Helena Rosendahl of Ghost Cult Magazine recently conducted an interview with vocalist James LaBrie of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Ghost Cult Magazine: Your first release featuring new drummer Mike Mangini from its inception, truly his "right of passage" into the band, what has been your collective intention with the album?
LaBrie: Well, I think that as a band what we realized is that with "A Dramatic Turn Of Events", leading up to that album, one of the original members left [referring to ex-drummer Mike Portnoy], and then we did the auditioning. We found a guy that we knew from the very start was going to fit like a glove, and I think from that point it was a matter of us doing what we do. Let's write a great album; this is really necessary. But Mike Mangini wasn't involved in that writing process for "A Dramatic Turn Of Events", but granted he came in and he came in and still did a phenomenal job when it did come down to him doing his tracks. I've known Mike Mangini for over fourteen years, he played drums on three of my solo albums; first two MULLMUZZLER albums and "Elements Of Persuasion". So I've known him for quite some time. And so I also knew that he's the man.
Ghost Cult Magazine: Is that because you had that "working relationship" already in place?
LaBrie: Yeah, just because I love his personality; he's one of the easiest guys to get along with, you know, he has such a great attitude. He's a phenomenal drummer; the best, I feel, on the planet and I don't think I'm alone on that one. I think what really helped was we had an entire world tour ("A Dramatic Tour Of Events"). When you're out on the road, that's when the true colors of someone really starts to show themselves and not only that, you get much more in tune with, no pun intended, the musician and you understand how he works, he reacts, he interacts, and I think that by the time we went in to start thinking about what we wanted to bring this album, he was fully on board. We knew that it was just going to be a phenomenal ride with him — which it was. He showed up from the very first day that we started writing and he was ready. At the same time, what was really great about him was he's very respectful, like he understood, you know, that "these guys have been doing this for 20 years plus, they've got a chemistry going on here so, you know, I'm gonna sit back but at the same time I'm also going to be involved and really enthused," which he was. That wouldn't have happened if he hadn't done fifteen months out on the road with us, so that was a crucial step. So moving right to that point, now usually what we do is we discuss where we think we want to go or what we think is necessary or what we'd like to see be included within this album, the next musical journey.
Ghost Cult Magazine: I understand that you once again recorded your vocals separately with engineer Richard Chycki in Canada. Why do you prefer this approach?
LaBrie: I don't like anyone to be around when I record my vocals. It's the same with John Petrucci when he's doing his solos or tracking his rhythm guitars; he doesn't want anybody around. That's just the way that I work best. I work where it's just me and the engineer. It's my interpretation, it's my bringing, conveying what I feel it emotionally says to me. If anyone else is in the studio, I find it to be a distraction. So yeah, Richard Chycki and I have a huge history; we've known each other for 25 years. We were in a band in the '80s together called WINTER ROSE and so we have a great connection and a great chemistry with one another. And the thing is that Rich, he knows me probably just as much as the guys in DREAM THEATER as a vocalist. He knows how I like to work, he knows how I like to really be patient in the way that I find the voice that is right for that particular section, and it's just worked wonderfully for the last two albums under those those principles. What's funny is that I worked under those principles the first few DREAM THEATER albums and then we started bringing in John and Mike [Portnoy] and if I could go back, it would've been, "Let's not ruin a good thing here, let's keep like I know I can work my best." Not that I'm ashamed of, or I feel that I didn't do something vocally there that I shouldn't have, but it's just that I know that this is the best way to work.
Read the entire interview at Ghost Cult Magazine.