You can find the video in English at the end of the article. Inside, in the end, you will find a bonus with Jordan Rudess and Mike Mangini cutting and tasting the cake that our pastry cook made!
The first question was asked by the youngest member in the audience, he is 7 years old: when did you start playing your instruments and were your parents ok with that?
JR: Well, I guess I can get it started. I started when I was 7 years old. I started in the 2nd grade classroom. I was playing the piano and my teacher called up my mother and said: « oh your child is playing the piano so beautifully ». And my mother said « what are you talking about? We don’t have a piano » « Well you should get one »
And you Mike?
MM: When I was 2 1/2 I pulled cans from my mother’s food cupboard and I hit them with pencils and pens. I opened up LP records and I looked up the shape of the drum set. My parents were divided. They thought different things. My mother was a natural musician, supportive. My father grew up in the Depression of the United States and was a natural hard worker and didn’t think music was a job. But they were both happy: when I was a teenager, I was in the basement being productive because I had the face of a trouble maker. So it was better if I was in the basement than out causing trouble.
Is the Astonishing live tour over or do you want to plan other dates?
JR: Yes the Astonishing tour is over. Hopefully you guys got to see it. We thought it was a great show.
And of course, the obvious question: a DVD or a Blu Ray?
JR: right now there’s no plan to do that. We kind of switched gears to do this other great big show but you know, maybe in five years or whenever it’s possible. But right now, we don’t have plans.
Is it easier to play again Images and Words songs or to play the entire « the Astonishing »? Is it easier to play that kind of show or the Astonishing Live? It’s a question for you Jordan because you played Images and Words, 10 years ago.
JR: The Astonishing was a major project. It took a lot of energy on every level: from crafting and writing the whole show, for John to write the story and to write the music and also for the live production. It was huge. So revisiting and relearning the Images and Words music was at first a little challenging but nothing like doing the Astonishing.
Did you have to rehearse a lot for this tour? Especially you Mike because maybe there were a lot of new songs for you to learn. Was it difficult or the usual stuff?
MM: It’s the usual stuff except the difficult part, this time, is that I had to do it when I was supposed to be with my family over the holidays. I was supposed to be with my kids.
JR: so you mean, you can’t learn all of A Change of Seasons with your kids??
MM: I had to do both.
Which is the most challenging part? Being with your family or learning Images and Words?
MM: The most challenging part is finding a balance between what people know of the songs, what I would probably play if I was the original drummer versus trying to keep people happy. So that’s an extra job. That’s what takes me the most time. As I have to find a balance between those two worlds. Jordan had to do it for a while. That’s what we do. It’s not easy. The first thing it takes is an open heart and a desire to do a great job. That’s the first thing. The next thing it takes is the ability to even understand how to do it. The next thing it takes, is time. Because you have to have patience. It’s slow so you have to want to do it and you finally have to put the time in. So that’s normal though but that’s what makes people brave.
Do you have any ideas for the next album? Do you want to go back to a « classic Dream Theater album » or do you want to push boundaries and to experiment a bit more or a lot?
JR: I think that first of all, we are very involved in getting this whole tour together so switching gears is taking a lot of energy. We haven’t had a whole lot of time to think about writing music for the next album. But when we do settle into it, I think we will have an open mind, we will look at what has created the Dream Theater reality as we know it and the elements that are the most important. We will probably return to that.
We’ve heard that you are doing some jams on tour, a bit of impros. Do these impros help you create new things?
MM: Yes, because it’s improvisation. Improvisation is the result of variables that don’t have any order to them. You have to put together variables to create something new, it’s much like chemistry and if you use the right elements, you have a good result. And it’s challenging and exciting. So yeah.
Could you use ideas developed on the stage in the future album or is it just impros and having fun?
MM: Let me answer, because I have observed since I joined the band. We could make music right now. We don’t create the music on the stage and then think, ooh let’s do that again and save it for a record. We inevitably love to create each day such that when we get together to write a record, we will know what we did, we have ideas but we will still get together and enjoy those days and will probably create something completely different. We don’t know.
