Michael Stephen Portnoy (born April 20, 1967), is an American drummer primarily known as the drummer and backing vocalist for the progressive metal band Dream Theater. He was raised in Long Beach, New York, where his interest in music started at an early age. "My father was a rock n' roll disc jockey, so I was always surrounded by music constantly. I had this huge record collection when I was real young and loved the Beatles and then later on Kiss. It was inevitable that I'd become a musician."
Although Mike taught himself how to play the drums, he did take music theory classes in high school. During that time he began playing in local bands Intruder, Rising Power and Inner Sanctum, the latter of which released their own album. Mike left the band after being awarded a scholarship to attend Berklee Music College in Boston. An avid collector of many things, Mike has a vast array of Dream Theater memorabilia including bootlegs, posters, clippings and everything else under the sun with the band's name on it. He is also responsible for capturing everything the band does on video tape and DAT. His huge video collection includes favorite films as 2001, A Clockwork Orange, Jacob's Ladder and The Wall along with episodes of The Simpsons and memorable boxing matches.
Mike says his biggest influences are Rush drummer Neil Peart and the late Frank Zappa. Other favorites include drummers Terry Bozzio, Vinnie Colaiuta, Simon Philips, John Bonham and Keith Moon and bands such as The Beatles, Queen, Yes, Metallica, Jellyfish, Iron Maiden, U2 and Jane's Addiction. He is also a fan of rap music.
Mike and his wife Marlene are currently living in suburban Philadelphia with their children, Melody Ruthandrea and Max John.
Mike will be featured on the new album "Nightmare" and will be on tour with the band. On the May 5th 2010, Portnoy released a statement on his status with Avenged Sevenfold on their official website saying: "Although I wish I could stay on board with A7X in a more permanent capacity, the reality is that I am committed to Dream Theater as my main priority and I will need to resume work with DT to start a new album at some point in 2011.....However, I will be able to join my brothers in Avenged Sevenfold for at least the duration of their touring throughout 2010.....You can look at me like the band's "rebound drummer" to buy them some time until they are comfortable and ready to make a commitment to somebody new for full-time relationship in their future!"
Drum kits and percussive equipmentEdit
- When Dream and Day Unite/Images & Words Kit - This Tama Imperialstar (the previous model of the Imperialstar, unlike the 2007 Imperialstar, which is an entry level kit) kit and Zildjian cymbals which was bought originally by Portnoy himself through working three jobs. It was used until the end of the Images and Words tour when Mike Portnoy got signed by Sabian and Mapex. Also, this was images and Words was recorded with an electronically triggered snare drum at producer David Prater's insistence.
- Awake/A Change Of Seasons kit - This Mapex USA Maple kit was used on the world tour supporting the album Awake. It had two bass drums, one snare, six toms, two small timbales, a section of various percussion instruments, and four Octoban-sized drums in a 2x2 formation. This marked Portnoy's first use of Octobans on a record, which were custom-made by Mapex using maple as opposed to Tama's more traditional acrylic, giving them a slightly different, more "natural" tone.
- The Purple/Green/Red Monsters - These were Tama Starclassic kits which marked Portnoy's signing with Tama in the late '90s after his endorsement deal with Mapex fell through (they took the kit he was using off the market, meaning that he was endorsing a product the public could not buy.) Used for the recording of Falling Into Infinity" and "Scenes from a Memory and the North, South American, and Asian tours for said albums, they are so named because of their striking color/white/color fade finishes. The reason for three identical drum kits were for two copies held in storage in different parts of the world to avoid the shipping costs one extremely large kit around the world; the "Green Monster" in use for European tours and a "Red Monster" for Asian-market touring. It is similar to the "Awake" kit but features many more cymbals, the left-side octobans in a four-inline configuration (as opposed to his last kit which held them in a 2x2 pattern) and two more "low"-tuned octobans on the right side of the kit held overhead of the floor toms. This kit also featured a snare drum with a foot-operated snare strainer mechanism which allowed for different snare drum sounds without having to use his hands to adjust it. On the Purple Monster Portnoy used DW 5000 Pedals, instead of the Iron Cobra Pedals. He also uses this kit in his 1999 Instructional DVD "Liquid Drum Theater".
