"In 2018 we’re gonna make a new album" - James LaBrie interview
Dream Theater is on tour with Images and Words that have its 25th anniversary this year. We had the chance to meet with a fun and surprisingly talkative James LaBrie before the show in Budapest on May the 10th to talk about the tour, the future, the next solo album and much more.
Rockbook: Images and Words is a definite masterpiece and an absolute favorite amongst the fans. Why do you think it’s such an important album?
James LaBrie: It was the album that really put us on the map internationally. They had an album before called When Dream and Day Unite, and they had some critical acclaim, so the press knew that they were an entity. But it was Images and Words that gave us the platform to create what we want after that. And throughout the years, no matter what album we were touring with, everybody got excited when they heard songs from Images and Words. And also it’s been recognized by all the artists, musicians and press in the progressive scene. So it’s in the history books, for sure. And it’s amazing because we only did what we wanted to do in order to express ourselves and fortunately for us it became a success.
Rockbook: Do you think it’s possible that you do another tour like this when the next album reaches a big anniversary?
James: There’s always a possibility and some fans are already asking about it. Awake will be 25 in 2019. But as much fun it would be, I don’t know. I think there are certain albums that should be recognized, and for me the next one would be Scenes from a Memory. And for that, the 25th anniversary will be in 2024. Maybe we need to go with the 20th. (laughs) But that was also a huge album for the fans. So that might be an album that we should give a tribute to.
But for now, we do this tour for the rest of 2017 and in 2018 we’re gonna make a new album. And we’re pretty psyched because we’re already know what we’re gonna do. But I’m not gonna tell you. (laughs) It’s really important for us that the new album will be our best effort. It should be who we are at that particular moment. We still want to create something that’s better than what we did before. That’s what keeps you interested in what you do. But if along the way we feel that there is another album we should recognize once again, then we’ll do it.
Rockbook: Are you already in the writing process for the new album?
James: No, we’re just planting seeds for now. We’re just putting some stuff together but it’s pretty cool what’s happening. The real nuts and bolts aren’t gonna happen until we’re done touring. Then we will go to a studio and be together every day just to write songs. But we have a lot of ideas already.
Rockbook: Back to this tour. You are playing almost three hours every night. Is it tiring for you?
James: I feel great, but it is tiring for all of us because it’s physically and mentally challenging. You have to put yourself out there every night to go on stage and kick ass for three hours. (laughs) But the human body reacts to adrenaline and you get an adrenaline rush every time you go on stage. And that’s what keeps you pumped and in the moment. But there are some days when I’m really tired. We just played last night in Munich, tonight we’re in Budapest and tomorrow we’re going back to Germany. So we’re moving constantly. I eat lots of vegetables, fruits, berries and nuts, I drink lots of water and I exercise. And coffee. That helps too. (laughs) All these things help you to get healthy and go on stage every night. We all have our routines that keep us in shape, physically and mentally. I need a lot of space to get away from this environment because it helps me to be balanced. I like to read a lot.
Rockbook: Do you have favorites or you always read something different?
James: Believe it or not, now I’m reading a book that’s called How Not to Die. It’s all about whole food, nuts, berries and all that stuff. It’s really changing my views about what we consume. We put so much crap in our bodies. Processed food is the worst thing in the world. So, it’s really an eye-opener for me because I’m reading this book and I’m like ‘yeah, I do that. I eat that.’ So it’s really helping me to change my culinary course.
And I just finished a series by Jonathan L. Howard called The Brothers Cabal. It’s an amazing series. It’s about a necromancer and his brother who is a vampire. It’s a really well-written fantasy. And Neil Gaiman is also an author who I really gotten into lately. He’s amazing too. And all this stuff is important because it keeps the wheels turning. And I’m also writing a lot because I’m doing my solo album. That should be ready in late 2017, I think.
Rockbook: You already have some songs for that?
James: Matt Guillory our keyboard player and I are just starting to write songs for that but it’s already really exciting. And as always, it will be a lot different from Dream Theater. For me, it only makes sense to do it if it’s different. It always had its own identity. Each album has its own identity.
Rockbook: The Astonishing, the last Dream Theater album was a concept album. Are you planning to do another one in the future?
James: If we will, it’s not gonna be anytime soon. I mean, we waited for like 17 years between Scenes from a Memory and The Astonishing. I don’t wanna wait another 17 years! (laughs) I think I’ll do my farewell tour in 17 years! (laughs) I think for now it’s best for us to concentrate one album at a time and not thinking in a concept. Unless we wanna write an epic song that has multiple parts in it. Doing something like that might be cool. Something like A Change of Seasons. But a whole album again, no.
Rockbook: There was a time when you basically never played the same setlist two nights in a row. Why was that?
James: When Mike Portnoy was in the band we changed the setlist every night. It was fun and it might be cool to do it again on the next tour or to have like an A, B, C, D set. But touring with A Dramatic Turn of Events we had a fixed setlist for Europe, North America, South America and Asia. But recently we talked about that maybe in the next world tour we will use different sets. It would be cool because we have a lot of fans who attend at multiple shows. So for them it would be cool to hear more songs from the catalogue. And it keeps us interested too. (laughs)
Rockbook: Some people think that you guys lately went from progressive metal to progressive rock.
James: With The Astonishing it was definitely more progressive rock than progressive metal. But that doesn’t mean that we’re not still a progressive metal band. I think that will always be who we are. Just in some albums we show more of it than on others. Back then it really put us on the map when they hailed us like this progressive metal band. And I think we always maintained some of that throughout the albums and it could become much more predominant once again with a future album. So, it’s really up to us where we wanna go and how we wanna express it. But it’s always gonna be a part of what we are.
Rockbook: Obviously, you have been in many places around the world. Do you have some favorites?
James: Yeah. Budapest! (laughs) But, seriously, I do love Budapest. It’s an amazing city and Hungary is a beautiful country. Unfortunately, I don’t see enough of it. I’d love to spend a week here with my wife and really see it for everything that it’s worth. But that stands true for most of the countries we’ve been to. Lot of people say that how cool it is for me to see the world. I don’t see shit! I see this changing room! This is what I see. I come to the venue, I do the interviews, I do the show and then I go to the next city.
If we have some free days, I might have the opportunity to take a walk in the city centre but I’m not really taking it in. But I think Europe as a whole is an absolutely beautiful continent. You guys are blessed with such a rich history. I’m from Canada. We’re gonna be a 150 years old on July 1st. It’s like a drop in a bucket for you guys. Even on musically, you have much stronger foundations in classical music than in North America. But there are many amazing places in North America and in Asia as well. So there is much to explore everywhere.