DREAM THEATER - JOHN PETRUCCI20 October 2021
DREAM THEATER have just released their 15th studio LP, "A View From The Top Of The World".
The seven-song efforts marks the second studio album with InsideOut Music/Sony Music. DREAM THEATER are set to return to Sofia on 30 May 2022 with DEVIN TOWNSEND as special guest.
Two months prior to the official street day of the album we are talking to guitarist JOHN PETRUCCI who also produced the "A View From The Top Of The World".
an interview conducted by Vassil Varbanov
That’s exactly right hahahah
So who came up with this title?
I came up with it after I wrote the lyrics to the title track, the epic “A View from the Top of the World”. I was trying to think of a title for weeks and weeks and weeks! I had so many different titles and contenders, but nothing was really hitting me and then I just looked at that song title one day and I was like - you know what, that would actually make for a great album title and it would be cool, because the epic would actually be the title track. Once I presented that to the guys everybody was into it and it worked out.
Now the next question may sound a bit childish, it’s about the first single, “The Alien”. I say childish because since day one all of us have been asking ourselves this…So, do you actually believe extraterrestrials exist, or is this just a metaphor?
Actually the song isn’t about extraterrestrials. It’s about terraforming, you know, moving off of this planet to go live on another planet and becoming the alien yourself. But having said that, there’s no way we’re the only life forms out there. There have to be more, right? The universe is just too big!
Well at least that’s what we’re all hoping, because the place we live in hasn’t been looking too good these past couple of years…
That’s true hahah.
Do you already feel the so-called post-birth depression or will that hit you when the album gets its official release in October?
It’s funny that you say that because whenever we finish a project that’s so big, especially producing it, because as a producer, that role, it extends past the recording and writing of the record and goes on to the mix and everything, so yeah…
You’re the first person to ever ask me that actually and that definitely happens – when you feel like you did all this work and then all of a sudden it’s delivered and done and you’re like “eh, ok…now what?”
But I think that’s over with and now I’m just excited for the album to come out, for everyone to hear it.
Any anxiety at all about what the response to the album will be, or are you pretty confident you’ve done a great job?
Well I have to say I’m very confident that we did a great job. I think the record sounds great, I think the material is strong and everybody’s playing at the top of their game. It’s funny because when you go to do a record, you roll up your sleeves and you do the best possible work you can, you always do your best…But you never know how something’s gonna be received…
With an album like this one, I feel it’s so quintessential DREAM THEATER, I think the fans are really gonna love it, I hope that they do. We’re super excited about it and I just can’t wait for it to come out. It’s not like we took some major departure from our sound and we’re asking people to really stretch their expectations of DREAM THEATER – this is a very Dream Theater-y album, whatever that means…
One thing I’ve noticed over the past couple of years is that if you go on youtube, you’ll find 11-12 year old kids from all over the world who can already play instruments with such skill and proficiency that in terms of technical ability, they’re almost perfect.
So we now have an abundance of technically accomplished players, but technique alone isn’t enough to create a work of art – for that you also need soul. So my question is where does the soul come from in the new DREAM THEATER album?
Well, you’re absolutely right with your commentary on the technicality and it goes for all instruments, not just guitar. As far as rock guitar, shred guitar is concerned, there are literally 7-8year olds out there playing all the technical stuff that we put out there. So the bar has been raised to such a level that it’s not even shocking now when you see a young person playing technically so well.
What you’re talking about is the emotional connection that you make with music, which I think is what it’s all about...and that comes from…I don’t know…if you’re a creative person and if you’re somebody who is drawn to art and craftsmanship and expressing yourself through some other way than actually speaking…through an art form…whether it be music, or dance, or art or theatre, then you’re able to make an emotional connection with another person and potentially with an audience.
And, really, that’s where it all resides. I know that for me, as much fun as it is to play technically and be proficient on the instrument, I get bored really quickly if I hear something that’s just only technical and doesn’t make an emotional connection with me. So it’s really important!
Now, where does it come from? I don’t know, that’s a good question…But I know that the idea behind it is making a connection - how does a piece of art hit you?... and do you get an emotional response from looking at a painting or a photo or listening to music…
Other than “oh wow, that guy is really technical!”, there has to be something beyond that.
So does it come from the mind, or from the heart? Or both?
