LISTEN: Mike Portnoy Interview

Legendary drummer chats with Triple M

LISTEN: Mike Portnoy Interview

By Ronny Lerner

Legendary ex-Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy admits that when he finally finished recording his 12-Step Suite of songs in 2009, he had no inkling that he would eventually play it live in its entirety with a totally different band.

Little more than a year after completing the epic five-song suite which spanned five Dream Theater albums across seven years, and clocks in at almost an hour in length, Portnoy dropped a bombshell by leaving the iconic prog metal band which he co-founded.

The 12-Step Suite chronicles Portnoy’s battle with alcoholism and eventual journey to sobriety which he has maintained since 2000.

Eight years since its completion, the 12-time Modern Drummer magazine best progressive rock drummer finally got his chance to take it on the road this year on his ‘Shattered Fortress’ tour which hits Australia this week.

“When I finished writing it with Dream Theater, at that point I could never have anticipated that I would be leaving the band shortly after,” Portnoy told Triple M.

“I always thought that it would be with Dream Theater, perhaps on the following tour, but life throws you crazy unexpected turns and everything happens for a reason and here we are finally getting some closure and getting to do it with this amazing band we’re touring with.

“I’m happy to be coming to Australia to not only do it and get some closure but also this is the last of the shows we’ll be doing so Australia will be the grand finale for us in what’s been an amazing year doing this show.”

Portnoy’s touring band consists of Haken members Ross Jennings, Richard Henshall, Charles Griffiths, Diego Tejeida and Conner Green as well as Eric Gillette from The Neal Morse Band.

“These shows I feel are more of a celebration of my time in Dream Theater and playing this Dream Theater music maybe for the last time,” he said.

Dream Theater still play songs live in concert from the 12-Step Suite as well as ‘A Change Of Seasons’, which are deeply personal songs for Portnoy, and the Modern Drummer Hall of Famer finds that weird.

“‘A Change Of Seasons’ I wrote for my mum who died in a plane crash so you don’t get more personal than that,” he said.

“So when I hear these stories of them performing a song like that now or performing one of my 12-Step songs, it’s just strange but obviously I can’t stop them and can’t expect them to do it or not do it – that’s their prerogative.”

While Portnoy is still on very good terms with Dream Theater guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess, he doesn’t have any desire or interest at this stage to play with his old band again.

Since leaving Dream Theater, Portnoy has been prolific, playing with bands such as Avenged Sevenfold, Twisted Sister, Winery Dogs, Flying Colors, Adrenaline Mob and Sons of Apollo.

“It’s been a dream career ... an incredible ride,” he said.

Having achieved so much in his decorated career, Portnoy rates writing and recording the 12-Step Suite as one of his proudest achievements.

“It’s truly had the biggest impact in my personal life beyond my career in music,” he said.

Portnoy’s ‘Shattered Fortress’ Australian five-city tour kicks off in Brisbane on Saturday and winds up in Melbourne on November 25.


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