Rudess, Jordan (January 2000)

21st Century Chopin: Jordan Rudess

Jordan Rudess (c) & courtesy MDV The gigantic success of the first Liquid Tension Experiment release was a complete surprise for record label Magna Carta. Instead of a one-off release it was decided to release a follow-up. The same line-up was very keen to write another album and in the middle of various recording sessions they found time to record 2. In the meantime LTE keyboard player Jordan Rudess became a definite member of Dream Theater as replacement for Derek Sherinian, which means that the current Liquid Tension Experiment is made out of 3/4 Dream Theater personnel. Sherinian has just released his Planet X album whilst Rudess still wants to be involved with Dixie Dregs and wants to record another album with Rod Morgenstein.

"These are busy times but that's what I like most about my job," says the ever friendly Jordan Rudess. "Twiddling my thumbs in the corner of a room is not my idea of spending quality time. In fact I was predestined to become a classical pianist. Both my parents and my teacher thought I would hit the big time. Chopin, Liszt and Bach are still my big examples. I am convinced that, if Bach were alive today, he would have a lot of interest in the technical side of the music industry and his house would be filled with masses of technological goodies. However, at one particular point in [my] life I was introduced to rock music by means of Tarkus, by ELP, Refugee and Gentle Giant. Especially the synthesizer in rock music opened a new world for me. The unlimited amount of sounds which you can generate from a synth was why I could no longer concentrate on the limited sound of the piano.

"Needless to say this decision was not applauded by my parents nor my teachers! Now, many years later, they are very pleased with what I have accomplished, although deep in their hearts they were still hoping to one day see me dressed in a tuxedo together with a huge symphonic orchestra. With the Dixie Dregs I had some wonderful moments and I really would love to make another album with them, especially because I never recorded when Steve Morse was in the band. Doing a string of live dates with the Dregs is virtually impossible but I could still fit in some studio time. Also with drummer Rod Morgenstein chances for a second album are very realistic. The first album we did together in fact was my solo album on which Rod was drafted in as a session drummer. All the songs were mine, the arrangements were mine, yet the way Rod and I work together is genius. We are so well attuned to each other. The same goes for Liquid Tension Experiment. You see, I have known the boys from Dream Theater for years and years so the only guy who could mean trouble was Tony Levin, yet his professional attitude and perfection can only deliver a 100% result."

Liquid Tension Experiment - Liquid Tension Experiment No doubt very hectic times for Rudess but if he compares LTE 1 and LTE 2 what is the main difference? "Of course I love both albums, but to be honest I like the second one best, there is a bigger variation. You can find latino parts, Indian influences, piano pieces. In a 'spacey' jam everything is allowed yet with LTE we get much more freedom, although we keep everything very tight. Because a lot of Dream Theater fans love LTE music as well, we have added some harder edges to our music. A track like 'Acid Rain' is very 'cool,' it has a 'burning sound.' In 'Biaxident' it is the stylistic combination which I find is important. Although we experiment a lot in the studio I can honestly say that I am the bearer of 'the seeds for the songs.' I try to find new sounds all the time together with new riffs which I let the others hear at the beginning of each session. Most of the time such a riff is combined with a riff that John Petrucci comes up with. John mainly puts his riffs down with a sequencer. That's when we start to work on the other ideas we have in mind." Liquid Tension Experiment - LTE2

I can imagine that each of the members tries to outwit the other by means of their technical skills so that, once the album is finished, he can boast having done "the most difficult piece on the album?" "That's funny [smiles]. I never looked at it from this perspective. But hey, I must confess this could well be true [laughs even harder!]. When we enter the studio with LTE we only have one message: 'have fun'. Of course we need to make an album as well but the main idea is to have a hell of a time with all of the band. Our task is to make room for the other once he has a solo coming on and when we start recording we only have one thing in mind and that's: 'lead, lead, lead!'"

During the recording of 2, Petrucci became "daddy" once again, which meant he was out of the studio for some time. The other three took the opportunity to "jam." I wonder who decides what goes on the album because I'm convinced there should be much more material than what has been released so far. "For the first album we really used everything we recorded. We had very little studio time so we barely had sufficient material for the album. For the second album we got the opportunity to record some 'jams' when John wasn't in so it might well be that we release sort of a posthumous CD with jams and outtakes. Especially now that three-quarters of LTE are members of Dream Theater, we have decided together with the Magna Carta record label that 2 will definitely be the very last LTE album.

[In fact, in 2007, Liquid Trio Experiment released Spontaneous Combustion -ed.]

