Justin Beckner of Classic Rock Revisited recently conducted an interview with keyboardist Jordan Rudess of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Classic Rock Revisited: Let's start by talking about how the new [self-titled] DREAM THEATER album came together.
Jordan: Well, the way DREAM THEATER usually handles the whole process is, we start by sitting down and discussing where we're all at and where we want to go musically — what we want to create. We do sort of a check-in on where we are personally and musically and decide what we want to create. We've always been very conceptual about things before we start the process of writing. It's been that way ever since I've been in the group and I'd imagine even before that, there was a lot of intricate planning that goes into a DREAM THEATER album.
Classic Rock Revisited: It's got to be an amazing experience to sit in a room with so many great songwriters and see everything come together.
Jordan: It's super exciting. On this particular album, we had the addition of our fairly new drummer, Mike Mangini. It was really cool to have him involved in the writing sessions for the first time. It's a very intense, energy-driven experience that moves from going very fast when we're composing together — sometimes we're blown away at how fast the ideas are coming out — to the slower more analytical parts of the process where we comb over details. The slower parts of making records are usually when I might go write some music down with a pen and paper very slowly and the other guys will go into their own world and take a break or something.
Classic Rock Revisited: I suppose I should ask how the two Mikes [former DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy and current DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Mangini] measure up to each other.
Jordan: Well, the two Mikes, the new Mike and the old Mike, are both very different people and they're both very different players. Both of them are great drummers, but a lot did change, both personally and musically, for us. Musically, the new Mike has certain skills that the other one does not. For example, he's incredible with mathematics, especially related to music. He was able to bring us some architectural structure that we've never had to this extent before, as far as meters and how different instruments will interact — that was a totally new element that we got to work with. Also, Mangini has a technique on drums unlike any other human on the planet, so that brings an element of change. He also is really fun in the studio has tons of energy which we feed off of. I'm not saying that in any way to put down our last drummer, Mike Portnoy, who is an exceptional talent and a world-class drummer, but I'm saying that some new things were offered to the group.
Classic Rock Revisited: Was there any plans for what this album was going to become before you started writing it?
Jordan: One of the ways we looked at it was that we wanted to make sure that the music that we played was not only what we all thought DREAM THEATER represents but also really be honest about who we are as people and where we're coming from and make sure that we're making music we feel comfortable with. We wanted to be really true to that instead of letting outside influences that don't really relate to who we are as people dictate our music. We wanted to say, "OK, we are DREAM THEATER in 2013 and we are going to be true to the music and true to what we feel this group is," and as long as that mentality is in place, I'm very comfortable with anything that happens.