MIKE PORTNOY Opens Up About His Return To DREAM THEATER: 'It Just Felt Like The Time Was Right To Do It'

November 24, 2023

During the question-and-answer portion of this month's Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp's "Metalmania III" in Los Angeles, drummer Mike Portnoy was asked how his return to DREAM THEATER came about. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET; video by TheSilverdude): "Well, it's been 13 years now. And it's crazy how time flies. But the last couple of years, I guess during the pandemic, yeah, I reconnected with [DREAM THEATER guitarist] John Petrucci. Once we were in lockdown and all of my bands couldn't tour, and DREAM THEATER couldn't tour, John Petrucci was doing a solo album, and he asked me to play on it. And then from there we decided we wanted to do another LTE [LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT] album, which is with [DREAM THEATER keyboardist] Jordan Rudess. And then shortly after that, John asked me to go on tour with him. So it just seems like we've been kind of reconnecting through the last few years."

He continued: "We have such a long history — almost 40 years now — together, and our families grew up together, our wives played in a band together, and our kids grew up together. So, honestly, it just felt like it was the right thing in the right time… [Our kids] lliterally grew up all together, in the top bunks across from each other on the bus. My daughter and John's daughter have lived together in New York for the last four or five years. So, yeah, there's so much family history beyond just the music that it just felt like the time was right to do it."

Asked if there is a chance that the next studio release from DREAM THEATER will be a follow-up to 1999's concept album "Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory", Portnoy replied: "We haven't talked about it yet, but that would be the obvious thing. But maybe because it's the obvious thing, we wouldn't do it. But you never know… It definitely would be fun to do, but I think, uh... I don't know. We're gonna start from scratch and reconnect and just go into the studio and live together. We're in a different phase of our lives. When I left the band 13 years ago, we were all in our 40s; now we're all in our 50s and 60s. It's gonna be interesting to see how we kind of exist now in this new world. So, yeah, I'm just looking forward to being with the guys and making music together again."

Asked if his return to DREAM THEATER will affect how many Mike Mangini-era songs are included in the band's future setlist, Portnoy said: "It's too soon to tell. When I left the band 13 years ago, I was the one writing the setlist and things like that. So, we haven't even discussed what the new dynamic is gonna be. I'm open to it, of course, so I surely would do it, if that's what they wanna do. But it's definitely gonna be a different dynamic."

He continued: "I think when I left all those years ago, I was running a lot of stuff, and I think now they've gotten so used to working more as a collective band that I think it's a very different dynamic now that I'm gonna have to find my place in and without stepping on anybody's toes. I have to respect that they've been doing it all this time without me. So, whatever they wanna do, I'm up for it. But that being said, there is so much music of ours to come back and play that… Personally, I look forward to revisiting all that stuff, but if they wanna do the newer stuff as well, whatever they want is fine with me."

Portnoy was also asked about the status of some of his other projects, including THE WINERY DOGS and SONS OF APOLLO, and how they will be affected by his return to DREAM THEATER. He responded: " Before the DREAM THEATER thing happened, I think I was up to like seven bands or something, or eight, or something like that. So, obviously I won't be able to do all of them, and right now the focus is going back to DREAM THEATER and focusing on that. So, I have a feeling some of the bands will survive and some won't. But I think THE WINERY DOGS, it's very likely that THE WINERY DOGS will continue. We still are continuing. I leave for Japan on Tuesday for a few weeks over there with THE WINERY DOGS. And we just filmed a live Blu-ray last week at the last show in Europe, so that'll be coming out.

"But, yeah, there's still other things on my schedule," he added. "I still have a show with METAL ALLEGIANCE in January [2024] in Anaheim, and I still have some shows with FLYING COLORS, which is my band with Steve Morse and Dave LaRue; we're still, we're playing on Cruise To The Edge in March [of 2024]. So I still do have these other obligations and these other things that I still have on the calendar with all these other bands. But I think once all of those obligations clear, I'm gonna focus on DREAM THEATER at least for a while."

Portnoy attended DREAM THEATER's concert in March 2022 at Beacon Theatre in New York City. It was the first time he witnessed his then-former bandmates perform live since his exit from the iconic progressive metal outfit 13 years ago.

When Portnoy's return to DREAM THEATER was first announced on October 25, Mangini said in a statement: "I understand DREAM THEATER's decision to get Mike Portnoy back at this time. 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."

Mangini joined DREAM THEATER in late 2010 through a widely publicized audition following the departure of Portnoy, who co-founded DREAM THEATER 38 years ago. 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".

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