Prior to SONS OF APOLLO‘s recent performance in Denver, Colorado, drummer Mike Portnoy spoke with Front Roe Joe of That Just Happened. The full conversation can be viewed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On turning 51 during SONS OF APOLLO‘s current tour:
Mike: “We did nothing special. My 50th birthday was such a big hoopla. I did this big birthday concert — a three-hour show with four different of my bands on the Cruise To The Edge cruise. It was such a big deal that I figured 51 through 59, I’m just staying low key. I’ll make a big deal if I make it to 60. That will be another celebration.”
On whether he’s in so many bands because of “musical ADD,” “creative itches,” “the love of playing with other talented musicians” or an inability to say no:
Mike: “All of the above. Absolutely, every one of those are part of my workaholic nature. I’m currently in six bands — some active, some inactive at the moment. TWISTED SISTER last year would have made seven, and the SHATTERED FORTRESS tour I did last year would have made eight. But I’m a workaholic; I love music; I love working with so many other musicians; I love working within so many different genres and styles; I can’t say no — TWISTED SISTER calls, I’ve got to do it. I think after 25 years of being in one band, I needed to sow my musical oats. I get a lot of criticism on message boards online – I see people mocking it and making fun of it, but if I can do it and if I can juggle it and if it’s no problem for me, why the hell should anybody else care? The more, the merrier. Some of us are just wired that way — we want to just keep creating, and we love music.”
On why guitarist Tony MacAlpine – who played with Portnoy and his SONS OF APOLLO bandmates Billy Sheehan and Derek Sherinian in a short-lived group called PSMS — was not invited to join SONS OF APOLLO:
Mike: “As much as we loved Tony, Tony was great for the instrumental fusion thing, we needed a rock star — a hard rock/metal rock star playing guitar in this band. I knew it was Bumblefoot. I had done some different things with him through the years; he had done some touring with METAL ALLEGIANCE, and he and Billy had done some stuff together, so I knew he was not only a rock star, but he is an unbelievable musician. People don’t realize it — they just think he played in GUNS N’ ROSES, and they don’t realize he’s a mad scientist. Of everybody in this band, he’s probably the most musically accomplished and able. He can play anything. Anything any of us throw at him, he can tackle.”
On his other SONS OF APOLLO bandmates:
Mike: “Derek plays keyboards like a guitar player. He plays with real balls. He’s not one of those traditional keyboard players that does all the tinkly-tinkly stuff and softens up the sound. He’s the loudest one on stage each and every night. He likes to call himself the Yngwie [Malmsteen] of keyboards, and he’s got this wall of amps that takes off your head. I love that he brings that to the band. Then we have a bass player that plays bass like a guitar player as well. [Laughs] Billy Sheehan is the Jimi Hendrix of bass as far as I’m concerned — he completely innovated the instrument when he came around on the scene, and he’s always been one of my favorite bass players. Nobody plays like him. If you wanted to have this band of virtuosos, who can you get on bass other than Billy Sheehan? There’s nobody that plays that way, especially not anymore. Very few people play with that intensity, so we needed him in this band. Jeff Scott Soto bring the smooth accessibility and melodic edge to it all. We didn’t want a singer that was traditional, operatic, screaming. Jeff brings a real listenability to the songs. His heroes are people like Freddie Mercury, Lou Gramm, Steve Walsh or Steve Perry, so he brings that kind of AOR background to what is a sometime progressive, sometimes metal band. You put us all in a melting pot… it started with a progressive metal tag, but I think it’s really become more of a hard rock band with chops. I think we’re more VAN HALEN than RUSH.”
On how SONS OF APOLLO compares to DREAM THEATER:
Mike: “I think this band has that real VAN HALEN swagger to it, so I don’t know if you can compare us to DREAM THEATER. I think this band is a very different animal. That being said, anybody that’s a fan of mine from the DREAM THEATER days, I think this is the band, of everything I’ve done post-DREAM THEATER, that the DREAM THEATER fans will be floored by. If you come to one of the shows, and you’re a fan of what I used to do in DREAM THEATER, your jaw is going to be on the floor. I think this is probably the closest I’ll get to wetting the whistle of those fans. I did it last year when I did the SHATTERED FORTRESS shows, and I think that kind of scratched the itch for myself and the fans, and maybe helped set up SONS OF APOLLO.”
SONS OF APOLLO‘s debut album, “Psychotic Symphony”, was released in October 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.