Vocalist James LaBrie of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER was interviewed on the September 9-11 edition of Full Metal Jackie‘s nationally syndicated radio show. You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below.
To see a full list of stations carrying the program and when it airs, go to FullMetalJackieRadio.com.
A couple of excerpts from the chat follow.
Full Metal Jackie: Obviously, [drummer] Mike Portnoy was an integral part of DREAM THEATER since its inception, not somebody replaceable by simply hiring another drummer. At what point during his audition did you know Mike Mangini would be your man?
LaBrie: [Laughs] I think after the first three minutes. No, I mean he came there with so much enthusiasm and he made it quite clear, quite apparent to us that, “I’m coming after this gig and I’m putting my all into it and I’m very focused. I’m very prepared and I’m going to make it undeniably obvious to you that I want this gig more than anyone and I deserve it more than anyone.” We played three songs from previous albums and, seriously, even after the first song it was just so obvious that this guy was unique, he was world-class and I think the other thing that really was what drove it home for us was that it felt so natural; it just felt really natural. You would turn, if you weren’t looking at him and you turned away and you were just taking in the music and how it felt, it felt very natural, it felt synergistic. We were all joking after the audition saying we could have played a gig [that night]. We literally could’ve walked on stage and played a gig, that’s how tight and in control he was, with playing through the songs. The other drummers were phenomenal; the other drummers were unique in their own way. They all had their own style and their own interpretation, incredible drummers, but the way that he felt, it was the right chemistry, the way he engaged in conversation with us, he’s very intelligent. I mean, I’ve known Mike Mangini for 13 years and he played on three of my solo albums, so I was privy to have worked with him in the past and I knew that this was a guy who’s going to come in; he’s going to play and I’m pretty darn sure he’s going to have the other guys with their jaws on the floor and he did. That being said, I know that there’s been some talk out there of everybody going, “Well, I’m sure that once Mike Mangini played that they were kind of closed down to the other drummers presenting themselves and giving them a fair shake,” and I can tell you that we all stayed open-minded listening to the other six drummers. It was just when we went back and started looking and reviewing the auditions of each drummer, we just kept coming back to Mike Mangini and there was just something there, it’s magic.
Full Metal Jackie: James, the departure of someone like Portnoy, [who was] hands-on in so many aspects of how DREAM THEATER functioned, must have meant a total restructuring of the band mechanism. Does such restructuring come at the benefit of shaking up the complacency of routine?
LaBrie: Yeah, I would think so. I think it allowed us to really rethink how we exist. I think one thing to be noted is that musically we were pretty sure, we knew what kind of album we wanted to make when we were coming into the studio which ended up being “A Dramatic Turn Of Events”. The music on this album, we knew that we really wanted to get back to our musical roots and we really wanted to recreate keeping it contemporary and keeping it new obviously. What really put us on the map internationally and that was the progressive element of DREAM THEATER and the heavy metal element but keeping it in a very controlled and complementing way for each element to speak loudly but not overtaking the other. Beyond that, we also knew that there are a lot of behind-the-scenes operations that make a band what it is and there’s so many things going on whether it’s promotion, whether it’s artwork or just every day to day duties that need to be done that will enable a band to stay in the minds of the fans and in the industry in a very positive and healthy way. So, we knew right away that we wanted to make it a unified venture from this moment on so that it wasn’t one person calling the shots; it wasn’t one person taking the responsibilities of the band because that just tends to kind of leave you out in the dark and there can be too many moments that can be somewhat surprising to you. “Oh, I didn’t know we were doing that or I didn’t know that, that was going on or how did this come about.” So knew that we never wanted to be, maybe, in that situation ever again. So transparency was the first thing that we said this band had to exist on and the fact that we were all going to discuss any move that was going to be made and it’s been great and it hasn’t been complicated, because the way we looked at it in the past was that, “Well, you get everybody in, there’s too many chefs in the kitchen or there’s too many chiefs,” or whatever. It hasn’t ever been a situation like that. If anything, it’s something that’s easily discussed. We all know what’s best for the band, we all know what we want. Ultimately, we want success and we want to continue building this so that it gets bigger and better. So we’re able to discuss things and it’s an open dialogue and I think because of that we all feel much more connected and much more free and calm and spirited and I think that even comes out. Well, we know it does, because fans are talking about it, that there seems to be a whole new unity going on within the band, a whole new spirit on stage and everyone’s roles are speaking loudly as far as the way you see a band and view a band. And so I think it’s all great, you know — it’s all really taking us to a better place.