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Mike Portnoy: Flying Colors and Adrenaline Mob Are Pieces of the Musical Puzzle

Joe LaRusso

Mike Portnoy is quite active with his post-Dream Theater career. He is releasing albums by his metal project Adrenaline Mob and his “alt pop prog” group Flying Colors simultaneously. It’s a smart strategy for the drummer, since he wants to show fans the opposing sides of his musical personality. If he released them at different times, it would only represent a piece of what he is doing and therefore be incomplete.

Both albums are coming out this month. It’s not overkill, either, since the two bands sound nothing alike. Portnoy spoke to Noisecreep about the projects and reflected on his time filling in for Avenged Sevenfold now that he is far removed from that gig.

The verdict after a chat with the revered skinsman? It’s all good in Mike Portnoy’s world!

You have Adrenaline Mob ‘Omerta’ and Flying Color’ self-titled album dropping this month, on March 13 and March 26, respectively. Why release them concurrently?

They’re different — metal and pop alternative. They show the two sides of what I’ve got going on. After all the anticipation about what I was going to do after Dream Theater and after my time with Avenged, one album would only present one side of the bigger picture. So I am glad they are coming out at the same time. It shows my love of Machine Head to Coldplay and everything in between!

You have expansive taste and influences.

Yes. And either album isn’t representative of what I am doing. But upon hearing both, you get a picture of where I am at. The releases are smaller pieces of a much bigger puzzle.

Can you break down each puzzle piece?

Flying Colors is more alternative pop with a prog edge. Think the Beatles meets U2 meets Muse and Foo Fighters. It is the opposite of Adrenaline Mob, which has more classic metal influences like Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Pantera or Disturbed. They are completely different ends of spectrum.

Will fans of your previous work dig Flying Colors?

Flying Colors will appeal to my existing Dream Theater fanbase, since it has a proggier edge. Adrenaline Mob isn’t necessarily going to be every Dream Theater fan’s cup of tea. Adrenaline Mob may appeal to fans introduced to me when I was on tour with Avenged Sevenfold. There are no prog elements to Adrenaline Mob; it’s very song-oriented, with shredding and grooves. Neither of these are prog projects intentionally. I am not with Dream Theater right now because I don’t want to be doing that. I want to be doing other things. It’s intentional that nothing I do sounds like Dream Theater.

What’s most thrilling for you about working in a band like Flying Colors?

The most exciting thing is working with Steve Morse and Casey McPherson. Obviously, I have a deep history with Neal Morse, since I’ve done 10 albums with him with Transatlantic and I have a deep history with [bassist] Dave LaRue, too. The real excitement was to create music with two guys I admire and respect. [Deep Purple's] Steve Morse, I grew up listening to for 25 years and he has always been one of my favorites. I’ve known him touring, but this is our first time making music, and I can see the musical genius up close. He is such an amazing talent, and truly inspiring. Casey? I love and admire him, but that was the unknown entity. I’ve been a fan of his bands. He comes from world of Radiohead and Muse, and this is my chance to play in his playground

Would you ever do a fill in stint again like you did for Avenged Sevenfold?

I love playing drums and helping out. I’ve done it with other bands, where I can just play drums and not make a creative decision and just do my thing. I love that, so that door is always open!

Now that you’re far removed from your time filling in for A7X, how do you look back on it?

It was a great experience. The Dream Theater thing overtook the spotlight, and that was never the intention. The intention all along was to be there to serve them and [late drummer] Jimmy’s [Sullivan] memory. It got overshadowed in the end, which was never my intention. The media hype blew everything else up, so I totally understand their need to go with younger drummer. I come with history and baggage. As much as I love those guys, I tweet and stay in touch with my fans on Facebook, whereas they are more private. It makes total, total sense to go with someone new and young.

Watch Adrenaline Mob’s ‘Mob Rules (Live)’ Video

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