Over two years have passed since Dream Theater were in the UK and Europe. Their now legendary Distance Over Time Tour saw Dream Theater playing their iconic album Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory in full, producing some of the most heralded shows of their career. That tour took place just a couple of weeks before the COVID pandemic firmly hit UK shores, being the last gig for many before the disruptions of more recent times.
We are now just ten days away from Dream Theater’s return to UK shores for the first time since those shows. Since then, Dream Theater have released a new album, A View From The Top Of The World, and more recently returned to the live stage in the US. They’ve also racked up their third Grammy win, for The Alien. Rock Sins’ Jamie Giberti and Matt Hill had the pleasure of catching up with their resident wizard and keyboard playing extraordinaire Jordan Rudess prior to their US tour and Grammy triumph as part of the build up of Dream Theater’s return to the UK and Europe. In the first part of our interview with Jordan, find out how he coped with lockdown, how he’s found joy in his Patreon community and his favourite pieces of technology.
Rock Sins: Thanks for spending some time with us Jordan. We just wanted to kick off by asking firstly, how you are, how you’re doing and how you found the last (almost) two years or so because obviously it’s been a strange time for everybody, particularly for musicians like yourself, not being able to do a lot of what they would do normally and the affect that has had.
Jordan Rudess: I’m doing pretty well, it’s been, you know, it’s been an interesting time. Obviously everybody’s been going through so many changes, and had in many ways, a difficult time. But for me, the “COVID period of time”, a lot of it luckily for me was spent being very creative, doing a lot of recording and I’ve got a whole lot done musically speaking.
You know, I started out this experience by recording an unexpected solo album called A Chapter In Time, which is a more gentle, piano based album. And from there, I went on and did the Liquid Tension Experiment album. And after that, we did the Dream Theater album. So there’s been a lot of music that we’ve been putting out. And now I’m getting ready to do some more solo stuff because our (US) tour was postponed (towards the end of 2021).
So aside from the challenges that we all face, given the time that we’re living through, I have been able to spend a lot of time making music. And the other thing that has kept me sane, in this period of time is that I started Patreon, about a year and a half or a little bit more ago at this point. And that’s been great, because it’s allowed me to reach people doing a lot of live streaming and communication. That’s just been a really great system for allowing fans to also give back a little bit. I put together this wonderful streaming studio that I’m actually sitting in, but it’s got like cameras everywhere, and my beautiful Steinway piano, and all the keyboards and so, you know, I’ve been kind of able to have some fun and learn some things during this period of time. So, many things are positive, for sure.
Rock Sins: What you just said about the Patreon is really interesting. Do you think out of everything, if there’s any one particular thing that helped you with your wellbeing and mental health over that period is it being able to get that direct fan engagement by using things like Patreon?
Jordan: Well, the Patreon has been really great. And in many ways, you know, being someone who, number one likes people, likes to do social media, because I am an improviser, I like cool visuals, you know, the combination of all my interests really allowed me to enjoy, and to use, social media in a way that a lot of musicians don’t.
But the Patreon thing was a blessing, because instead of just giving, giving, giving, and like just putting stuff out and not getting anything in return, Patreon allows people who are big fans to kind of become part of the inner circle. And they want to be there and they want to give back. So like, I don’t know if you’re aware of how Patreon works, but everybody can set it up the way the way they want. And I’ve got different tiers, like there’s a listening tier that you just watch the streams, but there’s one that allows you to get my educational material and the interviews that I do with various artists, like I just did one recently with Rick Wakeman, which was really fun for me. So there’s all kinds of cool stuff going on there. And it’s all stuff that I enjoy, whether it’s a live stream improvisation or taking people through how to program the synthesizer during for The Alien on the Dream Theater record.
But one of the one of the other great things about it is that as an artist who has a following pretty much around the world, I tend to get messages from anywhere and everywhere, like, you know, something will pop up on Messenger, and then on instant, Instagram, and then on YouTube, it’s impossible to keep up with, even for someone like me, who likes people and wants to respond. So the Patreon thing allowed me to say, Hey, I would love to talk to you, if you’re really interested, check out my Patreon. And then that is a direct kind of like line of QA keeps things more simple for me. So I can respond to the patrons and you know, maybe here their tune, or, you know, all that kind of stuff. It’s been really great.
Rock Sins: Live streaming is something you’ve been known for for quite some time (like you’ve used the StageIt platform as one example) so that’s one area you maybe had an advantage over a lot of other musicians in terms of ways to perform over the various lockdowns.
Jordan: I’ve been doing video chatting since the moment it was possible. Basically even being up before live streaming per se I was interested in. I’ve always been a technology guy. I remember using something called Vokle back in the day. It was one of the very first kind of video chat systems where you could have multiple people on the screen, very much like zoom. That was super cutting edge at the time. But yeah, I’ve always been interested in technology and try to stay on top of it and enjoy it.
Rock Sins: On that point, being so into technology, what is your favourite piece of tech that allows you to do the things you need to do?
Jordan: My favourite piece of tech? That’s a good question! Well you know, I’m a big iOS guy. And I do a lot of stuff with my iPad, or my different apps. I’m working on three new music apps right now. And so I guess I would point to that, because I’m sitting in front of that a lot. I feel like every musician should have an iPad, like, this has so much cool stuff going on with it. These days, I can do all my visual stuff, my audio stuff, put it together and really develop a lot of ideas and see them through because of what’s possible on these small devices. It’s incredible.
Part two of our exclusive interview with Jordan covers topics like the new Dream Theater album, their impending return to UK shores, reuniting with Liquid Tension Experiment and more, and will be available here in the next few days – stay tuned.
Dream Theater return to the UK on the start of the Top Of The World European Tour next week. Support on the UK dates comes from TesseracT. Support on the other European dates comes from none other than Devin Townsend.
Dream Theater – Top Of The World UK Tour Dates April 2022 w/ TesseracT
April 20th – Belfast – SSE Arena
April 21st – Newcastle – Utilita Arena
April 23rd – London – OVO Arena Wembley