MIKE PORTNOY On DREAM THEATER's Upcoming Album: 'We Are All Really Excited' And 'Proud Of It'

June 6, 2024

In a new interview with The Prog Report, Mike Portnoy offered an update on the writing and recording sessions for DREAM THEATER's sixteenth studio album. The upcoming effort will mark the progressive metal legends' first LP since the drummer's return to the group last October. Mike said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "It's going great. The writing is done. My drum tracks are done. Guitars are done. So, this week we're in bass land. I'm home at the moment. So I'm kind of jumping back and forth between the studio as needed. I'm not there 100 percent of the time. But I'm gonna go back for keyboards in a few weeks and then we're gonna start the vocals, I think, next month."

He continued: "So, yeah, it's a long process. I haven't spent this much time making an album in a long time, because usually [Mike's other projects] NMB [NEAL MORSE BAND] or FLYING COLORS or whatever, you kind of get together, do the writing and the tracking, and everybody does it at home. But DREAM THEATER is still old school where the band is in the studio the whole time. And it's not like anybody's doing anything at home separately. We do it all together, coming in one at a time to work and record. So, yeah, it's a longer process than I've had in quite some time. But it's great… It's the old way. It's the way I always made records with DREAM THEATER. I just hadn't done it that way in so long, but it is good. And the process is really detailed this way. All these other bands and projects, everyone kind of just does their own thing on their own time at their own place. But this really gives a real unified kind of band vibe. Even a couple of weeks ago, James [LaBrie, DREAM THEATER singer] flew back out, came down from Japan and we spent time collaborating on vocal melodies, so lyrics can be written to those melodies, which is kind of the way the process is in DREAM THEATER. So, yeah, it's nice to just be a part of each one of these steps, like the old days. It's been a while since I made a record this way."

Portnoy went on to say that he "can't give away much details" about DREAM THEATER's next LP, "but we are all just really, really excited about it, really proud of it. And just can't wait to unleash some info, but I can't do that just yet," he added.

This past April, DREAM THEATER announced the European leg of its "40th Anniversary Tour 2024 - 2025". The trek — presented as "An Evening With Dream Theater" — is the first outing since Portnoy's return.

The European leg of DREAM THEATER's "40th Anniversary Tour 2024 - 2025" consists of stops in 23 cities and kicks off on October 20 and runs through November 24.

Portnoy co-founded DREAM THEATER in 1985 with guitarist John Petrucci and bassist John Myung. Mike played on 10 DREAM THEATER albums over a 20-year period, from 1989's "When Dream And Day Unite" through 2009's "Black Clouds & Silver Linings", before exiting the group in 2010.

Mike Mangini joined DREAM THEATER in late 2010 through a widely publicized audition following the departure of Portnoy. Mangini beat out six other of the world's top drummers — Marco Minnemann, Virgil Donati, Aquiles Priester, Thomas Lang, Peter Wildoer and Derek Roddy — for the gig, a three-day process that was filmed for a documentary-style reality show called "The Spirit Carries On".

In April, DREAM THEATER singer James LaBrie was asked by Rolling Stone magazine why he and his bandmates wanted Portnoy to return. He said: "I think we had to return the band back to its strongest form." Petrucci added: "It wasn't one singular thing; it was sort of a series of life events that caused an organic conclusion. We all talked about it. It was like, 'Yeah, this makes sense right now.'" Keyboardist Jordan Rudess chimed in: "There's so many factors involved, and each of us has our particular relationships. And it was just a moment when everything seemed to come together, and we went, 'You know what? Let's do this. Now's the time.'" Myung concurred, saying: "It was a collective moment of certainty."

Asked if he was surprised when he was invited back into the band, Portnoy said: "Before the Covid pandemic, if you had asked me or any of these guys, 'Was a reunion in the cards?' I probably would've said I doubted that it could happen. I think if the lockdown hadn't happened, you guys probably would've been on tour, and I would've been on tour with one of my 48 bands. But once we were all locked down, John asked me to play on his solo album. Then, from there, Jordan, John, and myself did the LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album. And then I did John's tour. So there were just these series of events of reconnecting us — not only on a musical level but also on a personal level for many years prior to that.

"All of our families are friends," he continued. "And my daughter and John's daughter shared an apartment together for many, many years. And John Myung lives right down the block from me, and his wife's at my house every night. There was just a series of events both personally and musically that started to feel like, 'Well, maybe this really is in the cards. Maybe this is the right time.'"

Asked if they see this reunion as healing a fractured band, Portnoy said: "I don't want to be over-philosophical about it, but as we're all getting older. Here we are in our 50s and 60s. You start to think of the reality of, 'How much time do we have left?' I would hate it if this were to become a Roger Waters-PINK FLOYD or Peter Gabriel-with-GENESIS situation where the fans want it, but it never happens."

Petrucci added: "When Mike left the band, it was traumatic for all of us. We had to figure out how we were going to move our career forward. And those years that went by, they were also healing years because you don't just have something like that happen, and all of a sudden, you're all best buddies a week later. There's some trauma there that had to heal. Thirteen years was enough time for that to happen and be, like, 'Hey, you know what, man? We love each other like we're brothers.'"

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