(John Petrucci cover story for the March 2012 issue of Guitar Player magazine.)

Drama King: John Petrucci, DreamTheater, and the Eternal Quest for Sonic Gratification


John Petrucci Guitar Player magazine cover“WHEN YOU POP DREAM THEATER'S new disc, A Dramatic Turn of Events [Roadrunner], into your computer, the genre classification iTunes assigns it is "metal." But calling this dynamic ensemble a metal band is a bit like saying Moby Dick is a story about a fish.

Powered by volcanic guitar tones, assaultive riffs, stratospheric solos, and operatic vocals, Dream Theater's music indeed delivers the classic staples of metal. But considering theband's ambitious concept albums, epic song arrangements, strong classical leanings, time-morphing meter changes, and sophisticated harmonized lines, Dream Theater hasmore in common with Zappa than it does Zeppelin. Not only that, but as the band stays closely connected to its devoted fan base via online forums, meet-and-greets, and other media, its global audience is more like a community of Phishheads than a Metallica militia.

And yet, to grasp Dream Theater's apparent musical contradictions and its lack of rock star aloofness, all you have to do is sit down with the band's open and humble mastermind, John Petrucci.

As far as guitar wizards go, Petrucci is more than generous when it comes to revealing his spells. He is extremely accessible--even while in the middle of a world tour promoting A Dramatic Turn of Events (which debuted in the Top 10 in America, as well as in more than a dozen other markets across the planet). Dream Theater album and DVD sales long surpassed the ten million mark worldwide, but Petrucci seems as driven and hungry and approachable as an artist promoting a critical first release. Such energy is all the more amazing, considering that Petrucci and his longtime band mates--keyboardist Jordan Rudess, vocalist James LaBrie, and bassist John Myung--are still coping with the departure of founding drummer and creative partner Mike Portnoy in 2010. More than 26years after being formed at Berklee College of Music, it's a new era for Dream Theater.

Mike Portnoy has left the band, you have a new drummer, and you're now the band's sole producer. How did this all go down?
John Petrucci: I don't like to speak for Mike. The reasons for his leaving are things that only he can address. But from my perspective, he got to a point where he wanted and needed tochange musically and professionally. It was difficult and heartbreaking, to say the least,but that was over a year ago. Since then, we not only have a new drummer, Mike Mangini,but also a new studio album and a new world tour. To be where we are right now is pretty incredible. At the time when Mike was leaving, picturing us being here was difficult.

The split must have been pretty stressful.
Absolutely. We were not only bandmates for 26 years, we were also business partners, sothere were a lot of details to work out that took a lot of time and attention. It's notsomething that's easy to go through or overcome--especially when you've been together that long. And Mike definitely worked hard. He was the big face of the band out in thepublic, and that level of …