Mike Portnoy Talks Adrenaline Mob, Flying Colors and Answers Your Twitter Questions – Interview

It’s not every day you get to talk to one of your musical idols. Like all of us, I was bummed when Mike Portnoy left Dream Theater, but if I had known he was going to release two world-class albums a year later I wouldn’t have been as bummed. Adrenaline Mob is the ideal hard rock band, three to five guys (currently four). With their debut album “Omerta” they didn’t try to reinvent the wheel, they just tried to write kick ass rock songs without worrying who came before them. Then there is Flying Colors, a very different but equally as good band. I can’t wait to start showing people this album. I don’t know how to describe it other than saying that each member (including Steve Morse and Neal Morse) is very relevant in the sound of the band. Recently I got the chance to talk with Mike about Adrenaline Mob and Flying Colors.

Zoiks!: Hey Mike how are you doing?

Mike Portnoy: Good man, how are you?

Z!: I’m good, thanks for taking the time to do this.

MP: No problem

Z!: I haven’t been this excited about a new band as I am for Adrenaline Mob in a long time. How did the project come together?

MP: It was the beginning of last year, 2011 and I had just finished my experience with Avenged Sevenfold. Russell Allen contacted me and asked if I’d be interested in hearing some stuff that he was working on with a guitar player named Mike Orlando. The two of them had been working on this music for a little while already when Russ brought it to my attention. He sent me some demos that they had and in the back of my head, coming from Russ I kind of expected it to be something like Symphony X, very proggy and to be honest I didn’t really want to do something like that, because I had just left Dream Theater and I was looking for some new, fresh directions and avenues in my career. I was pleasantly surprised when I hit play to hear that it was pretty much exactly the sort of thing I was looking for, especially after my experience with Avenged Sevenfold. I was out with those guys on Uproar with Disturbed, Stone Sour, Hell Yeah and all these bands. I really wanted to do something like that. When I pressed play on these demos, the first thing I heard was the song “Undaunted” and within thirty seconds I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is awesome, I’m totally into this.’ I called Russ immediately and said count me in; I’m on board, let’s go. It was exactly what I was looking for; I just wanted something that was going to be fun. You didn’t have to put on your thinking cap or get out a calculator to enjoy it. It’s something you can just feel, the grove, the bounce, the riffs and the melodies and just something that was really song oriented.

Z!: You kind of answered my next question already, but were you involved with the writing process at all or was the album pretty much written when you came on board?

MP: Russ and Mike pretty much had the skeletons and demos for ninety percent of the music. Once I got into the studio to do the drum tracks there was a little bit of shaping and molding here and there, nothing that I would consider getting writing credit for, it was more just part of the arranging process and discussion with those guys. It was pretty much all there when I got involved.

Z!: I’m dying to see you guys live, are there any plans for you guys to hit the road?

MP: Absolutely, we did some brief touring at the end of last summer, a combination of some shows with Godsmack as well as our own club shows. It became obvious immediately that this is a live band and that everybody in this band is really energetic and entertaining on stage. This band is all about the live experience. We are excited as hell to get back out there as soon as “Omerta” comes out. The tour plans are all coming together now. With in the coming weeks or so the tour plans will be unveiled coming soon to a city near you.

Z!: What’s the experience like coming from the bigger theaters and arenas with Dream Theater to starting over at the club level, is it a refreshing feeling or is it more frustrating?

MP: It is fun again, there’s a certain charm to it. On the other hand it was very nice being comfortable and cushy with all those years in Dream Theater. What I left with Dream Theater was 25 years of hard hard work. You don’t get to play big arenas and theaters over night, at least I never did, I had to really work for it. There’s definitely a little frustration with having to start over, but that was inevitable, I knew that was going to be the case when I left Dream Theater. I could have just sailed away into the sunset and been secure forever, but for me I wanted something more, I needed something more. I wanted to work with people and music that was fresh and inspiring to me. With that comes the rebuilding process and I understand that and accept that and we’re all willing to do it. We love this band and this album and this music and if we have to get back into the clubs and win people over one by one then we’re up for the job.

Z!: I also got a copy of the Flying Colors album which I love as well. I first remember hearing about this shortly after you left Dream Theater, but according to the bands website this project had been in the works since 2008, how did that project come together?

MP: Flying Colors started with an idea from the Executive Producer of the album Bill Evans. He had this vision of putting Neal Morse, Steve Morse and myself together. I had been hearing talk about this idea for years. I just kept saying, ‘ok, ok call me when you’re ready.’ Finally it came about and we found ourselves in the studio last January. We finally got all of our schedules aligned and got it off the ground. The idea started with Steve and Neal working together. Then I was brought on board, then Dave LaRue was brought on board with Steve, then I brought Casey (McPherson) on. It took awhile to get going, but once we did get together in the studio it was like magic. It all naturally came together and came out really really wonderful. It is interesting that both of my main projects right now, which are Flying Colors and Adrenaline Mob, both are projects that I was asked to be involved in. A lot of people think that these are my post Dream Theater bands that I put together and this was my big master plan, but in both cases it’s not the case at all, I was asked to be a member of both projects.

Z!: Last night I took to Twitter and asked if anybody had any questions for you, would you mind if I ran through a couple of those?

MP: Sure

Z!: @nala_gates wanted to know if you would ever collaborate with Avenged Sevenfold again if they asked?

MP: Sure, if they asked. I had a great experience with them. I loved their fans, they were always so great and open and welcoming to me. Yeah I look back with fond memories of the experience and if they ever needed my help or service I’d be glad to help them again.

Z!: @marcusjiles asked what is the most difficult drum pattern or part that you’ve come up with that still gives you troubles today?

MP: I would say some of the stuff I did on the “Dance of Eternity” (Dream Theater) track were some of more complex patterns I have ever come up with. It took awhile to execute them and learn them and create them. However I just recorded something two nights ago, I’m currently in the studio with Neal Morse doing his next solo album, and there was a pattern in one of these songs I recorded a couple of days ago that was tremendously difficult, it was very very challenging for me, so I still find those moments that give me a true challenge now and then.

Z!: @Downthe40 wanted to know what you do to warm up and stay in shape before drumming, do you have a ritual?

MP: Usually about thirty minutes before show time I’ll start warming up on a drum pad. I’ll stretch a little bit, have myself an energy drink and take a piss, that’s basically my ritual.

Z!: The last question was from @cmerlo441, Will there be a Flying Colors tour and will it come to New York City?

MP: We are absolutely hoping for and looking forward to a Flying Colors tour. It seems like the biggest obstacle right now is the scheduling, especially with Steve Morse just because he is at the mercy of Deep Purple’s scheduling. It’s something we’re talking about and looking forward to, it’s really just a matter of when we can align our schedules. We hope for it to happen as soon as possible, but if it doesn’t happen immediately it will in deed happen. It’s not a matter of if, but more a matter of when.


Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.

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