The Authorized Biography of Dream Theater. Now in paperback.
Rich Wilson has been writing about rock music for longer than he cares to remember. A graduate of Bradford University, Rich has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock, Prog Magazine, Rock Hard, Metal Hammer and Record Collector over the last fifteen years.
Rich lives on the outskirts of Manchester, England with his wife and Labrador. He is renowned for his love of dodgy 1970s prog rock bands, and his collection of even more dubious 1980s heavy metal albums. Lifting Shadows is his first book. Rich is currently completing work on his second band biography, which is due early 2014.
Rich answers your questions
We invited readers to send in questions for Rich. Here are his replies.
Dan Kemmett: How has the personal relationship between Mike Portnoy and the members of Dream Theater changed? Are they still able to be friends? Do they actually see each other at all anymore? Do their families get along anymore? Or was Mike’s Departure “The End”?
Rich Wilson: It’s hard for me to accurately answer that question, as I guess that’s kind of personal stuff which I tend to avoid. I suspect, but don’t know for a fact, that as when any band member leaves, there tend to be business issues that need to be sorted out which probably make (or made) it difficult for them to remain as close as they once were. I recall from interviews that some of the band do keep in contact with Mike. The other thing that you tend to find is that over time, any acrimony starts to fade, even if that takes fifteen or twenty years!
Gabriel Zarruk: will it [the book] include a chapter for the new self titled album?
Rich Wilson: The book takes the story up to the end of the Dramatic Tour Of Events, so it doesn’t include anything on the upcoming album due later this year. The band are keeping things quiet about the new record, which makes me wonder if they’ve cooked up something really special this time around!
George Heron: Is it coming out on Kindle or iBooks?
Rich Wilson: There are no plans at this time for a Kindle / ebook version. As you probably know, the first two releases of Lifting Shadows were limited editions and the book has been out of print for several years. Both myself and the publishers regularly got emails from people wanting to buy the book, so it was an obvious step to release a paperback – at a reasonable cost – that will allow all those people who wanted to buy a copy to get one!
Steve Arthur: Whilst the departure of MP was obviously a shock, is there a feeling in the band that it will likely act as a catalyst for the re-envigoration of the band after being together for 20+ years?
Rich Wilson: It’s a tough question to answer but certainly that’s the band’s impression of what has happened. It was something I asked John Petrucci during the interviews for this updated version of the book, and he replied: “It’s funny and I was thinking about some of our albums and when you reach a turning point and something changes,” he considers. “Maybe there’s a new member who comes in, you get a bit of a perspective change and there’s a little bit of a shift. It freshens things. You might not even know that it’s happening but you start to think a little bit differently. It’s not like you’re just coming back to work. There’s a different sort of energy that’s in the room.”
Steve Arthur: ADToE seemed a very safe album. Do the band feel slightly constricted by the expectations of the fans (and financial expectations of themselves & families) for them to produce prog metal music which ticks certain boxes of the genre. Is there an appetite for genuine experimentation (a la Pain of Salvation)?
Rich Wilson: I would agree that A Dramatic Turn Of Events was an archetypal Dream Theater album, though it was still adventurous. It will be interesting to see what they come up with next, and I guess the one predictable thing about the band is that they are so unpredictable. Speaking personally and with absolutely no insight whatsoever into the direction of their new record, it would be great for them to mix it up the same way they did when their Train Of Thought album was released, or for them to record another concept album.
TheAtliator (Dreamtheaterforums.org): Did any chapters other than the side projects get shortened when the new chapter was added? How long ago were the band members interviewed to get all the info for the book? Was it all at once, and was it for the sole purpose of this book?
Rich Wilson: No chapters were shortened! The “Side Projects” chapter was taken out purely for practical purposes, as it was well out of date and too large to fit into the new edition. Over the last ten years, I’ve interviewed the band both face to face and over the phone. For practical reasons for this edition, all interviews were phoners. Some of the new material dates back to the weeks after Mike Portnoy left the band, as they were all interviewed at length. There were also more recent interviews with Mike Mangini, John Petrucci and other members of the band to bring their tale up to date.
Sysca (dreamtheaterforums.org): What drove you to write this book in the first place?
Rich Wilson: I guess I had always wanted to get my teeth into a book project, as magazine articles are by their nature short and you don’t always get the chance to delve into as much detail as you would like. Also, as a fan of the band, they were an easy choice, even if I ensured that I was impartial when writing it. Plus it always helps to have encouragement and input from the band you’re writing about – something which I appreciate even more now. I was very lucky to have that.
Caryn Crawford-Garafola: I have been a fan for more than 20 years, I love all of the music as much now as then, and the guys work so well together, I ask for no more changes. What has kept them all motivated to continue? How do they stay so creative?
Rich Wilson: I think when you have five people in a band, who are all superbly technical musicians, and who are always seeking fresh challenges, their motivation comes naturally. The creativity is something that is also something that is normal for them, even if for the rest of us it can sometimes be challenging!
Luis Marcanth: I have one question regarding the departure of Mike Portnoy from the band: Did you interview Portnoy for this book? I mean, did you get his side of the story as well?
Rich Wilson: I spoke to Mike and interviewed him shortly after he left the band. He also put out a number of statements at that time which gave a clear picture of why he left the band. So yes, his input is there and he does detail his side of the story.
