Jordan Rudess of Dream Theater
There are guitar heroes, there are keyboard heroes. Jordan Rudess is the latter and more. When not blazing synth trails with renowned prog-rock band Dream Theater, he could be working on his solo projects, composing for piano, or developing musical apps…Jordan’s always busy digging into something, sonically. His virtuosic writing and performance abilities along with his knack for cutting-edge technology enable him to continuously expand on his already iconic role in the modern keyboard landscape. As a long-time member of the Korg family, Jordan has provided important product feedback throughout the years and he has helped create some of the sounds heard in Korg products, like the Kronos Music Workstation.
We spoke with Jordan as he was getting ready to head back out for a European run in support of Dream Theater’s latest opus, A Dramatic Turn of Events.
KORG: It’s great to talk with you, as always. Dream Theater has been touring in support of A Dramatic Turn of Events and people are loving it. Did you guys go into writing it with any specific goals or state of mind?
Jordan Rudess: We knew we wanted to make a fantastic Dream Theater album. We also knew that all eyes were going to be on us with the departure of our drummer Mike Portnoy. Although it was a very tough situation to be thrown into, we took our energy and turned it to a positive and worked hard to make sure we delivered the goods. It was a great opportunity to think about who we are as people and musicians and how we wanted our Dream Theater album to sound. It’s been one hell of a year!
KORG: Mike Mangini joined the band in place of Portnoy. How was the experience of having a new member for that recording, after years with Mike Portnoy?
JR: Mike Mangini is a consummate professional. He is not only a fantastic out-of-the-box drummer, but he is also a man filled with sparkling energy and humor. Right from the start, we all liked him personally and were blown away by his musicianship. He has fit right in to our group dynamic in every way!
KORG: Are there any recent experiences from the road that stick out in your mind?
JR: Yeah…The final night of this last tour we were in Mexico City, Mexico. Big night - 10,000 people, sold out show. About twenty minutes in, I use my hydraulic keyboard stand and hold it down on a big angle so the entire audience can enjoy watching me play. And then it happened…the stand got stuck! I played the rest of the show (one hour and forty minutes) on this very unusual angle and praying that as each section went by, I would be able to manage my performance and keep it together. Embarrassing on one hand, but perhaps to the audience it could have been cool because they got to really see me play the whole night. That coupled with the pre-show earthquake made a real evening to remember!
KORG: Wow…sounds like a rocky night but you pulled it off. Any new projects from your solo work or other happenings we should keep an eye/ear out for?
JR: My own solo work at the moment is very much focused on some app development that I'm doing with my company Wizdom Music. We are deep into some very cool stuff for iOS and Android. Korg is doing some great things with iOS development and making some really killer apps. I'm having a lot of fun with those as well!
In addition I wrote this classical piece entitled "Explorations for Keyboard and Orchestra" recently and we are focusing in on finding a great orchestra to perform it with me.
KORG: You’ve used Korg workstations throughout the years and nowadays, the Kronos is your main instrument on stage. Do you have any favorite features? What do you feel separates it from other workstations out there?
JR: It is the total musical solution for me! I love that keyboard so much. I can get every sound I need out of it through the many different types of synthesis capabilities the instrument has. Everything from Sampling to Modeling is part of the system…and that coupled with the very strong effects allow me to have every sound I play speak in a way that is exactly what I imagine. The other thing worth mentioning is that the Kronos allows my performance to be absolutely smooth when I switch between all my big (and small) layered and split sounds! I'm a happy keyboardist these days!
KORG: Have any of your works started with an inspiration from a particular Kronos sound?
JR: Of course! Great factory sounds is one of the best features of any Korg keyboard. The sounds that the instruments ship with are always inspiring and can directly lead to some very cool compositions.
KORG: You’ve also been having some fun with the microPIANO and the nanoSERIES2. What can you say about those little guys?
JR: There’s not enough time in my day because you guys keep coming out with these little gems! I have the microPIANO sitting right next to me turned on for any moment of inspiration. What a cool little keyboard…very unique and with quite an impressive piano sound! The nanoKEY2 stays in my main travel suitcase and comes with me everywhere I go. I'm not kidding. I had a great jam with John Petrucci and Andy McKee in one of the hotel rooms on the last tour and it was awesome. The guys were quite impressed with my killer tiny system! The nano and an iPad was my rig!
KORG: Anything else you’d like to mention?
JR: For those of you who are unaware, my latest three creations for iOS are MorphWiz, SampleWiz and Geo Synthesizer.
Dream Theater will spend about five weeks in Europe, starting the third week of January. I hope to see many of you on the road!
I've been involved with Korg for over twenty years - first-purely as an admirer, second as a product specialist (I worked for Korg as an employee), and finally as a professional musician. It is a relationship that I am so proud of. There are incredible people there that are so talented and musical and they have upheld incredibly high standards through all the years in all the instruments they build!
The Kronos workstation is a powerful instrument that has a great combination of technology and musicality within it. The problem with so many music systems is that they lack one or the other of those two extremely important features. I can depend on my Kronos to give me exactly what I need for my music. I'm a very proud Korg Kronos user and I hope I can help to spread the word around the world about this magical instrument.
Many thanks, Jordan. Enjoy the tour.
Visit www.jordanrudess.com for more about Jordan.
Photo credit: Darko Boehringer