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Drummer Mike Portnoy Interview: Sons of Apollo, Lars from Metallica & More

Drummer Mike Portnoy was once best known as the founding member of progressive rock band Dream Theater. However, over the last three decades he has morphed into a shapeshifter of the drums – playing with dozens of bands across a multitude of genres and releasing a prolific slab of music. In this interview with journalist Christina Rowatt, Portnoy reflects on moving on from the band he birthed to new frontiers like his latest project, the joyfully sleazy, earthy and explosive rock and roll supergroup Sons of Apollo. You can watch Mike Portnoy’s interview on YouTube or subscribe to listen via The Void with Christina podcast.

“You’re a very prolific person. You’ve probably produced more hours of music than any other drummer. I guess music in some ways is a reach toward mortality because it will live forever. You’ve had  a few big moments of mortality, like you lost your mother quite young and the whole addiction thing was proceeding towards an ugly outcome had you not put the brakes on and changed that. Did your early experiences of mortality inform your drive to produce a ton of music?” The Void’s host Christina Rowatt asked.

“Probably. You mention my mum passing away. She died in a plane crash when I was seventeen so it was completely unexpected. There one day, and gone the next, Mike Portnoy responded. “I think when you go through an experience like that when you’re seventeen years old you realise that every moment is precious and you can’t take life for granted. I always live by “Carpe Diem” [gestures to tattoo on forearm] … its one thing to live each day like it’s your last day, but I think it’s also important to live each day like it is someone you love’s last day. You never know when someone you love isn’t going to be with you. How that applies to what I do, I think I’ve learned at an early age to just live it up and do everything I can and take advantage. I didn’t want to spend my whole life being in one band. I wanted to be in all of these bands doing all these different kinds of music.”

“He is one of my heroes, I will defend him to the end,” Mike Portnoy says of Lars Ulrich of Metallica. “I tell you what. You don’t have to be a great drummer to be the most important guy in the band. That’s what I learned from him. First of all I do love his drumming, but as far as I’m concerned you don’t have to be a great drummer to be someone that is important. Some of my heroes are guys like Lars, or Peter Criss [of KISS] who takes the heat for a lot of stuff, or Ringo Starr [of the Beatles], who takes the heat. These guys are my heroes,” Portnoy adds.

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