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Dream Theater

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“There’s two sets,” disclosed Dream Theater’s vocalist James LaBrie about the format for their upcoming 25th Anniversary Australian tour, Images, Words and Beyond. “Each night, we’re doing two sets and the first set is songs from various albums, so we’re kind of touching on our discography, so to speak. And then the second set is dedicated to the entire album, Images and Words from beginning-to-end, and then we have an encore, and we’re playing A Change of Seasons for that. So it’s a pretty intense night with a lot of music! It’s about two-and-a-half hours, so it’s a lot of fun. So far we’ve played it all throughout Europe, and they were absolutely loving the experience because they were able to with the first set listen to songs from many different albums of ours. And for the second set, just be able to sink into Images and Words, so it’s been going over very well. We haven’t played A Change of Seasons since… oh, my God… it’s been at least ten years or something like that since we were playing it on a nightly basis, so it’s pretty cool.”

Dream Theater will be performing two shows only in Sydney and Melbourne in September, and although LaBrie understands fans in other states will be upset they aren’t getting a look in, he says there isn’t much the band can do about it.

“My answer at this point, and I don’t know exactly how accurate it is, but I would imagine that it has a lot to do with our schedule,” LaBrie returned. “We’re going to Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Philippines, India, and Australia, so I think probably it’s just a scheduling thing. If it was up to me, I don’t think that’s right. How long has it been since we’ve been to Perth? Or Brisbane? Far too long. It’s been a while, and God forbid New Zealand! They’re probably really upset because we haven’t been to Auckland since I think 2007 or 2009, so a lot of things happen because of scheduling. We get in there and do two shows in Australia, and then we’re on our way to Indonesia or Jakarta or wherever. So it’s kind of just trying to fit in as many countries as we can because they’re also wondering why we’re not getting back and why we’re not doing more shows as well. It’s a lot to juggle, it really is.”

One of the biggest problems Dream Theater face with a career spanning a quarter of a century is selecting songs to form a setlist that caters to their diehard legion of fans, but LaBrie says the band has a very diplomatic way of dealing with the situation.

“Before we start a tour we all have our own favourite song list out of our catalogue, and what we do is we compare notes and see which songs are coming up the most over the five guys,” he divulged. “Then that’s kind of how we get an idea of where we’re all coming from and what we’re thinking and what we wanna play again, and then we break it down from there. And then, slowly but surely, we start to piece it together. That’s basically how we get going on it, and that gives us an idea of what we should be considering.”

Another side to Dream Theater’s music that you would envisage would cause some consternation is reproducing their famed technical proficiency in the live arena, but LaBrie quickly refutes that notion. “I don’t think that’s an issue,” he shrugged. “Everybody is quite dedicated to their respective instruments, and I think if you were to go by any of our dressing rooms leading up to the show, you would hear John Petrucci warming up and Jordon, John and Mike getting it right, and then myself vocally. We’re all trying to prepare ourselves for pretty much a musical marathon – two-and-a-half, almost three hours of music each night – and we’re doing on average five or six shows a week, so we really have to be focused. I think because we are focused, and because we’re the kind of people that are for the most part able to go out and give it 100% each night (and be exactly where we should be technically and emotionally speaking), everything else that goes with being an entertainer and doing this kind of music, things work.”

After going through a succession of vocalists early in their career, Dream Theater recruited LaBrie before Images and Words was recorded, with that album laying the platform for the band’s future success. It is an album that, while met with high expectations from the band themselves, was less than substantiated by initial label support.

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“I think during the recording of Images and Words, we were pretty psyched because we all felt we had something that was very unique and original that if it got a fair shake could be a winner for us and put us on the map globally and internationally. Fortunately for us, it did,” he recalled. “We had a huge hit in “Pull Me Under” that really garnered us international notoriety. From the very beginning, like any band in their infancy stages, we also had our trepidations with going into an industry as such, because you know that it is hit-and-miss. As much as you might be dedicated to it, and as much as you may believe in your music, there’s many more factors involved and elements involved that kind of bring that to fruition. When the album was released in North America – and I’m talking about Images and Words – they only put out 8000 albums for distribution. 8000 (laughs). That’s really nothing. Slowly, the orders started coming in, and fortunately for us, “Pull Me Under” busted wide open at radio and also on MTV. So that’s really what catapulted us into the stratosphere and that’s what brought us our success. Because of that, it really did create the mould for being able to have an elongated career, such as we have had. It was definitely a plateau that we needed to reach to be able to continue what we’ve done from album to album and tour to tour.”In the ensuing

In the ensuing period, Dream Theater have released a further eleven studio albums, each one breaking new territory in the metal industry and each expanding further on the promise delivered by its predecessor. It is a process that LaBrie says is both rewarding and challenging and is possible largely because of the compatibility of its members.”

