MIKE PORTNOY Says He Is 'Always Open' To Playing With DREAM THEATER Again
February 5, 2023
In a new interview with Ollie Winiberg of "The Heavy Hooks Show", founding DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy was asked if he would consider playing a one-off show as a 'hired gun" with his former bandmates to celebrate their 40th anniversary in 2025. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "Well, I would surely welcome the idea — absolutely — and I've told the guys such, depending on the circumstances. Obviously, there's a lot of hypothetical circumstances."
He continued: "I don't know if I'd necessarily wanna be a 'hired gun' for a band that I formed; [that's] a little bit of a strange term in that respect. But if you're asking, would I ever play with the guys again? Sure. If the right hypothetical situation came about, yeah, of course. I'm always open to that."
Two and a half years ago, DREAM THEATER guitarist John Petrucci released his second solo album, "Terminal Velocity", via Sound Mind Music/The Orchard. The follow-up to 2005's "Suspended Animation" featured guest musicians Portnoy on drums and Dave LaRue (DIXIE DREGS) on bass. 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.
During an October 2022 appearance on SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk", Petrucci stated about DREAM THEATER fans' response to his renewed collaboration with Portnoy: "You see that right away. It makes people so happy to see that reconnection. It's literally like… Any sort of post of a photo from that, every comment is just literally, like, 'I'm crying. This makes me so happy,' blah blah blah. More than any sort of controversial, stupid thing anyone could say, the overwhelming reaction is just a great, positive feeling in the DREAM THEATER-Mike Portnoy big community. And I love that. It's the way it should be."
When host Eddie Trunk pointed out to Petrucci that the guitarist's reunion with Portnoy, including their recent run of tour dates in support of "Terminal Velocity", had resulted in DREAM THEATER fans speculating about Portnoy's possible return to the band, John said: "I've been very vocal about this and outspoken and very careful about this to be clear with my intentions and Mike and I and our reuniting. The stuff that we are doing together with my solo stuff, with LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT, with Mike touring with me, this is its own thing, and DREAM THEATER is its own thing, and the history that we now have with Mike Mangini in the band for 12 years, it's important for me to make sure that people don't misunderstand this. Because it's not good for anybody; that kind of weirdness or controversy, as we all know, it's just toxic. So I've been saying… Maybe I'm selfish but I feel so lucky that I get to do this with Mike [Portnoy] and play live with him, play this instrumental music, record, and being in DREAM THEATER with Mangini, it's like I've kind of been spoiled. I get two of the greatest drummers in the world to be able to play with. And I think it's important for people to know that and to have that clarity — I really do."
Portnoy, who co-founded DREAM THEATER more than 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, JAMES LABRIE, STEVE VAI).
In March 2021, Petrucci and Portnoy's instrumental progressive rock/metal project LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT released its third album, "LTE3", via InsideOut Music. The effort arrived 22 years after the release of 1999's "Liquid Tension Experiment 2".
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."
Last May, DREAM THEATER singer James LaBrie, who recently said that it was "great" to be back on good terms with Portnoy, was asked in a new interview with Scott Penfold of Loaded Radio if there was any chance of the two musicians working together again. He responded: "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 in March 2022 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 12 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 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."
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."
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