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Dream Theater: A spontaneous inside look

A couple of hours before their successful show in a packed Philipshalle in Düsseldorf, Germany, Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie took the opportunity to tell STALKER
what`s up for his band and spoke his mind (only being interrupted by annoying attempts from the manager to keep the interview short... very short indeed...)

James, a tough question right away: Since every band has its classics which the fans demand every night, aren`t you tired of having to sing “Pull Me Under” that often?

No problem. Well, there are times where it feels really tiring, but as soon as I sing it, hearing and seeing the crowd and getting a great response from the fans, I feel uplifted. You must know Dream Theater is a versatile band, and we have a lot of songs full of diversity to choose from, so it never gets too boring, I guess (laughs).We change our setlist quite often, and so there is something for everybody. And that keeps it interesting for us also.

About “Systematic Chaos”, your new album, did you guys have a different approach this time?

Yes, actually. The album is very spontaneous, organic and we walked into the studio with the idea to keep all the rough edges, what may be quite unusual for a band being labelled progressive (laughs). A strong live feel is apparent, and that is - and always has been - the essence of what Dream Theater is all about.

And where do you see the differences - also vocally - between let`s say “Systematic Chaos”, “Train Of Thought” and “Awake”, for example?

I get a lot to do voice-wise in this band, clean tones like on “Images And Words” and rougher phrasings, which I already used on “Awake”. As a singer I am trying to come up with what each individual song requires. Take “Train Of Thought” for example, where John (Petrucci) was really chugging out some heavy riffs. And of course I would want to match that. On “Images And Words” we had a different approach due to its melodic structures. (The manager is severely knocking on the door…. James rolls his eyes.)

It is no secret that you obviously had some vocal problems in the past. But now it seems like those problems are completely solved. What happened?

It`s simple, I was suffering from food poison for a couple of years. I went to see specialists and took my time to re-capture my full voice. I feel better than ever. Generally speaking it`s your health what you have to rely on as a professional singer. The temptation is there when you are on tour, but I don`t drink alcohol and I try to stay in shape running 5 km a day. It is also important being able to create a certain vocal sound, raspy ones for example, without any fatigue. Anyway, the beauty of being in a band like Dream Theater is that I am able to explore all the different sides of my voice.

As far as bands, progressive bands, what are you listening to currently?

I don`t necessarily listen to bands who sound like us. But at the moment I am into bands such as Opeth, Pain Of Salvation, Spock`s Beard and Muse, bands that are unique. I think they are like us but don`t sound like us. Progressive is just a label, you know. (The manager knocks on the door again…..aarrrggh).

Since there a lot of copycats out there, what`s your take on bands who are obviously trying to imitate Dream Theater? Does that annoy you?

If they feel happy with what they are doing, that`s fine. It doesn`t really annoy me. There is a lot of talent out there, but to put this talent into a band context is another story. I am into something which is easy to identify and emotional, bands that move me.

Thanks for the (short) interview and those insights...

Author: Autor: Dirk Seegers, transl. K. Weber, photos: Dream Theater
Date: 2007-10-10

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