DREAM THEATER Guitarist: ‘We Wanted This Album To Be Sonically Interesting’

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

Q: Did you guys have any goals going into [the new DREAM THEATER album] “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”?

Petrucci: We did; we had several conversations before we went into the album, a few months before, and wanted to make sure we were all on the same page as to the kind of album we were going to make and the direction of the album. In general, we really wanted to focus in on the compositional elements, the originality factor, and honing in on all the qualities that make DREAM THEATER a special and unique band. We wanted to do something that was going to be on a grand scale, we wanted to take things to extremes and really explore deeply whatever element it was. We knew if we were going to do something in a progressive sort of tone, we would take that to an extreme. If we were going to do something that was sort of cinematic and broader, we would take that as far as we could take it. We wanted this album to be sonically interesting. I knew from the beginning, I had a dream of having Andy Wallace mix it, and that dream came true. We wanted it to be a real hi-fi, epic, cinematic experience. So when we went in to write, we had it in mind that we were going to take our time with chord progressions and melodic elements and vocal range and the general sound of the instruments and things like that. It was definitely a concerted and focused effort to keep the compositional qualities as high as we possibly could.

Q: How did you guys go about writing the music for this particular record?

Petrucci: It kind of starts at home. At my leisure, I like to start a collection of riffs and ideas that I do on a portable recorder, just kind of get an idea or riff library going, and a lot of the guys do that. You kind of organize that and have it ready on your laptop to bring in. For example, the intro to “On The Backs Of Angels”, that was something I had written at home and brought in. I had demoed “This Is The Life” and brought that in. I had riffs that would become things like “Bridges In The Sky” and “Lost Not Forgotten”, things like that. So the least you have these seeds to come in with. And then we set up in the studio, James [LaBrie, vocals], John [Myung, bass], Jordan [Rudess, keyboards] and me, everything in kind of ready-to-record mode, and we just sat there and wrote. As far as documenting stuff, it’s all recorded. Jordan writes pretty much everything down on paper, we’ll chart everything as we see we need it, and we have all different types of recorders going — in case we’re improvising on something and it captures what we need, we can go back. We did that for about 2 1/2 months, and got everything not only written but fully demoed, fully mapped out, all of the tempos and markers and everything. It’s like a masters preproduction at the same time that we’re writing. That enables us to start the recording process really smoothly. When Mike Mangini [drums] came in, he was able to really just play along to the demo tracks that we had recorded, and we didn’t have to go through a whole process of laying out tempos and maps and markers, that stuff was already done at the same time.

Q: Do you think the advances in recording technology have helped streamline the process of putting together your complex music?

Petrucci: I definitely think the advances in technology help me organize things really well. It helps us to be able to quickly reference and edit things. Things we couldn’t do 10 years ago, we can do so easily now. And as far as the gear again, it ups the overall quality and openness and sound of the album. Obviously as recording gear gets better and technology progresses, we are able to do things a lot easier, a lot more efficiently, and most of the time in a lot better-sounding way. Which is great. You think about even the last album we did, or the album before that, and we’ve definitely made great advances as far as the sonic impact. It’s really cool to go down that road, top the last thing you did.

Read the entire interview from Roadrunner Records.