Grammy-winning progressive music titans DREAM THEATER have announced the return of drummer Mike Portnoy to the group. Portnoy will reunite with guitarist John Petrucci and bassist John Myung — the trio formed the band at the Berklee College Of Music in 1985 — along with longtime members, vocalist James LaBrie and keyboardist Jordan Rudess. DREAM THEATER will be going into the studio to begin working on their 16th studio album and the first with Portnoy since 2009's "Black Clouds & Silver Linings".
"I understand DREAM THEATER's decision to get Mike Portnoy back at this time," states Mike Mangini, who joined the band in 2010. "As was said from Day 1, my place was not to fill all the roles that Mike held in the band. I was to play the drums in order to help the band carry on. My main role of keeping our live show working tightly on a nightly basis was an intense and rewarding experience. Thankfully, I got to experience playing music with these iconic musicians, as well as some fun times laced with humor. I also really enjoyed spending lots of time with the crew. And then there's the Grammy win, which was amazingly satisfying. To the fans: thank you so much for being amazing to me. I cherish the pictures I have of you all losing your minds and having fun. Finally, I really love the band, crew and management and wish them and the entire organization all the best."
Petrucci says: "Mike Mangini's drumming is otherworldly and I'm extremely grateful for the time he spent with us in DREAM THEATER. I'm very proud of all the amazing music we made together that culminated in our first Grammy win last year and the countless magical moments that we've shared on stage over the past 13 years. I wish him all the best of success in his future musical endeavors. I'm incredibly excited to welcome Mike Portnoy back into DREAM THEATER! As an original founding member, longtime friend and incredibly talented and creative drummer, I know that his return will bring a renewed spirit, passion and energy into DT that all of us, including our fans, will joyfully welcome. I can't wait to roll up our sleeves and get back into the studio together!"
Myung states: "It's great to be back true to form with our original drummer Mike Portnoy. We started playing together as MAJESTY almost 40 years ago and I am excited to see what this next phase of DREAM THEATER creates for the future. I wish nothing but the best for Mike Mangini for all the blood, sweat and tears he put into DT during his 13-year tenure with the band."
LaBrie says: "Having Mike Mangini with us all these years has been, quite simply, a terrific ride. He is one of the most amazing and naturally gifted drummers I have had the pleasure of working with. Thank you, Mike. Life is a very strange ride and I guess that's what makes it all the more interesting and forever engaging. Having Mike Portnoy back in the band is exactly where we and things should be. Things have a way of going full circle and in this case, it makes perfect sense. I am excited with the prospects of this classic DT lineup being reunited. I can say with absolute confidence this will be the final incarnation of DT with many chapters still to be written well into our future. Onward and upward guys!! Welcome back MP."
Rudess says: "Mike Mangini is one of the most exceptional drummers on earth and I feel privileged that we got to create a whole body of work with him. I will always be grateful for the time we shared in the DREAM THEATER Universe. We are so excited to reunite the core DREAM THEATER family. There is a resonance of spirit and vision that is unique and goes beyond words within our relationship with Mike Portnoy. On the stage and off there is no denying the magic that happens when we are together. I'm thankful we have the opportunity to work together again as DREAM THEATER and am looking forward to sharing our excitement and passion with our amazing fans for a long time to come."
Portnoy comments: "I am overwhelmed with joy to be returning home and reuniting with my brothers! There is so much shared history between us all…so many memories, so much music…to think we're coming up on 40 years since this journey began! The idea of creating new music together is so exciting and I absolutely cannot wait to hit the road and get to play live for a whole new generation of fans that weren't ever able to see this lineup before…There's no place like home!!"
Portnoy attended his second DREAM THEATER concert as a spectator on July 1 at The Met in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 56-year-old drummer, who left DREAM THEATER in 2010, took to his social media to share a selfie of him and his wife Marlene in the crowd at the Philadelphia show, which was part of the band's "Dreamsonic" tour with Devin Townsend and ANIMALS AS LEADERS, and he included the following message: "OK…this is slightly weird!!" He also added a laughing crying emoji.
