EXCLUSIVE: Manila-bound Dream Theater is living the dream

Rick Olivares

Posted at Sep 18 2017 05:48 PM

Dream Theater in concert. Handout photo

MANILA -- Dream Theater bassist John Myung put it best when he said in a phone interview a few hours after their concert in Seoul, South Korea on Sunday: “Those sort of things you don’t plan. They just happen.”

Myung was referring to the band’s longevity -- they have been together for over three decades but have been recording albums since 1989 -- and the numerous accolades they have received in their stellar career. 

The American progressive rock band is in the midst of an 11-month word tour called "Images, Words & Beyond" that celebrates the 25th anniversary of their second album, "Images and Words," which is universally acclaimed as one of rock music’s best albums of all time. 

The tour has taken them to Europe, Asia, and by year’s end back in their playing field of North America. This coming September 25, Dream Theater will be performing for the first time in the Philippines at the Kia Theater in Cubao.

We caught up with vocalist James LaBrie and Myung a few hours before they were to depart for Sydney, Australia. LaBrie and Myung were part of the band during the recording of "Images and Words" along with guitarist John Petrucci who was unfortunately unavailable at the time of the interview. 

While keyboardist Jordan Rudess and drummer Mike Mangini weren’t part of Dream Theater at the time (the keyboardist then was Kevin Moore with Mike Portnoy on drums), we were able to pick their thoughts about the band’s staying power as well as the classic that is "Images and Words."

“The tour is going great and the shows have been selling out,” said Myung. “Our second album was our biggest album to date (over 600,000 copies sold) and to see people come out to re-live that period of the band’s career feels good. It feels right to go back and celebrate that moment. When I look back at that record, I see it as a point in our career where everything fell into place. It was something special and unique about that record. it had a certain sound to it. the ideas we had on that record to the way it was produced to the way it came out it was a perfect time.”

For LaBrie, "Images and Words" was his first album with Dream Theater. For the band’s debut, "When Dream and Day Unite," the lead singer was Charlie Dominici while the record label was Mechanic/MCA.

When the album failed to sell, the label dropped them. The band also parted ways with Dominici. 

After being without a vocalist for two years, Dream Theater auditioned some 200 vocalists before settling on LaBrie.

Recalled LaBrie of the day he joined the band: “When I came down to New York (where the band is based), I did most of the first album, 'When Dream and Day Unite.' Then we jammed on some songs from (what would eventually be) 'Images and Words.' I think we did 'Pull Me Under' and jammed on songs like 'Lovin, Touchin, Squeezing' by Journey and some others. 

"It all went down great. We went through two songs and they looked at one another and said, ‘You’re our man.’ We jammed on more songs then we went out to grab a bite then went to record a demo the next day."

New record company Atco signed them and the rest is history. "Images and Words" went on to become their best-selling album and has been consistently named as one of the 100 Best Metal or Prog Rock albums of all time (they also have three other records that have made some industry or trade magazine ‘best of’ lists).

“When this album came out in 1992, it stuck out like a sore thumb,” pointed out LaBrie. “Everything else that was going on at that time was Guns 'N Roses, Alice in Chains Nirvana, Pearl Jam -- these were the bands hitting it big time and were on radio. 'Images and Words' found its path and it is quite amazing. Here we are 25 years later after several albums and we’re still doing it. It’s cool and there is a feeling of accomplishment that you did something in an industry that is unforgiving so to speak.”

Rolling Stone magazine, considered to be the bible when it comes to rock music, trumpeted the album: “'Images' laid out the various sides of the band's musical personality, from anthemic prog rock ('Take the Time') to racing, metal-tinged workouts ('Under a Glass Moon') and New Age–y power balladry ('Another Day'). But it was with gonzo epics like 'Metropolis – Part I: 'The Miracle and the Sleeper' and the 10-minute-plus closer 'Learning to Live' that Dream Theater fully flexed their musical muscle, demonstrating an awesome instrumental facility and power.”

For drummer Mike Mangini, who came on board with their 2011 opus, "A Dramatic Turn of Events," playing the "Images and Words" album in its entirety during the tour is “fun.”

“It’s simply fun,” gushed the passionate Massachusetts native. “I don’t know if that is the word to use but I am not just talking about playing the drums but I am talking about how tight the band sounds. It’s paying tribute to that music.”

LaBrie bared that their show – including the one in Manila – will be three hours long. “The first set will feature some of songs from various albums while the second set will be all from 'Images and Words.' The encore will be 'A Change of Seasons' (their 1995 EP release that feature the 23-minute title track plus some cover songs from Pink Floyd, Queen and Genesis to name a few)." 

The multi-talented Rudess who is regarded as one of rock music’s premier keyboardists, admitted that it took a long time before Manila was included in their tour stops. “There are so many elements (when planning a tour),” offered Rudess. “It’s complicated but I am happy that in this particular tour we’ve opened up new places that we’re coming to see you guys. We’re also going to India for the first time.” 

“We look forward to the Manila show,” concluded LaBrie.