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Articulate and precise wit h speed to burn, he slashed a lonely trail through the barren wasteland that was the post grunge era and lived to tell about it. From his very first note, he ha d captured the ears of serious rivals and shred fans alike and he continues to t his day to dazzle and inspire. Let s learn a little bit more about the man known as the human metronome, who grac iously took the time to chat with us during the recent G3 tour of America. John called from sunny Las Vegas to be precise. A Brief History John was raised in Kings Park Long Island, a suburban bedroom community not that far from New York City the Big Apple. Future musical colleagues John Myung & Ke vin Moore also grew up there, and the boys all attended school together. He was inspired by several highly technical influences very early on and those helped d evelop his steadfast determination to become like his idols. Some of those early influences included Yngwie Malmsteen, Randy Rhoads, Iron Maiden, Stevie Ray Vau ghan, as well as the prog rock stylings of Yes and particularly Rush. As the ris e of thrash and darker metal hit the musical community, John started listening t o the likes of Metallica and Queensryche. Despite loving this heavy music, he st ill needed the technical challenge of learning works by artists like Morse, Vai, Holdsworth and Al DiMeola. He also enjoyed the jazz work of Mr. s Stern and Scofi eld. In the popular rock area he also listened to Satriani, Schon and of course Eddie Van Halen. John Petrucci John started to take music very seriously with a music theory class he took in h igh school. He continued to be mostly self taught, but did take a few lessons pr ior to enrolling at Berklee. While at Berklee John and John Myung met Mike Portn oy and started a band called Majesty which would later develop into the first rk of Dream Theater. To date John has recorded 8 albums with Dream Theater, and ha s also been involved in several side projects including Liquid Tension Experimen t with Tony Levin, Age of Impact and even a Sega Saturn game called Necronomicon . Last year he released his first solo record Suspended Animation John lives with hi s wife, Rena, and 3 children, Sami Jo, Reny and Kiara in New York City. The new Dream Theater album Systematic Chaos will be released later this month. The Early Days And Formative Influences These questions, and there are a lot of them to get through in our short time, a re a collaborative effort from the boys at alloutGUITAR. If any particular quest ion seems really stupid, it is NOT mine ok?! Right . The first question is my own a truly burning question and one I am very proud of. I have in fact been waiting years for just this opportunity to pose it! Many year s ago, live at the Marquee you performed an awesome instrumental called Bombay Vi ndaloo remember it? Sure!! So, any truth to the rumour that the album d from that vindaloo? WTF?! Never mind, lets move on Oh I get it now that s pretty funny! Did you grow up in a particularly musical family or environment? The environment was musical but the family was not really. I had an older sister that played a little bit of keyboards but that was it. My brother followed in m Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence resulte
and started listening to stuff that was way more acc omplished. what y of the teens had garage bands that actually practiced oors open.y footsteps a bit but chose bass. I started watching and listening more and more closely and of course eventually figured all that stuff out and then concentrated more on technique. but he is my land. So I guess it is kind tar. There were so many incarnations of the various local bands. Lat er on it was Yngwie. probably around high school age. totally self taught. I h So I stopped and it probably wasn t until I was about twelve that I reall to play again. There was a particular solo I taped from the King Biscuit radio hour a Randy Rhoads solo I used to play every single day before heading off to school. one of my all-time favourite albums. in the land of rock! And along the way Eddie must have hit you hard to? Absolutely. school bands. particularly from a composit ional point of view in progressive rock and particularly Rush? Oh yeah totally! Another bunch of friends were totally Rush heads. at what age? Pretty early on don t remember exactly but as I said I was in the neighborhood for it. c hurch bands party bands etc. A friend loved the Dregs and played me the live album and of course The Bash . for me it was in fact Mr. Another friend turned me on t o DiMeola s Casino and that is to this day. When I first heard Alcatraz it was like ok here is a guy pl aying all that super fast