Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci feels a kinship with Iron Maiden



By Steve Newton

Dream Theater has earned success on its own terms, cranking out 10 studio albums’ worth of challenging prog-metal and establishing a devoted international fan base with little help from radio programmers or critics. In that respect it’s a bit like Rush or, on a thrashier note, Iron Maiden. So it’s no big surprise that Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci feels a kinship of sorts with the pioneering Brit metallists that his band is currently opening for. Above all else, he’s a Maiden fan.

“We kinda grew up listening to them,” says Petrucci on the line from a tour stop in Denver, “and we’re very influenced by them. When we were young guys in high school just getting into playing guitar and being in a band we would go to their concerts and see their videos and that’s what we wanted to be. So it’s pretty incredible to actually be touring with them now.”

The Iron Maiden opening slot has put Dream Theater in front of much bigger audiences than they normally draw—in North America, at least—and three gigs into the tour Petrucci is already seeing the benefits.

“There’s no doubt that we’re playing to a lot of Iron Maiden fans,” he points out, “but I gotta say that the response has been fantastic. I’ve met several fans already who have said that that was the first time they heard us, and that they were really into it and they’re gonna start buying the albums.”

In order to make the most of its 50-minute warm-up and endear itself to the headliner’s raunch-hungry followers, Dream Theater put together a “hard and heavy” set list that offers a cross section of the more aggressive material from its early-’90s albums through to last year’s Black Clouds & Silver Linings. Due to time constraints the group is performing only one song from that disc—the eight-and-a-half-minute “A Rite of Passage”, which is actually its second-shortest track.

Not ones to rush anything, Dream Theater took six months to record and mix Black Clouds at New York City’s Avatar Studios, with Petrucci and drummer Mike Portnoy producing. The quintet—which also includes vocalist James LaBrie, bassist John Myung, and keyboardist Jordan Rudess—has a habit of going into the studio empty-handed, with little in the way of demos to work from. But Petrucci’s more than happy to spend whatever time it takes to create the music from scratch there.

“I’m definitely comfortable in the studio,” explains the Long Island–born picker. “I love the creative environment; I love having all the gear set up. I could live in there.”

With its penchant for extended studio stays, don’t expect Dream Theater to start banging out three-minute ditties anytime soon. Black Clouds closes with a tune that clocks in at nearly 20 minutes, and Petrucci makes no apologies for that.

“From the very beginning we liked writing those epic kinda songs that take you on a journey,” he says. “It’s part of the whole progressive-rock side of it. But on this tour we couldn’t really show that side so much, otherwise we’d be doing, like, one or two songs and we’d be done.”

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