Interview with Jordan Rudess in Cincinnati (The Astonishing Live)
The Venezuelan chapter of the Dream Theater World has done a magnificent interview with Jordan. The original post can be found here (with the original spanish text as well)
Your new album, “The Astonishing”, you’re touring for it, how’s the tour going?
Tour’s going great. You know, it was a big project, a big work of ours, and it was a little bit of a risk to do something like this, you know, because it’s very new and going into all this concert venues and only playing this new music. It was brave, but people have been loving it and it’s really great to see, it’s very rewarding.
What was your initial reaction when John comes over to you guys and says “Guys, I have this idea, I want to do this…”. What was the first reaction that you had?
Well, we all had discussed doing a concept album together but we were waiting for John to have a story, he wanted to really write a detailed story. So it was at the end of the last world tour he handed me his synopsis of the story, to look at, because he wanted to know if I was inspired to write music for his idea with him. I read it and thought “Oh, this is awesome, I love it”. It felt like a very emotional story so my response was positive that yeah, this is definitively something that would be fun to work on.
“The Astonishing” was a monumental undertaking. How do you guys top this? Where do you go after this?
I don’t think it’s a question necessarily of topping it, I think this was a particular creative adventure for us, to write something that was a concept album, and pretty much like a musical or a rock opera. I think that whatever we decide to do next, which he haven’t really decided, will be something obviously very different and we will invest our energies into that when it comes around. Obviously it’s not going to be another concept album, I don’t think that would be necessarily the best thing to do, but it will some fun creative adventure that we’ll feel it’s what we want to put our energies behind and it should be good.
The story of this album could easily fit either a musical, an adaptation for the big screen or Broadway. Could it happen? Is it in your hands?
It’s not in our hands at all, I mean, some of the most famous musicians in the world have tried to get to Broadway and failed so that’s a really tough sell. Could it happen? Sure, it’s a great story and I think the music is great and would love to see that happen but of course that’s something that is out of my hands. But we already have a book that’s being written about “The Astonishing” by a very good author, and there’s a video game that’s underway by a company in Norway called TurboTake. They’re making a nice video game on the whole story. So there is interest in doing that. And of course, even “Scenes from a Memory”, there are a lot of people doing shows for that, so I expect that “The Astonishing” is going to have its own life. Where it will end up, I don’t know but I do know that the story is detailed and complete, much more complete than anything we’ve ever done so it could very well be whatever in the future.
If it were up to you, somebody wants to take this to the big screen and do a movie, who would be the ideal director for a movie of “The Astonishing”?
Director for a movie of “The Astonishing”… Hm… well, probably the person who directs Game of Thrones, I don’t know who that is. [laughs] You know, similar kind of an idea…
Can there ever be a sequel to the story of “The Astonishing”?
There could be, but we don’t have a plan for it right now.
So, the whole concept of “The Astonishing” came from John like we talked about earlier. Is this something that can happen from now on? Can John be the one coming up with the ideas or will it just go back to all of you guys together?
OK, well, just to be very clear, John wrote the story for “The Astonishing” and John and I wrote the music. He’s been very much in charge of the lyrics and things like that over the last years. Although some of the other members have contributed, nobody else contributed on this album, he very much wanted to do that himself. But as far as a theme or direction for the next album there will be very likely, and in fact there has already been, a band discussion.
If you have to choose your favorite moment of the tour so far, the most memorable moment, what would that be?
It was just the other day, playing at Radio City Music Hall, which is a hometown gig and also one of the most beautiful theaters in the world. It was very exciting.
This album is extremely lyric-driven, how has the tour been for James so far?
I think that it’s challenging work to do every night, one night after the next because it is quite demanding. Of course this album is kind of like his tour de force, it’s an amazing thing for him to invest himself into and perform like that. He did, in my opinion, a really great job. So now, he’s just really taking care of himself and doing his very best night after night and trying to be all these different characters which is challenging.
When it comes to playing the music of “The Astonishing”, what’s your favorite part to play live?
