Mike Mangini on new Dream Theater album: “I knew when to be quiet and when to offer something”

Posted by on July 31, 2013

dreamtheaterstIt’s taken 12 albums for Dream Theater to release a self-titled album, but their forthcoming album lives up to all the connotations that come with naming an album after your band. It’s truly a new beginning, as it’s their first album with new drummer Mike Mangini fully involved with the creative process. The band themselves were on hand yesterday at New York’s Germano Studios, where they mixed the album, to host an album playback. Keeping with the new beginning, this was the first time the band have hosted a listening part fpr of one of their albums. The self-titled album is dynamic, heavy and catchy, and while it will certainly appeal to longtime fans of the band, definitely has the potential to reach new ones as well. Following the playback, we caught up with Mangini to talk about his involvement with the new album, playing live vs. in the studio, and Dream Theater’s rabid fanbase.


This is the first album with you actually playing drums on it and writing.




How involved were you with the writing of the album?


Involved enough that I – and this is going to sound interesting – that I knew when to be quiet and when to offer something. It’s interesting, because it took a lot of years to learn how to do that. It really did. But the bottom line is that the vibe of this album, because it reflects what we were feeling, what I was thinking when I was in there was ‘you know something? These guys are all just pouring out stuff that I don’t want to disturb. At times just let it go.’ I was either doing that or when I had something to offer, I just spoke up.


Were they ever like “hey, you should do a little more here”, or did they just kind of let you feel it out? 


There are two different things. There’s the drumming and there’s the actual song composition. And that’s what I’m talking about when I say I won’t say anything when say, a melodic landscape is being constructed. And then there’s times when I need to chime in for that. And I was careful when not to do that. I followed my gut. But with the drumming, I loved it. I just played. I loved it when they had suggestions for things or vice versa. Because we’re always suggesting little bits for each other or showing each other what we’re doing. A lot of the time, they said “go.”


How comfortable were you laying down the album in the studio with the band? You’ve toured with them obviously. But touring and studio are different animals.


Comfortable enough that what you just heard – a lot of that was like “alright, let’s try that and see what it sounds like” and it stuck. I mean, the first time through. And we all had our days. I had my drum day to go back after evaluating what I had played the previous day or two. If I wanted to redo a section or if I had a different idea, I had the prerogative to do that. Or if someone else had an idea. But basically, this is from us being in a room. So I was comfortable.


What do you enjoy more: playing live, or creating something and making an amazing record that’s going to be your legacy in the studio?


It’s funny. “Me hit drum,” you know? I see them as almost both the same because there are pressures associated with both that are the same. But it is pressure. The pressure for recording…I can only quote Bill Bruford, who once said [puts on British accent] “the record is forever.” The record is forever, so that kind of pressure is “everyone is going to hear this.” And it can get to you. Unless you have a management program which I put in like an operating system to not worry about that stuff. You just play it. Because there are so many options, who’s going to play the perfect thing all the time? Why don’t you just play something that works and be happy with it and move on? And live is different because I’m playing for that one person that’s staring at everything I do. It doesn’t matter how many people are there. If there are 14 or 14,000 or 35,000, it doesn’t matter. I’m always finding that one person, and I’m playing for that person.


Sure. And that brings me to my next question: Dream Theater fans are pretty fanatical. What is it like dealing with that level of dedication from fans?


It’s fantastic, because what I get out of it is that they are an educated bunch. And a lot of them, when I dig in and we come, a lot of them have great senses of humor. And they call you and they recognize everything, and you get a lot of people that are genuinely good, saying things that if they maybe bust your chops here and there, it’s all good. It’s all good stuff. And even for the fans that haven’t seen me, or won’t embrace us maybe until they hear this record, that’s ok with me, because even if Mike [Portnoy] is their prototypical favorite drummer, well then I applaud that, because who am I to say who your favorite musician is? It’s fine. It’s all good to me, because we’re in forward motion, OK? We are going to the next thing, and the next thing, and the next thing. It’s like creating a wig. I’m not looking too far behind me. I’m looking in front of me so I don’t hit a tree. So I’m not worried about that stuff.


Great. And you were talking a little bit about listening to the album at half speed while showering.  Is that really how you’re learning the album or learning how to play it?


Again, I improvised so much of it that it’s nice to have the time –because I’m under no pressure now – just to dig in and hear it from different perspectives. And one of the perspectives is not being on the drum set.


Right. And do you literally put it on half time?


That’s how I prepared for the audition. That’s how I learn songs for bands that I’m not the drummer in. Especially with what I did, I have to slow it down. Someone says “what was that?” and I say “that’s a twenty-nine-tuplet.” And I’ve got to sit there and I say “oh, that’s right, that’s X amount on each drum times this plus five equals OK, now I know what I did.”


