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Dream Theater - The Shattered Silence

Discussion in 'Metal Interviews' started by optionthree, Sep 9, 2009.

  1. optionthree

    optionthree Better than the first two

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    [IMGLEFT]http://i27.photobucket.com/albums/c189/metallica_fan32/dreamtheaterinterviewpic.jpg[/IMGLEFT]By Neil Hauer

    Over twenty years since their genre-defining debut, progressive metallers Dream Theater are riding the wave of ever-increasing success. After breaking into top-ten charts worldwide with their latest record, Black Clouds and Silver Linings, they’ve taken to the road to spread light-speed solos and sprawling epics to every corner of North America. Nevertheless, frontman James LaBrie found time to share with me his views on songwriting, solo projects, and much more.

    So, first things first, thanks for taking the time for the interview today.

    Oh, no problem, absolutely.

    How’s the tour been so far?

    It’s been great, I mean, as far as in Canada we just did Toronto, Quebec City, Montreal, and Winnipeg, and all those shows were amazing, they were excellent. Hopefully the show here tonight and tomorrow in Edmonton will be the same.

    There have been more Canadian dates on recent tours. Do you enjoy playing in your home country?

    Oh, absolutely. I mean, we’ve talked about it for many years, it just took us a while to finally get up into the Canadian market and play the cities up here. And yeah, the last couple of tours we’ve actually been doing it, and yeah, it’s all good, it’s all part of cultivating these markets and making more people aware of us, because obviously, a band like us, we don’t rely on the radio or anything like that so it all comes down to touring as our best promotional tool, aside from the internet.

    [​IMG]
    James Labrie

    Black Clouds and Silver Linings was released about two weeks ago and it did very well in the charts, even getting #6 on Billboard. What are your thoughts on that?

    Well, you know, obviously it was the highest charting for us, and it was amazing. We had a pretty good idea that we were gonna chart really well with it, on Billboard, but we didn’t think it would go to #6. But, I mean, it was a very pleasant surprise and that’s the beauty or the phenomena within this band, is that we’re twenty years into our career and we’re continuing to rise and become more and more popular, so it’s kinda bizarre, but at the same time we’re not in any way gonna knock or anything like that. So yeah, it was a nice surprise.

    You’ve had really good album sales with this album, even considering the fact that downloading’s become more popular and more prevalent in recent years. What are your thoughts on downloading music?

    Well I’m totally against it, I don’t agree with downloading, I think that plain and simple it’s stealing, so I don’t agree with downloading. I mean, it’s impossible to monitor properly, and to eradicate completely from the whole scene, but the thing that we can do is, I mean, I think all we can rely on is that our fans are going to realize that, I think, in respect to us, they should buy it. I mean, we put our time, we put our energy into it, we put countless hours into it creating this stuff, and so I think it comes down to how much the person appreciates that. But I mean, it’s like, it’s so tempting, and how can you tell somebody on one end of things, you know, ‘you shouldn’t be doing that because it is a crime, but at the same time, you can go ahead and do it and spend your money elsewhere’? And I think that’s what kids are doing, especially, you know, anybody from ten years old to whatever, especially somebody who hasn’t established a career yet, and has money to do so, they’re going to take advantage of the system.

    The last five albums have all been self-produced, ever since Scenes from a Memory. Have you ever had any thoughts about possibly working with an outside producer again at some point?

    Never. No, you know what, I think that right now, everything is going amazing. I think that, the way that things have gone since Scenes from a Memory up until now, there’s no reason to bring in another producer, unless we thought that we were just not seeing things clearly, we thought that at the end of the album, it seems scattered or it didn’t seem that it was cohesive, or that it wasn’t going in a direction that seemed to make any sense. At that point I think you have to start asking yourself, is it really, are we really benefiting from this? But I think that up until now, it’s worked fine for us, and I think that it hasn’t been a problem, and I don’t see any reason to fix what’s not broken.

    For a number of albums during the 90s and early 2000s you weren’t present for the writing sessions, but for the two most recent albums you have been. Does this mean you’re getting more writing input into the songs?

