On December 4, 2015, La Grosse Radio conducted an interview with DREAM THEATER keyboardist Jordan Rudess. You can now watch the chat below. A couple of excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On DREAM THEATER's new concept album, "The Astonishing":
Rudess: "Well, the story is really about hope and it's about the power of music for healing and bringing good energy and good spirit to people. It was a story that was written by John Petrucci [DREAM THEATER guitarist]. He originally thought of it, the seed of the idea, about two and a half years ago. And a little over a year ago, he presented it to the band as an idea to do our concept album, and we were all very excited about it; it seemed really great. So after he presented it to us, then we started to work on all the music for it."
On the inspiration for "The Astonishing" story:
Rudess: "Well, I think the inspiration comes from things like 'Star Wars' and 'The Lord Of The Rings' and 'Game Of Thrones' and all these kind of fantasy, sci-fi stories. And it's something that certainly John, who wrote the story, is into and all of us could really relate to. Especially from a musical point of view, to create the music for it, for me it was like doing a score for a film. So I was very comfortable with all the different genres of music that had to be composed, 'cause it was everything from electronic sounds and music — not so much, but there's definitely electronics throughout the album — and also some more classical type of musical ideas to our usual prog kind of metal mixture."
On whether making "The Astonishing" forced the members of DREAM THEATER to step outside their comfort zone:
Rudess: "I think it definitely challenged everybody. It was interesting especially because, stylistically speaking, yeah, it has the prog and it has the metal — the usual components of a DREAM THEATER album — but it also has more than that. We also had to bring in electronic sounds, so I had to have some fun and search for cool sounds and get into that mode, and also there [are] some classical elements, so I was very much in my classical headspace. So it kind of brought more styles out of me that I am used to doing, for the most part, but more than I usually get to do with DREAM THEATER. And then there were some things that I hadn't done that we were learning, some stylistic things that we were learning. There's a section that's almost like a military band section — I had to try to score that — and there's a little tango section, and we were learning a little bit about that. It was an education for us to do this album as well."
On DREAM THEATER's evolution:
Rudess: "It's kind of an amazing story, you know. 'Cause I've been in the band sixteen years now. The fact that it just keeps on going and everybody's still feeling really good about it, that we can sit here today and talk about an exciting new direction and a new album, it means that there's something kind of special going on. And I think it's because everybody's very dedicated. DREAM THEATER's unusual; we're real dedicated musicians and we love what we do. And we're all mature, responsible guys, and that's why it keeps happening. And we like to change it up for the different albums. And when we decided to do this show, 'The Astonishing', John and I said, 'You know what? We really need to write this album, the two of us, sitting in a quiet room and just composing this album.' And that felt really good to me too, because when I started sixteen years ago, John and I always wrote the music together, really, but it was never that clear, because other people would be floating around, other people had a lot to say. But we would write the music. So, now it's kind of, like, you stick around long enough and things come together."
"The Astonishing" was released on January 29 via Roadrunner. The CD was made available in a wide range of distinctive versions, including standard 2-CD set, 4-LP vinyl box set and a limited-edition deluxe box set.
Recorded at Cove City Sound Studios in Glen Cove, New York, with John Petrucci producing, studio luminary Richard Chycki (AEROSMITH, RUSH) engineering/mixing and legendary arranger, composer and conductor David Campbell orchestrating, "The Astonishing" paints a tale of a retro-futurist post-apocalyptic dystopia ruled by medieval style feudalism. It's a place aching for a Chosen One to rise above the noise and defeat an Empire defined by the endless drone of noise machines and the illusion of safety in bland conformity.