Interview with James LaBrie & John Petrucci
'For many years now Progressive Metal has become big business with the Likes of Dream Theater setting all trends, they have made waves for such bands as Psychotic Waltz (RIP), Fates Warning, Enchant, Pain Of Salvation, Symphony X among others. Dream Theater however, have been around for many years and have several classic albums under their belts it's hard to imagine that this band will ever split up, well let's hope they don't! From the bands debut 'When Dream And Day Unite', which in my opinion is a classic to the band's later releases such as 'Fall Into Infinity', etc... the band have released their stunning and yet their heaviest to date 'Train Of Thoughts' through East/West. Jason Brown catches up with the band this year in London were I had the pleasure of interviewing vocals James & guitar player John to find out more about what the band have been up too and to find out more about this new album. Here's what they had to say to the following questions.
Please note: (J = James, JP = John) are the key notes for the answers.
OK guys, it's to see and meet you again, so I better start by asking you if you are aware that there is a tribute album to the band released through Adrenaline Records , and what do you think of it? What about if the songs were played different, then would you think the songs were more interesting?
(J) 'I have heard of other bands doing tributes to us but have I ever heard a full album? No!! I think I may of heard that record as I believe we came across it a few years ago and I thought it was pretty cool and I didn't listen to all of it because the last thing I want to do is listen to my own songs.'
(J) 'Yeah I think it would of been better if they put a different twist to it!!'
(JP) 'I have heard it and I think it's wild!! What's really strange is the fact that there's a lot of band from Italy playing our music and we did a contest were bands had to write songs based on the arrangement chart and there were no bands from Italy who entered.'
As we are talking about tributes, I head a tribute album you did to Metallica called 'Masters Of Metallica' which was recorded in Spain, can you tell me more about it and have Metallica heard it, what do they think? Why didn't you release it as an official album?
(J) 'Yes they've heard it and they love it!! It was just something we wanted to do and we think it's an amazing album and we wanted to bring that dark metal into our music, so we thought why the hell not? We did not release it because it's not something we wanted to release we felt it was not right for us to do that and it's their material and it's like Metallica recording 'Images & Words' and releasing that, you can't do that. We would love to tour with them, that would be cool!!'
Last year saw you on tour with Fates Warning, Queensryche throughout the States, why didn't that tour come to the UK & Europe? Also how well did you get along with the other bands? Did you also discuss any matters of doing any projects after the tour had finished?
(J) 'It went great, it was a very cool tour and all 3 bands had respect for one another, as we watched their shows and they watched ours and we all hung out backstage and had a party. We did not discuss any matters of doing any projects, but when we finished recording the new album I went and did my own solo album which is called 'Frame Shift' which will be released through Frontiers in Europe, it's Progressive. It never came to the UK & Europe because it was never discussed and I don't think we would do it again because for this album it's called 'An Evening With...' because we are playing a 3 hour set.'
(JP) 'That was a success for us and and it was a good time to do it because it was in the summer time & it was outdoor shows, and you ask if we would do it again, who knows?'
Putting out the live album and DVD you did a couple of years ago must of been great for you 'Live Scenes From New York', is there another one in the pipeline sort of speak?
(J) 'No not at the moment. It was a great experience for us.'
(JP) 'It was very successful for us, it actually went gold!'
I did notice with the '5 yrs In A Live Time' is no longer available to buy on DVD or video, why is that?
(J) 'I really have no idea really!! I think we should look into that!'
(JP) 'I had no idea it was deleted, I think we should look into that like James said.'
OK, so let's talk about the new album 'Train Of Thought', so why the title and cover for this album, were there any other titles and covers in mind?
(J) 'I don't think we really had any other titles in mind, and when you think of 'Train of Thought' you think of power, and when it starts it is impossible for it to stop and the way it is with this album is that it is very heavy, powerful and it just seems to keep on hitting you with the heavy elements!! We had no other titles that I can remember and no other covers either. Mike was in charge of finding an artist for the cover & we had no titles or covers and we figured that the title summed up the album and also the cover.'
(JP) 'Mike came up with the title for this record and like James said it is a very powerful album which is very moving and strong like a train, and at the same time we are a Progressive band and so there is a lot of thought that goes into our music. It also has another meaning, were you are training your thought to be able to write music like this. With the art work it was the artist style.'
There seems to be a lot of abstract art work done these days for album covers, don't you agree?
(JP) 'Oh yeah I do agree for sure. This guy who did our cover is really good but very bizarre.'
Have you seen any art work by Travis Smith, who did Nevermore, Death & Psychotic Waltz among others art work?
(JP) 'No I have not and I know some art work is really wacky!!'
Would you say that the cover & title reflects in that record?
(J) 'No not really, I think it is just a telling of the album.'
I noticed like you said that this album is probably the heaviest album you have recorded to date, so what bands have influenced you to move in this direction?
(J) 'I think it was just where we were at the time as a band. We all felt individually what was hitting us right now and influencing us at that time and right now musically was the heaviness behind a lot of bands. We wanted a more aggressive and assaulting approach to our music and even when we were doing sound checks on 'Six Degrees...' tour we would record the sound checks and come up with some pretty heavy stuff, and when we played them back on tape we realized this was the direction we were taking.'
