In addition to SONS OF APOLLO — whose sophomore album "MMXX" will be released on January 17 — former DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Portnoy is currently a member of five other bands – TRANSATLANTIC; THE NEAL MORSE BAND; all-star metal collective METAL ALLEGIANCE; pop/prog supergroup FLYING COLORS; and THE WINERY DOGS.
During a recent interview with Rodrigo Altaf of Sonic Perspectives, Portnoy updated the current status of each, beginning with FLYING COLORS, who recently completed a brief European tour in support of its recently released third album, "Third Degree". "That was amazing," Portnoy said. "It's such a special band, and we all love playing with each other. We all wish we could do it more often. We're kind of restricted in that band with how much we can do and how often we can do it, but when we do, it's very, very special and very magical. It's a great, great group of guys and styles put together in that band. We filmed the last show in London for an upcoming live DVD and Blu-ray and live album. Unfortunately, we couldn't make it all around the world to play for everybody, but at least this live package will give everybody a chance to see the show."
Portnoy added that the London performance will probably be FLYING COLORS' last for the foreseeable future. "I never say never, and surely we would love to [tour more], but I don't think it's going to be likely," he said. "At least for me and Neal [Morse], FLYING COLORS is one of our three bands together, so we kind of have to be very strategic with how they hopscotch... [In regard] to FLYING COLORS, the problem is — not to blame anybody, but just to be realistic — Steve [Morse, guitar] has limited control over his schedule because he's kind of at the mercy of DEEP PURPLE. Neal and I can say can control our schedules and say, 'Okay, this window here is for FLYING COLORS,' and we just block it out, but Steve can't really have that kind of control over DEEP PURPLE. He has to kind of go according to what t hey're doing, so we're kind of at PURPLE's mercy, and they don't always let him know six to nine months in advance his availability. As long as they're still going, we kind of have to function this way in FLYING COLORS, which is frustrating, but it's the reality. If PURPLE ever slows down in the future, then maybe FLYING COLORS can be a little more active. Until then, we're happy with what we can get."
In 2019, THE WINERY DOGS — Portnoy's power trio with bassist Billy Sheehan and guitarist Richie Kotzen — reunited for its first shows in nearly three years. According to Portnoy, the tour was "just for the fun of it — just for no other reason than to play together again, because it had been a few years. I think it reignited our love for each other, and I think it showed us that there's still so many fans out there that love this band. It reignited our desire to make another record, so I think as soon as we can, we will. Right now, Billy and I are going to be busy with SONS OF APOLLO and Richie is busy with his 50th-birthday project, so hopefully, our fingers are crossed that by mid-, we can get together to start work on an album and hopefully, if all goes well, maybe have it out in '21."
As for TRANSATLANTIC — Portnoy's progressive rock supergroup also featuring Neal Morse, Pete Trewavas (MARILLION) and Roine Stolt (THE FLOWER KINGS) — the band plans to release its fifth album this fall. "It's penciled in for September," Portnoy said. "We're still working on it. We wrote it all and I tracked all my drums, but now, throughout the coming months, the other guys are going to have to be working on their tracks. It's underway, and it's amazing. We're excited by it. As far as touring goes, we have to wait and see. Pete's schedule with MARILLION, it's a very similar situation that we have with Steve and DEEP PURPLE. We'll see, and hopefully we can be touring ASAP after the album comes out."
From there, Portnoy says, "NEAL MORSE BAND is back in line after the TRANSATLANTIC cycle. We always have to think at least a year ahead, so if TRANSATLANTIC is coming out at the end of 2020 and maybe touring at the beginning of '21, we would hope to have a new NEAL MORSE BAND album out by mid-'21, which means we have to start recording it [in 2020]. It's like this never-ending juggling of schedules that we have to do, but we want to make sure every band gets its fair share in the spotlight, because we're so proud of each of them."
It was also revealed in September that Portnoy recently recorded a covers album with guitarist Phil Demmel (ex-MACHINE HEAD), bassist Mark Menghi (METAL ALLEGIANCE) and vocalist Bobby "Blitz" Ellsworth (OVERKILL). "That, I wouldn't even call a project or a band," Portnoy explained. "I remember Menghi hitting me up — he's, like, 'Hey, man. Let's just do an album of '70s American rock covers.' I was, like, 'Yeah, that sounds great. Is it going to be METAL ALLEGIANCE?' He's, like, 'No — it's not really METAL ALLEGIANCE. It's going to be something else entirely.' I was, like, 'Oh, God — I can't have another band. I already have six. I can't make it seven.' The whole idea was, it's not a band; it's not a project. It's just an album — a fun album with friends just jamming and hanging out. Basically, Mark and Phil Demmel and Bobby Blitz came to my house, and we just hung out and jammed all these covers. It's a lot of fun. It's a great album of all-American '70s bands — not necessarily metal bands. More rock bands like CACTUS and MOUNTAIN and GRAND FUNK [RAILROAD], but we metal everything up. That's going to be out some time [in 2020]."
During the interview — which was conducted prior to the passing of legendary RUSH drummer Neil Peart — Portnoy was asked whether he ever considered "reinventing" or "deconstructing" his playing as Peart did. "It sounds like a nice fantasy, but I think my life is very, very different from where Neil's was when he did that," Portnoy said. "Neil had one band, and he would tour for a year, but then he would probably have a few years off. He had the luxury of time off with RUSH, time at home. I don't have that. I literally am juggling six bands, so when one ends, the next begins, and when that ends, the next begins. It's just a never-ending cycle. I don't have that kind of available time. I have so little available time right now that when I do, the last thing I want to do is get behind a drum set. I spend my whole life behind a drum set with the six bands I'm a part of. Then there's also these other things like NOTURNALL [a Brazilian metal band with which Portnoy toured in late 2019] or the AMERICAN MADE thing... In a nice fantasy world, it would be great to reinvent myself and learn all these new techniques, but realistically, with my life and my schedule, it's merely impossible."
Portnoy will spend much of the first half of 2020 on the road with SONS OF APOLLO, whose world tour in support of "MMXX" kicks off January 23 in Sacramento, California.