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20 Questions With Mike Portnoy, 6/20/00



Dream Theater Drummer Mike Portnoy!

Dream Theater Drummer Mike Portnoy

This is a pretty good 20 Questions because Mike seems like a pretty honest guy.  He didn’t mince words at all and talked some shit, so we are always down with that.  Some of you Queensryche fans might not enjoy this interview, but that’s your problem.  For the rest of you, enjoy!

1.  What are you currently up to now?  This is your only chance to plug your shit.

I’m in the middle of the Dream Theater Metropolis 2000 World Tour (it began Nov 1999 and will go til Nov 2000) Also doing some live dates with my TransAtlantic project in June…. check out www.mikeportnoy.com and www.dreamtheater.net.  Alright, plugging done…..hit me!!

2.  Are you embarrassed about releasing a blatant attempt at radio success with Falling Into Infinity?

Yes, slightly…You’re right, it was a blatent attempt at radio success…I can’t deny that…..But I can’t say it was the direction *I* wanted the band to go in. We kinda had our hands tied by the label and were in a very vulnerable situation…All of our key people at Elektra had been let go, so we were dealing with all new people who could give a shit about Dream Theater and would not give us a green light until we played their game and delivered some songs that they could understand… They also would not drop us from the label when we asked them to, so we had no choice but to play their game and hope they were right…. They turned out to be wrong and finally came to their senses this time around and let *us* make our record (Scenes From A Memory)… There were a few good songs on Infinity (Just Let Me Breathe, New Millenium, Lines In The Sand), but if we didn’t have the label and Kevin Shirley and Desmond Child involved, I would have made a COMPLETELY different record….

3.  What hard rock/heavy metal band should give it up and call it a day?

Metallica and Queensryche…Both bands made some of my favorite records of the 80’s and some of the biggest piles of shit in the 90’s..

4.  Did you really think you could make it with first singer Charlie Dominici?

No. We knew we would be destined for obscurity…That’s why we booted him and got a Canadian Favio look-alike instead!


5.  Which do you prefer:

Jagermeister or Jack Daniels = oh man, do I love them both! Unfortunately, I can no longer drink either one because I’m a recovering alcoholic…but I would kill for either right now!

Mike Tyson or Holyfield = Tyson was always my man, but he’s been way TOO much of a fuck up the past few years…Holyfield’s the best Heavyweight since Ali. He took ‘em all on: Tyson twice, Lewis twice, Bowe three times, Moorer twice, Foreman, Holmes, Douglas….Holyfield’s a true champ.

Chris Jericho or The Rock = Cmon…Y2J’s THE MAN! Jericho is the fucking coolest athlete of all time….(and he loves DT!)

Kevin Morgan or Derek Sherinian = Who’s Kevin Morgan? Do you mean our first keyboard player Kevin Moore? If so, my answer is: Jordan Rudess.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or Attention Deficit Disorder = I am the walking definition of OCD

Lap Dances or Table Dances = Lap

Britney Spears or Debbie Gibson = Britney baby…hand’s down.. I’ve had my way with my daughter’s Britney Spears doll!

Eminem or Insane Clown Posse = They both suck…Mr.Bungle over both of them any day

Pamela Anderson or Carmen Electra = Need to see a Carmen/Rodman video to be able to judge

Fred Norris or Jackie The Jokeman = Fred…He sometimes plays our song The Mirror in and out of commercials

6.  Your side project TransAtlantic has been called a "Supergroup", but it consists of a dude from Spock’s Beard, The Flower Kings, and Marillion, and nobody in any of those bands have any sort of fame to make them "super."  You need known names to have a band be called a "Supergroup." Who’s idea was this?

hahaha!! I guess you’re right! In the progressive rock world, this is definately a "supergroup"….to Metal Sludge readers this is a bunch of complete unknowns! I guess a Metal Sludge "supergroup" would be Jani Lane, Dana Strum, Nikki Sixx and Rikki Rocket!!! (BTW – If you assemble this band, I now expect a commission!)

7.  Will you ever play "Space Dye Vest" live, or is it really considered Kevin Moore’s song rather than a Dream Theater song?

We definately would never play this live without Kevin in the band…It was totally 100% his song and had we known he was about to quit the band, we wouldn’t have even put it on our album…

8.  We know you are married, but have you ever had any stalker type chick really go out of her way to hook up with you?

Well, before I was married and DT was getting alot of radio and MTV play we had a bunch of girls like that….but now that we’re all married and get no MTV play anymore, our audience is made up of 95% foxy dudes and 5% foxy dude’s girlfriends!

9.  There is a red button in front of you.  If you push it, $250 million will be deposited, tax free, into your personal account…oh, and India will plunge into the sea, killing millions of innocent people and cows.  Remember, nobody will find out it was you.  $250 million could buy a lot of drums.  Would you do it?

