Jose Bosso of Guitar World conducted an interview with guitarist John Petrucci of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER for the magazine’s November 2011 issue, which features the “Big Four” of 1980s thrash metal (METALLICA, MEGADETH, SLAYER and ANTHRAX) on the cover. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
On drummer Mike Portnoy‘s decision to leave DREAM THEATER in September 2010 while he was on the road with AVENGED SEVENFOLD:
Petrucci: “Mike had played on AVENGED‘s album [‘Nightmare’] and that was fine. We all do side projects when time permits. But touring with the band, that was a different story. That was taking significant time away from DREAM THEATER at a point when we were all planning to start recording. Initially, we put off recording to go on tour with IRON MAIDEN — that was too good an opportunity for us to turn down. And then when Mike said he was going on the road with AVENGED SEVENFOLD right after the MAIDEN tour, that didn’t feel right.”
On Portnoy‘s request that DREAM THEATER take an extended hiatus, with no firm date in sight for reconvening:
Petrucci: “In the end, it was something we couldn’t do. Mike wanted to hold all the cards. He wanted to get back together when it suited him. We couldn’t abide by that. So he decided to quit. It was quite a blow. As much as we wanted to continue as a band, we didn’t want Mike to leave.”
On whether Portnoy was hoping his place with AVENGED SEVENFOLD would become permanent:
Petrucci: “I guess Mike was looking at them as the new girlfriend or something. They were younger, up-and-coming… You can definitely draw the parallels.”
On Portnoy‘s request in late 2010 for DREAM THEATER to take him back:
Petrucci: “Mike Portnoy asking to be back in was a problem on a few levels. First, we were very happy to have selected Mike Mangini [as the new drummer]. Second, [Mangini] had quit his teaching gig at Berklee. We certainly weren’t going to hang him out to dry when he sacrificed so much for us. Mike Portnoy was too late in asking to come back. We had moved on.”
On the “mystery” surrounding Portnoy‘s decision to leave DREAM THEATER:
Petrucci: “I can’t speak for him. I can only see things from my point of view. For him to leave a successful band, one he had been with for 25 years… he must’ve had his reasons. I guess he really needed a change. Maybe he was confused or conflicted at the same time. I don’t know. The biggest thing for me is to not be negative or resentful. I understand the way life is, and change is part of that. People get divorced, they leave companies, they quit bands — it happens. Mike needed a change in his life. That’s really the only way I can look at it.”
On how the recent European tour with Mike Mangini went:
Petrucci: “It was so smooth that it was almost scary. Even though we felt very good about our decision to hire Mike Mangini, we couldn’t predict how things would’ve gone during our first tour with him, because we’re still getting to know him on a variety of levels. But recording with him was fantastic, touring was great, every night onstage got better and better. I feel like I’ve been playing with him 20 years already.