May The Rock Be With You conducted an interview with former DREAM THEATER and current SONS OF APOLLO drummer Mike Portnoy during the Australian leg of his SHATTERED FORTRESS tour where he was performing DREAM THEATER‘s “12 Step Suite” in its entirety. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On revisiting the DREAM THEATER catalog:
Mike: “It’s been great. I didn’t know what to expect at first. I was kind of, like, I don’t way to say ‘dreading’ this tour, but I was anticipating, ‘How’s it going to feel? What’s it going to feel like?’ From the first show, it’s been amazing. There’s been great emotion in the air and you can feel the vibes from the fans and everybody is happy to be hearing this again and see me play this music again. I see smiles, I see tears, so, actually, I’m really glad I did it in the end.”
On whether the conclusion of the SHATTERED FORTRESS tour means he’s “finally free” from the DREAM THEATER catalog:
Mike: “In a sense. The show ends with a couple of phrases and they’re in the last song [‘Finally Free’]. ‘Finally free.’ ‘The last time.’ ‘We’ll meet again my friends, someday soon.’ All these phrases that come up in the final moment of the show. It’s rather significant, actually. Yeah, there’s a certain closure to this tour. I mean, I’ll probably revisit some of the material with SONS OF APOLLO, the stuff Derek [Sherinian, keyboards] and I did together [while in DREAM THEATER], so I mean, of course, I still have free rein to do whatever I want. If I want to revisit a song here and there, yeah, but this is safe to say this is the last time I’ll do a full tour and a full show of DREAM THEATER material.”
On getting SONS OF APOLLO off the ground:
Mike: “It’s great. It’s one thing when you make a record and it’s many, many months before people can hear it, but in this case, we made a record and it was many months before people even knew about the band. We had to keep the whole band itself under wraps for a while. Once we announced the band, it was really exciting. Then there was a couple of months of waiting and anticipating the album. Now that the album is out, the reactions have been great. Now, we’re eagerly awaiting the tours, so that’s still to come, starting in February. We look forward to it.”
On the process of finding the right singer for SONS OF APOLLO, which ended up being Jeff Scott Soto (ex-JOURNEY, YNGWIE MALMSTEEN’S RISING FORCE):
Mike: “The process was simple: It was just a matter of me imagining it. [Laughs] I knew that he was the guy. On paper, this was the lineup that I wanted. In all honesty, I had to kind of sell Derek and Bumblefoot [Ron Thal, guitar] and the label [InsideOut Music] on Jeff because they only knew his stuff from his AOR [Album Oriented Rock] background. But I knew Jeff was the man and as soon as we demoed up some of the material and I played it for some of the guys and the label, once the ball started rolling, everybody was convinced.”
On whether his time away from playing progressive metal made him love it more in SONS OF APOLLO:
Mike: “I’ve always loved it. I did that for 25 years with DREAM THEATER, I think I purposely needed to disconnect from it for the most part in order to do all of these other things that I really wanted to do. If I wanted to just do progressive metal right out of the gates right after leaving DREAM THEATER, then why leave DREAM THEATER? I needed to do these other things. But yeah, getting back to it and also these SHATTERED FORTRESS shows really has reignited the flame and I think SONS OF APOLLO will definitely deliver to the fans that miss me doing that kind of stuff.”
On whether he ever stops:
Mike: “I don’t. I’m feeling the grind. I’m definitely ready for a break. I’m ready to retire. So I’m grooming my son to take over for me eventually. [Laughs]”
On the advice that rings true to him as a professional musician:
Mike: “It’s about being true to yourself. To me, I’ve always followed my heart. I make decisions based on what feels right artistically. I don’t make decisions based on money. I don’t make decisions based on what’s going to be the best career move to set me up. Obviously, I’m in 87 bands, so I think it’s obvious that I make decisions based on just wanting to feel artistically inspired. That’s it. I just follow my heart.”
DREAM THEATER‘s “12 Step Suite” 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”.
In addition to Portnoy, SHATTERED FORTRESS featured Ross Jennings on vocals, Eric Gillette, Richard Henshall and Charlie Griffiths on guitar, Connor Green on bass and Diego Tejeida on keyboards.
SONS OF APOLLO‘s debut album, “Psychotic Symphony”, was released on October 20 via InsideOut Music.