Periphery's Jake Bowen on "Strange" Dream Theater Discovery, Uncle John Petrucci | Revolver

Periphery's Jake Bowen on "Strange" Dream Theater Discovery, Uncle John Petrucci

"I had no idea he was the guy who wrote that sick song I heard on the radio," says guitarist
periphery-jake-bowen-birminghamshow-web-crop.jpg, Periphery
Periphery's Jake Bowen
Courtesy of Periphery

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In July 1992 Dream Theater released their second full-length, Images and Words. The album — their first with new singer James LaBrie teaming with the virtuosic crew of guitarist John Petrucci, keyboardist Kevin Moore, bassist John Myung and drummer Mike Portnoy — was a straight-up prog-metal opus that catapulted the band to international fame.

Much of the album's hype was generated by its hit single "Pull Me Under" — an emotive ripper that broke into the Top 10 of Billboard's Mainstream Rock chart, received significant MTV play and would later find new life as a fan favorite in the Guitar Hero World Tour game. Three decades since its release, Images and Words still ranks as Dream Theater's most commercially successful album and continues to garner critical accolades. (Guitar World listed it among the top guitar albums of 1992 and Rolling Stone picked it as one of the 100 Greatest Metal Albums of All Time).

Images and Words — which is showcased on Dream Theater's new live record, The Lost Not Forgotten Archives - Images & Words, Live in Japan, 2017 — is also a pivotal record for many of our favorite players, including Periphery guitarist Jake Bowen.

Below, Bowen tells us the "strange" experience of discovering his uncle was in one of his favorite bands, why Dream Theater's Images and Words "changed the game for modern metal and progressive music" and more.

TELL US THE STORY ABOUT HOW YOU FIRST DISCOVERED DREAM THEATER.
My story with how I found out about Dream Theater is kind of a strange one. It happened so long ago that I have trouble remembering the bits and pieces because I was around 9 years old … and I'm 37 now. So I remember getting into music, specifically heavy music, in the years 1991-92. I was watching a lot of MTV and listening to the radio for the chance to discover new bands. I remember hearing "Pull Me Under" on the radio and saying to myself, "This is cool, what is this?" This was back in the day where they'd play a huge stretch of music and then you'd have to hope the DJ would mention what songs they played in the right order. A lot of times they would only mention a few and then move on, unfortunately they didn't mention the name of the band the times I heard "Pull Me Under" on the radio … in fact I didn't even know the name of the song either!

While this was going on I had no idea that my aunt — who was in the metal band Meanstreak at the time — was dating John Petrucci. I knew she was with someone, I just had no idea it was the guy who wrote that real sick song I heard on the radio. So eventually I find out that the guy my aunt is with is in a band called Dream Theater. I really didn't have any way to hear the band as this was way before I had any money for tapes or CDs, so for the time being that's all I knew.

A bit of time later I'm at summer camp and I see one of my counselors playing the acoustic guitar. I was starting to become interested in the guitar so I struck up a conversation about music, which eventually led me to mentioning — without realizing that this is any kind of big deal — "My uncle is in a band." And he asks, "What band?" I say, "They're called Dream Theater," which makes this guy's eyes get all wide. And he says, "Your uncle is in Dream Theater? That's amazing!" The conversation continues and I finally figure out that "Pull Me Under" is a Dream Theater song off the album Images and Words.

THAT'S WILD. WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF IMAGES AND WORDS WHEN YOU EVENTUALLY HEARD THE WHOLE ALBUM? 
I didn't realize it at the time, but looking back this album really changed the game for modern metal and progressive music. It had cutting-edge production for the time and the playing, arrangements and experimentation was light-years beyond what so many in their scene were doing. It's one of those important albums that come along every once in a while and inspires a whole new generation of musicians.

I still jam these early Dream Theater records in the car pretty regularly. And if I ever need to show someone what a good guitar solo sounds like, this is probably one of the first records I bust out. "Under A Glass Moon" is such a great example of how you knew Dream Theater was a special band.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE DREAM THEATER ALBUM?
Awake. It's one of my top three favorite albums of all time, from start to finish it's a perfect album. It's one of those albums where you don't skip a song and the flow of the track list is flawless. They did such a great job of creating songs that all had their own vibes and styles but still all fit on the same album.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE DREAM THEATER SONG?
"Voices" [from Awake]. That song has got it all and the guitar solo is proof that John Petrucci is the undisputed grandmaster of the wah pedal. 

GROWING UP WITH JOHN PETRUCCI AS YOUR UNCLE GAVE YOU A PRETTY UNIQUE VANTAGE POINT FOR EXPERIENCING DREAM THEATER. HOW WOULD YOU SAY THAT IMPACTED THE WAY YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WRITING OR PERFORMING MUSIC?
I guess my experience is unique, sure. I was definitely inspired by the music, but I also got to watch their progression from a different view so I'm sure it heavily influenced me getting into the line of work I'm in. It helped me see that being in a band isn't impossibly out of reach — through dedication, hard work and the highest love for music I can also pursue this path.

BEFORE PERIPHERY KICKED OFF, DID YOU EVER GET TO SPEND TIME WITH DREAM THEATER ON THE ROAD?
Thanks to the power of nepotism, I actually got to work for the band for a couple of years — an experience I'm eternally grateful for and one that changed the course of my life forever. I was the keyboard tech — sorry Jordan [Rudess], in hindsight I probably wasn't a very good tech! I really got to experience the touring industry and it put me on course to want to tour with my own band. I really have to thank Dream Theater for taking a completely inexperienced kid and training me to do the job. It taught me a lot about live music, the world and how to work in a professional environment. Fast forward about 6 years, Periphery ends up touring Europe with them!

Before I worked for the band I saw them quite a few times when they were in the New York area. My first concert ever was Dream Theater and Big Wreck in '97 or '98 at Irving Plaza. Me and my friend had laminates. We thought we were so fuckin' clever by doing that gag in Wayne's World where they were walking around the Alice Cooper concert rubbing them in people's faces. I wish I could go back in time and kick my own ass. This show was also the first time I ever smelled weed. I was like, "What's that funny smell?"

DREAM THEATER HAVE OBVIOUSLY PLAYED A HUGE PART IN YOUR LIFE. BUT AT THIS POINT, DO YOU REGULARLY GO BACK AND LISTEN TO THEM? OR DO THEY REPRESENT A CERTAIN PERIOD OF TIME IN YOUR HISTORY?
Yes and yes! Whenever I need music inspiration, it's easy for me to reach for Awake and get pumped up. I loved that era of music so much because there was no internet ruining everything for everyone. You had to have a cassette tape or a CD to listen to music, you had to pay good money for it, and you cherished every aspect of it.