Mike explains inspiration of playing without stress – and says he could have been pop drummer instead of prog-metal man
Mike Portnoy says he experienced a revelation while touring with Avenged Sevenfold – because he was able to play drums without stressing about any other factors of the live environment.
He shocked fans by quitting Dream Theater last year after standing in for A7X sticksman Jimmy ‘The Rev’ Sullivan following his death in 2009.
But Portnoy admits he’d lost passion for the prog-metal band he’d helped form – and reflects it was only an accidental meeting which led him into the genre in the first place.
He tells The Musician’s Voice: “Twenty-five years is a long time with the same group of guys doing the same style of music.
“When I went to Berklee and met John Petrucci and John Myung and we put together Dream Theater, we loved progressive metal so I ended up being in a progressive band for twenty-five years.
“But if I’d met two guys who were into metal, or two guys who were into pop, I could have ended up doing that – because I’m such a music fan.
“The reason I left was because I wasn’t feeling the passion any more. I’m not going to do what people are telling me I have to do. A lot of Dream Theater purists want me to be doing something that sounds like Dream Theater – but I have to do what I’m happy with first and foremost.”
But Portnoy accepts that some of his followers will find it difficult to back his new band, Adrenaline Mob, because it’s more aggressive and heavy than progressive and thoughtful.
He says: “The only element that carries over from progressive metal is everyone in this band can play. I can’t count on my fanbase coming on board, but the ones who are getting it are awesome. Those who do like heavier stuff are getting it.
“We’re playing to a couple of hundred people a night – I normally get that many doing an autograph session. So I can’t necessarily rely on everyone coming on board.
“If I wanted to be playing Dream Theater music I’d be in Dream Theater. If our singer Russell Allen wanted to be playing Symphony X he’d be out with Symphony X right now.”
Although it’s not a new attitude on Portnoy’s part – he’s always had a handful of side-projects on the go – he says his determination to break into new fields is a result of his time with A7X.
“I think the Uproar tour was a revelation to me,” he reports. “We were playing with Stone Sour, Hellyeah, Disturbed and all these bands. It was just fun. It wasn’t like I had to sit there and think – it was a relief, a good time. I needed a band like Adrenaline Mob to spread those wings.
“I love progressive music but that’s only one side of me. I don’t want to play one style of music for the rest of my life.
“A big big part of me loves Pantera, Sabbath and Metallica, so I want to get up there, thrash it out and have fun. I don’t want to play a million time signatures and be thinking about a million drum parts.”