MIKE PORTNOY On Leaving DREAM THEATER: 'It Was Liberating, But It Was Also Scary'

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.

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