2019 has been a busy year for Dream Theater. With the release of latest album 'Distance Over Time', the neo prog outfit have done some serious touring that has seen them not only support the album, but celebrate 20 years of their defining 'Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory’ set. More recently, they've come away with two gongs at the Prog Awards in London - 'International Band of the Year' and the 'Chris Squire Vitruoso' for John Petrucci. We caught up with John and keyboardist Jordan Rudess for a chat at the awards ceremony. Strange deja vu: Eamon O'Neill.
Congratulations on your awards tonight! How does it feel to be walking away with a brace of Prog Awards?
John Petrucci: [*Signalling to Jordan Rudess*] Well you’ll have to answer that!
Jordan Rudess: [*Laughing*] It’s really cool. I wasn’t expecting that, so it’s amazing.
You’ve had a great year in 2019 with ‘Distance Over Time’, which has been very well received by the fans.
JP: It’s been an amazing year because ‘Distance Over Time’ has been a big success around the world, that plus the fact that we’re touring with ‘Scenes From A Memory’ and celebrating that anniversary. The timing is a perfect storm, if you will, of, just power from the band, and people are really into it. You see the smile from everybody’s face; you feel the energy, they’re just so happy.
The ‘Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory’ album instantly struck a chord when it was released back in 1999; did you know at the time that it was going to go on to become one of your defining works?
JP: No, there’s no way of knowing that. We thought… well, we liked it, we thought it was cool! But it was the first time we did a concept album, and we were such big fans of the biggest concept albums; ‘Tommy’ [The Who], ‘The Wall’ [Pink Floyd]; we were like; “how could we ever release something that’s worthy?” So you never know.
That album ended up with an unfortunate 9/11 connection, didn’t it?
What happened actually was, when we toured and we recorded a live DVD; the ‘Live Scenes From New York’ DVD, it was released on 9/11, and unfortunately there happened to be the twin towers on fire on the album cover, and we had to pull it right away.
So it must be nice to come back and get to celebrate that live album.
JR: Absolutely. It’s fantastic, and when we play it, I don’t feel like it was that long ago, but it’s been 20 years! And it was my first album with the band, and I especially remember it because it was so meaningful. I came into this group that I was finding out about, learning the parameters, and also writing all this amazing music, so going back to that and kind of celebrating that album and professionally, being twenty years in the band; it’s a big deal.
You’ve just announced your 2020 tour; is it going to be a continuation of the celebration, or will that be a completely new set?
JP: Yeah, we’re carrying that forward. The European dates were announced [see dates below}], and it carries through January and February and it will be in an ‘An Evening With’ format. In the first set we kind of concentrate on the new album and some older songs, and the second set is ‘Scenes’ in its entirety, so it’s a lot of fun doing that.
JR: We have a three hour show that we’re going around the world with!
You’re a band that’s known for doing albums in their entirety, and not just your own; in the past you’ve performed Iron Maiden’s ‘The Number of The Beast’, for example.
JP: Oh yeah! That’s right. If you ask certain members, it would probably be boredom, is what drives us! [*Laughing*]. The funny thing about that particular album - not so much for Jordan - but for [bassist] John Myung and I, we like worshiped Maiden when we were teenagers, so we knew those songs already. It’s like we didn’t even have to learn them!
If you were to do another show like that, what album would you choose?
JP: Oh man! I would like to do a Rush album, like ‘Hemispheres’ or something like that. That would be amazing.
Is that because there’s a lot of guitar work for you to get your teeth into?
JP: Not only that, but it’s because I’m such a big fan. I worship those guys. There’s not a lot of keyboard parts, so…
JR: I’d probably want to do one of my favourite albums like [Yes’] ‘Close To The Edge’ or something like that.
Moving to more recent history, and drummer Mike Mangini has been in the band quite a while now, hasn’t he?
JP: It’s almost ten years. It’s getting close to ten years; it’s crazy!
Do you think it was a tough gig for him, to find his place stepping into Dream Theater?
JR: He had big shoes to fill, but Mike Mangini is from another planet; he’s amazing, out of this world, and he blew us away when he came in and played our songs. The day he auditioned, we could have went on stage and played a show; it really was like that. There was no contest! The guy came in and just nailed it!
He’s been completely accepted by the fans, hasn’t he?
JP: Yeah, and his name is ‘Mike’, so that helps!
JR: The transition was easy! [*Laughing*]
Finally, what’s happening going forward for Dream Theater?
JP: We’re still on tour mode for this album. It only came out in February, so we’re still in that cycle and that’ll carry through next year. We tour a lot, so we’ll hit South America, Asia, Europe; everywhere.
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Tickets for Dream Theater's 2020 European tour are on sale now. For information on tickets , as well as VIP packages, visit http://dreamtheater.net/tour/.
Dream Theatre 2020 Europe Dates:
Sat 11th Jan - Amsterdam, Netherlands - AFAS Live
Sun 12th Jan - Oberhausen, Germany -Turbinenhalle 1
Tue 14th Jan - Stockholm, Sweden - Cirkus
Wed 15th Jan - Stockholm, Sweden - Cirkus
Fri 17th Jan - Helsinki, Finland - Icehall
Sat 18th Jan - Oulu, Finland - Teatri Oulu
Mon 20th Jan - Trondheim, Norway - Spektrum
Tue 21st Jan - Oslo, Norway - Spektrum
Thu 23rd Jan - Hamburg, Germany - Sporthalle
Fri 24th Jan - Helsingor, Denmark - Kulturvaerftet Hal 14
Sun 26th Jan - Paris, France - Seine Musicale
Mon 27th Jan - Lyon, France - Halle Tony Garnier
Wed 29th Jan - Barcelona, Spain - St Jordi Club
Fri 31st Jan - Madrid, Spain - Wizink Center
Sat 1st Feb - Porto, Portugal - Gondomar Pavilion
Sun 2nd Feb - Lisbon, Portugal - Campo Pequeno
Wed 5th Feb - Ludwigsburg, Germany - MHP Arena
Thu 6th Feb - Frankfurt, Germany - Jahrhunderthalle
Sat 8th Feb - Budapest, Hungary - Arena
Sun 9th Feb - Munich, Germany - Zenith
Tue 11th Feb - Rome, Italy - Palazzo dello Sport
Wed 12th Feb - Milan, Italy - Mediolanum Forum
Fri 14th Feb - Zurich, Switzerland - Samsung Hall
Sat 15th Feb - Prague, Czech Republic - Tipsport Arena
Sun 16th Feb - Wroclaw, Poland - Orbita Hall
Tue 18th Feb - Hannover, Germany - Swizz Life
Fri 21st Feb - London, England - Eventim Apollo
Sun 23rd Feb - Glasgow, Scotland - SEC Armadill