Niclas Müller-Hansen of Sweden’s Metalshrine recently conducted an interview with guitarist John Petrucci of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Metalshrine: A self-titled album? Was that something that you thought of right away or did it come as you were working on it?
John: Actually, we decided it or brought it up before we ever got into the studio. I had kinda written this proposal up for everybody, outlining what I thought were some of the things that would be cool to try to tackle. Certain engineers and mixers we could use and what kind of album, sound and direction and within that part of it, was the idea, at least to discuss, that it might be a good idea to self-title this one. It wasn’t set in stone and if there was something that was just obviously way more fitting to what we were doing, then we were being open-minded. Keeping that in mind, as we started to talk about the kind of album we wanted to make, we had Mike Mangini [drums] there in the room with us and we’re writing these songs that were coming out really powerful and very signature of DREAM THEATER, it started making a lot of sense. Then when we had presented it to Roadrunner and our management, and only after hearing four songs, they were all aboard and thought it was the greatest idea. Included in the initial proposal, and again with the possibility that it might change, was the idea of just the way the album cover came out. It would just be the symbol, a very understated confidence and basically not titling it, not having our mind on the cover and only using the symbol, was a bold, strong statement. Kinda like they do in the movies when a new “Superman” is coming out. You see an S and you don’t have to say anything else.
Metalshrine: Just using the band name for the album, was that also something to do with it being the first real album with Mangini? Like a fresh start?
John: In a way. It’s funny because we’ve been together for 28 years and one of the things that always bugs me with bands that have been around and have a history, you hear fans going, “Those guys, are they still around?” or they go see them playing live and the band is trying to play a new song and it’s, like, “Don’t play the new song! Play the old stuff!” I don’t want that to ever happen to us. I want us to always reinvent and always having another opportunity to catch people’s attention. Sometimes the way it works out is that the first time they heard our band might be this album and they won’t even know the back catalog.
Metalshrine: How do you push yourselves and challenge yourselves after all this time?
John: It’s kinda part of the fun, to be honest. We take a lot of pride in what we do and when you take a lot of pride in it and you hopefully put that into what you do so there’s quality to it. People kinda get used to the fact that you’re not just gonna be lazy or complacent or not try hard. It’s like when BMW are coming out with cars. If you look at the history of cars, they get better and better. The materials get better and they learn new technology and it’s like they’re proud of each one, it’s a heritage. They’re not gonna come out with a shitty car that doesn’t work. [laughs] The challenge, as you bring it up, to be creative, is the fun of it. It’s like, “What can we do better?” It’s kinda cool.
Metalshrine: Is every member in the band replaceable?
John: No, I wouldn’t say that. In fact, you don’t even wanna think about it. It’s a weird thing to think of. It’s like one of those competitive slogans: “Everyone’s replaceable.” I guess it’s true in concept, but I think it gets to the point where if a certain combination or a certain person isn’t in a certain band, the sound is gone. It depends on each band and who it might be. You don’t wanna get too cocky about it, right, because “everyone’s replaceable.” [laughs]
Metalshrine: Could you see [former DREAM THEATER drummer] Mike Portnoy‘s band THE WINERY DOGS opening up for DREAM THEATER if he asked you?
John: Yeah. I mean… I said this a long time ago. When you play with somebody for that long, I don’t see that you would never see that person again. I can picture us playing a festival or something and we have history involved with all of our ex members. Sounds like a club! [laughs] I think the best thing to do is keep that type of thing friendly. It’s just the way to be in life, you know, but the next tour we’re doing is just ‘An evening with DREAM THEATER,” so there are no opening bands.
Read the entire interview at Metalshrine.