MIKE PORTNOY On His Post-DREAM THEATER Career: ‘I Could Not Be Happier’

Michael Schetter of Prog-Sphere.com conducted an interview with drummer Mike Portnoy (ADRENALINE MOB, FLYING COLORS, DREAM THEATER, AVENGED SEVENFOLD) in mid-July in Munich, Germany. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Prog-Sphere.com: You were always writing lyrics in DREAM THEATER, while in ADRENALINE MOB, I think it’s all Russell‘s [Allen, vocals]…

Portnoy: Russell and Mike Orlando [guitar].

Prog-Sphere.com: Is it going to change or …?

Portnoy: I have no desire to write lyrics with adrenaline mob. I think Mike Orlando and Russ are very happy doing it and I’m happy with my role. I don’t feel the need. To be honest with you, after I wrote “The Best Of Times” for my dad and after I completed the “12 Steps Suite” with DREAM THEATER, I very much felt like I had said everything I wanted to say lyrically. I felt like those could have been my swan songs and I remember even saying to John Petrucci [DREAM THEATER guitarist] after those songs, “I’m done, I don’t wanna write lyrics anymore. I feel like I’ve said everything I wanted to say.” It’s not one of my favorite creative outlets. It’s of all the things I do, it’s not my most passionate one. So, you know, I guess I’m kind of in a lyrical retirement for the moment, but that being said I’m about to do an album with Richie Kotzen and Billy Sheehan next month and there is one song that I felt some inspiration for, so… You know, I think I’ll write lyrics if I really feel the inspiration to do so. But I don’t really want to be like I have to do it.

Prog-Sphere.com: Since you just mentioned that you finished the “12 Steps Suite”, you never played it live…

Portnoy: Yeah. Disappointing, a shame. ‘Cause that was always my intention.

Prog-Sphere.com: Why didn’t you do it? I mean, you toured quite a lot for the last album.

Portnoy: Well, when we finished “Black Clouds”… The whole “Black Clouds” tour was “Progressive Nation”, which was only a 90-minute set and I wasn’t gonna eat up 60 minutes of it with that, and then we went to the [IRON] MAIDEN tour, which was only, like, a 60-minute set. So there were very few opportunities on that last tour with DREAM THEATER to do it and it was always my intention.

Prog-Sphere.com: You didn’t even play all that much from the album, only four songs…

Portnoy: Well, we did “Count Of Tuscany”, we did “Nightmare To Remember”, we did “Wither”, we did “A Rite To Passage”, so actually we did four out of six songs, but I didn’t want to do “Best Of Times”, because it was very, very difficult for me, and I didn’t want to do “The Shattered Fortress”, ’cause I was saving it for the day to do the whole thing, so… Believe me me, there’s a method to my madness with choosing songs and that was the reason, those two were both… One was kinda sacred and one was being saved.

Prog-Sphere.com: Yeah, I perfectly understand. Just you didn’t play almost half an hour from the new album, which was quite unusual.

Portnoy: Oh, we played four songs. Four out of six, and those were very… Two of which were 15 or 20 minutes each.

Prog-Sphere.com: It’s just, I had gotten used to you playing everything at some point, so…

Portnoy: Well, I wasn’t planning on leaving [DREAM THEATER]. [laughs] I thought there will be further tours to work with. [laughs] You know, actually it was always my intention all along for the next tour. Actually, to be honest, before I left the band, me and John Petrucci were already discussing that the next record was gonna be a concept album. And I already had the setlist written for the next tour. It was gonna be “An Evening With”, and the first set would be the full concept album, the second set would have been the “12 Steps Suite”. I already had the setlist planned, but obviously, you know, best laid plans… You never know what’s gonna happen. But that was always my intention if things didn’t end up happening the way they happened, so… Obviously, everything changed.

Prog-Sphere.com: Since we’re already discussing DREAM THEATER… I don’t really want to talk about the split per se, just: Are you happy now?

Portnoy: I could not be happier. I am, you know, I’m getting to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do, anything my imagination can think up. I’m getting to play with some of my favorite musicians in the world, ranging from Russell Allen to Billy Sheehan to Paul Gilbert to Steve Morse. You know, these are all people I admire and respect, and I’m getting to work with them all and make music with them all and getting to do such a wide range… You know, from the metal of ADRENALINE MOB to the pop kind of stuff with FLYING COLORS to… You know, I’ve got this thing with Richie and Billy which is more like a classic-rock power-trio thing. So I am incredibly fulfilled, and to be honest, if I had stayed with DREAM THEATER, in the last two years, I would have made one album and just done one tour with one band, playing that same album over and over and over, but what I’ve done in less than two years, I’ve made six albums and I’ve played live on stage with, I think, ten or twelve bands now. Not only the bands that I am a part of, but I also got to fill-in gigs with STONE SOUR, HAIL! and FATES WARNING and I did the “Metal Masters” gigs with the SLAYER, ANTHRAX, PANTERA and MEGADETH guys… I mean, it’s the last two years have been maybe the two most creatively fulfilling years of my entire career.

Prog-Sphere.com: Okay, let’s go through your various bands, projects and all that. I think I have like a question each. About AVENGED SEVENFOLD, you were supposed to play a gig in Munich two years ago.

Portnoy: Yeah, I remember. I remember sitting in the dress room and being very disappointed that it was called off.

Prog-Sphere.com: So what happened there? Because the communication was pretty sparse to say the least…

Portnoy: Well, I apologize for that, but you know when I was with them they called the shots and they controlled how things were communicated to the fans… You know, what happened was Matt [Shadows blew] his voice out, he was very sick, he couldn’t sing. Personally, I would have handled it differently, I would have let the fans know why. You know me… I’m very open with the fans, but those guys like to have a little distance. In fact, I think it was a little sour subject when I was with them. Because I was always so open with the fans on Twitter and Facebook and they weren’t. You know, I think it maybe it bothered them, but obviously, I wasn’t going to change my relationship with the fans because I was with them. But, that being said, I would never speak on their behalf. So how they handled their shows and their tours and their communications with the fans was, that was up to them. I had nothing to do with that.

Read the entire interview at Prog-Sphere.com.


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