Mike Portnoy: Present and Past Years

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BY VICTOR MIDTGÅRD . 20 FEBRUAR. 2016

Mike Portnoy is still a busy guy, always involved in so many projects and helping out different bands. We got to meet the living legend in Warsaw, just a couple of hours before a gig with his latest band project The Winery Dogs.

This is the first time you touring Eastern Europe with The Winery Dogs?

I think so. We did two European tour after the first album but I cannot recall how far east we went.

According to the site setlist.fm this is your first tour in eastern Europe.

Well, there you go.

What do you think is the different between the audiences in Eastern Europe, compared with the west?

I found that the Eastern are very vocal and passionate. They remind me a lot of maybe South American audience. Maybe I am wrong but I think for so long there were no rock concerts over here and they are so excited and have the passionate for the bands they love. Last night in Czech Republic it was sold out, and the night before that in Budapest it was sold out. Every night has been just amazing.

I saw from Jerry (tour manager) that you are selling out every night. You are taking the trip to Scandinavia this time doing to concert in Sweden, but not Oslo, Norway?

Now, I wish we were coming to Norway and Finland. It is not up to us. If it were up to us, we would play everywhere.

I personally think you would have sold out the venue John Dee in Oslo, where you were playing with Neal Morse Band last year. It was sold out and the concert is considered an epic event within the Norwegian Prog Community.

 Every time I come to Scandinavia, it is great. I played Norway twice last summer. With Neal Morse Band and with Twisted Sisters. I am well aware how great the fans are and I would love to be there with the Winery Dogs as well, so hopefully next time around.

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After this European leg, you are going to take a break and then you are going to tour Asia and South America again?

Yeah, after this European tour we do Japan in April and then we do South America in May. Then in the summertime, we hope to come back and do more stuff in Europe and America. Also I am going to be busy with Twisted Sisters and Metal Allegiance, and we start working on a new Neal Morse album now, so there are plenty of things happening.

3I was supposed to ask you about Metal Allegiance. Are you planning any live tours or concerts or a new album?

Metal Allegiance cannot do any real tour because everybody is so busy in other bands but we try to do events and festivals when we can. As for now, we are playing the Bloodstock Open Air 2016 in the UK in August. And it is opportunities like that that is what Metal Allegiance is about.

 Many fans of yours were somewhat surprised when you left Adrenaline Mob and then got involved with The Winery Dogs. For sure they are two different band, especially with two different kind of singers, Allen from Symphony X is more of a Metal vocalist and Ritchie Kotzen is more pop/rock oriented?

Of course. Everything I do is supposed to be different type of music. That is why I am in so many different band. Every one of them are very different stylistic and for me the variety is the spice of  life it’s what’s keep me inspired and interesting, so the whole point of everything I been doing the last five years is to have variety.

You have also been helping different bands.

In addition to all the bands I have, I also have the great experience to playing with other bands and helping them out and filling in; like Big Elf, Twisted Sisters, Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour. All have been amazing experiences over the last few years.

4I hope everything is going well with Tony MacAlpine, who is a part of your instrumental project Portnoy Sheehan MacAlpine Sherinian

 The Winery Dogs had this benefit concert for Tony and raised a lot of money and he is a dear friend. We all love and care about him, so we all pulling for him.

5What about your first instrumental band, Liquid Tension Experiment?

We have not done anything since 2008 and even that was live shows, so I mean, I do not want to say dead but it has been on hiatus for a long time now.

You had your last concert with Transatlantic on the Kaleidoscope Tour 2014 at La Bataclan, Paris, how was your reaction to the terrible attack last year?

Obviously everyone in the world was affected by what happened in Paris that night. Especially everyone who has been in a band that has played there and fans who has seen a concert there, you know it really hits home, because you have memories of that place. I remember that last night of the Transatlantic tour, taking pictures there in the venue with the band and crew. A year later to see this tragedy in the very same place, so real, so tragic.

6Does it affect you in a way that you think of this while on tour?

Well, especially for me and my fellow bandmates and crewmates because this is what we do for a living, we can’t just stop playing concerts because of a tragedy like this. It is the same as when Dimebag [Darrell Abbott of Pantera and Damageplan fame] was killed in 2004. You know it is scary that these things can happen but we just have to learn from them and try to be more careful in the future. Even last night we played in Czech Republic, and for me I remember what was happening to my friend Randy Blythe from Lamp of God [wiki], ’cause that happened in Czech Republic where we played last night. So you know these things happened, and they are tragic, but lives goes on and you have to continue playing concerts.

With Transatlantic you first made two records in 2000 and 2001, then it was a 8 year break before a new one in 2009 and and then a new in 2014. Hopefully, since Transatlantic is my favorite of all your project these days, it’s not going to be a 8 years break again?

Well, we are on a break right now. It has only been two years and we are just on a hiatus at the moment, but we are planning on making a new record, one of these days, but we don’t have any immediate plans right now.

7You made a contribution on Haken’s last EP Restoration.  

I love Haken and they are one of my favorite new bands, and they already send me a copy of the new album Affinity, who is coming up now and it is very good.

8One of the other bands you have been helping is Big Elf, it has been quiet around them after the Into the Maelstorm tour in 2014?

Yeah, I do not know what they doing. Damon right now is playing keyboard with The Cult, so he is busy with that right now, but I do not now the status of the band. I am not in the band; I was just helping them out. I was helping them out both on the album and for half of their tour in 2014.

You also selected Big Elf on the progressive nation tour 2009?

Yes, I took them on tour with Dream Theater at that time and I have helped them out ever since, because I love their music. I am probably their biggest fan.

Next year you are turning 50, there’s been some rumors about what you are planning?

Yeah, there are no rumors about that anymore, I am definitely turning 50, yeah that’s true. I have a special plan as always. I always have a plan to do special things and special concerts so yeah I have something special up my sleeve for my 50 years birthday as well. Soon everything will be announced.

Is this something that involve the fans, like a show or concert with an audience?

Yeah, absolutely. A celebration that will involve the fans and it will be open for the public.

We all know that you are in to movies. Have you seen the last Star Wars?

Of course, I saw it twice already.

What do you think, compare to the older Star Wars movies?

I loved it. Out of the seven, it is number tree for me.

I am a really sucker for your drumsticks.

I am using a brand new drumstick for this tour. It’s called Promark 420 X and it’s heavier, black. With all the bands I have, I think it’s good to have different stick for the more progressive bands, like Transatlantic & Neal Morse Band, or for the more heavier bands like Metal Allegiance, Winery Dogs, Twisted Sisters I use the new 420 X.

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I remember one thing when I saw you with Twisted Sisters, Dee Snider said that they have asked you to do a drum solo for the concerts, but you have turn it down in respect for AJ?

Yeah, I mean in the situation for Twisted Sisters and it was also the same when I helped out Avenged Sevenfold. In both cases they lost their drummer and I came onboard to help them out back on their feet. And in both cases I had to be very respectful of the drummers who came before me. It was not the case to bring attention to myself.  I was helping out my friends.

Thank you for the interview

Thank you, enjoy the show tonight.

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