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Progressive Rock Interviews

James LaBrie

Interviewed by Greg Olma
Interview with James LaBrie of Dream Theater From 2006
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

What will you be doing after the tour ends in New York?
I'm gonna kick back, take some time, and get reacquainted with my family. That's going to be main focus for the time off. I mean, we're planning on taking almost 6 months off. We just want to chill out; every one of us. And then we'll get back at some point in the fall and start writing and recording another album. But until then, we just want to relax. We've been going pretty strong for the last 10 months and then before then, just writing/recording. You're looking at a year - year and a half of just kind of staying committed to one thing. I want to do that. I just want to relax quite a bit and then I'm going to, at some point, record my next solo album again to follow up Elements Of Persuasion. I will be doing that, at some point, on that time off. That should be coming out either late this year or early next year.
MSJ: I read somewhere that you might do another project with Henning Pauly.
To be honest with you, I respect Henning quite a bit. I think he is a very talented writer. I had a great time doing the first Frameshift with him and we kind of left it open. We were going to follow it up, possibly doing another Frameshift but I had too many things going on so, my solo album and Dream Theater, that's when he moved on and went with Sebastian on the second Frameshift. We still stay in contact once in a while. I would say that that book is open. It's open in the sense that if something does come across, then we will, that we think is really exciting, something that we feel that we both want to be a part of, then we'll work again together but there is nothing on the horizon.
MSJ: What direction will the next Dream Theater album take? Will it be conceptual or metal?
You know what; your guess is as good as anyone's in the band. What we do is, leading up to the time that we know we're actually going to start getting together and being in the same room to write and record, that's when we start to talk about maybe the direction that we feel that we're being drawn towards. Each album has basically been like that. If we feel there's a certain contemporary style out there that we feel is really inspiring, then we'll want to incorporate that. With Octovarium, it was almost like, which I think is what created a great balanced album, was we reached back into our roots, Dream Theater roots, for a lot of that album; the progressive side of it. And then we also kind of dabbled into what was contemporary, more like a Coldplay or a Muse approach. Even U2-ish at times, which everyone wants to say "I Walk Beside You" is like. So there were directions there that we felt we wanted to express. It's always something that we start to talk about and then we dive into it once we find ourselves there.
MSJ: Do you feel covering certain albums influences the direction of the next Dream Theater album?
No, I don't think so because the covering of albums that we do are usually bands that inspired us quite a while ago. If there was any inspiration from those bands, more than likely, it would have probably crossed some of our music by now. I think with those things, it's a matter of us wanting to play classic albums from bands that we feel were very inspirational.
MSJ: How do you pick out those albums? Is there a major consensus on each album?
Mike. It's pretty much his ballgame. You know, Mike comes up and says "so, I was thinking we would do this one next and then after that we would do this." Mike is very, very passionate, to say the least, about music. He has his head deep in music from sun up to sun down. It doesn't matter if we're on the road or we're off the road; whether we're taking a break or we're writing. He's always involved in music at some capacity. It's really cool to have somebody like that in the band because he's always thinking of ways to create excitement over something new within the band and within the way that we present ourselves. It keeps us on our toes too because he's been in charge of the set lists since day one; since we started touring way back when. He's written every set list to the point where he has every single set list on disc that we've done since the beginning. He can go and recall anywhere, anytime what set list we did which is great because what he'll do is he'll look at the set list that we did last time we were in Chicago and he'll go "so we played…, so we'll stay away from that and we'll play this, this time." So any Chicago fan that comes up [they will say] "wow, they didn't play this last time." And it's great not only for the fans but for us because we keep switching up the songs on any given night. I remember when we were out with Queensryche, Geoff Tate came up and goes "How the f**k do you guys do that? You guys are switching songs every night," and I said "well, we might repeat 3 or 4 songs that were on the set list the night before, but every other song is different." He goes "you're kidding me." I said "no, that's how this band operates." He goes "what about the lyrics?". "Well, I'm memorizing then all just like those guys hove to memorize all their parts." It's the same deal. We all ask a lot of one another but at the same time, I think it's what keeps us from going crazy. You know what, I don't know how, and I'm not putting them down, that's their ballgame, but I don't know how a band can go out on the road for 10 months, 14 months, however long it is, and play the same set every night. To me, it would be like, set me up and push a button. That's what it would be like. Even at times, even though we're switching the songs the songs around, it feels like that at times. Like when you're on second nature. You're on auto-pilot. The moment you start thinking about what you're doing, that's when you screw up. It's very bizarre.
MSJ: What was the last CD you purchased?
David Gilmour. I like it. I like it. I know it's getting kind of mixed reviews. Ultimately, I would love to see Pink Floyd get back together. Is it gonna happen? It better happen soon.
MSJ: With respect to your career with Dream Theater, what would you say are a couple of highlights?
Definitely, Images And Words, just because it was exciting for every one of us in the band. We were with a major label finally and we just felt very confident with the music. We really deep down inside felt that we really had something here. It's either really going to do something for us or the other option was that it will do absolutely nothing but we felt that it would do something. And it did. It took off for us and it was very successful. That was an exciting time. The other part would have probably been Scenes From A Memory because it was a really exciting album to create and finally put out there. The fan reaction was great. The tour was a fabulous tour. Those would have to be the highlights. If you want to know a low point in my career, [it] was when I did damage to my vocal chords down in Cuba. I was down there with my wife on holiday and I got food poisoning. Being violently ill from the food poisoning, I threw out my voice when I was puking. I went and saw 3 E.N.T.s, ears, nose, and throat specialists, and that's where I found out that it would take many years for it to come back to where it is today. It took 8 years to completely heal. So in those 8 years, I was like [makes up and down motion with his hand] live. It was unpredictable. So to get over that, those 8 years were very, very trying for me. That would have been my lowest point. Around 2002/2003, I felt that it completely healed. I went back to studying voice. Now it's back to where it was.
MSJ: Do you have any funny Spinal Tap moments from this tour?
I'd say, showing up in Monterrey, Mexico, which was only like 2 weeks ago, and finding out that they didn't have a drum riser. They didn't have follow spots. They didn't have the stage set up properly. We were supposed to be on at 8:30 that night and we were still at the hotel room at 9:00 having a meeting whether we were going to blow the concert or not. The crew was just saying "this is unbelievable." So they finally got the drum riser in and they actually jacked it up with 4 car jacks. I s**t you not. It was unreal. Then we got there and it was in a bull ring; great big closed bull ring. It was great. It was packed and there were 4,000 people there. We finally went on stage and we're walking on the stage and it's like a frickin' trampoline. I thought I would be able to jump up and touch one of the lights. That was just ridiculous. The other funny thing was we were flying from Puerto Rico to Bogotá but when we got in, I don't know who set up the flights, we had to fly from Puerto Rico to Miami, Miami to Bogotá, Columbia. When we got into Miami, we missed our flight so we had to wait until the next morning, then get on a flight. We literally went to the hotel, showered, went to the venue, [then] on stage. We were fried because we hardly had any sleep but the show came off great.
 
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