“I think the longer that you’re in a band with people, the more in sync you become with one another,” he mused. “It’s almost like an unspoken language, like telepathy, and because of that closeness, you’re able to dig and dive that much deeper into the music and the music that you want to create, and I think that’s what we continue to do from album to album. It’s not necessarily reinventing ourselves, but going in a direction that we feel is necessary for that point in time for it to properly and accurately represent the band. I don’t look at any album and say, “Why did we do that?” I can’t look back and say that because I know at the time when we were creating that album and recording that album, that’s exactly where we were. That was our mindset. That’s where our heart and soul was at that point, so I think each one of those is a little time capsule as far as who and what we were at that particular moment in time and what was influencing us and what was going on in a social stance globally. They’re like little time capsules of humanity.”

Dream Theater has always been equally adept at writing conventional length songs or lengthier compositions such as “Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence”, which clocks in at 42 minutes with LaBrie revealing that the actual length of a song is something which is more dictated by the song itself than at pre-production meetings.

“We sit around and talk about and discuss exactly where we think we want to go but a lot of it is once you have that idea, it kind of creates itself musically,” he voiced. “I think you get a bit more focused and start thinking about this is the song, and this is the kind of song that we’re writing right now. We want it to involve and to encapsulate all these different styles, and so a song like that is going to be a little bit lengthy and a longer song. Whereas if there’s another song where we’re hitting it up and saying, ‘this just needs a killer verse and a killer chorus and a great middle section,’ and BOOM, all of a sudden you’ve got a three-and-a-half, four-minute song. So it really depends on what our goal is song-by-song and the kind of album overall that we’re creating, so it belongs and fits. All of these things are going on all the time. I think we pretty much know what kind of… sometimes we’ve actually sat down to write a shorter tune and it ends up being nine or ten minutes long (laughs). It’s like, we’re not just going to chop it up because we think it should be one of the shorter songs because obviously where we went with it is exactly what should have happened because it sounds what we want it to sound like. It’s quite interesting because you do; you sometimes find yourself being pulled. It’s like an unforeseen energy taking you into a vortex and sucking you down this path that you didn’t see yourself going but the end result is gratifying.”

…continued below…

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With such a prolific and diverse musical output, LaBrie argues that creating new music is still challenging to Dream Theatre, but over time coming up with new material is becoming less of a problem.

“I think it’s getting easier if anything,” he stressed. “Honestly, when we’re doing soundcheck now – every soundcheck – you’ll hear a riff come out or somebody will start doing something (even if it’s Mike Mangini just starting a beat). Then all of a sudden, Jordan comes in with a bass riff and John Petrucci joins in with another riff then boom, boom, boom, everything just starts to connect and we record EVERYTHING. Each show is recorded. We have a pro tools system that is recording every show live so that we can eventually release some of the shows, and then every soundcheck is recorded just in case we touch upon an idea that we want to revisit when we’re in the studio and that writing mode for another album. I personally think we’ve never been short on material. If anything, we’ve got so much that we keep chucking a lot of it aside because once you get right into it, it’s like, ‘Nah, you know what? We’ve got something better now (laughs).'”

Unfortunately for fans, waiting on a follow up to last years The Astonishing, things aren’t moving that quickly that we can expect anything new just yet.

“Our focus right now is playing out our 25th Anniversary until the end of the year, and then we’re going to take a break,” he almost apologised, “but maybe sometime in Spring… I’m thinking May… we will get back together to start writing and recording the next album. We pretty much know the kind of album that we want to write, but we don’t want to talk about it yet (laughs). Not right now. We’re pretty excited but it’s still a while away – about ten months before we will be stepping back in the studio.”

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After a quarter of a century at their forefront of their craft, LaBrie proclaims that each of Dream Theater’s members still has the drive and passion that delivered them to the summit and vows that the day that hunger leaves and is replaced by necessity, the band will cease to exist.

“I really believe the main thing, and the only reason you should be doing what you’re doing and be inspired is because you love what you do. I think the day that you feel that you’re going through the motions and you’re only doing it because it provides a healthy financial statement, I think that’s the day that you’re fooling yourself and lying to yourself. So, fortunately for us, we’re still in the game because we want to be and we still love doing what we do. We love the albums that we create, and we love touring. We love being in front of our fans and interacting and… it’s indescribable that feeling, that connection; that energy that you get each and every night that you walk on stage and perform for your fans. It’s a phenomenal feeling, it really is. It’s something that’s kind of hard to walk away from.’

Written by Kris Peters

 

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Dream Theater “Images, Words & Beyond’ Australian Tour

 

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