We recently sat down with Mike for a few minutes to get his thoughts on music, inspiration, performance, and more – check it out!
Mike Portnoy is the acclaimed drummer of Dream Theater as well as various side-projects such as Liquid Tension Experiment, TransAtlantic and O.S.I.
Mike’s long list of Awards include 21 Modern Drummer Magazine Reader’s Poll Awards including: 2004 Hall of Fame Inductee, Best Progressive Rock Drummer (10 years in a row!!), Best Clinician (twice), Best Educational Video/DVD for Liquid Drum Theater, and Best Recorded Performance of the Year (5 times) for Dream Theater’s Awake, A Change of Seasons, Falling Into Infinity, Scenes From A Memory, and Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence.With Hudson Music, Mike has release three top-selling titles – Liquid Drum Theater (DVD), Anthology Volume One (Book), and most recently, In Constant Motion (DVD).
Your Name: Mike Portnoy
Hometown: Long Beach, Long Island – New York
Current Residence: Homes in Lehigh Valley, PA and Phoenix, AZ
Current Project you are working on (artist/tour/recording/video etc): Finishing up year-long tour with Dream Theater, will do 5 LTE Reunion shows in June, spend summer off with family laying out at my pool, BBQ-ing and working on new DT DVD….
Currently in my CD player (or iPod, etc): Opeth – Watershed, Weezer – Red Album, Beardfish – Sleeping In Traffic Part 2, King’s X – XV, Protest The Hero – Fortress
Favorite way to relax: I’m still searching for that elusive secret!
When and why did you start playing? Got my first drum set for my 11th birthday (April 20th 1978)….Why? There was no way to not to….Keith Moon made me do it!
Do you come from a musical family? Was this an influence in your early playing or instrument choice? Nobody else really plays an instrument, but my father surrounded me with rock music (The Beatles, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, The Stones, etc.) from the day I was born…
Who was your first teacher? What other teachers were influential to you? I really mainly learned from my record collection….so: 1st group of teachers: Ringo Starr, Keith Moon, John Bonham, Peter Criss, Mitch Mitchell – 2nd group: Neil Peart, Bill Bruford, Simon Phillips – And then came my ultimate musical guru: Frank Zappa (and with him, Terry Bozzio and Vinnie Colauita)
Describe your first drum kit: Blue sparkle “Royce” 4 piece (can be seen in an Easter Egg on my In Constant Motion DVD)
Do you remember your first gig? Can you describe it? The same show as the aforementioned Easter Egg…..it was with my band “Intruder” and was my sister’s 6th Grade graduation party.
What was your fondest musical memory? Playing to a sold-out Radio City Music Hall with an orchestra (April 1st 2006, as seen in Dream Theater’s Score DVD)
What was your LEAST fond musical memory? Recording Dream Theater’s Images And Words album with Producer/ Dic(K)tator David Prater
What was your ODDEST musical experience? Dislocating my wrist live on stage in Munich Germany 1997
Were you influenced by old or classic recordings? Which ones? Do you still refer to them today? See above question about my teachers…and yes I still learn from them today!
Which musicians do you admire? Why? Once again, my biggest drum heroes are listed above. But I have many non-drummer musicians that are also HUGE heroes of mine….In addition to Frank Zappa (listed above), some of the biggest ones in my book are Roger Waters, Pete Townshend, Jimmy Page, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison.
Who are your favorite musicians of today? Groups? Recordings? Some modern bands and artists that I have a tremendous amount of respect for are: Muse, Opeth, Lamb Of God, Radiohead, The Flaming Lips, The Mars Volta, Mastodon, Porcupine Tree, Mike Patton and Neal Morse.
What inspires you today? Music, art, film, etc? Besides all of the bands and musicians already listed, I am VERRRRRRY inspired by good filmaking. Some of my biggest heroes in that area are Stanley Kubrick (my #1 film God!), David Lynch, PT Anderson, Woody Allen, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese….and I am also a fan of good TV like Lost, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, Twin Peaks, etc.
Do you get still get nervous before a performance? If so – how do you cope with those feelings? If not – what have you done to control them? Not nerves…more like EXCITEMENT!
What advice would you give to beginners who are nervous? Close your eyes and let the music be your guide…
Do you still practice? If so, how often and for how long – and what material do you work on? Not enough time in my life anymore. Being I spend so much time playing on tour and in the studio half my life, it’d be very selfish to FINALLY come to my wife and children and then go lock myself in the basement practicing…. Maybe once my kids go to college…..
Do you play instruments other than drums? If so – what, and do you feel its helped you develop as a drummer or musician? I love playing Bass….that’s the only instrument I am any good on. Although I’m getting pretty good at Guitar Hero these days!
If you could give one piece of advice to an up and coming drummer, what would it be? Play with other musicians as much as you can and make music together.
You can have all the chops in the world and play amazing drum solos, but it’s all meaningless unless you can make some music with it…