Drum Icon Interview: Mike Portnoy
How do you keep on top of such a busy lifestyle?
"By keeping busy! I go insane if I'm not busy. I love my family more than life itself, but I can only sit at home by my pool eating barbecue food so many days before I go cookoo. I need to be creative all the time."
What drives you as a drummer?
"Other drummers and music. I'm still as big a music fan as I was when I was 13 years old. That's the drive. I'll hear other bands I love that inspire me and give me a kick in the ass. The drummers don't have to be technical. That motivates me and inspires me to create different things on the drums. In my guest editor issue of Rhythm a lot of people were surprised that I chose to interview Nick Mason. To me a great drummer isn't always about somebody with chops who can shred. A great drummer is someone who is part of a great band."
If you could teach your younger self one lesson what would it be?
"It would probably be pertaining to the business. The business is tough. Dream Theater spent our first 15 years struggling and battling with that and all of the bulls**t politics that come with it. We spent 15 years struggling but spent the last 10 years in control. It has made a huge difference to us. Not only in terms of our career but in terms of our happiness and internal chemistry. My lesson would be to not sell yourself to anybody else and stay true to yourself. Do what you do and let people come to you because eventually they will."
"My lesson would be to not sell yourself to anybody else and stay true to yourself"
How do you see things panning out for the next 25 years?
"Dream Theater is my baby, that's my real gig so I assume and hope we'll have the longevity we've had. One of the things I've been able to do is branch out to other things, whether it be Avenged Sevenfold, Transatlantic, OSI, Liquid Tension Experiment. I've had the opportunity to play so many things with so many different musicians and bands. That's a really important part of who I am as a drummer and person. I'd hope I continue to get to do that, and have a home base that continues to thrive."
How do you feel to be classed as a drum icon?
"Drumming is an evolution. When I came onto the scene in the late '80s people saw what I did or what Dream Theater did as different. I was just an evolution of what preceded me. I saw myself as a combination of Neil Peart, Keith Moon and Lars Ulrich, combining those types of personalities and qualities. Now in the 20 years since I broke onto the scene you get so many other drummers who can play circles around me. There are drummers out there that blow my mind with their speed and dexterity. I can't even fathom playing like that. It's part of the drumming evolution, the drumming alphabet. Somehow you get from A-Z with a combination of all those influences and styles that develop over the years. If you look at what Ringo did 45 years ago to what Thomas Lang is doing now, it's an evolution. You couldn't have a Thomas Lang if you didn't have all those drummers that preceded him."
The 25th anniversary issue of Rhythm is on sale now.