DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy recently spoke to The Man Room about a variety of topics, including the group's upcoming North American tour with YES, the band's soon-to-be-released live DVD, and the role of producers during the making of a new studio album. Several excerpts from the interview follow:
The Man Room: How did the upcoming tour with YES come about?
Mike Portnoy: "I don't know who asked who. It was mainly through management and booking agents. That's how tours usually come about. This one was no different. However it came about, we're excited about it. They are one of our all-time favorite bands and biggest influences. To us, it's an honor to be on the same stage as them. They are one of the few bands that we thought that we could really have a great touring package with. I think for the YES fans they're probably going to have heart attacks once we hit the stage. They won't know what hit them. We are going to have to tone down our set a little bit to make sure we don't offend any of the older YES fans. On the other hand, I think we are going to be bringing a younger generation to the shows that maybe didn't grow up on YES the way that we did. There's a whole new generation of younger progressive fans that started out with DREAM THEATER. We started out with YES, PINK FLOYD, GENESIS, and RUSH. So, I know that we'll bring a younger generation to the tour."
The Man Room: Will it be equal set times?
Mike Portnoy: "No. We are absolutely the opening [band]. These guys are celebrating their 35th anniversary. We wouldn't dare suggest co-headlining with them. We'll play about an hour set. A longer than usual set for an opening act.
The Man Room: But, a very short set for DREAM THEATER.
Mike Portnoy: "Yeah. But, that's fine. We're up for it. We busted our asses on the 'Train of Thought' tour playing 3 and 3 ½ hour shows every night. It really beat the hell out of us. Playing an hour every night and opening for one of our favorite bands of all time is going to be a nice summer vacation."
The Man Room: So, how much does a producer influence the recording?
Mike Portnoy: "Producers can take different roles. Sometimes, they can be strictly sonic, like when we worked with [Duane] Baron and [John] Purdell on 'Awake'. They didn't get involved with changing the arrangements. They were more producing from a sonic perspective and how things would sound which, to me, is more the role of the engineer and the mixer. The engineer controls how the sounds goes to tape. The mixer controls how they come off of tape. The way it was with Kevin Shirley and David Prater, those kind of producers come in and are, actually, like another member of the band where they are giving you an objective ear. In our case, they were like a sixth member of the band coming in and making suggestions to the music and the arrangements. I always felt we already had five chefs in the kitchen and the last thing we needed was a sixth. The five chefs would spend months and months or years, in the case of 'Falling into Infinity', creating this concoction. We would spend weeks and months arguing among the five of us how a song should be. The last thing you want is for someone to come in a year later and just completely chuck all of your arguments and all of your passion right out the window to suit him. There could be an argument saying that yes, of course, the objective ear is great and it probably is, if you're BON JOVI. If you're a band that is aiming to have hit singles and trying to shape your music to fit a certain thing, that objective ear is good. But, when you’re a band like DREAM THEATER, where you are just trying to be yourselves, be original, and have the freedom to write twelve-minute songs, then, you don't need an objective ear. Our objective ear is our own because that's what makes us original. It got to a point where, at least I and John Petrucci, felt that we didn't need a producer like that. We were able to do it ourselves."
The Man Room: Is Bob Rock holding METALLICA down, like everyone thinks? A producer like him.
Mike Portnoy: "I am absolutely of the opinion that, at least with the 'Black' album and the 'Load' album, I think Bob Rock ruined METALLICA. I think that there are a lot of producers who have ruined certain bands. But, that's just my opinion."
Read Mike Portnoy's entire interview with The Man Room at this location.