James LaBrie – Vocals
John Myung – Bass
John Petrucci – Guitars
Mike Portnoy – Drums
Jordan Rudess – Keyboards
September 1986 was when it all began. Guitarist John Petrucci and his bassist friend John Myung both attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston, and they were looking to form a band in their spare time. They came across drummer Mike Portnoy in one of Berklee’s rehearsal rooms, and after a few days chatting they decided to give it a shot.
They contacted high school friend Kevin Moore to fill the keyboardist position, and vocalist Chris Collins completed the line-up to be known as Majesty.
The quintet started jamming in their free time, and recorded a short demo tape consisting of 8 tracks to be distributed around the local area. The demo tape was called the Majesty Demos , and sold 1000 copies within the first 6 months of availability. Amazingly, the demos continued to be copied and distributed by fans and is still widely available today.
The following November, the band underwent their first in a long string of line-up changes as Chris Collins and Majesty parted ways. In need of a singer, the band continued writing and recording demos for about a year to follow, and instrumental versions of some future DT classics were conceived.
Finally, in November 1987, the band recruited Charlie Dominici as their singer and frontman. Eager to professionally distribute their demoed material, the band signed to Mechanic Records and started working on When Dream and Day Unite.
Unfortunately, before they could get too far, they were contacted by a Las Vegas band also called Majesty and were forced to change their name. Names were considered and discarded, until Howard Portnoy (Mike’s father) suggested they use the name Dream Theater, the name of a now demolished California cinema.
When Dream and Day Unite was completed and distributed throughout the underground prog scene, gathering quite a bit of support from starving prog rockers waiting for another Yes- or Rush-esque masterpiece. Unfortunately, the band were restricted to small clubs and bars as Mechanic lacked the size and funding to provide a suitable tour program.
Leaving Mechanic behind them, Dream Theater fired Charlie and were after a fresh start. Unfortunately, finding a suitable singer would set them back quite a few years.
Chris Cintron, John Arch, Steve Stone and John Hendricks among others were all auditioned and declined until finally, in late 1991, a tape arrived from Canada. It was from glam band Winter Rose’s vocalist, Kevin LaBrie, and the band decided that they were interested enough to fly him down to New York for a proper audition. With Kevin, they performed demo versions of To Live Forever, Learning to Live and Take the Time, and decided to pick him over the 200+ other hopefuls for the vocal spot in Dream Theater.
With 2 Johns and a Kevin already in the band, LaBrie decided to use his middle name, James, as his first name to side-step any confusion on the matter.
ATCO Atlantic (now EastWest) signed DT for the recording of the one prog masterpiece of the 1990s – Images and Words. Three videos were shot for the album, Pull Me Under (a cheap live video paired with a totally unrelated story), Take the Time, and Another Day. The band’s hopes were with Another Day, the most radio friendly of the bunch, but suprisingly it was Pull Me Under that became an MTV hit. In fact, Another Day still hasn’t been played once on the station.
Radio had already picked up on PMU, and IAW began to gather quite an amount of sales. This was about the time that a lot of die-hard prog rock fans from around America became die-hard DT fans, and ATCO decide that it was time for a live album and video.
Live at the Marquee was recorded at the Marquee Club in London, and Live in Tokyo was recorded in Tokyo (surprise surprise) during the Music In Progress tour 1993. The enourmous DT bootleg trading community started to form around this time, with the majority of DT shows around the world being recorded and distributed.
Returning from the biggest tour of their careers, the band started to record their third studio album (and first with original material) in May 1994. Awake was completed in July the same year, but before the mixing was complete, Kevin Moore turned the DT gang on their head. Citing musical differences, he announced his intentions to leave DT and concentrate on his solo music interests.
To fill-in for the Waking Up The World tour, Derek Sherinian was hired until they found a permanent replacement for Kevin. The band was mainly interested in Julliard trained Jordan Rudess, but he had been offered a place by the Dixie Dregs, who at the time suited Jordan’s needs more closely. Jens Johansson (now in Stratovarius) auditioned but was declined, and eventually the band decided to keep Derek on as full-time keyboardist.
In April of 1995, after some serious prodding from fans, DT entered BearTracks Studios once again to record the 23 minute epic A Change of Seasons. Written originally in 1989, the song underwent some major structural changes, and Derek was given the opportunity to put his own spin on the keyboard parts. Eventually, on September 19, 1995, the A Change of Seasons EP was released and highly acclaimed by fans.
