John Petrucci & Jordan Rudess: “We know this album would appeal to the more progressive-minded fans”
How have you selected the parts you play during the show and the parts that are played by the tapes?
JR: The most important thing to me and to the band is to be able to project the energy from what we are doing and not to make it feel like it’s coming off of some other systems. So when I went through all the parts, I put most of the parts that you hear and also, including the full orchestration which is a combination of what I’m doing and the real orchestra. I went through a lot of changes, mentally. The album is really about piano, organ and obviously guitar but a whole lot of orchestra. So I decided to add a lot of orchestral part in my playing. And actually on the album, my playing is mixed a lot of time with the orchestral parts simply because the sounds were amazing. When we came down to figuring out how we were going to make it sound as great as possible, the decision was making a mix.
Yesterday, for the first French show, we notice that John Myung and Mike Mangini have a screen on stage. Is it to display the score?
JR: Mike is looking at some text to remind him the things he has to cue. John Myung has his own very interesting language, which gives him what he needs but I don’t think we can call it like a score. But one day, they will write books to try and decipher whatever the hell is written. I tried to decipher it the other day, I thought I was making progress and then I realised I had no idea. It’s John Myung’s methodology.
We were asked to tell the audience to clap on the 8th beat in Hymn of a Thousand Voices because they always clap on every beat, and that’s what the audience did yesterday so we thought about creating big cardboard posters. So have you given up on the idea?
JP: It was my request in fact.
JR: We should have put it in the big screens
JP: I think we are going under the assumption that there are really hard-core fans at the show that know all the details but that’s not true. If there are 4000 people, there are people who are more passive as listeners. So there is just a small circle of people who know how to clap. In general, most people just want to see the show and clap on every beat. Queen, for Radio Gaga, tried to make it work and at the end of the song, the audience was in sync so maybe we shouldn’t give up.
We have noticed on the French fan club forum, that the album has been fully appreciated by the older fans. Have you noticed that?
JR: Maybe the ones who are more into the prog side rather than the metal side. We know this album would appeal to the more progressive minded fans.
JP: It’s probably because it returns to the stylistic things that people appreciated when people first heard of Dream Theater. Maybe they weren’t comfortable with the direction in a certain few albums and this one to them, rings that bell.
Was it something you were aware of, when you started creating the album?
JP: No, all the music was completely generated based on the story. Once the story was done, it was storyboarded so that we could see the different chapters and we decided the themes that would fit to the presence of a specific character in the story. We didn’t wonder if somebody would love this or that. Musically it represents the telling of the story. It’s like a film score without a film.
Is the order of the themes in the two instrumentals in relation with the story or is it only a musical order?
JP: I would say it’s a musical order.
JR: We were looking for themes that would fit musically together. There were some themes we wanted people to live with.
JP: We presented some themes in Overture and Entr’acte in a very different way that they appear in the original piece. Sometimes we would play the main melody of a song as a bass line instead. For example, the Answer, you have the main melody but in Entr’acte it’s played as a bass line. We used techniques like that, we changed the range or we reorganized a chord movement. But I’m sure you’re all aware of that (laughs)
We all know why you chose to call some characters Nafaryus, Gabriel (the angel) or Faythe but we don’t know why you chose to name characters like Daryus, Arhys, and Arabelle…
JR: I’ll let you (JP) answer that.
JP: Arhys is a play on the name Ares, the god of war since he is the rebel commander. And actually the spelling of his name (rhys) is a Welsh name, which is the name of Rich Chycki’s son. And the other ones are a long list of names I wanted to use. Some have meaning and some sound just cool.
I have the feeling that there is a Shakespearian aspect in the story. Is it an influence that you acknowledge or is it just a fantasy in my mind?
JP: it’s just your mind (laughs) … maybe subconsciously, but for me Shakespeare would be the least of an influence on this album. It’s more contemporary.
But you know, you have star-crossed lovers, the lack of communication just like in Romeo and Juliet…
JR: alright, in fact everything comes from Shakespeare, he is the king
JP: okay, of course, we have the forbidden love between two families so you have a Romeo and Juliet story…so you’re right…huge Shakespeare influence (laughs)
When I translated the lyrics, there was one line in Moment of Betrayal that gave me a hard time: that’s when you say “burning rose”. Is it the flower? Is it the preterit form of rise?
JP: I will give you the insight. Moment of Betrayal is obviously a song about betrayal. It’s the Judas’ moment in the story. What I did in the chorus is that I looked in History at all the great moments of betrayal and whether it was Judas betraying Jesus or Brutus betraying Cesar. One of them was the Tokyo Rose story: she was a radio DJ and she would put this propaganda out, on the radio during the war that sent a message of betrayal to the troops. Each statement is a reference to some kind of betrayal in history.
So you understand why this passage gave me a hell of a time…
JP: it’s a little bit abstract, I didn’t expect everybody to catch it but I’m disappointed in you guys (laughs) you didn’t catch it.
