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Last Updated :
September 21, 2008

Heavens Metal Dream Theater Picture

What Dream Theater Sez

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This issue our "What So And So Sez" column brings us to Dream Theater, who have been moving up the charts since their single "Pull Me Under" broke last Fall. Tune in as drummer Mike Portnoy tells us about his progressive band, Dream Theater
How did you get the hot drum sound on "IMAGES AND WORDS?
Uh, I don´t know," laughs Mike Portnoy. ´that was basically our producer, David Prader. He´s a drummer himself and one of his specialties is drumming. He´s really into tweaking the drums and stuff. Actually, he ended up triggering a lot of the sounds and stuff, which I´m not real crazy about. That was his doing and he sort of insisted on it I think the drum sounds are really big, but they´re also big when they´re not supposed to be big. I can´t complain I´m pretty happy with the album I like performing it in general.
Which part of a Dream Theater song do you enjoy playing the most the ballad portion or the rockin´ part?
Definitely the heavy parts. All the fast double bass, the metal heavy crunching stuff-that´s where I´m coming from. The slow stuff and the simple stuff gives you a little breather,but I really like to thrash out. I´m coming mere from a heavy background more than anybody else in the band I really like the aggressive stuff
HOW does it feel to be breaking right now?
It´s definitely a dream come true. I mean, I can´t believe that it´s May and we've still on tour. We started in September. I never would´ve dreamed that we would´ve been touring this long. It´s now been 8 months on tour and we´ve got about another five or six ahead of us. It´s way beyond my expectations. It´s really cool We´re just constantly touring, the record keeps selling and more and more people know about it. It´s just great. It´s everything we could´ve imagined.
Tell me how Dream Theater came to be.
Basically, about 8 years ago, back in 1985, I met John (Petrucci) and John (Myung), the guitar and bass player, at the Berkeley College of Music in Boston. They went up there together and I went up there on my own and I met them up there and we pretty much put the band together the first week of school. We spent the whole year up in Berkeley working, writing, just playing together and getting to know each other. Then, after a year up there, we decided to head home and really pursue the career. We all happened to live in Long Island, New York, so we went home and joined back up with Kevin Moore our keyboard player, who actually grew up with John arid John. Basically, we put the band together back then and took it from there and though years and years of ups and downs between then and now
It´s interesting how most all progressive bands have lyrics that are progressive as well, as far as thought provoking and bordering on the spiritual. Why do you think that is?
Well, I know in the case with us. It would be stupid to put so much time and thought into the music and just do the lyrics half-{bleep}. It´s important that it all makes sense together and it works together. Everybody in this band has a different approach to their writing, but for the most part, everybody wants to write something that´s meaningful and definitely not cliché. Like I said, when it comes to lyrics we want to stay away from all the clichés and all the obvious roads that every band has traveled down already. It just has to do with everybody's personal ideas about lyrics and everybody takes turns in writing the lyrics.
Does Dream Theater have any stated goals for its art?
With our music, we just want to constantly break down any boundaries within ourselves. We don´t want to have to confine to any rule books or any styles that have already been conquered by some of the other bands. We want to explore different areas and incorporate all the different influences that we have personally At the end of the day we all go. home and listen to different music, so its great that we were able to bring it into the band and incorporate it all. Those are our goals musically. As far as long-term goals, the fact that we´ve been out on tour all this time and we've been able to do videos and record records and everything and have an audience that´s willing to listen to it and enjoy listening to it, as long as that cant continue, that´s all we could ever ask for. It´s a dream come true for us.
Some of the lyrics here on "IMAGES AND WORDS" echo my beliefs concerning the spiritual realm, like: "Once was lost but I was found . . . I sent he spirits tumbling down the hill, but I will hold this one on high above me still."("Surrounded") and "Night awaits the lamb´s arrival/ the bride subsides to her survival."("Under a Glass Moon") What is your outlook on the spiritual world?
Well your probably asking the wrong person, because I´m the least spiritual person in the band. The first lyrics you quoted - those are Kev´s. I really feel that Kev has written the most spiritual lyrics in the band. He really is very inspired by religion and the spirit and things like that, so I think those influences really reflect in his lyrics. The second one that you quoted was John Petrucci's lyrics. He usually writes from more of a fictional background or a poetic background, so I think he was just playing with those words for poetic value. I think the entire song "Under a Glass Moon" is almost fictional. It´s about idolizing the moon and people that really do stuff like that. I don´t know
"The fact that you can affect somebody's
life is pretty incredible"
How does it feel for you to support as a drummer lyrics that are spiritual?
Well, everything that´s written in this band is coming from the band as is generally something that we all feel. That´s one good thing and one bad thing about this band; everyone got an equal say and an equal opportunity to include themselves in the writing and anything else to do with the band. It´s great, because everybody able to contribute musically and lyrically. The bad thing is that usually everything has to go through everyone else´s approval before it´s put out or anything like that. It can create a lot of arguments. That´s one of the things about working in a band, especially in a band like this, where there´s five people that are all creatively involved. Everybody gotta give an and take a little bit and make compromises.
Who do you think that Jesus Christ is?
Whoa, uh, this is a question for Kev," laughs Mike ´The song ´Pull Me Under is loosely based on the life of Jesus Christ, as well as loosely based on Shakespeare´s ´Hamlet´ It sort of combines the two stories. He´s got a pretty strong outlook on that question. I tend to go with the general consensus that he is God or was God or whatever. I´m not a very religious person, but I do believe in God and I believe in Jesus Christ. To be honest, I ´ve never been a very religious person, so thats another question that I couldn't answer from the bottom of my heart.
What are your reasons for "not being religious"?