(JP) 'Everybody ask us that (Laughing). I personally am not going through a dark and heavy time, I just like the way it sounds and I find it a lot more fun to play if it's heavier and darker then the happy stuff. My guitars have changed, 3 of them are de-tuned down to 'C' that's 2 whole steps down and and 1 is de-tuned down to 'D' and another to 'E' flat. I don't know who I'm listening too right now, and I don't think you can get that sound unless you de-tune your guitars.'
Do you think that it is time for the band to move in a heavier direction from now on?
(J) 'I really could not answer that especially after this tour!! I think it all boils down to what is hitting us musically whilst on this tour. I know we will not go into the studio again and do another 'Train Of Thoughts' album and it would not makes any scene. As for it been heavier yes I think it will be in a different way, not sure yet we'll just have to wait a d see!'
(JP) 'I think that question is hard for me to say, and I feel that the songs are really going down well live which we intended and like James said I do feel that the next record will be heavy again but in a different approach.'
I have noticed in the past you tend to do jingles in between songs live, do you still like to play them live?
(JP) 'Oh yeah we do!! Tonight we will do Queen 'Death On 2 Legs'.'
We see John & Mike as producers now, is this going to be a permanent thing?
(J) 'So far it has worked fine & it seems to work for us. I am not sure what will happen in a few years times, maybe we may use a producer but at this moment in time it's just Mike & John.'
(JP) 'We are going to do the albums between Mike & myself in the future, we don't feel that we need a producer any more and I can't picture us doing it any other way now, it would be like going backwards.'
What songs from the new album are your favourites and are they any least favourites on the album?
(J) 'I think my favourite is 'In The Name Of God', after that I think it is 'Honor Thy Father', and 'Stream Of Consciousness' is a great song. I think from there it's The Dying Soul', 'Endless Sacrifice', to be fair it's hard for me to say. It depends on what mood I'm in at the time.'
(JP) 'I don't have any least favourite trax, I love all of them!! I do have least favourite on our previous albums but not with this baby!! I like the sound on 'Honor Thy Father', that came out really tight and I love that one. I was not that keen on the vocals on that song because it they were recorded at another studio and to me it didn't sound as good as the other songs. (ED: Why did you decide to record the vocals in another studio for that song?). Well it all came down to timing and the studio as not available at that time so we had to record them in another studio.
Are you happy with the end results of this album?
(JP) 'Oh yes we are very happy with the way it turned out! I do because, you learn things as you grow and to me on 'Six Degrees..' I think we over recorded it and when it came to mixing there were tons & tones of trax to mix down, there were too many parts and orchestralisation and when it came down to mixing it we could not find room to do most of it. The thing with 'Scenes..' didn't turn out well with the first guy who mixed it so we had to get in Kevin to mix it for us and it turned out great in the end. With the new album we had more time and more room for the mix and it turned out even better, Kevin did a great job.'
Are you recording a promo video for this album, if so for which song?
(J) 'I don't think so.'
(JP) 'We wanted to do a video and we talked to our label about it but it never came to be.'
I interviewed Mike a year ago when Iw as doing my written ZIne and he told me that he thinks promo videos are a waste of time as they never get played, he would rather put the money into a DVD, is this your thoughts as well?'
(JP) 'Yeah I agree with Mike as there are more alternative TV channels who would play our music so in one way it may not be a waste of time.'
What do you think of Fanzines and Websites on a whole, honestly??
(J) 'I have a lot of respect for people like yourself who are keeping the scene alive, if it wasn't for you & the rest I doubt we would be here now or as big as we are, so thanks a lot!! Everything helps us stay alive!'
(JP) 'I have a lot of respect for people like you and I don't know why you guys do it? It seems as if it's a lot of work for people like you & a lot of dedication, I love them!! We appreciate what you guys do for us. I still have your Zines somewhere at home - (ED: Thanx John).'
What sort of press reactions has the new album been receiving?
(J) 'I would say for the 90% its been great and then there's those who are total progressive heads who don't think it's progressive enough, it's heavy for them.'
(JP) 'I have read a lot of good ones so far and the ones in the UK were probably the best!!
How well is the tour going so far? Are you playing any songs from the debut album that's my favourite album? Also why have you decided to go on tour on your own without a support band?
(JP) 'Its going great to be honest. Yeah we are playing songs from that album. I think it's because we have so many songs and album out that it has become hard for us to have a support band and our songs are pretty long too!!'
Do you think it will become more difficult for the band to decide what songs to play in a couple of years down the line?
(JP) 'It already has (laughing). The set list changes every night on this tour so we can mix it up and if you see us one night and then the next time you'll hear different songs.'
Moving away from the band for a moment, do you ever see anything of Derek or Kevin your previous keyboard players? Also are you still friends with them?
(JP) 'I really have not spoke to them to be honest. I saw Derek when we played in L.A. & Kevin I have not seen and spoke to him for a long time.'
Are you recording any other albums with Liquid Tension Experiment?
(JP) 'No that's done now. I am however doing a solo album which will be released this year and it will be an instrumental album. There will be some songs that will be similar to Dream Theater and some that will not be.'
Looking back at your career, is there anything you would change if so what?
(JP) 'There are always things that you would like to change like recording or playing things better or not worked or hired certain people and at the time you do it because it feels right.'
Well guys do you have anything to say before you hit the stage?
(J) 'Yeah thanx to our fans for their support, we would not be here now if it wasn't for you, we hope you like the shows and album.
(JP) 'Yes thank you to our fans for staying with us and making the band grow and for accepting our changes.'
Click on the logo to return to the interview section