We have heard the news of a video game recently. Can you tell us more about the project?
JR: we’ve just met in Norway but the connection arose from a friendship I have with a guy who is a sound designer and who I worked with and whenever I got together with him, he was saying: “oh I work with this company in Norway and they are amazing and they can totally do something with Dream Theater”. So I kept it in my mind and when we started working on the album, it was time to get this connection going and Jori, the sound designer introduced us to this company. They are actively moving forward in creating this game while we are thinking about touring.
Have you played it?
JP: not at that stage yet but it’s a mobile game for iOS and Android and it will be for PC and MAC.
Have you filmed or recorded when you worked together or with David Campbell? Could we get a making of?
JP: we have demos of all the stuff Jordan and I did, which basically exist in the guitar, piano, software synths used to recreate the orchestra. That’s actually what we sent to David. It’s very detailed and it’s click tracked with sonic information. It might be fun to release some of that stuff and I’m sure you would be interested in.
As far as filming, not to the extent that would have been cool. We talked about doing it at the beginning. We talked about the whole process of this project and we followed 99% of it and one of the things we talked about is that it would have been great to have a film crew during the whole time. But it never happened. There is some footage with GoPros when we were working together or tracking, it would have to be edited as it’s not very organised.
Moreover all the orchestral sessions were not filmed. They were done in Czech Republic and there were issues with unions, international laws so we couldn’t do it.
JR: Just to understand: we really wanted to do that because it’s a huge project so the documentary aspect would have brought so many complications with the unions of the players that were involved.
JP: so it ended at the bottom of our list and this was one of the thing that didn’t get a lot of attention because I had a mountain of lyrics to write, Jordan and I had to write music and I was producing it. And to have the mentality of “where is the camera crew” would have been disturbing. We do regret it and it kinda sucks it didn’t happen.
JR: what we wanted to do from the very beginning is to build a private space in order to make this type of project happen. So we decided deliberately to go to a private room with our tools so it was against the concept of filming the process. The cameras would have interrupted the process.
About the future, we know that you (JP) have planned to release a solo album and you (JR) have worked with Marco Minnemann and Tony Levin on a second album. But would you like to do something like An Evening with Jordan Rudess and John Petrucci or like LTE: a project involving two or three members of the band?
JP: it’s always fun, I don’t see why not. We don’t have any plans for that and these things seem to come up more spontaneously. An Evening with… was one of the most enjoyable thing I’ve ever done.
JR: one day we’ll definitively do it when the time is right. It’s especially hard to think about that right now as the biggest project is the Astonishing project. It’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done together by ourselves. People need to realise that John started almost three years ago. And two years ago, I was just getting of the last tour and we went right into work so it was a little hard to think about something else.
JP: it’s a funny thing from my perspective because I can appreciate that people always want more: “when you gonna do this or that”. But if you only got a window into, from my perspective, I’m not sure I could do any more than what we are doing right now. There is literally not time. It would be 12 hours a day in a studio for months. In the past few months we were only interrupted to do more work like playing festivals for 6 weeks and then we went right back into the studio then we mixed during two months and now we’re on tour. So I appreciate when people say “when are you going to do LTE or this and that” but I would answer them: “if you only knew”.
JR : but when John was mixing, I did manage to do most of the tracks on the new Levin Minnemann Rudess album and I have a couple of things to do before getting that done because I don’t have any hobbies except making music (laughs). But I have time to get my app company keep going and you (JP) have your guitar company
We know Jordan plays different instruments so what about you John? Do you play other instruments like in Nightmare Cinema where you play drums?
JP: no I’m a one trick pony. I only play guitar, that’s it. I could play but I don’t consider myself a bass player but as far as any bass techniques, I’m no bass player.
Speaking of bass, in the Astonishing, we thought it would have been great to have a fretless bass as it’s something we haven’t heard for a long time in DT’s music? Why doesn’t John Myung use a fretless bass anymore?
JR: I don’t think there is a specific reason, I think John Myung likes to be clear and focused and over the course of the years, he has decided to drop the Chapman stick and…
JP:…I got another perspective. As a producer, I’m like “yuck”. He brings it in to the studio and then I don’t think we can use it.
And now the stupid question: (Julien shows the portrait of Arhys and starts singing with his voice): please excuse me, Sir can you help me? Where can I find this man?
JP: you want to find Arhys? I know that he dies in the story so… You can’t find him. You’ll have to wait for the novel that’s coming. That was a good question. That took some guts.
Interview done by Julien Estève, Damien Reiffers, staff members of the French DT World chapter and Fabien Labonde a member of the French chapter at the Palais des Congrès in Paris, on 6th March 2016. http://blog.yourmajesty.net/2016/03/14/interview-jordan-rudess-john-petrucci-par-your-majesty/