MIKE PORTNOY On DREAM THEATER's Success: 'It Is Everything I Dreamed It Would Be'

November 6, 2009

DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy is featured in "Ask The Artist," a series of interviews on Roadrunner Records' web site where fans submit questions for musicians to answer. A couple of excerpts from the question-and-answer session follow below.

Q: Has DREAM THEATER ever considered scoring movie soundtracks?

Portnoy: We would love to; we've talked about that our whole career, especially the instrumental side of us. Sometimes we'll go off on these improv jam tangents which we ended up using a lot in the LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT. We would love to, we just need the right opportunity. Bands like PINK FLOYD used to do it back in the '60s and '70s, they scored a few films. I think we'd be able to come up with some cool shit so we're just waiting for the invite.

Q: We are all aware that recovering from alcoholism has a lot to do with attending meetings and working on those steps on a daily basis, and sometimes even sponsoring someone. How do you deal with these issues being a musician on the road? Do you still go to meetings when you're at home, or even find time to go to meetings in other countries?

Portnoy: That's a good question. AA for me was the solution to my problem. It's not for everybody, different people have different ways of tackling their issues but for me that was the solution. It wasn't until I started going to meetings that I was able to put drink and drugs down once and for all. I'm coming up on ten years of sobriety now and that's due to the AA meetings. My first couple of years of sobriety I had to go to the meetings every day, and I went every day, and even on the road the first thing I would do when I got into a town was call up the hotline and find a meeting to go to. I've been to meetings everywhere from Kansas to Tokyo to London, and everywhere in between. It was absolutely mandatory for my sobriety. Now, with close to ten years under my belt I'm able to go stretches on the road without going to meetings, but stopping completely's not recommended, you really have to always go to meetings. Sometimes people at home will ask why I'm still going, but I know that if I don't, I'll drink again. You have to keep it fresh. I don't go now as much as I used to, but I do still go, it's absolutely important for me.

Q: DREAM THEATER offers a lot to the fans with DVDs, live shows, bootlegs, side projects etc. With so much going on, how do you keep it together as a band and as an individual?

Portnoy: Well, time management is a big issue for me 'cause I'm overseeing all this stuff for the band, so it's a matter of somehow squeezing it all in there. I don't know, I'm just built for keeping busy. The other guys can go home and take weeks or months off and not do anything and they're cool with that, but for me I need to be doing a million projects. I don't know what the answer is, it's not something you can design. You're either that type of person — a workaholic — or you're not. There are certain personalities that are made for it, and fortunately, or unfortunately, that's just my personality.

Q: Did you create any of your signature fills by accident, or did you sit down on the kit and work things out?

Portnoy: I don't think any of my "signature fills" are created in a vacuum, it's a culmination of mining things that I've picked up from so many other drummers. My drum heroes have been well documented but people like John Bonham, Keith Moon, Neil Peart and Terry Bozzio, when I was young I learned all of their fills and all their tricks of the trade. I think my style is kind of a combination of all of them. I think that's how any music or any musician develops, you have to take a lot of different influences and put them into a melting pot, and that's how my drumming came about.

Q: I would like to pursue a career in music with my band. From your perspective, has becoming a successful act in the entertainment business turned out differently to what you expected when you first started DREAM THEATER as a teenager?

Portnoy: It is everything I dreamed it would be, I get to live a charmed life and I have a lot of gratitude for that. Thank god I succeeded in this business because I really can't do anything else in the real world. I can't wake up in the morning and go do a job, I can't do anything that's handy, so thank God I succeeded at doing something creative. When we formed this band, we didn't have these illusions of playing all around the world, selling records and touring; that wasn't our goal. We were just a bunch of kids who wanted to play music together. I think if we'd really wanted to have all of those rock 'n' roll lifestyle rewards, we probably would have chosen a different style of music! If it was all about sex, drugs and rock n' roll I probably should have been in a band like MÖTLEY CRÜE, but somehow we ended up doing what DREAM THEATER does, which is obviously a more specialized style of music which, if you wanted to be rich and famous, probably wouldn't be the best choice. We've been very fortunate to have the perseverance and to have made a name and a career for ourselves doing what we do, but it took a long, long time to get where we are. I have a lot of gratitude. We have a great fanbase all around the world, we get to play to a lot of people every night, we all have wives and children and we make enough money to provide our families with a nice lifestyle, and I've met, hung out and played with all of my heroes through the years, so it certainly has been a dream come true.

Read the entire interview at this location.

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