Jordan Rudess guides us through Wired For Madness

Jordan Rudess: Wired For Madness

Dream Theater keyboard player Jordan Rudess has released his 15th solo album, Wired For Madness, through Music Theory Recordings. Here he talks us through the new album, track by track...

Wired For Madness Pt. 1 - Bring It On

The musical journey begins here with the sound of my voice going through deep signal processing to introduce the concept. “We can improve the quality of life by using advanced computer technology. Once transitioned, the human mind is left to explore deeper consciousness. We rewire the brain and traverse an infinite universe. A network of billions of neurons waiting to be realized”.  

This sets the mood for the wild ride that is about to begin! This is the first music that I wrote for the album. I dove head first into my studio, overflowing with inspiration and then the ideas and the concept began to take shape. The story involves a person who is declining both mentally and physically and decides to undergo a procedure to become partially robotic. It’s an experimental procedure so the risks are high and the side effects unknown. This becomes a major factor in the story as we dig into the sonic landscape. 

I teamed up with my long time partner from the Dixie Dregs and Rudess Morgenstein Project, Rod Morgenstein, to handle the drums on this track. If you dare to understand what goes on in the head of this composer, then fasten your seatbelt and have a listen. Out of Gentle Giant-inspired counterpoints, metal and tripped out IDM sounds emerges a Hammond organ solo, a JR Synth lead followed by an unmistakable John Petrucci soaring solo.  I’ve always felt that a little lighthearted humor is welcome in the middle of intense progressive music and this chapter ends with an old-fashioned big band section complete with a solo “slide” clarinet (virtually played by yours truly) that will make you smile.  

Pt 1.2 - Out Of Body

Now things are really starting to happen. Odd quirky voices over a driving hypnotic bass line give way to the first piano statement as shades of techno sequencing lead way to an Emersonesque analog power brass section. I get into some serious counterpoint, which opens up into John Petrucci taking another smashing solo before a real rocking and heavy Tri-tone riff allows me to shred over the top. 

Pt. 1.3 - Lost Control

The first vocal has arrived!  “In a haze I’ve lost control of all that I believe. What is real a flash of memories”. Here’s a more soothing, spacey sound that I am a big fan of - especially when what is all around it is MADNESS!  After the vocal, we go into one of my personal favorite sections – a quirky section with a touch of Beatles sensibility, complete with a bassoon joining in the orchestration. Part 1 closes out with HUGE PROG chords driven by Mellotron voices and a JR synth solo flying over the top of it!  

Pt 2.1 - Entering Delirium

Space Whispers open this track up. These are meant to be the voices within the operating room as perceived by our patient. There is something very odd happening here as I suggest that the medical team doing this procedure might be not of this earth.  

Pt 2.2 - The Other Side

I start this out with some otherworldly vocals created on my keyboard.  I’m using awesome vocal sounds courtesy of my friends at Heavyocity who make amazing virtual instruments. My musical cohort, Marco Minnemann, joins me on drums for all of Part 2. I believe that Marco “eats odd meters for breakfast.” He absorbed this so quickly it was hard to believe. Also present on this section is Special Providence guitarist, Alek Darson, playing some killing rhythm guitar. Some very classical strings join in before settling into an organ-driven contrapuntal proggy section. After the organ statement, a more traditional synth lead takes the center position. At this point, the character in our story is starting to really go off the rails highlighted by some wild electronic textures spinning around the stereo field (headphones anyone?) with some IDM percussion and then the return of the heavy eight-string guitar to close out the section. 

Pt 2.3 - Cosmic Chaos 

My vocal start this one. “I’m soaring through the sky-and now a strange connection to the other side”.  I use 8Dio’s virtual strings to shine through here connecting the vocal phrases.  Also introduced in this section are Brothers Page on backing vocals.  The lyrics enter with “This cosmic chaos is driving me insane”. Crazy, rhythmic adventures with Hammond organ-driven prog fall into unison syncopation before going completely orchestral.  A return of Beatles-inspired sensibility highlight the madness of this section. You might hear a bit of Crimson influence here as I alternate between hard rocking and orchestral elements. I’m a fan of allowing moving bass lines to lead the way (a lot of this technique is on our Liquid Tension Experiment albums) and before the big synth lead at the end of the section you’ll hear that. I love jamming over super rocking heavy riffs and that’s me you will hear going NUTS on the lead at the close of this track. 

Pt 2.4

My vocal starts off and I’m joined by Brothers Page in full 3-part harmony. I’ve known the talented brothers for most of their lives so it’s really special to have them on this album. I love writing this type of thing! An Al Dimeola-type riff allows me to have more shred fun before going completely orchestral as the tension builds with choir, brass and orchestral percussion. 

Pt 2.5 - I’ll Be Waiting

“Don’t be afraid- you’re not alone- I’m waiting here for you”

Conceptually, things are really heating up with the entrance of vocalist Marjana Semkina from the Russian band, iamthemorning.  Her role here is as the voice of the angel that appears to our main character as he battles to maintain control over his reality. The Angel’s call to the other side initiates a battle of cosmic mental chaos as reflected by the increasing musical madness. 

