On March 13th you will be releasing your debut record titled Omerta via Elm City Music. I haven’t heard of Elm City Music before, is it kind of new?
Portnoy: It is a new subsidiary of EMI, so it is basically coming out through EMI, however that works. I don’t know how those things work. All I know is that it is coming out and people will be able to buy it. That is all I care about.
Even with Elm City behind you, do you see yourselves as a do it yourself band?
Portnoy: Well, surely it started out that way because we did this album ourselves and then shopped it to a label. It wasn’t like we got signed and then made our album. We made the album, started talking to different people and found the right label that got it, understood it and got behind it. Elm City is the new imprint of a guy named Michael Caplan and I have known Michael for the last twenty years throughout my time with Dream Theatre and he was always a big supporter of everything that I’ve been doing through the years. He wanted to get involved with something with me post Dream Theatre, so as soon as he heard Adrenaline Mob he fell in love and immediately wanted the band. That is how the relationship with him and the label began.
The album has all the songs from the EP along with new songs. Were all the songs written by just you, Russell and Mike?
Portnoy: Actually they pre-date my involvement. They started with Mike Orlando, in some cases the songs that Mike had written started years ago. Then Russell became involved and basically everything that is on the album is stuff that Mike and Russ worked on for the last couple years. I got involved last year. As soon as I heard the demos I knew I wanted to be involved. I came on board and at that point we recorded the album.
Adrenaline Mob is unlike projects that you have done in the past. Do you see that as being a challenge for you both musically and with getting the fans to the shows and buying records?
Portnoy: A bigger challenge is getting the fans to accept something that is so different from anything I have done in the past. Musically, it is not really difficult for me. For me, it is very easy to jump into different musical environments. I’m a big fan of many different styles of music, so I’m as at home playing this kind of music as I am with technical and progressive music. Really the challenge for me was the anticipation and expectations of my existing fan base who are kind of expecting something to be very progressive, whereas in this case it is a very different style from what I used to do in Dream Theatre. That has been the challenge so far, getting people to put there pre-conceptions aside and listen to this for what it is. It is basically riff driven, groove oriented and melodic song oriented music. You don’t need to use a calculator to enjoy it. You basically just bang your head and get into the bounce of the groove.
Which song off the record is going to be the single?
Portnoy: I think they are going to do it in different phases. Right now “Undaunted” was the first thing that was sent to metal radio. It was a sneak preview of the album. I believe the first single coming out upon the release of the record is going to be “Indifferent.” This is one of those albums where there are at least six or seven songs on there that I could hear on the radio. It is so hard to pick the right single because something like “Undaunted” I could hear on the radio, “All on the Line” is obviously a natural and “Come Undone” could even be a radio single, so it is hard to pick the right one. I guess it is a good problem to have, but it is one of those types of albums, for me as a listener, where every song is strong. When I listen to it from start to finish I get one of those feelings like I used to get when I would listen to Back in Black by AC/DC or the first Van Halen album. Every song is strong in its own right.
You did a cover of Duran Duran’s “Come Undone” featuring vocals by Lzzy Hale from Halestorm. What was it about that particular song that made you choose it to cover?
Portnoy: Mike and Russ had already kind of demoed up a new rockin version of it when I came on board, so they had already picked the tune. In fact, I had never even heard the original, even though I guess it was a radio hit, but I was never really aware of it. When I first heard it, I thought it was another song that those guys were working on. When they told me it was a cover, I thought it really fit in with the rest of the stuff. Once we started recording it to the album, the idea came up of getting a female voice on there as well. I had known Lzzy from when Avenged Sevenfold and Halestorm toured together at Uproar. I knew that she would kill it and would be an amazing voice to have on there. She came on board and did it. She took it to a whole new level. I get goosebumps when I hear her singing along with Russ.
Do you see any of the songs getting placement in TV or movies?
Portnoy: We would love that, but it is out of our control. I absolutely can hear any of these songs in the weirdest of places. I could hear “Undaunted” as a WWE entrance song. “Down to the Floor” could totally be played at NASCAR, ESPN and on sports racing kind of shows. “All on the Line” which is a power ballad, could totally be in a movie soundtrack, so yeah. We did our job and made the music, now it is up to the industry to get it out there and do their job. I think there is so much potential in every one of those categories, absolutely.
The album cover is really cool. Is that something that you guys came up with or did you have an outside artist do it?
Portnoy: It is an outside artist, but I have to give Russ the credit for having the vision. I actually had to fight him on that because I was afraid of the whole monster/mobster/skeleton approach just because of all my years in Dream Theatre. I was afraid of how Dream Theatre fans would take to it. He fought me on it and I think ultimately he made the right call. He had this idea of having a mascot like Iron Maiden’s “Eddie.” We have the “Bonedaddy” who is on the cover. I had just never done anything like that before with any of my bands from the past, so I was kind of hesitant, but I think he made the right decision. I think it is the right look for this type of band and this audience.
I was watching the live video for “Undaunted” and you guys have incredible chemistry and energy together. Will you be making an official music video?
