Hit The Lights: Dream Theater: 'Mike Is A Monster Of A Drummer'

Discussing "A Dramatic Turn Of Events", the act were due to perform that night in Salt Lake City, Utah at Kingsbury Hall.

Hit The Lights: Dream Theater: 'Mike Is A Monster Of A Drummer'
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Mixed by Andy Wallance with guitarist John Petrucci handling production, eleventh Dream Theater studio album "A Dramatic Turn Of Events" was recorded between January and May 2011 at Cove City Sound Studios in Long Island. Paul Northfield engineered, with Ted Jansen mastering. Artist Hugh Syme designed its cover artwork. The record marks the first Dream Theater outing to feature drummer Mike Mangini, who replaced founding member Mike Portnoy in November 2010 following auditions - though the results of the audition weren't made public until April 2011. Lead track "On The Backs Of Angels" surfaced via YouTube on June 29th, 2011. Issued worldwide on September 12th and then in North America the following day through Roadrunner Records, "A Dramatic Turn Of Events" shifted thirty-six thousand units in the States during its inaugural week of release to chart at position eight on the Billboard 200. The album charted at number one in Finland, at seventeen in Australia and the United Kingdom, at nine in Canada, at two in Holland, at six in Hungary, at seven in Poland, at nine in Portugal, and at three in Italy. On October 1st at 02:00 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned an individual in production through his mobile, who subsequently handed the phone to John Petrucci. Discussing "A Dramatic Turn Of Events", the act were due to perform that night in Salt Lake City, Utah at Kingsbury Hall. John Petrucci: Hello? UG: How are you John? How are you? I'm doing well... First of all, how did writing progress for 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events'? It went really well. We wrote it in January of this year; we spent about two and a half months writing the album, just me, Jordan, John and James. Writing music for us is a really great process because it gives us the opportunity to be creative and think things through. We would get in there and focus on the creative elements of songwriting, and to me it's a lot of fun. I believe you wrote quite a lot of the album's content. Yeah. I brought in a bunch of things. The song "This Is The Life" I wrote and brought in, and we developed it a bit once I showed it to the guys. "Beneath The Surface" I wrote and brought in. A lot of riffs made it onto the album, like "On The Backs Of Angels" and "Lost Not Forgotten" and things like that. I just had tons of ideas - I always try to keep a running library of riffs that I record on a recorder. I compile them and bring them in, and that's where we got a direction of where to go when we were in there. What lyrical topics do you touch upon on 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events'? The running theme has to do with the title - 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' - and so all the songs are about some sort of major event in the world that's happening now, that's happened in history. "Outcry" is about the uprising and revolutions going on in North Africa and the Middle East. "On The Backs Of Angels" is about the political unrest and divide in the US right now. "Lost And Forgotten" is about a Persian fighting force that died out. "Bridges In The Sky" is about somebody who's looking for a chance to be reunited with a lost part of their soul that's missing because of some dramatic event in their life. Those are just a few of them, but they're all about major events that've caused people to go through substantial changes in their lives basically.

"Fans enjoy analysing our music and looking at things under a microscope and stuff, and it shows the level of passion from the fans for what we do."