So it’s like algebra. A little bit like calculus.


Well it is. And interestingly enough, calculus is an important model for me, because it’s like it takes life and slices it up. So slowing it down is like slowing down life into slices that are manageable. Otherwise I might not remember every single note that I play, because it’s whipping by at nine thousand miles an hour.


Do you know how much of the record you are going to be playing live when you tour?


I hope we play every single stinking note.










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Categorised in: Interviews

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  • Shredder Tony

    You just know this is going to be outstanding!!!

  • Chris

    I cannot wait till the album is released. I’m a little worried that because of all the hype its not going to be as great as everyone is saying but i’m staying positive!

  • s2weden2000

    “This is the first album with you actually playing drums on it and writing?”

    so he did not play on the previous album?
    what the hell kinda question is that …
    and you guessed the answer yourself without facts ..because you never heard of the band

  • Someguy

    That question coulda been phrased better,but i think he meant to say, “this is the first album where you were involved in the writing,right?” Mangini played drums on the last album but was NOT involved in the writing process for the last album.

  • Johnathan Meili

    You seem to have misunderstood the question,,,

  • Auzzie Ozbourne

    Without Portnoy on it, the album can only be so good…..

  • Indro

    mangini so calm, but greatest one off more drummer in the world. yesss !

  • TheKillingWords

    Without Portnoy to let it stale and repetitive, DT can once again explore and push the musical boundaries that they once helped create long ago.

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  • Lukas Lázari

    He played the drums, but did not write it. Most of the drum tracks were written by Rudess and/or Petrucci.

  • exelRosenburg

    Mangini – should have said more. Rudess and Petrucci steering I’m sure it could be good, but I’m not exactly enthused by the early review thanks to very recent experience with the likes of Opeth and Megadeth. It is a single review and anything you can take with a grain of salt but maybe less biased than “this is the greatest thing we’ve ever done.”

  • s2weden2000

    no.. read it ..can’t you see?

  • s2weden2000

    i know..i know..read the damn question..you can’t phrase it like that

  • Jeremy Star

    People need to get over Portnoy. He left of his own accord, and Mangini is every bit as creative and proficient. I love Portnoy, he is one of my favorite drummers, but come on.

  • Millais

    … Yes you can?

  • He’s such a humble guy and incredible musician.

  • Marko Antonio Aguillón Espinoz


  • Daveyyy

    How can you be so retarded? Rudess/Petrucci wrote the drum tracks, and Mangini played them on ‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events.’ Seriously, Go and learn English before criticizing it.

  • some other guy

    playing drum at this level IS a creative process… maybe he did not wrote the songs but he created the drum part

  • s2weden2000

    “This is the first album with you actually playing drums on it and writing.” go back to school and ask your teacher if it´s right …the phrasing of the question..CAN YOU READ!

    btw ..i´ve been listening to Dream since the first album..so go play with your ajiphoney instead

  • choi

    he didn’t work on writing process

  • Daveyyy

    Considering your name is s2weden2000, and I am born from the UK, that statement is completely invalid. You are obviously far too naive to understand the English language correctly.

    Let me reword this for your simple mind –

    He is playing the drums (like he did previously) AS WELL as writing, as opposed to playing the drums WITHOUT the writing.

    It does NOT mean that he didn’t play the drums on the previous album at all.

    And if you say you’ve listened to Dream Theater since the birth, then you would know that Mike Mangini played on ADToE, therefore an invalid argument anyway.

    Please get your facts right before throwing childish comments that like.

  • s2weden2000

    what the hell ..can´t you read..i haven´t said anything about that ..READ THE FIRST POST …gawd damnit …i am talkimg about the phrasing of the question

  • s2weden2000

    I KNOW

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  • Cob Khuraibet

    seriously, can we not just move on?

  • stevenfahey

    MP had a big influence on the bands direction, and I think MM has brought a completley new outlook and feel to DT. It’s almost a different band.

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  • suqsid4

    >> Rudess/Petrucci wrote the drum track

    Not realistic. If anything, Myung would have been the influence.

  • suqsid4

    You’re write, I mean right about the phrasing.,, +1 on your English 🙂

  • suqsid4

    MM is fuel for the existing creative engine running on 3 of 4 cylinders. No doubt, in time, he’ll be the fourth spark. MM is after all completely amazing.

  • suqsid4

    Err… should have said 4 of 5.

  • Joshua F. Kitzler

    Holy shit. Just; holy shit. Mangini is operating on such an elevated level, it’s just mind-blowing. That calculus analogy is brilliant.

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