Yes, indeed folks, ff ever there was a time to release a jaw-dropping live performance DVD, it’s now! Grammy-nominated pianist and composer, Jordan Rudess sat down with Overdrive [thanks to the powers of modern technology] to discuss not only the live album/DVD but also what he’s been doing to pass the time during the lockdown and his plans going forward.
OD – Dream Theater ‘…Live in London‘ was released to punters on November 27th. It’s gotta be pretty emotional when you are looking back on this footage and not being able to get up on stage and engage/perform for people. How have you been coping over the last 9 months?
JORDAN – Yeah, it’s really weird. I’m used to being on tour for a year and then being back home for a year. Then we go into recording mode and then it’s back out on the road again. The big difference here is that we got shut down about three quarters into the last tour and now we have this ever-extending break, which is something very out of the ordinary for what we’re used too.
People don’t really know how long this is going to last for. There has been a lot of talk about live touring not really returning correctly until 2022, which is a really long time.
OD – Has there been any upside to the lockdown that you’ve noticed to date?
JORDAN – One thing that’s been a good thing [and there’s not been that many], is that the timing for our release of ‘Live in London‘ has been somewhat of stroke of good luck, due to so many people really missing live shows and this is a chance to lose yourself and remember what live shows actually feel like!
OD – This is not your first rodeo when it comes to live albums as it’s gonna be the bands 9th!
Considering that ‘live albums’ are not really a common thing with most bands today, what is it about the concept of a ‘live album’ that appeals to Dream Theater?
JORDAN – We just love playing live and especially the entertaining part of the show from production to setlist etc. I really feel it’s kind of like marking our time in history and capture it as best we can for people to enjoy and then move on and work on the next album.
One of the sad things that happened in our career was putting together one of the most elaborate productions we’ve ever done for ‘The Astonishing‘  and we never got to record it.
OD – Why…What happened?
JORDAN – Well, let’s just say it was due to an unfortunate series of events that led to us being unable to document that particular tour the way we would have liked too. We didn’t even allow people to take photos on that tour, so really we have nothing to remember it via our own memories. [Laughing]
OD – This was a pretty huge tour for you guys with it being the 20th anniversary for ‘Metropolis Part 2 – Scenes From A Memory’ and also the official tour for ‘Distance Over Time’. Was there any decision to keep those two entities separate by focusing on one album and then doing something special for the anniversary?
JORDAN – It was just something that totally made sense. We were coming from this really important anniversary with ‘Metropolis...’ twinned with the release of the new album and the idea just came together very quickly.
OD – Not many bands’ tend to perform so much material from their new albums on tour as it takes time for the material to resonate with the fans but this was not a problem for you guys doing ‘Distance…‘
JORDAN – Yes, we were totally aware of that. Our decision to do so much material from the album was based on the almost immediate overwhelming acceptance of the album from our fans who were asking for us to do that. The whole thing worked out very well and for me personally, it was a landmark tour as it was my own 20th-Anniversary as a member of Dream Theater and every night James [LaBrie, vocals] would announce it from the stage and that was just a great feeling.
OD – There is a huge setlist on this album, with 21 tracks (including bonus track ‘Paralyzed’ on offer for the fans. With this show being what it was, I’m sure the setlist was going to cover those two albums in particular but normally, when compiling setlist, how do you go about choosing the tracks as there is a huge discography to choose from?
JORDAN – There’s a lot to that process. Things like, how long is our performance time, are there any special occasions coming up that we should address during the show. In the last tour, there was a major one, with ‘Metropolis…’ and then we have to look at how well the new material is doing and will that work in the live show etc.
There are a lot of variables to that, oh..of course then there’s the production/logistical side of things which is a huge part of our shows. Putting together a setlist is a very hard process and it’s one that we take very seriously.
OD – Since this downtime, have there been a move towards writing material for the follow-up to ‘Distance Over Time’?
JORDAN – I’ve been keeping really busy. I’m really interested in utilising social media and video performances etc and even since the first lockdown, I’ve been busy sharing some peaceful and resonant music. Just sitting down at the piano and playing various kinds of compositions and techniques and ideas.
