Interview: Buna Bernarda Juretić
Photo: Ivana Sataić (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Dream Theater, one of the greatest progressive metal bands performed at Gasometer, Vienna on February 18th. Before the concert, we had a great chance to talk with their keyboard player Jordan Rudess about new album, drummer audition, touring, etc. There was lot of discussions about how they will sound after Mike Portnoy’s departure, but band returned with more than solid new release „A Dramatic Turn Of Events“. Check out what Jordan said.
VENIA: You’re currently promoting your new album…
JORDAN: Yeah, we are like salesman, we make the album and then we go and sell it… (laugh).
VENIA: Great! So, tell me, when did tour start, how has it been so far?
JORDAN: Well this is already into the tour, you know, we had the last one which was last summer, so we have been doing this for a while. The tour will actually continue and in this summer as well. I don’t exactly remember the date it started…well European tour started three weeks ago. We had a little break, we went to LA to Grammys and now we are back.
VENIA: Tell me something about recording and production of „A Dramatic Turn Of Events“.
JORDAN: Well, we had a great time doing it, it is a different kind of procedure. We had a chance to re-think how we do things because we lost a member and that made us, kind of, to look inside. We knew….a lot of things remained the same, although, in this particular process we knew that there are going to be a lot of eyes on us. People would be courious how Dream Theater will be with new drummer. So there was no drummer in the room when we did this album. The writing team, John Petrucci and me remained the same. That hasn’t changed so that was good. But the fact that there was no drummer, that was kind of interesting for us. It allowed us to have some quiter headspace to think. And we had, you know. I was able to get my notation book and write and take my time. It was also a little bit more kind of like focused.
VENIA: And now, probably a question everyone asked you. Tell me something about the audition for a new Dream Theater drummer.
JORDAN: The first one to walk in the room was Mike Mangini. There were seven guys in audition, all amazing drummers. But the first one who came in the morning was Mangini. He played perfect audition. We had three songs prepared for him to learn and then we had some other elements to audition as well. But when the song part came in, it was like we were on stage, perfect. And then, everybody else came that day and some guys got close to perfect, but not so much. Mike was very impressive, the bar he set was very high. We also like him, we kind of knew him, James had been working with him before. So after some thinking about how we should proceed, we decided that Mangini was the best.
VENIA: What elements of his playing style are most suitable for Dream Theater music?
JORDAN: There are couple of things. One is that he is very…um…he is a professor, not that he is only smart but he is also teacher. He has this high level of awareness of rhytm. He spent whole life learning the rhytm. The other thing is that he has very, very, advanced technical skill. He can do things with his arms and his feet what most people cannot do. And he is also very musical. With all this combination we have found somebody that is hardly human, really exceptional. We are on stage with him every night and think: „Oh my God, this guy is really, really amazing.“ You know, there are people on this planet that just excel so heavily, so breifly at things. He is not like everybody else, this is a different kind of human being. Because physically and even mentaly he’s got some really special stuff going on on higher level. So, it is amazing. We are proud that we have such a guy in our band.
VENIA: Many critics say about your new album that you got back to your roots, to more of the sound of nineties. That it sounds more like „Images and Words“ or „Awake“, what would you say about that?
JORDAN: I would say that one of the things that we did in this little period of time is to try to think what is it really that excites us. Something we fill in comfortable, what we want to express. What is it about Dream Theater that, you know, people love. So we looked throught it and we thought that this certain album is, its elements like melody, harmony and energy that really is what we want to present. And so, it that’s interpretated as whatever that is fine. Because what we did is that we went back and we thought about it. You know, what we wanted to take out of the music, maybe we were puting it in the last few years. What do we want to put back in or add, and this is how it ended up. We wanted to make it classic Dream Theatre sounding and really do it with love.
VENIA: Tell me something about the whole composing process. What is the first thing, what is the last, how does everything go?
JORDAN: Well, a lot of the composing is bounced around between myself and John Petrucci. We really write most of the music. And then John Myung can come up with some cool bass lines that he wants to contribute and James can come in later and add some vocal ideas. But the heart of Dream Theater, ever since I joined, that has been Petrucci and I. Kind of like going back and fourth, inspiring each other. I’ll come up with a chrod, he would come up with the riff, I’ll learn that, it would kind of lead to the next thing. He’s doing everything kind of by ear, I’m sitting there with my music paper, writing it down. And little bit of a time, usually, I’ll come up with two bars and he’s like: „Oh that’s cool!“. And then we would talk about it. You know, the composing process can be very different. I’ll do, like I said, writing something down to just improvising and having something that just feels right.
VENIA: Tell me something about setlist. Fans know that now on this tour, as you promote your new album, you mostly perform songs like „Outcry“, „Bridges in the Sky“, „On the Backs of Angels“, so what is so special about those new songs?
JORDAN: Well we always have those songs in the set. We feel like those are really important songs to present, that people really want to hear them. Thus we like to play them. They are big songs, important from the new album. One thing we decided to do since Mike Portnoy left was that we really wanted to change the way that we were and have some focused sets that we repeat on a tour. So what comes is more production, styled in, its really something that the whole crew can feel comfortable with. They all know how does the song end, how the transition will be, the light would be, how long would it take to struck the next song. In the past, there was a focus on always changing it up. Although maybe some fans like that kind of thing. All of us in the band and the crew thought we would be happier putting on a show where its more prepared and I think it goes, that you can see in our show that its really on the whole another level of productionalism going on.
VENIA: Is it hard for you to choose playing new songs among older stuff? How do you choose setlists?
JORDAN: It is always a little challenging, we always put a lot of thought into it, trying to balance it so there is a little bit of everything. Maybe to play something we haven’t played in a while. You know, just really trying to make it flow. There are a lot of factors while doing the setlist. This is something we really consider, bounce around between the guys, talk about.
VENIA: I wanted to ask you something about lyrical content of this album. I know that the bandmembers share the job, in writing them.
JORDAN: No, I don’t write lyrics, John Petrucci wrote most of the lyrics, James contributed, and I on my own contributed in something as well. Well, for somebody that didn’t write the lyrics, I can basically say that the lyrics are all about transition and change. Every song really is to that type of thing.
VENIA: Do you remember concert in Zagreb five years ago?
JORDAN: Oh yes, of course. I remember it was a really good crowd. I also remember I had a really good time walking around the city. It was my second time in Croatia, actually. The first time I was there with the Paul Winter concert. Many years ago we did kind of a big show for some refugees that were sent away when all the turbolence was going on there. My second time was very different experience. But if we had some time to come back it would be really cool.
VENIA: In the end, do you have any message for Venia-Mag readers?
JORDAN: Well yeah, again it would be great to see all the fans there, we would love to come back I hope we can work that out sometime in the not to distant future. And…yeah, look forward to doing that.
Official web: www.dreamtheater.net