Has 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events'' album title been misinterpreted in certain quarters? A lot of people automatically assume that it's referring to the band's situation - change of drummer - but the title came long after that happened. The title came as a result of writing the lyrics, and trying to figure out the common thread and common theme of the album. It doesn't refer to the band's personal situation, but refers to the dramatic events that are occurring in the world today. Was it much different recording the album without Mike Portnoy, or was it just the same? After you've been in a band with somebody for twenty-five years and you've recorded every album with them, of course it's different - we heard it for the first time without having Mike in the studio. We've been through lineup changes before and we've had new members and different members, so it's something you learn to accept and adapt to. But yeah, it was definitely strange at first though once we got in there and got comfortable and focused on writing and recording, then everything was business as usual. Speaking of adapting, what was it like to be sole producer? It was really great for me, honestly. It's something that I love to do; it's a passion of mine, and the guys really trust me in that role. I think it's something that I'm really able to put together, the right team to make the kind of album that we wanna make. I'm able to get the right performances and the right direction out of the band, and the right sonic impact out of the recording. I love to produce; it's a lot of work, but it's a labour of love and something that I really love to do. There was an article published online by a Dream Theater fan which basically alleges that the album has musical and structural similarities to 'Images And Words'. What's your response to that? I think our fans enjoy analysing our music and looking at things under a microscope and stuff, and it shows the level of passion from the fans for what we do. They look at what we're doing, and they wanna know what's going on. Like I said, with every album people wanna try to find hidden messages and new meanings, secret nuggets and things like that. People have always searched for those types of things in our music. It shows how much our listeners are strongly interested in what we're doing in a very detailed manner. But obviously, there's no truth to the allegation? We really like music. We have a certain thing that we try to accomplish musically, a certain sound that makes us who we are. The core elements of Dream Theater, of who we are and how we make music. Those are elements that are identifiable. That's what gives the band its sound, and keeps the band having an identity. I'm aware of that John, but this fan is alleging that Dream Theater simply rewrote 'Images And Words'. Obviously, that isn't the case at all? We wouldn't rewrite an album, no. That wouldn't be something that we would do (laughs). How did the track 'On The Backs Of Angels' come to fruition? The original riff actually came about in my home as I was thinking about an opening song for the album. I envisioned it having a clean guitar opening; I wrote that on acoustic in my home and then brought it in, and we just built it from there. We had a basic direction of where we wanted to go; we wanted the first song to be really indicative of the sound of the album, and of Dream Theater. It had an epic opening feel, really dramatic and cinematic. That was the direction of that song. How would you compare 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' to past Dream Theater albums? How to compare it? It's hard to say, because every album is a different statement. Again, going back to what I said there's a certain sound that we try to keep intact and that's the identity of the band - the basic overall elements of the sound. For each album though we vary that sound and try to keep each one unique and special, so it's hard to compare. This one to me has a very good balance. I think it features all the members in a very good light, and it has a very good balance of the elements that make up our music, progressive and metal and melodic elements.

"The title doesn't refer to the band's personal situation, but refers to the dramatic events that are occurring in the world today."

What makes 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events' "unique and special"? That would come down to the songs. That would come down to the different messages that are going on with each song, and the sonic presentation. This is the first album that we had mixed by Andy Wallace, and to me he just did such an incredible job of - again - getting a great balance and doing it in such a way where it was powerful. His mix had a lot of detail and clarity and he mixes things in a very polished way, but again it retains all the power and the features of everybody in their roles. Everyone's really able to shine. You can hear everything; you can hear what the bass is doing, you can hear the different keyboard details and every guitar riff. It kind of sets the album apart. We've never had an album this clear before, so I think that sonically it definitely stands apart. Are there certain instances in the past where you felt Dream Theater was let down by a mix then? I've always been happy with our mixes. Going way, way back when we did our first album, we were very, very young and didn't have a lot of time of course to record it or mix it. If I could go back I'd do things different and spend more time, but that was the band in its early stages of its career and you usually don't have the luxuries that you're afforded later on in your career. I think there's always an instance where you could go back to an album and say "I'd change that", but in general I'm usually very happy or satisfied. Considering the amount of instruments Dream Theater calls upon if need be, does that present a challenge to mixers? I think it's challenging for a mixer because there's a lot going on. Part of my producer role is to make sure that the arrangements aren't that thick. If there's too many things going on you're not gonna get the power and the space that's necessary, but it's definitely a challenge for any mixer to come in. Unless they were there the whole time, they have to go in and weave through all the different tracks and parts and try to get a general picture of what we were trying to do with each song. It takes a lot of work, a lot of time and a lot of detail to do it. How did Dream Theater come to find new drummer Mike Mangini? We did a whole documentary on how we found him; it's part of the special edition, and is called "The Spirit Carries On". It's a movie that we made that documents the audition process and how we found Mike. I don't know if you've ever seen that, but it's really cool - that's part of the special edition of the current album. It's on there and is a sixty-minute movie. What made Mike Mangini stand out, from your point of view? It's everything mixed together; it was his tremendous playing and tremendous musicality as a drummer and musician. The way that he played the Dream Theater songs, he auditioned so naturally and comfortably. He understands the sensibilities of playing metal and progressive music and also the kind of person he is, his personality, where he is in his life and where he's from, his history, his Berklee connections. Everything just mixed in together made us know that he was the perfect guy for the job. Most drummers tend to take a step back and play in the background, whereas Mike Portnoy was a bit more in people's faces. Does Mike Mangini take more of a step back? Mike Mangini is definitely in people's faces - he's a tremendous drummer. Part of the role of the drummer in this band and all the instrumentalists is that everybody is in everybody's faces (laughs). I don't think there's anybody that takes a back seat, and that's what makes the music exciting. Mike Mangini is no exception; he's a powerhouse and he's a monster of a drummer. He's definitely not taking a step back at all; he's very out in front but at the same time he's a team player, and he knows the importance of Dream Theater coming across as a band and as a collective unit. He's really conscious of that as well, but he's able to shine in his own right on the album and at the live show. Everybody has a little bit of a different style, and everybody's gonna come across in a certain way. Mike Portnoy is definitely a very big personality and a solid player; he likes to get out there like you said and get in people's faces, and that's great. Mike Mangini has his own personality and his own approach to playing drums, and he's very alive and animated and plays with a lot of passion and conviction and power as well, so it's interesting. You have to just see the band live and see what I'm talking about, and get the picture for yourself really. Is Mike Mangini a songwriter? Does he write stuff or anything like that? He does. We didn't involve him in the writing or anything for this album, but I'm hoping on the next album that we'll be able to get together as a band and write together. On this album we did not do that though. Are there any plans to continue with Dream Theater's record label Ytsejam Records? Ytsejam Records is still going, but we're yet to determine what kind of future releases we wanna do. Right now that label is still active; we haven't had any new releases in awhile, but that's something that we can talk about. Will you oversee such releases? It's a band company, so it's something that we'll all have involvement with. It's just a matter of how we proceed. Like I said, there hasn't been a release in awhile.

