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For Mike Portnoy, 2010 was a tumultuous year. Besides taking on a gruelling touring schedule with different groups, the drumming community was shocked when Mike announced that he was leaving Dream Theater, the band he had co-founded and led since the ’80s. Feeling a need for a break to recharge his creative batteries, Mike left when a compromise could not be reached.
Then, after recording and completing a tour with Avenged Sevenfold (filling in for the band’s deceased drummer The Rev), Avenged thanked him for his services and sought a permanent replacement for their drum seat. Mike came off the road and spent some much-needed time at home with his family while pondering what his next musical move would be.
His notorious work ethic did not slow down or change though, and he spent the better part of 2011 recording and performing with a variety of different projects that were stylistically very different from each other. Flying Colors is a more pop-orientated project, but with members like guitarist Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple) and bassist Dave LaRue (Steve Morse Band, Dixie Dregs), it promises its share of shredding.
Then there’s Adrenaline Mob, Mike’s powerhouse project with singer Russell Allen (Symphony X) and guitarist Mike Orlando (Sonic Stomp) which is a four-on-the-floor, straight-up metal ride.
There was also Mike’s performance at the Guitar Center Drum Off in Los Angeles with Tony MacAlpine (solo artist, Steve Vai, Planet X), Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Mr Big) and Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Planet X). Although touted as a one-off performance, the group played again at the NAMM convention for Sabian’s after-show party. Drum Channel will be releasing a DVD of their collaboration. Mike also slyly teases us that there’s more in store if he can only find the time.
Rhythm caught up with Portnoy earlier this year to chat about this myriad of projects, plus his plans for the future. Here we bring you pictures and details of his current drum setup, plus extracts from that interview, which you can read in full in Rhythm 201. Or you can subscribe to Rhythm Magazine to read interviews with the world’s top drummers each month.