DREAM THEATER Drummer Says New Album Is 'Heavy And Technical, Powerful And Dynamic'

February 19, 2007

Tama.com has uploaded a new interview with DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy. In the interview, Mike talks about the new DREAM THEATER album "Systematic Chaos", his Albino Monster, the upcoming G3 tour with John Petrucci, his new instructional DVD "In Constant Motion", working with Neal Morse and more. A coupl of excerpts from the chat follow:

TAMA: What is DREAM THEATER up to these days?

Mike: We've been in the recording studio since September '06. And we are, at this moment, completing work on the new album. We're actually mixing it right now, and we should be finished in about two weeks. So come mid-February, the album will be done, and it's gonna be out in June.

TAMA: How would you describe the direction of this album?

Mike: Heavy and technical, powerful and dynamic — all of the elements that people kind of expect out of a DREAM THEATER album. All of the styles and sounds are intact, but we wanted to make it a real sonic explosion. It's very dramatic and aggressive. I don't know — all of the above adjectives fit [laughs].

TAMA: You will be drumming for John Petrucci on the upcoming G3 tour with Joe Satriani and Paul Gilbert. What sort of material will you guys be playing?

Mike: We just do stuff from John's solo album, which he put out a couple of years ago. That was stuff he wrote specifically for G3, so that's the stuff we always play on the G3 tours.

TAMA: You recently recorded a new instructional DVD. Can you tell us some more about that and what topics it will cover?

Mike: It comes out in a few weeks, I think March 1st is the street date. It's called "In Constant Motion", and it's a mammoth DVD. It's the titanic of all instructional DVDs. It's a three-disc set, about seven hours long, and it basically just covers everything I've been doing ever since my last instructional DVD, "Liquid Drum Theater". So it covers a lot of ground. The first disc concentrates on DREAM THEATER and music from the last three albums that we've made. The second disc is everything I've done outside of DREAM THEATER, so it ranges from TRANSATLANTIC, to Neal Morse's solo music, to OSI, to all four of my tribute bands — the tributes I did to THE BEATLES, THE WHO, LED ZEPPELIN, and RUSH, as well as guest appearances with John Arch and FATES WARNING and OVERKILL. So it really covers a tremendous amount of ground. And then the third disc has additional bonus live tracks with DREAM THEATER, as well as three different drum solos from throughout the years, one of which includes the duets I did with Jason Bittner, Charlie Benante, and Richard Christy. So there's just a tremendous amount of stuff on this whole set.

TAMA: Has your playing and/or approach to drumming changed at all from the early DREAM THEATER days to now?

Mike: Within DREAM THEATER, not that much. If you listen to our early demos from Berklee back in 1985 up till what I do now in DREAM THEATER, it's a definite style that has been maintained and continued through the years — except I think I've just grown better and more mature in executing it. But it's always been about progressive, odd time signatures, chops, and exciting, over-the-top playing, and that's been the style that I've always incorporated with DREAM THEATER, for 22 years now. However, outside of DREAM THEATER, especially over the past 6 or 7 years, I've been able to do so many different things, and I think those are the areas that have really defined me as a drummer. The fact that I've been able to play, like I already mentioned, the simplicity of some of Neal Morse's music, all the way to the kind of postmodern drumming that I've done with OSI — playing with drum loops and samples and things like that. And then the tributes I've done have all been a different style, from Keith Moon to John Bonham to Ringo Starr to Neil Peart. Those are four completely different styles that I've been able to become completely obsessed with and kind of morph myself into. So to answer your question how have I changed from the beginning till now, I think I've been able to try so many different things, because of the side projects, and that's really helped me be a better musician.

TAMA: What are some of your favorite DREAM THEATER songs to perform live?

Mike: They all become equally boring after a hundred times [laughs], but I tend to like the more challenging ones just because they keep me on my toes. So, songs like "The Dance of Eternity" and "Octavarium" — all kind of the instrumental or the long pieces. Those songs are the ones that are the most challenging, therefore, I enjoy those.

Read the entire interview at Tama.com.

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