A Conversation with Dream Theater’s Jordan Rudess

MPc: Listening to your playing on Scenes from a Memory, your first Dream Theater studio album and on the latest release, Octavarium, I hear a difference in your style of soloing. On Scenes, your style seemed more aggressive in a neo-classical way, almost analogous to the way many guitar shredders approached their solos in the 80s and early 90s. Your soloing seemed to have taken a cue more from guitar players than keyboardists.

On Octavarium, though, your style seems more reflective of a 70s progressive rock influence; especially on the title track “Octavarium.” Artists such as ELP, Styx, and Yes seem to have been running through your fingers during those recording sessions.

How do you feel your style of playing and soloing has evolved over the years with the band?

Jordan: Well, Scenes from a Memory was my first album with Dream Theater. It was a period of time when I was learning how to integrate what I do with the group. There was a lot of thought being put into it. “Ok, here I am as a musician, here is the group. How do we come together and really make this work?” I wouldn’t say there was as much freedom in my musical thinking in those days, although it certainly wasn’t constricted. It’s just that these days, we’re working as a team and everybody really knows each other so well that there’s a lot of creativity that can happen.

It’s a very flexible situation. On something like Octavarium, it’s all about Dream Theater going into the depths of what we can come up with as a group musically and doing that. It’s very different than Train of Thought, our previous album, which was very focused on a metal style. My leads – listen to those and most of them are really kind of rockin’. There’s a lot of a kind of feedback sound, grungy, whereas with Octavarium there’s really a mix. Something like the title track, where we intentionally wanted to create something that was kind of like our own prog epic… it really did tip the hat to all the groups that we’ve been loving over the last many years. Certainly for me, it was a meaningful task because going into my ELP, Genesis, Yes roots, that’s music I live and breathe.

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