Jim DeRogatis of the Chicago Sun-Times recently conducted an interview with DREAM THEATER keyboardist Jordan Rudess. A few excerpts from the chat follow:
On the group's distinctive mix of heavy-metal intensity and progressive-rock virtuosity:
"The thing I like about that whole movement is that you can continue with rock music, but bring it to a real musical, harmonic, melodic, rhythmic place where it isn't just rock anymore — you can extend what music is. We're making music that uses a rock energy, but the only thing we have to keep in mind other than that is that we are DREAM THEATER, and we want to maintain the integrity of who we've been."
On joining DREAM THEATER in 1999 after playing with John Petrucci (guitar), Mike Portnoy (drums)and prog legend Tony Levin in a side project called the LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT:
"I had done two albums with the LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT, and both were interesting compared to DREAM THEATER, because with those we didn't have the window or the parameters of what DREAM THEATER is. That was really fun for me to add quirky riffs and spacey things, but right after the second LIQUID TENSION album, I went into the studio with DREAM THEATER, and there were really a lot of differences, although it was most of the same guys.
"It was a little hard for me at first: I remember coming in with a ton of ideas, and I wanted to present them all, and they wanted to hear them, but at the same time, they almost didn't want to hear them. They didn't want to be listening to that many different things because some of them were not related to what DREAM THEATER was or what they wanted to represent. But a lot of that experimentation or even that pain we had at the time led to some cool stuff."
On the band's eighth studio album, "Octavarium":
"We had just come off of making [2003's] 'Train of Thought', which was a very heavy album. At first I was like, 'What am I going to do?' But what I ended up doing was having a really great time recreating a sonic world and making these grungy, distorted, heavy things bigger than life.
"For this album, we decided to go back to something that was more like a DREAM THEATER album: We called upon our different influences and stylistic backgrounds and created something that is more true to who we are as people. That involved searching within ourselves personally, but also finding out what our common ground is.
"Everybody brings something to the table, and we don't pretend not to have other influences. For instance, with the big title track — which I'm very proud of and think is one of DREAM THEATER's best compositions — I dug pretty deep into my background in GENESIS and YES and wanted to bring some of those flavors forward."
On the song "Sacrificed Sons", which is said to be an emotional contemplation of the horrors of 9/11 by a group of New Yorkers who felt a real connection to those events:
"All of the guys love to take serious topics and go for it; we're not writing a whole lot of love songs. With 'Sacrificed Sons', we had some sensitivity there about how we'd present it. I remember there was a lot of discussion about the kind of words that would be used and how direct we wanted to be."