Rudess, Jordan (December 2001)

Recipe For A Satisfying Meal - Rudess On Feeding The Wheel

Jordan RudessJordan Rudess calls me a day after the unfortunate accident with American Airlines Flight 587 in New York [on November 12, 2001], so obviously my thoughts are mainly with him and his family first, while music comes in second. "Thanks for asking," says Jordan, "everyone is OK and we have no family or friends who are amongst the victims. This was clearly an accident, yet people were just getting back on their feet after the disaster on September 11th, followed by the anthrax situation. Although I live approximately 40 miles from where it all happened, you still have family or friends who at least knew someone who worked in the WTC towers or know a relative of someone who is missing. It keeps everyone busy and whilst everyone tried to get back into the normal routine, it looks like New York is cursed, what with the new crash.

In my case, I had the urge to do something [after September 11] and digging to find bodies wasn't really the kind of thing I could do, so I thought of raising money. My wife Danielle started looking for the right venue and pulling strings and all that, so we ended up doing a one-off show with all proceeds going towards the Red Cross. In the end we managed to give them a check for $12,000. A friend of mine lent a fantastic Steinway grand piano that I could use, and of course I brought my very own Kurzweil with me, plus the new Korg Karma, which is an amazing machine. In the end about 75% of what I played was improvised on the spot. Another friend, John Guth, recorded the event and about 30 minutes of material could be salvaged for a possible CD-release. I played acoustic versions of songs like 'The Spirit Carries On' (Dream Theater), 'State Of Grace' and 'Hourglass' (the latter two by Liquid Tension Experiment), but the copyright thing is so difficult in these cases, that I opted for strictly my material. I am currently writing and recording some extra material to make it into a full album, again all proceeds going towards the Red Cross."

Jordan Rudess - Feeding The WheelJordan was trained at the famous Juilliard school, yet how much of that Juilliard tuition shines through on his brand new solo album Feeding The Wheel? "I think the entire basis of my classical tuition can be heard throughout my playing. I have always been a classical guy, yet I added new elements along the way. I started becoming very much interested in rock music yet remained loyal to my classical roots. So in the end my style of playing is harmonic and rhythmic, but still very much classical." Talking of pure classics here, you did play a Chopin piece on the Steinway To Heaven album and your new piece "Interstices" kind of includes a lot of references to great classical composers. "I used to play a lot of Chopin when I was young. In fact, you have musicians having difficulties in creating their very own original style, yet in my case everything just comes out spontaneously. So although you hear influences of big shot classical composers, 'Interstices' is, in fact, my very own composition without thinking one minute that I have to add this or that influence to make it sound more classical than it is. It's probably my year-long training that filters through automatically, so yes Juilliard remains a big influence throughout my playing, which is why you'll hear Chopin, Debussy, and Prokofiev, but also Emerson, shine though during 'Interstices.'

I believe in the fact that musicians are like huge receptors with big antennas on their head, if you like. Everything is already there, everywhere you look all the elements you will need in life are there for you to take and use. Musicians such as myself have the ability to detect, to absorb, certain things better than other people do. My brain receives all kinds of music almost non-stop. I remember when I used to sit in the back of my mother's car when she drove me to college I would be hearing all this wonderful music buzzing through my head. I simply can't stop the flow of constant music in my head. I have to admit that for certain parts of Feeding The Wheel and also on the new Dream Theater album, I got up out of bed because I felt the need to write down what I heard in my mind. Sometimes it becomes annoying because it often happens that, whilst having a family meal, I suddenly leave the table in order to write something down!" [let's hope Jordan never leaves his bank of keyboards during a live show when he suddenly dreams something up! - JB]

