Dream Theater’s responses to Portnoy’s departure

A few hours after Mike Portnoy left the band, the other members of Dream Theater have started to comment on the issue.

James LaBrie wrote on his website’s forum:

Hi Everyone,

Thought I would give you time to digest the news of Mike’s departure. MIke stated that he was burnt out with the DT world and needed a break. We have to respect where he is at and where this will lead him at this particular point in time. With that being said, we are more than pumped to continue the legacy of DT and jump full on into the next chapter. Rest assured it will be great. You can count on it.

On another positive note. Matt and I are psyched with the reaction and reviews ‘Static Impulse is receiving around the world. We can’t wait until everyone can get their hands on the complete disc. and hear it the way it was intended.

I will be around more often to see how you’re all doing and to fill you with any and all news. Take care and not long now until the 27th or 28th depending on where you live.

Kick it up a notch,


John Petrucci wrote on his website’s forum:

Obviously you’ve all heard the news of Mike’s departure from Dream Theater by now.
I felt it important to open up a line of communication in an effort to kill any rumors and to promote clarity.
I love Mike and really hope he’s happy and successful in whatever he does.
I realize that Mike was always the one to actively stay in touch with our fans, and I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to try to be at least a bit more present on both mine and DT’s websites and to let you all know that I am here.
To me, Dream Theater’s story is one of defying the odds, standing for true integrity in music and creating our own success through perseverance and hard work, so although Mike’s leaving is heartbreaking, I still look forward to an amazing musical journey that continues on with some of the most talented and respected musicians and composers on the planet!

Jordan Rudess opted instead to post a video on YouTube, saying:

Everyone is asking me to comment on my thoughts about Mike Portnoy leaving Dream Theater and this huge change that has happened in all of our lives. I have always been able to express my feelings and do my best “talking” through music, so I decided to voice my statement in this improvisation. Hope you “understand”

Here is the video:


I posted this comment to it (it’s already on page 3 as I’m writing this, but it will fall deeper and deeper as time goes by):

Something must have happened. Jordan was remembering the good times, but the “ticking” at the ending followed by the angry final chord gives me the impression that there was a lot of tension building up and that the departure was not as peaceful as the press releases claim it to be.

Incidentally, I sense a bit of “it’s their fault, they didn’t respect me after all I do for the band” vibe in MP’s post.

DT is not MP. DT included MP, but doesn’t strictly need him. The Spirit carries on.

I couldn’t find any note by John Myung — he doesn’t even seem to have an official website —but I’m pretty sure that nobody is surprised about that. 🙂

Mike Portnoy leaves Dream Theater

Dream Theater has released a short press release on their website:

To all of our loyal fans and friends: It is with profound sadness — regret — we announce that Mike Portnoy, our lifelong drummer and friend, has decided to leave Dream Theater. Mike’s stature in the band has meant the world to all of us professionally, musically, and personally over the years. There is no dispute: Mike has been a major force within this band.

While it is true that Mike is choosing to pursue other ventures and challenges, we can assure you that Dream Theater will continue to move forward with the same intensity — and in the same musical tradition — that you have all helped make so successful, and which is truly gratifying to us.

Fans and friends: File this episode under “Black Clouds and Silver Linings.” As planned, we begin recording our newest album in January 2011, and we’ll follow that with a full-on world tour. “The Spirit Carries On.”

All of us in Dream Theater wholeheartedly wish Mike the best on his musical journey. We have had a long and meaningful career together. It is our true hope that he finds all he is looking for, and that he achieves the happiness he deserves. He will be missed.

Also, Mike himself posted this tweet:

This is a sad, sad day….I’m afraid I have some bad news…. MP/DT Sept 1985 – Sept 2010

And then this note on his Facebook page, which is thankfully accessible to non-Facebook users (otherwise I wouldn’t be able to read it):

I BEG of the fans to please NOT hold A7X responsible for MY decision…they are just as shocked as you guys..I had been contemplating this and desiring a “break” (not split) as long ago as last year…everything else is fully explained in the press release…thank you all for your support and understanding…this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done… : (

This is bad news, but I already knew this would happen soon. See, all Dream Theater’s members have been involved in side projects all along. It’s just the way they are: they are great musicians, and they can’t stand still. James, just to give an example, released several solo albums (“Mullmuzzler” 1 and 2), and participated in True Symphonic Rockestra and in Ayreon‘s “The Human Equation.”

However, Mike lately had not only released an album with Avenged Sevenfold (A7X) and toured with them (John Petrucci did the same with the G3 project, after all), but just by following his tweets you could easily tell that A7X had become “his” band. On September 5th, he tweeted: “Its 3:30am and I am getting tattooed by Grant Cobb on a moving A7X tour bus after losing a bet to Dan The Body…this aint DT!!”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging. It’s just that Dream Theater is, if I am allowed to say so, “purer” than any other progrock band out there. Alright, alright, that’s the hardcore fan in me talking, right. But surely everybody would agree that Dream Theater is more like Marillion on steroids than cousins of Metallica, right? All the other members of Dream Theater have “grown up and calmed down,” in a way, whereas Mike seems to be, well, the wildest of the bunch, even though he recovered from his alcohol and drug addiction.

His path with Alcoholics Anonymous has indeed been put into music by Dream Theater over the course of five albums, since 2002, in what is called the “Twelve-Step Suite”:

  • The Glass Prison, from Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (I – Reflection; II – Restoration; III – Revelation)
  • This Dying Soul, from Train of Tought (IV – Reflections of Reality; V – Release)
  • The Root of All Evil, from Octavarium (VI – Ready;  VII – Remove)
  • Repentance, from Systematic Chaos (VIII – Regret; IX – Restitution)
  • The Shattered Fortress, from Black Clouds & Silver Linings (X – Restraint; XI – Receive; XII – Responsible)

All these songs’ lyrics carry a dedication to “Bill W. and all of his friends.” Why all the parts’ names begin with the letter R is currently unknown; however, knowing Mike’s passion for nuggets, it’s not a coincidence.

