Interview by Ben Hosking
Post Progressive Metal masters Dream Theater are returning to Australia in October 2014 to perform a number of intimate shows and it’s with great pleasure that Life Music Media spoke with Dream Theater keybordist Jordan Rudess ahead of the tour.
With a career spanning 30 years, how does the band stay motivated?
It’s not hard, we love what we do. Music is our lives and what we think about pretty much all of the time so playing it together is fun and when we go out we play concerts which is really cool because the audiences are generally great and it keeps the fun alive.
Who were some of your early influences?
Well, lets see, I would say classical pianists. When I was really young I went to Juilliard (School Of Music) and was going to literally be going down the path of classical piano. It was when I was about 17 or 18 I started to discover some of the Rock kind of things and people were turning me on to a lot of the progressive rock. From there my biggest influences are groups like Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd, that kind of stuff.
What was your parents reaction when you “went off the rails”, so to speak?
My mother was horrified. she would say “you used to play Chopin so beautifully and now look at you… what happened?” She really wasn’t happy at all. It wasn’t until many many years later that she realised that I had this career and hadn’t necessarily given up all the things that I had learned. At that point she was happy that I managed to make a living and be a happy musician. But at first she was absolutely upset because she had spent a lot of time driving me to Juilliard and all the piano lessons.
I guess some may say you’ve had more chance and ultimately had more success in the Rock realm than you may have done in classical?
Well there are certainly a lot more opportunities in the world that I’m in now with synthesizers and all the tools that exist. In the classical world it’s very hard for Classical graduates to get jobs and most will end up teaching, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but if they think they will certainly have a career performing it’s not necessarily going to happen.
Was the more technical element of the synthesizer something that appealed to you early on?
Yeah, I’ve always been into that ever since I started, I really got turned onto the instruments, the synthesizers. I can vividly remember the instruments my high school buddies brought over to my house to try and scare me into that direction… it was an old Moog Sonic 5 synthesizer and I totally fell in love with that whole kind of thing. I got myself a Minimoog and learnt it inside out and joined a space band playing all kinds of wacky stuff on the synthesizer and to this day, as you said, I’m into the electronics and what makes these things tick.
Are there any bands that appeal to you today and drive your inspiration?
There is a band that I’ve been listening to a fair bit. They’re in the prog-metal genre. A little less metal than Dream Theater. The group is called Haken. They are making an impact and they have an EP coming out called “Restoration”.
And how do you find out about new music these days?
In different ways. You know there’s so many ways to learn about music. Some of my friends will tell me “oh, you gotta check out this band”… sometimes I’ll do it through iTunes or related searches. I haven’t as much time to look at new music as in the past cause I’m into my technology but do enjoy some of the applications that allow you to kinda find out about new music, they’re helpful.
Dream Theater is credited by many as the modern saviours of prog and you’ve enjoyed a significant level of success for such a challenging genre as far as the masses are concerned. It must be pretty gratifying?
You know it really is and I’m very aware of how unusual it is as well and lately people have been asking me why do I think it’s happening. I like to point out that I think what the difference is, is that Dream Theater is really interested in and not afraid of melody and heart and emotion. Yes we get technical and virtuosic and intense but at the same time you know one of the reasons I think we have the career we do is because people sing along with our melodies and that is one of the things we truly care about, so I think that makes a big difference.
Do you find with so much talent in one band that sometimes you step on each others toes when in the writing process or jamming?
The divisions are very clear as to who does what. You know everyone has their specialty and we’re sensitive to who we are and what we are. We’ve been together long enough that we know how to stay away from each others space. What’s really cool actually, when I think about it, is that even in the writing of the last couple of albums, there has been this new found patience within the group. For example, if John Petrucci writes a nice melodic line on guitar and I think, you know what? I absolutely like that, but let me add some kind of chordal thing to it, everyone will give some space and I’ll get out a pencil and paper and literally write down what John was playing and then I’ll work out something that’s really composed, not just so much off the cuff or improvised. It’s cool cause the others will sit back with their headphones on until I emerge and say “guys, let’s try this” and we’ll continue to work together on it. Which is the reason I think we can do things like “Illumination Theory” where the music gets a little bit involved and classical and kind of intricate.
You’ve got two Australian shows coming up at the end of the month, what can fans expect from that?
You know we’ve been travelling around the world now on this world tour for a while and we’ve been showing off our three hour experience show and in my humble opinion I think it’s probably the best Dream Theater show we’ve ever done. So the fans that know us are going to be in for a real treat because there’s so much music and a lot of the older music like “Awake” and “Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory” but also a good amount from the new albums, so there’s enough music to please any Dream Theater fan. There’s also a lot of visuals and cool stage design stuff going on.
For anybody that hasn’t seen us, it’s probably a great time to see us because it’s probably the grandest Dream Theater concert we’ve ever put on.
Three hours is a killer, do you have some kind of fitness regime to keep the stamina for that length of show?
It’s definitely intense playing for that long. It’s funny we call the tour the “Along For The Ride” tour and it really is a ride. I’ll go on stage and start playing and then I’ll think “whoa, there a lot more to go here” so you’ve really got to pace yourself (laughs).
Thanks very much for your time and we look forward to seeing you soon
You’re welcome, thank you.
Click Here for 2014 Australian Tour Dates and details.
Click Here to read our Live Review | Dream Theater @ Brisbane Convention Centre 3 December 2009 with Pain of Salvation