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Interviews   

Matt Guillory (James Labrie) doesn’t care


Let me stop you right there. It ended up being completely impossible to glean any information about the quarrel around the soap opera…. I mean around Dream Theater. This being said, Mike Portnoy and James Labrie were more than generous on that matter, feeding the press with gossips for paparazzi. You know, the good old stereotype of accusations sent through the media.

It’s no secret that the last solo album of James Labrie didn’t convince us. Matt Guillory, the keyboard player on that project has been following James for many years now. He answered very politely to our questions and even to our spiteful remarks.

(Note : about Dream Theater) »…it will be a new chapter for them, and it will be interesting to see what happens. »

Radio Metal: I suppose that these days, lots of journalists are trying to contact you to get information about what’s happening with Dream Theater. Does that bother you?

Matt Guillory (keyboards) : No, it’s OK. I haven’t got too many questions about it. What’s happening is sad, because of their long history together. But it will be a new chapter for them, and it will be interesting to see what happens.

Is it something you discussed with James?

No, it was somewhat unexpected for everyone, I think. Hopefully, it’ll be good for everybody.

Do you think the departure of Mike Portnoy, who dominated Dream Theater’s musical direction, will allow James to express himself more in the band? If yes, will it compromise the future of his solo project?

Honestly, we’ll have to see what happens. Your guess is as good as mine at this point! Obviously I would love to see James contribute more in the songwriting process, because I think he has a lot of great ideas. I think it would be great for everyone to hear what he has to say and express musically. I don’t think it will really affect his solo stuff, because he also really cares a lot about his solo album, and he wants it to be a success. I think there’s enough room for both, and he understands that. We’ll try to work out a solution that will benefit both situations.

The general public doesn’t hear much from you, apart from your releases with James Labrie. Can you tell us more about your activities, your recent projects, and maybe your future plans?

Right now, obviously, we’re doing the promotion for Static Impulse, and I’m very excited about that. Understandably, most people really want to speak with James, because he has a much bigger name, and technically, it is his solo album, even though it’s more of a band thing. We write together. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be working on my own solo project after we wrap up Static Impulse, and hopefully do a tour in 2011. I would definitely like to pursue a solo project. I’ve actually been talking with InsideOut about possibly doing something with them.

Let’s talk about this new album, Static Impulse. I remember interviewing James in 2007, and at the time he explained he was already working on a solo album. Was Static Impulse under construction for the last three years?

No, we started working on Static Impulse in late 2009, I think it was. In 2007, we originally had plans to do something together, but our schedules didn’t really match. As you know, his schedule with Dream Theater just keeps going and going. They have a pretty set schedule: they write an album, record it and tour. They’ve been doing this for years. So it was tough to find the right time that made sense for everyone. We did start writing some material back then, but then we decided to take a break for a little while. I think it was in 2009 that James called me and said: “I think we should start writing the new record”.

What happened to the music you’d been working on in 2007? It is featured on this album?

No, none of the material we wrote in 2007 is on Static Impulse.

Will it be released one day?

Maybe, I’m not sure! It’s just one of those things where we’ll have to see if it makes sense for us to release it. We wanted a fresh start when we were working on Static Impulse.

What was it like musically – if you remember it?

It was definitely heavy. It was continuing in the tradition of Elements Of Persuasion.

« He (Note : James LaBrie) loves heavy music, and I think there might be a misconception with the audience. Perhaps they think he doesn’t like heavier music, but his releases say otherwise. He definitely loves metal music, and he loves to perform it. »

Elements Of Persuasion and Static Impulse both correspond to what was in fashion musically in the metal world at the time of their releases. Static Impulse is surfing on the influence of Swedish metal, which is particularly fashionable at the moment. People might think it kind of opportunistic. Is it a coincidence?

I think so. Something really important for James and I is to try and be as modern as possible. For us, it’s not really about what’s popular or what’s in fashion. It’s just a sound that appeals to James and I, and it’s about being modern. It’s as simple as that. It’s definitely the motive behind how it sounds. It’s not because we want to follow the latest trend.

You’ve got to admit it’s a weird coincidence!

Yeah, it is. But musically, I’ve always loved Swedish music, whether it was pop or metal. I’ve been following Max Martin for years: he’s one of the biggest songwriters in the world, and he writes Swedish pop. And I’ve worked With Yngwie Malmsteen in the past as well, a well-known guitarist from Sweden. I love Swedish metal too, and that goes back twenty years.

Dream Theater was often accused of being a musical sponge, with a tendency to use influences a little too obviously, to the point of almost copying. Do you think the same criticism could be made about this album?

I don’t think so. We definitely have influences, but we also have something unique to say. There’s no intention or desire to blatantly copy someone else. Not at all.

In the light of Elements Of Persuasion and this new album, it’s clear that James appreciates this style. Do you think he’s comfortable in the vocal parts? Will he be able to sing live in a purely metal register?

I think so. I think his voice is very well suited for it. He loves heavy music, and I think there might be a misconception with the audience. Perhaps they think he doesn’t like heavier music, but his releases say otherwise. He definitely loves metal music, and he loves to perform it. I think that’s pretty clear.

I’ve seen Dream Theater a few times, and they were playing some very heavy songs, like those from the last album. James was trying to play the bad guy, and I wasn’t very convinced by him as the frontman of an aggressive band. I thought maybe he was more comfortable with calmer, more melodic vocal parts…

You know, I’ve known James for many years now. And I can say with 100% confidence that he loves heavy music. He does and always has, and I don’t think that’s gonna change anytime soon.

I’m not saying he doesn’t like it, just that I wasn’t really convinced by the way he sings it or the way he does the show as a metal frontman…

Maybe it was just an off night for him then! Because I’ve definitely heard James sound amazing with heavy music. And Static Impulse is definitely proof of that, I think.

« It might sound bad to say it, but if I’m being honest, I don’t care about titles! »

OK, let’s talk about the album’s artwork, then. It features several blurred silhouettes, and others that are much clearer. All of them have empty eyes. It’s reminiscent of anticipation movies, like Matrix or Equilibrium, where individuals have no identity and no emotions, and where some people finally wake up to become aware of the world around them. Was it the original idea of this artwork?

James just gave the artist a concept to work with, and he had a lot of freedom to develop the look of the cover. Basically, the concept is that people tend to make judgments about others based on their appearance, without getting to know them. That’s why the eyes are blurred.

What is the meaning of this ambivalent title, then ?

It’s the impulse of someone who doesn’t change and doesn’t want to change their view.

I’m sorry, but isn’t it a little clichéd to use such an oxymoron for the album title? Every single metal band uses this figure of speech in their lyrics, like “Perfect Agony”, or that kind of thing…

Well, perhaps, to some, it could be. I’m one of those people to whom title doesn’t matter that much. To me, it’s about the music, the actual notes being played, the melodies. It might sound bad to say it, but if I’m being honest, I don’t care about titles!

As an outsider, what do you think of this title?

It doesn’t bother me. Again, I don’t put too much importance in it. I don’t really take it seriously.

Interview conducted by phone in October 2010

Transcription by Saff’

Myspace James Labrie : www.myspace.com/officialjameslabrie
Myspace Matt Guillory : www.myspace.com/mattguillory



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