Still, some people in 2002 feared that Dream Theater’s career would end with the completion of the Twelve-Step Suite. These fears were mostly quenched when they signed with RoadRunner Records in 2005, and many think that Octavarium tells the story of their relationship with recording labels.

Still, the question now stands: what will happen to Dream Theater? Mike Portnoy had been producing the band’s albums for a long while. He may still keep doing that, of course. But who is going to replace him? How will the music change? I am one of those who thinks that Images and Words was their best album, followed by Scenes from a Memory. The freshness of the former was probably influenced in part by Kevin J. Moore, and the latter bears a distinct “Rudessness” to it.

I wish Mike the best for his career, but as a long time fan, yeah, I’m speechless. I hope that this will mark a return to origins for Dream Theater: after all, we (they) have gone through three keyboardists and two (actually three) singers. The point is that while we are “used” to changing keyboardists (no offense to Jordan, I’m glad he’s on board even though, well, Kevin was Kevin — sorry about that), changing drummers is like replacing a load-bearing wall in a building. Everything might crumble. Let’s hope not.

Rock on.

Edit: Mike also posted a detailed note on his website’s forum.

My personal progressive rock anthem: The Ytse Jam

Those who know me also know about my obsession with Dream Theater. I even met them personally on April 11th, 2000. For this reason, I think it would be interesting to share a live version of what I personally consider the archetypal modern progrock anthem, The Ytse Jam.

First, a little history: Dream Theater’s first name was Majesty, however another band with the same name threatened to sue them and they eventually switched to Dream Theater, following the suggestion of Portnoy’s father. They even went as Glasser for a short while, but thankfully the name was ditched after ten days or so. However, the Dream Theater symbol is still named Majesty.

On their first album as Dream Theater, When Dream and Day Unite, they released an instrumental song that laid the foundation for what their music would eventually become. The piece was called The Ytse Jam (but most often referred to simply as Ytse Jam) and runs 5 minutes and 43 seconds. It is packed with odd time signatures and catchy riffs. It’s also the first example of their passion for nuggets and secret codes, as “Ytse Jam” is “Majesty” reversed.

I’d like to mention some random trivia about the band, but I suppose that I’d better make a separate post about that. In the meantime, for the nerdiest among you, a detailed analysis of their 2005 album Octavarium can be found at spatang.com. It mentions all the hidden messages contained therein, and it’s a very enjoyable read.

So, without futher ado, here is The Ytse Jam performed live in 2004 to celebrate the 15th anniversary of When Dream and Day Unite‘s original release.


And an older version with a drum solo by Portnoy. If I’m not mistaken, this is from the Live in Tokyo tape, filmed in 1993. You can see the original line-up, with Kevin J. Moore at the keyboards. (Alright, it’s not the original line-up since LaBrie had already replaced Dominici, but this is instrumental and neither would be there anyway.)


Pretty neat, innit?

Progressive acoustic music: Maneli Jamal and others

The word “progressive” carries many meanings. When talking about music, it’s the best word to get people confused, as everybody will give a different definition of it. To me, progressive music is not necessarily linked to a genre; rather, it defines the progression of a piece — no pun intended — that defies the typical “verse – chorus – verse – chorus – bridge – chorus” structure found in most popular music.

Often, but this is not strictly required, there will be many time and key changes throughout the song, and the song itself can be longer, sometimes even much longer, than someone used to pop music might find acceptable. All of this inevitably relegates progressive music to a niche for connosseurs, mostly because it’s seldom music that one “understands” upon first listening to it.

I mentioned genres because most people associate that to progressive rock or progressive metal, with bands such as Yes, Rush, Genesis, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd; and more recently with Marillion, Dream Theater, Ayreon and others. Yet, any style can show progressive traits, at least according to my definition.

Jazz music is progressive by design, and my favorite example of a gorgeous non-rock progressive piece is Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue,” which I present to you in a gorgeous, albeit much shortened, version by The 5 Browns:


A style that has recently become common is what I call progressive acoustic music. It involves playing an acoustic guitar in unconventional ways, mixing different techniques such as tapping, strumming, plucking and hitting the body in a very peculiar way, producing songs that are progressive not just in structure, but also in feeling.

The most known song of this kind is probably Andy McKee’s “Drifting”:


The independent label CandyRat acts as a hub for many artists who make this kind of music, allowing them to network and come up with little gems like this, by Antoine Dufour and Tommy Gauthier (make sure your speakers have a good bass response):


I also recently came across an Iranian guitarist, Maneli Jamal, whose foray into progressive acoustic is not as bold and aggressive as Andy McKee’s, but is rather sweet and, dare I say it, hypnotic. Here is his live performance on BBC Persian:


Watch it twice: get a general feel for it the first time, then pay attention at how skillfully he uses natural harmonics and how sharp, yet “easy,” the transitions are. What I especially like is that even through the different parts, the whole piece has an underlying rhythm that encircles the music. He effectively joins the best of both worlds.

There is a downside to this type of music. It is so peculiar that just listening to it doesn’t make it justice. The playing style is so much an integral part of it that it has to be watched, especially when played live.

Thankfully, DVDs can be produced very easily and without the need for an expensive service nowadays, so artists can make some money out of their work, and that’s good for all of us. It would be a pity indeed if people like Andy, Antoine and Mameli gave up their skills to get a nine-to-five to pay bills.

As a bonus, here are two of videos of a great duo. What makes their performances is not only their undeniable ability, but also the fact that you can see that they’re genuinely having fun. How can you beat that?