• FAQ home
    • » About Mike/Personal Stuff - Music & Being a Musician

About Mike/Personal Stuff - Music & Being a Musician

  1. How long did it take Mike to finally achieve a professional drummer's status (playing perfectly through odd times, being on time, coming up with creative parts, and becoming better than his own idols)? faq id: 18
  2. Does Mike hear a lot of stories about how his music has changed people’s lives? faq id: 19
  3. What instrument would Mike be playing if he wasn’t playing drums?
    What are all the instruments Mike can play?
    faq id: 20
  4. Has Mike ever gotten burned out from playing live (not wanting to be on the road or on stage)? faq id: 21
  5. Does Mike collect tapes of other bands covering Dream Theater songs? Does he collect demo tapes (of original material and other covers)? faq id: 22
  6. How does Mike draw inspiration from other bands and their albums? faq id: 23
  7. Considering how he’s grown into the professional musician he has over the years evolving from a lowly Chinese delivery boy, how does Mike feel about being one of the most influential drummers in the world? faq id: 24
  8. How much time did Mike put into singing? Did he take any lessons or classes for it? faq id: 25
  9. Has Mike, or would Mike ever consider starting up his own label? faq id: 26
  10. Is it difficult for Mike to be a professional musician? faq id: 27
  11. What would Mike recommend for someone who is having a hard time starting out in music and balancing it with spending time with the girlfriend/boyfriend? faq id: 28
  12. Has Mike ever had the chance to meet his favorite drummers? faq id: 29
  13. How many times Mike has won “BEST DRUMMER” in the Modern Drummer Readers Polls? faq id: 200
  14. What does it feel like to be the best drummer in the world, according to the Modern Drummer? faq id: 219
  15. As a musician, which album and song (including all side projects) does Mike feel has been his finest so far? faq id: 220
  16. What album would Mike like to be remembered for so far and why? faq id: 221
  17. Which album does Mike feel is his masterpiece so far? faq id: 252
  18. Which song or album does Mike feel best represents him? faq id: 253
  19. How much was Mike’s biggest music related check for? faq id: 254
  20. What bands has Mike been played in before Majesty/Dream Theater? faq id: 255
  21. What’s the story behind Mike being in the band Inner Sanctum? faq id: 256
  22. How does Mike picture his career 20 years from now? faq id: 257
  23. How and when did Mike first "discover" drums? faq id: 258

Questions and Answers

  1. How long did it take Mike to finally achieve a professional drummer's status (playing perfectly through odd times, being on time, coming up with creative parts, and becoming better than his own idols)? faq id: 18
    MP: Well, what I consider “professional” is somebody who actually “makes a living” off of their drumming. I didn't achieve that status until Images and Words took off in 1992. All of the other things you mention are more like drumming abilities. (There are many “professionals” who can't do some of the things you listed!) a) Odd Time signatures is something I became fascinated with very early on...it also was a result of alot of the music I grew up listening to. b) Creative drum parts comes from me wanting to step out and be a big part of the “music” and not just a timekeeper. c) I'm never on time! I'm a very late sleeper... (oh, you meant drumming?) d) I still don't consider myself better than other drummers (much less my idols). It's important to always remember how much other drummers you listen to help develop your style...that's why when it comes to drumming, I always listen and learn.

  2. Does Mike hear a lot of stories about how his music has changed people’s lives? faq id: 19
    MP: I am ever grateful to say that yes I do hear that alot, and of course it means so much to me. I know how music can change people's lives (as so many artists have done to me) and it is a great compliment to know that we have touched so many people. (I'm blushing!)

  3. What instrument would Mike be playing if he wasn’t playing drums?
    What are all the instruments Mike can play?
    faq id: 20

    MP: I think currently my 2nd best instrument is Bass...(obviously you never witnessed the sheer technical brilliance of Nightmare Cinema). [Mike has also stated that he can play guitar and keyboards to a limited extent]

  4. Has Mike ever gotten burned out from playing live (not wanting to be on the road or on stage)? faq id: 21
    MP: See the “Breakdown in Berlin” clinic!

  5. Does Mike collect tapes of other bands covering Dream Theater songs? Does he collect demo tapes (of original material and other covers)? faq id: 22
    MP: Yes I do collect Dream Theater Cover tapes, CD's and videos. These days I get TOO many demos, so I never get to keep those, but I do still find room in my collection for the Dream Theater covers!

  6. How does Mike draw inspiration from other bands and their albums? faq id: 23
    MP: When I get inspired by other bands, it can be by so many different aspects. (Definitely, NOT just the drums). I can listen to the same CD 10 different times and each time listen to a different element: 1. The Production 2. The song arrangements 3. The interplay between the instruments 4. OK - The drums 5. For that matter - the guitar 6. The bass 7. The keys 8. The vocal melodies 9. The lyrics ETC, ETC, ETC The point is I am inspired by many different bands in many different ways.

