Mike Portnoy (gasp) leaves Dream Theater!

File this under “I did not see that coming (backslash) WTF?” A few hours ago, Mike Portnoy announced that he and the band he co-started and drove for the past 20 years are parting ways. This message was posted on his forum.

I am about to write something I never imagined I’d ever write:

After 25 years, I have decided to leave Dream Theater….the band I founded, led and truly loved for a quarter of a century.

To many people this will come as a complete shock, and will also likely be misunderstood by some, but please believe me that it is not a hasty decision…it is something I have struggled with for the last year or so….

After having had such amazing experiences playing with Hail, Transatlantic and Avenged Sevenfold this past year, I have sadly come to the conclusion that I have recently had more fun and better personal relations with these other projects than I have for a while now in Dream Theater…

Please don’t misinterpret me, I love the DT guys dearly and have a long history, friendship and bond that runs incredibly deep with them…it’s just that I think we are in serious need of a little break…

Dream Theater was always my baby…and I nurtured that baby every single day and waking moment of my life since 1985…24/7, 365…never taking time off from DT’s never-ending responsibilites (even when the band was “off” between cycles)…working overtime and way beyond the call of duty that most sane people ever would do for a band…

But I’ve come to the conclusion that the DT machine was starting to burn me out…and I really needed a break from the band in order to save my relationship with the other members and keep my DT spirit hungry and inspired.

We have been on an endless write/record/tour cycle for almost 20 years now (of which I have overseen EVERY aspect without a break) and while a few months apart from each other here & there over the years has been much needed and helpful, I honestly hoped the band could simply agree with me to taking a bit of a “hiatus” to recharge our batteries and “save me from ourselves”…

Sadly, in discussing this with the guys, they determined they do not share my feelings and have decided to continue without me rather than take a breather…I even offered to do some occasional work throughout 2011 against my initial wishes, but it was not to be…

While it truly hurts for me to even think of a Dream Theater without Mike Portnoy (hell, my father named the band!!), I do not want to stand in their way…so I have decided to sacrifice myself and simply leave the band so as to not hold them back against their wishes….

Strangely enough, I just read an interview that I recently did that asked me about the future of DT and I talked about “always following your heart and being true to yourself”…sadly I must say that at this particular moment, my heart is not with Dream Theater…and I would simply be “going through the motions”, and would honestly NOT be true to myself if I stayed for the sake of obligation without taking the break I felt I needed.

I wish the guys the best and hope the music and legacy we created together is enjoyed by fans for decades to come…I am proud of every album we made, every song we wrote and every show we played….

I’m sorry to all the disappointed DT fans around the world…I really tried to salvage the situation and make it work…I honestly just wanted a break (not a split)…but happiness cannot be forced, it needs to come from within….

You DT fans are the greatest fans in the world and as you all know, I have always busted my ass for you guys and I hope that you will stay with me on my future musical journey, wherever it may lead me….(and as you all know my work ethic, there will surely be no shortage of future MP projects!)

Your fearless ex-leader and drummer,

Why, God? Honestly, I’m not sure how I feel about this. It’s like when the Dave Matthews Band came out with Everyday. You had all these fans complaining about how it was too different, that it wasn’t Dave. I was right there complaining with everyone else. But there was a small piece of me that said that it was the band that had to live eat, breathe and sleep the music, so if all that country/rock/bluegrass needed an infusion of poppy bullsh*t, then mazel tov**. So I bear Portnoy no ill will. He needs to do what makes him happy. If he was burnt out and stayed with the band through their endless writing, recording and touring, then it’d be bad news for all involved.

And really, this could be a good thing for the band (they’ve already released a statement saying they’ll soldier on despite Portnoy’s departure, so no one needs to worry about that). I’ve enjoyed their past few records, but nothing has really popped the way Scenes from a Memory did, and that was more than 10 years ago. Some new blood might do them good, and without Portnoy to steer the ship, it’ll be interesting to see how things like writing and lyrics are handled from here on out.

I know my music coverage is next to nonexistent, but I had to take a minute to say something about all this. Dream Theater (and Portnoy in particular) has without a doubt been one of the biggest influences in my life — both musically and personally, as sentimental and stupid as that might sound — so for me, this is really the end of an era. Of course the split makes me sad, but I am excited to see how things shape up moving forward. And while he may not be playing with DT, I’m sure Portnoy won’t disappear into the ether. He’s touring with A7X, and is a regular fixture in almost everything Neal Morse puts out. So, there will hopefully be more Transatlantic to look forward to. And I’d say the chances of another Liquid Tension Experiment album have just gone up considerably. So, stiff upper lip, everyone. As my dad used to tell me, “If you don’t stop crying, I’ll slap the ugly out of you.” Oh. Sorry. I guess I’m more upset than I thought.

**I’ve made my peace with Everyday, and think that “I Did It” is actually a pretty good song.


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