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This article was originally published in issue #63
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For the first time in two decades, the bandmates lived, wrote and recorded together over a four-month period at the secluded, five-acre Yonderbarn studios in Monticello, NY.
Since the birth of his career in 1984, John Petrucci has continuously garnered the respect of metalheads, fellow musicians, and even musical theorists. A founding member of the progressive-metal outfit, Dream Theater, Petrucci’s meritorious guitar skill has earned him several distinctions.
In 2009, Petrucci was ranked 2nd in Joel McIver’s book, The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists. Additionally, GuitarOne Magazine ranked him among the “Top 10 Greatest Guitar Shredders of All Time,” and, in 2012, he was also ranked as the 17th greatest guitarists of all time by a poll in Guitar World Magazine. With an objectively impressive musical career that is still growing after over 30 years and over a dozen albums, these distinctions are certainly not unwarranted.
Petrucci has since become one of the highest regarded influencers in the guitar-playing community across the world – he’s released an instructional series called Rock Discipline, which teaches both basic developmental material and his signature alternate picking and sweeping techniques, and published a book of compiled Guitar World Magazine columns he wrote titled, “Guitar World presents John Petrucci’s Wild Stringdom.” Not to mention, Petrucci has toured alongside Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Steve Morse, and Paul Gilbert on the wildly popular G3 Guitar Tour on several occasions.
In addition to composing and performing Dream Theater’s music, he also co-produced each album spanning from Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From a Memory (1999) to Black Clouds and Silver Linings (2009), and has independently produced all of Dream Theater’s albums after 2010.
Formed in 1985 at the Berklee College of Music in Massachusetts by Petrucci, alongside Mike Portnoy (drums) and John Myung (bass), Dream Theater in its earliest form sought to pay homage to the illustrious mathy/progressive foundation established by contemporaries such as Rush and Yes. In fact, according to the documentary The Score So Far…, the band got its original name (Majesty) after listening to Rush’s “Bastille Day” while waiting to buy tickets in a Rush concert. While Dream Theater drew their early inspiration from these bands, they essentially expanded on that original foundation into their own brand of progressive rock, blending elements of hard rock and heavy metal with the not-so-subtle intricacies of odd-metered music and complex instrumentation.
While most bands with careers spanning over 30 years would have called it quits by this point, these prog-rock vets are scheduled to release their 14th studio album, Distance Over Time, on February 22, 2019. While Dream Theater is no stranger to pushing the envelope when it comes to ‘their sound,’ (take any two Dream Theater albums and listen to them in succession for example), this release will be no exception. According to Petrucci, Distance Over Time will collectively be one of the band’s heaviest and most ‘aggressive’ efforts so far.
For the first time in two decades, the bandmates lived, wrote and recorded together over a four-month period at the secluded, five-acre Yonderbarn studios in Monticello, NY. They all moved into the property’s country-house where they shared memories, took turns manning the BBQ and fortifying lifelong friendships as the music happened organically and spontaneously throughout the summer in the beautifully converted barn only footsteps away.
“Of course we’ve written many records together, but we’ll traditionally move into a studio to track the record and during that time everybody either commutes or stays in a hotel,” says Petrucci. “This time around we approached things differently; up at Yonderbarn, there were no distractions so we were able to just focus on being creative, spending twelve-to-fourteen hours a day working while also having fun in between the writing sessions. We’d take turns cooking for each other like brothers in a firehouse and since it was summertime, the upstate New York weather was beautiful. There’s something about jamming and writing as a unit while you’re bonding, eating, drinking bourbon and just hanging out that helps infuse the music with a special feeling and a raw, palpable energy.”
The most recent single, "Untethered Angel," indicates both a heavier shift sonically and a more concise alternative to the band’s previous release in 2016, The Astonishing, which was a whopping 34-track concept album that featured a choir and no shortage of theatrical musings. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Petrucci explained that the reason for this shift was, at its core, a “desire to look at each record as a clean slate and do something different in the spirit of creativity.”
