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Michael Stephen Portnoy (born April 20, 1967) is an American drummer primarily known as the former drummer and backing vocalist for the progressive metal band Dream Theater. He has worked with other prominent acts such as Transatlantic, Liquid Tension Experiment and OSI. Known for his drumming prowess and technical skills, Portnoy has won 23 awards from the Modern Drummer magazine. He has also, along with John Petrucci, co-produced all Dream Theater albums starting with Scenes From A Memory to Black Clouds & Silver Linings. From A Change of Seasons onwards, Portnoy has been writing a substantial amount of Dream Theater's lyrics, filling the void left by Kevin Moore, who left the band after the release of Awake. He is the second youngest person (after Neil Peart) to be inducted into the Modern Drummer's Hall of Fame at 37 years of age.
Portnoy

Early life Edit

Mike Portnoy was born and raised in Long Beach, New York, on Long Island. His father, Howard Portnoy worked as a DJ at a local radio station, which gave the young Portnoy exposure to a wide variety of rock music, having an early impression on him. Portnoy is said to have had a loving relationship with both of his parents, though they divorced, and his mother's second husband proved to have a very poor relationship with Mike, being cold and neglectful, possibly even abusive, leading Portnoy to eventually pen the song Honor Thy Father about him. Portnoy also eventually wrote songs about his natural parents, with A Change of Seasons being about his mother and The Best of Times being about his father.

Portnoy taught himself drums, being influenced by such greats as Neil Peart, Terry Bozzio and Ringo Starr. Though he was largely self-taught Portnoy did take music-theory classes in High School. His drumming led to him being a part of several bands in High School, including Intruder, Rising Power and Inner Sanctum, which he left to pursue a scholarship to Berklee

Berklee and role in Dream Theater Edit

While practicing drums at Berklee, Portnoy was approached by two other Long Island natives, John Petrucci and John Myung, the three striking up an immediate friendship based largely on their mutual home and similar musical influences. The trio formed a band along with other Long Island friends Kevin Moore and Chris Collins, and it was Portnoy who named them "Majesty" while on line for Rush tickets at Berklee, Portnoy remarked at the end of "Bastille Day" that "their music is so majestic" leading to the band's first name. It was Portnoy's father Howard who came up with the band's second name, "Dream Theater" after an old-fashioned movie theater in California.

Portnoy assumed creative control of the band from an early start, although Petrucci was also considered to be somewhat of a leader in the band, and John Myung, while rarely very vocal in band matters, has a voice that carried a lot of weight with Portnoy. Portnoy was also considered to be the band's spokesperson, doing the majority of press interviews and announcements. Even at live shows, though James LaBrie acted as the frontman, Portnoy would take the microphone to make important announcements, such as when he announced that the band would be playing When Dream and Day Unite in its entirety in 2004.

Portnoy was a driving force behind Dream Theater since it's inception, his name often being synonymous with Dream Theater. Portnoy did consider quitting at one point in 1998 after poor experiences with Atlantic Records during the creation of Falling Into Infinity . However, he was convinced to stay by his band mates.

On September 8th, 2010, Mike announced on Twitter, Facebook and the Mike Portnoy forums that he was leaving Dream Theater.

Relationship with musicians and fans Edit

Portnoy is considered to be, for the most part, a very approachable, friendly person who gets along easily with most people. He has a good relationship with his band mates, with minimal conflicts. Portnoy had some resentment towards Petrucci and LaBrie during the making of Falling Into Infinity, though this was only temporary. Portnoy has rare feuds, a notable one being with Geoff Tate after he insulted Dream Theater on the Eddie Trunk show. Occasionally a misunderstanding can lead to the appearance of a feud, such as between Portnoy and Neil Peart, but these things are usually cleared up fairly quickly. Portnoy has formed friendships with many other musicians, including Neal Morse, Chris Jericho and Rob Bellamy, and non musicians such as Eddie Trunk and Mike Piazza.

