Exclusive Interview with Guitar Virtuoso John Petrucci (Guitars, Dream Theater)

First and foremost, with everybody we wanted to see if they can pull off the songs, play them correctly, and that they it felt right musically. That’s something Mike...

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© Raffaello Pavesi




Interviewed by Robert Cavuoto (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine


John Petrucci of Dream Theater, Live At Luna Park was a Magical and Memorable Experience!

Dream Theater began their mammoth “A Dramatic Tour Of Events” world trek in July 2011 with the final leg in South America taking place in August 2012. It was here at the Luna Park Arena in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that they decided to film the two nights that make up this DVD release: Dream Theater: Live At Luna Park.

It was Dream Theater’s first tour and album with their new drummer, Mike Mangini, and all the tracks from that album, A Dramatic Turn Of Events, are included in either the main show or the bonus performances.

Dream Theater has carved a legacy as rock’s supreme virtuoso’s, having gained awards and worldwide fame for their epic anthems and musical dexterity. Here in concert, they bring all the power and drama of their music to life with breathtaking performances of classic tracks from across their career.

I had the pleasure of speaking with guitar great, John Petrucci about what goes into the making of this mammoth DVD.


Robert: Do you find it difficult to pick the set lists knowing the shows were going to be filmed for a theatrical release?

John: It is difficult, on that Dramatic Tour of Events the set list changed quite a bit as we went through multiple US and European legs. There was at least another ten songs that we were playing thought-out the tour. Basically on this tour, we had two rotating sets. An A and B set. So for those two nights we were able to play both set lists. That is why there so much music on the DVD.

With all the material on the DVD we still get people say “why did you include this song or you played this song in Rome and not in Argentina.” So it is tough to please everyone.

Robert: Are there any songs that you look forward to performing live, songs that still make the hair on your arms stand up?

John: It never gets old, it really doesn’t. Songs come alive every night and can be a new experience for someone. You might have someone in the audience who has never seen us before and hearing it for the first time. We are aware of that. You try to play the song better than you had before. They pump you up.

All the way back from playing “A Fortune in Lies” off the first album is an exciting moment. Fast forward to Dramatic Tour of Events with “Breaking all Illusions” which is a really great song to play live. Songs from Six Degrees… have a ton of energy. Songs like “Spirit Carries On” really gets the audience moved and on the same page. It’s challenging and all so much fun to play.

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Robert: Part of the excitement for me with watching the DVD was how the documentary builds up to the shows. From auditioning drummer, to preparing the tour, to going on tour and then knowing logistically that you only had two days to film the shows. There was this level of anticipation, are they going to be able to pull this all off?

John: This time we had an extra day to film, as compared to most times when you only get one day! [Laughing] When it’s only one day then you really think, “Oh shit what if something goes wrong?” There are a few things that were in our favor and other things that weren’t. These shows were filmed at the end of our tour vs. the beginning of the tour when we may be a little rusty. We knew the audience was going to be amazing as we have been to Argentina before and we knew that they are incredible to perform in front of. On the other hand there are challenges to filming something this big outside of the US. Like having to bring in mobile trucks and hire recording crews. It had its own set of challenges and everybody worked hard. We also had a company come in do 360 footage and four piece string section that we had to rehearse with so we could pull that off.

Actually things did go wrong; there were some lighting malfunctions that happened on the first night that never happened on tour. Because we filmed both nights we were able to use the best footage from a particular moment. It is filled with challenges and there is a lot of nervousness and anxiety that go into it. But you ultimately have to be confident; you know the crowd is going to be there, you’ve rehearsed so you let it rip.

Robert: What do you remember special about those two days of filming?

John: It was really walking out on stage those two nights and getting the type of reaction that we got. Knowing that both nights were sold out and seeing the fans be so happy and happy to be part of the event. The feedback and interaction we got from the audience was amazing, there is nothing like it. It was just a magical and memorable experience. There is nothing like that feeling.

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© Raffaello Pavesi

Robert: Are there any pre-show rituals that you or the band does?

