At Sweetwater, we try to get to know every one of our customers personally. It turns out some of them are a pretty big deal in the music industry. They’re also some of the coolest we know. Do you want to meet some of them? We thought you would.
We recently caught up with John Petrucci of Dream Theater to talk guitars, beards, and life in a rock ‘n’ roll band. Here’s how it all went down.
SW: Has there ever been a point in your life where you lost your interest for playing? If so, what did you do to rekindle your passion?
JP: No. Thankfully I have to say that there hasn’t, although there are periods of time where I won’t pick up my guitar for a week or so. Usually after a long tour leg. It doesn’t take long though before it starts calling to me again! I find that new pieces of gear always inspire me and for the most part, lead to some very cool creative sessions. Even something as simple as a new guitar pick can spark the urge to pick up the instrument and start wood-shedding!
SW: Whose beard would win in a fight – Jake Bowen’s (John’s nephew and guitarist for Periphery) or yours?
JP: Naturally I would say mine because of the sheer majesty and girth of it but Jake’s has the advantage of youth so, hmmm…!
SW: What does Dream Theater look for in a producer/studio when choosing where to record?
JP: With DT we tend to live in the studio when making a record so it has to have a comfortable and “homey” feel to it where we can move in, just let loose, be ourselves and let the creativity flow. It also needs to have great coffee and fast internet!
SW: Other than Dream Theater’s main rig, what’s a must-have piece of gear to keep on the road?
JP: I love my Boss eBand for practicing backstage.
SW: Do you have any pre-show warmups/rituals?
JP: This changes from night to night. Sometimes I’ll do little to no warmup and sometimes I’ll do a full 60-90 minute hardcore practice session. Probably the smartest thing to do is some sort of light warm-up of the hands through some basic exercises, scales and arpeggios. Reviewing the solos and difficult passages about an hour before showtime is another effective way of warming up and preparing for the show.
SW: What defines a “successful” Dream Theater performance?
JP: I think it’s when all of the elements come together for everyone in the band on any given night. Some nights for example, one person may be having a technical issue while another is having a great night or a couple of us will be really vibing off of the audience while someone else will walk off the stage disappointed. When everyone finishes the show having had a ton of fun and feeling proud of what we’ve done both individually and collectively while at the same time reeling from the electricity of the live audience, that’s a successful night for sure.
SW: What piece of music advice forever changed your way of thinking?
JP: Practice with a metronome! Before discovering a metronome, I’d play for hours and get practically nowhere. I specifically remember the high school band teacher (and I wasn’t in the HS band!) telling me about using a metronome to start slowly and gradually increase the speed of what you are practicing until you are able to play it comfortably and cleanly. From that day forward, my technique improved tenfold and I was able to set and reach my goals on the instrument a lot quicker and a lot more consistently.
SW: What piece of gear has had the biggest impact on your life?
JP: It would be very easy for me to say my first Boogie or EBMM guitar because I can’t imagine playing anything else but looking back, discovering the Dunlop Jazz III guitar pick had an enormous impact on my playing style and approach to technique.
SW: What are the biggest trends in gear that excite you right now?
JP: I love how there is a lot of passion and enthusiasm towards making gear better and cleaner sounding, more flexible, more road-worthy and more with the performing musician in mind.
It used to be that only a handful of companies had that mindset and that a lot of gear was clunky, cheap and noisy at best. Now it seems like the bar has been raised for the standard in quality and craftsmanship across the board and that competition in this market is fiercer than ever. To me this is so important because anything you add to your signal chain will have an impact for better or for worse and for us tone-seekers, this is of ultimate importance.