The two-time Grammy nominated progressive metal band Dream Theater kicked off the next leg of their North American tour on March 20th in Canada. Dream Theater is in a class all to their own, especially when it comes to quality and style of playing. As such naturally I was quite stoked when guitarist John Petrucci sat down to chat with me about his favorite piece of gear and how it was used on the band’s latest self-titled album. Here is how the conversation went.
What one piece of gear do you use to obtain your signature sound?
Petrucci: Well the biggest thing is my signature Music Man Guitar, the latest in a series that I have been working with them on for the last 14 years or so. The latest one is called The Majesty and we just introduced it. It is my secret weapon, my axe to go into battle with and it is just an unbelievable and incredible sounding, playing, looking guitar and it makes the whole night enjoyable. It is by Music Man and is called The Majesty and I am playing it live on tour so you can see it at one of our shows. It is a really great guitar!
What about it makes it so important to you or better than any other axes you have played?
Petrucci: Well it is custom made for me and everything thing about it, every detail from the shape and the contours to the sound of it, to the way it is sculpted physically and sonically is all to my specifications. It is like having a custom fit tailored suit for you body. It is made exactly to my specs so when I play it I feel like it is an extension of myself, it is real comfortable and I don’t feel like it is getting in my way and it allows the music to just come out. That is the beauty of doing this type of thing and I am so fortunate to be able to do this with the guitar company, especially one like Music Man. They are so into the art of guitar building and also pushing the boundaries, making new things alongside the traditional guitars. They are an incredible company to work with and that is why I have been there for over 14 years now.
You definitely have a certain signature tone on your albums and I was wondering if you found it difficult recreating that tone in the live setting?
Petrucci: No I don’t find it difficult because I use the same gear that I use in the studio, I have a nice collection of Boogie Amps that I have been using since the beginning and depending on the tour I will bring out different combinations of the amps. Using the same mics and same cabinets combined with a brilliant front of house engineer, it totally sounds like the album. We don’t take any shortcuts in that sense. I use the same gear that I used to record and that makes the whole process consistent for me.
Do you have any backups beside The Majesty?
Petrucci: Well like I said, throughout the years we have made a series of guitars with Music Man and if you go to the Music Man website you can see all of them from the very first one we did through The Majesty. Through the years I have brought different ones out with me in different combinations depending on the songs, but right now at this point The Majesty is brand new and I am only playing that guitar on stage. It actually comes in a bunch of different colors so I am playing some different color ones and there are back ups for them but those are Majesties too. I am just really enamored by this guitar and it is what I will be using this tour. The cool thing about Music Man is that all the models are all available, they do not discontinue the past models when we update it and have a newer model out. A lot of people like certain ones and they can go back and get the ones they like anytime.
Give me your best “gear gone wrong” story.
Petrucci: Where do I start? There was a real interesting thing that happened on this tour that I have never seen happen before and I have to thank my guitar tech for pulling this one out because I don’t know how the heck he did it. We were on stage in a certain country, I forgot where we were, but the guitar did not sound right, it sounded really weird and was feeding back. It was receiving some kind of interference which could be the result of a number of things like RF, radio stations, lighting or any other number of things. We trouble shot everything we could possibly do and we could not find what it was.
We were getting closer and closer to showtime and we couldn’t solve the problem. All of a sudden my tech says “is there a hearing impaired assist in this venue?” I didn’t even know what that was, but sure enough they talked to the house people and there was a hearing impaired system running in the club. They went back and shut it off and the guitar went right back to normal and everyone clapped. Usually I have been in situations with the best crew and the best gear where there is some annoying buzz or ground noise that you can’t get rid of. Really 9 times out of 10 you can’t get rid of it and you just have to learn to live with it. This was like the one time it worked and it goes down in the books for sure.
Check out the song “The Looking Glass”