super technical cool stuff. plus all these different influences around too. in the beginning I remember being frustrated at not being able to swit ch chords quickly. I listened to that and did not think that that was possib le on the guitar to play that fast and that clean. John Petrucci At that same time were you developing any interest. started again at twelve did you gets lessons or learn on your own? Nah. And so when was the first band experience. I particularl y remember being introduced to the song The Trees I just fell in love with all tha t stuff. But in my suburban neighborhood (Long Island. Who was the first player to really knock you back on your ass. thank God for my wide circle of fri ends into so much different music!!! How about all the neoclassical stuff that followed YJM on Shrapnel did that have . When did you first develop an interest in theory and did you see it as a necessi ty? As I got better and better. Looking back. Were you happy with your early learning and rate of progress? Was it fairly natu ral for you? You know. DiMeola? For me it was Steve Morse. I learned from records and remember the feeling of having no clue what those guys were doing. Yes was another band. guy s that were into blues. those early lessons were not inspirational. Vai and Scofield and that quest ultimately led me to Berklee. nine I started with some lessons on a cheap little acoustic guitar. Also Randy Rhoads those first two Blizzard albums. others into rock etc. I started to feel the necessity to e xplore all that. y wanted When you of weird that I play gui a spawning ground!!) man in the garage with the d the action. the first two albums in particular were a big influence. Particularly if I wanted to follow the realm of the greats like DiMeola. crisply and noiselessly. That was what first inspired me to get in on When did you actually start? John Petrucci At about ated it.
Once I started though. Did you ever have any interest to gig traditional jazz stuff? No! What do you consider to be your first gig in a somewhat professional realm? It s hard to say because when Dream Theater formed we really did not gig a lot. but shows came much later. I developed a tenacity that I was really made for thi s. I can make a career out of this music th ing! ? I was always even from high school really focused almost with a tunnel vision th at I was going to do this. We did not tour until 1992 s Images and Wor ds What specifically drew you Berklee instead of say GIT or others? It was the guys who went there particularly DiMeola. I was introduced to the Berklee books. Vai and Scofield. that we de cided we wanted to do that full time: and school was not going to leave us enoug h time to accomplish all of that.a lot of impact? Actually for me it was even well before all that because I had started out Morse and DiMeola in high school and by say 86 I was already at Berklee. Did you ever play in the cover band circuit or as you mentioned earlier were you more focused on developing and practicing your own music? . Did you ever do an extended period of teaching yourself? Yes. after Berklee. First in a music store and later in my own home. John. Why the choice to leave Berklee? What were the immediate plans at that time? Well. but that was really cl assical theory. Before the band became successful that is basically what I did for money. Tony Macalpine and Vinnie Moore? Of course I listened to that stuff and totally inspiring too! And you coming from the breeding ground of Long Island were you also aware e local shredders say Romeo. Mike and I were practicing so much and writing music etc. Other than meeting those guys and others what did you take away from the Berklee experience? Did you discover other genres or players of influence? Probably jazz fusion and particularly Alan Holdsworth but I would also say it de finitely helped me better know my way around my instrument of choice and in part icular chord melody. I once asked another Long Island shredder why he thought so many great guitarist s were spawned in the urban sprawl of the Big Apple what is your take? What was really cool was that living in the suburbs the folks there were really open to all sorts of music progressive fusion etc. John Petrucci At what point did you really think: Hey. Stephen Ross.. We practiced all the time. Getting Serious Had you started working on jazz standards earlier or did that start with going t o Berklee? Nah. that started at Berklee but prior to starting I did bone up so to speak on theory etc because I was self taught up until that point. but of course once I heard those guys they too were inspiring. I would even say not until l ong after our first album was released. Vai and Satch? with but hey it was of th Not really.
