurate. It’s kind of a funny thing, I was just having a conversation about this. It’s hard if you’re somebody going to turn Dream Theater on to a new listener. It’s hard to sort of pick what type of song to play because you’re right they kind of come from a different side of us a lot of the times. You might have a song like ‘The Spirit Carries On’ or ‘Another Day’ or even ‘Out Of Reach’ that is very sort of emotional and melodic and more ballady. Then have all the technical crazy stuff, and then we have a record like ‘Train Of Thought’ and ‘Systematic Chaos’ that are very heavy and dark.”
“What keeps us going and motivated is that creative edge. It’s that spark that just tries different and new things and explores that and it’s part of being a progressive band, a prog band. We’re fine labeling ourselves as a prog band, or a prog metal band, but its sort of in the nature of that is that you try different things. You try new things, new sounds and in the end, it’s like, records are all an experience. To me, it’s always been like watching a movie, like an even that you sit down for. And I remember doing that as a kid, as a teenager, as a young man just putting on a Yes record, or Rush record, or Pink Floyd record or whatever it is and just listening to the whole thing. You experience it in the way you experience a movie. When you think of things in broad strokes with that bigger picture mentality, it makes a little more open-minded to try a range of different things. So this way a record isn’t just one dimensional. As you’re listening you kind of get taken on this ride and you’re not sure what’s gonna be around the next corner. That unpredictability is really what makes it interesting and keeps us really motivated.