Saturday, May 14, 2011

DREAM THEATER Guitarist: MIKE PORTNOY's Request To Rejoin Band Came Too Late

Joe Bosso of recently conducted an interview with DREAM THEATER guitarist John Petrucci and keyboardist Jordan Rudess about the departure of the band's founding drummer Mike Portnoy and addition of Mike Mangini. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. You've all been free to explore outside projects, but how did you initially feel about Mike's [Portnoy] plan to play with AVENGED SEVENFOLD? Did you think it might be too much time away from DREAM THEATER?

Rudess: "Mmmm. There were a lot of feelings in the band about Mike's plan. We had a lot of discussions about that. Various people had differing feelings, too. My first thought was, Wow, that seems like a great opportunity. He'll go out and play with AVENGED SEVENFOLD, and that'll result in a lot of their fans coming back and checking out DREAM THEATER. So, at first, I didn't have a problem with it. [to Petrucci] You had a problem with it, though…"

Petrucci: "Yeah, I did. I remember he told me he was going to play on their album, which was OK by me. I thought, Oh, that's cool. But then he told me he was going to go on tour with them, and I remember telling him, 'I don't think that's such a good idea, Mike.' We had some pretty intense conversations about it. But you know, I can't control what Mike does or what anybody wants to do. Going on the AVENGED tour was his decision, but I made it very clear how I felt about it. Doing projects, that's fine. We all do outside things. But playing in somebody else's band, and to that degree… that's different. I thought it was treading dangerous waters, for sure." He went off with AVENGED, but in December, when it became clear that he wasn't staying in that band, he came to you guys and asked if he could rejoin.

Rudess: "Yeah, that was a very challenging time. It was several months later, and what basically happened was…[pauses] You know, just to give you an idea of how deep this was to lose him, how difficult it was…after we got off the phone with him, when he told us what was going to happen, that he was leaving…I literally sat on the steps of my studio and cried. This is a guy who's a friend of mine, who we all love and admire. We didn't want to see it come crashing down. The whole thing brought me to tears. But we all realized that we had to find a way to keep going. This is our business. We enjoy it, we love it — how do we keep doing this? So we went into motion. Through us putting our heads together, we decided, OK, we've got to find another drummer. And that resulted in us finding these seven amazing drummers to check out. And that, too, was also very emotional: How do you bring a new guy into a situation where you've been with somebody else for
so long? It was a very heavy thing."

Petrucci: "It was sort of like when somebody dies. After you're done crying, the planning kicks in: 'OK, we've gotta do this, we have to arrange the funeral and put everything in order.' Even though we were in shock and were filled with a lot of emotions, we knew we had to carry on." But still, Mike asked to rejoin…

Rudess: "Yes, well, OK, so we put everything together. We got the drummers in, which everybody knows, and we filmed the audition process and put a lot of care into the documentary. So after that whole process, we found somebody who we thought was great — Mike Mangini. 'Oh my God, this guy is fantastic! This can work. We can do it.'"

Petrucci: "And something I should point out — Mike Mangini's life changed dramatically. He was a professor at Berklee, and he had to give notice that he was leaving. He's got a wife and two kids — the whole thing. So he came down and we started making a record. Everybody was supportive at the label. Things were feeling good. We had our feet on the ground again. And then Mike asked if he could get back in..." [He shakes his head] It was too late.

Rudess: "Yeah. You know, Mike Mangini resigned from Berklee. You can't just tell him… We were in motion with him. We were invested in Mike Mangini and our future. Everything was going full steam. So Mike Portnoy came to us and asked to rejoin: 'Hey, guys I've reconsidered, I've made a…a mistake.' It was like, 'Oh my God, you can't do this to us. You can't pull the rug out from under us like this.' It was…[sighs] it was hard. Here we went through this whole drama, and we finally found this new guy who we were happy with. At a certain point, you just throw up your hands and go, 'This can't be happening!'" [laughs]

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