So, for 60-days in a row, I did Facebook live streams with the intention to heal myself and others. After about 45th stream, I began to think: “This is a really nice thing to do and I’m connecting with a lot of people. But I’m kind of sending the wrong message because music should not be free.”
Musicians suffer because of the current state of the music business, so I figured that I would take the audience that I had and go about informing and educating them to the fact that music should no be free.
I then made the decision to move my platform off social media and do everything through my own website [click here] where it can be monetised, make more sense and feel right. And people that are into what I’m offering can really benefit from the information I’m providing.
So, I decided to go with a Patreon format, because I think it’s a really great format for creates of all kinds. My wife, Daniel and I, put together a very well organised Patreon site and then told my fans that I was moving to this new platform and if they wanted to follow me over there, then that would be great.
OD – Can you explain what you are offering on the site?
JORDAN – It’s basically like a “front-row live seat” to watch any and every stream that I do, and I do a lot of them [laughing]. We provided a selection of tiers/options for people to choose, so, for example, I’ll write certain pieces of music and go through it with detail, or there will be educational episodes where I’ll have some people come in on Skype to talk about and debate certain aspects of the industry and composing etc.
It was a big system to put together and is also very rewarding, I really like the social interaction with so many different people from all over the world.
OD – Have you been writing new music for any projects in particular?
JORDAN – Yes, I’ve written quite a bit for various things and also have recorded some material for Dream Theater and other stuff that I can’t really talk about today. I’ve also put together a solo album of piano music that hasn’t really been formally announced and I’ve asked some of my Patreon community to name some of the tracks, which is really cool.
OD – There is no doubt that Dream Theater are masters of contemporary progressive music and you’ve got a few awards to back that up. When you’re sitting in a room and your name is called out for such an esteemed award such as the ‘Prog Awards’ does that still give you a rush?
JORDAN – It’s an interesting thing and everybody takes these things differently. For some, it’s an ego thing and in some other ways, it can offer a different perspective which is how I tend to view things like award ceremonies etc.
If I win an award, it’s now like I’m walking around with a big head or anything like that [Laughing]. For me, it makes me think about the hard work that went into creating the music and that we’ve accomplished the goal of connecting with people on a level that warrants an award, according to people that have to make such decisions be it a panel or fans voting etc.
If anything, it gives me more incentive to continue working hard. It’s a nice feeling to know that something I’ve been working on for so many years can be appreciated by people from around the world and if I can share some of this wisdom and knowledge then, that’s a really good thing.
OD – Could you ever see anything happening with Liquid Tension Experiment in the future or is that project done?
JORDAN – Everybody wants to know [laughing]. We are very aware of the interest in this project and if people just take a breath and chill, there will be some news coming very soon.
*Editor – Since this interview, Liquid Tension Experiment have indeed announced a new studio album, ‘LT3‘ which is due for release on March 26th. Jordan has published a statement regarding the album:
“It felt like a continuation. Like we stopped recording ‘LTE2’ and walked in a week later we’re doing ‘LTE3’. I know it’s amazing to say, but time has passed in a moment, the blink of an eye, the chemistry is the chemistry, and it didn’t change.” Petrucci commented, “It’s relentless. When you press play, it steamrolls you.”
OD – Can you share an album or song that you hold in high regard from another artist?
JORDAN – I listen to a lot of different music and funnily enough, I was going through my Spotify recently and one band that I’ve been drawn back to a band that has been around for a long time. That band is KANSAS.
I can’t believe after all these years, they sound so fantastic. They’ve been going for about 40-years. They have a new album out called ‘The Absence of Presence‘ and it’s incredible.
When it comes to different styles and genres of music I’m all over the place. I really enjoy so many different sounds and styles. I’m really like an artist called Sufjan Stevens, he’s got kind of an electronic spacey, ambient [at times] sound that’s really interesting. His new album is called ‘The Ascension‘.
Dream Theater ‘Distant Memories – Live in London‘ is out NOW. Order your copy here.
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