Graham Tarry: Whose idea was it to use Terry Brown as the narrator on Metropolis Pt 2? Did they try other voices?
Rich Wilson: Terry was involved in the recording of the vocals on Scenes From A Memory. I guess the band were looking for someone with a British actor and he was available. To my knowledge, they didn’t try out any other voices, and it was always intended that Brown’s contribution would be an anonymous contribution. It did of course leak out and there were later issues with Brown being unhappy that his voice was used, all of which is covered in detail in the book!
Don Compton: Will there ever be another printing of the bonus cd that came with the first edition?
Rich Wilson: The first edition was always designed to be something special, with the two books and also the CD you mention. I can’t ever imagine a scenario where that CD would be reissued – certainly not from the perspective of it accompanying any edition of Lifting Shadows. For the same reason, the first edition won’t be reprinted in the same format either. Of course the band might one day release it again, but I can’t honestly see it!
Italo Araya: Why exactly did not Jordan Rudess join Dream Theater the first time he was asked?
Rich Wilson: At that time, Jordan had just had his eldest child and was also working for Kurzweil. He was also in the Dixie Dregs at that time and a move to Dream Theater then would have meant a pay cut, as well as taking a big gamble that Dream Theater’s success would continue. So I guess it was just bad timing. He did of course eventually get the DT job and in fairness, the album they recorded with Derek Sherinian is also a classic.
Tim West: With Mike P. gone will Kevin Moore interview for the book now?
Rich Wilson: I doubt it! For whatever reason, Kevin has no interest whatsoever in anything to do with Dream Theater. Plus I probably hassled him too much for an interview when I was writing the book, so that didn’t help. It’s a shame but I completely understand his position. I certainly don’t think it necessarily had anything to do with Mike and as far as I know, the other original members of the band also aren’t in regular contact with him.
Tim West: Will Dream Theater play any more Majesty songs with James on vocals? I have heard the two they have played live with James (Another Won and Your Majesty) and they sound great. Will they consider playing Space Dye Vest live now that James and Jordan have played this song live? I always thought Mike P. was the hold up for them playing the song live.
Rich Wilson: They might. Again it’s a question for them really. The times they have played those very early songs were always part of a celebration – such as the tour to commemorate their first twenty years or the Radio City Music Hall show. As for Space Dye Vest, it might happen but as the band have said on many occasions, that song was very much a sole, Kevin Moore creation and they don’t feel like it really fits with DT. If the band do an ‘Evening With’ set, then I suppose they may well play it. I just have a suspicion though that it will remain unperformed.
Simon Ramsay: Why has the latest live DVD been delayed until later this year when it seemed all set to come out not long ago? Was it anything to do with Portnoy trying to block the release as it contains songs he wrote and recorded?
Rich Wilson: I honestly have no idea. I think that I read that the band were having a few technical issues with it, and that they decided that the best option was to delay it, rather than rush it out. I wouldn’t have thought that Mike would try and block it, as these things would have been sorted out in whatever agreement he made with the band after he left.
John Arthur Miles: I saw Mike Portnoy interviewed on a US rock show and he stated that at the end of the Black Clouds world Tour in Tokyo after DT’s last gig in 2010, he suggested that the band members all have a huge tour-ending meal and bond session. He then said that one member whom he wouldn’t name, came to this party with earphones on and music blasting giving the distinct impression that they’d rather be anywhere else but there. Who was this band member? I’m guessing James, but MP went on to say that this was the final straw as to how it felt non-harmoniously within the band at the time, and made his decision to call a then hiatus a certainty.
Rich Wilson: Yes, I saw that too. Again, I don’t know the answer to that. As a writer you try to get the overall picture of what went on and put that across. The problem with getting involved in this type of tittle tattle, is that it’s easy to get bogged down it in. It becomes a “he said” and “they said” style of narrative where you end up having to cover both sides at ludicrous length – often to avoid being sued for libel – and you end up with a long boring read!
Scott Lindsey: Will there be any more re-re-releases with new pages every time DT does something new? I want to know how many copies of the same book we’re supposed to own to get the whole story?
Rich Wilson: This has been brought up by a few people. All books that I can think of are released in hardback first and then in paperback. Because of the limited edition box set, there was naturally a hardback. This paperback release is to ensure that all those people – who constantly email myself and the publishers wanting to buy a copy – have the opportunity to do so. Again, there is always a delay between the hardback and paperback versions of any book. The Dream Theater story is continually evolving. I therefore had two choices. I can either leave their story as it was in 2009 or I could update it. I chose the latter as otherwise fans would feel short-changed. I know it was the right decision as I can imagine the uproar if I hadn’t updated it!
Bill Martin: I would really like to know if their was any chance in the future of the band performing with Mike Portnoy in the future as a special reunion concert for the fans. I know this seems a little far fetched but its a burning question. I know Mike Mangini has a secure position and I don’t think they could find a better replacement besides Neil Peart. I would like to know what you think.
Rich Wilson: I don’t think that there is any desire from either the band or Mike to see this happen. The thing with bands is that time passes, and even the most unpleasant splits tend to ease. Who would have thought Van Halen would ever perform with Dave Lee Roth again? Or that Fish would do a brief onstage reunion with Marillion? I agree that Mangini is the ideal, musical replacement for Portnoy, but you can see a situation in a few years time when this might happen. Who knows?
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