    Well, I mean, yeah, definitely, I mean, I am there and I am present and I am getting more involved, but I mean, it’s a situation that primarily has been more than, I guess, an area that these songs really are conceptualized or at least have their inception of seeds, usually comes from John Petrucci or Jordan and Mike, and that’s how things get going, first and foremost. From there you’re able to help along with the direction, where it goes, and get your input in there. But I think, you know, yeah, obviously over the years my input has been more, and I think that at the end of it all we’re all making sure that we all feel collectively that it is what best represents us at that particular point.

    Online and in the fanbase, there’s been a bit of speculation about lyrics coming after the music, with some people saying that maybe they don’t get as much attention as the music. What are your thoughts on that?

    No, I don’t agree with that. To me, even when I do my solo albums and stuff like that, I mean I’ve always been all for creating the music first and establishing a riff, and then from there, once you have a riff, you know, you elaborate on it and extend it until it’s a completed idea. I think that for me personally, when I’m doing my own stuff, that’s the way I like to write. I think with Dream Theater, that’s the way they’ve always written, that’s the way we’ve always written and it obviously works for us, because I think you can talk to a lot of people, that if you have the music, it’s easier to establish the melody. Once you have the vocal melody, it’s easier to write a lyric. And I know some people, everyone’s different, like I’ll write tons of words and, you know, it doesn’t necessarily have any set melody that it’s going with, it’s just a bunch of words with an idea and trying to complete the idea.

    And then you just work it with the song afterwards?

    Yeah, after I hear the song and after I establish the melody, I go ‘wait a second, those words would work, I just have to craft them into working within the phrasing’. So, you know, but I think, personally and with Dream Theater, it’s more comfortable for us to first and foremost write the music, then the melody, then the lyrics.

    Speaking of lyrics, you’ve been having more input lyrically on recent albums, and then on this album it sort of seemed to be more of a John and Mike thing. Can we expect more lyrics from you on future albums?

    Absolutely. It’s just, you know, it was just the way that this one seemed to work, it was, ah, they had mentioned to me that they, with Mike there was two songs that he needed to write, that was 'The Shattered Fortress' and 'The Best of Times', and I can understand both, because he had to complete the suite, the alcohol suite, and then he had to, he wanted to write something in memory of his father, so that was fine. And then the other songs, you know, they just asked, ‘hey, these songs I really want to write the lyrics to, I really got an idea that I really want to write about’, like when John was writing 'The Count of Tuscany' or 'A Nightmare to Remember'. He really had some words that he thought would really fit for this, so basically, I mean, I just said, ‘well, I don’t want it to be a point of contention, so yeah, absolutely, go ahead, write these lyrics for these songs for this album, there’s only six songs’. But yeah, obviously for the future this won’t be set in stone, I mean, it’s absolutely not, because they know how passionate I am about lyrics as well. If you look at my solo albums, I’m writing most of them, almost all of them, you know, aside from a couple here and there.

    With extremely personal songs, like 'The Best of Times' about Mike’s father, is it different or strange for you to sing lyrics that are so personal for someone else?

    No, not at all. I mean, I approach every song, every lyric the same way, the exact same way I’ve always done, and that is first and foremost I read the words and interpret them for what they mean for me. Secondly, I sit down with whoever wrote the lyrics and I get the literal meaning behind what has been penned, and then thirdly I internalize all that information that I emotionally digested and it becomes me sincerely, and that’s how I approach the song. It has to be through my emotional expression and interpretation for it to be sincere or it’ll be just mechanical, and that’s the way I approach every single song, even when I’m doing my own lyrics, I’m singing my own lyrics, obviously, it’s nothing that I need to understand, I already understand it completely in every way that it needs to be emotionally understood.

    Another element Dream Theater has used a lot recently has been Mike’s 'Inspiration Corner', where he and the band pick a number of albums that are going to influence the writing of the album. On this album it was missing, so I was wondering what the logic behind that was?

