Jordan Rudess was first united with Dream Theater when Kevin Moore left the band several years ago. In fact, Moore had given the band his name as a possible replacement, since he respected him as a fellow keyboard player. That year all the other members of Dream Theater had won awards from various musician magazines for being the best at their designated instrument.
Ironically, Rudess won the award for best new talent from Keyboard Magazine and came in second for Best Overall Keyboard Player that year as well, stacking the odds even more in his favor. However, Rudess only played one concert with Dream Theater after his original audition. Instead of joining Dream Theater, Rudess joined the Dixie Dregs on their Full Circle Tour, and Derek Sherinian was elected as Moore’s replacement.
His original connection with the Dregs was as a fan in the audience. And after watching Dreg’s drummer Rod Morgenstein in awe, Rudess was pleased to join the Dregs when the opportunity arose. He traveled with the band and became friends with Morgenstein, while they developed a mutual respect for each other’s music.
Today, many years after his initial encounter with the band, Rudess has not only developed a musical friendship with the members of Dream Theater, but he is also a full-fledged member of the band. He actually headed right into the studio with them about a year ago, after recording sessions for the second Liquid Tension Experiment album (entitled Liquid Tension Experiment 2).
Rudess’ first album with Dream Theater was their latest release, entitled Scenes from a Memory (Elektra Records). Prior to entering the studio, the band had written some music for Scenes from a Memory, but according to Rudess, the actually concept was written around their studio time: the idea for the album came about at the beginning of the sessions, and after the story was outlined and the music was laid out, the lyrics were filled in at the end.
Rudess describes the album’s connection to the song “Metropolis 1” from their commercial success Images & Words as more of a “light fun thing to do than a commitment.” He said that although the thought of a “Metropolis 2” was something that played in the back of John Petrucci’s mind, the band did not plan on connecting it to a concept album.
With it being their first concept album and eluding to classic rock influences and narratives reminiscent of The Wall by Pink Floyd, we asked Rudess if the change was due to a growth from the band or due to his new member status. He attributes the change to both:
Rudess said, “I think that in many ways they were just growing and ready to do a different kind of record than they had done previously…trying to come away from this whole kind of idea of trying to mold their style into the main stream.” With one of the most active fan bases in the world, Rudess added that he has seen first-hand what is going on with the Internet. It seems that though some fans retreated with the release of Falling into Infinity, they have come back full force with the release of the new album.
Rudess also attributes his influence and background to really changing the whole style of the album, musically. He says that those who are familiar with his music should be able to easily recognize his contributions to the album.
In addition to influencing the band’s writing, Rudess also significantly contributes to the band’s live performances, while remaining very focused on his job. Unlike the past two Dream Theater keyboard players (Sherinian and Moore), who had used multiple keyboards to get the job done, Rudess only uses one.
He says that the keyboards that he uses are kind of “special,” and since they are powerful, like a computer, he only uses one keyboard and one module. His instruments of choice are Kurzweil Keyboards (models 2500 and 2600). He uses his equipment to trigger all of the sounds from the band’s past albums and the images that appear on the screens during their performance, in addition to playing the keys. He also utilizes a software package called Videodelic, which was created by U&I Software.