BS: Hey, Bryn Schurman from The Eleventh Hour here in Miami Beach and with me is James LaBrie from Dream Theater.
JL: Everything is great here in Miami. It’s nice and warm. I love it.
BS: A good place to start the tour?
JL: Yeah, absolutely. We’ve played this venue once before, actually on the last tour, and it’s a beautiful theater, so yeah, we are looking forward to it tonight.
BS: As long as the fire curtain stays up…
JL: (laughs) Yeah, right. We’ll see.
BS: With your new album Black Clouds and Silver Linings, is there a general theme to the album?
JL: No, I mean it’s just more focused on what the music is. Obviously, Shattered Fortress is the completion to the suite that began back in Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. So, within that song you’re hearing some themes throughout that whole musical suite of alcoholism…
BS: The rest of the [12-Step Suite] steps?
JL: Yeah, exactly. You’ll hear a nod to each kind of theme that went on throughout. But, aside from that, no. It’s just more or less focusing more on the songs, being able to convey what they need to convey within that piece
BS: I’ve tried to look this up. Is there a count of Tuscany that the song was based on?
JL: Yeah, what happened was a few tours ago — actually it was a while ago — but while we were over in Europe, John Petrucci’s guitar tech was invited to go to a wine baron’s place, which was this big castle winery place and vineyard. And while he was there, he just had an eerie feeling that something was going to go wrong and that these guys weren’t everything that you and I might consider somewhat comfortable or upfront. Obviously, his paranoia was put to rest when one of the barons said “No, that’s not who we are, that’s not what we are. We are just here, we are a little eccentric, and this is the way we live and this is who we are, but we are in no way of a malicious nature.”
So, he thought from that experience — it was such an awkward and somewhat bizarre experience — he thought that he could write it into words and share that experience.
BS: So no cannibalism in the actual incident?
JL: (laughs) No, not that I’m aware of. Maybe he’s keeping that to himself, but no, everything is good.
BS: With this album you have the extra disc of covers. In the past, you’ve had the EP A Change of Seasons, and you did a lot of covers for that. Are there any songs you have covered live but haven’t recorded that you’d like to?
JL: Well… we’ve recorded some songs live that we haven’t released — Death on Two Legs by Queen — we recorded that while we were on tour for I think Train of Thought. We were over in England. But aside from that, I don’t think that there’s anything that’s kind of “in the vaults”. Mike [Portnoy] would be the one to ask that better than anyone else in the band because he has all that stuff on file.
As far as anything else that we want to record when it comes to covers, I wouldn’t be able to reveal that to you, because you want to keep it as a surprise. I think that something like that will definitely continue to show up here and there. It’ll be when we think it will makes most sense and when it feels that we can prepare ourselves properly to do that particular classic album justice.
BS: It seems like you’re in a fairly steady [cycle of] write an album, record an album, tour, live DVD or video to go with that. For this new tour, are you looking into high definition? Maybe a Blu-ray release?
JL: We haven’t actually discussed if this is going to be a tour where we’re going to do something similar to Score, when we recorded that. That was high-def, and multiple camera shoot, and something special to offer to the fans with the orchestra playing along with us. I think at this point we are really just focusing in on this tour. If anything, I would think that something like that, you know a real expensive and very in-depth DVD shoot would probably more or less happen once again, maybe on the next tour.
I say that now, but next spring we could be coming through North America and I could be telling you “Oh guess what? Yeah we are! We picked this city at this venue and we are going to do another very professional DVD shoot.” But, I don’t see it really at this point. I think that it’s more or less something like that would happen on the next tour.
BS: Speaking of Score, obviously a huge venue to play.
JL: Radio City Music Hall, absolutely.
BS: Are there any other landmark places that you haven’t played.
JL: We’ve played Budokan. I think that probably one of the most elusive at this point in our career, and that we hope to do it at least once, would be Madison Square Garden. And I would think that it just holds so much value and history as far as the band — most of the band being from New York — it would be like a dream come true. They all grew up going to see several bands from their early years right up into the present, going to see the bands that they adored and that they appreciated, that they were influenced by, so I think that will be probably the pinnacle of venues for us to play. As to when that will happen, that’s another thing I can’t really answer at this particular moment, but I think that is something that we have to do and achieve throughout our career.
