Yeah, I had technical problems with my recorder yesterday so I had to write it all down in as much keywords as I could but Petrucci was very understanding. I also managed to squeeze out 25 minutes instead of the 20 I was given originally. Trust me however when I say these are more or less his exact words. It may or may not seem like an everyday conversation to you guys but to me it was very cool and interesting hearing it all from the man himself. He's a REALLY nice guy and his arms are impressive After the interview he asked me about my guitars, how cool is that? He really seems to like to talk about tech stuff; he even picked up one of his axes and explained me some stuff about it. It seemed totally surreal. Holy shit, I'm sounding like a fanboy but for once I don't give a flying fuck really The show itself wasn't exactly a dud either! The band was on fire! LaBrie sounded great once again and the rest of the band was also good. Not only technical but with lots of emotion going into it. I mean, this being the 4th time I've seen them I can compare a little and they smoked yesterday. They didn't even have to include my favourite songs to convince me. The extended Surrounded was HEAVENLY, especially JP's solo spot. Holy shit, it was GREAT! Anyway, I had a blast, I hope you guys like reading it. Spell checking and a little editing will probably be done in the future but I had to type it out already given the malfunction of my recorder. At the end is a pic of me with the maestro himself. Check out that beard ==> \m/ As I arrived in Antwerp it became clear that this would be a funny day and that for more than one reason. First of all because Iâ€™d be interviewing John Petrucci a.k.a. Mister Guitar Virtuoso for the progmetal band Dream Theater and second of all because right next door, Gwen Stefani would be performing which meant that there would be a lot of confused people cueing up for the wrong concert. As the tour manager introduced me to the master guitar player it quickly became apparent that Mister Petrucci is everything an interviewer could hope for: relaxed, very willing to give answers, go into details and just a really nice guy. With insane biceps and sporting a full blown Viking beard though. Want to know more about Dream Theater and John? Well, just check out our conversation below. First of all, congratulations on the new record, I think itâ€™s really good. Iâ€™d say that itâ€™s reminiscent of the sound you guys had on Scenes From a Memory combined with a bit of Train of Thought. What do you think? Iâ€™d say that youâ€™re right. Thatâ€™s exactly how I would describe the record before it actually came out and people were asking me what it was going to sound like. It has the melody of SFAM and that heaviness thatâ€™s on ToT. It also has very good production. How do you evolve in that process? You and Mike Portnoy (the drummer â€“ B.D.) have been co-producing the albums since SFAM and seem to be getting better each time. Well, thanks. Itâ€™s like with everything: you just get better at things once you start doing them more often. Also, working with different engineers, with different people and taking notice of how they do things is another important element to improving your game. You get to try more things as you go along and you just find out what works and what doesnâ€™t, what things to do and more importantly what not to do. Whatâ€™s your perception on how the album has been received around the world? What do others say? We havenâ€™t been to Asia or South America yet so we havenâ€™t had direct feedback from there but from what I understand itâ€™s being received very well over there. Otherwise, weâ€™ve only done a tour in the US and Europe so far and there I must say itâ€™s getting a great reception across the board whereas some of our other albums certainly seemed to provoke (hesitates) more mixed reviews. Iâ€™ve heard that In The Presence Of Enemies was inspired by a manga called Priest. Is that true or is it just internet conspiracy? Yes, itâ€™s true. How did you discover that one? Are you a big manga fan? No, not really a fan. I like it though. This one, I just stumbled upon and I really liked the content. It inspired me to take a different approach lyrically. You have to keep things interesting for yourself when writing new material so I just took this and ran with it. What inspired the fictional lyrics on Systematic Chaos like in Forsaken and ITPOE? I must say theyâ€™re a nice change for Dream Theater in my opinion. I agree with you. Like I said, ITPOE, I just stumbled upon that one. Forsaken comes from some old stories, like way-back-from-the-18th-century-old originally. Those types of lyrics are fun to write, you know? The dark subject matter, the â€˜dark masterâ€™ stuff. Itâ€™s another way of writing, a fresh one to me. Does this mean we can expect more lyrics in the same vein in the future from you? Yeah, itâ€™s definitely something Iâ€™d like to explore more if possible. Itâ€™s all about being creative and this type of thing certainly allows and asks for a certain creativity. You wrote the lyrics to five of the eight songs on Systematic Chaos, well, four if we count ITPOE as one song. Were you simply on a roll? How is it decided