Portnoy's relationship with fans can best be described as exceptional, as fans have found him to be approachable and amiable towards them, signing autographs upon request and chatting with fans. Portnoy organized the "meet and greet" program at Dream Theater shows to further connect with fans, with the money from it going directly into show production. Portnoy's website has a popular forum which he posts on frequently, often conversing directly to fans or answering their questions. However, Portnoy can become frustrated with a certain aspect of the fandom, and feels that a small percentage will never be happy no matter what he does for them, leading to a few tirades and the song Never Enough.

Personal Life Edit

Portnoy currently lives in Pennsylvania with his wife Marlene Portnoy and children Max and Melody. In his spare time, Portnoy is a great fan of music of almost all genres, as well as film, television and sports. Portnoy suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, which can make it hard to keep his professional and personal lives separate, though it is said that his family is very understanding and will often accompany him on tour to spend more time with him. Portnoy's OCD manifests itself in compulsive list-making, as he has hundreds of lists, some of which he will occasionally post on his website. Portnoy's religion is Judaism, though he does not practice it actively.

Alcoholism Edit

Portnoy is a recovering alcoholic, having gone through the 12-step program sometime after the tour in support of Scenes From a Memory. Always a drinker, Portnoy's drinking turned into a problem in 1998 due to frustration with the band's situation. His drinking continued to increase and was said to be at its peak in 2000, often manifesting itself in strange behavior and tirades at shows, something Portnoy is personally embarrassed about. One infamous incident referred to as "The Breakdown In Berlin" featured a very incoherent Portnoy at a drum-clinic, who wore underwear on his head, stumbled and fell on stage and ranted nonsensically.

Following his induction into Alcoholics Anonymous, Portnoy's outlook has shifted and he has turned his drive and obsessiveness into positive ventures. Portnoy penned the song The Glass Prison about his battles with alcohol, dedicating it to "Bill W and all his friends" meaning the founder of AA and all of its members. Portnoy soon after announced that the song was the first three parts of a 12 part saga that would detail the 12-step program, which continued with This Dying Soul, The Root of All Evil, Repentance, and The Shattered Fortress. As a part of the 9th step, which asks participants to apologize to people they have wronged in the past, Portnoy gave an open invitation to various friends to record apologies for the song Repentance, which included Mikael Akerfeldt, Daniel Gildenlow, Neal Morse, Steven Wilson and Corey Taylor among others.

Portnoy has reportedly remained "on the wagon" not touching alcohol since becoming clean. As a part of the AA program, he also gave up the recreational drugs he was known to partake in, including marijuana and cocaine.


Other skillsEdit

Although Portnoy is primarily known as an accomplished drummer, he is also an accomplished songwriter, being one of the primary writers in Dream Theater and many of the projects he involves himself with. In the case of Dream Theater, he is known to be the final authority on song writing decisions, even breaking a written "contract" between himself and Petrucci regarding a song writing decision. He is also an accomplished lyricist, writing lyrics for acclaimed Dream Theater songs such as A Change of Seasons, The AA Saga and Honor Thy Father. While playing as Nightmare Cinema, Portnoy plays the bass, which he described as his "second instrument", and has shown to be competent with it. Portnoy is also known to occasionally play keyboards, which he did for Dream Theater's early cover of YYZ which was recorded before Kevin Moore joined the band. Portnoy also has produced all Dream Theater albums since Scenes From a Memory through Black Clouds & Silver Linings.

Influences, awards, and other accomplishmentsEdit

Portnoy names his biggest influences as Rush drummer Neil Peart and composer/guitarist Frank Zappa, whom he dedicated the album Awake to in 1993 following Zappa's death. Other favorites include drummers Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, Peter Criss, Simon Phillips, John Bonham, Vinnie Paul, Carl Palmer, Keith Moon, Ringo Starr, Phil Collins, Bill Bruford, and bands such as Rush, The Beatles, Marillion, Queen, Yes, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Genesis, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, Tool, Meshuggah, Pantera, Muse, Metallica, Megadeth, Jellyfish, Iron Maiden, KISS, Phish, Deep Purple, Radiohead, Umphrey's McGee, U2 and Jane's Addiction.

