John Petrucci Once Accidentally Ripped Off a Dream Theater Song: ’I Wasted a Whole Day in the Studio’

During his recent appearance on Ola Englund’s YouTube channel, Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci looked back on how he managed to keep things fresh and original with guitar solos over the years and not repeat himself. When asked on the matter, John replied (transcript via Ultimate Guitar):

“That’s a good question. A good example is… ‘Terminal Velocity’, my solo record. And then a couple of months later, [I] did ‘Liquid Tension Experiment 3’, and then, that fall I went in and started the new Dream Theater record.

“And there’s tons of solos all over that stuff. It’s different. And I never had that feeling [of], ‘What am I going to do?’ Or panic, or, ‘How am I going to do it?’

“I just put myself in the environment, in the studio, and I have the backing track going, the solo section going, turn lights off, get all vibey, and I just sit there and I play. I go back to just improvising and trying to extract what I’m hearing.

“And sometimes, that process is really quick. Sometimes it’s longer, but I find that you get into this mode where the creative doors open. And then, all of a sudden, you’re like, ‘Oh, wait, that was really cool!'”

LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT - The Passage Of Time (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

Going further into it, Ola asked John whether he feels this sort of an “imposter syndrome” when writing solos — whether he feels like someone else came up with it — or if he ever did something that he already done before. Petrucci recalled one odd thing that happened to him while working on his latest solo album. He offered:

“I have all these ideas that I collect constantly on my phone. I organize them on my laptop when I go to work on an album – licks, chord progressions, solo excerpts, melodies, me humming, whatever.”

“And I’ll label them. And I’ll know which ones [to use for which project] – like, ‘These are more of a solo album-ish, this is a cool riff for Dream Theater, [this] could be Liquid Tension Experiment.’

John Petrucci - Terminal Velocity (Official Video)

“So, in this one instance, I forgot to categorize. And I was working on a song for the new solo album. I spent the whole day working on it. As I was writing the guitar parts, tracking the guitar, programming the drums, and playing bass — Jimmy T [James Meslin, engineer] and I would share playing bass; he would program the drums. And so, we’d have like a real piece of music.

“All we needed was the drummer to play on it and a bass player. We spent the whole day doing that. And by the end of the day, I’m like, ‘Why can I picture this keyboard part over this?’ And all of a sudden, I was like, ‘Oh my God. I just rewrote a Dream Theater song!’ Because I forgot to categorize it; I had used that idea already. And I wasted a whole day in the studio.

“Luckily, it was flagged [laughs]. Because it wasn’t exactly a Dream Theater song, but it was close enough where I’m like, ‘Why does this sound familiar?’ And it was really heartbreaking because it was so cool.”

John Petrucci - Temple of Circadia (Official Video)

In an interview from earlier this year, John Petrucci reflected on the overall state of the music business. In particular, he discussed how difficult it gets for young bands who are trying to make it big these days, explaining:

“Well, it is really, really challenging now. For young bands, it’s so expensive to go out and do this on any level. And my advice is, you got to be willing to put in the hard work and make really big sacrifices if you want this.“

“I remember doing this as well, back in the day, on our first tour. We had a van and drove ourselves, didn’t get any sleep, and didn’t get any money [for performing].“

“And eventually, you know, [we] made things happen. I think bands need to have that reality check. And the ones that do and are willing to do it – and do it with a great attitude – I mean, a lot of these guys, they don’t have a tech, they’re their own tech, they’re packing up their stuff. There’s one crew guy, if they’re lucky.“

John Petrucci - Happy Song (Official Audio)

“It’s hard. It’s a hard, hard life at that early stage. So, as long as you have perspective on that, and you’re willing to do that… It’s that type of thing [that’s] always easier when you’re young…“

“But you know, we also do it for the same reason – for the love of music, and playing, and being in that position – as I always say, providing the entertainment for the evening. We love it.”

Nonetheless, despite the difficulties that artists who are not in the very top of mainstream pop music are experiencing, John Petrucci and Dream Theater are managing to come by. And not only that — Dream Theater scored a Grammy Award back in 2022 for “The Alien” in the category for the Best Metal Performance. Reflecting on this win during the said interview, Petrucci said:

“The point I wanted to try to get across [at the Grammys] was that we’ve been doing what we do for a long time, the way we do it, against all odds, and we built a career out of it.“

Dream Theater - The Alien (Official Video)

“And then, to achieve that sort of recognition from that community was really just great.“

“Because it’s not like it was some sort of pop version of us… It was probably one of the most complicated songs we ever wrote.“

Photo: Andreas Lawen, Fotandi (Dreamtheater – Wacken Open Air 2015-1619)

David Slavkovic

David always planned for music to be nothing more than a hobby. However, after a short career as an agricultural engineer he ended up news editor at KillerGuitarRigs, senior editor at Ultimate-Guitar.com, as well as a freelance contributor to online magazines such as GuitaristNextdoor.

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