"We've never had an album this clear before, so I think that sonically it definitely stands apart."

Are there any issues as regards master tapes? Does Dream Theater have possession of the master tapes, or does Mike Portnoy have possession of the master tapes? The purpose of that label is to release things that were outside of the masters that we recorded officially for the record label, demos and live shows and things like that. It's stuff that's been collected throughout the years, and there's a ton of material. There's a ton of past material, and now that the band has moved forward there's a ton of future material from this album, this writing session, and these live shows as well, and demos as well. It's all a matter of whatever we decide to put out. How would you describe your guitar work on 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events'? How would I describe it? It's kind of hard for me to describe it. It's me. I play in a style that's deeply rooted in rock and metal, but in a setting of progressive music. I always try to be musical and play the right things for the song, and when it comes time for the solo I have to make sure that it's a very musical moment and it's a very interesting moment, and perhaps a challenging moment for me. If there's something that needs to be rocking and heavy, I make sure that I'm doing that to the fullest that I can. If there's a second that can be more beautiful and sensitive, then I try to approach my guitar playing in that way. It depends on what's going on musically, and you always have to fit and match what's happening. Are there certain guitars you particularly used on the album? I used my signature Musicman John Petrucci guitar. It's a signature model called the JP11, and it's one series of several models that I have with Musicman. I use a six-string and also a seven-string on this album. What are your thoughts on the artwork by Hugh Syme? I think it's beautiful. I'm such a huge fan of Hugh Syme. I have been forever with his work for Rush. He just did a tremendous job capturing the mood of the album, and as soon as you look at his artwork you get this feeling. He captured the whimsical, aggressive nature of the music and the cognitive nature of the music, and it's just some beautiful artwork in the packaging - he did a tremendous job. The album cover definitely makes you think, doesn't it? Yeah. I think that's a sign of great artwork, and I like a cover to be pretty simple too. The picture isn't very involved, but what I like about Hugh's renditions is that they do make you think. His artwork implies movement, it implies meaning. You want to know what's gonna happen, and it makes you have questions like; what's happening? Where is the plane going? Does the guy fall off? Why is the guy up there?... And I love that about artwork, and I love that about Hugh's artwork especially. Thanks for speaking to me John. No problem - my pleasure. All the best with Dream Theater, and 'A Dramatic Turn Of Events'. Thank you. Take care. Bye. Bye. Interview by Robert Gray Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2011