John: We do get together before going on stage and we talk to get our heads in the same place and bond. You’re about to walk on stage and play together for the next few hours so you want to feel connected and make sure that everyone is in the same head space; a good head space. If someone is feeling out of sorts or detached it’s a great time to bring them in and restate why we are here and what we are trying to do. Many times we talk about the people that have come to enjoy the show. They went through a lot to get here, whatever they needed to work out in their lives; they got babysitters, they traveled, and purchased the tickets. So it’s up to us to deliver the goods! We’re always in that head space about the audience and less about us at that moment.

Robert: I though one of the greatest compliments that anyone can give to a band mate was what you said about Mike Mangini on the DVD during the auditioning drummer, “that he not just playing Dream Theater he’s living it.”

John: We auditioned a lot of great drummers; every one of them was world class. We had a lot of fun playing with each of them and had some great jams. With Mike it was just something really special about what was going on. First and foremost, with everybody we wanted to see if they can pull off the songs, play them correctly, and that they it felt right musically. That’s something Mike did, it felt like the band. He really gets the style and delivers in a powerful metal way. He has all the techniques, chops, and sensibility, everything just flows musically. Over and above that there were a few things like his attitude and dedication to wanting to get everything exactly right as well as genuinely wanting the position. Not just wishy-washy “yeah if I get it great, if not ok too”. Personality wise, we are all kindred spirits. I’ve said this before; if we ever went to high school together we would have been friends. He is just one of us! We felt that immediate connect. He the right fit in on every level.

Robert: He also seems like a funny and entertaining guy too.

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John: He’s hysterical, he keeps us entertained. If you bring somebody into the band you are going to be with them a lot whether it’s in the studio, on the tour bus, or at dinner every night; you want somebody you enjoy being around. You don’t want an annoying guy [laughing]

Robert: You’re an amazing accomplished guitarist, at what point in your career did you realize that your style was truly unique?

John: It’s hard to answer that from my own perspective because when I’m playing I know where it is coming from and the sources. Guitar players get inward and analytical about their playing but when you start to get positive feedback from other players it makes you think that it is coming together. For me the first time I started hearing comments like that was after Images and Words was released. It seemed like there was a jump from the there for me stylistically. It wasn’t something I picked up on it was comments that I received from other people and players.

Robert: Many guitarists are out there talking a lot about guitar tone and “chasing tone”. How important is tone to you?

John: I’m a hopeless tone chaser! [laughing]. I love it and get into the whole thing. I would say the more the better when it is comes to development and marketing. It’s actually fun. For some it can be a frustrating thing. There are so many great things out there. It’s a depends on the mood I’m in, how do I want to change the sound today and what are best pieces of gear that I can use to do that. It’s a combination of using your ear and the way you play the instrument. I’ve been fortunate to work with companies that I endorse because I love their gear. Whether Music Man, Dunlop, or DiMarizo to me these companies have supported me in such a way that’s invaluable. I often think about my Music Man guitars being 100 million percent tailored to my needs as a player and how lucky I am. With all those tools at my disposal, I’m 100% into chasing tone and checking out new equipment and “geeking” out during sound check by taking too much time [laughing]. Getting it exactly perfect for that night! Or in the studio weeks before the band gets in trying to get just the right sound.

Robert: Is there ever a guitar you gave away and wish you could get back?

John: I guess yes, there were some initial instruments I had when I was young and made some trade-offs. Maybe a guitar I bought in a flea market. They weren’t the greatest guitar but they would be cool to still have them. Other than that, not as a professional.

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Robert: When you were young and starting out, was there ever a band that you auditioned for who didn’t hire for whatever reason?

John: I didn’t try out for bands when I was younger. I got into guitars intensely a couple of years into playing so much by the time I was graduating high school I was accepted into Berklee College of Music. Practicing six hours a day, I was consumed with it. I somehow always found the right people on my own to jam with as well as playing with all my buddies. I didn’t get to a point where I was auditioning for any bands. Out of Berklee Dream Theater was born and we’ve been together ever since. I didn’t have to taste that feeling of defeat [laughing]









Photo Credit: Dhruv Kumar

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