Dream Theater’s John Petrucci Discusses Early Success of New Album, 2014 Tour Plans + More
Dream Theater‘s new self-titled new album has not just been garnering great reviews, but also a huge reaction from music fans. The disc recently debuted on top of Billboard’s Hard Rock Albums chart while entering at No. 7 on the overall Billboard 200 tally.
We recently spoke with the band’s virtuosic shredder John Petrucci about the new self-titled album, how his role has evolved since the departure of drummer Mike Portnoy and what fans can expect from the band’s upcoming 2014 tour. Check out our interview with John Petrucci below:
How do you feel about all the positive reaction to the new album?
You know, it’s one thing when you’re with all of the guys in the studio creating the music and feeling proud of what’s happening. There is a satisfaction all itself in that. But once it’s actually out there and you start to get the kind of response we’ve been getting, that is so overwhelmingly supportive and positive, that really becomes like a dream. On the one hand, what’s most important is that the band is satisfied with it. But the response we have gotten so far means more than I can really describe. It validates all the hard work and all the ideas that we had in the studio that we felt were really strong.
Dream Theater really seemed to pull together after parting ways with Mike Portnoy a few years ago. Was there ever any concern about how you might weather that period?
What we went through a few years ago that was very difficult but the support that we received from our fans and the community really helped us rise above everything and create something successful that are fans seemed to enjoy. I knew our band would be okay. It was just a matter of hanging together and reminding ourselves why we were there in the first place. We had a really successful tour with the last record, which helped us reinforce our commitment to what we do. Then we got nominated for a Grammy which to us said, the next time out in the studio we’ve got to take everything up even higher and put everything on the table. So that’s what we did. We incorporated all of the elements that make us unique. We wanted to be more melodic than ever and also more aggressively metallic than ever. We pushed everything to the limit with this record. It’s why we kept the title simple. We wanted to illustrate this idea that it was bold and simple and simply a Dream Theater album.
As a result of the lineup change, it seems that your role has evolved somewhat in the last few years within the band.
The biggest change for me is that I simply feel a lot closer to everything that we are doing. Of course I have been a songwriter and producer and musician for a long time. But beyond that, now I’ve been putting on different hats and expanding my roles. I’ve been taking more responsibility in being involved in all aspects of our band communication with the public and press, which means being involved with the social media and other elements that I find really exciting. The band has really had a new spirit and attitude for the last few years. That’s fun to talk about. We love the music we are making and playing together and I like being able to go out and talk about it more. It helps me feel more connected.
Dream Theater’s worldwide tour is set to start in early 2014. How are plans coming along? Have you built the setlists yet?
We have already been working on the tour for about a month now and there are all sorts of preparations in terms of design of the stage, video that will be using, and of course the setlist, which we’ve pretty much blocked out already. Given the reaction to the new album, we want to feature as much music from it as we can but we have so much material, at the same time, that we want to be careful not to leave some important things out. We want to pay tribute to some of our music that is coming up on an anniversary and we also want to play some things that we’ve never played before onstage. I think that if you’re a longtime fan you will leave the show feeling really satisfied. But if you’re new to the band, you’ll also be drawn in by the variety of music you’ll be hearing. This tour is unique for us because we’ll be the only ones up there, it’s simply an evening with Dream Theater. So our goal is to show people a really good time and give them the full-on Dream Theater experience.
There will definitely be some fans that will be seeing you for the very first time this tour. Can you recall for us a first show or two that you saw that made a big impression on you?
Absolutely, that’s an easy one for me. Seeing Rush the first time was huge for me. That was my favorite band and I couldn’t believe they were actually in the same building as me. I was totally freaking out when the show started and when they started to play it was almost like cartoon characters coming to life. I couldn’t get my head around the fact that it was really them. When they played the song ‘La Villa Strangiato,’ the solo that Alex [Lifeson] played really had a huge influence on me. I think I remember every note to this day. It was during the Signals tour at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island. They just seemed bigger than life to me in that untouchable way before social media and MTV and all those other things that brought rock stars down to earth. Another memorable show I saw back then was Iron Maiden. They were also very powerful. They had an amazing production, and also a huge connection with the fans – those are the sorts of that help influence me and my band today, thinking back on those amazing shows and how bands came across.