49 comments sorted by best / new / date

comments policy
    super_strat
    Personally, I prefer Mike as their drummer. I find his drumming to just be more interesting in general. Mike's drumming on the other hand, doesn't really do anything for me.
    Dynamight
    Dear Robert, Please stop asking the interviewees questions to which the answers are obvious, and please stop giving your interviews ridiculous titles. You are decreasing the quality of the website even further. Sincerely, The average reader.
    omidmash
    super_strat wrote: Personally, I prefer Mike as their drummer. I find his drumming to just be more interesting in general. Mike's drumming on the other hand, doesn't really do anything for me.
    Mike or Mike?
    ItsApocalypse
    John is the man. Also, I'd certainly be interested in Mangini's input in the writing process in the future. That's not even to mention how much i love the rest of the bands'. Now, if i could only afford the Musicman JP11....
    Nickpocalypse
    Wasn't a big fan of the interviewer, I guess. What did you want him to say, "Yes, we rewrote Images and Words"? Take what he's telling you as valuable, and don't just go hunting for the obvious answer... but what do I know. Cool stuff in here otherwise.
    Mr Winters
    eetfuk58 wrote: i am SO F*CKING TIRED of seeing news about Dream Theater on UG, especially on their drummers. Nobody can possibly care that much.
    I prefer to see news about Dream Theater every two weeks or so rather than news about Loutallica or Slash or the dumbasses from Oasis every ****ing day
    Mr Winters
    Interviews with this man are always interesting. I'd love to meet him someday, have a beer and talk. And jamming with him, that'd be awesome.
    Zelos45
    There was an article published online by a Dream Theater fan which basically alleges that the album has musical and structural similarities to 'Images And Words'. What's your response to that?
    But obviously, there's no truth to the allegation?
    I'm aware of that John, but this fan is alleging that Dream Theater simply rewrote 'Images And Words'. Obviously, that isn't the case at all?
    Reaaaaally? A bit of an aggressive interview. Obviously they didn't just rewrite Images And Words. Dumb questions are dumb. Please stop.
    static_music34
    Nickpocalypse wrote: Wasn't a big fan of the interviewer, I guess. What did you want him to say, "Yes, we rewrote Images and Words"? Take what he's telling you as valuable, and don't just go hunting for the obvious answer... but what do I know. Cool stuff in here otherwise.
    Ya it seems like Robert Gray is getting more aggressive with his interviews.
    Glass Prisoner
    "I'm aware of that John, but this fan is alleging that Dream Theater simply rewrote 'Images And Words'. Obviously, that isn't the case at all?" RIP Robert Gray.
    Shlecht
    If you guys want news that wasn't included in this article but should have been,this guy, Andy McKee, is opening for Dream Theater. Random type of music considering Dream Theater, but it can't be ignored. Amazing:
    http ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfODdLZuvBI&ob=av2n http://www.y outube.com/watch?v=Yz5cZrC-KIg The first one, Drifting, has over 40 million views. He once held a record for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd most views on youtube.
    Kronos Agony
    Mike Is A Powerhouse And A Monster Of A Drummer... so we decided to reduce drums sound to the minimum in the mix
    shredder3386
    Mr Winters wrote: Interviews with this man are always interesting. I'd love to meet him someday, have a beer and talk. And jamming with him, that'd be awesome.
    I just met him on their past North American tour and he is probably one of the coolest, down-to-earth guys ever. Every musician should be like John Petrucci. He even sent Matt from Trivium a brand new Music Man JPXI guitar just for helping support them on the tour. He is a class act.
    henrihell
    The album charted at number one in Finland
    Only in Finland, great metal charts #1, proud to live here! \,,/
    Flints
    I like how john asked "how are you" to the interviewer at the beginning. made it awkward. hehe. John is so nice
    Undead Rat
    There are definitely comparisons to Images and Words and A Dramatic Turn of Events. Mike (Portnoy) always said that the band should 'move into a different direction' rather than remaking something they already did. Fans, however, always claimed that they wanted to see a new Images and Words. I don't think that they rewrote I&W, but I definitely think that they listened to the album while writing and used it as inspiration.
    ibaneztron
    eetfuk58 wrote: i am SO F*CKING TIRED of seeing news about Dream Theater on UG, especially on their drummers. Nobody can possibly care that much.
    So you would rather see news about..what? Justin bieber? Maroon 5? Nope didnt think so... STFU
    filipe26
    Dynamight wrote: Dear Robert, Please stop asking the interviewees questions to which the answers are obvious, and please stop giving your interviews ridiculous titles. You are decreasing the quality of the website even further. Sincerely, The average reader.
    The average reader doesn't overanalize things or write in a pedantic manner.
    JMV12
    The only complaint I have about the new album is he fact that the drums are buried in the mix. It took me a couple of listens to get it because I was used to having heavy metal epics in DT's albums. I like this new/old direction. It's very reminiscent of I&W, and even Awake. Just don't pull another Justice For All on the new one and let Mangini be heard!
    dweb23
    john petrucci kinda looks like the big show on the pic on the ug front page
    blackbird51
    "Lost And Forgotten" HAAHAHah really? learn to edit guys. Why would it be called Lost And Forgotten? dumbest song title ever.
