Mark Diggins of The Rock Pit recently conducted an interview with drummer Mike Portnoy (ADRENALINE MOB, FLYING COLORS, THE WINERY DOGS, DREAM THEATER, AVENGED SEVENFOLD). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.The Rock Pit: There is a great chemistry between [all the members of THE WINERY DOGS]. Was that there from the start and do you think you managed to bring out the best performances in each other?
Mike: It was all very natural, but granted, there was already a built-in chemistry between Billy [Sheehan, bass] and Richie [Kotzen, guitar/vocals], from working together in MR. BIG. There was also the built-in chemistry between me and Billy, as we had already done various things through the years. I had to ease in to the relationship, but realistically, it all came together very naturally. I don't know the reason for that, as there's only the three of us. I've been in many bands with four or five people in them, and that's obviously a lot of different personalities to go in to a melting pot. But when there are three of you, it's very easy to relax and just go with it.
The Rock Pit: So where does your love of this type of music come from? We already know you from DREAM THEATER and some other prog/metal bands, so where does the love of the blues and soulful music come from?
Mike: Well, the reality is, is that before I had progressive music in my life before I had heavy music in my life. I started with classic rock. My first ten years on earth was revolving around bands like THE BEATLES, THE [ROLLING] STONES, THE WHO, [LED] ZEPPELIN, [JIMI] HENDRIX and THE DOORS, that was where my interest in music began, especially the three drummers, John Bonham, Keith Moon and Ringo [Starr], were my first three cult heroes. So this style of music, really, is the most natural for me to be involved with. Progressive music came much later for me, when I was a teenager, and metal music didn't even exist until I was in college. This is my roots, this is my background, and all those years in DREAM THEATER, those guys were never really classic rock. I went out and did tribute bands — Paul Gilbert and I did a BEATLES, WHO and ZEPPELIN tribute — and that was my way of getting my classic rock roots out of my system. For me, this is a great outlet, to tap in to those styles, those bands and those influences. The Rock Pit: I suppose it's a natural thing, when you've been with a band like DREAM THEATER for 25 years, it must feel like the end of a marriage. Was it very liberating [once you left the band], a big pressure off?
Mike: It was liberating, but it was also scary. You grow and feel a sense of security with 25 years with the same band, and it takes a lot of balls to walk away from that. To be honest, it wasn't that easy for me, but it had to happen. There's a great expression that I love, and that is: "It is better to regret something that you have done, than to regret something that you haven't." I very much had that feeling; if I hadn't left DREAM THEATER, I would have probably spent the rest of my life wondering, "What if?" What I could've done rather than what I did do, and after 25 years of DREAM THEATER, I needed to explore other things, I didn't want to be defined by them for the rest of my life. I needed to explore other styles with other people. So, as difficult as it was to walk away from that security, I had to follow my heart. Read the entire interview at The Rock Pit.