Ed Masley of The Arizona Republic recently conducted an interview with drummer Mike Mangini of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

The Arizona Republic: I was reading that a lot of drum parts on [the new DREAM THEATER] album [“A Dramatic Turn Of Events”] had been programmed in advance while they were demoing the songs.

Mangini: [DREAM THEATER guitarist] John Petrucci programmed some drum machines. In some cases, it was a skeleton. In other cases, it was kick and snare placement, which I did mimic, because after trying different things, he had come up with what I thought was the best stuff. He gave me full rein. But he’s the guitarist. He’s also the producer. So where he put the kick and the snare, most of the time, was in a place I thought was great. I had full autonomy to come up with anything and everything. And what’s great about working with him is that both of us like the same things.

The Arizona Republic: Did you and John get a chemistry going pretty quickly?

Mangini: It was amazing. I don’t like to use the phrase “meant to be,” because there is such a thing as free will. We can choose whatever. Nothing’s automatic. But this opportunity was clearly meant to be.

The Arizona Republic: How did working up the older songs for the tour compare to working on the new material?

Mangini: It was similar in that I don’t want to come into this sticking out like a sore thumb. I don’t want to join DREAM THEATER, a band with a 20-year history, and come into it thinking about me because this is a situation with a pre-existing history, and, lucky me, I’m a fan of the pre-existing history. Lucky me, I love the pre-existing drum parts. So that makes it easy for me to not have to try too hard to see the old songs as a different thing than the new ones. I’m not [former DREAM THEATER drummer] Mike [Portnoy]. Mike’s not me. But we definitely have the same influences and the same likes. So it’s not a stretch. It’s pretty easygoing for me, coming up with comfort on the old songs and pushing new boundaries now, not only on “A Dramatic Turn of Events” but on current things that we jam on at sound check. I’m really going further with my skills.

The Arizona Republic: So this is a good fit for you?

Mangini: Again, I have enough empirical evidence to know free will is very real, so when I say this was meant to be, I don’t know what that means. It just feels like the opportunity was going to happen and I fortunately made decisions that made me ready to respond. The only athlete that I can compare my path to is Tom Brady, the quarterback of the New England Patriots. He was drafted very late. I’m 48 years old. I was in EXTREME. I toured around the world, did this and that, and it’s almost as if I was drafted in the late rounds. But I’ve always been prepared. I’ve always been the type to study and practice. So when the opportunity got passed to me, now I’m put in the game and I’m not letting anybody get in there for a play.

Read the entire interview from The Arizona Republic.