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As Dream Theater gears up for another epic world tour, Petrucci says he hopes to have a solo album out by 2014, his first in eight years.
As a longtime Mesa/Boogie devotee, what Boogie amps did you use in the studio, and what, if any, other amps did you throw into the mix?
The studio was all Boogies, and for the most part it was the Mark V. We did a ton of experimenting using the Radial to re-amp, which was a blast, but a lot of the time we ended up going with the Mark V. I ended up playing a lot of 7-string on this album, and the Mark V really seemed to work with the range of my new Music Man JP13, which sounded very broad and alive through it.
I also set up three of my old Mark II-C+ amps. We’d go back and forth between different ones for solos. They all have different tonal aspects that are just beautiful. I used a Triaxis for clean stuff and for writing, and for the first time I used a Royal Atlantic, which is a Boogie that has a different sound from any of the Mark amps. You can hear it on “The Looking Glass.” The amp has more of a big, grindy, rock sound, not as metal sounding, but really appropriate for that song. I also used it for “Along for the Ride.”
You mentioned using a lot of 7-string guitar on this record. What attracts you to that extra string and how does it alter your approach to playing?
My technical approach pretty much remains the same. To me it’s all about the range. When you’re composing, it’s freeing to play chords or lines that go below that standard E without tuning down. Keyboardists have that in their left hand, 6-string bass players have it too. It also adds some other options as far as the tonal aspect of keys. When you’re tuned to standard, you have your basic E, A, and F# keys, which you can mix up when you’re using a 7-string. Your centers can revolve around B or C# or D, and then if you tune the guitar down they can revolve around A, so it gives you options you don’t have with a 6-string.
Your Signature Series Music Man guitar lineup is currently up to its 13th iteration. How has the JP guitar evolved over the years and how much creative input do you have with each new model?
The lineup has changed with things I discover, whether in the studio or playing live, that help shift the design and construction of the guitar as time goes by. The very first JP guitar was my first experience making a guitar with Music Man, and it came out absolutely amazing. It has that scoop for the right arm, for example. As I learn about tone woods, neck dimensions, fretboard radius, fret size, and body shape, I talk to Music Man and they make adjustments.
All my signature guitars—the 6-string, 7-string, and baritone—are tweaked a bit differently. They’re different spices in my spice rack, but they’re all me. Having said that, there are also a lot of consistencies in the way we lay out the controls and the bridge. Once we nail something that’s just perfect, it stays that way. I have a ton of input and involvement in that process, and I consider myself incredibly fortunate to work with literally the best guitar builders on the planet. I put these ideas forth and the engineers turn it into an actual physical guitar. It’s an incredible experience.
What makes the JP13 different from what has come before it?
This guitar continues the evolution. It has a preamp in it, which none of the others have—that’s the main difference. The preamp enables the guitar to be more alive and open sounding, and it also offers a boost. You can tap the volume control to add 20 dB of gain, so you don’t need an overdrive or clean boost pedal. We also went to a 17" fretboard radius, and, of course, the guitar looks different with all the chrome and silver finish on the knobs and everything.
TC Electronic released the John Petrucci Dreamscape Signature TonePrint three-in-one modulation pedal with chorus, flanger, and vibrato. How did that come about?
TC’s chorus and flanger effects have been a huge part of my sound forever. I remember discovering TC stuff when I was really young, and I just fell in love with the sound and design. They approached me. They’d never done a signature pedal before and neither had I, so it was a first for both of us.
We started to talk privately about what this might be. I mentioned that their modulation pedal was my favorite pedal of all time and maybe we could take it to the next level by making it quieter and more compact, more roadworthy, and expanding its features. They were 100 percent for it. Once we started exploring the new technology they’ve developed, we discovered that this pedal could do a lot more than just chorus and flange. We’re going to be able to take this as far as we want, especially with the TonePrint technology. In the end, this pedal is probably one of the most versatile modulation pedals you can get, and it ended up being one of my main secret weapons in the studio.
What other pedals do you currently have in your chain?
Only a few. I have a big pedal collection I bring into the studio to experiment with a bit, but live I just use a small drawer of maybe four. In addition to my Dreamscape, I use a Boss PH-3 Phaser—I also use the MXR Van Halen one, which I like—and usually some sort of overdrive. But I don’t really need an overdrive anymore because of the JP13’s boost. We’ve experimented with Mesa/Boogie’s new line of pedals, which are really cool for that, and we’ve used the Analog Man King of Tone. I also really like the sound of compression pedals, and the Carl Martin Compressor/Limiter is great, but the one that I really fell in love with on this album was the Analog Man Juicer.
What is next for you and Dream Theater?
Business as usual, as far as supporting this release. We have a world tour planned and that will start in Europe in January and continue across the globe. I’m also working on a solo album that’s been a long time coming—my last one was in 2005—and I’m hoping to finish that by the end of the year. We’re going to continue to stay busy, that’s for sure!