DREAM THEATER Keyboardist: MIKE PORTNOY ‘Was A Very Controlling Person In His Role In The Band’

Mick Burgess of Metal Express Radio conducted an interview with keyboardist Jordan Rudess of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATERwhen the band played at the O2 Academy in Leeds, England on July 22. You can now listen to the entire 24-minute chat using the audio player below. A couple of excerpts follow.

On the departure of DREAM THEATER‘s drummer and founding member, Mike Portnoy:

Rudess: “With Mike leaving, you’re talking about an original member, somebody who helped really get this DREAM THEATER thing underway, someone who was totally on the front line of putting this band out to the public. You can’t deny that. So that’s a big deal. And it’s especially a big deal because people need to understand how and why and what this band moving forward is all about — in the era past Mike Portnoy. It’s confusing. But the bottom line is, when Mike left, it left four guys there — four all very capable, qualified musical people — that weren’t really at the true capacity of what we all could do. Because Mike was a very controlling person in his role in the band. So it wasn’t so much about us not being able to do something; it was about the way that the positioning of the band, it was just going in a certain way, and now that we’re in this other phase, we’re just excited because we get to pretty much continuing writing music the way we were, but we get to kind of say, ‘OK, we’re moving on, we’re gonna do our thing and write the music.'”

On the songwriting process for DREAM THEATER‘s new album, “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”:

Rudess: “After Mike Mangini was hired [as DREAM THEATER‘s new drummer], then we went into the studio and started writing the music. Mike Mangini wasn’t part of the writing session. We decided that it would be better — at this stage at least — for the existing writers to kind of make sure that we stay on course. Nothing against the way Mike Mangini writes music — I really don’t even know how he does; he’s probably great at it — but we just wanted to kind of stay clear on what John Petrucci [guitar] and I knew that we could [do, which was to] just focus in, write this music and make it really great. [We wanted everyone to] leave us alone in the studio, although John Mying [bass] was there contributing nicely to it, and James [LaBrie, vocals] also was there sometimes as well. It was really cool. We didn’t have a drummer in the writing process, which, for me as a composer, was actually a relief. Not to say that in the past, when Mike Portnoy was in the band, he didn’t offer some wonderful things on the drums, but as a composer, I do like to have quiet around me; I can think. I like for people to go into their own space. I like to get out my music paper. If John plays a really cool line on the guitar, I like to say, ‘Hey, let me try and put something against that.’ I’d rather go for something chordal than hearing a choice of beats. To me, one of the ways I like to work is to write the notes and the harmonies and even from a rhythmic point of view, and then decide where the accents should be in later [when it comes to] the drums.”

On the future of Ytsejam Records, the label imprint which DREAM THEATER has been using for years to release official bootlegs of live recordings (“Ytsejam” is “Majesty” spelled backwards; MAJESTY was DREAM THEATER‘s original band name):

Rudess: “Well, it is something that needs to be figured out. I’m sure that when everything kind of settles and we can move on, we’ll continue doing that. It’s a little confusing, because it’s really something that Mike [Portnoy] and John [Petrucci] ran together. Although it was DREAM THEATER‘s thing, the two of them did it. And since Mike was the keeper of all the different recordings and stuff like that, it’s a little bit complicated. So hopefully we’ll let the dust settle a little bit and be able to continue doing stuff like that.”

Interview (audio):


“A Dramatic Turn Of Events” will be released on September 13 via Roadrunner Records.