DREAM THEATER Guitarist Is Not Sure Why Band Is Bigger Overseas Than In U.S.

Pollstar recently conducted an interview with guitarist John Petrucci of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Pollstar: The new album seems to be a hit with your fans. Are you ever worried about how new material will go over?

Petrucci: You know what, when we toured we did some open-air shows over the summer and we played one of the songs, the song that’s nominated, “On The Backs of Angels”, and that went over really well. And we just finished a North American tour and the response to the new songs is so great that we actually added one or two [to the set], because we were getting reactions from people who were really liking the new songs and upset sometimes that we weren’t playing some of them. We have so much experience at this point that, even as we’re writing and recording and the mix is going on, you’re sort of generating premonitions of how stuff will go over live. Even the song that we open our set with called “Bridges in the Sky”, as soon as we wrote that, you know it’s like, “That is the show opener” — you can just tell. Fast-forward a few months later and there it is and it works perfectly. So I certainly hope that people enjoy the new songs and, based on the reactions that we got here in the U.S. and Canada and Mexico, I have a positive feeling about it. I’m looking forward to the tour. Europe is always great because it’s so diverse. The different areas we go to, the people react different, and you know you’re kind of really quickly experiencing all these different cultures while playing in those different environments. It’s pretty amazing.

Pollstar: You guys are huge overseas, maybe bigger internationally than in the U.S. Have you pinpointed a reason for that?

Petrucci: It’s a very good question. I’m not 100 percent sure why. It could be a cultural thing. When we tour in America, the shows are great, and the fans are just as passionate and excited as anywhere else in the world, but in other parts of the world, in parts of South America and in parts of Europe and Asia, the size of the venues and the amount of people we get at concerts is considerably more. Differences of playing to 20,000 people as a headliner as opposed to 5,000 or 6,000. Yeah, there’s a significant difference. In some cases it’s something that we’ve built. Like the U.K., for example. The first time we played in London we played a club. We built to the point where we were able to now headline and sell out the Wembley Arena. So sometimes it’s a matter of working hard and going back and building it. And in some countries you’re going for the first time, and there’s an amazing amount of people because there’s an anticipation possibly. Further into our career, if we hit a country for a first time, like a couple years ago going to Moscow in Russia for the first time, or wherever it may be, then having a developed career backing up it, then those initial shows are very big. We’ve built from the beginning. I do remember the first couple of times coming to Europe, and we played clubs and smaller places. In Europe, they do have the festival opportunities that we take advantage of, which we don’t really do in the U.S. So maybe we’re hitting a lot more people that maybe never heard of us in that sense. So that might be a reason as well. The other thing in the U.S, is that — while we’re thankful to have a great fanbase no matter what — maybe radio and TV and stuff like that plays a bigger role in expanding a band, their level of recognition. Whereas in other countries, in South America and Brazil and places, maybe it’s just that a lot of people really love metal and hard rock and really want to go to concerts and they don’t care if it’s on TV or the radio, maybe it doesn’t matter as much. There is a built-in cultural thing where people enjoy metal music and they enjoy progressive rock music, progressive metal, where it’s this big thing where it might not be as much in the U.S.

Pollstar: How are things going with new drummer Mike Mangini?

Petrucci: We debuted him live at an open-air festival in Rome … in July. And the response and the reaction to him has been incredible. I really have a lot of respect for our fans and listeners of our music because they’re just very, very gracious about how they’ve accepted Mike and we couldn’t have anticipated a more positive reaction. We have a whole bunch of dates under our belts with him and he’s doing great. He’s a great performer and great to play with. Our fans have welcomed him with open arms, so that makes it all even better.

Pollstar: Following the departure of longtime drummer Mike Portnoy, you guys decided to film the auditions for a new drummer and post them on YouTube to reveal the selection. How did that go?

Petrucci: I think it was something that was very helpful, because when Mike left the band, there was a lot of speculation, a lot of people were concerned about our future, or concerned about who we would get. It took us a while from the time that Mike quit to the time that we made the announcement. The reason was that we wanted to bring all of our fans into the process. Having all the auditions filmed and releasing it on the Web in the three-part series — where in the final one you found out who the drummer was — it definitely generated awareness. It also made everyone feel included — to see exactly what we went through and how we made our decision. I think it really brought people together. I think it was a very positive thing and I’m so happy that we did it. It’s been a successful year and album since then, so I think that started things off in just the right way, the way that we needed to do things.

Read the entire interview from Pollstar.