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Mike Portnoy Preps for Progressive Nation at Sea

Adrenaline Mob Mike Portnoy
Liz Ramanand, Loudwire

World-class drummer Mike Portnoy has never been busier. Following a quarter century in Dream Theater, he has played in Avenged Sevenfold, formed the bands Adrenaline Mob and Flying Colors, and is currently rocking out with his new group the Winery Dogs and getting set to release a new album with his band Transatlantic, among other musical efforts.

In February 2014, he’ll launch one of his most ambitious projects ever, Progressive Nation at Sea, a Caribbean cruise that the virtuoso drummer describes as “a prog fan’s wet dream.” The Norwegian Pearl will set sail from Miami on Feb. 18 and travel to Great Stirrup Cay and Grand Bahama Island before returning to Miami on Feb. 22. Full details can be found at the event’s official website.

Loudwire had a chance to talk with Portnoy about this unique adventure that includes more than two dozens progressive music legends, modern acts and up-and-comers. Check out our chat with Mike Portnoy below:

Mike, first of all, have you ever been on a cruise before?

I’ve actually been on one cruise in my life. It was my honeymoon 20 years ago. An awesome experience but not a music cruise. I’ve never done one of those, so I’m going right into the deep end (laughs). I’m putting this whole cruise together while also playing in three of the bands!

For those not that familiar with Progressive Nation, how do you describe the concept?

In the mid-2000s I had the idea to put together a prog music package. I looked around and saw Mayhem, Uproar, Lollapalooza and some others and I noticed that the prog scene was totally left out. So I had the itch to fill that void and wave the flag for this genre. So in 2008-09 I think we had three tours. It would be my band, Dream Theater, headlining and then we brought out everyone from Opeth to Zappa Plays Zappa to Big Elf and a bunch of others. It was a great experience. I tried to pick bands that covered the wide range of what progressive music is all about. And so now I’m taking that concept and putting it on the water.

Can you describe the logistics of the cruise?

Well, rather than a six-week tour with four bands on the road, this is a five-day cruise with 23 bands. And I could not be prouder of the lineup that we have put together. This really is my dream lineup of bands. The way it all came together was Derek Sherinian came to me with the business proposition of doing a cruise. He and I of course have played together for a long time in several bands and so we understand each other. I told him I had the Progressive Nation trademark that I wanted to fire the idea up again, and so it seemed like a real opportunity to do something special. So he handles the business side and I handle the creative side.

Talk about some of the music acts you’re bringing on board.

What I’ve tried to do is break it down to three basic categories. First, there are the prog legends and leading that pack is Jon Anderson from Yes. He of course is a huge legend and he will be doing a set of Yes classics backed by my band, Transatlantic. That’s actually the big finale that will close the cruise and I’m thrilled about it both as a fan and as a player. We’ll also have Adrian Belew on board representing King Crimson, another prog legend that I’m really excited about. Then we’ll have the new wave of prog bands including the Flower Kings, Riverside and a bunch of others. These are bands that kind of came along in the ’90s and 2000s the wake of Dream Theater and so they represent a really exciting part of the music. And then a third category will include modern, contemporary product bands like Periphery, Animals as Leaders and Haken. Haken is actually one of my favorite new bands so we’re thrilled that they’re coming along. And then of course there’s my son Max’s band, Next to None, and obviously I’m very proud that they’ll be playing, too.

Mike, what’s it like as a father to have your son joining the profession?

I’m just so proud. One of my career highlights had nothing to do with me. It was when he opened up for me earlier this year. It’s an amazing thing to watch. Sure, I’ve given these kids some opportunities to open up for us but they’ve had to deliver. They’ve also done things on their own like winning the battle of the bands slot on this year’s Warped tour. So they’re working very hard to make things happen for themselves.

And who will you be playing with on board?

I’ll be playing playing with Transatlantic, and that will be coming right off the new release of our album ‘Kaleidoscope,’ in January. Then I’ll be playing with Portnoy, Sheehan, MacAlpine and Sherinian, which of course is all about the shredding and technical side of prog. And then finally I’ll be drumming with Big Elf which I am totally excited about. I play drums on their new album that comes on February and so this’ll be a sneak peek for everybody.

And to book passage, just visit the website?

Right. ProgressiveNationAtSea.com. All the info you need, some videos explaining everything – and we’ve still got some very cool cabins left. The bottom line is, I think everyone on board is going to have an inspiring experience, myself included. These are 23 bands that I want to share with the fans and also be a fan myself while I’m on board. You’ll experience the full history and evolution of progressive music and it’s going to be unforgettable. I’m calling it “the prog event of the millennium” and it truly is a prog fan’s wet dream.

Watch a Video of Mike Portnoy Inviting Fans Out to Progressive Nation at Sea

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