Yeah we did so much demoing and practicing in that year and a half that things d id leap forward. Do you remember how well that first album was received and how many units it may have moved? Nah probably not too many units sold but I remember it did garner a lot of criti cal praise and we thought that that was really cool. We were working very hard and it was truly a second j ob with lofty goals. How did you land that oh so elusive first record deal? Basically with having a lot of demos and a lot of leg work. Remember we were not out gigging clubs so we had to draw the interest inwards. a UK based rock print mag. And so when did you realize you had a hit on your hands with Images and Words at t he time of release or even earlier? No we were happy with the recording but because the songs were long and progress ive we had no inkling that it would be so well accepted. go gold and give us a r ock hit especially since Nirvana was just coming out. It was also just a natural maturing process as people. So now you obviously started touring. get the next record happening and we felt he just did not fit in. our Editor at alloutGUITAR. I still have DiM arzio and Mesa Boogie which were amongst the first as well.Yeah we were totally focused on that: our own music -practicing together several nights a week. He basically answered an ad. Were any new influences impacting your work during that time or was it the evolv ing group work? John Petrucci Definitely the group work. How did you meet Derek Oliver and how did the second record deal come about? He actually wrote a review on us in a rock magazine. he was much older and so we asked him to leave. Do you remember those early tours and whic h artists were good or evil to/with you guys the young upstarts? . How did you first hook up with Charles Dominici? Through auditioning. The First Album And Into The 90 s Owen. to me a light year jump both compositio nally but also in your playing. How long afterwards did things start to fall apart with Charles? We wanted to take things to the next level. maybe Kerrang and then he j oined ATCO in the A&R department and of course Derek Shulman was the President a t that time. tryouts etc with man y others. So now we arrive at Mark II of the band. Was your first endorsement deal around this time and who was it? Yes around that time and probably Ibanez if I recall correctly. bought that very first album based on a great review you guys got in Raw. Too bad it had no tour. the total opposite really of what we were all about. writers and musicians. Did you have a hard time finding a replacement? There was a long time between th e first and second records? Yeah we spent about a year and a half with countless demos. mar keting or label support.
Other than the obvious. not at all. Now we reach Awake in 1994 to me a darker more organic album and production. We actually did a lot of one off stuff in smaller clubs as well. we were so focused on our own path and developing a fan base around the world. That experience planted the seed of the idea of Wow! How great would thi s guy be in Dream Theater?! Of course it was also awesome to work with a magical musician like Tony Levin. I did not do any of the writing on that and basically had a day to add the solos to the work that s all. right away. in fact Jordan Ruddess did that gig (_Editors Note: The Ronnie Scott gig we presume _). any plans for another? Thanks! And yes I definitely will. How long did it take to adapt that into your work. how did the addition of Jordan change the way Scenes From . We only had a week to put that whole album together bu t it flowed very naturally.We did not do a lot of support touring and I particularly remember Maiden and Ma rillion. considered by many to be one of t he very best out there. I remember getting it and writing The Mirror immediately. Around 1996 you made your instructional video. a seven string? Immediately. Next was Change of Seasons and with that came all the famous Ronnie Scott jazz cl ub shows. We even played a few shows afterwards because the vi be was so good. Some of my very favorite work of yours was on Age of Impact can you tell us much a bout that? Well. h3 Do you remember how sales were? We were now of course hard into the grunge er a and the resultant backlash against anything progressive or vaguely technical It did not really affect us. Your Wild Stringdom compilation book came out a few years later I had just done so many articles that at one point it was decided to compile the m into a book. We had word of mouth out. Over in the UK there were rumors that you were in talks with current Deep Purple keyboardist Don Airey any truth to these? No. I also got my first seven string guitar and the heavier bottom end. How and why did you decide to do all those cover shows? It has always just been a part of what was fun for us and to this day we still d o that stuff for fun. In the late 90 s we have the first Liquid Tension Experiment project. and that is how we in fact found D erek (_Sherinian_) I got a call from guitarist Al Pitrelli about him. but he did nt end up in the band at that time. Do yo u agree and was that what you were after? Well suddenly we were in a position of having to crank out an album in four mont hs as opposed to a year and a half. when Pu ll Me Under became a hit the clubs got fuller and we were asked to perform at mor e of them so it was a natural progression. What was the genesis of that project? Well that was on Magna Carta and was in fact the first time we got to write with Jordan. It breaks things up and makes things more interesting for us you know. When Kevin Moore left how did you go about finding your next keyboard player? Well we were sort of in a rush because we were in the middle of recording and we in fact also had an important gig at that time.
