DREAM THEATER guitarist John Petrucci says that replacing founding drummer Mike Portnoy more than five years ago went "as smooth as that type of thing could have possibly gone," and has credited the band's fans with being "there for us" during the transitional period.
Portnoy, who co-founded DREAM THEATER more than 30 years ago, abruptly quit the band in September 2010 while on tour with AVENGED SEVENFOLD. He has since been replaced by Mike Mangini (ANNIHILATOR, EXTREME, JAMES LABRIE, STEVE VAI). Portnoy later revealed that he tried to rejoin DREAM THEATER, only to be rebuffed.
During an appearance on a recent edition of Eddie Trunk's SiriusXM satellite radio show, "Eddie Trunk Live", Petrucci spoke about how the addition of Mangini has been received by the fans in the half decade since Portnoy's exit. He said: "I think that it went as smooth as that type of thing could have possibly gone, as far as a band transitioning, a major member leaving who fans identified with and really looked to as somebody who they love and identify the band with. Mike [Portnoy] was very much the face of DREAM THEATER in so many different ways, so it was kind of, like… You're not only replacing a member, but you're asking people to have a lot of faith in what you're doing."
He continued: "The first thing that we knew that was important is that musically, there had to be no question with this person. You see them play two notes and you're, like, 'All right. I'm sold.' But beyond that, kind of letting the audience feel like, 'It's okay. This is DREAM THEATER. And that was one chapter, and that was great, but they're moving forward, and bigger and better things are to come.' And that's hard to get that faith from people, but they've been there for us. So we're very lucky."
Asked if all the lineup changes that have taken place in DREAM THEATER over the years have, in his opinion, made the band stronger, Petrucci said: "Yeah, absolutely. The changes are all for different reasons. Sometimes it's because we wanna make a change — like in the case of James [LaBrie, vocals] joining the band back when he did after the first album; we wanted to make a vocalist change, so that was us searching out somebody. In other situations, when Kevin [Moore, keyboards] left, when Mike left, that's bandmembers who were making a decision to leave, so it's kind of a different kind of thing, 'cause you're hit the shock of, 'This person who's a major person in my life is leaving.' But no matter what the reason is, I think that as a natural consequence, when a new person comes in, if you're excited about that person, which we have been every time with a new member, there is an invigoration. You have somebody else's spirit. They wanna prove themselves. You have a band who is bringing somebody else new in, so there's kind of reignited creative sparks going. And you wanna sort of prove to your audience that this is still continuing to evolve and move forward in a positive way, so all that leads to a lot of, I think, inspiration."
DREAM THEATER keyboardist Jordan Rudess concurred, explaining: "It was so scary when we lost Mike, but we kind of turned it around and thought of it in a positive way. We were, 'Wow! We're in this really kind of awkward, bad situation, but what can we do to bring this group maybe up to another level?' So that's the way we positioned it and that's the way we acted on it. Like, 'We're gonna just get the most amazing musician and drummer in this band, and just, like, fly with this.'"
Added Petrucci: "I think it's also important… I've always felt like, as a guitar player, as an original member, the story of starting the group, and John Myung [bass] and I growing up together and going to high school and going to Berklee and meeting Mike [Portnoy], over the years, no matter what the bandmember changes were, I've always felt grounded as a guitar player, as a writer. I've always felt like I've had my feet on the ground as to where I'm gonna stylistically take the music that I write. And I think that kind of is… It helps me stay centered as kind of a driving force throughout the years to keep looking forward in that positive way and not have that questioning, 'Now what's gonna happen? This guy or that guy…' It's kind of helped me have a lot of clarity throughout the years."
DREAM THEATER's thirteenth album, "The Astonishing", will be released on January 29 via Roadrunner. The CD will be made available in a wide range of distinctive versions, including standard 2-CD set, 4-LP vinyl box set and a limited edition deluxe box set, all of which are currently available for pre-order at this location.