BigMusicGeek.com recently conducted an in-depth interview with former DREAM THEATER vocalist Charlie Dominici. Several excerpts follow.
BigMusicGeek.com: How did you originally become involved with DREAM THEATER? By contrast, how did the audition process differ from your previous experiences?
Charlie: "I basically just saw an ad in the paper. They weren't really weren't even DREAM THEATER yet. They were called MAJESTY. There was just something about the way they worded it. I said to myself, 'Either these guys are completely full of shit or they're really good'. So I called up for the audition and I was really busy. I remember I kept postponing the audition. They wanted me to bring a PA system and I was like, 'Yeah, right. Okay, no problem'. It basically turned out like any other audition except that it was for DREAM THEATER. I was doing my best impression of their previous singer and at one point, they were about to say, 'Okay, we'll call you' and I was like, 'Give me something that no one has ever sung before, ya know? Some fresh lyric that doesn't have a melody for it,' because back then my strong point was my creative side. I'm not a high, operatic metal vocalist like (multi-octave QUEENSRCHE frontman) Geoff Tate or (current DREAM THEATER vocalist) James LaBrie. I don't sing like that, ya know? It's not my style and I don't wanna sound like everyone else. So my attitude was like, 'Give me something and let me do my thing so we can see if that's what you're looking for.' They handed me the lyrics to 'Killing Hand' (from 1989's 'When Dream And Day Unite') , I looked it over, listened to the music once through and said, 'Okay, let me sing it,' and basically wrote the 'Killing Hand' melody line right there on the spot. About a week later, I got a call informing me that I would get the probationary position (laughs). I was like 'What? Am I going to work for a corporation or something?' So I was basically a hired hand. Anyone that gets to sing for that band is just a hired gun."
BigMusicGeek.com: At what point did you realize you time with DREAM THEATER was coming to an end? Was there a clear and defining moment where it became obvious everyone needed to go their separate ways?
Charlie: "That was a very complicated time. There were a number of issues going on at the time. People who saw that situation from the outside have a very interesting slant on things. It's either 'Charlie was booted out' or 'Charlie quit.' I always like to say that neither of those are true. What happened was that I fired the band (laughs). To me, it's funny. I've been in so many bands and have left so many bands for many different reasons. Very few bands have booted me out against my will. The bottom line is that there were a lot of issues that were happening. The record company (Mechanic Records) wasn't behind us they weren't doing the things that they promised. There was gonna be a video, there was gonna be a Japan tour I was at the end of a long period of being in bands and just pluggin' away. These guys were like twenty one. This was their first real experience and I had already been there and done that, ya know? I was burnt out and was like, 'You know, this shit sucks.' I started losin' it. I was out of control at the time. I was still into a lot of craziness, doin' a lot of the wrong stuff all the time. It all piled on top of each other and we all just started going our separate ways. We were getting to the point where we were all going to realize that I wasn't the right singer for them and they weren't the right band for me. When they came to me about it, I was like, 'Yeah, I agree. I feel the same way', ya know? I was like, 'Thank God' (laughs). To this day, believe it or not, I'm happy that I left that band for two reasons. First of all, it was a very difficult thing for me to sing in that band. The vocals were out of my range, I was working for other people it was a slave gig to me. It wasn't enjoyable. I had enough years of music that weren't enjoyable for me to be in a band with guys that were much younger than me. I was the only one who had any experience, I was doing vocals that were out of my range, I was out of control physically with all the shit I was doing I was at a point in my life where I was burned out, I was tired of it, the record company turned us down and just kinda left us out there and I was just like, 'That's it. I'm done.'"
BigMusicGeek.com: Was your departure from DREAM THEATER the primary catalyst behind your decision to take a "extended break" from the music industry?
Charlie: "Yeah (laughs). That's the understatement of the year. Did my frustrations lead to me taking a break? That's like asking if OJ Simpson's frustration with Nicole led to him slashing her throat. Yeah, I think so. (laughs) I was completely frustrated with the business and again, it's hard for people to realize that because they didn't see me at the end of something, they saw me at the beginning of something. I was at the end of a long period of many bands and many trials and tribulations that never came to much fruition. I wanted to get out of music. I had decided that as much as I had loved it, I didn't love it anymore. If you don't love it anymore, it's like a marriage. Once the love is gone, it's just a matter of going through the steps to wrap things up and tie up the loose ends so you can go your separate ways. For me, it was like getting divorced from my music career. I stayed away a little bit longer than I thought I would. I was beginning to think I was going to stay away forever. I thought that was a part of my life that was finished. I pretty much just started to go work other jobs. I was actually pretty successful in finance in the auto business. I was running Toyota dealerships by myself. I was makin' good money, but I was miserable. (laughs) I was driving a fancy Mercedes Benz convertible around San Diego and had everything that you could want in my house, but I was totally miserable. I sold it all. When the love for the music came back and I started writing and feeling creative again. I didn't care if I made it. In fact, I was hoping that I wouldn't make it. I just wanted to make music my way without anyone telling me how to do it..."
BigMusicGeek.com: What are your current touring plans? I would assume you'll be touring in support of (your latest solo effort) "O3: A Trilogy, Part Three" as much as humanly possible
Charlie: "Well, you can assume that all you want. I'd like to assume that as well, but the fact of the matter is that I have no idea. A lot of people just don't realize how it works, ya know? It's not up to me if I tour. I'm not the one that's going to lay out thirty or forty grand for buses, a crew, hotels and food. These people want to know that the people that they are hiring are going to be able to bring in revenue. It's just like making a film. Before a studio goes out and spends two million dollars, they have to know that the film's going to gross twenty million dollars. That's why they go after the main actors who are the big box-office draw. And right now, we're not a big box-office draw. We're really just a relatively new band, so I have to take a wait and see attitude with it. I don't know what's going to happen or if it's going to happen. The band is a year-and-a-half old and for all intents and purposes, we have one album under our belts that's been released. I personally think it's a little bit of a sleeper. People are just really beginning to tap into it and a lot of people still don't even know about it. Now, we're about to release the third part which is the second full band album, so it's still a relatively new project. I don't know what's going to happen. I could get a call to open up for METALLICA at the Garden or it could just be just a tour for us to be the opening act, which in that case, we'll have to pay to play and I don't know if I'm really up for that. I don't know what's going to happen with that. But I've got no choice, ya know? That's the business."
BigMusicGeek.com: If and when the opportunity to tour does ultimately present itself, what type of set list will you be working with?
Charlie: "Wellif we're an opening act, we'll be lucky if we have thirty minutes. If that's the case, we'll probably do two songs from part two and three songs from part three and that'll be half an hour, if we even get to do that many. Obviously, if we're headlining, we're gonna do and hour, and hour and a half or maybe two hours and do a couple of songs from part one and then all of part two and all of part three. But who knows? This is a crazy business. This album could come out and be just like part two where it was an excellent album but the whole world just went. 'Whatever.' (laughs) I don't know what these people want. I don't give a shit what they want. I did it because I like it. If they like it, that's fine if they don't like it, that's fine, too. I've been there and done that. I can go and get a job just like I did last time or I can go out and work with the band. One of the reasons that I'm back here in New York is because they speak my language in case I have to go back to work. I told my wife, 'I can't go without working. I'm not twenty years old and living with my parents.' If the music takes off and I can make a living with it, then great,. But if I can't I'll just go back to work. The bottom line is that dollars have to be made and bills have to be paid. I've taken a very mature attitude about it, ya know? I can take it any way it goes because I also know you can't fight it (laughs). You can't change it. Whatever happens is what's going to happen."
Read the entire interview at www.bigmusicgeek.com.