By Carl Begai
In a new interview with BW&BK (found here), Dream Theater vocalist James LaBrie discusses the departure of co-founder and drum legend Mike Portnoy and the making of the band’s new album, A Dramatic Turn Of Events. Over the course of the conversation he revealed that Portnoy’s absence allowed the band to work differently in comparison to previous records; this included LaBrie recording his vocals at home instead of New York, as he has in the past. On top of that, he was able to work with close friend, former Winter Rose bandmate, and critically acclaimed producer – known in particular for his work with Rush – Rich Chycki.
“I was only down in Long Island when we were putting the music together,” LaBrie reveals. “I recorded all my vocals here at home in Canada with Rich. We recorded at his house; he has an amazing home studio. We had an absolute blast. I wanted to go about this album a little differently, so I mentioned to the guys – mainly John Petrucci (guitars) because he was wearing the producer hat – that I didn’t want anyone around when I was recording my vocals. It was like, ‘I was singing before I met you guys, and seeing how things have changed lately, I think it’s time to go back to what worked once upon a time.’ And it worked extremely well.”
“It felt a lot like when I record my solo stuff,” he continues. “I’m by myself with the engineer, no one around, no distractions, I know exactly how I want to express myself vocally. That’s the way I stay completely focused. Rich is amazing because we’ve known each other for over 25 years and he knows what kind of singer I am. He knows what to look for in my voice and what I’m capable of. He knows when I’m touching on something magical and when I’m getting tired. He was extremely invaluable in that sense, not to mention that he’s one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met. We had countless hilarious moments together, and you need that so you have the release because it’s a very intense environment when you’re in the studio. You’re very focused and you want things to be absolutely perfect, so all those comical moments and interludes are necessary in order to stay focused six or eight hours a day.”
“Rich is completely pumped with where we’ve taken the album. He couldn’t believe how vibrant and young-sounding the whole thing is.”
“That’s the thing. I’ve worked with Rich over the years, including on Elements Of Persuasion (2005), and it’s a very, very productive interaction that we have. It’s always gone down smoothly, and that’s why, when we were approaching this album, I told the guys I wanted to record the vocals on my own and I wanted Rich to produce them. It worked out incredibly well.”
In a separate discussion, Chycki commented on his role on what can be considered one of the most important albums of Dream Theater’s career.
“Working with James and John Petrucci on the new Dream Theater album was certainly an honour. Both James and John had a very confident sense of where they wanted the vocal performances to end up, and it’s gratifying that they placed their trust in my input. That level of focus gives us a surgical strike method to our madness – no guessing, just hitting on the definitive performance. To me, vibe is everything. My studio overlooks an equestrian ranch, swimming pool and gardens, so it’s quite serene and certainly away from any distractions. And, as with the Rush projects I’ve worked on, it’s always important to have fun and maintain a positive frame of mind while working toward the finish line. It’s an intangible facet that can really be heard and I think listeners will find the new Dream Theater is no exception. It’s fresh and exciting, James and the rest of the band perform with an amazing intensity.”