who writes what lyrics to what songs? Iâ€™ve often said to the band that I want to write all the lyrics for our records. Itâ€™s one of the things I like the most. And this time around I was kind of on a roll, so there you go. What comes first: music or lyrics? The music comes first and then, when we feel confident about that, itâ€™s time to move on to the lyric-part of it all. Iâ€™ll sit down in a little corner of the studio, me, my notebook, rhyming dictionary, all that sort of stuff and Iâ€™ll have the music playing and then I just try to think of what the music feels like. And based upon that I start writing away. How did you, as a band, go about writing this album? Did you just set up with everyone present or did James LaBrie come in later when you guys already had (some) music written? Everyoneâ€™s there right from the very start, so that includes James. We set up in a circle in the studio and then we start jamming. I love that way of working: coming together and creating something out of nothing, starting from scratch. And then weâ€™ll discuss on how things should start getting together, different parts and stuff. How many songs were recorded during these sessions? Just the eight songs that are on the album. There are no B-sides or anything else. When it comes to making the tracklist, how do you proceed in order to make an album â€˜flowâ€™? Thatâ€™s all Mike Portnoy! (smiles) Mike has thoughts on that way before anyone else does. Everyone has input though, itâ€™s just that he really likes that sort of stuff. Like, it was his idea to split In The Presence Of Enemies and put one part at the beginning of the album and the other one at the end of it. Probably him compensating for not being a movie director. (laughs out loud) Yeah, it must be something like that. No, itâ€™s just that everything that deals with tracklists, setlists, the practical side of things, that is what Mike is interested in. About The Ministry of Lost Souls; itâ€™s a hauntingly beautiful song, a ballad, but would I be right in saying that itâ€™s a very bittersweet one? I mean: a woman is saved but eventually wants to die as well by going to the â€œother sideâ€. Youâ€™re absolutely right. I like the idea that itâ€™s a sad type of ballad instead of the usual love-inspired one. Not that thereâ€™s anything wrong with that. Where did the inspiration for this one come from, seeing that it is a bid of a morbid one? (laughs) Nothing shocking really. Just from reading books, reading poetry. Itâ€™s all about trying to find that inspiration. And to me it doesnâ€™t matter where it comes from: movies, books, poetry â€“ anything goes. You and Mike co-produced the album but the mixing was done by Paul Northfield. Do you plan on mixing future albums yourself? You know, producing and mixing are two entirely different things. I donâ€™t feel confident enough to go in and start mixing myself. Whereas with producing, weâ€™ve gained a certain level of experience along the way and that makes it easier. But weâ€™re present though when Paul is doing the mix. That allows us to tell him â€œthis should be more this or thatâ€, you know? So, we are not exactly hands on but we are present during the process in order to get the things we want happening in the mix. Systematic Chaos also came in a special edition with a 5.1-mix. Whose idea was it to include a 5.1-mix? It was Mikeâ€™s idea but when we sat down with the label it became clear that they also wanted to do something special for this album. So we did the documentary and the surround mix. Are you satisfied with the way the mix turned out? Youâ€™ll probably be surprised but, to be honest, I havenâ€™t heard it yet. I do have a surround system in my home but I havenâ€™t sat down and listened to it yet. I want to do so however to see how it sounds. Do you like it? Well, to be honest, I must say that I think itâ€™s kind of a mixed bag if you donâ€™t mind me saying soâ€¦ (interrupts) No! Not at all! â€¦ I mean, some parts are great, like your solo in Forsaken â€“ that one gets pushed through the center speaker real nice with the delays and reverbs spreading out to the rear speakers but unfortunately there are some entirely lesser moments as well, like in ITPOE when James LaBrie comes in, itâ€™s like he overpowers the music and the music â€˜dropsâ€™ away. But rest assured itâ€™s definitely a very nice 5.1-mix overall. You seem like the enthusiast, so itâ€™s nice to know where other people are coming from. Iâ€™ll try to keep it in mind. I know Mike wasnâ€™t entirely happy with how it turned out, having heard some Porcupine Tree and Flaming Lips records in surround sound. Yeah, Iâ€™ve read that as well. Itâ€™s not that your music should sound as freaked out as on a Flaming Lips record but it could have benefited from a bit more adventurous mixing. No problem, I appreciate your comments. I myself, Iâ€™m not an avid surround sound person. Itâ€™s just not the way that I want to experience music. I canâ€™t remember the last time I actually sat down to listen to music and 5.1 certainly requires doing just that, soâ€¦ No problem! Are there any plans to re-release any of the other, older Dream Theater albums in surround sound? No, not at this moment at least. Ok. Letâ€™s