On producing DREAM THEATER albums himself and whether he favors the guitar over other instruments:
John: “I’ve always said this and people think I’m biased because I’m a guitar player, but the sound of the guitar in a band, we’ll generally say a ‘rock band,’ kind of determines the style of the music. That’s my opinion. A simple example of that is if you’re playing with a cleaner sound and you’re playing prog and it’s, like, ‘This has a ’70s U.K. prog kind of thing.’ If you are playing a style and it’s more rock and roll and more just… I don’t know — where the guitar is more organic, not as heavy, but just maybe a bit overdriven, with a gritty sound and goes in that direction, whatever: rockabilly, anything. For me, I go for more of a metal sound. I play six and seven-string guitar and I de-tune the guitar. I play through my signature [Mesa] Boogie which is that big Mark II sound, which is very heavy. I go for the sound as far as the pickups and the wood and everything that gives this big, percussive, METALLICA-heavy thing. Therefore, DREAM THEATER sounds like, we’re a prog metal band. That’s the direction the guitar pushes the music in. As a producer, wearing that hat for a second, I want the guitar to have this really powerful, percussive, heavy, aggressive sound. That’s going to push the sound of the record ultimately.”
On whether he feels like he needs to write music that is technically hard in order to please DREAM THEATER‘s audience:
John: “Here’s the thing: I know that a lot of listeners who appreciate DREAM THEATER music like that aspect of our music, but the important thing to note that it comes from a genuine and natural place. Before we were ever signed or anything, when we got together, that’s the kind of music we just wrote. We liked that kind of music. All the guys in the band continue to push themselves technically and it’s fun. It’s kind of like driving a fast car. It’s just a lot of fun to do, to challenge each other and make music that not all the time, but sometimes is kind of complex and over the top. It creates a lot of tension and a lot of drama to the music when you do it right. We understand there’s a contingent of DREAM THEATER fans that really like that side of us. But we like that side of us. That’s where it comes from. It comes from a natural place. I think the important thing is when writing, it has to be very genuine. If you start to write for other reasons and other people or to satisfy this, I don’t think that’s the right way to go.”
On the situations where he’s come up with his best material:
John: “It’s all different. The funny thing is that sometimes music just hits you. ‘Oh my god. I have to play this!’ Sometimes it comes when you’re fooling around with a piece of gear, which is why I’m such a gear nerd and I love amps and guitars and trying new pickups and things. You just get inspired by the instrument and by the craft, just the love of guitar and the love of gear. Sometimes, in a bunch of different places, inspires really cool riffs and chord progressions, whatever. Sometimes it’s from a massive lack of sleep. When you’re traveling and you have super jet-lag and you’re in Australia and in some weird dream state and all of the sudden, all this music pours in. Sometimes it’s from being with great musicians. All the guys in the band are super, super creative. They’re always generous. The way we interact together, there’s a lot of chemistry, there’s a synergy when we write. We’re all smiling and having fun.”
DREAM THEATER‘s 14th studio album, “Distance Over Time”, will be released on February 22. The disc, which marks the first for the band’s new label InsideOut Music, was produced by Petrucci, mixed by Ben Grosse and mastered by Tom Baker.