Dream Theater - Scenes From A Memory "I have to admit that the presence of LTE has meant that we will be approaching the future Dream Theater in a more progressive, more experimental, more LTE-like way. Because it is impossible to combine two similar bands/projects we have thus decided to terminate LTE and to continue with Dream Theater. Regarding the new Dream Theater album there is nothing I can tell you, not even titles but I can tell you it will be different from everything we've done so far, something which progressive fans all over the world will truly enjoy. I have sworn [to] the band that I wouldn't say anything about the new Dream Theater album during interviews and because I'm the last member to join the band of course I'll keep my promise. The only thing I can tell you is that the album will still be released through East/West with a release date somewhere in the fall." [Scenes From A Memory was released October 26 in the US, after a great deal of anticipation. Most reviews of this concept album were positive, including ours. -ed.]

As a fan of this complex music it is hard to hear that the latest LTE offering will definitely be their last. It's as if Van Gogh would paint his famous "sunflowers" and would directly throw away his brushes and paint afterwards. Seeing LTE live could be the ideal farewell? "In January this year [1999] we did about four concerts, one in New York, one in Philadelphia and two in California. It would have been a very intimate concert, but due to the Internet the information travelled fast and people came from miles away to see the show. Because of the hectic schedules that each of us have it is virtually impossible to do big tours. At this moment Tony Levin is doing a world tour with Seal. I think he'll be travelling all over the world until the end of this year."

Conoisseurs of Dream Theater will find it no surprise that Rudess replaces Derek Sherinian, who in turn replaced Kevin Moore, yet how different is his playing when compared to that of his predecessors? "I guess I have a completely different 'approach,' that my style is different. I think of myself as being very classicaly trained and that I approach my synthesizers mainly as a collection of sounds. For Kurzweil I 'create' new sounds which is something I also did for the Korg M1 wavestation. Personally I'm not very fond of the Hammond sound, but because Derek used it a lot on the last album [Falling Into Infinity], I will be obliged to use it as well. In fact, in Dream Theater I will have to mix my own style with the elements of Derek and Kevin to make a sound which compromises perfectly for the DT fans.

"When I got in contact with a synthesizer for the very first time it was as if a new world opened for me. Classical music was too limited for me so I bought ARP strings, Moog Taurus and Mini Moog and I started to experiment. Elements like staccato and legato you have to play by ear on a piano. On a Mini-Moog you can adjust this by means of a patch. Also the technique of the arpeggios you can master on the Mini Moog. When I play the piano it's as if I'm working with a different set of brains than when I'm playing a synth. It's very difficult to put into words but that's as close as I can think of."

Various - Steinway To HeavenThe strange thing is that LTE has been signed by Magna Carta, an American label which doesn't do particulary well in the States. In fact the label is hardly known in the good old US of A. "That's true but things are changing. Slowly, but it's changing. More and more college radio [stations] are putting Magna Carta releases on their playlists. In fact Magna Carta is getting a loyal following in America. We get more and more collectors of the label, people who buy every single Magna Carta release because they know what to expect. Personally you can hear me on both LTE albums but also on the Steinway To Heaven compilation and on the ELP tribute CD Encores, Legends & Paradox where I recorded my own version of 'Karn Evil 9' together with Simon Philips, Robert Berry and Mark Wood. I have often discussed with Pete Morticelli (one of the Magna Carta founders) to contribute on several of their tribute CDs but my schedule is completely full so there is nothing else I can do. It is, as you put it, one big happy Magna Carta family, where everyone helps each other out, a thing which was completely different during the seventies were every band was competition for each other." Various - Encores, Legends and Paradox

Magna Carta certainly is the main label for what has been labelled "prog metal." Like I have predicted many years ago, ordinary metal bands have now enlisted a keyboard player whilst their singer copies James LaBrie. They all start to sound like each other! "I couldn't have put it better myself. I simply hate this 'prog metal' movement. The combination of metal with progressive elements is fantastic yet all the bands are just copies of each other. Mellotron and organ are used simply because they are THE prog instruments. That is why I try to use as little of those instruments as possible. Personally I try to find new sounds all the time, work on new harmonies. Magna Carta sends me some of their stuff so I am informed about some of the recent output whilst fans and friends give me demos as well. Most of these releases are not my cup of tea but recently I have been amazed by the album Electric Skies from upcoming band Event. These guys use unconventional sounds whilst the singer has a unique voice. Also their compositions are very well crafted which gives the album so much more originality."

