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Mike Portnoy on Major Reason He Left Dream Theater + Why He Respects Lars Ulrich

Mike Portnoy (The Winery Dogs / Adrenaline Mob / Dream Theater)
Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Drummer Mike Portnoy is a man of many bands and he likes it that way. In fact, that’s one of the reasons he’s no longer with Dream Theater. In a new interview with Classic Rock magazine, the drummer talks about why he felt he needed to leave the band.

Portnoy explains, “One of the reasons I needed to leave Dream Theater was because I didn’t want to end my career as just the drummer in one band. I didn’t want to play with the same four musicians for the rest of my life. I needed to spread my wings, and I knew I had more to offer than just Dream Theater.”

He goes on to add, “I think if you look at my body of work now it speaks for itself, and I’ve done over 50 albums with so many different bands, in so many different styles, from metal to rock and prog, and everything in between. All of the bands that I’ve been in make up the bigger picture of who I am, and I would hope that my musical legacy is about all of those things. I’d just like to be remembered as a huge music lover.”

The drummer goes on to discuss some of the other projects he’s been involved in and shares a little on how he’s learned to deal with others, a lesson he learned from Metallica‘s Lars Ulrich. He reveals, “The best lesson I learned from another musician is something I observed from Lars Ulrich. Lars and I were doing an autograph session together for Tama Drums, as we both had signature snare drums coming out at the same time, and he’s in one of the biggest bands of all time, so I figured he’d be the type that wouldn’t even look up and push the line along as quickly as possible, but he was actually the total opposite. He was so completely gracious with each and every person, and he’d look every single one of them in the eye and spend a few minutes asking them questions. That was a tremendous lesson for me. I’ve done signings with guys that are in 1/100th of the band that Metallica is, and they’ve had attitudes and wouldn’t give fans the time of day. But watching one of the most famous drummers in the world have that kind of attitude, even after all these years, was really inspiring to me.”

The appreciation that Portnoy has received from fans over the years and having the opportunity to follow his musical passions has not been lost on him. “For me, it’s all about being gracious,” says Portnoy. “I have so much gratitude that I get to do this for a living, and that I actually have fans who come to the shows and buy the records and support me online. To this day, it doesn’t matter how many drum awards I’ve won, I’m most grateful to my fan base. I know so many people that struggle and struggle and never get a break, so I never lose sight of that gratitude.”

Read more of Portnoy’s interview with Classic Rock here.

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