September , 2011
By Andy Laudano
Adrenaline Mob's Mike Portnoy - Life After Dream Theater
JAM Magazine's Andy Laudano Interviews Mike Portney
One of the top stories in the world of metal has been the ongoing saga of drum God, Mike Portnoy. For 25 years he was the backbone of the biggest progressive metal band in the U.S. and quite possibly the world, Dream Theater. Portnoy was much more than just the band's award winning drummer, Dream Theater was his baby. He was a co-founder, co-producer, main lyricist and oversaw every aspect of the daily activities from doing most of the press to picking out the set list. His Dad even named the band. Not a single decision was made without going through Portnoy first.
That all came to an end nearly a year ago when after asking to take some time off, Portnoy's bandmates decided to instead continue on without him. Now Mike is back with a new band, featuring longtime friend and stellar vocalist Russell Allen (Symphony X), guitarists Mike Orlando (Sonic Stomp) and Rich Ward (Fozzy, Stuck Mojo) and bassist Paul DiLeo called Adrenaline Mob.
The origins of this new band can be traced back a couple of years ago when Allen and Orlando started working together on some songs. Portnoy would be the next to come on board. "After my time with Dream Theater and Avenged Sevenfold came to an end last year, Russ knew I was available and looking for something new," Mike explains. "He called and played me these tunes they'd been working on and 30 seconds into the first song I said I was totally in. From there we added Paul DiLeo and Rich Ward to the band."
It comes as no surprise that Allen and Portnoy would eventually work on something together. "I've known Russ for many years and he's one of my favorite singers," Portnoy reveals. "When Dream Theater co-headlined Gigantour in 2005, Dave Mustaine let me personally pick any band for the tour I wanted and I brought in Symphony X for that. Then I brought them out on Dream Theater's Systematic Chaos European tour as well."
But despite Portnoy and Allen's progressive metal pedigree, Adrenaline Mob does not sound anything at all like Dream Theater with Symphony X's singer. "That's the whole fucking point," Portnoy exclaims. "People need to realize before they even pop in our CD or come to one of our shows that if they're expecting anything in the vein of Dream Theater or Symphony X they're in for a shock because this is a whole other animal. Russ and I have been doing progressive metal forever and we both wanted to do something different. Even when I was doing Transatlantic, O.S.I. or Liquid Tension Experiment, all those projects had prog elements in them. Adrenaline Mob is just straight ahead, balls out, slammin', groovin' metal. If you're into Pantera, Stone Sour and Black Label Society I think you'll dig this as much as I do. Yeah, I'm a prog guy and I've spent 25 years in a prog band but I also love Slayer, Megadeth, Iron Maiden and Metallica."
"Fans that come into this without any preconceived ideas about what it should sound like should enjoy this, especially after they've seen the live show. Anybody that was unsure coming in walks away from the live show completely convinced this is the real deal. When you come see the show live, it's literally a five ring circus. For the first time in my career I'm surrounded by guys that are flying off the handle with energy. If anything I'm probably the most low key and that's a first for me in any band I've ever been in. That's why the name is so fitting. The adrenaline in this band is completely off the charts."
Once they had the band's name figured out, a certain Black Sabbath/Ronnie James Dio cover song was inevitable. "Before I became involved they were going to name the band Undaunted and then they were kicking around the name Adrenaline Fueled Junkies," Mike confesses. "I really liked the word "adrenaline" and thought that was pretty cool. Then I had the idea of adding "mob" to it because this band is really like a gang, a Mafia or a band of brothers. The day we agreed on the name Adrenaline Mob I looked at the guys and said, "You know, we HAVE to cover "The Mob Rules" now" and everyone agreed that it was perfect. Obviously, Russ' voice is so fitting."
Currently Adrenaline Mob is on the road in support of Godsmack and headlining club gigs on their off days. "We were gonna wait until the album came out and tour next year," Portnoy notes. "But then we got the Godsmack offer and in the immortal words of The Godfather, "It was an offer we couldn't refuse." Musically, it's a great double bill. Our music is rooted in riffs and grooves and that's what Godsmack does. When I was in Avenged Sevenfold, we did the (Rockstar Energy) Uproar tour with Stone Sour, Disturbed and Hellyeah. After I left I knew I wanted to do something in that vein and tap into that audience."
A five song EP is available online and at the shows for fans who can't wait a year for Adrenaline Mob's full length debut album. Also on the horizon for Portnoy is a yet unnamed project with guitarist John Sykes (Thin Lizzy, adrenaline-mob, Blue Murder) and another unnamed project with Neal Morse (Transatlantic, Spock's Beard), Steve Morse (Deep Purple, Dixie Dregs), Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs) and Casey McPherson. "That's what I wanted to do after Dream Theater," Portnoy states. "I wanted to spread my musical wings and work with musicians and artists that I admire and respect and play music that branches out beyond what I've done the last 25 years. Basically the three bands or projects that I am currently in or unveiling are all completely different musical worlds from each other and show the different sides of my musical tastes."
For Portnoy there is life after Dream Theater, but is there any hope at all for a reconciliation somewhere down the line? "I never say never," Mike answers. "They've moved on and I've moved on. (New Dream Theater drummer) Mike Mangini's an amazing drummer. But if the opportunity presented itself a few years down the road and I was available I would definitely consider it. That band was my heart and soul for 25 years. There's too much history there to ignore."