Mike Portnoy Talks Flying Colors, Names Top 5 Drummers of All Time

2012-03-26

Story by Anne Erickson

Exclusive: Mike Portnoy chats about Flying Colors’ self-titled debut album, out Tuesday (March 27)

This March has been jam-packed with musical projects and releases for Mike Portnoy. The iconic drummer has not one, but two full-length albums out this month: Flying Colors’ self-titled debut, which drops on Tuesday (March 27), and Adrenaline Mob’s just-released, “Omertà.”

Portnoy takes it all in stride. “I’m used to juggling many, many things,” he told Audio Ink Radio. “Even all those years in Dream Theater, I was always doing a lot of things in addition, too, so I’m kind of used to it.”

Flying Colors’ new album isn’t what you would expect from a collection of prog-rock experts. Songs cover the gamut of genres, from pop to folk to rock to metal. Portnoy was kind enough to chat with Audio Ink Radio about his musical chemistry with the gentlemen of Flying Colors and why he’s a “very untraditional” drummer.

When you first jammed with the guys of Flying Colors — Dave LaRue, Steve Morse, Casey McPherson and Neal Morse — could you tell right away that you had musical chemistry?

Yeah, it was pretty apparent from the very first note. Neil and I have done so many albums together, and Steve and Dave have done so many albums together, so you kind of had two groups with built in preexisting history and chemistry. Casey was really the X factor, but immediately, it was obvious that there was great chemistry and everybody was very compatible and creative and friendly. We’re all good personalities mixing together.

Flying Colors’ self-titled debut is out March 27. Do you think fans will be surprised by anything about the album?

I think fans will be surprised about the pop elements. It’s a very song-oriented album. It’s not an album that’s showcasing crazy, over-the-top musicianship. I think people expect that from this particular group of musicians, but when we came together, the focus was writing songs. Most of us already have outlets for crazy, over-the-top progressive playing. So, I think the focus with Flying Colors was to take us somewhere else, and I think that’s the thing that will most surprise people.

Being a drummer, you’ve locked in with some awesome bass players over the years. Who are some of your favorites?

Well, it’s funny– I don’t always work closest with bass players. I work very closely with guitar players, actually. In all my years of Dream Theater, my bond was with [guitarist] John Petrucci, so I’m very untraditional in that respect. But that said, yes, I have several bass players that are my all-time favorites. Probably my favorite bass player of all time is someone I’ve had the privilege of working with many times, Billy Sheehan. Billy has always been my favorite players. Then there are people like Geddy Lee and Chris Squire and Steve Harris—those guys are favorites of mine, as well.

Do you have a quick Top 5 Drummers of All Time for us?

Yeah, that’s easy! I could give you a list of 100 drummers who have totally inspired me and made me who I am, but I have a definitive Top 5, so that’s easy for me to break down. Ringo Starr was the first one. He was the first big drum hero for me. Keith Moon was my first real drum hero in terms of performance and acrobatics and personality. John Bonham was a huge influence, and I can’t say anything about Bonham that hasn’t already been said by every other drummer in the world. He’s just a huge influence on everybody. Then, the next big one in my life was Neil Peart from Rush. When I was a teenager, I went through a huge Rush phase and learned everything in their catalog, inside and out. And then, Terry Bozzio from his work with Frank Zappa, who is my biggest musical hero of all. (Photo credit: Joey Pippin.)

 




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