It all began in the fall of 1985 when students guitarist John Petrucci and bassist John Myung saw drummer Mike Portnoy jamming in one of the practice rooms at the prestigious Berklee School of Music in Boston. Back then, and to some degree now, rock music was frowned upon by professors and their fellow musicians, making it a small miracle they were able to meet at all. The two later bumped into Mike in the cafeteria and found they had more in common than tastes in music; all had grown up on Long Island. "I remember I was wearing a Atlas shirt that day and to them that was a dead giveaway", recalls Mike. "It was obvious that all our heads were in the same place and to find that they were from home was amazing because there's people from all over the world at Berkley. Finding two people that were completely in sync with me and the fact that they lived 40 minutes away was like a blessing from God.
"During breaks from school they jammed with keyboards Kevin Moore (who played with the Johns' in a high school band called Centurion and was attending Fredonia College in upstate New York at the time) and a vocalist named Chris Collins ; a band that would eventually become Majesty. All decided to leave school to concentrate on the band while working regular jobs and giving private music lessons. Shortly afterwards they recorded a four-track, six-song demo tape which was sold to local fans and shopped to labels. Even back then the material was progressive and complex with an edge reminiscent of early Rush and to this day the band often sneak in bits of the songs in their live set.
Majesty was the first band to sign with a new label called Mechanic Records yet were focused to change their moniker as a jazz band already owned the name. Mike's father suggested the name Dream Theater as taken from a movie house in Monterey , California, but soon it became evident that another change was more essential: Chris simply didn't have the vocal range they needed for the album.
"It was then that we went on our first of vocalist searches," laughs Mike, "and found Charlie Dominici who was a lot older than us and came from a different background, but at the time we really couldn't find anyone else and he had the most potential out of everyone. He had the experience that Chris didn't, but after awhile it became evident that he wasn't the singer we were looking for. We would sit at practice and it would be like pulling teeth trying to get him to sing some of the stuff we wanted , but afterwards he would sit down behind the piano and start singing Billy Joel and the Beatles songs and feel right at home.
"When Dream And Day Unite" was recorded at Kajem/Victory Studios in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania in one month's time in the summer of '88 with producer Terry Date. Despite a shoestring budget and limited distribution, the album was received well by press around the world, not to mention American metal radio. Unfortunately, Mechanic didn't have the funds to take them one step further with tour support or a video, and because of this, Dream Theater's concerts were restricted to the New York tri-state area as they held on to their regular day jobs. It soon became clear that the band might be forced to start from scratch to reach their goals.
Charlie was fired in '90 but called back for one final concert supporting Marillion being the British band personally requested that Dream Theater do the gig. It was at this particular show they opened with a then new track called 'Metropolis' -- a sample of how the band had progressed since the debut album and what the future would bring.
Yet what they thought would be a temporary setback turned out to be an almost two year search for a front man. They kept them selves bust writing and performing new material as a four piece in local clubs; in fact, many of the tracks from "Images and Words" were first performed live as instrumentals long before the vocal melody was written. The encore was indeed a work of genius; a medley of the instrumental breaks from classic songs from the likes of Led Zeppelin, Yes, Queen, The Beatles and Van Halen.
At one point the frustration to find the right guy became so intense they actually considered an all instrumental route -- especially after a series of really bad experiences -- yet they decided to persist. This revolving door included John Arch of Fates Warning who came very close to getting the job, but he decided against it. Then there was the Geoff Tate clone from Seattle named Steve Stone who actually sang a few songs with the band during one of the instrumental shows, but it was clear he didn't fit in. Finally, they found Chris Cintron who appeared to be the right man for the job, that was until the tape from Canada arrived...
The man in question was Kevin LaBrie, then of the Toronto band Winter Rose. Although Chris was days away from joining, the band thought the voice on the tape was too good to overlook and Kevin LaBrie was flown down to try out. Unfortunately for Chris, he was out of the job, but Dream Theater finally found the singer they had been looking for. Upon joining, Kevin LaBrie decided to use his middle name, James, as his first -- having two guys named John in the band was confusing enough, just imagine having two guys named Kevin as well.
Having signed a deal with Atco/East West Records, the band recorded their second album, "Images and Words", with producer David Prater at the end of 1991 at Bear Track Studios -- a modest facility in Suffern, New York owned by Spyro Gyra sax player Jay Beckenstein who would guest on the track 'Another Day'.
James made his official live debut with the band on June 8, 1992 at the Ritz in New York City supporting Iron Maiden, coincidentally the very same venue Charlie played his last. A few warm-up shows in tiny clubs days before this show proved James was welcomed with open arms by their die hard fans, some of which already knew the words to all the new songs even though "Images and Words" was not in the stores yet.
After the release of the album, Dream Theater signed to Roundtable Entertainment and was ready to finally perform around the globe. Along the way press radio and even MTV were especially supportive, yet the band felt they reached a new level upon word that "Images And Words" had gone gold in Japan. A short tour was booked and sold out within hours.