Portnoy has won 23 awards from Modern Drummer magazine, including "Best Up & Coming Talent" (one time), "Best Clinician" (two times), "Best Educational Video/DVD" (two times), "Best recorded performance" (6 times) and "Best Progressive Rock Drummer" (for 12 consecutive years), and is also the second youngest person (at 37 years of age) to be inducted into the Rock Drummer Hall of Fame since Neil Peart was inducted in 1983 (at 31 years of age).

He has also been the catalyst for founding several other progressive rock groups and projects: Transatlantic, Liquid Tension Experiment, and OSI (with former Dream Theater keyboardist Kevin Moore), and touring as well with Mexican drummer "Chucho" Dávila giving free clinic sessions to local Music Stores in Texas in 2005.

He has released three instructional videos, Progressive Drum Concepts, Liquid Drum Theater, which has won awards from Modern Drummer Magazine, and his latest In Constant Motion. He has also released many "Official Bootlegs" on his website, including footage of the studio sessions for the Dream Theater albums. He has also released bootlegs of his tribute bands Hammer of the Gods (a Led Zeppelin tribute), Yellow Matter Custard (The Beatles), Cygnus and the Sea Monsters (Rush), and Amazing Journey (The Who).

He also played with New Jersey thrash metal band Overkill for one show in 2004.

On September 18, 2006 within his website's Forum Portnoy stated that he had finally met Rush drummer Neil Peart (one of the few heroes from his youth Portnoy had never met, owing to Peart's legendary privacy), that "Neil and I have finally met and we spent some time together this week and had a great time...", and that a possible collaboration was underway/had been discussed with the teasing statement of "Patience everybody... all will soon be revealed!" It has now been revealed that this meeting was for an interview Portnoy did for his stint as guest editor of Rhythm Magazine. Portnoy had previously written the liner notes for the Japanese pressing of Rush's 2002 release Vapor Trails, but also publicly denounced Peart in 2000 after Peart called the people involved in the Rush tribute "bar bands". It was later determined that it was a misunderstanding, as Peart was actually referring to a specific Rush tribute record (that Mike Portnoy had no involvement in).

StyleEdit

Mike is known for his use of odd time signatures, such as playing something in 9/8 time on the cymbals and something in 4/4 time on the snare. An example of this is in the song Voices in the Dream Theater album Awake. Portnoy is also known to have an affinity for more simplistic drumming, however, and half of his drumkit is modeled after that of John Bonham.

