Fingers of the Babylon, New York rock radio station WBAB recently conducted an interview with drummer Mike Portnoy (ADRENALINE MOB, DREAM THEATER, AVENGED SEVENFOLD). You can now listen to the chat at this location. A couple of excerpts from the interview follow below.
On what it was like to see DREAM THEATER nominated for a Grammy Award a year after his departure from the band:
Portnoy: “It was a tough thing for me to see because I worked so hard for all those years to always fight to get the band mainstream acceptance and acknowledgement. We always did so well on our own for all those years — we kind of climbed the ladder on our own terms. We’d sell out Radio City Music Hall [in New York City] on our own terms. So we were doing things on our own terms and always hoping for, kind of, mainstream, commercial acceptance or acknowledgement. So to see it finally come a year after I left, it was heartbreaking for me on a personal level. On a professional level, I’m happy that it finally happened for the band. It was a long time coming; it should have happened many, many years ago. So, on one hand, it was, like, exciting that the band finally got recognized, but it was just kind of strange that it finally happened… the timing of it all — after all the hard work and blood, sweat and tears that I put in. But you know what?! Better late than never. But the other reality of it… I don’t wanna sound bitter, but the reality of it is even all the years when I was in the band, I never really cared about the Grammys anyway; it was always like, ‘F the Grammys.’ To me, it was always a bit of a joke, and I never put that much weight or value in it to begin with. So I don’t wanna come out and say that now and it’s gonna look like I’m bitter because they got nominated, but the reality is, it’s nice to get the tip of the hat, but realistically, that was never an important thing for me. I was always more concerned about how we did things on our own terms. . . I think, honestly, that the tip of the cap with that nomination was more of a career nod and the fact that DREAM THEATER existed and made such a splash on our own terms. I honestly don’t think it had anything to do with just the new album [‘A Dramatic Turn Of Events‘] and that particular song [‘On The Backs Of Angels‘]. I mean, of course, it’s easy for me to say that, and I’ll probably get [slammed] for saying that, but I think the reality is it was more of a career nod, and if so, if that’s the case, then I think it’s well deserved. Whether or not I’m there, I think the band really made its mark for what we did, so I think it deserves to be recognized.”
On the dramatic way in which his split from DREAM THEATER played out in the media:
Portnoy: “The reality is we live in an age where everything is on the Internet in real time. Every band goes through breakups or splits. When we grew up and it happened to VAN HALEN and it happened to KISS and it happened to this band and that band and PRIEST and MAIDEN, it was before the Internet and these things wouldn’t be so widely open and publicized. And I live a very open life. I value my relationship with the fans and I utilize Twitter and Facebook and my web site, so my day-to-day activities are an open book for me to share with the fans, for better or for worse. So I think because of that, a lot of the shit got blown up and twisted around in the public eye when, realistically, back in the day — in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s — a lot of this stuff would have been behind closed doors. We live in an age when Twitter and Blabbermouth and everything is out there in real time. So, unfortumately, a lot of the [details behind the split] probably, really, should have not been up for public discussion and dissection, but, unfortunately, it was. . . The difference is back [in the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s], only the journalists and the record DJs and people like that were able to really comment on the bands and the music. Now every 12-year-old kid with a computer has an open forum to get involved. [laughs] So when you have something like a band split or a breakup, then you have thousands of comments feeding it and fueling it and commenting on it, it’s much different than it was back in the ’80s and ’90s for us. . . Anytime I tried to defend myself, it would get ripped apart and over analyzed and misinterpreted, so I’ve learned the hard way over the past year that the best response is no response. And it’s sad, because I’ve always valued being very, very open honest with the fans. You see people like Lars Ulrich [METALLICA] and Dave Mustaine [MEGADETH] and usually the people that have the honesty and the open mouths to talk about things are the ones that get shut down and made examples of. So… live and learn.”
On the circumstances that led to his departure from DREAM THEATER:
Portnoy: “Basically, we were together for 25 years, at least 15 to 20 of which were very, very active — you know, write-record-tour, write-record-tour… an endless cycle. And to be honest with you, within those cycles, I was always overseeing everything — from the production to the DVDs to the web sites to the merchandise to the fan clubs — so I never got a rest whereas the other guys would get to go home and have time off with their families. So I was getting burnt out. And granted, I like doing other things with other projects and things like that, and I think that, sometimes, a break from the family — meaning, the full-time band — it was sometimes good. But anyway, towards the end, I was just feeling burnt out. On the surface, the band was making new strides — we had just done a tour with IRON MAIDEN, we played Madison Square Garden for the first time. So the band was still building and growing and developing. But after 25 years, I mean, I just felt we needed a break. I just felt like backstage, there was no camaraderie and everyone was in separate dressing rooms. I was out there, I did a run [as the touring drummer] with AVENGED SEVENFOLD, and I was seeing this brotherhood and this camaraderie that was exciting and inspiring to me, and I wasn’t seeing that with DREAM THEATER, so I just suggested, ‘Hey, guys, let’s take a little break, a little hiatus. It might do the band some good. It might internally respark the fire and rekindle the relationship. The fans could be, maybe, a little hungry after a year or two.’ So I suggested that, and obviously, they didn’t wanna stop, they didn’t wanna take a break, and I desperately needed one — not from working, but from those guys and that endless cycle. . . I always tell my wife, in our relationship, I think one of the reasons me and my wife have had such a great relationship, and we’re now together over 20 years, is that I’m away a lot. I’ll go on tour. And people always say to me, ‘Well, how can a marriage last when you’re away as much as you are?’ And I always say, ‘Well, absence makes the heart grow fonder.’ That time apart from each other has actually strengthened our relationship. And I think the same thing could have been said for DREAM THEATER. I think we were just together so much for so long that I think a little time [off] could have done us well. I mean, everybody from METALLICA to RUSH to MAIDEN, at one point, you take a year or two off. In any case, it is what it is, and I’m not lingering on it, and I’ve accepted what it is and we’ve decided to go our separate ways. I’m very, very happy with where I’m at, and I have no regrets. It is what it is and I’m looking at where I am today and where I am going tomorrow and I’m not worrying about the past. My time and my legacy with DREAM THEATER will always be a part of me, it’s something I’ll always be proud of. But, you know, it’s 2012 and they are where they are and I am where I am, and everybody is moving on.”