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Mike Portnoy

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Mike Portnoy From 1998
MSJ: There have been rumours floating around that this is the last Dream Theater tour. Is there any truth to that?
That was a misinterpretation. I posted on the internet that (I had just gotten the final dates for this tour) "these are the final dates". That was misinterpreted as the FINAL dates. We`re planning on getting back to work on another album next year.
MSJ: What does a project like Liquid Tension Experiment do for a musician?
For me, it gave me the opportunity to, obviously, play with other people (with the exception of John). I`ve been playing with John Petrucci and John Myung now for thirteen years. So, I think it`s not only healthy, but, important to play with other people. That was the biggest thrill for me, playing with Jordan and especially with Tony.
MSJ: What do you bring back to the band from something like that?
The way that we wrote and recorded the album, so spontaneously, John and I really enjoyed that approach. So, we`ve talked about doing the next Dream Theater album that way, instead of spending a year writing, and rewriting and redemoing, nitpicking every song to death. By the time you get in the studio, you lose some of that initial spark. So, we really enjoyed having that spark on LTE, so we`ve talked about bringing that approach into Dream Theater.
MSJ: Are there plans for another LTE album and/or a tour?
Both. We`re gonna do another album in October. We found 12 days this time that all our schedules lined up. We`re gonna do that in October, and we`re hoping to do a tour, hopefully in January.
MSJ: Any similar projects in the pipeline?
Right now I`m kind of wrapped up in overseeing the latest two Dream Theater projects, which is the live album (double live CD) Once in a Lifetime, that comes out in October, and also the video Five Years in a Lifetime. So, right now, that`s occupying a lot of my time, especially the video.
MSJ: What musicians would you like to work with?
There`s another project that might happen, in the fall. When we get off the road next month, we`re going to take the rest of the year off. So, there`ll be some time to do this. We`ll do another Liquid Tension album, maybe a tour, but there`s another project that I`d like to assemble. I don`t want to name names just yet, because, of course, anything can happen, but I`ve already spoken to two guys from two other prog bands that I really admire and respect and always wanted to work with, and it looks very likely that we`ll do another supergroup sort of thing. I don`t know if it will be from Magna Carta or whatever, but it`s just two guys that I really wanted to work with. We`ll see what happens.
MSJ: Who do you consider to be your major influences as a drummer?
I went through phases. I started off, loved The Beatles. So, Ringo was an influence. Then, also, The Who and Zeppelin, so Keith Moon and John Bonham. Those three were my big early influences. Then I went through a Kiss phase, as most kids in the `70`s did. Then, once I started to get a little serious about playing, then I discovered the more progressive drummers like Peart, Bill Bruford, Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, and those guys were probably the most influential on me developing on drums. Then I started listening to heavier stuff in the mid `80`s, so stuff like Metallica and Slayer and Pantera and Anthrax, all those double bass drummers were an influence.
MSJ: What do you consider to be you influences in general?
There are so many different things. Whether it be progressive music like Yes and Genesis, Zappa, newer bands like Spock`s Beard and Marillion. I listen to a lot of metal and a lot of heavy stuff. I`m the one guy in the band that really listens to a lot of speed-metal and heavy stuff. Then, everything else from U2, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, Radiohead, so many different things.
MSJ: Several months back Neil Peart mentioned that he still takes lessons. Do any of the members of Dream Theater take lessons?
No, we`re too busy. We don`t have time. Three of us, me, John Petrucci and Derek do clinic. So, it`s kind of like we`re giving lessons. That being said, you`re never too old to learn. There`s always so much to learn and so much developing you can do on your instrument. So, I could see where Neil got to a point in his career where he probably felt he was doing the same thing for so many years that that he needed a new approach.
MSJ: What is the biggest Spinal Tap moment that you have had?
We`ve all fallen off the stage several times, we`ve gotten left behind at a gig. Let me think of a good one. There`s been times where James was off stage and during one of the long instrumental sections, and he forgot to get back on stage in time and I would have to come out and sing.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought?
Last one I bought was the new Knack album, cause Terry Bozzio plays drums on it. Also, I just bought the new Primus EP which is a bunch of covers. They do a Police cover, Metallica cover, a Peter Gabriel cover.
MSJ: What was the last concert you attended?
I think it was Iron Maiden and Dio in New York. This summer we got to do some really cool shows. The best thing about some of the festivals and stuff we did this summer in Europe was getting to watch some of the bands that we played with, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple (obviously), Joe Satriani, Michael Schenker, Pantera, Slayer.
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: The Early Years Volume 5 at
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