Drama Theatre: Prog band fans now have a shortlist to guess over regarding Mike Portnoy’s replacement… haven’t they suffered enough?

Drama TheaterAfter months of dragging delays Dream Theater have finally told their fans the name of their new drummer.

Well, not quite, not yet – they’ve told fans there are seven people on a shortlist, of which one is the chosen man. Marco Minnemann last week said it wasn’t him, so frustrated followers who want to know who’s replaced Mike Portnoy have six names to choose from: Aquiles Priester, Derek Roddy, Mike Mangini, Peter Wildoer, Thomas Lang or Virgil Donati.

But the band have decided to string the drama out for a little longer. They’ve known who they’d chosen for months, but have kept their audience waiting for the all-important detail, embarking upon an infuriating media circus enterprise in an attempt to build anticipation.

It’s a massive miscalculation. DT fans have been used to former bandleader Mike Portnoy sharing masses of backstage information over the past two decades.

Portnoy was often accused of telling his audience too much. When he was leading the prog metal outfit his followers complained less because he was giving them information about a band they admired. Once he was out he received much more negative commentary, because he was supplying details they didn’t want to know about that band.

Is it possible to be too honest? Perhaps. But people who feel driven to explain as much as they can, like Portnoy, feel it’s important. It’s part of who they are, and in the case of a professional creative it’s part of their job.

So DT fans have become used to knowing a lot more about their band than aficionados of more secretive acts.

The de-Portnoyed lineup have failed to appreciate that fully. To be fair it’s difficult, since none of them are as naturally open as Portnoy was. But the drummer drama has emphasised how great a change diehard fans will have to go through now Portnoy has gone – without the band understanding or appreciating the difficulties.

It’s not funny. People who care about the band have felt bewildered and hurt over the split and the subsequent exchange of angry press statements, and then even more upset when it was revealed Portnoy wanted to change his mind and return to the drumstool, but his former colleagues wouldn’t let him.

And we’ve still to address the position DT put seven musicians into while they were playing with their fans’ heartstrings. If you really want to join the band you’re not going to say anything against them – but how many of those drummers were crossed off other peoples’ shortlists because it was known in the industry they were on the DT one? Minnemann gave up the game last week, saying he definitely wasn’t the man in the frame, and even apologising to the band for spoiling their fun. It’s easy to imagine he spoke out because he feared losing other paying gigs while people assumed he wasn’t available.

You don’t have to be a fan of Dream Theater to feel their fans’ pain. Anyone who’s cared about a band which suffered a split – Judas Priest and Nevermore last week, Five Finger Death Punch about now, DevilDriver, and more historically Guns n’Roses, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Genesis and so on – knows how painful it can be. Rock and metal fans tend to care more about their music, and the people who make it, then followers of many other genres. It hurts personally.

That all leaves DT in a bed of their own making: if their new album isn’t jaw-droppingly good, they may find themselves unforgiven for the last few months’ behaviour.

Would that then set the stage for Portnoy’s return? Will there be anything to return to? Only time will tell. And not much time, it’s to be hoped.

Martin Kielty
Rock News Desk editor

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Ten things you didn’t know last week… and a prize if you did

Rock News Desk aims to lead the world every week with the top stories. Here are our ten favourite facts which surfaced this week. If you genuinely knew all of them before reading them on RND, email editor@rocknewsdesk.com and we’ll send you a tacky certificate of sort-of achievement.

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2. Former Sepultura mainman Max Cavelera cut his long hair off in return for a Metallica vinyl album when he was a teenager. [read more]

3. Biohazard, who were kicked out of the Monsters of Rock festival in 1994 after conducting a stage invasion, have refused to rule out a repeat performance when they play Download this year. [read more]

4. One in three of the British armed forces’ top 500 songs are rock or metal tracks. [read more]

5. Steven Tyler told a dying Aerosmith fan to “hang in there” just hours before he passed away. [read more]

6. Phil Lynott died without knowing he had a half-sister and a half-brother. [read more]

7. It took Glenn Hughes three years to become “brutally honest” enough to write his autobiography. [read more]

8. The Beastie Boys were scheduled to appeared on Anthrax’s 1987 crossover rap-metal track I’m the Man. [read more]

9. Kings of Leon brothers Caleb and Nathan Followill have tried to stab each other. [read more]

10. Dez Fafara believed someone in Coal Chamber would kill themselves if he didn’t split the band. [read more]

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