New DREAM THEATER Drummer: ‘We Don’t Sit Around And Talk Trash About This Band Or That Person’

Joe Bosso of recently conducted an interview with drummer Mike Mangini of progressive metal giants DREAM THEATER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. What have you discovered about the band [since you joined]?

Mangini: What I didn’t expect on one level was more personal. What I did expect on a musical level has happened. Let me explain: On a musical level, the thing that makes us really close — as close as you can be in a very short time — is our love of progression, of trying to be better, of digging in deeper. It’s about trying to achieve the ultimate and never giving up. That’s what we have in common, and I noticed that from the first day I spent with them. On a personal level, they’re all extremely respectful and in tune with what’s going on around them. They’re very mature, and they’re in the business of music to make music. They speak highly of other musicians. They give credit where credit is due, and they applaud that which deserves applause. We don’t sit around and talk trash about this band or that person. The guys in DREAM THEATER talk about music and pursuing happiness… riffs and instruments…this part versus that part. It’s so pleasant. Every night is about moving forward. I don’t mean for this to sound so ‘rah-rah,’ but that’s what they’re like. They’re an extremely passionate, positive bunch. It’s all in this quote, I don’t remember who it’s from [editor’s note: Eleanor Roosevelt]… “Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” I really think that’s true. Don’t spend your time gossiping when you should be doing something. That said, how have you dealt with some of the haters, the Mike Portnoy-only supporters who diss the band without him?

Mangini: Well, I don’t really focus on it. But I also look at it the same way that attraction works, meaning it’s either God’s business or the business of human nature. If you believe in God, then you understand, and if you don’t, then you can understand human nature. If you’re attracted to somebody, it’s beyond one’s control. It is what it is. So if people are attracted to what Mike Portnoy brought to DREAM THEATER — as I am, because I’m certainly attracted to it — then that’s nature. People are just doing what they do, and that’s fine — I applaud them. If other people are anti-me because they’re pro-Mike Portnoy, there’s really nothing I can say or do about that. They’re going to think what they think, and it really has nothing to do with my playing. Have they listened to the album? Have they seen the show? In most cases, no. So they’re just going on their emotions. That’s fine. I can’t change that. All I can do is do what I do. The recording process for the new record — was it a little strange that the tunes were already written, with drum programs mapped out?

Mangini: It wasn’t strange for me, and I actually welcomed it. It’s kind of funny: When John Petrucci [guitar] called me to tell me that I wasn’t going to be around for the writing process, I was elated, and I said, “John, thank you so much.” He was curious about my reaction, and my answer to him was two-fold: Number one, I still wanted to take a lot of time to review the band’s catalogue and nurture my drumset. The other thing was, I didn’t want to change things right out of the box. The important thing to stress, however, is that John didn’t program all the drum parts that I would play, and I didn’t play them note-for-note. He created outlines for me. Some things I played as they were, other things I changed, and in some cases he and I tried something totally different. I welcomed working that way.

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