- Liquid Tension Experiment kit - A comparatively modest kit used in his supergroup project Liquid Tension Experiment. The bass drum and toms of this kit (not the snare, timbales, and cymbals) were the first Portnoy ever purchased used according to an interview where he gave a tour of his basement and this kit showed up. This kit was also unique in that it used a pair of small timbales where the two smallest toms would normally be. It was otherwise a normal "seven piece" rock kit with three toms (five if you count the timbales), and a single bass drum with a double kick pedal. It marks the first time Portnoy uses a floor tom on either side of the kit for a recording (during footage from their Fan Club Show in 1998 featured on 5 Years in a LIVEtime, Portnoy's "Unplugged" kit contained a left-hand floor tom used heavily during that performance) with a 14" floor tom on the left and an 18" floor tom on the right. It is also the first time Portnoy used his MaxStax cymbal line in the studio. Portnoy notes in his Liquid Drum Theater instructional video that the reason behind the smaller kit is that when Liquid Tension Experiment went into the studio to record the first album, The Purple Monster kit was still being shipped back from some shows they had played immediately prior in Brazil.
- Transatlantic kit - The kit used to record and tour behind the first Transatlantic album was the same as the Liquid Tension Experiment kit, but with five regular toms. When recording and touring behind the second Transatlantic album, Portnoy added his new Melody Master snare drums for the first time and some different cymbals including a set of custom made 15" hi-hats. The smaller Melody Master displaced the 14" floor tom, which was moved back to the right of the kit for the Transatlantic recordings. For the filming of Portnoy's 2007 "In Constant Motion" instructional DVD set, the Transatlantic kit was reproduced in Tama drums' new line of acrylic shells named Starclassic Mirage in the "Black Ice" finish. However, the original recording was done with more traditional Starclassic wood drums.
- The OSI kit - Portnoy used the small (right) side of his Red Siamese Monster kit for the recording of the first Office of Strategic Influence album. For the second he downsized even more to a four-piece consisting of his signature snare, one timbale as a tom as previously used on his Liquid Tension Experiment kit, one floor tom, and a single 18" kick drum with a double pedal. However, he still insisted on using a large amount of cymbals including crashes, splashes, Max Stax and Max Splashes.
- Yellow Matter Custard kit - A specially designed set for use in Mike's Beatles tribute band, Yellow Matter Custard. It is modelled on Ringo Starr's kit, and is quite simple compared with his Dream Theater kits. Its in the sizes: 12"x8", 14"x14" & 20"x14". The cymbals are an 14" AA HiHat, an AA Crash on the left and a HH Crash/Ride on the right.
- Hammer Of The Gods kit - A John Bonham-replica kit that was used in Mike's Led Zeppelin tribute band. Custom-made acrylic shells were used (transparent amber), and the kit is always played while wearing the obligatory bowler hat.
- The Albino Monster - The previous kit used by Portnoy is similar to the Siamese Monster. Aesthetically, it is white with silver sparkle Majesty logos instead of the black/colored logos of the Siamese Monster. In layout it is almost exactly the same, the only differences being the right side of the kit mimics his earlier Hammer of the Gods kit; two of the timbales were removed, the 10" tymp-tom was changed to a 14", and the gong bass drum was replaced with a floor tom. He kept some of the cymbals from the right side of the Siamese Monster, including the 13" HHX Groove Hats, and the 19" Hand Hammered Fierce Crash, so there's more distance between the two sides in the Albino Monster, than there were in the Siamese Monster. So far it has been used for the Gigantour (a tour that Dream Theater participated in alongside Megadeth, Symphony X and several other bands) and throughout the Octavarium 2005-06 World Tour. The modification to the right side stemmed from sessions for Dream Theater's Octavarium album, where what began as an experiment became the inspiration behind most of Octavarium. When recording of Octavarium began, Mike brought along the Hammer of the Gods kit, resulting in the kit being used for part of the album: he ended up using it on five of the album's eight tracks. The kit utilizes larger "Rock" sizes, with a 14" rack tom, a 16" floor tom, an 18" floor tom, and a meaty 6.5" x 14" snare drum, much reminding of the drum sizes used by John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Additionally, Portnoy only used a few crash cymbals, and used a splash and china sparingly. When touring began, Tama had the shells changed to traditional Starclassic Maple shells, because they didn't want Mike touring with a kit featuring shells that Tama didn't mass-produce for public acquisition. The touring kit includes two new limited-edition Mike Portnoy signature snare drums with the same matching finish used on the rest of the kit. On Tama's official website, Portnoy released details about changes to the kit for his upcoming tours, beginning with G3 in March. He says the left side will stay the same, but the right side will change. The sizes will change to more conventional sizes-22" kick etc. and will have three rack toms as opposed to the 'Bonham'-size, one rack tom kit of before. Also, the shells would be Starclassic Mirage acrylic shells instead of the Starclassic Maple he has always used. He also used this kit in his DVD In Constant Motion.
