Dream Theater, over the past 11 albums and more than 25 years together, has built a reputation for its meticulous, precise brand of progressive rock.
It has been a slow and steady climb for the Long Island Music Hall of Famers, as the band's last two albums have become major events, debuting in the Top 10 on the Billboard charts.
For its upcoming projects -- a concert film, "Dream Theater: Live at Luna Park," opens in theaters Monday and its new album, "Dream Theater" (Roadrunner), hits stores on Tuesday -- the band is ready to try something new. The prog-rockers are going to let their moments of inspiration show.
Guitarist John Petrucci says that when the band got together at Cove City Sound Studios in Glen Cove this year to work on what became the "Dream Theater" album, they tried something different.
"When we went into the studio, before we did anything, we set up and got ready to record so that we actually got the sounds from our instruments that we wanted to use on the album," Petrucci says, calling from his home in St. James. "That way, we captured that spontaneous magic, those spontaneous moments."
Normally, Dream Theater, like most bands, would hit upon a moment of inspiration as the members of the band jammed and then re-created it later for the album when all the conditions were right.
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"This time, a lot of those performances were improvised," Petrucci says, adding that his impressive guitar solo in "The Bigger Picture" was a first take. "It's what I played when we were writing the song. We were able to do a lot more of that kind of thing. It's pretty cool. The songs breathe more. They have more of a personality."
Those moments of discovery are what keep Dream Theater -- Petrucci, singer James LaBrie, bassist John Myung, keyboardist Jordan Rudess and drummer Mike Mangini -- recording together in the same studio, although technology has made it possible for them to do their parts in their own home studios.
BONDING AS A BAND
"We could just trade files back and forth very easily," Petrucci says. "But the way we make albums is a collective thing. When we're together, we're bonding as a band -- not only when we're making music, but having conversations, hanging out, going for coffee, getting a glass of wine together, laughing, it makes for a different kind of experience. I think it ultimately makes the music better, because we're reconnecting with that spirit that we had when we first began, when we were just friends who hung out."
Petrucci credits a lot of the band's inventive, unexpected creations over the years to that process. "There's something about when you get together in a room with guys with live instruments and you start to interact," he says. "You take some of those weird chord progressions and you start playing with the other guys and then their musical brains start to light up and you're going back and forth, like a pinball game of creativity. When bands talk about chemistry, creative chemistry, that's what it's all about."
Dream Theater also enjoys the chemistry it has with its fans. In recent years, the band has developed a growing international fan base, where the connection is deep, even if there's a language barrier.
"It's hard to explain," Petrucci says. "Our international fans relate to a feeling that the music gives them. You can see it on the Luna Park DVD. They are so happy to be there -- even if they don't know what the words mean."
Petrucci says Dream Theater has been planning to do a concert film for a long time. "The band has always been all about that movie experience," he says. "That's how we wrote music as a band. The albums are meant to be heard from beginning to end in one sitting."
He says that when the band saw the reaction to their music in Argentina, they wanted to share the experience. "We wanted people in the other parts of the world to see what other fans are like," says Petrucci, adding that the DVD release of "Live at Luna Park" in November will be even more immersive, including 360-degree footage and shots from multiple angles.
He says the band has been energized by all the new inspirations and even went as far as naming the new album "Dream Theater," a move most bands use when they're starting out.
"We're just as much into this now as we were when we were starting out, and we wanted to point that out to our fans," Petrucci says. "We're moving forward. The future is all ahead of us."
WHAT "Dream Theater: Live at Luna Park"
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Monday, various theaters across America, including Farmingdale Multiplex Cinemas in Farmingdale, Broadway Multiplex Cinemas in Hicksville and Island 16: Cinema De Lux in Holtsville
INFO Prices vary; liveatlunapark.com