For close to 30 years, John Petrucci's rapturous, metal-infused licks and solos have sent legions of fleet-fingered hopefuls back to the woodshed. With each new Dream Theater release, his ferocious speed, immaculate precision and unbridled creativity, all of it combined with an uncanny kind of understated poise, raises the bar on how far (and how fast) shred guitar can go.
Any guy who has changed the game time and again like Petrucci surely must live on a steady diet of shred and more shred, right? "Obviously, that's something I love, I love to do, and I’m challenged by it," he says. "But as a guitar player, I’m enamored by any great guitar player. And as a musician and music fan, I don’t draw distinctions between what I will or won’t listen to. There’s too much good stuff out there – you never know what you might miss."
From a songwriting angle, Petrucci notes that his influences can come from anywhere. "They're not just the obvious prog or metal choices," he says. "A lot of times it's subconscious – you come up with something and go, 'Now where did that come from?' Sometimes the answers are surprising and obscure."
Every so often, though, the guitarist admits that he'll find himself tapping his foot or nodding his head to something a little out of his wheelhouse. "And there's always that moment where you catch yourself," Petrucci says. "But then I’ll go, ‘Oh, wait a minute… I can like this. In fact, I do like it!’ It’s always interesting – the way music works its way into your head is pretty mysterious.”
On the following pages, Petrucci runs down his five not-so-guilty pleasures, everything from the decidedly non-shred sounds of new age harp master Andreas Vollenweider to the Brill Building-inspired pop of Billy Joel. “Growing up on Long Island, I think Billy Joel albums come with your driver’s license," he says with a laugh. "But you just can’t deny the songs.”