New DREAM THEATER Drummer On Performing Live: ‘The Consistent Setlist Is The Way To Go’

Bob Zerull of Zoiks! Online recently conducted an interview with drummer Mike Mangini of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

Zoiks! Online: How has the transition into the drumming role of DREAM THEATER been?

Mike Mangini: Natural, much like the audition that everybody can see in the documentary; it was a very natural thing. We like the same things, we see things the same way, so I guess it was really natural for everything to progress the way it has.

Zoiks! Online: The fan reaction seems to be varied. What have you noticed in terms of the fan reaction?

Mike Mangini: It depends on what you mean by fan reaction, because there are people who have seen the show and then there are people who have not seen the show, so you have to divide them into two distinctly different groups. A lot of times the people who haven’t seen it have more to say, but they haven’t seen it, so I don’t know what that is all about sometimes. The people that have seen it, by the third song they are making me feel so welcome that it has transformed everything for me to another level. It makes it that much easier because they have been overwhelmingly positive. It’s great.

Zoiks! Online: You mentioned people that haven’t seen the show. I think BLABBERMOUTH.NET tends to be a big site where a lot of conversation is going. Do you think a site like that is good for the music industry, or does it hurt?

Mike Mangini: I’m not quite sure. There are different philosophies about this. I’m too busy with my life to spend time on the Internet. I’m busy doing something rather than talking about it, so I don’t know what that is like. There’s that aspect of it that I completely don’t know anything about that, because again I practice drums and I’m in a band, plus I have a family, so I’m busy. Then there is press. They say all press is good press? I don’t know. As long as people feel like they are expressing themselves and getting what they need out of their system, cool.

Zoiks! Online: So much has been made about the setlist being the same for the whole tour as opposed to when Mike Portnoy was here, it would change night to night.

Mike Mangini: The consistent setlist is the way to go. It allows the crew to be consistent each night. It allows the transitions to be consistent. It allows us to get comfortable with the flow. For me I wouldn’t want to mix up the set at all, because I haven’t been in the band for too long. My past would dictate that just throwing songs in would be risky for the flow… It might be fun, though. I don’t know; I’ve never done it.

Zoiks! Online: I thought I read somewhere that when you tried out, you tried out on a drum set they set up, not your traditional set up.

Mike Mangini: That’s absolutely correct, I ended up setting it up, but the hardware was limiting, so I set it up differently than I’ve ever played a kit before. In other words when I sat down to do the audition, that configuration I’d never played in my life and I didn’t get to warm up on it either, so I just had to sit and do it. But that’s what I mean about this being natural, something inside just kicked in… It’s so much fun. Hey, normally it’s possible that’d I’d be nervous in a situation like that, but with this I wasn’t.

Zoiks! Online: As a non drummer, who doesn’t really know anything about drums (both laugh) at what point… DREAM THEATER is a very technical band. Mike Portnoy is an amazing drummer [and] clearly you are, too. As a drummer, at what point do you decide that you wanna go from a regular drummer to a virtuoso drummer?

Mike Mangini: You know what?! That’s all to do with stuff that’s out of our control as human beings. Whatever you think that is, from body and spirit and emotion, psychology, I think these are things that are callings. People are attracted… Some of us drummers are attracted to certain kinds of music; others are not attracted to certain kinds of music. I think everyone should try to listen to everything to try and see if it sparks in the brain. Eventually you have to follow your heart. Does that make any sense?

Zoiks! Online: Oh, yeah, I completely get what you’re saying.

Mike Mangini: I think it’s a calling. I think that the only thing that has to do with making decision are the unfortunate or fortunate things like, can you imagine all the people with a ton of talent who have no access to equipment or no freedom? Imagine how much joy we’re all missing out on if someone doesn’t have the opportunity, so I think that has something to do with it too. I know had to fight for everything. I had to wait for a little piece of equipment every Christmas and I’m lucky I got that (laughs).

Read the entire interview from Zoiks! Online.