So, a couple of weeks after the release of his solo record Impermanent Resonance I had the opportunity to sit and chat with singer James LaBrie and keyboardist/composer Matt Guillory via Skype. We were in three different time zones/parts of the world, but believe it or not everything went off without a hitch. I really enjoyed being able to pick their brains about the different aspects that went into creating what I really thought was a great album, and they were both VERY nice gentlemen. Take a look:
Matt: I’d have to say “Back On the Ground” because I consider that one of James’ best performances. I really like what he did on that.
James: Wow. Thanks Matt. And Matt can attest to this, but there’s one song that I’ve always been partial to, and it’s his baby, all of it is him, the writing, everything. And that’s “I Got You”. That song, I love the vibe, the energy. It allows me to show an aggressive side, but more than that, it allows me to be more character-voiced as well. And Matt just wrote a frickin’ awesome song, as far as I’m concerned!
Amps: Did having the same line-up for this record and the last one (Static Impulse, 2010) factor into why it sounds like you guys have really hit your stride?
Matt: I’d say that’s a big part of it for sure. There’s something to be said for consistency in line-ups, and it really FEELS like a band, we are a band, and it’s even more apparent on Impermanent Resonance.
James: Well, that’s also your headspace these days, Matt. That has a lot to do with it. Damian, the fact is that Matt is the main composer, not that I’m not involved or anyone else isn’t. But the fact that Matt’s the main composer has a lot to do with where his headspace is.
Matt: Definitely, but apart from the fact that I am the main composer and I produced this, every guy brings something very special and unique to the table, and I think that’s important. It really feels cohesive, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
James: You’re right about that Matt, absolutely. I think a lot of the way that Static Impulse and Permanent Resonance sound has a lot to do with the players. Peter Wildoer (Darkane) being the kind of drummer he is, Marco Sfogli is an unbelievable guitar player, not just technically, but the guy has so much frickin’ soul and melody, it’s just unbelievable. And then you have Ray Riendeau, who’s not only a groove master, but he has this musical intuition, and it’s incredible. When you put all these guys together it’s what really gives us a unique vibe and sound.
Amps: James, you’re an excellent singer in your own right, and you surround yourself with top-notch musicians like Matt here. Some might say you’re a lucky man.
James: I’d say fortunate is the word I would use. I say that because I’ve done my homework. You know, to get into Dream Theater, it was just that. I had been in several bands before I met Dream Theater, and I worked my ass off to get to the point where I had a name enough, being a Canadian boy, and then all of a sudden there were people in the U.S. who were aware of me, which eventually led to me nailing and becoming the vocalist of Dream Theater.
The same stands true with this. I was very fortunate to be enlightened to the fact that somebody like Matt Guillory existed. I had been approached at the time by Magna Carta to do a solo album and I said, “You know it’s really gonna come down to who I work with”, and they said, “Well, we have a guy, he’s a big Dream Theater fan, he’s very young” and I think Matt was only 22 or 23 at the time and I came into contact with this guy that immediately we had a chemistry and we had an understanding and an appreciation of where each of us was coming from. And I think that also over the years, just Matt and I staying dedicated to this eventually led us to coming in contact with Peter Wildoer, Marco Sfogli, and Ray Riendeau.
There’s a reason why it happens, and you’re right. I am extremely, extremely fortunate to be where I am today and done all that I’ve done in music. And it’s a journey that I plan on doing for quite some time yet. And so I can sit back and say that this is what I’ve done in Dream Theater, and here’s my latest unfolding with these guys in the James LaBrie band. It’s something that I can sit back and go, “Hey, you know what? Life’s frickin’ great!” But that comes from a lot of work and a lot of dedication from everyone involved.
Amps: What DOES bring you together? Do you just get a feeling when it’s time to work together again?
Matt: That’s a good question. I think it just comes down to getting that itch to start working on something again. And timing as well. James is really busy with Dream Theater, which is a major commitment and obligation he has. So maybe a combination of timing and the itch to make some new music
James: Absolutely. Definitely.