talk about your new record label. How has working with Roadrunner affected the band? In terms of marketing, distributing, anything really. Roadrunnerâ€™s impact was tangible immediately. It first was apparent with the release. You know, promo, press, internet marketing, posting little snippets and such. It was amazing and it felt really good to, for a change, be appreciated and actually seeing that your record is out there, being promoted. It resulted in our first top-20 album ever. Iâ€™m very pleased with the way the record company is looking after us. Itâ€™s totally different from what we were used to and itâ€™s a nice position to be in. Last week, I read on Blabbermouth that Opeth would be opening up for you guys on your next US tour. Is that correct? Yes it is! Opethâ€™s an awesome band, itâ€™ll be lots of fun to play with those guys. Alright, thatâ€™s pretty awesome news. Will it be influencing your setlists? As in: playing the heavier material? No, not really. Itâ€™s not like when we were touring with Yes â€“ then, we did adapt our setlist a little. But with Opeth, itâ€™s not like weâ€™re lightyears apart in style. Who came up with the idea of touring with them? Who do you think? Roadrunner? Since youâ€™re on the same label? Or Mike? (smiles) Mike! Of course it was Mike. Heâ€™s the one thatâ€™s always thinking about that sort of thing. Me, Iâ€™m more into the producing aspect of our records, assisting with the mixing, writing lyrics, etc. generally just being creative. Will it be a co-headlining tour or is it Opeth opening up for Dream Theater? Theyâ€™ll be opening up for us. Do you have a favourite solo or a favourite song that you like to play? Yeah, I really, really like playing In The Presence Of Enemies because itâ€™s just real fun to play it. You know? It goes through all these different passages and itâ€™s just fun to run through it. The Dark Eternal Night is another one that I enjoy playing; just chugging away on those heavy parts (grins). And are there, by any chance, songs that you hate to play? Which ones? It might surprise you but actually there are. Itâ€™s not that I donâ€™t like the songs or anything but when we play them live, they just donâ€™t seem to provoke any feedback from the audience so itâ€™s hard to keep yourself invested in the song, you know what I mean? I really have to do my best to put myself into it. Misunderstood and Scarred are two of those songs. (chuckles) Weâ€™ll be playing them tonight however. But rest assured! Iâ€™ll do my best. (laughs). We always like to know what bands or music an artist is currently listening to and enjoying. Do you have any tips? I must say that that is probably my least favourite question and Iâ€™ll tell you why. I just donâ€™t listen to music that often. You know when I put on music? When Iâ€™m in my car and I want something to listen to. I have satellite radio, so Iâ€™ll tune into the metal station or whatever and just listen to that. But when Iâ€™m at home Iâ€™m not really the kind of person that constantly listens to music. Does that stem from being a musician yourself? I donâ€™t know. Probably not. I mean, someone like Jordan (Rudess, Dream Theaterâ€™s keyboard wizard) is constantly listening to music. (pauses) You know who I really like? Muse! They have this awesome, fat sound. Itâ€™s funny how I got to know them. My daughter was watching Fuse and at a certain moment this video came on and I was just floored by the music. The same thing happened with Chevelle. We were working on Train Of Thought and one of the assistants came in saying â€œYouâ€™ve got to listen to this, youâ€™ll love itâ€ and I really did. Yeah, thereâ€™s only three of them but they sound so â€˜fatâ€™! Exactly! The guitar sounds are (grunts), you know, crunchy?! I really love them. Have you heard their latest album Vena Sera? Yeah, I have! Itâ€™s also a great one. You know, when I think about it: in order for me to go out and buy the CD I must really be floored by the music when I first hear it. Like, I heard about Coheed & Cambria, and while I like them, they didnâ€™t hit me. You know what I mean? Thatâ€™s just the way it works for me. Is it the same with movies? Yeah, Iâ€™m not a movie person like Mike is. When Iâ€™m at home, the only time Iâ€™ll go see a movie is when Iâ€™m going on a date with my wife. But on tour itâ€™s easier because we watch them on the tourbus. Last night we watched Fight Club. Itâ€™s a good movie. I agree. Now, for the final question: do you have plans to record another solo album down the line? I must say that I really enjoyed your first one, Suspended Animation. Thank you very much, itâ€™s always a pleasure to hear that. Yeah, I definitely want to do another one. The first one did very well soâ€¦ But itâ€™s not like I have anything planned, not like Iâ€™m going into the studio next June or so. Just so you know. Will it be all instrumental again or are you thinking about including vocals this time? No, itâ€™ll definitely be all instrumental. Iâ€™m pretty fond of the guitar-bass-drums trio. It gives me space to explore different things along the way. Ok. Well then, thanks a lot for the interview and have a great show this evening. Thank you very much. It was a pleasure. Bye!