MIKE PORTNOY: Seeing Current DREAM THEATER Lineup Perform Was 'Not As Awkward As I Had Anticipated Or Feared'
May 3, 2022
Ex-DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy attended the group's concert on March 4 at Beacon Theatre in New York City. It was the first time Portnoy witnessed his former bandmates perform live since his exit from the iconic progressive metal outfit more than 11 years ago.
During an appearance earlier today (Tuesday, May 3) on SiriusXM's "Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk", Mike stated about the circumstances that led to him being present at the show (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "We had been slowly rekindling the relationships over the years. Obviously, [DREAM THEATER guitarist] John Petrucci and I have made a few albums together at this point — I played on his last solo album, and then he and myself and Jordan [Rudess, DREAM THEATER keyboardist] and Tony Levin got back together to do a LIQUID TENSION EXPERIMENT album in 2020. So, yeah, John Petrucci and Jordan had been hanging with me a lot through the years, and our families as well. In fact, the first time I played together with Jordan again was on the last Cruise To The Edge in 2019; Jordan and I played together on that. So the relationships had been really, really good and comfortable with those guys. And John Myung [DREAM THEATER bassist] lives right down the street from me, so I would see him in town all the time. And his wife is very, very good friends with my wife. So there's three of the guys that I had been on very, very good terms with over the years. And my wife and John Myung's wife were going to see them at the New York show, and I was, like, 'You know what? What the hell.'"
Portnoy went on to say that he had previously "dreamt about going to see" DREAM THEATER play. "I'm not saying I dreamt like it was my goal; I'm saying I literally would have dreams at night sleeping, where in my dreams I'm going to see DREAM THEATER and it's just an awkward thing," he explained. "So for a long time I was very nervous about it, like how weird would it feel? Would it be uncomfortable? But I finally was at peace with it. I went to the show, and it was really a cool experience; it was not as awkward as I had anticipated or feared. And at the show, James [LaBrie, DREAM THEATER singer] welcomed me from the stage. And I hadn't spoken to James — as a lot of people know, I hadn't spoken to him since I left the band — so I got to see him that night after the show. And I went into his dressing room, and within literally 10 seconds, any of that drama or B.S. that had built up through the years, it melted away immediately. And it was all hugs and kisses and 'love you, bro' and 'miss you, bro.' And it was, like, all that bullshit from the last 11 years was just water under the bridge."
Mike continued: "You can't spend most of your life with a group of guys like that and not be family for life. I met John Petrucci and John Myung when we were teenagers; we met in college and our families have grown up together and our wives all played in a band together and our kids — my daughter and John Petrucci's daughter — live together in Brooklyn. So it's a family. Whether I'm currently in the band or not, that doesn't matter; you can't take away the friendship and the family and the history and the experiences we shared for so, so long."
Regarding what it was like to see another drummer play his parts live with DREAM THEATER, Portnoy said: "I've always been the type of drummer that just flies [by] the seat of my pants in the moment. Even with my own drum parts, I don't necessarily stick to them faithfully from show to show, whereas [current DREAM THEATER drummer Mike] Mangini obviously really studied the drum parts and they had everything programmed out. They're all about the precision, and that's surely their thing. And yeah, he killed it. There's no doubt he's an amazing drummer and he plays my parts incredibly faithfully. I feel bad for him. He and I joked about it. He's in a horrible situation where he's damned if he does and he's damned if he doesn't. He expressed that frustration to me, and I feel for him; it's definitely a weird position to be put into. I kind of had it a little bit when I played with AVENGED SEVENFOLD and TWISTED SISTER, coming into the throne of two drummers that have passed away, and I tried to learn those parts as faithfully as I could. When I had a hired-gun gig like that, I spent a lot of attention trying to honor the drummer that came before me — it's important. I don't wanna go into a gig like either of those and try to force my style onto it."
Portnoy, who co-founded DREAM THEATER 37 years ago, abruptly quit the band in September 2010 while on tour with AVENGED SEVENFOLD.
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.
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."
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."
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 ☮️🙏