This story originally appeared in the Summer 2008 issue of Limelight Magazine.
By George Austin
With the success of the band over the last 23 years, Dream Theater has cemented its place in the music world. Now, the band is trying to help other progressive rock groups to have some success. That is part of the goal of the Progressive Nation Tour that Dream Theater has embarked on this year.
“I wanted to provide something for fans out of the mainstream,” Mike Portnoy, drummer for Dream Theater and the brainchild for the tour, said. “There’s a whole world of progressive bands that don’t get the attention they deserve.”
Dream Theater, Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, and Three were the lineup of progressive bands that fans on the Progressive Nation Tour got to sample. While Dream Theater does not have to worry about selling tickets to its shows since the band has a worldwide following, Portnoy said he wants to assist progressive bands that don’t draw big audiences at their shows.
Portnoy said he would like to make the progressive rock bill an annual event for music fans that is different from other music festivals.
“It’s been great,” Portnoy said. “It’s been a total success. All four bands are getting along great, having a good time together.”
As far as advice he would give up-and-coming bands today, Portnoy says not to sign their careers away to someone else. He said musicians are not as much at the mercy of the record companies as they once were.
“It’s not like that in 2008 anymore,” Portnoy said. “They’re all folding. They’re at the mercy of the artists, finally.”
After this tour, Portnoy said Dream Theater will be working on a new album. If you went to see Dream Theater in the same city on the Progressive Nation Tour, as you did on the band’s last tour, you would have seen a different set list. Portnoy actually goes over the setlists that were played during the last tour in each city, to make sure Dream Theater gives its fans a different show. He says he does a lot of research.
Dream Theater has played concerts with a lot of well known bands over the years, including Yes, Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Deep Purple and Queensryche.
“We’ve toured with everyone we’d like to, except Rush and Metallica,” Portnoy said. “We’re still waiting for the phone calls from them.”
Dream Theater has its roots in the East Coast. The members of the band are from New York, but Portnoy, bassist John Myung and guitarist John Petrucci attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
“We were just some teenagers who wanted to play music,” Portnoy said of the establishment of the band. “We didn’t start this to become rich and famous.”
Portnoy said the members of the band are like brothers now.
“We’ve been together for more than half our lives at this point,” Portnoy said. “Now, we’re in our ’40s with wives and children.”
Portnoy said he is also looking forward to working with Petrucci, Dream Theater bandmate and keyboardist Jordan Rudess and Tony Levin, known for his gigs with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson, in the Liquid Tension Experiment.
“That will be a lot of fun,” Portnoy said. “We haven’t played those songs in a long time. It’s going to take a lot of work to put those shows together because they are so intense.”