Dream Theater are one of the few bands that have occupied the pinnacle of prog metal for what feels like an eternity. Only rarely did they run out of steam - instead, they always managed to move the bar of the genre a bit higher. Also on "A View From The Top Of The World" they enjoy the view from their throne, which no one will deny them so quickly, even in view of 15 million albums sold
Instead of asking frontman James LaBrie or the all-embracing guitarist and producer John Petrucci for an interview, this time eclipsed's interview partners deliberately chose two other band members: drummer Mike Mangini and keyboardist Jordan Rudess. Striking with both of them: They answer general questions about Dream Theater's new, fifteenth album rather succinctly, but as soon as they are asked to describe their specific perspective, they can hardly be stopped in their flow of words - and bring many an interesting facet to light.
eclipsed: Mike, was the recording process for "A View From The Top Of The World" - also due to the pandemic - different from previous albums?
Mike Mangini: A little bit, yeah. Let me describe it this way: The last thing I said to everybody before we went into the room to get started was, "Let's just get in there and get going. Without thinking, without any preconceived ideas - just play and have a lot of fun." And that's what happened. "The Alien" was the first thing that came about. I had offered versions of this beat before. But now the time was right, and it fit. Every single person could contribute at any time. That was very cool. It's the album that's been the most equal so far - even though everyone still had their part to play, of course.
eclipsed: Your playing style is remarkably groovy this time, almost swinging at times, isn't it?
Mangini: Yeah, but I tell you what: I didn't change anything at all compared to the other albums. I play the same drums, I play the same grooves. The only thing that was done differently this time was that Jimmy T [sound engineer James Meslin, note] and I spent time together and I was involved in sound engineering ideas. We've been talking about it for a good five years, and this time we really put a lot of work into it.
eclipsed: Which song do you like best from your perspective as a drummer?
Mangini: "Answering The Call" reflects my particular hi-hat playing technique, which can be found on every single album. But here you can see it very clearly.
eclipsed: The title track is about people pushing their limits, doing extreme things. Dream Theater are definitely an extreme band in their field. Do you sometimes feel connected to such people?
Mangini: Yes - although you have to know that the lyrics came much later. None of us knew the themes during the recording. But I can answer your question in general with "absolutely". The connection is in the growth - and in the accumulation of all the technical skills and abilities to give creative expression to that growth and to push it to new limits. And: I'm not afraid. Not of what other people think of what I do, not of what other people think of what I play. The only thing I'm afraid of is that they don't recognize what I do