Mike Portnoy has once again defended Lars Ulrich, saying that “you don’t have to be a great drummer to be the most important guy in the band.”
Despite the fact that it’s become fashionable to dump on the METALLICA drummer’s skills, Mike says that he has always had a tremendous amount of respect for Ulrich.
“He’s one of my heroes,” the former DREAM THEATER skinsman told Christina Rowatt of Australia’s “The Void” in a recent interview (see video below). “I’ll defend him to the end. I’ll tell you what: you don’t have to be a great drummer to be the most important guy in the band. And that’s what I learned from him.”
Portnoy continued: “First of all, I do love [Lars‘s] drumming. But as far as I’m concerned, you don’t have to be a great drummer to be somebody that’s important. Some of my heroes are guys like Lars, or Peter Criss [KISS], who takes the heat for a lot of stuff, or Ringo Starr [THE BEATLES], who takes the heat. These guys are my heroes… Those guys are all very important to their bands. Lars, obviously — he’s the leader of [METALLICA], and he showed me those leadership qualities. But Ringo and Peter Criss, those guys were so important to the bands’ chemistry; they were important personalities in those bands.”
Asked what those core leadership qualities are that make for a great drummer, Portnoy said: “To me, it’s not about the drumming. I guess I did make my name out of my drumming, and I have the big drum sets and I’m doing all these crazy, odd time sigantures, so, yeah, I guess drumming was very important to what made me popular. But, to me, my attributes and the importance of my role in DREAM THEATER always went way beyond the drumming. Like what I was saying about Lars, with DREAM THEATER, I was writing the setlists and I was dealing with the fan clubs and the merchandise and directing the videos and producing the albums.”
Portnoy‘s latest comments echo those made in a 2015 interview with Sticks For Stones. He stated at the time: “To me, [Lars‘s] value is not necessarily in drumming, but it has to do with him being a part of a musical revolution that he was a huge, huge part of starting. He’s been a tremendous asset to METALLICA, not only as a writer, but as a businessman and his abilities to market things and his ability to arrange music and his performance on stage — he’s a very animated player on stage. And to me, I would rather watch somebody like Lars Ulrich on stage than one of these technical drummers that can do quadruple paradiddles at 240bpm. To me, that’s boring. Who cares about that?”
He continued: “I’d rather be entertained and go to a show and watch a drummer and have somebody that makes me actually smile. So I don’t judge drummers based on their technical ability; I judge them based on the overall package and what they bring to the music they’re part of. And what Lars brings to the music of METALLICA is absolutely invaluable. So I could care less if his meter might be slightly up and down, or if his fills are slightly sloppy; I don’t care about that. To me, there’s way more to being a good drummer than precision and technique.”
Portnoy has just completed a tour with his SHATTERED FORTRESS project, with which he performed DREAM THEATER‘s “12 Step Suite” in its entirety for the first time ever. The music documents the drummer’s battle with alcoholism, and is an ensemble of five songs recorded by DREAM THEATER from 2002 to 2009, with titles that reflect his struggles: “The Glass Prison”, “This Dying Soul”, “The Root Of All Evil”, “Repentance” and “The Shattered Fortress”.