DREAM THEATER's JAMES LABRIE Looks Back On 'The Darkest Moment' Of His Life

January 30, 2019

In a brand new interview with Songfacts, DREAM THEATER singer James LaBrie spoke about the vocal injury he suffered 25 years ago after being stricken with a severe case of food poisoning from contaminated shrimp.

"In 1994, my wife and I, with a few other friends, went down to Cuba and I suffered severe food poisoning," he said. "While I was vomiting, I bled on to my vocal cords, because it was that bad.

"If anyone out there knows about food poisoning, it's horrible," he continued. "You're delirious, and at some point, the conversation is, 'I want to die,' because you just feel that bad. But because of that, I saw two ENTs — ear, nose and throat specialists. This happened around December 30th of 1994, and on January 10th, I was supposed to be singing in Tokyo.

"I got in to see the doctors on January 4th or 5th due to a friend of mine who is a doctor, and they told me, 'You need to take six months off. You shouldn't be talking. You definitely should not be thinking about singing.' And DREAM THEATER at the time had just come off a hit album with 'Images And Words'. We had only done the North American tour leg for the 'Awake' album, and we were then moving on to Asia and Europe.

"So, even though we were starting to make good money, it would have been catastrophic if I had said to the band, 'I've got to take six months off.' We didn't have that luxury. It probably would have broke the bank. So, unfortunately, I had to go back singing, probably when I shouldn't have. It took its toll, and it took several years to even feel that I was back to where I was comfortable as a singer.

"So, instead of hitting D's and E's and F-sharps and all that stuff, I was able to hit C, C-sharp, and D. But I had to really watch it. I have hit F notes here and there, but I have to really watch it. But that was probably the darkest moment in my life, for sure."

In a 2018 interview with Lead Singer Syndrome, LaBrie said that it took him "probably close to seven or eight years to fully recover" from his injury.

"I did get back, I'd say, 95 percent of my range," he said. "But while I used to be able to just go to the stratosphere, no problem, and scream my head off, I wasn't comfortable doing that anymore.

"Even though since '94, there's been many albums that show that I still had the range and all that stuff, it wasn't like it was previous to the accident, where I could wake up and sing like 'Take The Time' or 'Child In Time' from DEEP PURPLE.

"I just had to learn how to adjust and accept where I am at that point as a vocalist and never push it."

LaBrie went on to say that he has learned to accept criticism, even when he feels like he is being judged by people who don't have all the facts.

"You've got trolls out on the Internet and they're going, 'What the fuck is wrong with LaBrie?!' And you're just sitting there... At the end of the day, you're still a human being, you've got feelings in your life. You get upset, you're going, 'You have no fucking idea what I was going through.'

"It's an organic instrument and you're trying to get the best of it," he said. "And it doesn't matter what singer I've talked to in the world, they've all gone through it and they've all had their acrimonious people that were cutting them up left, right, and center. And it's a freaking horrible situation.

"But the way I look at it is like, 'Whatever...' You're not gonna satisfy everyone. They don't necessarily have to know what you're going through. If that makes them feel better by criticizing someone when they're down — so be it. I hope to never sit around and I hope to never meet them because someone like that is just shallow as far as I'm concerned.

"You know what? We've picked our instrument right. And I stand behind it 100 percent. We're not gonna be 100 percent capacity all the time but if you can sit back and say to yourself, 'For the most part I'm there,' then that's all that matters."

DREAM THEATER's 14th studio album, "Distance Over Time", will be released on February 22. The disc, which marks the first for the band's new label InsideOut Music, was produced by guitarist John Petrucci, mixed by Ben Grosse and mastered by Tom Baker.

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