DREAM THEATER's MIKE MANGINI On His Drum Setup: 'I Need To Be Like An Orchestra'

December 23, 2019

DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Mangini spoke to Argentina's TMPlay about his drum setup for the band's "Distance Over Time" tour, which kicked off earlier in the year. He said (see video below): "I've chosen the model of drums, cymbals — I mean, basically, everything here — for the shows, because of a combination that when I play for this music, I need to be like an orchestra. In other words, with notes and low notes, so I need the small drums and the big drums. Also, I must reflect the vast DREAM THEATER catalog before I was in the band, so I have to have some of those sounds too. And I set up symmetrically and choose the types of cymbals and things, so the tones are similar on each side but different enough that I can play leftie or rightie and get a similar sound."

Back in April, Mangini uploaded a new video to his YouTube channel in which he explained why he sets his cymbals so high while performing live. He said: "I'm getting a lot better isolation for sound; they're more up out of the way out of James's [LaBrie, vocals] microphone; and they're actually close in, so I can feel it in my traps and down my back. But it's not injury pain — I'm actually getting a lot stronger, and it feels great. So that's really the purpose. It's a sonic thing. Also, it's a look thing, because I can see everybody; there's just more space for me. So there you go. That's why they're up high."

In an interview with Metal Wani, DREAM THEATER guitarist John Petrucci said that there are "a couple of reasons" Mangini likes to set his cymbals at a high level. "Being the caring person that he is, I think Mike originally raised the cymbals out of the way so they wouldn't interfere with James on stage," he said. "Like, the cymbals were right at his head level. So I think part of the reasons why he pushed them out of the way was to help out James. And the other reason, if I'm not mistaken, he wanted to create more of a window, more visual access so you can see what he's actually doing."

He continued: "It doesn't physically look very convenient. [Laughs] I don't know how he does that. That has to be hell on your shoulders, but only Mike could do that."

Mangini was asked by Music Radar why he placed the cymbals so high above him during the recording sessions for DREAM THEATER's latest studio album, "Distance Over Time".

"Here we go! The cymbals!" he said. "I went to an extreme to make it so the cymbals would be louder and more clear in the final mix. That stuff is out of my hands, it's always been out of my hands, so I was trying to do everything possible to make it so that they were as clean as could be because there is so much leakage from my kit.

"I hit harder than people think," he continued. "I don't look like I hit hard, but I'm scientifically measured, I'm hitting as hard at 20 beats a second as at four beats a second. It doesn't look like it, I look like a robot, but that's because I play like a Bruce Lee punch.

"My snare drum has been so cracking and so loud that it has distorted the overheads, yet on a record it comes out sounding different because engineers have to deal with it differently.

"So I'm, like, 'Okay, let me get the overheads out of the way, way up. In fact, there were no overheads, the mics were underneath, aiming up to get away from how hard I hit the snare. It doesn't look like it, I know that. With DREAM THEATER, I'm in the band, but I've been down on the totem pole as far as direction.

"I don't have anything to do with the final things that get done. This one, I was like, 'Okay, I'm going to put these cymbals way up high.' It's different than if I record on my own. I've been songwriting on my own and engineering and producing my own stuff, so that's different.

"I'm a drummer hearing the drums from behind the stool. It's totally different than anybody else. It's not any better, it's just different, it's how I hear it. If someone else is on the other side of the glass or out in front of the drums, it just sounds different so it's going to be treated differently. That's how things are, so I tried to do everything possible to get those cymbals way, way up."

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

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