    Well, you’d have to ask Mike that one. I mean obviously, if that’s where he’s coming from, and if he’s had an inspiration or he has albums that inspired him or directed him as far as what he thought or where he wanted to go with this album, I think that’s best for him to answer, I don’t want to answer on behalf of anyone. I mean, I think that the message is that, Dream Theater being the kind of band that we are, I mean obviously we’re not the flavour of the month, we never will be and we never have been, but I think what is absolutely prevalent within each and every one of our albums is that we sound contemporary, and I think the reason for that is because we always do have our fingers on the pulse, or our ears, to what is happening over the airwaves, or just the scene itself and what is happening presently, and what is cool and what’s not cool. Obviously we’re not going to have anything to do with the uncool, and we’re going to totally embrace what we feel IS cool, and after, you know, making yourself aware of that and really absorbing that movement or that vibe, it sooner or later will become a part of you and through your own music and your own interpretations. So I think that’s where we’ve always been able to maintain sounding like we belong and we fit into today’s music, aside from being an epic-like band compositionally, and having technical prowess and all that stuff, but we still keep ourselves within the movement of today’s music, and I think that it’s not just progressive, it’s metal, it’s everything, it’s eclectic but it’s contemporary.

    With Black Clouds and Silver Linings, you guys did six covers that came with the special edition. How did you choose those covers?


    That’s another question for Mike, Mike chose those covers, but I mean, you know, he chose the covers but it was all covers that we could absolutely relate to and appreciate because every one of those artists were, in some way, inspirational to us. So it made sense that we did the covers that we did, I mean, especially the Queen one, Freddie Mercury was my all-time favourite singer, so doing those songs for me was like, ‘oh, this is great, I’m going to love doing this, this is one of my favourite bands of all time’. Doing Dio and Rainbow, obviously I grew up listening to that music as well, you know, you got the [Dixie] Dregs going on, even a band like Zebra that was more of a local thing in New York, is kind of special to those guys, that they grew up listening to that band in particular. So all these bands, it came down to the fact that these bands in some way or some form touched us throughout our musical upbringing.

    [​IMG]
    One of several full albums Dream Theater have covered

    I know Mike usually picks the albums that the band covers live, but if there was one album you wanted to cover, what would it be?

    Well, actually I think A Night at the Opera with Queen would be one that I would love to do, but that would be extremely difficult just because of all the vocals on it, the harmonies and what you have going on there, but definitely, that is probably one of their most amazing albums. A Day at the Races is another one that I just absolutely love from Queen, but aside from that, there’s an album like Escape, from Journey, was amazing, or even Frontiers. Aside from THAT, you know, Zeppelin I, very first album, was amazing, there’s many, Rush 2112 or Hemispheres, although I’d never be able to sing any of that stuff in the stratosphere that Geddy was singing, forget about it. [laughs] But, you know, there’s several, I’d even like to do The Wall from Pink Floyd, but we already did The Dark Side of the Moon, which was a lot of fun. There’s a lot of great stuff out there.

    On the topic of playing full albums live, you guys have celebrated a handful of past album anniversaries, like When Dream and Day Unite’s fifteenth in 2004 and Images and Words’ fifteenth in 2007. Do you have plans to celebrate any others? Maybe Awake or Scenes from a Memory?

    Right at this point, no, there hasn’t been any conversation as far as that goes, as to whether we’re going to tilt our hats towards Awake being fifteen years old, or anything like that, so at this point, I think you could say there’s no discussion of that.

    After many years of being a lone touring act, Dream Theater has shifted recently towards have one or more openers. Would you ever consider going back to the ‘evening with’ format?

    Well, I think right at this point this is something that we feel we want to do, and that we are enjoying doing at this point, and I think Progressive Nation is a cool statement, it’s showing our fans that we believe in trying to propel bands that we respect musically, and bring them a little more notoriety. But I mean, yeah, do I think that eventually maybe we’ll go back to just having one opening act and then two and a half hours of Dream Theater, or eventually going back to just the ‘evenings with’? Yeah, I think that both will probably show themselves at some point in the future; as to when, it’s anyone’s guess at this point. But I think at some point, definitely, that will come back around.

    DT has been touring a lot recently, with a couple tours every year and shows almost every other night. What kind of effect does that have on maintaining your voice and your vocal standards?

