Jordan Rudess spoke to Lotsofmuzik about the recording sessions for the follow-up to DREAM THEATER's 2016 album "The Astonishing". The band's 14th studio disc, which is tentatively due in early 2019, will be DREAM THEATER's first for Sony Music's progressive imprint InsideOut Music. The group spent the past 25 years recording under various labels in the Warner Music Group system, most recently Roadrunner Records, which released five albums by the band between 2007 and 2016.
On the subject of the songwriting process for DREAM THEATER's upcoming album, Rudess said: "It was definitely very collaborative. We had a wonderful time all together. We basically hid away in a secret location, we found an old barn turned into studio and set aside a couple of months to do everything. We were very constructive, very energized, had a great time together, a lot of laughs. We cooked together, joked around, but in general, we had an uninterrupted musical experience together, which was very productive. We feel very good about the new stuff. We think it's very strong and that the fans will really enjoy this album."
Rudess also talked about the criticism levelled at DREAM THEATER for Mike Mangini's drum sound on the last record. He said: "I know there were a lot of people who had trouble with the drum sound. Personally, I never had a problem with it, I liked it, but I guess everybody's a critic nowadays, and everybody's voice is somehow of great importance in the Internet world in the safe zone behind a computer. [Laughs] I think I understand why some people maybe didn't like the drum sound, and I'd also say that Mike Mangini wasn't 100 percent happy with it either. But I think what's gonna happen on this album is an amazing drum sound — it's killer! Again, everybody's a critic and I'm sure in the end, somebody will always find something to say, but for me, it's one of the best drum sounds I've ever heard."
Jordan acknowledged that "The Astonishing" was a difficult album for DREAM THEATER fans to absorb, but he offered no apologies for what some outsiders questioned as a misstep.
"DREAM THEATER has had a very long career, and when it came the time to do the album that turned out to be 'The Astonishing', we wanted to do something that was created a little bit different than usual," he said. "We wanted to do a concept album, and John Petrucci [guitar] and I decided that the best way to do this kind of album was to sit in a room and really write this thing, like a musical or a rock opera, and that's what we did. We took some very focused time writing all this music, an it's an album that I'm extremely proud of — it's one of my proudest achievements with DREAM THEATER. But I know it was a very polarizing album for the fans, and I think the reason is that DREAM THEATER fans are varied anyways. You have the guys that like the heavy stuff, while other like the progressive and more melodic stuff — and there's a lot of different kinds of music within what we do, so it creates this situation."
He continued: "You can't really please everybody, and in 'The Astonishing', we couldn't please everybody. A lot of our metal fans kinda dropped off and said, 'What the hell are you guys doing with these sweet soft parts?' [Laughs]. And I get that, that's fine — you can't please everybody all the time. But I'm excited because I feel like this new album is going to be a home run. I get it — DREAM THEATER fans don't like to go for too long of a gentle ride. Maybe a ballad here and there, but I think the bulk of them are not so into the Disney-esque influence. [Laughs] We did that and we loved it, we had a great time, it was the biggest production ever. But now the next stage is back to the roots, back to the core of the sound — screaming Hammond organ, killing leads, chunky riffs, slamming drums, and everybody will be there moshing! [Laughs]"
Rudess went on to say that there was an odd tension at play during the making of the new DREAM THEATER album, which ultimately acted as a force that fueled the creative process.
"I think that what happened in this album was that because John Petrucci and I wrote the last album together without any input from the other guys, there was a bit of tension in that [when we started to write the new one]," he said. "I think that led us taking the move of convening in this hideaway. So in a sense, tension led to this great album, because everybody was so anxious to be involved and said, 'I wanna do this,' 'I wanna do that,' and we got together as a group. And John and I were very opened to it, since we enjoy hiding away and do the bulk of the writing. But at the same time we were, like, 'Yeah, bring it on, guys!' [Laughs] Let's feel your energy and create something that's more a 'group-approved' kind of album."
He continued: "It was great to have Mike Mangini there, because he is very high-spirited and has a powerful reaction to things, and creates excitement in the room. I'd play something and he'd go, 'Wow! Wizard, that's amazing!' [Laughs] and this kinda influenced his drumming as well. In 'The Astonishing', we didn't have that, and this time it really helped push the energy on this album. And having all the guys being involved ended up being a lot of fun. I guess I'll relate it to the question in the sense that it did result out of some kind of pressure, or tension, that everybody wanted to return to the core of who we are and get together in a room to do this."
Read the entire interview at Lotsofmuzik.
Petrucci hinted in a recent interview that DREAM THEATER's next album would be musically inspired by the "Images, Words & Beyond" tour, which saw the pioneering group celebrating the 25th anniversary of its milestone RIAA-gold-certified album "Images And Words".