Portnoy: Yes, absolutely, it all has to do with what the radio and marketing plan is. The “Undaunted” video, like the track being at radio, is really just a sneak preview. We put that together to give the fans a little taste and a little set-up for the album, but we will do a music video once the album comes out.
You guys just added a new member to the band, John Moyer from Disturbed. He will be filling the bass player spot. You are actually the one that gave him the call about joining the band right?
Portnoy: Yes, I’ve known John for a couple years now. We toured together when I was playing with Avenged Sevenfold and he was with Disturbed. We did Uproar Festival together. I spent a lot of time hanging out with him and I knew what a cool guy he was. I knew musically he would also fit in because he comes with that background of what he has done with Disturbed. I knew musically and personally he would fit in, but most important for us right now is scheduling. That is an important thing for us. The issue that we had with our previous bass player was scheduling, commitments, obstacles and conflicts with other bands that he was playing with and committed to. We needed somebody that had an empty schedule and no other band commitments. With Disturbed on an indefinite hiatus, it worked out perfectly that John would be available and not have any scheduling conflicts in the coming year or so and just be able to devote himself to Adrenaline Mob. With all three of those elements, the personal, musical and scheduling, he worked out to be the perfect guy for us. He fits like a glove.
What do you guys have planned in the way of touring in support of the record?
Portnoy: It is all coming together now and stuff will be unveiled and announced in the coming weeks. We are starting off with an album release party in New York on March 12th. Rather than a DJ just playing the CD, like most album release parties, we are actually going to get onstage and play the album from start to finish so people can actually hear it for the first time that way. From there we are looking for a U.S. tour in the spring and then we go over to Europe to do some festivals and one-offs in June. We are looking to spend a year on the road supporting the album.
The band has been added to the Graspop Festival and Gods of Metal Festival playing alongside the likes of Guns N Roses and Black Sabbath to name a few. I was looking at the line-up for Graspop and it is incredible. It is a three day festival and there are so many bands listed to play.
Portnoy: Yeah Graspop is amazing. I have done all of those festivals over there with Dream Theatre through the years. Those are always amazing experiences. I think Adrenaline Mob will fit in perfectly. Those types of bands and festivals will definitely be in our element.
You are regarded as one of the best drummers in the world. What goes through your mind when you hear that?
Portnoy: I immediately think “I fooled them all!!” You know what? There is no best, there is just favorites. I appreciate that a lot of people consider me their favorite drummer. I surely know that I’m not the best drummer out there. I know that there are millions of drummers out there that can play circles around me. It is all about the evolution of drums and the fact that I reach people, touch people and have influenced people is totally an honor and something that I cherish and appreciate.
You have also won many awards. Is there anything in your career that you have not yet achieved that you would like too?
Portnoy: I’ve got to be honest with you; I could die tomorrow and feel that I’ve really achieved almost everything that I could have wanted to achieve musically. I’ve won every drummer award there is in the books, I’ve toured the world dozens of times over and I’ve played everywhere. I’ve made so many great albums with so many different musicians. Realistically at this point I think I have made my mark musically. I’m just happy to have the ability, the outlet and the audience to continue to let me do it. I guess at this point it is about trying new things with new people. I guess that is where I am at, at this point in my career.
You were at NAMM last month promoting your Tama Signature Snare Drums.
Portnoy: I’ve had my own signature snare called the Melody Master with Tama for about ten years or so. They are unveiling a new line of them, three different ones, two steels and one wood shell. They are very unique snares because they have a three way snare system as opposed to most that are just two. The support from my endorsements companies, TAMA Drums, Sabian Cymbals, ProMark sticks, Remo Heads, and Latin Percussion is so important to me. They have all been so supportive of me, my drumming and my career for all these years regardless of who I am playing with. I really appreciate that.
Do you do drum clinics?
Portnoy: Not anymore, in the 90’s and early 2000’s I did literally hundreds of them, I think on five out of seven continents, so basically all over the world. Basically, I got burned out after a few hundred of them and I retired from them in 2003. At this point I don’t do clinics anymore, just signings and appearances with different bands and projects.
Are you guys running all of your own social media sites?
Portnoy: I do mine, to me that is very important. My Facebook page has over 600,000 people and my Twitter has over 125,000. I oversee those day to day and I value an open relationship with my fans, I always have. In all my years with Dream Theatre, the most valuable and important thing for the band and me was the relationship with the fans. Now that I’m on my own, I still value the relationship with the fans. I still continue to stay in touch with them daily and let them know everything that is going on.
Thank you so much for the interview. Before I let you go, was there anything you’d like to add or say?
Portnoy: It is an exciting time for me. I’m looking forward to hitting the road and I’m looking forward to people hearing all the different things that I’ve been working on for the past twelve months. They are all coming to fruition now, so it is very exciting for me. I just can’t wait to get out there and play live now.
Yes, you have another release coming out with Flying Colors right?
Portnoy: Yes, that comes out two weeks later on March 27th. March is “Mike Month”.