DREAM THEATER Keyboardist: Writing Without PORTNOY 'Gave Us More Freedom To Do What We Wanted'

September 4, 2011

Phil Ashcroft of Rocktopia recently conducted an interview with keyboardist Jordan Rudess of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

On how DREAM THEATER's songwriting approach has changed following founding drummer Mike Portnoy's departure from the band in 2010:

Rudess: "Well, our new drummer, Mike Mangini, was not there at that point, so he wasn't involved, but the main writers are John Petrucci [guitar] and myself, and John Myung [bass] was very involved in the process; he contributed freely and he came up with some great riffs. And James [LaBrie, vocals] was very particular about the vocal melodies and said what he did and didn't like, and what he wanted to keep.

"As creative and talented as Mike obviously is, his opinion and his style of drumming would sometimes push us in a different direction, whereas this way we could write whatever we wanted and then later tell Mike Mangini how to play it. It worked out quite well for us because, as composers, it opened us up a little bit and gave us more freedom to do what we wanted. I liked that; I don't want to be limited by other people's desires or abilities."

On Mike Portnoy's insistence in the past that the members of DREAM THEATER rehearse far more songs than they really needed so that he could change the set almost nightly:

Rudess: "That's something that we don't want to do that much anymore, and right now we're sticking to the songs we most want to play. I don't know how we're going to approach it in the future, but I can pretty much promise that no one is particularly into changing the set every night. What we really value, and what everybody could never really do to a point where we were comfortable, was nailing down a show. We have sound people and lighting people, and what they really need to do is time everything so that the show is really smooth, and it's really important to all of us in this period of transition to say, 'You know what? We have the opportunity to really work out a show, so that when we move from one song to another it'll be really smooth and professional!' We think the fans will really enjoy it more that way."

On whether Jordan thinks DREAM THEATER's show suffered in the past because of this:

Rudess: "I think that the show has suffered. I think there are fans out there who value having a different set every night because they go to more than one show, but they're relatively few, and I think sometimes our performance has suffered because of that approach. There's a lot to be said for a show that's dialed in. I mean, we're playing in different towns, so how many people are seeing it from night to night? Only a few, I think, so why not just do the same set and work on it until it's dialed in, so that's what we're doing and it's really working so far; there's a lot of good stuff. That's not to say it's not without its challenges, and nothing against what Portnoy did he led this band for quite a number of years and did a good job but we're enjoying where we're at now, the music is really happening, we're running around the stage and we're smiling, and it seems like the audience seems to be really elated."

Read the entire interview from Rocktopia.

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