A short mini-tour (the fix for 96 ) was completed and DT took a few months off before returning to the studio to write and record Falling Into Infinity. Over 2 CDs worth of material was completed, including a follow-up to the IAW epic Metropolis Part 1. Unfortunately, Elektra (their label at the time, and current label) would not allow a double-CD, and the band were forced to put an album’s worth of material into Mike’s basement.
After their enourmous Touring Into Infinity world tour, Dream Theater took a break. But as is the way with workaholic musicians, the members found other projects to keep them busy for the year.
John Petrucci and Mike finally found a way of performing with Jordan Rudess, in the form of the Liquid Tension Experiment (also featuring bass master Tony Levin). Spearheaded by Magna Carta boss Mike Varney and Portnoy, this mainly imrovised album became legendary among DT fans.
John also performed lead guitar on Trent Gardner’s Explorer’s Club project, and Derek contributed a solo. James was one of 4 vocalists to appear on the album, and he also made a guest appearance on Shadow Gallery’s third album, Tyranny.
John Myung and Derek Sherinian collaborated with King’s X frontman Ty Tabor to create a band that can only be described as King’s X with Derek Sherinian, Platypus, and the debut album When Pus Comes to Shove was recorded.
Amongst all these side-projects, DT did find a way of releasing something, in the form of a live 2CD and video. The CD, entitled Once in a LIVEtime, was recorded over 2 nights in Europe, and was made up of a very widely spread collection of DT tunes. The video contained live shows, studio exerpts, and a commentary by Mike Portnoy from the IAW days right up until OIAL.
1999 started with some suprising news, with DT announcing that they had fired Derek in favour of Jordan Rudess, who had finally become available. Derek went on to record solo albums, guest spots, and form Planet X, one of the cornerstones of the prog/modern-jazz fusion genre.
Around this time, DT fans caught wind of what Kevin Moore was doing when he released a collection of old demos called This Is A Recording. Most of the songs on the demo were eventually re-recorded for Kevin’s Chroma Key project (of which there is now a sequel, and a third on the way).
James LaBrie was the last DT member without a side-project of some kind until early 1999, when he started work on the MullMuzzler project with Matt Guillory and Mike Mangini. Their album Keep It To Yourself was acclaimed amongst proggers, but would be overshadowed by DT’s next contribution to rock history.
Elektra had finally decided to give DT 100% creative freedom with their next album, and the result was one of the few legendary prog rock albums ever written. Scenes From A Memory, the 77 minute rock opera epic was released in late 1999, and was hailed as the best concept album since Queensryche’s Operation: Mindcrime. Yet another world tour followed, and DT’s first ever DVD release was conceived.
Metropolis 2000 was finally released after a very anxious wait from fans, but unfortunately the months following were filled with problems and crises. The first of which was a synchronization problem with PAL versions of the DVD, resulting in recalls and more anxious waiting until finally a new batch were release personally approved by Mike Portnoy himself.
As a gift to fans who did not own DVD players, Mike decided to release a triple live album with the entire Metropolis 2000 concert. Once again however, it was not a smooth release. The album was released on September 11, 2001 – a tragic day by it’s own accord, but DT somehow managed to inadvertently make some matters worse by giving the CD somewhat inappropriate artwork. The front cover was DT’s ’sacred heart insignia from the IAW days transformed into a burning apple, with the NY skyline amongst the flames. Unfortunately the effect was an image of the World Trade Center amongst fire, not a pretty picture by any standards.
Whilst dealing with all these hiccups and disasters, the band were also trying to record their 6th studio album. Re-united with most of the IAW team, and with MP and JP taking on the role of producers once more, the band set out to create yet another epic masterpiece, and as was expected, they delivered!
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, a 2CD semi-concept album, was released in late January 2002 and received the best reaction from critics and fans of any DT album before it. Comprised of 50 minutes of ’shorter songs and one 42 minute marathon, SDOIT proved itself to be worthy of all its praise.
Train of Thought was released November 18, 2003. Clocking in at just under 70 minutes, this seven song masterpiece will be supported by The 2004 Dream Theater World Tour, which kicks off January 16, 2004 at the Apollo in Manchester, UK
-Brad Dixon, dtfaq.com
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