JR: our performance for tonight and all the concerts we’ve been doing, is so different from what we did with the Astonishing, which was very much planned. That was like going to a Broadway show, everything was measured. With this tour, there’s a lot of space for jamming around and for improvising and an example being, I’ll go out and I’ll take my keytar, my Zen Riffer and John and I will have this extended back and forth. Every night it’s very different. Each night is a total different thing. For Mike’s drum solo, it’s all HIS. The whole room was on the edge of their seats waiting to know what he was going to do next. He is making decisions at the moment. Some things might be a little bit the same but other things are really improvised. It’s just feeling the crowd and changing. And the other thing is: personally, every night, I do a complete improvisation on the piano before Wait for Sleep. So it’s entirely different every night. So there’re elements of the show that are really gonna change from night to night and they are not the kind of elements that necessarily, we will carry over and then say « oh let’s put that on the new album ». We are just jamming around themes or doing piano or drums solos.
If you weren’t professional musicians, what would you do for a living?
MM: The most fun thing would be to be a comedian. But I don’t have the ability so what I would do…I would do some kind of mathematical engineering.
JR: a rocket scientist!
MM: I was! It’s what I did. I already worked on to Raytheon (major US defense contractor). But I wasn’t very good at it. Something with physics. I love this.
JR: And I’m very boring. Music is my whole life and it’s my hobby, it’s my business, it’s what I do. I also do like playing with anything artistic: graphics and I’m playing around with different softwares creating images. So I would say…
MM: You’d be the new Dali!
JR: There you go!!
MM: The new Salvador Dali.
Concerning softwares, it’s been a year since you published GeoShred. Do you have something new for Wizdom Music in a distant or a near future?
JR: there’re always things that I’m working on with my app company. I have this really cool wizardly metronome that Mike helped me out a bit and we’re still waiting to put it out. I got side track working on GeoShred and MIDI. For those of you who are musicians, there’s a couple of things that have been just released recently. One is GeoShred for your iPhone and it has full MIDI capability. So we’ve been focusing on those things.
Are there any plans to make GeoShred work on Android phones?
JR: it’s a tricky thing because the Android platform has a lot of issues. There’s a lot of latency on different devices so we are in touch with Google, we meet with them and everybody is trying to figure out how to make it possible to support that platform as well as Windows and those kinds of things. It will happen but it’s a matter of time.
Mike, you’ve come from a background where you’ve done some physics so when it comes to playing and improvising, do you use your heart and instinct or do you use variables?
MM: I’m ready for you! It is a great question but I solved this. You know in chemistry, there’s the periodic table and things are all organized. I released a DVD called the Grid. It won awards two years in a row for all instruments. Here is what I do: on one picture, on one page, you can see every possible thing to play on every instrument. Just one page. That’s what I picture in my mind when I improvise. It’s not random. I picture different elements and I access that photograph in my mind. So that I am not completely empty. I always have that to go to. Sometimes, I’m just looking at the drums and the shape of the drums. Sometimes I’m looking at the sound of the drums and I think: « oh, that would be fun, I think I would hit those four things over there ». So with the grid, I always have something that reminds me « you can change the time signatures if you want, you can change the sounds if you want, you can change the dynamics if you want ». I’m always thinking at basic categories that are not too complicated. That is what allows me to improvise. These variables are not random. They are not just falling around. They are on a page. That’s very helpful, it makes me very confident.
The interview ends with the whole participants and the band members eating a cake made by our pastry cook: Patrick. We were supposed to interview John Petrucci and Jordan Rudess so Mike is disappointed his name is on the cake but he is relieved, as putting the drumset on the cake would have taken too much time. On the cake, you could see Jordan and John in their « Octavarium animation » version and it was written « Cake the Time ». Everybody ate the cake and a second cake was made for the whole group and the crew. We were told that the two cakes were well appreciated by everyone.
A huge thank you to Jordan Rudess and Mike Mangini for being available. Thank you to the fans who attended the meetup and to those who gave their questions on our facebook page. Thank you, Olivier Garner and Kim-Arthur Sakariassen.
Interview conducter and transcription: The Keyboard Wizard
Interview conducter: Ad Watchmaker
Pictures and videos: kikithehead