Petrucci: It’s ongoing. When you’re a band that’s been together for
this long, there are a lot of business things involved. It’s very similar
to a divorce; you have to work out all of the details.
Let’s talk about the drummer auditions. What songs did you
choose and why?y?
Petrucci: Well first of all, we didn’t want to overwhelm everybody
and have them learn an hour’s worth of music or anything like that.
We wanted to make sure we had a varied array of songs that make
up our style.
Myung: And the different elements that we incorporate into
our live shows. We also wanted to get a sense of how they would
approach the different songs.
Petrucci: We chose “The Dance of Eternity” for its real technical and progressive aspect. Then we chose “A Nightmare to
Remember,” because it’s important to have a drummer that
can kick hard, play double bass, and do all of that great stuff.
“Nightmare” not only has that but it also has more sensitive groove
moments. And then we chose “The Spirit Carries On,” which is
moodier and simpler, and all about the feel and the flow. That was
a good balance. If a drummer can play all of those songs with us
and have them feel comfortable, then we’re on the right track.
When you watch the auditions, you can hear that some of the
drummers added their own twist to the songs—and you can tell
that didn’t go over so well.
Petrucci: I think for any musician joining an established band,
the first focus should be on making it sound like the band. If you
come in and take a completely different approach and change the
style up and start doing your own fills, it might be something cool
technically and musically, but it’s ultimately not going to leave a
really good first impression. We’re looking for a new drummer and
we have a discography of many, many songs plus a worldwide fan
base. It’s not only us as band members, but it’s also our fans who
are going to want to hear the songs played and have it sound like
Dream Theater. The audition environment is not really the place to
try and change things up and reinvent our sound.
Myung: We were looking for more of a classical interpretation. It
was more like, “Let’s run through these songs and see how great and
natural they feel,” rather than looking for the improvisational side of it.
You can have two people play the same part and it feels different. Every
drummer has their own way of interpreting and phrasing things. The
one thing unique about every musician is how they interpret the subdivisions. How they group the notes and cluster the subdivisions.
Like where they’re hearing the accents in, say, an asymmetrical
Myung: Yeah. Like, would you think of 9/8 as 6/8 then 3/8 or 3/8
then 6/8? It’s a total feel thing, but it’s sort of like, “Are we on the
same page, musically?”
Tell us about the writing sessions for the new album.
Myung: It reminded me of the early days, when it was just me sitting in front of John and Jordan [Rudess, keyboards] and saying,
“I’ll play this part, you play this part, and we’ll record it.” A lot of
the early stuff was stuff I would first work on with John and Kevin
[Moore, original DT keyboardist] and then we would bring it to
the band. But once our  album, Images and Words, took off
and went gold, we were just like this machine. We started touring
and writing and doing everything together.
So, in some ways, this was like we were back to the beginning.
It was a combination of writing as a group and not as a group. The
sessions were really mellow and laidback. We were all playing at
acoustic volumes, which made the dynamics of the communication
different. It felt less on the go and more meditative.
Petrucci: I had stuff that I worked on ahead of time—demos, songs,
and my riff library—but, ultimately, John, Jordan, and I went into
the studio and wrote together. As we were writing, we demoed it all. I
programmed the drums using Superior Drummer in Logic. After we
finished the songs, we sent them to Mike Mangini. About two-and-a-half months later, when we came to record, he had templates of all the
songs—all the tempo maps and markers. It’s pretty incredible to watch
and record somebody like that. He came in and brought everything to
life. It’s a lesson for all professional musicians out there—not only about
being incredibly skilled and gifted, but also about being prepared.
How do you balance maintaining and/or furthering your prodigious technique while working on the demanding live set and
committing it to memory?