Portnoy, who lives in Pennsylvania with his family, previously attended DREAM THEATER's concert in March 2022 at Beacon Theatre in New York City. It was the first time he witnessed his former bandmates perform live since his exit from the iconic progressive metal outfit 13 years ago.
According to DREAM THEATER fans who attended the Beacon Theatre show, DREAM THEATER singer James LaBrie gave Portnoy a shoutout from the stage and Mike waved. Several fans also took pictures of Portnoy at the venue, with Mike and his wife reportedly watching the performance from near the Beacon Theatre soundboard.
The next day, Portnoy shared a few backstage photos from the Beacon Theatre concert and he included the following message: "After 36 years, I finally got to see my 1st DREAM THEATER show last night! It was a wonderful evening and it was such a pleasure to spend time with my old friends again".
During a May 2022 appearance on SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk", Mike stated about the circumstances that led to him being present at the Beacon Theatre show: "We had been slowly rekindling the relationships over the years. Obviously, [DREAM THEATER guitarist] John Petrucci and I have made a few albums together at this point — I played on his last solo album, and then he and myself and Jordan [Rudess, DREAM THEATER keyboardist] and Tony Levin got back together to do a LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album in 2020. So, yeah, John Petrucci and Jordan had been hanging with me a lot through the years, and our families as well. In fact, the first time I played together with Jordan again was on the last Cruise To The Edge in 2019; Jordan and I played together on that. So the relationships had been really, really good and comfortable with those guys. And John Myung [DREAM THEATER bassist] lives right down the street from me, so I would see him in town all the time. And his wife is very, very good friends with my wife. So there's three of the guys that I had been on very, very good terms with over the years. And my wife and John Myung's wife were going to see them at the New York show, and I was, like, 'You know what? What the hell.'"
Portnoy went on to say that he had previously "dreamt about going to see" DREAM THEATER play. "I'm not saying I dreamt like it was my goal; I'm saying I literally would have dreams at night sleeping, where in my dreams I'm going to see DREAM THEATER and it's just an awkward thing," he explained. "So for a long time I was very nervous about it, like how weird would it feel? Would it be uncomfortable? But I finally was at peace with it. I went to the show, and it was really a cool experience; it was not as awkward as I had anticipated or feared. And at the show, James [LaBrie, DREAM THEATER singer] welcomed me from the stage. And I hadn't spoken to James — as a lot of people know, I hadn't spoken to him since I left the band — so I got to see him that night after the show. And I went into his dressing room, and within literally 10 seconds, any of that drama or B.S. that had built up through the years, it melted away immediately. And it was all hugs and kisses and 'love you, bro' and 'miss you, bro.' And it was, like, all that bullshit from the last 11 years was just water under the bridge."
Mike continued: "You can't spend most of your life with a group of guys like that and not be family for life. I met John Petrucci and John Myung when we were teenagers; we met in college and our families have grown up together and our wives all played in a band together and our kids — my daughter and John Petrucci's daughter — live together in Brooklyn. So it's a family. Whether I'm currently in the band or not, that doesn't matter; you can't take away the friendship and the family and the history and the experiences we shared for so, so long."
Regarding what it was like to see another drummer play his parts live with DREAM THEATER, Portnoy said: "I've always been the type of drummer that just flies [by] the seat of my pants in the moment. Even with my own drum parts, I don't necessarily stick to them faithfully from show to show, whereas [current DREAM THEATER drummer Mike] Mangini obviously really studied the drum parts and they had everything programmed out. They're all about the precision, and that's surely their thing. And yeah, he killed it. There's no doubt he's an amazing drummer and he plays my parts incredibly faithfully. I feel bad for him. He and I joked about it. He's in a horrible situation where he's damned if he does and he's damned if he doesn't. He expressed that frustration to me, and I feel for him; it's definitely a weird position to be put into. I kind of had it a little bit when I played with AVENGED SEVENFOLD and TWISTED SISTER, coming into the throne of two drummers that have passed away, and I tried to learn those parts as faithfully as I could. When I had a hired-gun gig like that, I spent a lot of attention trying to honor the drummer that came before me — it's important. I don't wanna go into a gig like either of those and try to force my style onto it."