From the mind, or from the heart? Well, I guess people would say from the heart. It’s probably a combination of both. It’s your soul, your being…Without getting too existential, there’s some sort of intangible, untouchable quality that you have, that creative people are able to take something that didn’t exist before and make some sort of product – whether it’s music or art – and put it out there and have someone else experience it and say “wow, this makes me feel like this”…
Where does that come from? It’s hard to say – your heart, your mind, your soul…all of it I think.
A lot has been said about the fantastic way you’ve been keeping yourself fit these past ten years. However, people seem to forget what the ancient Greeks used to say – that you can’t separate the soul from the body.
For me personally, the rhythm of a workout has a lot of the Zen effect, the so-called “self discovery” and even purification. I’m curious whether you see it that way too – as something more than just physical exercise for muscle growth?
I absolutely see it that way. I’ve always said that exercising – whether it be weight training or cardio – there are certain elements in there that require discipline, consistency, form – the same exact things that it requires to develop the craft of a musical instrument.
It’s the same – you have to be consistent, to put in the hours, pay attention to form and be disciplined. I’ve always said there’s a direct parallel between the two and that’s why I love doing it.
Yes, physically it helps you stay strong and fit, and especially as you get older it’s really great for your body and for your mind and stuff like that, but I’ve always felt there was a direct correlation to guitar playing, or developing skill on an instrument - it takes the same type of effort, focus and concentration.
A couple of years ago if someone had asked you whether you prefer working in the studio to playing live or vice versa, my guess is that you would have taken a moment to think about it. How would you answer that question today though?
Hahah, today I’d say I really miss playing live and performing. It’s been so long…
Tell us about the forthcoming tour.
Yeah, sure. For us this will be the first tour since DREAM THEATER played at the end of February 2020. We’re excited about it, we’re excited to get back out there. We’re starting in North America where we can tour. It’s a bit difficult still in the rest of the world, but we’re planning it and hoping that we’ll be able to come to all the different countries that we’re used to playing.
When we get out there, we’re going to play some material that we haven’t played before and of course we’re going to play new music from the new record. We’re just so excited to get out there! For me personally, I recorded and released a solo album, a LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album and a DREAM THEATER album, all in the past sixteen months, so I’m ready to get out there and play.
Your most recent show here in Bulgaria was in July 2019. At the time, there was some misunderstanding that led a lot of people to believe you would be performing your 1999 album METROPOLIS in its entirety. This definitely didn’t come from the band, nor from us – the promoter. Do you have any idea who the culprit was?
Yeah, I remember that happening in that tour. It was a little strange because at one point we were touring to celebrate the 20th anniversary of that album, SCENES FROM A MEMORY.
At the same time we also had some festivals booked and obviously we couldn’t do our full show at any of those. So there was some confusion as to which show was a festival and which was a full DREAM THEATER show.
Who’s to blame? I don’t know, but on my end, on the band’s end, we were very clear about what we were doing. I think that people got confused, promoters got confused, maybe it was some miscommunication between the booking agent and the promoters, I’m not sure where the breakdown was.
It was huge, because it happened in over twenty countries in Europe…
Yeah, that was really strange. I’m not sure where that breakdown in communication came from. In fact I wasn’t even aware of it until people like yourself told us that the fans were really upset because they thought we’d be doing this…It was definitely news to me!
Well, we can’t call the FBI because it happened overseas, so we should probably contact the CIA…
Exactly, haha! Actually it really upsets me when things like that happen, because as a band you have a relationship with your fanbase and with people who are buying tickets to the shows and you want there to be a good relationship and trust. Every once in a while something weird like that will happen and it always upsets me.
And finally, going back to the title of your new album, A VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD…Is there a touch of arrogance about it, a hint that you guys consider yourselves to be the best band in the world?
Hahaha, I hope not! Definitely not!
No, I wrote this song about all the people in the world who have the drive and desire to do really extraordinary things, things that I could never picture myself doing.
People that slackline across canyons, wingsuit glide, scale up the side of a mountain, deepcave dive or climb Everest…There are people who do all that stuff, who are just so driven to see things that no one has seen before and they want to be the first to do it, to get that view.
So that’s what the VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE WORLD metaphor means being able to see something for the first time that nobody else has seen before. It was definitely not intended to be arrogant haha. That was pretty funny though!
DREAM THEATER are set to return to Sofia on 30 May 2022 with DEVIN TOWNSEND as special guest.
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