EquipmentEdit

  • When Dream and Day Unite/Images & Words Kit - This Tama Imperialstar (the previous model of the Imperialstar, unlike the 2007 Imperialstar, which is an entry level kit) kit was bought originally by Portnoy himself through working three jobs. It was used until the end of the Images and Words tour when Mike Portnoy got signed by Sabian and Mapex, although pieces of it showed up as part of Portnoy's "small kit" used for "Anna Lee" & "Speak To Me" during the "Unplugged" portion of the 2nd American Leg of the "Touring Into Infinity" tour in the Spring of 1998, as well as his kit used at the Rotterdam Fan Club "Unplugged" Show on 22/6/1998 as seen on the "5 Years In A LIVEtime" VHS, DVD & 1998 Fan Club CD. Also, this was the kit he used when he was with the band Intruder, although upgraded noticeably since then. It should be noted that Images and Words was recorded with an electronically triggered snare and kick drums at producer David Prater's insistence.
  • Awake/A Change Of Seasons kit - This Mapex USA Maple kit was used on the world tour supporting the album Awake. It had two bass drums, one snare, six toms, two small timbales, a section of various percussion instruments, and four Octoban-sized drums in a 2x2 formation. This marked Portnoy's first use of Octobans on a record, which were custom-made by Mapex using maple as opposed to Tama's more traditional acrylic, giving them a slightly different, more "natural" tone. It was also the first kit to show Portnoy's usage of both "Stacked Cymbals" - typically small Chinas on top of Large Splashes or Small Crashes to give an explosive, quick-decaying *bursts* of cymbal sounds to be played much more like drums and as a part of a drum fill as opposed to the typical cymbal crash at the ending of one - as well as right-sided hi-hats (aka "X-hats") of which Portnoy had not 1 but 2 sets: one tightly closed typically used for double-bass playing, and another set lower set more loosely closed for alternate right-handed hi-hat usage. This black-colored kit can mainly be seen on Portnoy's 1995 "Progressive Drum Concepts" VHS/DVD.
  • The Purple/Green/Red Monsters - These were Tama Starclassic kits which marked Portnoy's signing with Tama in 1996 (Dream Theater's "Fix For '96" East Coast Holiday shows and April 1997 European "An Evening Of New Music With Dream Theater" were played with Tama drums) after his endorsement deal with Mapex fell through (they took the kit he was using off the market, meaning that he was endorsing a product the public could not buy.) Used for the recording of Falling Into Infinity" and "Scenes from a Memory and the North & South American, European and Asian tours for said albums, they are so named because of their striking color/white/color fade finishes. The reason for three identical drum kits were for two copies held in storage in different parts of the world to avoid the shipping costs one extremely large kit around the world; the "Green Monster" in use for European tours and a "Red Monster" for Asian-market touring. It is similar to the "Awake" kit but features many more cymbals (including the first usage of his Signature "Max Stax" stacked cymbals & "Max Splash" odd-sized splash cymbals, named after his son Max), the left-side octobans in a four-inline configuration (as opposed to his last kit which held them in a 2x2 pattern) and two more "low"-tuned octobans on the right side of the kit held overhead of the floor toms. This kit also featured a snare drum with a foot-operated snare strainer mechanism which allowed for different snare drum sounds without having to use his hands to adjust it (which for production purposes and ease-of-use became a 3-way snare strainer tight-loose-off throw-off control and gained the name "Melody Master", this second Signature drum gear after his daughter Melody). On the Purple Monster Portnoy used DW 5000 Pedals, instead of the Iron Cobra Pedals. He also uses this kit in his 1999 Instructional DVD set "Liquid Drum Theater".
  • Liquid Tension Experiment kit - A comparatively modest kit used in his supergroup project Liquid Tension Experiment. The bass drum and toms of this kit (not the snare, timbales, and cymbals) were the first Portnoy ever purchased used according to an interview where he gave a tour of his basement and this kit showed up. This kit was also unique in that it used a pair of small timbales where the two smallest toms would normally be. It was otherwise a normal "seven piece" rock kit with three toms (five if you count the timbales), and a single bass drum with a double kick pedal. It marks the first time Portnoy uses a floor tom on the left of his hi-hats) of his kit for a studio recording (during footage from their Fan Club Show in 1998 featured on 5 Years in a LIVEtime, Portnoy's "Unplugged" kit contained a left-hand floor tom used heavily during that performance) with a 14" floor tom on the left and an 18" floor tom on the right. It is also the first time Portnoy used his (then prototype) Max Stax cymbal line in the studio. Portnoy notes in his Liquid Drum Theater instructional video that the reason behind the smaller kit is that when Liquid Tension Experiment went into the studio to record the first album, The Purple Monster kit was still being shipped back from some shows they had played immediately prior in Brazil.
  • Transatlantic kit - The kit used to record and tour behind the first Transatlantic album was the same as the Liquid Tension Experiment kit, but with five regular toms. When recording and touring behind the second Transatlantic album, Portnoy added his new Melody Master snare drums for the first time and some different cymbals including a set of custom made 15" hi-hats. The smaller Melody Master displaced the 14" floor tom, which was moved back to the right of the kit for the Transatlantic recordings. For the filming of Portnoy's 2007 "In Constant Motion" instructional DVD set, the Transatlantic kit was repoduced in Tama drums' new line of acrylic shells named Starclassic Mirage in the "Black Ice" finish. However, the original recording was done with more traditional Starclassic wood drums.
  • The Siamese Monster - This kit was an amalgamation of two individual kits. The left side of the kit is laid out similarly to the Liquid Tension Experiment kit, with a floor tom on his left side, a modified tymp-tom on his right side, and three rack toms. The right side is laid out as a normal five piece kit but with the two rack toms reversed, a gong bass drum in place of a floor tom (with modified floor tom legs), and the ride cymbal in front of the hi hats, which allows him to share some of the cymbals and toms between the two kits. It has two stools, and while is not capable of being played in its entirety by one person, Portnoy often invites other drummers to sit in on the unplayed half during shows. It is a predominantly black kit with Majesty symbols around each individual drum. Much like the Colored Monsters, there were three identical versions of this kit for use when touring different continents, the North American kit being the "featured" kit with purple markings as was the case with the Colored Monsters. It was built by Tama]] for the recording of the Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence album and tour.
  • The OSI kit - Portnoy used the small (right) side of his Red Siamese Monster kit for the recording of the first Office of Strategic Influence album. For the second he downsized even more to a four-piece consisting of his signature snare, one timbale as a tom as previously used on his Liquid Tension Experiment kit, one floor tom, and a single 18" kick drum with a double pedal. However, he still insisted on using a large amount of cymbals including crashes, splashes, Max Stax and Max Splashes.
  • Yellow Matter Custard kit - A specially designed set for use in Mike's Beatles tribute band, Yellow Matter Custard. It is modeled on Ringo Starr's kit, and is quite simple compared with his Dream Theater kits. Its in the sizes: 12"x8", 14"x14" & 20"x14".

