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Who knew the original singer for Dream Theater had been living in an apartment on Spring Street since May 2003? "I chose La Mesa because it really is a nice place to live and I knew the area well," says 53-year-old Charlie Dominici (who also resided in San Diego from 1998 to 2000). "It's very rustic and kind of like an old classic western." Dominici joined the now-famed prog rockers in November 1987, co-writing seven of the eight songs on Dream Theater's debut album When Dream and Day Unite. He was booted in 1989 and replaced by Kevin James LaBrie, reportedly because of "personality conflicts," and spent the next 15 years as a "virtual recluse" (his description). "I needed to get some financial stability and also wanted to return to music only when it felt good again."

Dominici didn't completely disappear -- he sang at Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy's wedding in 1994 and joined his old band onstage in L.A. for two songs in March 2004 (filmed for the DVD When Dream and Day Reunite). "I was so out of practice, vocally...after that I realized how much I had been like a fish out of water since I had not been doing much musically. I quit the car business and started writing."

The singer (who has learned guitar) just released the first in a series of three acoustic solo CDs comprising one long concept trilogy called 03. "The CD is like a movie made out of music," he says. Dominici is coy about the project's theme, saying only the CDs are about "modern times, current events, and the possible end of the world."

FAVORITE CONCEPT ALBUMS?

1. Queensryche, Operation Mindcrime ("Interesting story. Great progressive metal album.")

2. Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon ("Really, only one side of the album is a 'concept,' but I loved it as a kid.")

3. Dream Theater, Scenes from a Memory ("I love everything they do. Maybe I'm a little biased because I used to be their singer, but I really like this album for its writing content and, of course, the musical prowess.")

BEST FILM TRILOGY: MATRIX OR LORD OF THE RINGS?

"Matrix, no question about it. I liked the LOTR trilogy, but Matrix hits home for me with the science fiction/future-reality genre."

FAVORITE CELEBRITY ENCOUNTER?

"Meeting Shamu at SeaWorld."

ADVICE YOU'D GIVE TO PRESIDENT BUSH?

"Learn how to pronounce 'Social Security.' It's not 'so shkurry. '"

WORST TV SHOWS EVER?

"I guess the list would be topped by shows like Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire? and The Bachelor...poor taste."

WEIRDEST GIG STORY?

"I was in Frankie and the Knockouts back in the 1980s, and we were doing a gig at Disneyland. It was on this island in the middle of the lake, and they had to bring us out on little rafts to the stage...the power kept blowing out every time we tried to play the first note. They put us back on the raft each time since it took a while to iron out the problem. Our drummer [Tico Torres] got so frustrated that he threw his drumsticks into the water each time the power blew out. After two or three times it became evident that we would not be able to do the show, so I suggested that we stay on the raft and sing a cappella to the crowd as we floated by."

SOMETHING FEW WOULD GUESS ABOUT YOU?

"I was a finance manager in the automobile business for a number of years...I'm sure there will be some people who'll be looking at my CD and saying, 'Hey, that guy sold me an alarm, a LoJack, paint sealant, and a service contract. '"

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