Steve MorseAfter having written a decent amount of original material and having released many solo albums (more of that later), Feeding The Wheel seems like the result of many different styles, influences, and atmospheres, all conjured up into one new experience. Is the amount of the Dregs influence more prominent than that of LTE? "I actually never recorded an album with the Dregs, as I only toured with them, yet I can only say that my way of writing gets very close to the way Steve Morse writes his material. In the case of Liquid Tension Experiment this was the result of four individuals playing together and all putting in their own money's worth of compositions and influences. On the second LTE album, due to the fact that John Petrucci wasn't there most of the time, the flavour of the album goes more towards me playing, so yes in a way you could say there's a decent mix of both bands on hand on my new album." Funny Jordan should mention the name Steve Morse, because in a previous interview, Jordan expressed this huge wish to record material together with Steve, whereas when I interviewed Morse last year, he also expressed a wish to record with Jordan, so the feeling is mutual. "The thing is, both Steve and I have the same manager, which of course makes things easier. So I asked Steve if he wanted to play some solos on my album and he accepted. Of course it would be great to do a Morse/Rudess album and one day hopefully we'll be able to do just that, yet for the time being I'm quite happy he already guested on Feeding The Wheel, as we both have such a heavy schedule."

Listening to an album as diverse as Feeding The Wheel, needless to say loads of people will have different views about the material. And although every musician who has just released a new album will say that all of the new stuff is great, there certainly must be one or two favourites tucked away on the album? "To me the jazzy bit in 'Quantum Soup' is one of my favourite parts; you know, the part where I do the walking bass on the piano and the big band steps in. Also 'Revolving Door' was fun to do, as it's a crazy piece and has some rap running through it. I'm also quite pleased with 'Dreaming In Titanium,' as I incorporated some techno stuff you would not normally associate with me. Also this piece was initially written for Surround Sound. Maybe you don't know this, but apart from music, I don't really have a lot of hobbies except for one thing and that's toying around on my computer and the Internet. Computer graphics are really my thing and I have just finished doing some bits that I'll take on the next Dream Theater tour. So it'll be 'Dream Theater multimedia on tour!' All of the stuff is going to be stored onto a hard disc and we're working with our Titanium Mac G4 laptops. For the last tour we used a lot of Videodelic material but this time I'm going for UI software. It'll be a show based on digital high-resolution movies that will be triggered from behind the mixing console. Because we don't have a huge budget, we won't be able to record lengthy films and not every second of the show will have these images, but we feel we will be able to deliver yet another spectacular show with a small budget."

Jordan RudessWe start talking about the record company, whether they oblige Jordan to go for the strictly instrumental format and whether at all he tries out stuff on his solo album that might be used for Dream Theater or vice versa? "Magna Carta let me do whatever I found was cool. I have so much to say from an instrumental point of view that I do not need vocals. Furthermore the logistics consumed so much energy already that I didn't want to be involved in drafting in extra singers as well. I'm a musician, so all the time that's spent doing other things instead of composing is indeed wasted! My main aim is always to explore new sounds and these are indeed often tried out on solo projects. However once these sounds have been established, I integrate them in the music of Dream Theater. Solo for me is a mechanism to continue explorations. You'll hear some of the new sounds on the new Dream Theater album for sure."

Having had two other keyboard players in Dream Theater before him[, Kevin Moore and Derek Sherinian], does Jordan dissect their musical evolution, their solo output and does he evaluate their departure from the Dream Theater flagship? "Yes I do because I find both their careers and decisions interesting. In the case of Kevin Moore he was an important key figure in the band, breaking new ground, yet as a solo musician he decided to take on a completely new direction [Chroma Key]. In fact, he decided to divorce from prog rock altogether, which is an odd decision and a mystery to me. But then again, it's his decision, and as long as he feels good about it, then who am I to argue with that? In Derek's case he said he wanted to leave the band in order to concentrate on more rock oriented music, yet the moment he leaves DT he starts doing this prog fusion thing with Planet X, which again leaves me with a big mystery. In the end, I feel they both are very skilled musicians who each brought in their distinctive sound to Dream Theater, paving the way for greater and bigger things. It's an honour for me to continue this great tradition."

When listening to Feeding The Wheel, a track like "Revolving Door" contains a fair amount of orchestral passages, yet one clearly hears the sound of synths. Wouldn't it have been better to have used a real orchestra for those parts? "I feel comfortable sonically and logistically creating orchestral sounds on my keyboards. Here it's me who is in full control of the music, which makes me a satisfied person. In the end it's designed the way it is because with a real orchestra the end result would have been totally different. I wrote the music to be very dissonant, which is exactly what I get when using the keyboards."

