Dream Theater: Keeping the “Dream” alive

By JESSICA A. BOTELHO

When drummer Mike Portnoy made his departure from Dream Theater more than a year ago, many diehard fans of the progressive metal band thought it was a nightmare. But, with the addition of Mike Mangini on drums in April, plus last month’s release of their 11th studio recording, “A Dramatic Turn of Events,” fans seem to be resting well, as the album opened at No. 8 on the U.S. Billboard 200 charts.

After gigging throughout Europe this summer, the new lineup just began a North American tour. On Oct. 10, they will take the stage at the Orpheum Theater in Boston, Mangini’s hometown. Keyboardist Jordan Rudess, who joined the band in 1999, predicts an energetic performance.

“There will be a lot of people out there to see Mangini play so I think it’s going to be a really fun show,” Rudess said.  “It’s always great to play in Boston, especially since some of the guys went to the Berklee College of Music. We have a beautiful stage set up and new music so we’re really excited.”

Rudess said their rehearsal process was “intense,” but believes the band is as solid as always. He is pleased that fans have taken a liking to Mangini.

“They are responding to him in such a great way,” said Rudess. “He’s an awesome drummer and he’s really funny. We’re unified and working together so it’s been a good thing. What’s interesting is that at this point it feels good to know that we’ve survived that change really well. We’re feeling really strong.”

In fact, Rudess said the alteration allowed them to figure out what “makes them tick” musically. It gave them the opportunity to think about “who they are as a band” and motivated them to compose new material.

“There’s a lot of positivity and good music coming from it,” said Rudess. “We wanted to create a very melodic, harmonic, progressive album and withdraw from the angry-style metal that we did in some of the last albums. We had a vision of what we were aiming for and the reaction from fans has been awesome. We care what the fans think and we want them to be happy.”

Not only are the fans ecstatic, Rudess is thrilled the album is getting so much favorable attention. He feels “lucky” it’s a big hit.

“It’s awesome,” said Rudess. “You look at the numbers on the charts all around the world and it’s number one in many countries. We’re nothing like what’s happening in the pop music world and it’s really amazing to be able to get that kind of response from across the globe. The world generally doesn’t support musicians that aren’t doing the commercial thing. It’s an encouragement to keep on doing what we’re doing.”

In addition to their latest album earning top slots on the charts, their video for “On The Backs of Angels” is the number one most-streamed video on Yahoo! Music for the week of Oct. 1. Rudess said he doesn’t have a favorite of the nine tracks, rather, his preference changes depending upon his mood. Yet, he mentioned “Outcry,” and “Breaking All Illusions” as gems. The songs are the album’s lengthiest recordings with “Outcry” at 11-and-a-half minutes and “Breaking All Illusions” lasting a minute more.

But this should come to no surprise to fans, as the band is widely known for longer pieces of music, not to mention intricate time signatures.

“If the music is building and progressing and the ideas are flowing, the music turns into what some people would describe as epic songs,” said Rudess. “There are no time limits on our songs when we are writing. We have a lot of respect for compositional space, especially with this last album where we didn’t have a drummer in the room. We would work on something and then go from there.”

They began writing for “A Dramatic Turn of Events” in January at Cove City Sound Studios in New York. Despite rumors that Mangini’s drum parts were written for him, Rudess said that wasn’t the case. He was still able to incorporate a few ideas.

“We created something to fill in the space to be like a guide for us, but Mangini knew where the accents were and what we were thinking,” said Rudess. “He looked at what we came up with and added his own parts to make it work.”

Rudess, along with John Petrucci, Dream Theater’s guitarist, crafted a majority of the arrangements. They bounced ideas off one another, as vocalist James LaBrie and bassist John Myung collaborated.

“We were totally comfortable composing this album,” said Rudess. “We usually write our music together in the studio and it comes out of a few different methods. We’ll come up with something and all start playing it and say, ‘Wow. That sounds cool.’ Then, we’ll talk about the direction we are looking for with the song and just bang it out. A lot of it was John and I doing that type of process. We were going back and forth where he would play something and inspire me and then I would inspire him. A lot of times he’d say, ‘I have this cool, chunky riff. What kind of theme can you put with it? Do your Jordan thing.’ That’s how it happens.”

The album was produced by Petrucci and mixed and mastered by acclaimed studio engineer, Andy Wallace, who has worked with Paul McCartney, Prince, and Bruce Springsteen, to name just a few.

On October 18, Eagle Rock Entertainment will release “Live at Budokan,” the band’s first Blu-Ray release. Filmed at Tokyo’s Budokan Hall in April 2004 in support of their 2003 album, “Train Of Thought,” the 18-song concert is more than four hours of music, plus bonus features that include a documentary and solos from each member.

After they wrap up their North American tour at the end of the month, the band will visit South America, Oceania, Asia, and again head to Europe in 2012. Rudess said the band is optimistic about the future.

“We’re looking forward to continuing Dream Theater.”

Dream Theater
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