That’s way easy…No question about it….I’d even push the button for $25 million! (And BTW – I don’t have to pay for my drums)

10.  Rate the following drummers on a scale of 1 to 10.  1 being somebody with no rhythm and 10 being the man. Peter Criss = Criss 1976 was a 10 and a god to me, Criss 1996 gets an 8 for effort, and Criss 2000 is a 3 and should’ve quit while he was ahead

Joey Kramer = 5 – OK drummer, but I never cared much about Aerosmith

Vinnie Paul = 9 – Vinnie fucking rocks! Great feet, great power and cool grooves…Gotta lose the bandana though.. Rikki Rockett = 2 – Gimme a break! Nice guy though…met him in ’93

Tommy Lee = 8 – Rock solid (no pun intended!) Loved the first 2 Motley albums at the time (’82ish) and he got me started with double bass back then..

Neil Peart = Once again, like Peter Criss – A big whopping 10 back in the day…nobody could’ve been a bigger influence on me back then….but now he should give it a rest and try to play something new (forget that jazz crap) Lars Ulrich = An 8 pre-Bob Rock, and a 3 post-Bob Rock and Live

Eric Singer = Was never a no-makeup Kiss fan, but I liked the first Badlands album. Plus Eric’s a nice guy to me….so I’ll say 7

Charlie Benante = 9 – Charlie was a big influence for me back in the mid-80’s…I loved the 1st SOD album and the first 3 Anthrax albums…I also respect his writing and think he’s a cool guy…We have alot of the same interests (same music, films, TV shows, etc…)

Nicko McBrain = An 8 just for the Piece of Mind and Powerslave albums alone…Nicko’s also a great guy who’s alot of fun to hang out with….

11.  Since you were extremely involved in the project, how do feel in regards to Neil Peart’s comment that all the bands on the Rush tribute album were "bar bands"?

Yeah that was fucked up…Especially because Dream Theater, Skid Row, Mr. Big and alot of the other musicians and bands involved on that tribute sell ALOT more records outside of North America than Rush does…Once you go to Europe or South America or Japan or wherever, Rush is not popular at all…and I figured by putting this tribute together, we’d introduce a whole new generation of kids to who one of our big influences was…. I guess Neil’s people-skills are really lacking…I feel sorry for him with all the personal shit he’s been through recently, but I lost all respect for him as a person after all the work I put into that CD…. We were just paying tribute and trying to say thanks, but he apparently took it as us trying to make money off Rush’s name which certainly wasn’t the case…

12.  Was Sebastian Bach a pain in the ass to work with on the Rush tribute album?

haha! Actually, I really like Baz and think he’s a fucking pisser… But the fact of the matter is: most of these stupid tribute albums are all done through the mail..meaning none of these line-ups ever even play together! His vocal tracks were done months after my drum tracks… On this particular CD though, me and Billy Sheehan DID actually do our tracks together which was very cool because Billy’s fucking awesome and I really enjoyed working with him for those couple of days…

13.  What rock star deserves a smack in the mouth and why?

Axl Rose for sure…From all the stories you hear, he sounds like the biggest dick to ever walk the planet.. 

Eddie Van Halen would have to be a close 2nd for fucking up the Roth reunion in 96…I don’t care what Dave said or did…you don’t tease your fans that way! Just swallow you ego, shut the fuck up and do it…they had the hype all built in and ready to go…even if they do it now, it won’t be the same as it would’ve been had they done it then…

14.  Are you disappointed with the recent sales of "Scenes From A Memory"?

Not at all….I would say around half a million sold worldwide is pretty fucking amazing for a progressive metal band with 10 minute songs and a concept album…And actually, I don’t care as much about the sales as I do about the fan’s reaction…and this time out we put out a record that has gone over unanimously well with all our fans..that’s all I give a shit about. (The 4 Modern Drummer Reader’s Poll awards this year was a nice bonus as well!!)

15.  Give us your thoughts and opinions of these other progressive metal groups.

Queensryche = I have a bone to pick with these guys….We had a summer tour in the works being booked with them which I think would have been cool for the fans and they backed out in the 11th hour which fucked us over….I think maybe they realized that having to play after us would make their fans realize how much they suck now!

Rush = Well, all above comments aside – Their music from 2112 to Moving Pictures was fucking brilliant…Top class muso wanking..and a big blueprint for the initial Dream Theater sound.

Fates Warning = Very good friends of mine….I met them originally in the mid-80’s when I was just a fan…The "Awaken The Guardian" CD is one of my favorites of that decade…They’ve opened for us on several tours and those are some great memories for me.

