John Petrucci, guitarrist of Dream Theater, has given an interview to Portal Gótico right before their concert at Lisbon Coliseum. We now are able to publish it, so enjoy!
(será publicada brevemente a versão em português da entrevista)
Portal Gótico - What can you tell us about the new album, Black Clouds and Silver Linings, does it mean something special to you?
John Petrucci - Yeah, you know, for us, every time we go into the studio, it's always exciting, we look forward to make an album, we try to make something that we haven't done before and be as creative as we can, so, you know, whenever it's about to come out, it's not even out yet, we get really excited, we want people to hear it. This album lyrically is more personal, so there's more personal stories and events that happened to me and the other guys, so it's a little more intimate that way and there's more epics, there's only six songs on the album, four of them are really long so it’s' definitely an interesting album.
PG - How's the song writing process of Dream Theater? Are you influenced by literature, cinema or rather by personal experiences?
Petrucci - You know, I think any songwriters is influenced by everything, things that happened to you, things you're going through, like you said, literature, things that you read or saw, whatever, it could even be an album that you're into at that time, or a band or an event in your life or whatever. The way that we write, we write the music first, you know a good example is the first song that's on the album was written during Halloween, October, (so it almost sounds like an Halloween,) so it has that kind of scary sense. Sometimes you just are influenced by what surrounds you.
PG - Nightmare to Remember is about an accident you assisted as a child?
Petrucci - Yes, once again we write all the music first so when it was time for me to write lyrics, you know I was kind of thinking about what to write about and that song is very dark and scary. That was an event I never really told the story about, yeah, it was about a car accident I was in when I was a kid, my family got into this accident, I just, you know, try to remember the events and tell a story.
PG - A Rite of Passage is about masonry. Are you or any of you a mason?
Petrucci - No, I'm not. None of the guys are. I just think it's a very interesting topic, you know it's one of those things where I didn't really know what it was. I used to see like
programs on like Discovery Channel, you know, it's just so weird topic, I guess we don't really know what it is, it's like a, anything that has like a conspiracy kind of angle, I think is interesting, you know Dan Brown is so popular with his movies and books, it's like the same type of thing where you don't really get it, there's some conspiracy, some people say this, some people say that, I just thought it would make a great song topic.
PG - Can you tell us something about the Count of Tuscany?
Petrucci - Yeah, that's another example of a story that I shared, you know, something that happened to me that I would tell my friends and family but I never really wrote about it. Yeah, it's sort of hard to follow the story but it's basically a few years ago when Dream Theater were playing in Florence or something and there was my friend who is my guitar tech, he's also wine importer, so he wanted to visit a winery in Tuscany, so he asked me if I wanted to come along. So, yeah, the guy who owned the winery is a count, he wasn´t the count of Tuscany, he is a count of something, anyway he brought us to this winery, it was a very old castle in the hills of Italy, it was very bizarre, you know just really weird stories the guy told, you know, like a mummified saint and a chapel, very strange and weird, I thought it would be great to tell that story, probably make a movie of it!
PG - I heard that Wither is about "writer's blockage"?
Petrucci - Kind of… You know, it's a funny thing, before wrote any lyrics, and that was the first one I started, I was talking to my wife and she had the great idea of telling stories, so I have to thank her for that, she has always interesting stories but when I was writing with her, I started writing about something else and it wasn't really working and then we were talking and we started joking about: wouldn't it be funny if we write a song about nothing, you know, remember like Seinfeld, the whole thing was a show about nothing. So we were laughing and wrote a song about nothing.
So, in a way, Wither isn't really about anything, it's kind like when you try to write lyrics and you're staring at a blank piece of paper and you're like: oh, what should I write about? You know, if you look deeper into it, then you can say it's about trying to let the creative process happen, but in some ways it's kind of not deep at all, it's just about writing.
PG – Here’s a question from a reader: The story of Scenes from a Memory reprised in the Octavarium album where there's a sentence saying that "the story ends where it began". Does it have some secret meaning?
Petrucci - The story ends where it began, that's in Octavarium, yeah, I mean, it's not related to Scenes from a Memory at all, it's just a coincidence I guess. The way that it's related to Octavarium is that.. It’s kind of like a circle, we felt like that at that point, on the very last song, it was all back to the beginning. I'm trying to remember the subject matter of Octavarium, I can't remember...
PG - It's an album full of symbologies. There was a guy on the internet that analysed every single detail and hint of the album even in technical aspects, it was amazing.
Petrucci - Yeah, that guy should listen to The Shattered Fortress on the new album because what we did with that song was... we listened to let's see: The Glass Prison, This Dying Soul, The Root of All Evil, Repentance, we listened to all of those songs as a group and we kicked out in to different sections and then when we wrote The Shattered Fortress, we would use all those sections but change then, you know like maybe there's a riff used in a verse in a song but we used it in the new song as a guitar solo or something, so there's like tons of parts... so it's kind like of a weird Frankenstein, science experiment!
PG - In this tour, at least so far, why aren't you playing songs from the new album other than "A Rite of Passage"?
Petrucci - It's very simple, it's not out yet, so we didn't want to play too many songs people wouldn't really know but as the tour goes on and when the album goes out we are going to add more.
PG - How do you choose a set list for a tour or a concert?
Petrucci - Well, Mike picks the set list and he has a very methodical approach, something like thinking how many times have we played in this country, which songs did we play last time, you know, where we are going next, it's verythought-out, trying to make a balance of all the different albums, so..
PG - Does Mike still choose music for the intermissions?
Petrucci - Yeah. (smiles), you never know what is going...
PG - You are doing a Progressive Nation in Europe, any chance to come to Portugal?
Petrucci - I don't know, I'm not sure yet. I don't want to disappoint you but I would probably say no since we have been here already, probably not but I'm not sure.
PG - You always have great album covers. Is the art really important to you? Why?
Petrucci - Yeah, you know when we were like teenagers and we were getting Rush albums and Iron Maiden albums, we would be so into the album covers, we would look at them, analyse all the pictures and then of course they would make the t-shirts with the album covers and the posters and it kind of dictates the all look, the stage, set-up, the videos and everything, you know it's very important, it sets the mood to the upcoming tour. I think it's interesting for bands sticking it to.
PG - Do you plan to release another instructional dvd or a solo album?
Petrucci - Those are the two questions that people are asking me all the time so yeah, I would like to, but I'm busy right now with Dream Theater so... eventually I will.
PG - We are running out of time so, last question: you have been together for 24 years now. What's the secret for such a perfect union?
Petrucci - We are very lucky in that, you know, we met each other and we were able to do this, I think that all of us... we've been through life experiencing very similar, things at the same time, you know we got married the same time, the kids are around the same age, so we are all like experiencing this together and you know, we built this sort of like many empire where we're able to do what we like creatively but also at the same time it's our job and it's our career and it enable us to support our lives, so I guess we are just very appreciated of that, we realise how special it is so we try to take care of it.
PG - Really special! Thank you very much for your time John and see you next time!