DREAM THEATER's JAMES LABRIE Is 'Open' To Working With MIKE PORTNOY Again: 'Anything Is Possible'
May 19, 2022
DREAM THEATER singer James LaBrie, who recently said that it was "great" to be back on good terms with the band's former drummer Mike Portnoy, was asked in a new interview with Scott Penfold of Loaded Radio if there is any chance of the two musicians working together again. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "I think anything is possible. Listen, Mike and I are in a great place. We've been texting back and forth from time to time. I wished him a happy birthday; he wished me a happy birthday… So we're staying in touch.
"Listen, Mike's a great musician," LaBrie continued. "Put it this way… Who knows what the future holds? Maybe there'll be a day and I'll go, 'Holy shit. This track would be perfect to have Mike do this.' Or it might be something that comes from him, from his side. So we'll see. You know what? I'm open. And that's the thing, is that we're in a really good place now. And yeah, it should have happened a long time ago. But human beings, we have a tendency to… our pride gets the best of us."
Portnoy attended DREAM THEATER's concert on March 4 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 more than 11 years ago.
According to DREAM THEATER fans who attended the show, 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 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".
LaBrie discussed his renewed friendship with Portnoy in a recent interview with Rodrigo Altaf of Sonic Perspectives. Speaking about how Mike's backstage reunion with his former bandmates came about, James said: "What happened was my manager… This is, like, two hours before the show… So, you know the history with Mike and I. The thing is what was sad about that whole duration where Mike and I didn't see eye to eye is that when DREAM THEATER started, 'Images And Words'  and 'Awake' , Mike and I were best friends — way back — and then we started to fall apart, for several reasons. It doesn't matter — the details don't matter — it's just that we started to have a problem with one another. And so about two hours before the New York show, my manager texts me and he said, 'Listen, Mike's gonna be there tonight. He wants to come back and see you. He wants to make amends. I don't mean to do this...' And I said, 'Frank' — to my manager, I said — 'you're putting this in my lap two hours before I play in front of how many thousands of people in New York. Are you kidding me?' So, I thought about it. You know what? I went for a walk, believe it or not. I went incognito and I went for a walk in New York. And I walked the streets and I started thinking about it, and I said to myself, 'You know what? Enough is enough. There's enough hate in this world; there's enough frickin' negativity in this world. If Mike wants to come and see me and make amends, then I should be receptive.' And I got in touch… And John Petrucci [DREAM THEATER guitarist] was also there. So he said, 'Mike wants to know if he can come back and say hi to you,' like I just said. And I said, 'You know what? Yeah. Let him know. For sure. Tell him to come back and see me after the show.' And that's what we did. We chatted. We had a good, long discussion. We made up and gave each other a hug and did a picture together.
"When I was out on stage before all that, I just said, 'Hey, I just wanna let you guys know, Mike Portnoy's here. Hey, welcome, brother, to the show.' And that was it.
"The thing is that you get to a point in life where you've gotta… You can't carry around that. Don't carry around hate; don't carry around negativity," LaBrie continued. "We carried it around far too long, as far as I'm concerned, and it didn't serve any purpose; it just served frickin' division. It was very divisive and very damaging.
"Hey, listen, just the other day Mike texts me, and he was, like, 'Hey, James, I just wanna congratulate you on [DREAM THEATER's first-ever] Grammy. You frickin' well deserve this — you and the band. Awesome. Kudos. Bravo,' all this stuff. And I text Mike back, and I said, 'Frick, man. Mike, that's very admirable of you.' I said, 'In my book, that's pretty damn cool for you to say these things.' And he said, 'Awesome, man. Love it.'
"So, it's great to be back," James added. "We're talking to one another, we're chatting and all that stuff. And that's the kind of world that I wanna live in as opposed to negativity, hate and frickin'… It's just not worth it. It's not worth it."
Portnoy, who co-founded DREAM THEATER 37 years ago, abruptly quit the band in September 2010 while on tour with AVENGED SEVENFOLD. He has since been replaced by Mangini (ANNIHILATOR, EXTREME, STEVE VAI).
Portnoy was a guest on Petrucci's second solo album, "Terminal Velocity", which was released in August 2020 via Sound Mind Music/The Orchard. 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. John later shot down speculation among DREAM THEATER fans that it's only a matter of time before Portnoy returns to the band, telling Spain's Metal Hammer: "I think it's really important for everybody's sake — for fans to understand this. I think it's important, out of respect for both drummers — for Mike Mangini and Mike Portnoy — that there's no misconstrued thing: 'Oh, this means something else.' This is [Portnoy] playing on my solo album, which is a really happy moment for me… I don't want people to get the wrong idea. I don't wanna create any drama or weirdness, because it's all positive. I made a solo album — finally, after 15 years — and I got my friend to play drums on it, who I haven't played with in 10 years. So that's the vibe."
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 couple of 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."
Since the 2010 departure of Portnoy, Petrucci, along with keyboardist Jordan Rudess, has taken on much of the songwriting load for DREAM THEATER, including 2016's controversial double concept album, "The Astonishing", 2019's "Distance Over Time" and the band's latest LP, 2021's "A View From The Top Of The World".
LaBrie previously discussed his relationship with Portnoy in a November 2021 interview with Radio Forrest. He said at the time: "I haven't spoken to Mike, to be quite honest, since he left the band. So I think that pretty much says it all."
LaBrie had previously seemingly closed the door on the possibility of a DREAM THEATER reunion with Portnoy, telling Chile's Radio Futuro in an August 2013 interview: "That possibility, I don't see it ever happening; it's not gonna happen. Because, first and foremost, Mike Mangini is a full-fledged member of the band now, he's a phenomenal drummer and he's doing everything that we could possibly want as a drummer in a band. He's helping us realize exactly what we wanna do right now musically. And he will be our drummer until the day that we finish doing this, when we conclude. Mike Portnoy was a big part of our past, but I think that's where it's going to remain. He was a drummer from the past. And as far as presently and into the future, it will be Mike Mangini, and we all feel very strongly about that. He's an incredible drummer, he's an incredible asset to the band, and he is fulfilling our wildest dreams as far as what we're doing musically and what we're doing with each album. So that's the way it stands."