Dream Theater drummer Mike Mangini recently took some time to answer questions submitted to MusicRadar by fans. He talks about technique, learning old Dream Theater songs, drummers he'd like to learn from, and more.
Says Mike about his last personal breakthrough behind the kit, "It was adjusting my velocities and realizing that I don’t have to smash everything, with the perception that hitting harder gets you a better sound. Hitting hard enough gets the best sound, yes. Over-smashing is hard not to do, especially when you’re an excitable person, so I’ve learned to control the velocities—to make them strong but not go below a certain point. That’s a ton of work, though, because it forces you to redo your own protocols, your operating system. It’s a big, big behavior change."
Regarding the challenges of learning old Dream Theater material, he says, "They’re all over the place, up and down—there’s changes everywhere. They’re uniquely recorded, played a certain way at that time. For me to match that means that I have to match that same feeling, and it takes a long time to know the little fluctuations to reflect how it is. Yet, I don’t really have to reflect how it is. The way I am with Dream Theater now is the way I play those songs. That’s exactly what my plan is."
As far as new material, he says, "'The Looking Glass' took the longest for me to get, and it’s because I improvised the most on it. But you know, that goes back to the older tracks. Whenever there wasn’t a lot of time for those guys to mull over their parts and they just kind of had to play stuff, all of that comes out of an improvisational base. Those things are hard to replicate for anybody. 'The Looking Glass' was the most improvised track on the new album. I had to catch a train home, so I really whipped it out—I just played it and left! [Laughs] Later on, I had to go back and hear what I did. There’s so much cymbal work on it, with layers and layers of sticking, and it’s hard for me to hear in that frequency range. And I was improvising."
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