JOHN PETRUCCI Believes DREAM THEATER's Focus On 'Instrumentation' Helps Band Connect With Young Audiences

August 24, 2019

DREAM THEATER guitarist John Petrucci recently spoke with Hakos Pervanidis of Metal Hammer Greece's "TV War". The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On the fact that DREAM THEATER's latest album, "Distance Over Time", is its shortest since the 1989 debut, "When Dream And Day Unite":

John: "[2016's double album] 'The Astonishing' was two hours and 15 [minutes long], so obviously, we weren't going to do that again. We did something really, really intense and involved and very long, so we thought this time, we'll kind of hit everybody with just, like, a nice hour-long record. We kind of had that mentality going in, and the writing process was really easy and smooth. We had a lot of fun. The music just kind of came out. We're really happy with it... It's a very collective experience as far as everybody's contributions — all the guys sort of hanging out in one room, writing. All the guys pretty much contributed lyrics. It was a very enjoyable album to make."

On the studio in which the album was recorded:

John: "It was a barn that was refurbished into a beautiful studio. When we moved in there, the purpose was just to write the music only, because there was no recording equipment in the barn. But after about three weeks or a month, we decided, 'You know what? We're having so much fun here.' That's when we brought a whole bunch of equipment in and actually recorded the record there."

On the band's status as the reigning leaders of progressive metal:

John: "You know what? We just kind of do what we do. I know that sounds very cliché, but one of the things that's really great about being in this band is that when we get together and we start to throw ideas out and we start to write music, everybody's smiling. Everybody really feels connected to the style of music we're doing, and we don't stop until everybody's happy with it. The natural tendency of us when we write music is to push it in that direction that we started with. John Myung and I and Kevin Moore, our original keyboard player, we grew up together. I've known John since I was 12 years old. If you go back to some of the music we were writing back then — some of the early demos — it's the same. For some reason, it just kind of comes out naturally in this progressive/metal style."

On whether DREAM THEATER has a "comfort zone":

John: "I think if anything, what 'The Astonishing' proved is that we're always going to experiment. That's kind of the nature of being in a progressive band — always trying new things, moving forward. Yes, there is a certain sound that people have identified us with, and we don't want to lose sight of that, because you don't want people to listen to your music and be like, 'Wait — is this the same band?' At the same time, there's so much to do still. There's so much new ground, and every album we do is another opportunity to try something different. That's what makes it so much fun."

On the band's growth in the 30 years since "When Dream And Day Unite":

John: "We are very, very fortunate to have built a career based on playing the kind of music we play. In a lot of ways, it's a very eclectic style. It's not pop; it's not mainstream; so the fact that we have been able to have the career that we have had internationally, with all the success we've had, it's like a miracle. It's amazing. There's always dark and light — there's a balance. We've had band members that have left the band; we've had legal issues; we've had record company changes, management changes, all the normal things that bands go through. But the music keeps us together and our brotherhood keeps us together."

On how he feels about that album today:

John: "It's okay. I'm proud of the music. We were very young and had no experience recording. I think we had, like, two weeks to record the record. They're fun songs. It definitely shows you that very early on, the kind of music that naturally came out of us when we got together was this progressive metal thing. Looking back, it was fun, because it was our first time in the studio. It was the first time we got signed. We were really excited. We're, like, 20 years old — it's like, 'Yeah! We made it!' It was fun."

On whether he relates to Geddy Lee's comment that RUSH was the biggest cult band in the world:

John: "I know what he means by that. It's not like we're all over the radio and part of pop culture or anything like that. Our fans are very, very loyal and dedicated to the band. They're the reason we're able to have had the career that we've had — to sell the records, to sell concert tickets and to have everybody be a part of the whole experience. We're all sharing — we make music; people enjoy it and listen it; we get to perform it. It's a great experience. We're kind of a cult band in that regard — I do agree with Geddy on that, for sure."

On continuing to stay relevant to young audiences:

John: "We've always had a very strong focus on the instrumentation, and our approach to our individual instruments. That's always going to attract youth, because what do kids want to do? They want to play sports, [or] they want to play music. They want to pick up a guitar, and when you see somebody doing something that you're, like, 'Oh, that's really cool,' then you're going to have that bond. I think that our focus on the instrumentation and how we approach our instruments and the craft of those instruments has brought in a young crowd. I've always said this forever — no matter how technical your music is or what your approach is, you always have to have songs, because the songs are really what's going to move somebody and have them identify with something, help them out in a hard time, make them feel happy, make them feel aggressive and like they want to go crazy. It's all good stuff. We've always focused on songwriting within the style that we do. That's really, really important."

DREAM THEATER continues to tour in support of "Distance Over Time", which was released in February via InsideOut Music. The record was produced by Petrucci, mixed by Ben Grosse and mastered by Tom Baker.

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