SONS OF APOLLO drummer Mike Portnoy (also of THE WINERY DOGS, ex-DREAM THEATER) was recently interviewed by the “Neckbreaker” podcast. The full chat can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET):
On whether SONS OF APOLLO‘s debut album, “Psychotic Symphony”, was a challenging record to make:
Mike: “There wasn’t many challenges, to be honest. Everything went pretty smooth sailing. It was everything I had hoped for. Probably the biggest challenge is just scheduling — aligning all of our individual schedules, because all five of us are very busy people with multiple bands. That’s kind of the biggest challenge. Really, the music itself was really smooth — once we got in the studio, it just flowed like a delicious French wine. [Laughs] We all wanted to do this. Once we made the record, we’re all very committed to prioritizing it all throughout 2018. Everybody in this band is really committed to it.
“We entered the studio March 1, and by March 10, the record was completely written and the basic tracks were done. It was fast. We banged it out in ten days. Not that we did a rush-job or anything, but it was all that was needed. Really, there was such a great chemistry and flow — mainly myself, Derek [Sherinian, keyboards] and Bumblefoot [Ron Thal, guitar], just bouncing ideas off of each other and taking some existing riffs or ideas that each of those guys had and putting them on the floor, and playing with them and expanding on them. Billy [Sheehan, bass] joined us toward the end of that process, and it was really quick and easy. Once that process was done — I don’t want to make it sound like the whole record was done in ten days. It was just the writing, because then there were many, many months of overdubs and working on the vocals and the lyrics with Jeff Scott Soto [vocals], so it was an ongoing process. But it flowed. There were some existing ideas, [but] for the most part, we just collaborated on it all.”
On choosing the set list for his SHATTERED FORTRESS shows, in which he revisited the DREAM THEATER catalog:
Mike: “First and foremost, I narrowed it down to songs I wrote the lyrics for. There’s about twenty or thirty songs in the catalog that were my lyrics and my vocal melodies, so I began the narrowing-down process with that. Then from there, I kind of just looked at the catalog, and it felt like most of the stuff from ‘Scenes From A Memory’ would be fitting. I wanted a big opener, and I knew ‘Overture’ and ‘Strange Deja Vu’ would be a great opener, and I knew the last portion of ‘Scenes’ would be a great encore. We did ‘Home’ and ‘Dance Of Eternity’ and ‘Finally Free’, which I thought was very, very fitting personally to end with, between ‘One Last Time’ and ‘Finally Free’ — those were both very fitting messages for me to have some closure with this. That right there was a big chunk of the set between the ‘Scenes From A Memory’ suite and the ’12-Step Suite’, and I knew I wanted to have ‘The Mirror’ in there as well as kind of a prelude to the ’12-Step Suite’. That kind of wrote itself. The only other thing I was thinking of possibly doing was ‘A Change Of Seasons’, and once I heard that DREAM THEATER is currently playing that, I decided I didn’t want to have to — you know — be doing what they’re doing at the same time.”
On whether he ever has a desire to play “random basement” gigs:
Mike: “No. I hate that stuff. [Laughs] There’s been a couple situations through the last few years where I was playing tiny little clubs — I did one with METAL ALLEGIANCE, and I did a bunch with ADRENALINE MOB — and honestly, I was miserable. [Laughs].”
On what tips he’d give up-and-coming musicians:
Mike: “It’s a grind. It’s a lot of traveling and a lot of wear and tear, and the two hours on stage are amazing, but you’ve got to remember there’s another twenty-two hours in the day, sitting around waiting, or you’re traveling, going through airports or sitting on the bus. There’s a lot of downtime. You’ve got to choose your time wisely. A lot of people will go out and sight-see and take on the day and see what’s out there. Personally, I’m not like that — or at least, not anymore, now that I’ve been doing this as long as I have. I look at it like it’s a good time to catch up on movies and TV shows. I spend my time usually binging TV shows. You’ve got to stay healthy; you’ve got to watch what you eat; you’ve got to try to take care of yourself. It’s not all glamour. Those two hours on stage are amazing, but there’s a lot more to it than that.”
“Psychotic Symphony” was released October 20 by InsideOut Music. It sold around 5,200 copies in the United States in its first week of release, earning the band the top position on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart, which focuses on top-selling albums by new or developing acts, defined as those who have never appeared on the top 100 of the Billboard 200.
In contrast, “Hot Streak”, the second album by THE WINERY DOGS, debuted at No. 30 on the Billboard 200 in 2015 after shifting 13,000 copies during its week of release. The group’s self-titled debut album, meanwhile, debuted at No. 27 in 2013 after selling more than 10,000 copies in its opening week.