Dream Theater are currently gearing up to bring their 25th Anniversary of Images and Words tour to the UK across the next couple of weeks. Prior to them heading out, I had the opportunity to chat with the one and only James Labrie, amongst other things, about the upcoming tour and also solo albums. Read on for the full transcription…
You recently finished up the first run of the Images and Words 25th Anniversary tour. How do you feel those dates went?
The first leg was terrific. It was really exciting to see the reaction of the fans and also a lot of new faces in the crowds. It was the album that put us on the map and to see the crowds that are coming out to celebrate it with us… it’s quite a profound experience actually.
You’ll be starting the second leg of the tour through the UK and the rest of Europe soon as well. Are you looking forward to them?
Yeah absolutely! We’ve built up quite a nice relationship with the UK in the past 25 years and we’ve always appreciated the success we’ve been blessed with in the UK. The shows always go down well and we’re always curious as to read what the journalists say! The journalists in the UK have a very colourful way of describing our shows and we always look forward to reading them. It’s always been a great experience for us though and I highly look forward to playing these shows.
I noticed that only recently you’ve started being credited for lyrics and music on the albums. Is there any particular reason for this?
I guess the way that we’ve done it from the beginning is that if you have ideas you come and suggest them. It’s more of a case of what works in the moment and what works with the music as a whole. With The Astonishing however, that was a completely different scenario in that it was something between John (Petrucci) and Jordan (Rudess). Aside from making a couple of suggestions on melodies from the rest of us, it was primarily just those two. Going forward to the next album though, it’ll be back to the usual of a collaborative style between all of us.
Spinning from your question, that’s the reason why my solo albums with Matt Guillory have been very important for me to do. First of all, Matt is a phenomenally talented man and he is a huge part of why those albums sound like they do. At the same time, it’s also a vehicle for me to get my ideas and lyrics out there. It’s a kind of platform for me to unleash my creativity and is quite important to me as a musician.
At the same time, Dream Theater has existed at the same time and the primary song-writers are John and Jordan and that’s the way it’s always been. I think every band has that dynamic where there are a couple of guys that are the main composers of things.
That actually leads nicely into my next question about your solo albums. Do you have any plans to do a follow-up to your last release?
Absolutely yeah. Matt and I have started to write and we’re just at the very beginning now. It’s taken us a bit longer to get into the process this time, but we’re hoping that it’ll be out by the fall of this year. It’ll be the same band, as that’s what’s maintained our band and sound. I’m hoping that if time allows we’ll be able to tour with this band. I’ve not toured with the solo band since 2005 so it’s well overdue.
Touching back on the touring now, you’re playing the Royal Concert Hall this time when you come to Glasgow…
Yeah, I don’t think we’ve played there before. Is it kind of like an arena?
It’s a place where a lot of orchestras play and also the home of the Scottish Conservatoire.
Oh nice! So it’ll be a nice room and have a really nice sound to it. It’s kind of like a theater then?
Yeah, kind of like that. They just finished doing some work in there as well so it should sound nice.
That should be good then. It’s always been more of a rock venue when we’ve played in Glasgow but we’ve always had a great time. I don’t think we’ve played Edinburgh since, holy smokes I think it was in the 90s!
Anyway, I still remember back in 1993 and we were out with a band called Damn the Machine and Glasgow was one of the last shows on that particular leg of the tour. But the guys in Damn the Machine got us a stripper and in the middle of “Surrounded” she decided to come out and start dancing right in front of me! As you can imagine, I was a bit taken aback by it but the crowd totally ate it up man. I’ll never forget that night.
There’s a lot of stories over the years from where we’ve clowned around and shown more of our human side. You kind of need to do that to keep your sanity when you’re doing this.
You’ve been a musician for several years now. Is there any advice that you’d give to any new bands?
There’s so much talent out there and so many great bands these days. My son plays in a band called Falset and they’re going to release something soon. I think they’re really great and they have something unique about them. It is very difficult for an artist to find their niche though and make something stick. It used to be that if you sold a million albums, then you’d be playing arenas. These days, it’s almost unheard of for bands to sell a million albums. Even if a band has a million likes on Facebook, they’ll still only be playing a 1,000 cap venue.
So my advice to my son and everyone else out there is to stick to your guns. Do what you can and try and make it successful. I think it would be a shame if you didn’t do anything with your music and not get out there and get your music heard. If you get somewhere then God bless you and that’s amazing if you can make a career out of it. If you’re unsuccessful, then at least you still went for it and experienced it rather than just sitting back and wondering what if.
You need to be honest with yourself as well. If you know something is crap, then there’s no point in releasing it. If you’ve got something really good though, then you need to go for it and put it out there. Go make something of it.
Rounding this up now, describe yourself in 3 words and then the band in 3 words.
[thinks for a few seconds]
For myself, determined, committed and appreciative.
For the band, longevity, success and continuation.
If you ask me tomorrow I’d have six more words for you.
U.K. tour dates for the Images and Words 25th Anniversary tour run as follows:
- Tue 18th Apr – BIRMINGHAM Symphony Hall
- Wed 19th Apr – MANCHESTER O2 Apollo
- Thu 20th Apr – GLASGOW Royal Concert Hall
- Sat 22nd Apr – CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
- Sun 23rd Apr – LONDON Eventim Apollo
Tickets are on sale now and available from all the usual places.