Portnoy, who co-founded DREAM THEATER 38 years ago, abruptly quit the band in September 2010 while on tour with AVENGED SEVENFOLD.
In a February 2023 interview with Ollie Winiberg of "The Heavy Hooks Show", Portnoy was asked if he would consider playing a one-off show as a 'hired gun" with his former bandmates to celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2025. He responded: "Well, I would surely welcome the idea — absolutely — and I've told the guys such, depending on the circumstances. Obviously, there's a lot of hypothetical circumstances."
He continued: "I don't know if I'd necessarily wanna be a 'hired gun' for a band that I formed; [that's] a little bit of a strange term in that respect. But if you're asking, would I ever play with the guys again? Sure. If the right hypothetical situation came about, yeah, of course. I'm always open to that."
Three years ago, Petrucci released his second solo album, "Terminal Velocity", via Sound Mind Music/The Orchard. The follow-up to 2005's "Suspended Animation" featured guest musicians Portnoy on drums and Dave LaRue (DIXIE DREGS) on bass. The effort marked the first time Petrucci and Portnoy recorded together in over a decade, as well as their first time playing together since Portnoy departed DREAM THEATER.
During an October 2022 appearance on SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk", Petrucci stated about DREAM THEATER fans' response to his renewed collaboration with Portnoy: "You see that right away. It makes people so happy to see that reconnection. It's literally like… Any sort of post of a photo from that, every comment is just literally, like, 'I'm crying. This makes me so happy,' blah blah blah. More than any sort of controversial, stupid thing anyone could say, the overwhelming reaction is just a great, positive feeling in the DREAM THEATER-Mike Portnoy big community. And I love that. It's the way it should be."
When host Eddie Trunk pointed out to Petrucci that the guitarist's reunion with Portnoy, including their run of tour dates in support of "Terminal Velocity", had resulted in DREAM THEATER fans speculating about Portnoy's possible return to the band, John said: "I've been very vocal about this and outspoken and very careful about this to be clear with my intentions and Mike and I and our reuniting. The stuff that we are doing together with my solo stuff, with LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT, with Mike touring with me, this is its own thing, and DREAM THEATER is its own thing, and the history that we now have with Mike Mangini in the band for 12 years, it's important for me to make sure that people don't misunderstand this. Because it's not good for anybody; that kind of weirdness or controversy, as we all know, it's just toxic. So I've been saying… Maybe I'm selfish but I feel so lucky that I get to do this with Mike [Portnoy] and play live with him, play this instrumental music, record, and being in DREAM THEATER with Mangini, it's like I've kind of been spoiled. I get two of the greatest drummers in the world to be able to play with. And I think it's important for people to know that and to have that clarity — I really do."
In a 2017 interview with Rockhok, Portnoy insisted that had "no longing to reunite" with DREAM THEATER but said that he would return to his former band "for the fans." He explained: "The ball's in their court, to be honest. I have no longing to reunite with them; it's not something I necessarily am looking to do or want to do. I'm very content with all the eighty-seven bands I currently have going, so it's something I need. But I would do it for the fans, because I'm a very sentimental person and I have a lot of great, fond memories of those guys and the times. I'm a sentimental guy, so I would never close the door on it. So, really, the ball's in their court, honestly. [But] if you're asking me the odds [of a reunion happening], I would say, don't bet on it, because I know their personalities as well and I don't think they're the type that are looking backwards."
A few years ago, Portnoy told Loud that he left DREAM THEATER because he wanted to expand his musical horizons. "[I didn't] want to go to my grave and just be the drummer from DREAM THEATER," he said. "I knew there was way more to what I had to offer."