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An Unexpected Interview With Mike Mangini

We just had an all-new interview with Dream Theater drummer Mike Mangini literally fall into our laps. Here’s what he has recently been thinking.

Noting your current album is called A Dramatic Turn Of Events, what dramatic historical event would you like to have witnessed?
Mangini: One dramatic historical event that I would have liked to witness was Jesus walking on water to the boat full of apostles. That ranks high on my list of “jaw dropping” events.

Can you talk about a song or musical moment on the new album that you feel brings you as a musician and/or the band to a new level?
One musical moment on the new album I feel brings the band and me to a new level is the first riff section in “On the Backs Of Angels.” I had practiced hard to play this, so I got better from it. This section features a level of coordination that allows me to orchestrate the simultaneously – but different – parts played by the guys. The ’Johns’ [Petrucci,guitar; Myung, bass] are playing in unison and Jordan is playing a different part. I feel that by coloring it in rather than layering on another complex part, or too simple a drumbeat, is very different for Dream Theater.

If you were to record a duet with an artist outside the genre of music for which you’re known, who would that be and what song would you cover?
If I recorded a duet with an artist outside of the progressive rock genre, I would record a drum track with violinist Itzhak Perlman. In this duet, I would orchestrate his violin part on the drums like it was a drum solo with associated musical notes.

The new album proves that you guys remain as uncompromising and fearless as ever. Three of the nine songs clock in over ten minutes. What do you feel these expansive song lengths enable the band to achieve musically?
The expansive song lengths we use in Dream Theater allow us to achieve a level of artistic completion with an idea. By being able to add sections in a song, or expand on them, we’re able to explore music like it is a journey rather than to play a recurring theme over and over.

If you could have a conversation with any historical figure, living or dead, who would it be and why?
I would have a conversation with Pope John Paul 2nd out of any historical figure. I would ask him how to interpret the philosophies of Aquinas, Augustine, and Marcus Aurelius, as well as his own with regard to the use of musical talent as it affects the human soul.

As musicians who tour the world regularly, we’re sure you have had that classic night where it all goes wrong, a la Spinal Tap. So can you describe your worst night on tour, ever?
My worst night on tour can appear more than once in that it has to do with not enough warm-up time. This shows itself in the form of a song mess-up because I’m thinking about how to loosen up as quickly as possible. The level of mental and physical pressure I put on myself to play what it is my mind is greater than my body can accommodate if I am not warmed up enough. It is a rare night that I can just walk to the stage with no warm up and play, but it isn’t a random thing. I have to be feeling just the right combination of mental calm and physical looseness in order to do that.

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