Vocalist James LaBrie on DREAM THEATER, touring and upcoming solo album
Interview & Live Photos By BlissfulViolet
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Dream Theater has performed a few off shows with Iron Maiden throughout the years, but never a full tour-What has the experience been like so far?
James LaBrie: You’re right; we’ve done several shows with them over the years in Europe. It’s been at least 10 years since we first mentioned, “Gee we would love to do something through the states with you guys,” but it finally came together after trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule to make it happen. It’s different for us opening every single night, we’ve been headlining for such a long time now on our own. It’s just different for us to go out there and do a fifty minute set; it’s over within the blink of an eye (he explains with a snap of his finger). But it’s been a great experience, very intense and something we all dreamed of doing.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: I honestly don’t even recall the last time Dream Theater performed in Texas, do you have any particular memories that come to mind?
James LaBrie: Texas has unfortunately eluded us quite often when we go out on tour- for whatever reasons. So it’s always great to come back, there’s many Dream Theater fans here, it’s just a matter of twisting the arms of promoters to bring us down more here, a little more regularly.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Is there been a certain process or routine that Dream Theater follows to prepare before a tour? How do you prepare vocally to keep your voice in tact?
James LaBrie: Everyone has their own way of preparing for tours and shows aside from rehearsal. I jog every day, take a lot of vitamins get plenty of sleep. I warm up before the show and cool down after. I drink a lot of liquids, don’t drink or smoke. All these things help me keep my voice in top shape.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: And what’s amazing is the fact that you have been singing since childhood.
James LaBrie: My family always found a way to get me involved with music. I was listening to music since the age of three and singing since the age of five-that’s for sure. According to my parents, I would always sit next to a radio and one day just started singing the lyrics to the songs that I knew. I remember putting on albums and I mean “albums,” LPS [laughs] and singing songs because I loved it. I fell in love with it from the very beginning.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What was it like growing up in Canada and coming from a family with a great musical background?
James LaBrie: My father used to sing and dance at a small local theater, my mother played piano, she still does, a little guitar as well. Her whole family and sisters would all sing. But my dad also sang in barbershop quartet, was in the church choir, so he’d even bring me there to sing with him. He also brought me along to the barbershop quartets, which were pretty cool because you were really able to focus on the sound of your voice compared to others, and really get a good feel from where you’re coming from as a vocalist.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: So that’s what initiated your passion for music…
James LaBrie: Yes and I also started playing drums when I was five and played until I was about seventeen. Throughout that time I had a music teacher that got me into singing contests and at the same time I was playing drums and got into my first rock band at the age of ten.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Are your children musically inclined as well?
James LaBrie: Absolutely, my son plays guitar and my daughter sings and studies; she’s doing fantastic and has a lovely voice. They’re both extremely involved with music and listen to it all the time-whether they’re in their bedrooms or walking around with an ipod, music is a huge part of their lives.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Dream Theater has always been a band that never repeats itself. Where does your latest release, “Dark Clouds and Silver Linings” take you?
Jame LaBrie: With that being said, we always want to challenge ourselves and strive to take us in a direction that’s expressing ourselves musically but differently. I think with this album, it was really cool because it was kind of like a toss back with some of our musical roots. There are songs on there that sound like they might be from the “A Change of Seasons,” and the “Awake” era. Even off the “Scenes of a Memory” with the song, “The Count of Tuscany.” I think it was a really cool, very contemporary sounding album but still remaining true and maintaining our identity.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Aside from Dream Theater, you recently announced the release of your new solo album, any details on that?
James LaBrie: It’s going to be called, “Static Pulse” and there will be 12 songs, on the album. It’s very heavy and I’m really excited. I don’t want to say too much about it at this point but were in the mixing stages and all the artwork is being done. It’s a great band and we have fantastic players. It should be out by mid/late September.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Do you plan to tour in support?
James LaBrie: I’m planning on touring in support but not too much since I’m always touring with Dream Theater. I would like everyone to know that this is a band, a unit and everyone involved is very passionate and serious about this and I think it would be exceptionally cool to get out on the road and do stuff on our own, but at the same time it would be a great idea to open up for a bigger band. We would basically do an in your face, balls to the wall and see you later deal.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Being Dream Theater’s frontman for 20 years, at the end of the day, what does the band and your work as a vocalist mean to you?
James LaBrie: It’s kind of weird, you wake up, speak to people like I’m speaking to you and realize that it’s the very thing that has given me the life that I have and it’s who I am. It’s bizarre in a way, you do fall into a groove and it’s like anything that you’ve done for awhile-it just becomes a norm. But every now and then, I am jarred by the whole situation; I’m like “hey, I sing for a living. I’m doing want many people dream of doing, I’m living it.” I think it really hits you when you go out on tour and perform before thousands of people. The energy and receptiveness of the crowd makes you realize what you do for people, it’s just incredible and I’m much honored to be part of something that I always aspired to be.
Beyond The Dark Horizon: Would you say that there is still so much more to accomplish in your career?
James LaBrie: There’s still plenty more that I need to discover about myself and attain-as a singer and musician. I’m always constantly changing how I approach songs vocally, the way that I can express myself. There’s still a lot for me to express and discover.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: In the past, you were studying under a vocal trainer-Are you still taking lessons to keep your voice fresh?
James LaBrie: Recently I saw Jamie Vendera, he’s incredible and full of vocal wisdom. From the warming up to utilizing the whole body to coincide with the way that the voice works and cooling down properly, he’s really incredible.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: What has benefited you the most from these lessons? Is there anything that vocalists should take into consideration?
James LaBrie: The whole thing about warming up, taking your time and how to warm up. Just as important is the cool down, to bring your voice from a singing position back down into a speaking position. It’s something that many vocalists don’t do and their voice suffers because if it. Not taking the proper precautions can result in vocal fatigue. You also have to stretch yourself physically to get your body loose, relax and realize that they are both organic, they both need to feel balanced and be in sync with each other.
Beyond the Dark Horizon: Thanks for sharing that with us, what’s next on the horizon for Dream Theater?
James LaBrie: After this tour there will be a few dates in Japan that will take place in August. I have a solo album coming up, Mike Portnoy will be playing drums on tour with Avenged Sevenfold and we are pretty much taking a break and relaxing with family until January. After that I’m thinking we will enter the studio and work on a new Dream Theater album.