Progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER — James LaBrie (vocals), John Myung (bass), John Petrucci (guitar and vocals), Jordan Rudess (keyboards and continuum) and Mike Mangini (drums) — are getting ready to launch a major North American headlining summer tour, which will run from June 15 to July 21. They are touring behind their 11th studio album, “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”, which had 14 Top 10 debuts around the world. It also produced the band’s first-ever Grammy nomination for “On The Backs Of Angels”in the “Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance” category.
A question-and-answer session with members of DREAM THEATER about life on the road follows below.
Q: How do you navigate the challenge of keeping in touch with loved ones while traveling?
John Petrucci (guitar and vocals): While international data plans on cell phones and WiFi access just about everywhere have made this a lot easier than it was 10 years ago, it can still be difficult. It’s especially hard when the time zone I’m in is so off from New York, like Asia or Australia for example. Being flipped around by 180 degrees is confusing for everyone! Sometimes a quick text or Facebook message just to connect can be just the thing to bridge the gap between phone calls or Skype sessions. Obviously the best thing is when my family joins me on tour!
Jordan Rudess (keyboards and continuum): I try every form of communication tool available. Been through Treos, Blackberrys iPhones, iPads, Nooks — tablets of all shapes and sizes and computers — all for the purpose of connecting with the loved ones. There is not an app or communication software that has gone untouched by these hands.
Jon Myung (bass): I pretty much have Skype running on my laptop when stationary and either leave a voicemail or e-mail before my kids go to bed for the night.
Mike Mangini (drums): The way that I navigate keeping in touch with loved ones while I am on the road is to carefully time when I use Skype to speak with my wife and kids while putting off other emails and Internet-related things for downtime.
Q: Do you unpack or live out of your suitcase on the road?
John Petrucci: With the exception of setting up my computer and devices each day, I find that it’s best not to spread out too much and to keep things in the suitcase. This way there is less of a chance of leaving something behind.
Jordan Rudess: Usually it is pretty much right outta the suitcase!!
Jon Myung: Definitely live out of my suitcase, it’s like a personal locker.
Mike Mangini: I have learned not to unpack my suitcase and to never put things in the drawers or closets for fear of forgetting items (again).
Q: On a day off in a city, what do you do with your time? How do you find out which restaurants to go to?
John Petrucci: The first thing I do is find a gym and get a good workout in. I also find that I can usually fit in a healthy practice or writing session. The privacy of a hotel room coupled with the occasional jet lag makes for a very creative headspace! Honestly, sometimes it’s great to just relax and catch up on some TV shows or watch a movie. There are amazing restaurants all around the world and usually we communicate with one another as to which cool spot someone may have stumbled upon in town. Sometimes just a quick e-mail to say that the room service is good works as well!
Jordan Rudess: I try to do a walk in every town I get to. It’s really important to me that I get out in the light because otherwise I feel trapped and start getting this weird dark feeling! As far as restaurants, I usually ask the concierge at the hotel or just walk until I feel the vibe.
Jon Myung: I usually ask around for a good place locally or sometime venture out by foot and see where I land; the rest of the time it’s getting quality sleep.
Mike Mangini: When I have a day off in a city, I normally stay in the room to eat, sleep and catch up on emails and news. That has changed as I’ve gotten my golf game back. Now I look to play golf when it is possible… Dinner usually entails meeting up with a band or crew members. The iPad comes in handy for finding restaurants, but personal recommendations are the way to go.
Q: Have you ever had a rough time going through customs?
John Petrucci: It’s sort of hit or miss. Usually things go pretty smoothly with no questions asked. Other times, however, seemingly for no reason, they will pull you aside and go through every bag in detail. It’s a real pain and when you’re traveling with a group of 20 or more people — it becomes a major inconvenience!
Jordan Rudess: It’s always interesting. There is the time the Pirate tried smuggling in some bananas, but I’ll let him tell you about that if he likes.
Jon Myung: In general it goes smoothly — no real complaints from me.
Mike Mangini: I have been harassed by customs agents three times after I told them that I was a musician each time. One agent told me that his son was a musician and that “all musicians do drugs.” I did everything to bite my tongue and not ask him if he arrested his son since “all musicians do drugs.”
Q: Is there one item that you always bring on tour to remind you of home?
John Petrucci: It’s difficult being away from my home, wife and kids. Everything reminds me of them! I do have hundreds of pictures in my photo library on my phone and computer that I constantly scroll through to help bring me closer.
Jordan Rudess: There are many. And they are all gadget-related and start with i……
Jon Myung: Just pictures and videos on my iPhone — it helps keep things in perspective.
Mike Mangini: One item that I bring on tour to remind of home is a written note from my children.
Q: What is your favorite album or songs to play on the long travel days?
John Petrucci: Travel days are great for catching up on new music that I’ve been looking forward to checking out. Just sitting on an airplane for hours with no distractions (apart from those annoying captain addresses) ensures a great listening environment and my undivided attention.
Jordan Rudess: These days it’s APPARAT‘s album “The Devil’s Walk”.
Jon Myung: Lately, I have found myself listening to the “Diamond Eyes” album by the DEFTONES.
Mike Mangini: My favorite music to listen to these days on long touring travel days is PLANET X.