I don`t know. I believe in what I believe and I don´t like being preached to and having to believe in what a man believes in. Not that I disagree with what religion has to offer, but I like to get on with my life and take the road that I take. Like I said, you´re asking the wrong person.
One of the things I do with Heaven´s Metal. ..It´s a magazine that covers predominantly the Christian music realm, but I also interview other bands that don´t necessarily fit into that realm, just to kind of see where they´re coming from and to kind of get some feedback going both ways to kind of share philosophies and what not.
I´m sure you could strike an interesting conversation with Kevin. He´s got a strong outlook on that kind of stuff.
What kind of response do you get from your fans concerning your lyrics
Generally, they all really appreciate them. I think they appreciate the fact that they´re not typically written with clichés and stuff. Most people over analyze ´em, even more than they´re supposed to. A lot of people. really dig into the lyrics and the music. Our fans seem to be the type of fans that are very devoted and very obsessive. They really dig into the music and the lyrics and tear it apart and analyze it and memorize them. The fans seem to really appreciate where were coming from. Where we go we´re finding that people are getting what we´re doing, which is good, because some bands like us can go over some people´s heads. It´s really cool to see that people have taken the time to dig into this music, because it does take a lot of listening to really get it. The audience seems to be getting it.
What´s been the highlight of your last few months of touring?
Well, the fact that we´re playing bigger places is really cool, but as far as a highlight goes, we just got back from Europe. Surely that was a highlight of the tour, playing in a lot of different countries and stuff like that. Going over there and playing a show in Holland or Italy, where you have thousands of people and tvs a sold out show and you´re in the middle of nowhere. . It´s pretty incredible
How do you feel about touring with the Galactic Cowboys?
lt´s great. I think it´s a great bill. I think those guys are a great band to be out with us. I think the music is really compatible. As far as personalities, we get along great with them. We have a great time. I think it´s a great match-up. I think our audience will really appreciate them and vice-versa. I think it´s really a good bill. I look forward to being out with them all summer. Plus it´s great, because they´re gonna help us out with our background vocals. Tonight we´re going to do a live broadcast and they´re gonna come out and do some back-ups for us.
Getting back to Jesus Christ and His claims, have you ever gotten into a dialogue with somebody about the claims that He made about His life; you know, being God in the flesh and the Only Way to the Father? A lot of people take lose claims to be claims over their own lives, you know, as far as individually. "If God´s Who He says He is, then I basically willingly become His servant or bondslave." I can see being turned off to mass religious, but how does that fit into your philosophy about your personal relationship with God or feelings about Him?
Well, I personally believe in God. Actually, every night when we get on the tour bus and, before I fall asleep, I get into my bunk and I thank him. I pray to God for helping make my dreams come true with the band and everything. I believe that there´s always that guiding force looking over us, helping us achieve. What, we´ve worked so hard for. So, I appreciate that
That´s real cool. Do you think that some of your lyrics could possibly serve a purpose, like make people think about God´?
I think so, yeah. Actually, a lot of people come to the shows and tell us about how our lyrics have changed their lives and stuff. We´ve met some people that were on the verge of suicide. We met one person that was on the verge of suicide and the song Another Day helped him be strong and carry on and live another day. I think all the lyrics on our album really are trying to make people take negative situations that truly confront us in this world and taking those situations and make people look them straight in the eye and become stronger for that and try to be as optimistic as possible, even in face of desperate situations. I thank a lot of people are getting that. ´The song ´Another Day´ is about somebody who´s dying, but has to be strong and carry on. Actually, the scenario from the song is about a father-son relationship, where the father has a disease or some sort of incurable sickness and, at first the father tells his son of his ailment and the son loses it and starts crying and is not strong enough to be able to handle it aid his father helps him face up to it and find the strength to live with it. Later on in the song, the tables turn and the father is on his deathbed or whatever in the hospital and the son is having to make his father find the strength to carry on and to live another day. That´s one scenario from one set of lyrics that really shows how the lyrics are trying to show people dealing with problems and coping and tying to be as strong as possible. I think people get it,ya know. A lot of people hove told us that our lyrics mean a lot to them and changed their lives and staff When somebody says something like that to you, that makes it all worth it, the fact that you can affect somebody´s life is pretty incredible
That was going to be my next question - ´How does it make you feel
It´s just incredible. It´s the biggest reward we can get, because it´s actually meaning something to somebody. That´s the whole reason we´re an artist is to try to do something that not only pleases us, but that somebody else can get some enjoyment or get something out of. So, when somebody does appreciate something to that level then it makes it all worth it. It´s a great reward.
That´s cool, especially in a day when there´s still bands out there doing cliché- type lyrics, where they seem not to take responsibility for their lyrics, like a ´go kill yourself´ type song; and then somebody goes and does it and they´re like, "Well, it´s not my fault."
Thats´s irresponsible, because the writers have a responsibility to their listener, to be aware of what they´re writing, because sometimes it´s very influential.
It´s really cool to see a band be aware of that responsibility and take that. I really appreciate you guys doing that.
Thank You.
What are your feelings about bands that are in the Christian heavy metal realm, like a Stryper
I think it´s cool. I think any band should be able to say whatever they want. It should be done responsibly. A band like Stryper, or any other Christian rock band or whatever, I think it´s great because they are writing about what they believe in I wouldn´t say preaching. If that can have the effect like I was just talking about, where it really effects somebody and makes them think and turns their life around - that´s great. I think everybody has the right to write about what they believe in. I think it´s cool that bands can come out and do that.


Dream Theater - Under A Cyber Moon

Last Updated : September 21, 2008