There’s no real favorite part to play, it’s such a big work, there’s just so much of it, it’s just fun. You know, walking on stage every night and starting into “The Astonishing” knowing how deep and intense it is, it’s a huge commitment from the moment we go until the end. The whole thing is a big emotional experience, the music has so many dynamics that it really takes you on this whole journey so there’s a lot of wonderful things. My favorite song to play is different everyday really. I’m just trying to think of what might be a favorite… like when we break into the very quiet section of the song called “Ravenskill” which is piano and voice is very nice and I love bringing the energy to this quiet space every night. It’s really kind of special.
Let’s talk about the so called “loudness war”, where everything is mixed too high. A lot of people are saying that “The Astonishing” is much more balanced when it comes to the mix, do you agree with that?
I think that the difference with “The Astonishing” and other things is that it has a lot more dynamics, a lot of more quiet parts, you know, whereas other Dream Theater albums are a lot more forward and in your face. Maybe one of the things people feel is that there’s room for it to be quiet and loud, it was mixed in a way that really allowed it to breathe like that, which is different from the concept people are talking about where everything is mixed so loud. I think there was probably special attention to make sure that this wasn’t like that, more so than ever. It needed to have those dynamics.
Will we see a live CD/Blu-ray of these shows?
We’re talking about that. I’d hate for this whole tour to go by, this amazing thing that we put together and not have it captured, so I can pretty much say for sure that it will happen. How, and where, and when and all that kind of stuff is still the question. We’re not sure.
South America is next, I heard?
Will it be the same setup as it has been in the States and what it was in Europe?
Yes, it will be the same.
It’s not known which countries yet, I’m assuming?
I don’t have the final schedule yet.
Do you have any memories of your visits to Venezuela, with Dream Theater or by yourself?
Oh, sure, Venezuela is a special place to me, because as we said, I premiered my big work, classical piece, the “Explorations for Keyboard and Orchestra” and it was basically kind of commissioned by a friend of mine down there that asked me to write this piece and that was really great. We had a special experience doing that too. And I know the fans are very passionate down there, it’s really kind of upsetting that we haven’t been able to get back there because of the situation. It’s very difficult to bring in international bands at this point so hopefully one of these days we’ll be able to get back there and things will be smoother.
Is there a place in the world you would like to visit and play in?
Dream Theater has never played in India, it would be really cool. I think there’s a ton of fans there too that would really go crazy if we came and played so that’s one place we’ll try to get to.
You’ve been with the band for seventeen years. Is there a song out there in the catalog that hasn’t been played that you would like to bring to a live setting?
A song that hasn’t been played? I can’t really think of any right now…
On some of your albums you have written lyrics, when it’s not a fully instrumental piece. Will you write lyrics for Dream Theater in the future?
I don’t know, in Dream Theater, when I came into the band things were very established in a certain way. Obviously some things change, some things don’t, but these days, more and more, John is writing the lyrics so it seems unlikely that somebody new that has never written lyrics for the band will all of a sudden have a lyrical input. It probably won’t happen, I’m not that anxious to do it, I’m really kind of out of touch with writing lyrics. That’s not to say I wouldn’t try it, maybe on a solo project, of which I have many. If I feel the need to write lyrics I can certainly do that. With Dream Theater, I don’t see that as something that’s necessarily happening. There’s not enough desire to push that through. It hasn’t happened, you know.
John Petrucci’s beard has reached godlike levels. It even has a Facebook page. Are you planning on giving him a run for his money?
[shows off long beard for the camera] I’d like a Facebook page too! [laughs] That’s funny.
What has been your most funny or best moment running into a fan? You know, outside the bus, or VIP stuff, or just out in the street.
Oh, I can just talk about my last experience that was memorable with a fan, which was actually yesterday. I go for a lot of walks around the towns that we play, today I was out and about here in Cincinnati. But yesterday I was walking in this quiet little town, I was kind of in this mellow mood and walking on, and all of a sudden this person comes running behind me, I hear the running and feel this [makes motion of hands on his shoulders], and it freaked me out and I turn around and there’s this little girl, kind of pretty girl, and she was like “Jordan! Jordan!” and I was like “Oh my God, you totally freaked me out!”. Like literally, I’m walking and she’s running up to me and I feel this– and then I turn around and it’s her, she’s like “Oh, can we buy you a beer?”. I was like “You ran up to me and asked me if you can buy me a beer…?” [makes a motion of clutching his heart]. If it was a guy I would have [makes punching motion and laughs] but it was this little girl that ran after me like that… [laughs]
What’s your favorite hobby, outside of music?