Amps: Getting back to Marco’s guitars for a moment; Matt, you’re the main composer, so those seriously heavy guitar parts are all your compositions, huh?
Matt: Yeah, pretty much. I did collaborate on this record with Peter Wichers who is an amazing guitar player and a founding member of the band Soilwork. His unique approach and perspective was a part of this record, definitely. But for the most part yes, the riffs and guitar parts that you’re hearing were written by me.
Amps: What do you do when you’re not working? How do you unwind?
James: Well, personally I like to get out into nature and go camping with my family when the weather is hot, and I love to go downhill skiing. I’ve been skiing since I was five years old. I also love to read. That kind of takes me away and allows me to relax.
Matt: I do like to get outdoors, and since I’m on the west coast I live fairly close to the beach, so I go pretty often. I like to go to San Francisco, great city. I love going up into the mountains, Yosemite’s not too far away and it’s amazing. I also like to spend time hanging out with my family and friends and have a good time.
Amps: What are you listening to that’s really got your attention right now?
James: I’m listening to bands like Two Door Cinema, which I think is very cool. Bring Me the Horizon, I See Stars, and I’m drawing a blank on anything else. It’s probably too early (laughs).
Matt: I’ve been listening to a lot of pop music. I like the Backstreet Boys and Kelly Clarkson, but as far as metal goes I’m listening to Sonic Syndicate, In Flames, Soilwork, Meshuggah, and The Blinded. And then I like some of the indie pop bands. I just got turned onto this band called Car Park North, a Danish band that’s blowing me away right now.
Amps: The combination of the clean/harsh vocals just comes right out of the speakers as soon as you pop it in. As soon as I heard “Agony” while driving around doing errands I knew I was in for one hell of a ride!
James: That’s very cool. What really adds more profoundness to the overall listening experience is the fact that there’s a lot going on as far as the soundscape of each and every song. With each song there’s many, many elements that sonically will tantalize you, and also that’s added in the vocal department. Matt and I look at something like what Peter Wildoer’s doing as an added tool, an added instrument that can only enrich that whole experience and emphasize what we’re trying to convey emotionally, so it’s very cool that you’re picking up on that.
Matt: The car test is the true test.
Amps: Matt, I know you’re working on a solo record. Any timetable for releasing that or are we far away from it?
Matt: No timetable. I’m just letting the songs develop and when I feel they’re ready I can move forward and look more seriously at a way to release this stuff. Honestly I haven’t even thought about it yet. First and foremost is making sure that the songs make sense and are as memorable and catchy as possible.
Amps: I really hope that at the end of the Dream Theater tour cycle you guys will hit the road and come visit us down here.
James: That’s definitely something, Damian that we’re wanting to do and I think it’s inevitable. And the reality is we’ll start putting a tour together for this band when the Dream Theater World Tour starts to wind down. But it’s definitely something that we all take seriously and I think it’s just a matter of being patient, ourselves too, and then getting this out. I think it’ll be just as relevant in a year and a half from now as it would be if we were going out tomorrow. The music on here speaks for itself and I think in a live environment with these players it would be an absolutely exciting ride each and every night. It’s gonna happen, we’re just gonna have to wait a bit.
(At this point both James and Matt laugh at my high-pitched “Woo-hoo!”)
Amps: Matt, James, thanks so much for taking time out to speak to me from two different time zones, and I hope we talk again soon. Love the record, guys!
Both: No problem, Thank you.
So there it is. An early morning (8am Central) conversation with James LaBrie, who was somewhere in the world, and Matt Guillory who was in L.A. (I think). Again, I cannot stress enough how cool it was to listen to these guys talk about their craft. If you haven’t already, pick up Impermanent Resonance and hear the fruits of their labors, also featuring our friend Peter Wildoer from Darkane playing drums and providing the growls. Enjoy!