    Well right now, I don’t know if you can notice but I have a wicked sinus infection, so I’m trying to deal with that at this point. It hasn’t affected me yet, I mean I just sang in Winnipeg two nights ago pretty sick, and I was fine vocally. You know, there’s several things I do, I take a lot of vitamins, I drink a lot of fluids, [points to water bottle] there’s something in here called Zuma, it heightens my immune system, I do a thing called Immunitech which is a whey protein, I jog every day three miles, or five kilometres, I watch what I eat, like I said I drink a lot, I exercise, I warm up before a show and I cool down after a show so that I’m always making sure that my voice is sitting in the position that it needs to be sitting in. I bring my voice up to a singing position, and then after the show I bring my voice back down to a speaking position, and what that helps to do is decrease the chances of vocal fatigue, so if you always put your voice in the position that it needs to be in at that point presently, then you are always going to be in a better position for singing. Right now, obviously my concern is that I’ve got a wicked sinus infection right now, taking Zithromax for it, it’s a wicked antibiotic and I’ll do what I always do, and that is warm myself up properly, cool myself down properly and hopefully the shows will not be affected by it, but I’ve got to really watch myself as a vocalist all the time, and I don’t drink, and don’t smoke. I drink when I’m at home, you know, I love my red wine and some other drinks, but when I’m on the road I abstain from all of that.

    You’ve been with Atlantic for many years and just recently joined Roadrunner. What effect did that have on the band?

    Well, Roadrunner’s amazing, because I think first and foremost they made it evidently clear to us that they know we are, they know what kind of band we are, they know what we’re trying to achieve, they know our history, they know that we’ve sold millions of albums, and they knew that they didn’t have to direct us as far as us knowing what to do as far as writing the albums, you know, producing the music, and creating the tours. But, what they did say was that they wanted to bring more and more notice to a band like this, and that they would do everything in their power to propel this band into another level, and they’ve been amazing, they’ve really been working hard on this band, and they’ve assured us that we are a priority, and everything’s going very, very good at this point with them.

    About a year ago you did the True Symphonic Rockestra project, could you comment on that?

    Oh yeah, I actually did that in 2006.

    Right, it just took a while to come out.

    [​IMG]
    Dirk Ulrich and the three tenors

    [laughs] Yeah. So, it was great, you know, it was with two other amazing tenors and Dirk Ulrich, who was the producer and the guy that basically, it was his idea to make this a reality. He contacted me about two years before – two or three years before we actually did it, and just let me know that he wanted me to be involved, and at first he wanted to get two other rock tenors and then he thought ‘you know what, let’s mix this up, I’m going to get two other opera singers and get them involved, and we can take it from there and create and bring the two worlds together, the operatic approach and the little more rock approach’. So it was great, you know, we recorded the album in Russia, in Krasnodar, which is about a hundred and twenty kilometres north of the Black Sea, in Russia, the southern part of Russia which is, it was like being in California, actually, it was gorgeous there, just beautiful, absolutely stunning, mountains in the background, it was just absolutely beautiful land, the fruit and vegetables were just ripe off the vines, man! [laughs] It was unbelievable. But I had a great time, I mean, it was just a great time and we all got along amazingly, and we had a, you know, it was just a really cool experience to put something like that together.

    Do you have any current side-projects going on? Any news on a second solo album?

    There was something that came out just a few weeks ago called Roswell Six, and that was a project I sang on that was stemmed from a book, Kevin J. Anderson is the novelist, and he’s written many books and sold something like forty million books, he’s been on the New York bestseller list for several of his books, he writes more sci-fi, fantasy, stuff like that. He’s been involved with Herbert, the son of Frank Herbert who wrote Dune, and stuff like that, so he’s been involved with his son, writing some of the books and the continuation of the Dune saga, so he wrote a book called Terra Incognita that just came out, actually, in June, and what he wanted to do was he wanted to create a CD of music and the lyrics obviously stemming from the book’s message, to embellish upon the idea, and to do something that was unprecedented in the novel world, so that it would coincide with the release, so he called me up and asked if I would be one of the main characters from the book onto the CD, and he got myself and Michael Sadler from Saga and John Payne from Asia, and a few other guest stars to go in on this and sing on this album. So it came out and it’s called Roswell Six, and you can just punch that up on the internet and you can see it, the album’s right there. So I did that, and as well, right now I’m currently working on my next solo album, with Matt Guillory, the keyboard player, and it should be coming out late May 2010, and then we’re going to do a short little tour to support that shortly after the release, maybe the fall of 2010 or something like that, but right now that’s all talk. But definitely, the album will be out in the latter part of May 2010.

