John Petrucci Discusses Dream Theater's Back-to-Basics New Album, 'Distance Over Time'

(Image credit: Rayon Richards)

Nobody has ever described Dream Theater as minimalists, but even by the band’s own “bigger, grander, more of everything” standards, their 2016 album, The Astonishing, was the musical equivalent of two kitchen sinks and then some. A two-hour-plus double-CD concept piece spread across 34 songs, one that the band performed with an elaborate stage show from top to bottom for more than two years, it was every inch The Lord of the Rings of epic progressive rock. And like every good post-apocalyptic dystopian fantasy, it even spawned a book and a video game.

The Astonishing lived up to its name,” says guitarist John Petrucci, who collaborated on the album’s music with keyboardist Jordan Rudess. “It was a big idea that turned into an even bigger presentation, and we saw it through on all levels.” Yet even before the album’s exhaustive tour ended, Petrucci was itching to do something new, and he weighed his options. “I had to ask myself certain questions,” he says. “How do you follow something like The Astonishing? You can either try and top it, which I didn’t want to attempt, or you do something totally different. Almost from the start, the latter approach seemed like the way to go.”

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Joe Bosso

Joe is a freelance journalist who has, over the past few decades, interviewed hundreds of guitarists for Guitar World, Guitar Player, MusicRadar and Classic Rock. He is also a former editor of Guitar World, contributing writer for Guitar Aficionado and VP of A&R for Island Records. He’s an enthusiastic guitarist, but he’s nowhere near the likes of the people he interviews. Surprisingly, his skills are more suited to the drums. If you need a drummer for your Beatles tribute band, look him up.