It looks like the students from the famous Berkley College of Music are putting their mark on the 'prog metal' movement. Don't we get the same situation like in Britain during the Canterbury period? "It's rather obvious that most of the musicians active in the 'prog metal' movement have one way or another something to do with Berkley simply because this kind of music demands so much technical skill. Berkley is a popular school but there are other schools who are equally as good. At Berkley, anyone can get in, talent or no talent, as long as you pay. That's how a no-good guitar player with a wealthy dad can get in, whilst a very talented yet poor musician won't get in. Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs) is a tutor there and sometimes tells me how the school has turned into a zoo. In the end money is the only motivation for a lot of people which is a very sad thing."

Now the word "technique" has been spoken; certain releases sound as if all ears are focused on technique whilst the heart is nowhere to be found. Do you have to be a technician next to a musician nowadays? "To be top of the league today you need to know a lot about your instrument. Especially someone like me who's busy programming the sounds needs to know something about software and hardware. The Kurzweil I know inside out because you can put extra RAM and sound blocs inside just like you put extra memory or hard disc in your PC. That Kurzweil for me is very important because you can find so many different sounds and sequencers in the machine.

"I have tons of CD-ROMS with the sounds of specific, typical instruments. I put these CD-ROMS in my Kurzweil and immediately I have a Roland or a Hammond. When I introduce a Hammond CD-ROM then all the sliders start to work in identical fashion, like on the real instrument. The high end processor works identical, like a Lexicon or the Eventide. Even the sounds of the much acclaimed Mellotron can now be found on one CD-ROM, but I don't want to use it because that sound for me is so dated.

"I do however see myself fit to manipulate the mellotron-sound in order to create my 'own' sound, as long as it doesn't become too academical. I always try to emulate the sound I hear in my head. I look for the 'factory patch' which comes as close to the sound as possible and then I modify the harmonics to create my 'own' sound. Of course it would be interesting to work with a real orchestra so I can put away all my samples. With Liquid Tension Experiment I have always used my own sounds and never had people criticize me for that. In the same way have I never asked John Pettrucci to adjust his guitar sound for certain songs. The sound should be an extension of yourself and that is what I'll be doing all my life. The eternal quest for the 'Jordan Rudess Vintage Sound!'"

[Bobo also interviewed Rudess in 2001 Muzikman did so in 2003 -ed]

Speedway Blvd. - Speedway Blvd. (1981)
Arrival (1988) Vinnie Moore - Time Odyssey (1988)
Tom Coster - Did Jah Miss Me? (1989)
Listen (1993)
Annie Haslem - Blessing In Disguise (1994)
Various - Romscape (1995)
Noirin Ni Riain - Celtic Soul (1996)
Various - Steinway To Heaven (1996)
Kip Winger - This Conversation Seems Like A Dream (1997)
Secrets Of The Muse (1997)
Liquid Tension Experiment - Liquid Tension Experiment (1998)
Jupiter Lee - Jupiter Project (1998)
Liquid Tension Experiment - Liquid Tension Experiment 2 (1999)
A Christmas Carol (1999)
Rudess/Morgenstein Project - Rudess/Morgenstein Project (1999)
Resonance (1999)
Rhonda Larson - Free As A Bird (1999)
Various - Encores, Legends & Paradox - A Tribute To ELP (1999)
Dream Theater - Scenes From A Memory (2000)
Paul Winter And The Earth Band - Journey With The Sun (2000)
Feeding The Wheel (2001)
John Petrucci And Jordan Rudess - An Evening With John Petrucci & Jordan Rudess (2001/2004)
Rudess/Morgenstein Project - The Official Bootleg (2001)
Dream Theater - Live Scenes From New York (2001)
McGill/Manring/Stevens - Addition By Subtraction (2001)
Prefab Sprout - The Gunman And Other Stories (2001)
John Bollenberg Experience - If Only Stones Could Speak (2001)
4NYC (2002)
Dream Theater - Six Degrees Of Inner Turbulence (2002)
Christmas Sky (2002) (from website only)
Dream Theater - Train Of Thought (2003)
Dream Theater - Live At Budokan (2004)
Rhythm Of Time (2004)
Dream Theater - Octavarium (2005)
Dream Theater - Score (2006)
Dream Theater - Systematic Chaos (2007)
The Road Home (2007)
Dream Theater - Greatest Hit (...And 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs) (2008)
Notes On A Dream (2009)
Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009)
All That Is Now (2013)
Explorations (2014)
Dream Theater - A Dramatic Turn Of Events (2011)
Dream Theater - Dream Theater (2013)

Dream Theater - Metropolis 2000: Scenes From New York (DVD) (2001)
Dream Theater - Live At Budokan (DVD) (2004)
Dream Theater - Score (DVD) (2006)
Dream Theater - Chaos In Motion (DVD) (2008)

Added: January 5th 2000
Interviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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Hits: 1291
Language: english

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