Do you see the album Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence as a bridge between the bands more overtly progressive and conceptual work and the heavier work that followed i. but they sure are a heck of a lot of hard work to do. of course.a Memory develop? Well because of the Liquid Tension experience. so we just decided to do a whole album like that. How long did it take to create and produce your first and only solo record? Also how did you approach the writing as opposed to writing for DT? My premise for that album was very close to say jazz form where there were going to be melodies and of course a lot of improv over a main groove returning to an d twisting around the various melodies. that album was really well received by the fans at large for sure and you kn ow to this day that album has not stopped selling! We just celebrated twenty yea rs and of course things are better than ever for us.e. With all the great work that has passed befo re the last thing you d want to do is create a cheesy concept album right? Owen. We did not develop the songs outside of the studio befo re starting to record as had been our norm and. The New Millenium So would you ever consider another concept type album? Sure. we wrote and recorded that one im mediately in the studio. It was great fun and now I am in my sixth G3 experience.We were very happy and very confident as well with that one particularly given that we produced it. we were very happy. th e ultra drama of trying to tell a story in a rock setting. It was the first concept album and it was in fact the first album with Jordan in the band as wel l. Particular favorite tune on there? Jaws of Life always gets me pumping and it is a cool seven string metal progressio n. Train Of Thought ? Our crowds really seem to respond to the heavier stuff and it is also fun to pla y. I had to write some material for the tour. By this point the turn of the decade were your record sales pretty consistent? A lot of bands at that stime operating loosely within this genre were suffering yet I remember a real buzz amongst music fans about Scenes Yes. recalls seeing your gig to support this album (Sce nes) at the Shepherd Bush Empire and states that it was the best single concert experience he ever had period. Also that we were able to develop a concept and themes and link them all. What do you say to that? Scenes From a Memory was the first album that Mike nd I produced. A lot of your fans consider this particular project the encapsulation of the ban d and its style. It is fun though. Wow! The tour stands out in memory because of course it was the first with Jorda n as a full time member of the band and I recall how excited we were about the i dea of sharing this new work of which we were so proud. our illustrious editor. How did your involvement in the 2001 G3 tour come about and did you enjoy that e xperience? I loved it! Basically Joe just asked me and of course I was scared because I did not really have any solo material so to speak. for the first time we a lso produced the record ourselves. Octavarium is a very varied album stylistically and others have indicated that the y hear a sprinkling of Muse influence in there do you think that is a fair comme .
it s like you really think you can play and then you hear that stuff! So when you come up with riffs is it more ear through the heart or a theory work out? Really a combination of both. we write based around a lot of improv. Which tracks should we guitar players in particular be on the look out for? Constant Motion is one and maybe also Dark Eternal Night lots of major seven string riffing happening on that one! Who from a musical standpoint has influenced you lately and might show up some h ow some way in your present or future work? There is a guy who kicked my ass in a major way Rusty Cooley who I have become f riends with. Fr om a guitar point of view there s tons of shred on there but also tons of melody t oo. really just finishing this G3 thing and then getting ready to world tour t he new Theater album. so that s how it usually happens. I mean that is what an d who he is. Your music and theory. they are a band we enjoy very much. a real kick in th e ass.nt? Definitely. anytime mn! but only in person or by phone please I cannot type worth a da . Mike. It is a mixture of styles but does not depart very much from a generally heavy theme. He is an ultra technical ultra shred monster man. What approach have you taken on the next album Systematic Chaos ? Pretty much the same approach. do you keep on top of it? Up to scratch? I don t really keep on top of it unfortunately I cannot practically use and apply mu sic reading for example to my every day life unlike Jordan. writing right in the studio in New York. I must say though. Thanks for your time. Jordan and I are big fans so yes they may have crept into a couple of those songs. Other than the new DT album what is in the works for you? Well. that because of our s chooling we always have tons of options on where to take the music and as a resu lt we never get stuck very long searching for an idea which is a really cool fee ling indeed. As I ve said. Not too worked out . Pleasure.