Dream Theater’s James LaBrie – It’s Great to Be Friends With Mike Portnoy Again
Just last month, Dream Theater performed in New York City and the band's former drummer Mike Portnoy had the unique first of seeing his onetime group play in person for the first time ever. One of the side benefits that came from that night was that Portnoy was able to clear the air with the group's singer James LaBrie, having already re-established friendships with his other bandmates that had strained after his 2010 exit. In a new chat with Sonic Perspectives (seen below and transcribed by Blabbermouth), LaBrie reflects on that meeting and his thoughts now after having reconnected with Portnoy.
According to LaBrie, the meeting with Portnoy was something that happened very last minute, but he did have time to mull over if he wanted to proceed with it. "What happened was my manager… This is, like, two hours before the show… So, you know the history with Mike and I. The thing is what was sad about that whole duration where Mike and I didn't see eye to eye is that when Dream Theater started, Images And Words and Awake, Mike and I were best friends way back — and then we started to fall apart, for several reasons. It doesn't matter — the details don't matter — it's just that we started to have a problem with one another. And so about two hours before the New York show, my manager texts me and he said, 'Listen, Mike's gonna be there tonight. He wants to come back and see you. He wants to make amends. I don't mean to do this...'"
While initially uncomfortable with the short notice, LaBrie says he found some solitude to think it over. "I went for a walk, believe it or not. I went incognito and I went for a walk in New York. And I walked the streets and I started thinking about it, and I said to myself, 'You know what? Enough is enough. There's enough hate in this world; there's enough frickin' negativity in this world. If Mike wants to come and see me and make amends, then I should be receptive,'" says LaBrie.
"John Petrucci was also there. So he said, 'Mike wants to know if he can come back and say hi to you,' like I just said. And I said, 'You know what? Yeah. Let him know, For sure. Tell him to come back and see me after the show.' And that's what we did. We chatted. We had a good, long discussion. We made up and gave each other a hug and did a picture together," recalls the singer.
"When I was out onstage before all that, I just said, 'Hey, I just wanna let you guys know, Mike Portnoy's here. Hey, welcome, brother, to the show.' And that was it."
Commenting on the decision to break down the barrier between them, LaBrie stated, "The thing is that you get to a point in life where you've gotta… You can't carry around that. Don't carry around hate; don't carry around negativity. We carried it around far too long, as far as I'm concerned, and it didn't serve any purpose; it just served frickin' division. It was very divisive and very damaging."
In the time since that early March meeting, LaBrie says Portnoy texted him to congratulate the band on winning their Grammy Award last month and he had texted back as well. "So, it's great to be back," said LaBrie. "We're talking to one another, we're chatting and all that stuff. And that's the kind of world that I wanna live in as opposed to negativity, hate and frickin'… It's just not worth it. It's not worth it."
Portnoy exited Dream Theater in 2010 to fill in with Avenged Sevenfold after the death of The Rev, but it also opened the door for a variety of other projects. The drummer, who co-founded the band, was then replaced by Mike Mangini behind the kit.
In 2018, Portnoy and guitarist John Petrucci shared a New Year's picture together and in 2020, keyboardist Jordan Rudess commented on the possibility of another Liquid Tension Experiment album which eventually came to fruition. That band featured Portnoy, Petrucci and Rudess and had been spun off from Dream Theater years prior. In Portnoy's Facebook post from the Dream Theater concert, he took photos with LaBrie, Rudess and Mangini, but also noted that while a photo wasn't snapped, he spent time with John Myung's family as well at the show.
These days Portnoy is working toward another album with The Winery Dogs, and has spent the last couple of years with the supergroup Sons of Apollo. He also released a new record with the aforementioned Liquid Tension Experiment and has been part of Neal Morse Band, Transatlantic and Flying Colors albums within the last three years. Plus, he's part of the all-star collective Metal Allegiance.