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Dream Theater’s Mike Mangini Looks Back on His First Year With the Band

Chris Epting

Mike Mangini has had a busy year since April when he learned he’d won the gig as the new drummer in Dream Theater, replacing founding member Mike Portnoy. A new album (‘A Dramatic Turn of Events’), a worldwide tour and having to learn some of the most interesting, complex material imaginable might wear other drummers down, but not Mangini.

A native of Massachusetts, Mangini has also been a member of Extreme and Annihilator, and toured the world countless times. He’s also spent many years as a teacher at the Berklee College of Music in the percussion department.

Fighting a heavy duty bronchial infection before a recent show in Anaheim, Calif., the energetic and chatty Mangini reflected on the past year as a member of Dream Theater, as well as the most recent news that the band had been nominated for its first ever Grammy Award for ‘On the Backs of Angels,’ the first single off of ‘A Dramatic Turn of Events.’

This has been quite a year for you.

Just amazing. Almost indescribable. As I see it, as I look back, I really think what happened was that this band kind of started over. They were in a new place as they looked for a drummer, and I when got the news, after the shock wore off, I knew what I wanted to do – which was just basically come in and try to support where they wanted to go. They had a vision, they had great ideas, and I just wanted to help them achieve those things.

How was it at first?

Great from the word go. No stress, nothing but smooth ride, deciding how the material was composed, how it would be engineered, how it would be produced – it as a lot of hard work. But it was also lots of fun and very rewarding.

Chris Epting

Everyone in the band seems very excited about the Grammy nomination.

For there to be a Grammy nomination, it’s not an accident. It was based on the present, on the song, on what we achieved musically. It was such a high when we got the news because we know the teamwork we put into it, we know how hard we worked to create something really special. That made the news so much sweeter.

How do you feel you’ve connected with the Dream Theater fans?

I almost speechless at the level of acceptance I have received. After the third song for most of the shows on the first tour I did, they had a chant going for my name in every city, which blew me away. I didn’t know if I’d get hit with a tomato, or gourd, or prickly pear or horned melon fruit [laughs]. To be accepted like that? Wow. Best fans in the world. But I think I figured out what it is. It’s not about my arms and legs and how I hit drums. I think the fans know what this band means to me. Other than my spiritual faith and my faith, this band is it. And I think fans sense that.

In a band famous for its musical abilities, do you feel extra pressure with how you play each night?

Not really. Because we all have the same work ethic. These guys try to become better at what they do all day long – they never stop trying to improve. And I feel the same way. Jordan Rudess will be in here in a few moments playing the keyboard, practicing for the show tonight, like he does all the time, like all the guys do. We take nothing for granted and we try to take our games up every single show.

Chris Epting

Even on a night when you feel under the weather, like tonight.

Just watch me!

And Noisecreep did. Despite an infection that seemed to drain Mangini’s energy before the show, onstage, it was a completely different story. The capacity crowd was treated to a blazing show from one of the fastest and most talented drummers in the business. Mangini soared, as did the band, the newly-Grammy nominated Dream Theater.

Watch Dream Theater’s ‘Peruvian Skies (Live at High Voltage 2011)’ Video

Download Dream Theater Songs | Buy Dream Theater Albums

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