Mike Portnoy on New Album From The Neal Morse Band

The Neal Morse Band has just released what has been coined by drummer Mike Portnoy as “The best album” of his career! Check out what he had to say about Similitude of a Dream, the concept album that hit stores this past Friday!

Hi Mike! How’s it going today?

Just fine thanks!

Q: Mike you have been quite busy lately with The Neal Morse Band being one of your projects. Can you tell me a little bit about your involvement with the band?

A: Neal and I have been working together for almost twenty years now. We’ve done eighteen studio albums and we’re in three different bands together. He and I have a very long musical history.

Q: What’s it been like for you and Neal to work together and to bounce ideas back and forth?

A: I think there’s a lot of mutual respect for each other. I was a fan of his even before we started working together when he was in Spock’s Beard and I was in Dream Theatre. I initially called him when I put together Transatlantic back in 1999 just because I wanted to work with him. Since then, it’s been a long journey together. We’ve made a lot of music and we’ve done a lot together.

Q: It sounds like you two have a positive chemistry when you’re collaborating.

A: Yes.

Q: Recently you’ve done some touring with your other bands in addition to working on The Similitude of a Dream. What are some challenges you face when trying to work on a studio album while also being on the road?

A: I haven’t been on the road with Neal this past year. I’ve been on the road with The Winery Dogs and Twisted Sister. The biggest thing for me is that I’m currently in six different bands. It’s about juggling and keeping an eye on my schedule and needing always to be looking six to nine months ahead.

Q: What kind of stress does that cause for you when it comes to balancing that kind of schedule?

A: Well, the music and the creative side is the easy part. It’s the travel and the responsibility of making sure they don’t overlap which is the hard part. For instance, just a few weeks ago I had a gig with Twisted Sister in New Jersey and then I had to fly out on a private plane to catch up with The Winery Dogs in California. It’s really just a matter of keeping it all straight.

Q: Can you tell me how your work as a drummer becomes tedious when you are rehearsing multiple takes?

A: I don’t do take after take. I’m a very spontaneous drummer. I won’t rehearse my parts for days. I like to hit record right there and capture it while it’s fresh and spontaneous.

Q: Is it fair to say you don’t like to present the identical product every time?

A: I’ve never played the same thing twice in my career. If I do multiple takes, I change them each and every time. When I’m live on stage, I never play the same thing.

Q: “A City of Destruction” is an awesome sampling of what the album has to offer. Can you tell me a little more about the specifics of the album?

A: Well, so far we’ve released three videos for three different songs and we have two more coming out before the album comes out. They are all great songs. The reality is that it’s a concept album. In order for people to get the whole impact, the best way is to sit and listen to the album start to finish the way you would watch a movie or read a book. If you only heard “Pinball Wizard” you wouldn’t get the full impact unless you listened to the full Tommy album.

Q: I always think that a drummer who sings is a force to be reckoned with. Do you lend vocals throughout the entire album?

A: Yes. The thing about The Neal Morse Band is that there are four of us lending vocals. I think it’s one of the great assets of the band. It becomes a vocal beast.

Q: You are obviously a seasoned drummer both in the studio and live. Can you talk to me about the complexities that you face when recording?

A: Not really. To me, drumming is second nature. Every time I make a record, the drumming is one of the elements I’m thinking about least. That’s the element that comes naturally.

Q: What do you spend the most time on while working on an album?

A: The overall arrangement of the album. In the case of Similitude of a Dream, where it is a concept album, the start to finish and the flow and sequencing is crucial to get it right like when you are watching a good movie. You’re going to have peaks and valleys, a grand opening and a grand finale.

Q: In reading about the album, The Neal Morse Band is quite proud of this album especially.

A: I’ve gone on record that in my opinion this is the greatest album of my career. It’s my desert island album. It’s one album that encompasses everything I love about music. It showcases mine and Neal’s collaboration through the years.

Q: The album is going to be released in several different formats this month, one of them being a vinyl release. What are your thoughts on the rebirth of vinyl in music today?

A: I love it. I’m a big collector and music fan. I’ve had thousands of records and when CDs came around in the 80’s, I had to rebuy my entire collection. I went from a 12” product to a 4” product to a thumbnail product. It’s awesome as a fan for vinyl to be making a comeback. I like to hold it in my hands and look at the artwork, open it up and see the gatefold. Hearing the needle drop on the record is one of the greatest sounds in the world. I absolutely love it. It keeps me buying product. The vinyl re-revolution has kept me back in the game in terms of buying and collecting.

Q: The Neal Morse Band will be taking off in January of 2017 to promote Similitude of a Dream, correct?

A: Yes, we’ll be playing the entire album from start to finish. We have a full US tour and the Cruise to the Edge tour followed by a full European Tour. We will be out from January to April or May.

Check out more from The Neal Morse Band

Writer: Amanda Knight

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Photo Credit: Robert Smith

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