Cacophony = Never listened to much….Deen Castonova did some sick drumming on there if I remember correctly…

Savatage = I appreciate them continuing to carry the "progressive epic metal" torch, but to be honest – I was never a fan of their music….Their ex-guitarist Al Pitrelli (now in Megadeth) is a good friend though…

Kansas = The old classic 70’s albums were great…One of the earlier prog influences for DT.

Testament = Your joking right? These guys are not prog! Well, regardless – I’ve always been a Testament fan….from the early "Legacy" days right up to the latest CD with Dave Lombardo which is fucking great..

Shadow Gallery = Nice guys, I liked the last album…but I can’t hold any of the Magna Carta bands in high regard until they get on the road and become legitimate touring acts…that’s what seperates the men from the boys..

Dixie Dregs = Big, big influences on DT..The ultimate instrumental band…It was an honor to have them be our opening act on the last DT US tour..Great guys as well as great musicians..

Warrant = very funny!

16.  Of all the bands Dream Theater has played with, who were the biggest dicks?  Any major jealously from other bands?

The first incident that comes to mind is from back in 1992, when we were just starting to tour and Pull Me Under was just starting to break…We were scheduled to play a show in San Francisco with Saigon Kick who also were getting some radio play at the time… Inevitably, there was the ego battle (mainly between our tour managers) about who was the headliner and who was the opener, who went on first, who soundchecked, etc. etc. Well after much bitching and moaning it was decided that we would "co-headline"…both bands would cut down their sets to an equal 75 minutes each, both bands would get soundchecks, and we agreed to go on first… We played our shortened set to a packed house and as soon as we finished, the entire audience left – leaving (I shit you negative) about 40 people in the audience!! Saigon Kick was so embarrassed they packed up their shit and split without even playing a single note!

Old School Dream Theater – Notice Mike has a Queensryche shirt on!

17.  Have you ever said to yourself, "Why do we try so hard to come up with innovative music when we could just play shit like Poison does and get paid more money?"


18.  How much was your biggest music related check for, and what did you do with it?

Actually all DT’s money goes into a big melting pot which maintains our weekly salaries, so all my big checks and chunks come from outside side-projects or drum clinic/instructional related activities.. The last big check I got was around $30,000.00. I built a deck onto my backyard, put some of it away for my kids and went out and bought a shitload of DVD’s and cocaine!

19.  Can you substantiate the rumor that Derek Sherinian was fired because he enjoyed the company of groupies, while the rest of the band did not? Don’t lie about it either, give us the truth!

Derek had it made in Dream Theater because he had the pick of whatever little groupie litter there was for us…He had no competition from the rest of us, because we were all happily married…He was free to do whatever the hell he wanted with his personal life…The fact of the matter is that that stuff had nothing to do with us deciding to replace him… I have alot of great memories of our times together and I personally found him to be a very funny guy and quite a character… unfortunately, most of our fans were not crazy about his character and as much as we tried to make it work, he never quite fit in and was never truly accepted by most of our fans. Ultimately, it was decided that Jordan was more of what Dream Theater needed (boring muso) in order to continue with our career or else we were short changing the band’s potential…. Was that enough of a diplomatic (but honest) answer?

20.  Time for Metal Sludge’s Word Association.  We mention a name and you give us your thoughts.

Sebastian Bach = The most hyper guy I’ve ever met…fun guy to hang with

Nikki Sixx = Never met him…Derek Sherinian look alike (vise versa actually)…his 1st wife was stunning

Tommy Lee = I have alot of respect for Tommy. I’d love to meet him sometime. (email me dude! portnoy420@aol.com

Lars Ulrich = Aside from all the latest Metallica shit which I hate, I really respect Lars for all the shit he did for Metallica back in the 80’s. A bit of a role-model for me in terms of being a band "leader"

Limp Bizkit = Next fad please…

Kevin Morgan = Who the fuck is this guy? and why is he haunting me in this interview?

Derek Sherinian = Nair….Wo-woah

Kid Rock = Here today, gone later today…

Warrant = There yesterday, wish they were gone today…

Bret Michaels = Actually thought he was a very cool guy when I met him in "93, so I had a strange change of opinion of him after that….(Tommy’s video with Pam is much better though)

Howard Stern = THE MAN…..Way up there on my "all-time hero" list…..I have hundreds of videos of all his E! shows, CBS shows, WWOR shows, etc….One of the highlights of my life was when he spent 5 minutes tearing Dream Theater to pieces track by track back in ’94…I had that on my answering machine for months!!

So we fucked up Kevin Moore’s name a few times, big deal.  Moore, Morgan, it doesn’t matter what his name is!  We were just seeing if Mike was paying attention.

S for more info on Mike and his projects, you can check out www.mikeportnoy.com.  You can also go to www.dreamtheater.net for more Dream Theater news.  Both websites have a shit load of info, so if you care, that’s the place to go.

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