The cymbals are an 14" AA HiHat, an AA Crash on the left and a HH Crash/Ride on the right.

  • Hammer Of The Gods kit - A John Bonham-replica kit that was used in Mike's Led Zeppelin tribute band. Custom-made acrylic shells were used (transparent amber), and the kit is always played while wearing the obligatory bowler hat.
  • The Albino Monster - The previous kit used by Portnoy is similar to the Siamese Monster. Aesthetically, it is white with silver sparkle Majesty logos instead of the black/colored logos of the Siamese Monster. In layout it is almost exactly the same, the only differences being the right side of the kit mimics his earlier Hammer of the Gods kit; two of the timbales were removed, the 10" tymp-tom was changed to a 14", and the gong bass drum was replaced with a floor tom. He kept some of the cymbals from the right side of the Siamese Monster, including the 13" HHX Groove Hats, and the 19" Hand Hammered Fierce Crash, so there's more distance between the two sides in the Albino Monster, than there were in the Siamese Monster. So far it has been used for the Gigantour (a tour that Dream Theater participated in alongside Megadeth, Symphony X and several other bands) and throughout the Octavarium 2005-06 World Tour. The modification to the right side stemmed from sessions for Dream Theater's Octavarium album, where what began as an experiment became the inspiration behind most of Octavarium. When recording of Octavarium began, Mike brought along the Hammer of the Gods kit, resulting in the kit being used for part of the album: he ended up using it on five of the album's eight tracks. The kit utilizes larger "Rock" sizes, with a 14" rack tom, a 16" floor tom, an 18" floor tom, and a meaty 6.5" x 14" snare drum, much reminding of the drum sizes used by John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Additionally, Portnoy only used a few crash cymbals, and used a splash and china sparingly. When touring began, Tama had the shells changed to traditional Starclassic Maple shells, because they didn't want Mike touring with a kit featuring shells that Tama didn't mass-produce for public acquisition. The touring kit includes two new limited-edition Mike Portnoy signature snare drums with the same matching finish used on the rest of the kit. On Tama's official website, Portnoy released details about changes to the kit for his upcoming tours, beginning with G3 in March. He says the left side will stay the same, but the right side will change. The sizes will change to more conventional sizes-22" kick etc. and will have three rack toms as opposed to the 'Bonham'-size, one rack tom kit of before. Also, the shells would be Starclassic Mirage acrylic shells instead of the Starclassic Maple he has always used. He also used this kit in his DVD In Constant Motion.
  • The Mirage Monster- Revealed at Gods Of Metal 2007, Mike's newest kit is made up of two kits once again, except built out of Tama's new Tama Starclassic Mirage acrylic drums in clear "Crystal Ice" finish. The left side is virtually identical to his previous kit, except made with clear acrylic shells. The new configuration of the right side of his kit has replaced the "Bonzo Kit" of "The Albino Monster." His new right side of the kit includes: a 22" kick and 3 rack toms (8", 10", and 12") "so it's going to be a little more of a conventional, small kit." (Click on "Interview" link button) The snares used are his Signature Melody Master snares. He uses 2 12x5" steel snares (one on the right side of the kit as a main snare and one on the left as a side snare) and uses one 14x5.5" maple shell snare. These snares are the same snares used in the last 2 kits (Albino Monster and Siamese Monster) and they are in the original black color. This kit has been scaled down to a relatively small double-bass kit for several shows taking place in smaller venues.

