Ex-bandmates say they tried to warn him – but by the time he realised the truth they’d already moved on
Mike Portnoy admitted to Dream Theater that quitting the band had been a mistake, says keyboardist Jordan Rudess.
But when he asked to rejoin it was too late – they’d already replaced him with new drummer Mike Mangini.
Portnoy astonished the band and fans by quitting last September while he was on tour with Avenged Sevenfold. They auditioned seven sticksmen before settling on Mangini in December. Once he’d been given the job Portnoy asked if he could come back.
Rudess tells Music Radar: “When Mike told us he was leaving I sat on the steps of my studio and cried. This is a guy who’s a friend of mine, who we all love and admire. We didn’t want to see everything come crashing down. The whole thing brought me to tears.
“But we realised we had to find a way to keep going. So we found these seven amazing drummers to check out. That was very emotional too – how tdo you bring a new guy into a situation where you’ve been with somebody else for so long? It was a very heavy thing.
“We found Mike Mangini, who we thought was great. We realised it could work, that we could do it.”
Rudess says the band were re-energised and set to work on a new album when Portnoy dropped his second bombshell.
“Mike came to us and said: ‘Guys, I’ve reconsidered – I made a mistake.’ He wanted to rejoin. It was like, ‘Oh my God, you can’t do this to us. You can’t pull the rug from under us like this.’
“But Mike Mangini had resigned from his professorship at Berklee College of Music. He has a wife and kids. We’d invested in him and our future.
“It was hard. You throw up your hands and go, ‘This can’t be happening.’”
Guitarist John Petrucci says he had reservations when Portnoy hit the road with A7X, and when that led to his decision to leave DT he tried to warn the drummer it was a bad move.
“I remember he told me he was going to play on their album, which was okay by me,” says Petrucci. “But then he told me he was going to go on tour with them. I remember telling him, ‘I don’t think that’s such a good idea.’ We had some pretty intense conversations about it.
“Doing projects, that’s fine. We all do outside things. But playing in somebody else’s band, and to that degree – that’s different. I thought it was treading dangerous waters.
“When he came to quit, the biggest thing we did was tell him, ‘Don’t do that, Mike. It’s a mistake.’ We gave him all the reason you could give. We said, ‘Mike, this might seem exciting right now, but you’re going to wind up unhappy.’ We tried to tell him that.”
Portnoy had originally suggested Dream Theater should go on a five-year hiatus, but his bandmates couldn’t accept that. Rudess says: “That was a major blow. Five years? That’s a big statement. This is what we do, we make our livings from it, we enjoy it. You can’t stop it cold like that. He did try to sell us on it, though. He’s great with the whole rock’n'roll vision thing – but we just couldn’t swallow that concept.”
But with the dust settled, and DT aiming to release their new album in September, they hope they can preserve their friendship with Portnoy.
Petrucci says: “We’re still working things out between us, but I hope we can remain friends.”