Dream Theater Revisits Images and Words

All the original musicians of progressive metal band Dream Theater hailed from Long Island. New members don’t have the same hometown, but the region remains important for the quintet. Dream Theater, which was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2010, is heading back home for a tour stop at the Paramount on Nov. 21.

The shows will pay tribute to the 25th anniversary of the group’s sophomore record, Images and Words. The band—singer James LaBrie, guitarist John Petrucci, bassist John Myung, keyboardist Jordan Rudess and drummer Mike Mangini—will perform the album in its entirety.

Myung, one of the original members who grew up in Kings Park, spoke with me about the tour and Long Island’s importance to the band.

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How is it playing Images and Words in its entirety?
It’s just a great experience for people who didn’t get to see us play that album. That was 25 years ago, so our fans are a pretty wide range in terms of age—you have little children and older adults that come out to see us. It’s really good to see when you can connect with such a vast age group…It’s important for us to go back to that particular album. That album was a breakthrough for us. And whenever you have something that has that kind of significance, it’s almost like it feels natural to go back to revisit that period. It’s almost as if it’s a way of reconnecting with our roots, what we’re about and a moment of recalibrating.

When that album broke through commercially, it was during a time when the popularity of heavy metal and prog was plummeting in the U.S.
I think that shows the void between what’s considered popular music, chart music and things that are selling. It’s a big thing for artists when it does happen. We got to experience what that’s like. But it’s not the complete spectrum. It’s just a layer…We were part of that other layer where we were filling a void…There wasn’t any band out there that was influenced or guided by the prog musicians like we were.

What are some of the most difficult or challenging Dream Theater songs to perform?
It’s all relative to me. It’s all just preparation…It all just requires concentration and you being there in the moment to recreate that. It’s all work.

Is Dream Theater thinking about a follow up to 2016’s The Astonishing?
We’re going to be working on it next year. We finish up in December and then we’re going to break for a bit. Then it’s back to work on a new record.

Has material already been written?
We’ve been capturing a lot of cool things during soundchecks. The early stages of it, I’m really excited about. I’m really looking forward to the next album.

What has Long Island meant to Dream Theater over the years?
Long Island is our stomping grounds. It’s where we grew up listening to Fingers Metal Shop [a long-running show on WBAB]. It was where we made things happen any way we could. I can remember one of the hardest things was finding a place to rehearse. Me and John would just go anywhere—Rockville Center, Hempstead—and knock on storefronts to see if they had a basement that we could rent, so we could practice!

The biggest thing for me is the friends that I had growing up, the suburban neighborhood that I grew up in and how the youth of the suburban community was embracing popular music. And a lot of great things happened. In a way, it was a big part of what enabled me to do what I’m doing now because if I grew up in another part of the world, it’s questionable if I’d be doing what I’m doing. It was sort of a melting pot of youth that was present when I was growing up that gave me that direction. When you’re young, you’re always looking for something to believe in, and something to really sort of embrace. For me, playing bass, being a musician and the idea of being in a band was my calling.

greg prato

greg prato

Greg Prato has lived almost his entire life on Long Island. He has written for Rolling Stone, and has penned many a book on either rock n’ roll or sports. See what he’s up to on Twitter @gregpratowriter.