DREAM THEATER's JOHN PETRUCCI On Winning First GRAMMY: 'That Was A Surreal Moment'

January 28, 2023

DREAM THEATER guitarist John Petrucci spoke to Ollie Winiberg of "The Heavy Hooks Show" about the band winning its first-ever Grammy in the "Best Metal Performance" category in the pre-telecast ceremony at the 64th annual Grammy Awards, which was held in April 2022 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. DREAM THEATER was nominated for "The Alien", a track from its 2021 album "A View From The Top Of The World". DREAM THEATER's previous Grammy nominations were for the song "On The Backs Of Angels", from 2011's "A Dramatic Turn Of Events" album, and the single "The Enemy Inside" from 2013's "Dream Theater".

Petrucci said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "It really is something you have to kind of just scratch you head, like, 'Did that really happen?' and take it in. In fact, today, when we were doing soundcheck, it's, like, 'Okay, what song do you wanna do?' We always a little bit of the songs. And I said, 'How about the Grammy Award-winning song 'The Alien'?' And everybody's ears perk up. It's, like, 'Oh, yeah. That happened.' … That's how bizarre it is. You're, like, 'What are you talking about?'"

John also reflected on the moment when he first heard DREAM THEATER's name announced as the winner of the "Best Metal Performance" Grammy. He said: "That was a surreal moment. The [other DREAM THEATER] guys didn't go to the Grammys that year. It had been postponed because of COVID. It had been moved from L.A. to Vegas. And it was sort of scheduled in between two DREAM THEATER tour legs. Nobody was really sure [how it was going to be]. So my wife and I went — my wife Rena. It's, like, 'Let's go to Vegas for five days. How bad can it be? If we win, awesome. If we don't, we'll hang out in Vegas.' So she was there with me. And when they announced it, I was, like, 'What?' And all of sudden, I'm running up to the thing in my suit.

"But the point I wanted to try to get across [in my Grammy acceptance speech] was that we've been doing what we do for a long time the way we do it, sort of against all odds, and we built a career out of it, and then to achieve that sort of recognition from that community was really just great," John explained. "Because it's not like it was some sort of pop version of us that we attempted to do that got out there. It was probably one of the most complicated songs we ever wrote. So my point was, do what you do, believe in what you're doing, and do it with a ton of conviction. And then when those sort of moments happen, it feels that much more satisfying."

Last April, DREAM THEATER vocalist James LaBrie told Myglobalmind that "it was overwhelming" to finally win a Grammy Award. "It was quite surreal and it took a while for it to sink in — I think a couple of days before I was, like, 'Wow. Okay. So this actually did happen. I guess the third time's the charm, 'cause we were nominees a couple of times before for 'On The Backs Of Angels' and 'The Enemy Inside'.

"When it happened and our name was called and then John went up on stage, I thought he did an amazing acceptance speech," he continued. "He was well poised and well worded, as always; he's a very intelligent individual.

"It's an amazing feeling. I guess it's another level of recognition for us and another feather in our cap, so to speak," LaBrie added. "But, no, it's just a great feeling and it's affirmation as to the kind of band that we are and how we've been around for some time. And it's good to get that recognition from the Grammy [Awards]."

That same month, DREAM THEATER keyboardist Jordan Rudess told VWMusic about the band's first-ever Grammy win: "It was very exciting to get that Grammy, as we've been nominated three times. And I have to say that I didn't really expect to get it because I was getting used to being nominated and not getting it. The other reason I thought we wouldn't get it is that DREAM THEATER is really prog metal, and we were in a metal category. I mean, that was the best category for us, but I thought maybe the voters would sort of stick together in that more traditional metal frame of mind. I was really pleased that we got that kind of recognition and validation, and it's the one award that definitely makes a difference. In a musician's life, a Grammy can affect your whole career. It changes the way you do business with people, and the way people deal with you. It's a really big deal. I definitely have to say that it feels really good. We are riding high over it for sure."

Regarding "The Alien", Jordan said: "What's interesting about that song is, as you know, it's not necessarily like the most commercial kind of song — it's definitely not commercial at all; it's in this odd time signature. When we started, Mike [Mangini] was doing this crazy time signature thing on drums that inspired us to get the song off the ground. The next thing you know, we were all writing our parts, and it came together. It actually was the first thing that we wrote for the album, so it kind of flowed out from there. It's cool because it has all the classic DREAM THEATER elements in it, and that's what I really liked about the song. It has the unison between me and [guitarist] John Petrucci, it has the keyboards, the great guitar leads, and these crazy meters, but it also has a solid hook. I was glad that we decided to put that out there when the record came out, and have that song be the one that was out front because I think it tells the DREAM THEATER story really well."

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