  7. Considering how he’s grown into the professional musician he has over the years evolving from a lowly Chinese delivery boy, how does Mike feel about being one of the most influential drummers in the world? faq id: 24
    MP: I guess I can be called the most influential Chinese food delivery boy in the world!! The acclaim I have gotten from the drum community has always been very flattering to me and something that I cherish.....but I suppose the key to remaining somewhat humble is that I still always see myself as that Chinese delivery boy from 1983. I myself have trouble grasping the reality of the influence I am said to have had. I still view myself as a fan, even if I am jamming with Terry Bozzio or Bill Bruford - I still admire guys like that the same as I did 15 years ago - It's just that now they know who *I* am as well.

  8. How much time did Mike put into singing? Did he take any lessons or classes for it? faq id: 25
    MP: I took Ear Training at Berklee. I think my ear is better than my voice. In fact, I have relative pitch (sometimes perfect pitch if you catch me on a good day) which is very unusual for a drummer. My voice is my voice and I just do my best.

  9. Has Mike, or would Mike ever consider starting up his own label? faq id: 26
    MP: Well creatively, I think I would be really good at something like this...however, my business skills suck, so I don’t think I would have the patience to deal with that kind of stuff. If anything, I may get a taste of it when I begin to assemble and release various Dream Theater/Mike Portnoy “official bootlegs” through the Dream Theater/Mike Portnoy websites. Once I get a feel for that, I’ll have a better idea of how the business runs. However, releasing your own CD’s like that is something that *everybody* does, it’s a whole other ball game to be funding and releasing other band’s products. I don’t know if I’ll ever have the time, patience, energy and business sense to do something on that level. I’ll probably just stick to my own music.

  10. Is it difficult for Mike to be a professional musician? faq id: 27
    MP: Yes it is a cliche, but it really is a hard life (with many obvious benefits of course). We all have families that we miss very much when away on the road. (I bring mine with me as much as I can). The good side to that is when we are off tour, we get to be home for a year at a time. Sometimes I joke with the 2 Johns about how much easier it was back in the days when all we had to do was write and play music just for our own satisfaction and nothing else. Now our lives depend on it!! And we have to satisfy so many people in the process (including and especially all of you great fans). However, I wouldn't trade it for the world....and it beats delivering chinese food!

  11. What would Mike recommend for someone who is having a hard time starting out in music and balancing it with spending time with the girlfriend/boyfriend? faq id: 28
    MP: It is all up to you and what you want out of your life. My situation and yours are very different: I am now at a stage in my life where I have established myself as a professional musician and am fortunate to do this for a living and I am (thankfully) successful at it. Therefore, I am now in a position where I can afford to put my family first in my decisions while still maintaining my career. However, looking at your situation (and reflecting on mine 15 years ago) it took ALOT of sacrifices on my part to get where I am today. I gave up many girlfriends at the time and sacrificed alot of family activities in order to completely pursue my music 100%. So, to answer your question: it is all up to what you want... If you want to settle down and have a family now, then you'll have to put that first. If you want to pursue your music and career, then the only way to succeed is to devote your priorities to it....that is really the only way you'll “make it.”

  12. Has Mike ever had the chance to meet his favorite drummers? faq id: 29
    MP: Yes I have had the awesome fortune of getting to meet, jam with, get to know and in many cases, become good friends with sooo many drummers in the industry that I admire. The drum community is very close knit and once you get some recognition in it, everybody knows you. In my case, because of all drum festivals and clinics I do, as well as coverage in all the drum magazines and endorsements, there are many great drummers who may not have even heard Dream Theater's music, but they know who *I* am.....and at first, to me that was so strange but now it is a great compliment. I don't normally drop names, but since it *is* the question, here's a spontanious list of all the cool drummers I've hung out with or played with throughout the years: Bill Bruford, Terry Bozzio, Simon Phillips, Rod Morgenstein, Alan White, Ringo Starr, Steve Smith, Gregg Bissonette, Stephen Perkins, Chad Smith, Virgil Donati, Dennis Chambers, Mike Mangini, Jonathan Mover, Lars Ulrich, Dave Lombardo, Charlie Benante, Paul Bostoph, Vinnie Paul, Nick Menza, Jimmy DeGrasso, Nicko McBrain, John Tempesta, Mickey Dee, Mark Zonder, Nick D'Virgilio, Will Calhoun, Deen Castronova, Eric Singer, Carl Palmer, Ian Paice, Carmine Appice, Taylor Hawkins, Sean Kinney, Tim Alexander, Heracio Hernandez, Van Romaine, etc, etc....anyways, you kinda get the point! Someday I'll get some pictures of me and all these guys over to DaveH to add to a section in the photo gallery here at the sight.

