Drummer Mike Portnoy, who announced his withdrawal from Dream Theater last Wednesday September 8th, followed up soon after with this message: “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…”
Although the remainder of Dream Theater quickly made a group statement after Mike’s first announcement, individual members of the band also addressed their fans later in the week.
Singer James LaBrie said: “Thought I would give you time to digest the news of Mike’s departure. Mike stated that he was burnt out with the Dream Theater 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 Dream Theater and jump full on into the next chapter. Rest assured, it will be great. You can count on it.”
Guitarist John Petrucci, who immediately responded to the news by reaching out to fans and answering questions directly through his forum, later said: “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 Dream Theater’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!”
Keyboardist Jordan Rudess posted a video along with this message: “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 [see video below]. Hope you ‘understand.'”
On Friday, September 10th Jordan Rudess followed up his video post with this message: “Closing this chapter is difficult because Mike and I are really close friends, have been great musical partners and he has been a vital part of Dream Theater. Still, opening up the next chapter is really exciting because Dream Theater is full of ideas and energy about the future.
“Mike is the ultimate rock drummer and I know he will be successful at whatever he does. Meanwhile, Dream Theater is moving forward quickly and looking forward to creating some great new music.”
Portnoy appeared on DJ Eddie Trunk’s radio show that same Friday to clarify his reasons for leaving the band. The following are excerpts from the interview: “…I didn’t wanna quit and they didn’t want me to leave, but yet here we are; it was the only way that they could happily move on and I could happily move on. It’s a weird kind of break-up, because it was a break-up where we still loved each other. I got, like, the nicest e-mail today from John Petrucci and I got a great e-mail today from Jordan. They miss me and they’re sad about this, and I’m sad about it and I’m heartbroken, but we just strongly disagree.
I really think that the band could have used a few years to recharge our batteries and so many bands have done it — whether it be Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Jane’s Addiction, Phish, Rage Against The Machine… A lot of bands, when you’re going this long and this strong, they take a break and then come back bigger and better than ever, and that’s kind of what I hoped would happen with Dream Theater, and I was hoping that would be the path we could take together, but it was not to be.
…the last thing I ever wanted to see was a Dream Theater without Mike Portnoy in it, so I used to always joke with them about that. But now, here when faced with this reality… I mean, sure, the selfish side of me doesn’t wanna think of that band without me, and I kind of wish we would have just taken a break, but then there’s the side of me that… I can’t hold them back. They’re my friends and they’re my brothers and if they really wanna continue, then I can’t say no; I don’t wanna be an a-hole and do that to them. It’s a strange situation, and luckily it ended on good terms and those guys have made it blatantly clear that the door is always open for me. So, I mean, it’s a weird thing because I would go back to them in a heartbeat, just not now. I just need a break.”
Portnoy’s sister Samantha posted a message on Saturday to offer her perspective on the situation: “Before I write this, understand that this is MY statement. Mike might kill me for speaking up, but I just can’t sit by quietly. I guess I’m like Mike in that way. PLEASE stop reading between the lines with this whole situation. There is no hidden meaning in all of this (is there ever with Mike? The guy is an open book with his fans!!).
Everything Mike said in his interview with Eddie Trunk, in his press release or otherwise is everything he has been saying to me for the past year, at least. He LOVES the other guys and their families. They have grown up together, married women that were (and are) best friends, have raised their kids as best friends. They are family. This was not an easy decision for him as a drummer, founding band member (and band leader) or person.
Let’s put 25 years into perspective. I am 40. I met John [Petrucci] and John Myung when I was 15. How many friends do I still have that I have had to live AND work with for the past 25 years? Not a single one. I can’t imagine looking at the same group of people for that many years and being able to come up with new, fun ideas (that will then be judged the world over). My friends and I get stuck on doing the same things on random weekend gatherings!
Remember, this is strictly my perspective here…
You’d think that being a rock star would be 100% fun 100% of the time. But I know that Mike works extremely hard and takes every bit of this experience to heart. You might think you know, but you have no idea (to borrow a line from’Behind the Music’). It is a part of who he is as a person, it is definitely not just a job. He’s been running at a pace (with Dream Theater) most people couldn’t keep up for a few months, much less 25 years.
He just wants a break. He wants to have the chance to play with other musicians and be reminded of how special this all is. He wants to have fun and not be in charge of every detail for a bit. (And for those of you thinking he should just let others take the reins in Dream Theater, all I’ll say is that you have no idea what you are talking about.)
The way I see it, it’s not a matter of Mike not wanting to be in Dream Theater (Remember, he DOES want to be in Dream Theater… he NEVER wanted or planned to leave the band). Giving up Dream Theater must be like giving up a child for him. I know it’s been horribly painful. But I am extremely proud of him for recognizing that he needs to be reinvigorated and for doing what he needs to do to make that happen.
You know Mike. He does not do anything half-assed. He wants every drop of music that Dream Theater releases to be perfect and fulfilling for everyone. Right now, he is guaranteeing that he can’t do that. Maybe (apparently) the other guys don’t feel the same about this situation, I can’t speak to that, but he knows that he needs a break to be able to bring the best of himself to the table.
There is no ulterior motive. He genuinely just needs a break. He needs a break that allows him to find new inspiration and have some down time. When he has done his other side projects, if you think he was not also working on Dream Theater stuff, you’d be incredibly mistaken.
I guess I got a bit long-winded there… sorry, but it’s torture to sit back and watch my brother getting ripped apart or criticized for making this incredibly, INCREDIBLY hard choice. And for those of you who are supporting/understanding of his decision, I want you to know HOW MUCH it is appreciated.”