Despite this worldwide recognition, the band paid homage to their long time local fans with a sold out concert at the Limelight in New York City on March 4, 1993. With no opening act, the band played almost three hours, not including the brief intermission, and debuted a bunch of new material such as 'To Live Forever', 'Eve' and the 20 minute epic 'A Change of Seasons', the latter of which they rarely perform live.
Europe was the next leg of the "Music in Progress" tour where they recorded the EP, "Live at the Marquee", at London's famed club. Although their touring commitments had brought them around the world a second time (in bigger halls naturally) the band kept from burning out musically by introducing new songs into the set, even if they were nothing but jams improvised on the spot. Their show in Tokyo, Japan, was filmed and released on home video in late '93.
By November of '93 the band had completed touring, yet visited Korea in January for a promotional tour due to their increasing popularity there.
In March of 1994, Dream Theater started work on their third album after a short break -- their first album to be written as a complete band being both "When Dream and Day Unite" and "Images and Words" were written when the band was without a vocalist. At first they planned to include some of the unreleased songs that were included in their live set, yet it ended up they had written so much new material -- more than 75 minutes worth! -- the older songs didn't sound fresh enough to fit in. The only bit of old material they kept was a jam called 'Puppies on Acid' which turned into the song 'The Mirror'. 'To Live Forever' has since been released as the b-side to 'Lie' and the instrumental 'Eve' can be found on the 'Silent Man' single.
The band relocated to Los Angeles in May for a few months to work with producers John Purdell and Duane Baron and found the duo to be just what they needed to get their musical ideas across. Unfortunately, all was not perfect in the band.
Halfway through the recording of "Awake", Kevin decided he wanted to leave the band -- a major blow to the band, especially to John and John whom he had grown up with. In a press release issued after the completion of the album, Kevin explained why:
For immediate release Dream Theater and longtime keyboarist Kevin Moore part ways
August 22, 1994.....EastWest Recording Artists, Dream Theater, announced this week that Kevin Moore, longtime keyboardist, has left the group. Although musical differences was the cause of the break-up, all parties stress that the split was an amicable one.
James LaBrie, Dream Theater lead vocalist commented, "Kevin decided to leave so that he could pursue a new musical direction - one which would not have been possible for him to explore within Dream Theater. We really love Kevin we'll miss him, he will always be a part of our family." Guitarist John Petrucci added, "Kevin has been an integral part of our Dream Theater since its inception. Although we are all saddened by his departure, we know he has a lot to offer and wish him all the best."
Although a permanent replacement has not been chosen at this time, Jordan Rudess (Jan Hammer, Dixie Dreggs) will be performing with Dream Theater when they debut material from their upcoming release Awake at the Foundations Forum on Friday, September 9th.
Kevin Moore Statement on his departure from Dream Theater
"Musically, I think my approach to writing has changed a lot in the past several years. It came to a point where my views were so different from the rest of the band that they were having trouble relating to each other's ideas. At the same time , I was finding a great deal of fulfillment writing and recording my own material. Eventually, this became more important to me than anything else. I came to the decision that I needed to concentrate on my own musical identity and that a split with the band would be the best thing for both the band and myself.
I truly believe that Dream Theater have a lot more to offer the music world and I have a deep respect for each of them as musicians and as people. I wish them all the best."
Kevin has since started a project called ChromaKey and released an album entitled 'Dead Air For Radios' in June 1998.
Pressure to find a new keyboard player was closer than expected as the band had already committed to play the Concrete Foundations Forum. After a series of auditions, they decided to bring in Jordan Rudess (of the Dixie Dregs) for the show and Derek Sherinian for the tour. Derek, who also attended Berkelee and played with Kiss and Alice Cooper among others, proved to be the perfect arrangement as it would allow the band to take their time to find a permanent replacement and be able to tour for the album. Derek was announced as an 'official' member during the last few shows of Dream Theater's 1995 European tour.
"Awake" was released worldwide on October 4 and did well beyond the band's hopes. It debuted at 32 on the American Billboard chart and sold over 43,000 copies in Germany in the first week alone. Meanwhile, the single 'Lie', which preceded the album's release, became a big hit at American rock radio out of the box and the video was shown regularly on MTV -- a great and positive start to what is certain to be the most important album of their career.
With a successful American tour behind them, 1995 kicked off with a major tour of Japan where "Awake" has gone platinum, followed by a European tour.
In April 1995, Dream Theater reunited with "Images And Words" producer David Prater and entered the studio to record their 23-minute epic "A Change Of Seasons". Several tracks from the Ronnie Scott's 'Uncovered' Gig were also included in the release. The EP, entitled "A Change of Seasons", was released on September 19, 1995.
In December 1996 Dream Theater played five shows on what was dubbed "The Fix for '96", where they showcased five of the songs that have been since released on "Falling Into Infinity", in addition to new arrangements of some of the classics. In April 1997, there was a short "The Fix for '97" mini tour through Europe.
Finally, on September 23, 1997, Falling Into Infinity was released in the US. With their following growing greater with each album and tour, Dream Theater is certain to keep making music for a long time to come.