  13. How many times Mike has won “BEST DRUMMER” in the Modern Drummer Readers Polls? faq id: 200
    MP: I’ve won 18 of them so far....(but who’s counting?) 1994 - Up & Coming 1995 - Progressive Rock 1995 - Recorded Performance (Awake) 1996 - Progressive Rock 1996 - Recorded Performance (A Change of Seasons) 1997 - Progressive Rock 1998 - Progressive Rock 1998 - Recorded Performance (Falling Into Infinity) 1999 - Progressive Rock 2000 - Progressive Rock 2000 - Recorded Performance (Scenes From A Memory) 2000 - Clinician 2000 - Educational Video (Liquid Drum Theater) 2001 - Progressive Rock 2002 - Progressive Rock 2002 - Clinician 2002 - Educational Video/DVD (Liquid Drum Theater DVD) 2002 - Recorded Performance of the Year (Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence) [Note: Mike also placed 2nd and 5th in 2002 for Recorded Performance of the Year for Live Scenes From New York and Bridge Across Forever]

  14. What does it feel like to be the best drummer in the world, according to the Modern Drummer? faq id: 219
    MP: I appreciate all of the acclaim and attention and compliments, but I truly DO NOT consider myself "one of the best drummers in the world." The MD poll wins are truly an honor and dream come true for me, but the day I "believe" them, will be the day I stop growing as a musician.

  15. As a musician, which album and song (including all side projects) does Mike feel has been his finest so far? faq id: 220
    MP: Hmmmm....I’m very proud of SFaM on all levels... And also the TransAtlantic - BAF CD I think is a great achivement creatively. (Saying your latest CD is always the cheap answer...I honestly need to be about 1 year removed from one of the CD’s before I can have any sort of objective opinion on it...)

  16. What album would Mike like to be remembered for so far and why? faq id: 221
    MP: I love *every* album I’ve done so far in my career. I’m very proud of the quality of work represented so far in my whole catalog. If I had to narrow it down, I guess SFaM. It was very artistically satisfying on many levels for me.

  17. Which album does Mike feel is his masterpiece so far? faq id: 252
    MP: I really think Scenes From a Memory is Dream Theater’s masterpiece to date.

  18. Which song or album does Mike feel best represents him? faq id: 253
    MP: I think Scenes From a Memory is probably the best representation of *me*, as I not only played drums on it, but wrote the music (with the others of course), wrote a good chunk of the lyrics, co-produced it, directed the video, etc, etc. I think it takes more than just the drums to show what I am all about.

  19. How much was Mike’s biggest music related check for? faq id: 254
    MP: Actually all DT’s money goes into a big melting pot which maintains our weekly salaries, so all my big checks and chunks come from outside side-projects or drum clinic/instructional related activities. The last big check I got was around $30,000.00.

  20. What bands has Mike been played in before Majesty/Dream Theater? faq id: 255
    MP: The only bands I’ve played in are Rising Power, Inner Sanctum and my first band which was called Intruder. This was when I was in junior high and high school – we played cover songs – everything from Ozzy Osbourne to Van Halen. Since I was 18, Majesty and Dream Theater have been it, not including all the side projects and special guest appearances.

  21. What’s the story behind Mike being in the band Inner Sanctum? faq id: 256
    MP: During the summer of 1985, some friends of mine in a local band called Inner Sanctum lost their drummer and asked me to temporarily help them out. We did a couple of local shows and then they asked me to record some songs before I left for Berklee (where I ended up meeiting John and John, and formed Dream Theater). Those songs are tracks 1-8 on this CD. To get those brilliant drum sounds, one of the guitar players came over to my garage, set up about 4 microphones and plugged two of us directly into a boom box! At the time, I had no idea that anything would be done with these tapes (much less that it would come back to haunt me later). Although the production is horrible and the playing is pretty simple (when you can make it out), I did get a kick out of hearing this music after so many years. The music was pretty heavy for 1985 and at the time, I thought it was some pretty cool stuff.

  22. How does Mike picture his career 20 years from now? faq id: 257
    MP: Hopefully a little slower and more relaxed than it is now as I have not had a break in about 10 years!

  23. How and when did Mike first "discover" drums? faq id: 258
    MP: From listening to Beatles records when I was a little boy and from watching Beatles movies - I was instantly drawn to Ringo’s personality. Soon after, Keith Moon’s playing and personality had the same effect.