    'Leviathan'
    "I'm aware of that John, but this fan is alleging that Dream Theater simply rewrote 'Images And Words'. Obviously, that isn't the case at all?" Well, sheesh.
    zalant
    ragzy02 wrote: It's ridiculous when a person simply voices their opinion about something, and then someone tells them to shut the f#$% up. Everyone is entitled to their own views and if they want, they have the right to post a negative comment without someone blasting them. These days, if a person posts a negative comment, then they are usually attacked and called a troll. Can't we all just be respectful of each other's opinions without name-calling please?....
    Unfortunately, it's just the nature of the Internet. Anonymity gives people the freedom to let their inner ***** reign supreme, saying things to people that they never would if they were face to face. It's a shame that more folks don't try to bring their everyday personal rules of conduct with them into forums, but that's just the way it is, I guess. FWIW, I also thought that there were definitely parts of the interview where it was like John was being treated as a hostile witness. It was a bit uncomfortable to read. Since we can't hear Robert's tone of voice by just looking at the words, I suppose it might not have been quite so bad in the actual interview.
    DisarmGoliath
    Fourth word of the article and there's already a typo... I mean, yeah I'm being pedantic but getting someone's name wrong within the opening words? C'mon UG article-writers - surely you must still at least be focused on what you're writing after four damn words?! (It's Andy Wallace, for anyone who's interested - also done some amazing mixes for other major bands).
    W>O
    John Petrucci.. the coolest guitarist on earth ! haha
    jamstar2697
    "John Petrucci: Hello? UG: How are you John ? How are you?
    I think john needs help with his itroductions with interviewers
    JB95
    "John Petrucci: Hello? UG: How are you John ? How are you? " *facepalm*
    ragzy02
    It's ridiculous when a person simply voices their opinion about something, and then someone tells them to shut the f#$% up. Everyone is entitled to their own views and if they want, they have the right to post a negative comment without someone blasting them. These days, if a person posts a negative comment, then they are usually attacked and called a troll. Can't we all just be respectful of each other's opinions without name-calling please?....
    Evan42881
    blackbird51 wrote: "Lost And Forgotten" HAAHAHah really? learn to edit guys. Why would it be called Lost And Forgotten? dumbest song title ever.
    Lost in his mind, and nobody cares about him?
    eetfuk58
    i am SO F*CKING TIRED of seeing news about Dream Theater on UG, especially on their drummers. Nobody can possibly care that much.
    pailoong
    JP owns the guitar, there's no doubt, but I can't stand the new album. :-(
    Slash181
    If i was doing an interview on someone, i'd do my homework first... i understand questions need to be asked but i almost felt like this interview was 23ish questions long and thats it. If he knew about the whole process of drumming auditions then i think a better question would be at hand like - 'how did you feel about the process the band went through auditioning a variety of different drummers' or 'how did the fans take to mike mangini live/studio' etc. awkward interview was awkward.
    JoranvandenPoll
    henrihell wrote: The album charted at number one in Finland Only in Finland, great metal charts #1, proud to live here! \,,/
    Do people in Finland have four fingers?! -> \,,/
    metallicamadmik
    Does it amaze anyone else that A Dramatic Turn of Events is an epic album...and Dream Theater is still constantly getting better?? Seriously can't wait for more work in the future.
    judo_john
    JB95 wrote: "John Petrucci: Hello? UG: How are you John ? How are you? " *facepalm*
    Biiiig Shoooowww nnnot gooood wiiiith wooooorrrrdsss aaaandddd peeeooppplllleee
    petitpedro
    You should change the title, I think it was a catchy thing just to read it, I always thought it was about Portnoy that quote, good interview though.
    Mehtulheade
    The interviewer makes it sound like the fan that compared DToE to I&W thought they'd done some sort of sell-out remake move. Actually, if you read what was said, the fan in question gives an impression that he thinks it's an awesome move. http://www.facebook.com/notes/thiago-cam... urn-of-events-images-words-revisited-spoiler/101507718251301 84 John P's reluctance to answer shows that it's true. But it's not a 'remake' or anything, it's just a clever throwback to the classic album.
    sheriff_nein
    the album title was kinda poorly chosen, given the situation, i think... i get that that's not what they were referring to, but its just gonna be the first thing on everyone's mind when they hear it, i know that was the case for me back when it was announced.
    guitarmaniac88
    Shlecht wrote: If you guys want news that wasn't included in this article but should have been,this guy, Andy McKee, is opening for Dream Theater. Random type of music considering Dream Theater, but it can't be ignored. Amazing:
    http ://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tfODdLZuvBI&ob=av2n http://www.y outube.com/watch?v=Yz5cZrC-KIg The first one, Drifting, has over 40 million views. He once held a record for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd most views on youtube.
    Seriously? I knew about Mckee way before I knew about Dream Theater, I hope I get to see them live, that's awesome!
    Nacek21
    Lyrical content like anyone listens to the singer and lyrics on a DT record, now if they had a singer that had a lead singer's voice then maybe someone would pay attention