In this conversation John and Ola discuss John’s latest solo album “Terminal Velocity”, playing with Mike Portnoy again, recording guitar, how to learn a lot of music for a tour, and emotional leading playing.
“Terminal Velocity” Vision (4:30)
Has a vision with his solo material: create uplifting music that will elevate the your mood. Something that you’ll look forward to listening to. Music that will compliment your activity such as going to the beach, going for a drive, going to the gym.
Recording Drums on Terminal Velocity with Mike Portnoy (10:00)
Recorded the final guitar tracks to a programmed drum track. Mike then recorded the drums to the final guitar parts. Even though this is typically done the other way around, it worked well in this case.
“Mike made it sound very natural, and there is a nostalgic sense to us playing together…”
Dave LaRue recorded bass to the final guitar and drum tracks from his home studio.
Signal Path for Recording (13:30)
Recorded Terminal Velocity at the Dream Theater HQ studios.
Recording signal: guitar into the JP2C Mesa Boogie head, into a 4×12 cabinet that if fully mic’d in a live room. Capturing the DI as well. Monitoring is done from the live sound. Microphones go into Rupert Neve Preamps and then into Pro Tools.
Chugging Tone on the JP2C Amp (16:30)
Start with the Presence control, it can open up the high-end and give a solid “chuggy” sound. Notice you’ll have two settings as the switch can be pulled out or pushed in. Experiment with the different frequency ranges depending on the control setting.
The amp has “shred” mode. Will give you more clarity in the lower notes (great for 7-string guitar or detuned guitars). Note that this will add Gain, so you may want to dial it down.
Boogie’s tend to have a lot of Gain, so bring down the Bass accordingly.
The crucial ingredients are the two EQs.
If the tone feels a bit dry, or lacking juice, bring the treble up.
Remembering vast amounts of music (24:00)
In preparation for a tour, will initially feel overwhelmed at the amount of material to learn. Eventually you just sit down and do the work of re-learning the songs. Some come back quickly, others require more focused work.
“It’s a pet-peeve of mine, I hate the process, I wish I was just a robot and remembered how to play everything…”
First step is remembering the material. Second step is practicing it so that you can perform it confidently on stage.
Process: list the set of all the songs, add bullet points for all the hard parts in each song. Then set a timer and do 10 min on each hard part, playing along with a metronome.
Will then practice playing the entire set to build stamina. All this is done in preparation for the band rehearsals prior to the start of the tour.
On running out of musical ideas (29:20)
“When I sit down and start playing guitar, things just happen…”
Even after all the music John has written, still remains creative and filled with ideas.
“When I play with the guys in Dream Theater, they are so talented, there is never a shortage of ideas…”
Emotional lead playing (32:20)
John has been inspired by “emotional lead” players: Neal Schon (Journey), Gary Moore, David Gilmour
“Electric guitar I always thought is the perfect expressive instrument, especially when playing through distortion, you can make it sound as vocal as you want…”
“I’m a sucker for a good melody, it’s so important to me…”
“It’s important for me to keep the songs as songs, not just guitar gymnastics…”