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Interviews : “I’m stoked, we love Australia” – An Interview With James LaBrie (Dream Theater)

By on August 10, 2017

Dream Theater – James LaBrie

Pro touring acts often have little say in where they play, the scheduling and make-up of their tours and so on, as this is mostly handled by managers, booking agents, promoters and other various industry types. Even an extremely well-established and successful band like prog legends Dream Theater have minimal control over this area of their career. The fabulous news is that the band are set to return for their fourth tour of our nation in mid-late September. The bad news is that they are doing just the two dates in the major population centres, Sydney and Melbourne, before moving on to other pastures. Which is of course what happens when you’re a very in-demand band doing a highly sought-after tour.

The band’s myriad fans in Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane are a little peeved about this, and while he cannot wait to get here, so is frontman James LaBrie.

“I’m stoked, we love Australia,” he enthuses, “I just wish we were doing more shows, I’m a little bummed with that. But we love the country, it’s amazing, it’s an incredible country and our fans are stupendous down there, shall I say.”

It has to be asked, for the benefit of fans who may not get to see them due to the tyranny of distance, why are you only doing the two shows? “To be honest with, I think it all just comes down to scheduling,” he says with regret, “between you and I, and as band member, I’m just really miffed because I feel that there really could have been more time put aside. So then we could be doing Adelaide, we could be doing Perth, we could be doing Brisbane. I can assure you that all the guys in the band are not happy about this. We don’t get over there that often, so when we do, let’s hit it for everything that it’s worth, otherwise, that’s like coming to The States and saying ‘we’re only going to do New York and LA! It makes no sense to me.

“So we’re a little upset about that, but I hope, with the powers that be, that they’re aware of this and we can ensure that this doesn’t happen again.”

Fans from the rest of Australia are strongly encouraged to get to Melbourne or Sydney for one of the shows if they possibly can, as this is a very special tour (which goes some way towards explaining why the demands on their time across the world are so very high). They are celebrating the 25th anniversary of their true breakout second album, the all-time classic from 1992 Images and Words, and LaBrie is more than happy to tell us exactly how the night will be structured.

“The first set will be us playing songs from various albums throughout our discography,” he reveals, “and then the second set is dedicated to Images and Words, and then the encore being A Change of Seasons.

“So it’s pretty exciting,” he understates it, “because, and we’re seeing a lot of this on this tour, we’ve got a lot of new fans in our crowds. You can kinda tell that, because they’re anywhere from 10 years old to 25 years old. So for them just to be able to listen to the first set, and hear these songs from various albums, I think that’s a great introduction for new fans and even our tried and true fans that have been with us for most of our career appreciate that because it’s a bit of a nostalgic ride for them as well.

“And then to come out and hit everyone over the head with Images and Words from beginning to end, it’s a very exciting evening. And then when you add in A Change of Seasons in its entirety, it’s a real crowd pleaser.”

Re-visiting the album so intensely and putting the microscope on directly on it for the purposes of playing from end to end on this tour has caused him just a little trepidation. “Listening to it, and then saying ‘holy shit! That’s how I sand that?’ I was a lot younger back then and I was singing in the stratosphere then, and it was nothing for me to do that then. So now it was like ‘I gotta step up to the plate here.”

LaBrie has a little difficulty with the fact that it’s been a quarter of a century since that album was released, and this tour is making he and the band feel more than a little nostalgic looking back on the album and the era.

“No, not at all, it really does not seem that long,” he states, “when we sit down, while we’re traveling from city to city, whether we’re on a tour bus or we’re flying, or we’re out to dinner with one another, you start talking about that time, you start reminiscing on what was going on when we were touring back then. That kind of puts a little more perspective on the years that have gone by. But when you start just looking at it as that album, and then someone’s telling you ‘that was 25 years ago’, it’s very hard to believe, it’s a little surreal!

“It’s like ‘how did that even happen, man, 25 years just flew by!’ It just seems like, maybe not a blink, but it definitely has gone by extremely fast.”

The fact that they make a great living, making a style of music that is about as far from the mainstream as you can possibly get and playing that music to fans all across the globe for such a long time, is never lost on LaBrie and the band. They never take it for granted.

“We definitely realise just how fortunate we are to have been doing this for as long as we have,” he says, “and do you know what’s poignant to each and every one of us is that, not only have we been doing this for 30 years, we’re still relevant. And when our albums come out, it’s something that our fanbase looks forward to. I think that says a lot, because god forbid we go out and the only songs that anyone wants to hear from us maybe 10-15 older songs, and then the other ones are fluff so to speak. Fortunately we’re a band that has been recognised for our albums and each and every album. And granted, the fans are going to say to us what are their favourite albums and what aren’t, that’s just the way it is, music is very subjective.”

Ultimately, he and the band are extremely content with their career, where they sit in the scheme of things and where they are headed in the future. “The fact that we’re still doing this and we’re still looking forward as a band, we’re already talking about getting back into the studio again and start working on another album and then another tour. To be doing that at this point is really something to be cherished.”

Images and Words 25th Anniversary Australia Tour

Tuesday 19th September, 2017
Hordern Pavilion, Sydney

Wednesday 20th September, 2017
Palais Theatre, Melbourne

Tickets on sale now via www.dreamtheater.net. Presented by One World Entertainment.

About

Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine, themusic.com.au, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.