- The Mirage Monster- Revealed at Gods Of Metal 2007, this kit is made up of two kits once again, except built out of Tama's new Tama Starclassic Mirage acrylic drums in clear "Crystal Ice" finish. The left side is virtually identical to his previous kit, except made with clear acrylic shells. The new configuration of the right side of his kit has replaced the "Bonzo Kit" of "The Albino Monster." His new right side of the kit includes: a 22" kick and 3 rack toms (8", 10", and 12") "so it's going to be a little more of a conventional, small kit." (Click on "Interview" link button) The snares used are his Signature Melody Master snares. He uses 2 12x5" steel snares (one on the right side of the kit as a main snare and one on the left as a side snare) and uses one 14x5.5" maple shell snare. These snares are the same snares used in the last 2 kits (Albino Monster and Siamese Monster) and they are in the original black color. This kit has been scaled down to a relatively small double-bass kit for several shows taking place in smaller venues.
- Black & Silver Monster- Similar to the Mirage Monster, this kit is made up of two different kits, this time with the new Bubinga wood drums with a black and silver finish.
With Dream TheaterEdit
- 1989 - When Dream and Day Unite
- 1992 - Images and Words
- 1993 - Live at the Marquee (Live)
- 1994 - Awake
- 1995 - A Change of Seasons (EP)
- 1997 - Falling Into Infinity
- 1998 - Once in a LIVEtime (Live)
- 1999 - Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes from a Memory
- 2001 - Live Scenes From New York (Live)
- 2002 - Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence
- 2003 - Train of Thought
- 2004 - Live at Budokan (Live)
- 2005 - Octavarium
- 2006 - Score (Live)
- 2007 - Systematic Chaos
- 2008 - Greatest Hit (...and 21 Other Pretty Cool Songs)
- 2008 - Chaos in Motion (Live)
- 2009 - Black Clouds & Silver Linings
With Avenged SevenfoldEdit
- 2010 - Nightmare
With Liquid Tension ExperimentEdit
- 1998 - Liquid Tension Experiment
- 1999 - Liquid Tension Experiment 2
- 2007 - Spontaneous Combustion (as Liquid Trio Experiment)
- 2009 - When the Keyboard Breaks: Live in Chicago (CD) (As Liquid Trio Experiment 2)
- 2000 - SMPT:e
- 2001 - Live in America (Live)
- 2001 - Bridge Across Forever
- 2003 - Transatlantic Demos by Neal Morse
- 2003 - SMPT:e (The Roine Stolt Mixes: circa 1999)
- 2003 - Live in Europe (Live)
- 2009 - The Whirlwind
With Neal MorseEdit
- 2003 - Testimony
- 2004 - One
- 2004 - Testimony Live (DVD)
- 2005 - ?
- 2006 - Cover to Cover
- 2007 - Sola Scriptura
- 2008 - Lifeline
- 2003 - Office of Strategic Influence
- 2006 - Free
- 2006 - re:free
With John ArchEdit
- 2003 - A Twist of Fate