It’s been well over a decade since Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater. And despite that fact, a huge portion of prog fans still mourns this unexpected lineup change. After all, how do you replace a founding musician who has been so crucial to the band’s musical style? But for better or for worse, Dream Theater are going strong with Mike Mangini on drums who now has a total of five albums with the band.
In a recent interview conducted by Eddie Trunk on Serius XM, Mike Portnoy looked back on his recent visit to a Dream Theater show on March 4, marking it as the first-ever occasion that he attended the band’s concert in the audience and not as a performer. Asked how the whole thing went, Portnoy responded (transcript by Blabbermouth):
“We had been slowly rekindling the relationships over the years. Obviously, 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] 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 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.'”
He also adds:
“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. So for a long time, I was very nervous about it. Like, how weird would it feel? Would it be uncomfortable?”
As you may or may not know, Portnoy and vocalist James LaBrie haven’t seen each other since the drummer left Dream Theater. Reflecting on how his meeting with LaBrie went, he said:
“And at the show, James 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.”
And finally, coming to the obvious part, one Mike explains what he feels about the other Mike now playing his drum parts with Dream Theater. He said:
“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.”
Photos: Wikimedia Commons (Stéphane Gallay, Mike Portnoy (cropped)), Wikimedia Commons (Dennis Radaelli, Dream Theater live at Mediolanum Forum, Assago – February 12th, 2020)