“I mean, The Astonishing, was certainly different. It was a huge conceptual piece that encompassed two-and-a-half hours of music, and took three years between writing a story and writing the songs,” he said. “It was more like, ‘OK, we did that. Now let’s do something different.”
However, Petrucci also explained that it was the different method in which the record was created that ultimately contributes to this overall shift.
“A lot of it was due to the fact that we wanted to take a more organic approach to the recording process, and create a situation where you had all the instruments blaring together in a rehearsal room-type setting,” he explained. “And I think when you do that, it lends itself to creating heavier music… Everybody is interacting with one another musically. And that makes for a more powerful album.”
“At the same time, we also knew we wanted to do a bit of a shorter record, with more concise songs. We didn’t want to have three songs on the album,” he added. “We wanted to have a bunch. So we kept it all very tight and focused.”
Following the release of 'Distance Over Time' in late February, Dream Theater is set to tour the United States and Mexico March - May, and will tour across Europe June – July.
'Distance Over Time' tracklist:
Dream Theater - 2019 Tour Dates:
March 20 – San Diego, CA – Balboa Theatre
March 21 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern
March 22 – Los Angeles, CA – The Wiltern
March 24 – San Francisco, CA – The Masonic
March 26 – Denver, CO – Paramount Theatre
March 28 – St. Paul, MN – The Ordway
March 29 – Chicago, IL – The Chicago Theatre
March 31 – Milwaukee, WI – Miller Theater
April 02 – Detroit, MI – The Fillmore Detroit
April 04 – Toronto, ON – Sony Centre
April 05 – Montreal, QC – Place Des Arts – Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier
April 06 – Quebec City, QC – Theatre Capitole-Cabaret Du
April 08 – Boston, MA – Orpheum Theatre
April 09 – Oakdale, CT – Toyota Presents Oakdale
April 10 – Red Bank, NJ – Count Basie Center for the Arts
April 12 – New York, NY – Beacon Theatre
April 13 – Upper Darby, PA – Tower Theater
April 15 – Washington, D.C. – Warner Theatre
April 17 – Nashville, TN – TPAC
April 22 – Charlotte, NC – Ovens Auditorium
April 23 – Atlanta, GA – Tabernacle
April 26 – St. Petersburg, FL – Mahaffey Theater
April 27 – Jacksonville, FL – Moran Theater
April 29 – Dallas, TX – The Bomb Factory
April 30 – Houston, TX – Revention Music Center
May 01 – Austin, TX – Bass Concert Hall
May 04 – Mexico City, Mexico – Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez
June 10 – Спб, Russia – A2 Green Concert
June 11 – Москва, Russia – Adrenaline Stadium
June 13 – Firenze, Italy – Firenze Rocks
June 15 – Oberhausen, Germany – Turbinenhalle
June 16 – Castle Donington, United Kingdom – Download Festival
June 17 – Esch-sur-alzette, Luxembourg – Rockhal
June 19 – Brynäs, Sweden – Gasklockorna Gavle
June 21 – Clisson, France – Hellfest Open Air Festival
June 29 – Ekeberg, Norway – Tons Of Rock Festival
June 30 – Aarhus, Denmark – Store Sal Musikhuset
July 02 – Montreal, QC – Athens, Greece – Alsos Theater
July 03 – Sofia, Bulgaria – National Palace of Culture, Hall 1
July 05 – Villafranca Di Verona, Italy – Rock The Castle
July 07 – Santa Coloma De Gramenet, Spain – Rock Fest Barcelona
July 12 – Saint-julien-en-genevois, France – Festival Guitare en scène
July 13 – Warsaw, Poland – Prog in Park
July 14 – Vizovice, Czech Republic – Masters of Rock 2019
July 16 – Bratislava, Slovakia – Aegon Arena NTC
July 20 – Mz, Germany – Zitadelle
July 21 – Winterbach, Germany – Zeltspektakel
July 24 – Tolmin, Slovenia – Metaldays
July 26 – Sibiu, Romania – ARTmania Festival 2018