Jordan Rudess - ListenPeople who have just discovered the music of Rudess will be amazed to hear Feeding The Wheel is not his first solo offering. So can the master give us a guided tour of his solo output so far. "Funny I should speak to you today, as today I'll go to the studio to remaster my very first recordings for a possible CD release. Fact is that in 1988 I released a tape called Arrival which was a collection of improvisations with no distribution at all. The main idea was to get myself noticed. The remastered version on CD will contain around 50 minutes of that material. Five years later I released the album Listen which was more rock oriented, delivering a statement of who I really am. In 1997 Secrets Of The Muse was my laidback output with lots of improvised piano pieces. Both Listen and Secrets Of The Muse covered 90% of the musical spectrum. A Christmas Carol was recorded for a show so it contains a fair amount of effects, orchestral passages and moods to enhance the feel of the show. That happened in '99, which was the same year I released Resonance, another great album of piano improvisations. Around that time I had a friend who had to undergo heart surgery. I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he suggested I write some soothing, healing music. Resonance was the result. An Evening With John Petrucci Live is an album I did last year together with John to give Dream Theater fans an idea of the acoustic side of us being a musicians."

We reach an important part in Jordan's life once we mention the name Online Conservatory! "The moment I joined Dream Theater, more and more people became aware of my style of playing, so more and more people asked whether at all I could be their musical teacher, if I could give them hints on how to play. Because of the huge amount of interest and also because these were people from all over the world, the Internet was the solution to fulfill their needs. Because I'm a computer freak and an Internet enthusiast I thought building a special website would be the mechanism to get ideas across to those who are interested. By means of 100s of MP3 files, midi files, notation and text files of examples, technique, rhythm, and ear-training I can show people how to play well. There's a lot of video footage used as well, so people can actually see on their computer screens how to place their hands correctly. Of course they need to pay a little something but in the end they get good value for their money, as there is so much material on the site. Go to [ {the url changed since we initially posted the review -ed.}] where you can subscribe at the small cost of $ 49.95." [Now $50 -ed.]

Jordan RudessNext to the heavy recording and touring duties of Dream Theater and his many solo sidesteps, Jordan has now also been asked to contribute to the new David Bowie album. Knowing Bowie worked with Rick Wakeman and Tony Kaye, to name but two, how did he end up teaming up with US citizen Jordan Rudess? "Well me and producer Tony Biscante go a long way. Tony knows exactly what I can do and I immediately feel what Biscante wants. We had worked together on The Gunman And Other Stories by Prefab Sprout and some years ago I recorded two tracks for David Bowie that still have to be released. One was for the Rugrats movie and the other for a John Lennon tribute album. When Tony was asked to produce Bowie's next album he called me up and asked if I'd be interested, as he knows he can rely on me. David Bowie doesn't like a lot of options. He has a good idea of how he wants the end result to sound, so practically what's on his demo is close to what he wants. The first day I recorded some Hammond parts and the second day I recorded some Fender Rhodes and some acoustic piano. What happened was that they had two pianos in the room, one Steinway grand and one old upright piano. Mikes were put in and around that old upright piano whilst the foot pedal was clamped down. I played the Steinway grand but we got resonance from the upright. It was an original experiment, but this once again created new sounds, and you know me and my constant search for new, innovative and interesting sounds!"

With a new Dream Theater 2CD set in the works, a forthcoming world tour and his solo album Feeding The Wheel just out, is there a chance some of his solo stuff might sift through during live gigs? "There might be a Jordan solo spot where I play a medley of the Feeding The Wheel material, but again it's way too soon to tell as there is still so much to do. In fact, I thought we'd speak for half an hour and it's already close to an hour so I need to go as I have to get that early material remastered. So little time, so much to do!

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)
Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings (2009)
Notes On A Dream (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: December 21st 2001
Interviewer: John "Bobo" Bollenberg

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Hits: 1405
Language: english

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