Several of Portnoy's drum kits also make use of Roland electronic drum pads. Mike uses these as what he calls the "secret cowbell", to count off the songs in a way that only his fellow band members and the technicians can hear it. An example of this can be seen on the Score DVD, where it can be seen in the background that Mike counts off the song "Under A Glass Moon" on the pad. Mike explains the use of these pads in the commentary track of the "Drum Cam Only" version of the Live At Budokan' DVD, as well as the "Mike's Stage Tour" featurette on the Chaos in Motion DVD.

Tama has marketed two different sized Mike Portnoy signature snare drums, known as "Melody Masters" (named after Melody, his daughter), since the late 1990s. The smaller of the two has a 12x5" steel shell and the larger has a 14x5.5" maple shell. Both snare models have a unique three-way snare strainer mechanism.[1]. Portnoy and Tama have custom-made versions in various colors to match the color schemes of the kit he was using at the time (i.e. The "Purple/Red/Green Monsters", "Siamese Monster" "Albino Monster", etc.). For 2006, in recognition of his 'Albino Monster' kit, he released only 250 of these snares worldwide in a white, gloss finish. The older colour (black) is not limited edition.

Sabian has marketed three different sized signature cymbal stacks, known as "Max Stax" (named after his son, Max). They consist of a hand-hammered china kang-style cymbal on top of a splash (or crash) cymbal that due to their quickly-decaying tones can be played much more like a drum than a tradition cymbal and in traditional drum fills than most long-decaying cymbal tones. Their sizes are 8/8", 10/10" and 12/14". Sabian has also marketed odd-sized 7, 9, and 11" "Max Splash" cymbals which also have a high pitch and fast decay and can be used in fills and drum patterns that have the same namesake.[2]

Mike Portnoy has endorsed Promark sticks since the early 1990s. His signature stick is the TX420N[3]. It is made of hickory 5A sized stick, with a white nylon 747 sized taper and has purple print to match the Purple Monster's motif. The "420" in the model number, which is also printed on the sticks, is a reference to his birthday (and not a marijuana reference, as has been suggested). He is known for gripping his left stick on the reverse side to attain a different sound on the snare drum. It should also be noted that he has a rather rare grip on his right stick, with it being held solely between the thumb and the index finger.

DiscographyEdit

With Dream Theater Edit

Studio Albums Edit

Extended Plays Edit

Live Albums Edit

Compilations Edit

Fan Club CDs Edit

Offical Bootlegs Edit

Demo Series Edit
Live Series Edit
Studio Series Edit
Covers Series Edit

With Liquid Tension Experiment Edit

With Transatlantic Edit

With Neal Morse Edit

With OSI Edit

With Flying Colors Edit

With Adrenaline Mob Edit

Others Edit

Videography Edit

Tribute Shows (CD and DVD) Edit

Instructional DVD Releases Edit

Drum Cam DVDs Edit

  • "Asian Clinic Tour" (MP4 Productions 2001, 1 DVD) (out of print)
  • "Ten Degrees of Turbulent Drumming" (MP4 Productions 2002, 1 DVD)
  • "Drums Across Forever" (MP4 Productions 2002, 1 DVD)
  • "Drums of Thought" (MP4 Productions 2004, 1 DVD)
  • "Live at Budokan" (MP4 Production 2005, 1 DVD)
  • "Mike Portnoy - Drumavarium" (MP4 Productions 2005, 1 DVD)
  • "sysDRUMatic chaos" (MP4 Productions 2007, 1 DVD)
  • "SCORE" (MP4 Productions 2008, 1 DVD)er
  • "Black Clouds & Silver Drumming" (MP4 Productions 2009, 1 DVD)
  • "Whirlwind Drumming" (MP4 Productions 2010, 1 DVD)

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