    What bands are you listening to right now?

    Ah, let’s see here, I listen to a little Coheed and Cambria, Incubus, Shinedown, let’s see, Brett Dennen, ah... Death Cab for Cutie... I can’t really remember, but I’ve been listening to a little Slipknot lately, actually, and Opeth, and this one band that we have out with us, I just absolutely love them, they’re called Bigelf, they’re amazing, I love these guys. They’re like Deep Purple meets Jethro Tull, but with a more contemporary feel, just an amazing vibe, these guys are amazing. Damon Fox, who’s the singer, keyboard player, composer and everything, he’s amazing and the other players, they’re just, Ace, the guitar player, Duff, the bass player, and Froth the drummer are all amazing players and they’re just an incredible band, incredible band, I love those guys. But there’s a lot I’m listening to right now, I’m just, I’m gapping out, I can’t think of them right now.

    DT has had a lot of important moments in their career, but if you had to pick one moment to mark as a turning point, what would it be?

    Oh, it would be Dream Theater. [laughs] That would have been the turning point in my career, I mean that would have been the beginning of my career. The turning point in my career, though, where I think that Dream Theater really started to establish themselves for who and what we really were as a band, or are as a band, would have been when Scenes from a Memory came out, because I think that really showed to our fans that we are who we are, we do it on our own terms, this is what we are, nobody can dictate to us what to do, what to be, this is who we are, this always who we will be, and I think that it really endeared us to our established fans and it brought many new fans into the fold. So I think that was probably a big, big turning point, and very instrumental in our careers since then.

    Wrapping things up, what would you say your strangest or most unexpected non-musical source of inspiration would be?

    Hmm... well, just thinking off the top of my head here, being in Canada, being at a July 1st celebration, at a park, and then seeing somebody jump on the back of a car that was pulling away, and the guy claiming that he’d been ripped off, and this guy literally hanging on the back of the bumper while the car’s peeling away and he’s being dragged behind the car and lets go. I was there with my family, I was there with my wife and kids, and then I’m looking at this, and we’re all going, ‘what the hell? Is this really happening?’ That would have been probably the most surreal and bizarre thing outside of music. Music’s bizarre, period. [laughs]

    Thanks for the interview, and good luck at the show tonight!

    Official Dream Theater Website
    Official Dream Theater Myspace
    Official Roadrunner Records Website
     
  2. circus_brimstone

    circus_brimstone Forest: Sold Out

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    Nice interview, Neil. I enjoyed the read.
     
  3. Mean Bitch

    Mean Bitch and her name was...

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    Great read and interview, Dream Theater has to be one of, if not my fav group! :headbang:
     
  4. dark_warrior9000

    dark_warrior9000 New Metal Member

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    Been a fan of DT since '89, and I can't believe that they're still current. Went to the concert in August this year, and it blew me away--they actually played their songs much better than when they recorded them in their albums, and... too good, I'm still listening to 'em everyday. They're practically the only music I ever listen to anymore.

    Long live Dream Theater!:headbang:
     
  5. Zznwolet

    Zznwolet Member

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    Tour's going great but there is no headlining tour for the US in 2010. This is the first time they've ever done this for an album. The new record debuted at its highest position ever for their careers in the Billboard 200, so its not like they're popularity is shrinking in the states.
     
  6. SanityBurns

    SanityBurns New Metal Member

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    One of the greatest bands on the planet!
     
  7. vex_sparks

    vex_sparks New Metal Member

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    This was a really great interview :) thank you so much for putting it up, i hadn't read anything about dream theater in ages, im going to have to cue up the playlist tonight.

    :)
     
  8. mtlfrm

    mtlfrm New Metal Member

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    Nice interview. I enjoyed it! That's so cool you interview here...
     
  9. WellfearJoe

    WellfearJoe Member

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    Good interview. DT just confirmed a show in Norway, gonna be siiick!
     
  10. gunslingguy

    gunslingguy New Metal Member

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    nice to see he is so profession
     
  11. Sickgoose

    Sickgoose New Metal Member

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  12. lily.ann

    lily.ann New Metal Member

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    Great interview from a great band!
     

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