Radio Metal recently conducted an interview with guitarist John Petrucci of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Radio Metal: Let’s talk about “The Spirit Carries On” documentary. Were you inspired by reality shows to make this documentary? Where did you get the idea?
John Petrucci: The idea was that we knew it was going to be a very special event, trying all these different drummers. We knew that we wanted to have a way that we could watch everything back. Initially, we just thought we wanted to record it. But when we talked to our manager and record label, they thought it was kind of an exciting idea to record it professionally. We did that, and it went forward from there.
Radio Metal: [Former DREAM THEATER drummer] Mike Portnoy has admitted himself that he hasn’t worked on his technique for years. Considering your expectations for these auditions, do you think that Mike Portnoy would have been chosen if he had been auditioning with the others?
John Petrucci: Mike Portnoy is an awesome drummer, one of the best drummers in the world. I love him and I love the way he plays, so yeah, I’m sure he would have been chosen! (laughs) I’ve played with Mike forever, I love the way he plays drums. Everybody has a different approach and a different style to what they do. Guitar players are the same way; some people really focus on technique and practice a lot, and some people don’t. It doesn’t make you any less of a player.
Radio Metal: It is clear in the documentary that Mike Mangini wanted to be in the band the most. Is this what helped you decide?
John Petrucci: Definitely. The first thing is that there has to be a chemistry, and the playing just has to feel great and be right. That’s the first thing. And Mike Mangini proved that in the first song we played with him. But besides that, there are so many others factors. We’re a band, we’re a tight bunch of guys, and everything about Mike Mangini is… His history, his personal life, his attitude towards the auditions all played into why we wanted to choose him.
Radio Metal: When a new member of a band is introduced to the fans, the reaction can sometimes be negative and even aggressive when replacing a much loved member. However, according to the forums, it seems that Mike Mangini has been welcomed with much enthusiasm. Why do you think this is? Do you think that the fact Mike is presented as an undeniably friendly guy in “The Spirit Carries On” has something to do with this?
John Petrucci: I think he’s a very well-respected player. You can’t deny his talent on the drums. And I think that on top of that, he’s a wonderful person, very friendly and very easy to get along with. He’s just a likeable guy, and his talent is undeniable. When you watch him play drums, he blows you away. I understand when you’re a fan of a band and you don’t want to see a member replaced. I totally understand that, I would feel the same way. But at the same time, if you get somebody that’s so good and so perfect, and on top of it, just like a really nice person, then I think it makes it easy for people to accept the change.
Radio Metal: Every band that changes lineup is later harassed by hardcore fans with an obsession for an “original lineup reunion”. This is what has happened with KISS and GUNS N’ ROSES, and it is quite disrespectful to the new members. How will you deal with this when it inevitably happens?
John Petrucci: Obviously, you can’t control what people think and say. DREAM THEATER has been a band for 25 years. In the beginning, I started this band with John Myung. We’ve had different singers and different keyboard players. Things happen in a band, especially when you’ve been around for as long as we have. The important thing is that the direction and the style and the integrity of the music stay intact. It all has to come from the heart, and I think that people will accept that. Whether or not people want to see an older member or an original member — I can’t control that. I suppose people want that. But you just have to believe in yourself and have confidence in what you’re doing, which I do. I think that the new album sounds amazing, and Mike Mangini is gonna be really awesome. I think people are gonna love to watch him play.
Read the entire interview from Radio Metal.