Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess Talks New Album, Future Tour Plans + More
Dream Theater have spent the majority of 2013 behind closed doors working on their next studio album, but keyboardist Jordan Rudess took some time out to speak with Loudwire about the band’s progress on their upcoming disc, how drummer Mike Mangini is adjusting to the group after one record cycle under his belt, the group’s future tour plans and the fan-voted victory of Dream Theater’s ‘Images & Words’ album in Loudwire’s March Metal Madness. Check out our interview with Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess below:
First of all, Jordan, congrats on winning the March Metal Madness competition we had over here at Loudwire.
Oh wow, thanks. That was pretty exciting. There was a lot of intensity around that and our fans were pretty supportive.
Yeah, that is cool. You know you have a great fan base, but how cool is it to see it in something quantifiable where they organize en masse for you like this?
I know, it’s amazing. Just the power and the voice of these people, it’s hugely successful.
Dream Theater are back working on new music and have been for a while. Just wanted to see how things are progressing toward the next album.
We’re doing very well. We’re kind of in the homestretch of the whole thing. I was just finishing some keyboard tracks and we have some more things to do, but we’re definitely looking at the finish line at this point.
You’ve got one album cycle under the belt with [drummer] Mike Mangini and he had to get up to speed with that last record, but how’s he progressing within the framework of the band?
Having Mike in the room with us as we were doing the writing and everything was such a wonderful thing. The man has such a strong energy and such a great player that it made a big difference to our process to have him there, have him contributing ideas.
The way I see it is like, he’s such a specialist in his area. He’s got such a rhythm math brain and that addition to what Dream Theater already has in the composition department was so cool, ’cause we’ve been able to do things I’ve never done before. There’s some stuff on the album that I’ll rhythmically is very, very cool.
With a new piece to the puzzle, does it give you a renewed sense of energy at this point in the band’s career?
Oh for sure. Anyone who’s heard this album or stopped by the studio, you’ve just got to smile at the drumming, it’s so outrageous. He does some fills that are like, ‘Oh my God!’ (laugh) I can’t help but almost like laugh.
You guys are such great musicians all around, but what is the studio like for you? Are you continually amazed by what you and each of your cohorts come up with?
That’s an interesting question. I feel so lucky to work with all these people. They all have really good taste and they’re completely professional. I know that it’s the kind of thing where you can be assured that if you’re not involved every step of the way, whoever takes over will do a fine job. So it’s really a comfortable situation to know that everyone is really up on their game.
You know one thing with Dream Theater is that we haven’t let go of the reins at all. Sometimes when you hear bands that have been around for awhile, it’s like, ‘Oh, you know, their stuff years ago was really more on top of it’ or whatever. But I feel with Dream Theater everyone is still so energized and excited about what we do. We all still practice hard and nobody’s lost their spirit or energy. We just really keep the wheels firmly in motion.
And another thing, as far as the working environment, we’re very dedicated. We go in there, we have a job to do, we have deadlines and we want to get done. So it’s definitely what we do. It’s our work. Some days are more inspired than other days and some days are just getting things done, but other days the inspiration may be there and an amazing chord progression came out of it.
I know you are very much a gear head and have all kind of gadgets you can use. Do you have a favorite thing you are enjoying working into the music at this point?
Yesterday I was just doing solos and I used my Geo Synthesizer for one of my solos. It’s an app that I made. I have an app company called Wizdom Music and one of our apps is called Geo Synthesizer and I used that for a solo which was really fun.
And is there something you’re just waiting for the right occasion to work in?
Yeah, yeah. I’m involved with this company called Roli, and I have this instrument called a Seaboard. It’s an amazing keyboard instrument and it has a whole new kind of touch sensitivity to it. It has what we call an elastics feel. So I’ve been waiting for the moment in my musical life to bring that out. It’s not out as a commercial product yet, but it’s really, really cool. So that’s the one kind of keyboard that’s really a standout amongst Jordan’s new technology.
And with these technologies, will it work for you as well within the live setting?
I’d like to, yeah, I’m actually thinking about that now. My live rig definitely takes some thought way ahead of the game. So I’m starting to think about what I want to bring with me. Like the Seaboard would be really cool.
Dream Theater are very much known for their live sets, but it’s an all around experience. How much do you as a musician work not only off what you’re getting from the other guys but what the audience provides for you as well?
This made me think of a funny story. When we were doing our drum auditions, Mike Mangini played a song for us — ‘Dance of Eternity’ or ‘Metropolis’ or something like that. And he put so much energy into the song, and it was so intense, and first of all it was very early in the morning, but it was just so incredibly intense that when he was done with the song, I thought he was going to die. But of course he was fine. But I was thinking that when we go out, if this guy is the drummer that we choose, how is he possibly going to play a night like this? How can he put that much energy into a song? He won’t be able to play more than one or two songs. But the reality is that he is so energized that he is able to play that kind of show with the energy.
So the last tour we did was so fun, and I’m right in line with Mike Mangini and more towards the back — my riser and his riser — and we have a lot of fun interactions with facial expressions and smiling and the band as a whole, our experience was very unified. One thing about the new Dream Theater if you will, I mean I’ve always enjoyed playing with this band, and [Mike] Portnoy was one of the greatest drummers, but one thing that has changed with Mike Mangini is there is this unified, five guys all similar in our musical ways, just working together. I really feel it and it’s interesting. It’s tangible. Everybody I talk to at the shows are like, ‘Wow, you guys are such a unit.’ And I think that’s really cool. That’s what I really enjoyed this last go-round.
Between Dream Theater, your solo work, your apps company, it seems there’s rarely a break. What’s behind that drive?
I’m so like one-sided. There’s a lot of people that do a lot of things and have a lot of hobbies, but that honestly isn’t really me. I’m like a musician through-and-through. I eat, breathe and sleep music. So for me it’s really natural to spend time doing what I love to do. It’s fun for me too. It’s definitely work, but sometimes it’s more fun than anything else and that’s what kind of keeps me driven. It’s what I love to do and it’s what I enjoy.
I know you said you’re in the homestretch on the Dream Theater record. Do you envision a 2013 release or is it too early to project? And is there a tour on the horizon for the band?
It seems like the album is going to come out in the fall. We haven’t announced a release date, but that’s kind of what we’re looking at. And we’ll be doing a world tour with the album and we’ll certainly be on tour in 2014. I’m not sure yet on dates, but you can be rest assured that wherever you are in the universe, you’ll see Dream Theater in 2014.
Our thanks to Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess for the interview. And be sure to check out Jordan’s current PledgeMusic Campaign for his solo orchestral and piano Explore Project here.