Jeb Wright of Classic Rock Revisited recently conducted an interview with guitarist John Petrucci of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Classic Rock Revisited: The elephant in the room is that [the new DREAM THEATER] album [“A Dramatic Turn Of Events”] was made without founding drummer Mike Portnoy. I will say that this album may be one of the best, if not the best, of your career. Is the Grammy nomination sweeter because, despite all the crap that Portnoy put you through, you still succeeded to that level?
John: It does. We started the band together back in Berklee when we were 18 years old. We have been a band for all of this time. Mike leaving was a real heartbreak and a shock. We have been through member changes before, but Mike was always a huge part of this band. There is that sort of moment, from fans, family, friends, and bandmembers and yourself where you go, “What are we going to do? What is the next step and how are we going to do this? Can we make this successful?” Thankfully, from the very beginning, we had so much support from our families, our friends and our fans and we took that support and translated that into the album. The album came out in the Top 10 all around the world. Our fans really seem to enjoy it. The Grammy nomination, on top of all that, is a great affirmation and a payback to all of those people who gave us that support. It is sweet. I can’t lie.
Classic Rock Revisited: How is the new Mike [Mangini] different than the old Mike, professionally, personally and musically?
John: We wrote the album without a drummer present. Mike Mangini came in and learned the album and then added a whole new level of musicianship to it. It really was wonderful. Mike is a really cool person who is really easy to get along with. He is very dedicated and he gives 120 precent at all times. He has brought that attitude out on the road with us. His commitment to being a better drummer the next day, than he was the day, before is really great. The original Mike had been doing this with us for a long time. Sometimes, because we have done so many shows together, you think that no one could do what he does. Mike Mangini brought huge amounts of passion and commitment, not only to his drums, but to the band. Knowing the history of the band and knowing our fan base and how important Mike was to the band, to watch the new Mike come in and do what he did is pretty amazing.
Classic Rock Revisited: Portnoy left the band but there was a point where he wanted to come back to DREAM THEATER. What would the harm have been to let bygones be bygones and let him come back?
John: It was a little bit more complicated than that. The process by which Mike left the band was one where we tried everything to talk him out of it. We told him that it wasn’t a good idea and that we had been together for too long to have this happen. We came to the realization that he needed a change. At that point, when you’ve exhausted all efforts, then you have to face the reality of the situation, which was that we needed a new drummer. We had to roll up our sleeves and find those eight drummers that auditioned. We, then, brought Mike Mangini into the band. He retired from his tenured position as an instructor at Berklee and we began making the new album. We rearranged and restructured everything within our business as well, which meant that we made hundreds of phone calls to booking agents, record companies and management. It really was complicated to do all of this. At that point, to have Mike say, “I want to come back,” you can only imagine how we felt. It was too late and too far gone. Obviously, it wasn’t something that he wanted a couple of months before so we had to wonder why it would suddenly be different now. All of the reasons that he wanted to leave for were all still there; they didn’t go anywhere. It was just too late. We had to be genuine to ourselves, to our fans, to Mike Mangini and to our future.
Read the entire interview from Classic Rock Revisited.