Pt 2.6

This part always makes me remember the days I spent listening to Mike Batt and his Zero Zero album. That mix of orchestral sounds with quirky, unreal voice elements is always an appealing orchestration to me. This section features an extended piano- driven chapter which builds into an LTE /Dream Theater-ish rhythmic part which then makes way to some JR leads over my Tony Banks harmonies. To me, there is nothing better then capturing that classic HUGE Genesis sound. The kaleidoscopic journey continues into more of a Gentle Giant headspace as motifs spark from instrument to instrument. Just as things get serious, I break into a total jazz departure for a brief respite before the dark, tense chords climb up with my lead over it.  The sound of sequencers join into the rock mayhem that is taking place before odd-metered, changing harmonies push the tension further. At the peak of this build I head into a clavinet-focused musical conversation that switches rapidly from the high to low registers. 

Pt 2.7 - Infinite Overdose

“Wired for madness and close to ascending- with a trust in technology. 

Ray of sunshine or maybe the end. One man on a path to transcend”

Marjana is back with a vocal feature, with her voice floating above the madness and telling the story so far… 

The song reaches its grandest proportion with my Dream Theater band mate,  James LaBrie,  singing. “I’m a human kaleidoscope pushing the envelope-FREE…”

This part is me going for the full Prog epic finale vibe. After all, if the listener has joined me until this point, this is what I think they should be treated to! “I have opened my eyes-am I dreaming?  Dreaming that I will be FREE”  

Off The Ground

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a recurring dream that I could lift up off the ground and fly. Often I’m just hovering. The part in the dream that is always the same is that, after I fly, I say to everyone, “Look, you see, I can do it, it’s easy!”. 

Unfortunately, not so easy in real life. That said, I really believe that music is my way of flying in this dimension. The song features my friend, Guthrie Govan, playing a wonderful guitar solo over some quite non- standard changes. I love the way he weaves between the chords in the way that only he can. My vocal is featured with backup from the Page Bros. “When we fly, we believe it’s real.” This is a mostly gentle song that grows to a glory rock chorus. “We’re just one in a wave of sound”

Drop Twist

I originally wrote this song for my OrKeystra performance at NAMM, which is the big music convention that happens once a year in California. The goal was to write a really cool and very proggy instrumental track that could be played live by 3 keyboard players and a drummer. The original band was Marco Parisi, Eren Basbug and Elijah Wood. The song was reworked a bit here for this album but still features OrKeystra drummer, Elijah Wood, and Alek Darson on some heavy guitar elements. I’d like to meet anyone who can tap their foot to this whole tune. Also featured are some cosmic vocal ramblings towards the end of the song. Must be my Floyd influences popping up again!

Perpetual Shine

Jonas Reingold from the Flower Kings is featured on bass in this track. This is the jazziest, fusion track on the album. This was actually written in the same time period and for the same original purpose as Drop Twist. I wrote this after seeing the band Dirty Loops play in NYC. I was inspired and created this song. Elijah Wood, an awesome talent, is on drums.

Just Can’t Win

OK- here we go! A full brass ensemble kicks this blues (with a touch of prog) off.

If you thought I was only about prog it’s time to confront this song and get down and dirty with the blues. I was really excited about the possibility of working with label mate, Joe Bonamassa, on a blues song and reached out to him to see if he would join me. I’m so glad that Joe was into it and said YES… I wrote this one when I was up at the barn during DT sessions and complete it after we were done with the DT writing sessions. I really enjoyed doing the vocals on this tune.  This was a whole lot of fun to put together. Alek Darson helped organize and arrange the brass back up.  The song also gets really swinging about three quarters through with a full on jazzy piano solo that leads into Joe taking it home! 

Just For Today

The road can be a difficult place for musicians. Although this is not autobiographical, it is a song from the heart about the reality facing many touring performers. There is often so much adoration from fans that it can make it difficult to balance personal relationships. I sing,  “The light the sound will blind my eyes and fill my head. Here and then it’s gone”.  Rod Morgenstein is on drums. Brothers Page are on background vocals. Alek Darson is on bass and some rhythm.  Although certainly a ballad, it does rise to a more epic sound at times.  On this album, the piano used is virtual and created by Synthogy with their Ivory software. I used the same virtual piano instrument on Dream Theater’s new album, Distance Over Time

Why I Dream

A little cosmic spoken word to start it out.  It’s primarily a vocal tune about a tarot card reader taking their client to the bank. “All will come to you!”. 

It’s light hearted prog, boarding on musical theater that has some cool alternation between 5/8 and 6/8 time, until the middle section where my jazzy piano solo turns into a ripping ROCK trading section between myself and guitarist, Vinnie Moore. Vinnie and I first worked together on his Time Odyssey album many years ago. Rod Morgenstein is playing drums, Alek on Bass. Brothers Page on vocal backups. 

Final note:  All the keyboard parts on the album were tracked at my home studio. My vocals were done at JGP productions with John Guth at the helm. John also recorded Rod Morgenstein and Elijah Woods drum tracks at his studio. Everything else was recorded by my guests at their various studio environments and sent to us.

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.