MIKE MANGINI Discusses Songwriting Process For Next DREAM THEATER Album: 'We Just Write It On The Fly'

February 7, 2021

In a new interview with "The Mistress Carrie Podcast", DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Mangini was asked if the coronavirus pandemic had affected the writing and recording process for the band's upcoming follow-up to 2019's "Distance Over Time" album. He responded: "It was October [when we got together to start making the LP], so COVID had been raging, and all kinds of other things, and travel restrictions and craziness… We had protection up, and all that, we had these panels brought in with plexiglass."

Mangini also spoke in more details about the DREAM THEATER songwriting process, saying: "The normal DREAM THEATER workflow is we show up — well, for at least this one and the last one — and we just write it on the fly. People show up with ideas, but not that many — not that many; just a few. The records prior, people would show up with way more ideas, but then it was a lot less of a group thing.

"My first DREAM THEATER album, 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' [2011], I wasn't even invited to be a part of any writing," he explained. "They sent me music. I went in and basically… They sent it ahead of time, but… It's like a 12-minute song with 83 parts that are just ridiculously complex X amount of days before a session. Something like that would take a month to configure. So I just don't bother. I write some notes and try a couple of things and show up and I literally learn it on the fly and play it on the fly and record it and move on to the next thing."

Last month, Mangini said that he had finished laying down his drum tracks for DREAM THEATER's next album. He wrote in a social media post about the effort: "I've not played on an album this energetically unrelenting, start to finish, since ANNIHILATOR. But the wild thing is the amount of vintage DREAM THEATER melody weaved on to that kind of energy.

"I've never tapped into more advanced uses of my old and new chops in musical ways because of a monumentally collaborative effort of five like-minded, organic/evolving individuals. Is it from the forced lockdown like other music I've heard released? Maybe. Is it from nobody individually or collectively trying to do anything specific musically except just play and be a daring 19-year-old again? Probably.

"I never say that any new album is better than another. It never seems to be to me after reading, 'this is our best blah blah blah.' What I'm communicating is exactly what it is about DT15 that sticks out as being significant and important to me. Better? That's pointless given so many different tastes. Who cares. However, it's really cool that the band and individuals can keep progressing at this career stage. But we're supposed to given how we're defined. Accordingly, there's all the 'familiarity' one needs in this new music, but it's definitely not the same old fills/chords/beats. Besides, what could be more boring than a defined 'progressive' musician not being creative, dynamic, and growing physically and creatively from album to album? That would be kinda like a poker machine spitting out the same hands game after game, year after year.

"Earning good mechanics is a great thing as it pertains to consistency and avoiding playing poorly. But A TRUE machine is a thing that doesn't grow. That's OK unless your thing, your claim, is to be a 'progressive' musician. We strive to 'complete' who we are even though nobody can fully 'complete' everything. No creative growth truly defines and = a 'BOT' so to speak. DT15 is no such thing and I'm excited to report back with so much joy."

"Distance Over Time" marked DREAM THEATER's first album for for Sony Music's progressive imprint InsideOut Music. The group spent the past 25 years recording under various labels in the Warner Music Group system, most recently Roadrunner Records, which released five albums by the band between 2007 and 2016.

DREAM THEATER recently released its ninth career live album, "Distant Memories - Live In London". Recorded at DREAM THEATER's sold-out show at the Apollo Theatre in London, the live release documents the band's popular world tour in support of "Distance Over Time" and the 20th anniversary of their seminal concept album "Metropolis Part 2 - Scenes From A Memory".

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