BS: With the new album you released in the special edition, you’ve released the master tracks for the song so the people can mix themselves.
JL: Oh yeah!
BS: Have you had any [mashups] “Featuring Little Wheezy, featuring TI” of your songs?
JL: I mean, I haven’t heard anything that the fans have done yet because I just haven’t taken the time to go in and [say] “let me hear what their mixes are coming up with and what their ideas of it sonically are.” Myself, no. Are you saying me personally going in and mixing it differently?
BS: Oh no, I was just wondering if anything had come back to the band, “hey check this mashup out.”
JL: I’m not aware of it. I’m sure that probably if it does exist and something has been sent, probably Mike would have that definitely somewhere. I would think, but it’s not something that I have heard yet.
BS: Was any of the making of filmed for this? I know that Mike has his drum-cam DVD that he releases himself. Systematic Chaos had a very extensive documentary with the special edition. Do you know if there’s anything like that for [Black Clouds and Silver Linings]?
JL: Nothing has been set up in that sense, not yet. What we are doing is, we are capturing our every day-to-day life unfolding on tour, just for whatever reason. “Is this something that we can use a little bit later on?” or whatever, and it’s just interesting to capture because you never know when you’re going to want to use it and whether it would be with this DVD or the following DVD, we are not sure. But I think Jordan [Rudess] has his little camcorder thing out there and I he’s kind of throwing it in our faces every day, so it’s just material to have if we should ever see a need to use it.
BS: So you’re not filming Big Brother: Dream Theater?
JL: No, no, no. (laughs). It’s always cool to have things like that going on because I think it just adds a little bit more the reality of who we are as people when we’re on the road. How we deal with the conditions while were on the road. How each day pretty much unfolds for a band that’s touring extensively, and just how we react and how everything around us tends to play a role into who and what we are while we tour.
BS: Aside from Dream Theater do you have any projects coming out such as a new Mullmuzzer? Are you doing it as Mullmuzzer any more or is it James LaBrie?
JL: Well, it was LaBrie for the last one. Elements of Persuasion was my last solo album. Yes, right now Matt Guillory and I are working diligently on new material and it’s pretty exciting, the stuff that we have going on so far. We’re hoping that we can have, if everything keeps going as is, that we can have a release by next March and then we would like to follow it up with a bit of a tour. Not anything too crazy because I’ll be coming off of this tour probably not until next June. So I don’t want to just jump out on the road again and do another three, four, five months because my family will leave me at that point. It’s definitely something that we do want to follow up and support with a bit of a tour. How extensive, I don’t know at this point but I can definitely tell you it won’t be too extensive. They’ll be select markets set out that I will feel that those are where we need to do shows here in the states or maybe even possibly one in Canada, then some select dates in Europe, and that would be it. Because I know too, that Asia has asked me last time if I would bring it over there and play some dates in Japan and so on, but we’ll see.
Aside from that too, I did a project called Roswell Six. It’s from an author, Kevin J. Anderson, who writes a lot of sci-fi, fantasy-based books. While he wrote a book called Terra Incognita and he wanted to put music around it, so he called upon myself along with Shawn Gordon who heads Prog Rock [Records]. I think it came out fabulously. I think it came out better than we expected because, to me personally when you try and embellish upon literature, something very soundly based, literature wise, and then you try to put it behind music — or in front of music — and then create lyrics and melodies that don’t become bombastic.
BS: It might end up all in Sprechstimme?
JL: Yeah, you know what I mean, right? There is always a really fine line between becoming very corny and just not cool to a point where it might be also interpreted as, “You know, this could be a classic.” And I think we really did, we touched upon something there that I think was really well conveyed both musically and lyrically. It’s telling it pretty accurately.
BS: And when it does that come out?
JL: I think it’s already out. I believe it came out in the second week of June or something like that. You can just go on and punch in Roswell Six and anyone can then bring it up, or Prog Rock Records, you would see it there.