In our second part of our special G3 Ultimate-Guitar series exclusive from down under, Joe Matera
sits down to chat to John Petrucci
to discuss G3, Dream Theater and guitars.
Ultimate-Guitar: How has the Australian leg of the current G3 tour been going for you?
It's been great. I've never been to this country before so it is my first time. And I'm really comfortable playing with Joe and Steve as it's, I think, about four times now that we've done this so far together. So I know the guys really well and everything is running like clockwork. It has just been wonderful.
When you go out on tour like this, do you set aside time where you can relax?
Yeah on something like this, there is tons of time. I guess I sort of pace myself depending on how I'm feeling. Like today (Monday) it kind of felt it was a Sunday as there was American football on the TV so I watched that and then I later went to the gym.
How does playing in an intimate theater environment like you're doing with the G3 shows in Australia, compare to playing an arena show with Dream Theater?
As far as I'm concerned, since I use in-ear monitors it generally sounds pretty consistent as I'm not reliant on the monitors or the ambience of the room or anything like that, which is one of the benefits of using those types of in-ear systems. But as far as the energy goes, yes it is definitely different. And it depends on the country too. Playing in an arena in Italy or in Chile where everybody is going nuts and there are tons of people singing the melodies of the words and moshing, it's totally differently than when playing in a theatre where there are people sitting down. As well as being less of them too.
With all those people sitting down wouldn't there be a bit more pressure on yourself musicianship wise, as the focus would be more on the technical aspects of your playing?
Right, yeah I think so because you feel a little bit more like a recital as everybody is sitting down and like watching you when you're playing. In a way, sometimes I get that feeling at certain venues we play in America where they're sitting down and that the whole style of the venue gives you the feeling you're playing in some sort of hotel thing. You almost feel silly when you're up there and playing metal with a seven string guitar while people are sitting there. You almost feel uncomfortable whereas in an arena people are screaming and going nuts.
In regards to your stage sound what do you look for?
|"You almost feel silly when you're up there and playing metal with a seven string guitar while people are sitting there."|
As far as the guitar is concerned I go for something that is versatile. I tend to veer towards the more metal type of sound so my sound will be very heavy and thick and percussive almost Metallica-ish. At the same time when I say versatile, it has to be sweet and singing and round and like ambient when I play a solo or something. So it is two different worlds but my rig is trying to achieve that. For example, I could play through Joe's [Satriani] rig and it'll sound really beautiful and nice but I would not be able to use that playing my material in Dream Theater. It wouldn't be heavy enough or aggressive enough though it sounds beautiful in the way he uses it, where its' singing and lyrical.
The most recent Dream Theater album, Octavarium has the honor of being the very last album ever recorded at the Hit Factory before the studio's closure. That is a pretty historic note to have in your career?
Absolutely, I don't exactly understand why the owner sold it or anything, but the studio was beautiful. They had just renovated some rooms, in fact the studio we were in was gorgeous, all state of the art and I couldn't imagine them ripping that apart you know. When you walked into the lobby of the Hit Factory there were hundreds of gold and platinum records on the wall and while we were there they had started to take them down. It had got to be real surreal. We'd walk in and they'll not be there any more. We also recorded that album with an orchestra in this big room, which was one of the studio's main rooms on the top floor where they had made movie soundtracks there previously. And while we were there one night, they doing one episode of Law and Order and ours would eventually become the last session in that room too. It was weird. But we're now part of history.
Dream Theater has performed complete album covers live such as Dark Side Of The Moon and Made In Japan, any chance of something actually being recorded and released down the track?
We have recorded every time we have done that live but not as a studio recording. I don't think we'll record those as an album as we're busy enough recording our own studio album. The covers thing is just like a fun thing we do on the road to add something exciting. And though we always record them, they'll remain being a live thing only.
So how is the next record coming along?
|"Fans can expect an awesome album!"|
We started working on it in back in September but we had to break twice for my G3 commitments and as soon as we get back home, we'll go back into the studio and continue working on it.
So what can fans expect from the next recording?
They can expect an awesome album! That's all I'm saying as we generally don't like to really tell people what to expect just so we can eliminate any speculation.
Do you tend to write songs when you're sound checking with Dream Theater?
We always sound check and always will work in rehearsal time into the sound check and a lot of ideas come out of that. A lot of the genesis of the songs comes more from riffs. The lyrics never come first as they're always written afterwards. So we always jam on ideas and if some one comes up with something we'll start going for it.
What is your gear setup like?
I'm actually very simple in the studio as far as recording goes. I just like the way the sound of a head sounds through a cabinet, so to me that is the ultimate way to record. There are no fancy rigs going on. And I though also have some of my favorite heads with me, depending on what I'm doing, I always will use Mesa Boogie heads which I've used for as long as I can remember. On the most recent album and the present one we're working on, I've been using the Mark series of amps, the old Mark IIs which I've used for a long time. The sound of which goes back to Metallica circa Master Of Puppets, it's like the Hetfield sound. I also use a Mark IV which is what I'm using on the G3 shows. All of those go through a Boogie cab that is miked and that is the sound. It's just pure and I usually double track so it's nice and wide. As for guitars, I'm using my signature Music Man guitars. On the present album once again, I have the new version of my guitar that we just completed and of which we're working on prototyping. I've been with Ernie Ball for like six years now and I needed some subtle changes to the guitar. I'm using that in the studio as well as live on G3. The only different thing on the G3 tour is that my sound integrates effects. I use TC Electronics for the most part, especially a TC Electronic 2290 and a TC Electronic M3000. And in order to control all that stuff I started using a pedal board by Axess Electronics which is a Canadian company that makes really cool switching things and loops and stuff.
How many guitars do you take out on the road with you?
With G3 it is very minimal, just three guitars; my main guitar and a back-up for my main and a seven string. I don't even have a back-up for my seven string guitar. With Dream Theater it is the total opposite, I think I have sixteen guitars with me out on the road.
Who are your main musical influences?
|"A lot of the genesis of the songs comes more from riffs."|
One of the bands I've always been into was Rush. Alex Lifeson is one of my favorite guitarists. YES is another big influence on me and on Dream Theater as our whole style is kind of YES, so Steve Howe is an influence too. Al DiMeola is another. One of my favorite albums of all time is his Friday Night In San Francisco. But my number one influence and favorite player of all time would be Steve Morse. He is like to me the most unbelievable player I've ever heard. His first solo album The Introduction, I learned every song off that album. He was such a big influence on my playing.
Looking back on the Dream Theater catalog is it hard to pick a personal favorite album?
Yes it is hard as there are some that I think for whatever reason, they sound a little bit better or I just like the songs a little bit better. Some of that has to do with my biases which has to do with other elements too like for example Scenes From A Memory is a personal favorite. It's not because the music is better than the other albums, but with that album in particular, it was the first album that we wrote with Jordan Rudess our keyboard player and it was the first album he joined us on which was magical. It was also the first album that Mike [Portnoy] and I had decided to produce. And it was also a concept album too which was the first time we tackled that. So there were some many different things that went in to that album. At times other reasons will make me more fondly of a specific album.
Dream Theater has had and continues to have a successful career regardless of musical trends and ever changing musical climate?
It's unbelievable and very fortunate. We're an example of a band that kind of stuck to what we were passionate about and didn't really pay attention to trends and stuff. And it really has paid off because we're twenty years into our career and it is growing and growing. We're playing more places and more countries than we've ever had. Our audiences are bigger and our audiences younger which means, kids are getting into it too.
2006 Joe Matera