Alan Sculley of the Daily Herald recently conducted an interview with guitarist John Petrucci of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
On whether the title of the band's new album, "A Dramatic Turn of Events", refers to last year's departure of DREAM THEATER's founding drummer Mike Portnoy:
Petrucci: "People look at the title and they say, 'Oh, well, obviously it's about Mike's departure and the changes.' It's really not. First of all we didn't write any of the songs lyrically about our situation at all, and that was a conscious effort. It's not the place to do that. We didn't think that would be, we didn't want to do that. We didn't want to write about our own band woes or politics or whatever. There's definitely this running theme of major changes taking place. There's this song 'Outcry', it's exactly about what's happening now in Libya. There's a tie-in with Egypt and with people uprising. There are songs about that spiritual sense where somebody is really trying to make some kind of change in their life. They seek out a shaman to try to do that in a more spiritual way. There are songs about people, situations in history, major historical events that happened that maybe we forgot about, but that really changed life for many, many people So we're talking major events, major dramatic turns of events."
On Portnoy's decision to leave the the group after first proposing they go on an extended hiatus perhaps lasting upward of five years:
Petrucci: "I think the bottom line is he needed a change, whether the change was playing with another band or taking some sort of break or whatever. And the rest of us didn't. We felt that this is what we do. This is our band. We're at a great point in our career. We're very passionate about what we do. We're very energized. And we tried to convince him otherwise, but ultimately you can't really force somebody to do something they don't want to do. So it's something that he had to do and we kind of recovered from that, embraced the change and moved on."
On Portnoy's change of heart and request to be allowed back into DREAM THEATER:
Petrucci: "It was very upsetting for us, especially after what we went through trying to convince him to stay, and him adamantly saying, 'It's not something I can do,' to the point where he quit a band [after] 25 years. It's not like he was wishy washy about it. He was definite. He was concrete in his decision to leave the band."
On whether DREAM THEATER was feeling pressure to prove that the group was as good as ever without Portnoy:
Petrucci: "That pressure, it comes from within. It's always there. I feel that every time we go in to do a new album. It's a brand-new opportunity. At whatever point it happens to be at, I love that whole process of starting out with nothing and having a goal, and coming up with something and building it from the ground up. I love that process every album we've done. So in some ways, this was no different."
On how the new CD compares to DREAM THEATER's past efforts:
Petrucci: "There is a different mix, a little bit. The band throughout the years tends to sway in a certain direction depending on sort of our mood or our influence or whatever. I think this album has more of a balance in our overall sound and impact. The core, there's always a core element of our music, which is the songwriting. The composition, the melody, the structure of the chord progressions and everything, always has to be the focal point. And sometimes we stray from that and we do things that are more riff-based or more attitude-based or whatever. And this kind of has a little bit more in-depth spirit to it and a little bit more balance. A lot of people are saying, and I tend to agree, that the context of the writing style is progressive music that we grew up on, like Yes and stuff. But the organization and the instrumentation is of a metal rock band. That's kind of more of the balance that keeps us unique and defines our sound, I would say."
On performing new material on DREAM THEATER's current world tour:
Petrucci: "I love playing new music. It's the latest thing that you did. You're so psyched about it. Especially in this case, this is the music that [new DREAM THEATER drummer] Mike Mangini has recorded, so it's great to play the music that we wrote and recorded with him. As far as the show, we do have some new things planned as far as our presentation. It's going to be the best show we've ever done as far as the video presentation and design, and the look of the stage and the look of the screens. We have something really unique that our talented video director and lighting director have designed. I can't wait for people to see it."
Read the entire interview from the Daily Herald.