I like to work with visual things, I love all the different photo editing apps, working with colors, and I’ve got a number of graphic and visual applications on my phone and my computer and that’s a nice hobby for me.
Official bootlegs stopped back in 2010. Then in 2013 we had the gift of the Holiday 2013 album that was put on the website for everyone. Are the official bootlegs still around? Is it something that will happen down the road?
Not necessarily. The band kind of changed character and direction a bit when Portnoy left. Not that the official bootlegs are a bad thing. But “The Astonishing” as an example took so much work, more work that any album we have ever done before, not only for the recording but also for the production. When you come see the show, it’s much different than anything we’ve done, it’s on a higher level production-wise. So our focus is in that kind of thing rather than thinking about preparing bootlegs. Not to say we wouldn’t do it again. It was certainly kind of fun in a way, and also was a source of income. However, the focus has changed and we have been focusing our energies on a clear vision of what we’re doing.
Steven Wilson is a good friend of you. He has been releasing his albums on Blu-ray, HD formats, 5.1 mix and all of that. Do you see Dream Theater doing that? Does it fit Dream Theater?
It certainly could, creatively. The problem is business-wise. In talking to the people who you know, are in charge of those kinds of releases, like surround sound, I don’t think we mixed this last album in surround sound because it wasn’t financially viable, it just didn’t make sense from a business point of view. So the only reason to do it would be if just if we didn’t care about the money and just wanted to put out something creative. But of course, the companies that we work with, they have no interest in spending money in something that’s not going to make money so sometimes these type of things don’t happen. Maybe in Steven’s world he’s able to somehow make it work which is nice but, as an example, last time we spoke to our record company they said “no way, we’re not doing that this time”. But that being said, we put out all kinds of products, we have vinyl box sets and CD box sets, we have all kinds of cool things in them so there’s no shortage of physical merchandise for the Dream Theater consumer.
You guys reissued “Live at Budokan” from standard DVD to Blu-ray. Score is still sitting out there just on a DVD. Is there a chance for it? Considering what you just said about the business point of view.
I don’t know, I’m not sure. I’m not in touch with that.
Do you have any solo work after the whole tour is done?
Yes, actually I have an album coming out in the summer time with Levin Minnemann Rudess, so Tony Levin, Marco Minnemann and myself have completed another album. We’re very excited about it, it’s going to be awesome, all instrumental album, in the spirit Liquid Tension [Experiment]. It’s keyboards, bass or chapman stick and drums. So that’s something that’s coming, it’s finished, that’s the next thing.
You mentioned Liquid Tension Experiment. That’s also something that the fans would like to know. Are you open to a Liquid Tension reunion?
It’s not really time for that yet. It’s not gonna happen anytime soon.
This year has been filled with the deaths of music idols. Have any of those affected you in a personal way or professional way?
Yeah, certainly there have been too many passings. The ones that affected me most are of course David Bowie, I did a tribute to him, Space Oddity on piano. And of course, recently Prince passing was a big deal for all of us. Maybe the biggest one was Keith Emerson, and actually I’m going to go down to L.A. on May 28 and play with the Keith Emerson band. We’re doing all of “Tarkus”, I was invited to be the keyboardist with them and playing in a tribute concert that involves some other really great musicians as well. It’s already being advertised online.
What is Jordan listening to at this moment? Are there any bands we need to know about?
I listen to all kinds of music. One of my favorite prog groups is Haken, people might have really heard about them at this point, but I really like them, they’re great. And then I also really like listening to things that are more mellow and spacey, of course Steven Wilson’s music I love. Sigur Ros is a beautiful band that I like. I like electronic music, so yeah, a whole assortment. I was just listening to Blackfield up in my room and some George Harrison stuff, All Things Must Pass.
Great, that’s all that I have. We can’t thank you enough for your time and I can only hope you can make it to Venezuela so they can see you again.
Alright man, very good!