Mike Portnoy likes to joke that he plays drums in dozens of bands, which is a slight exaggeration. Since 2010, he’s recorded and toured with Avenged Sevenfold, Twisted Sister, Adrenaline Mob, Metal Allegiance, the Winery Dogs and the Neal Morse Band. This year, he’s touring with a new band called Sons of Apollo.
The new band is making its first appearance in Dallas, but Portnoy visited with Dream Theater, a band he co-founded in the mid-’80s and left in 2010, and other projects he’s been with.
Although he spent 25 years playing progressive metal with Dream Theater, he doesn’t categorize himself as a prog rock guy.
“I never would want to be completely stereotyped into that category,” he said the day before heading to Mexico for a tour. “I’ve always been way more than that. I’ve always been a metalhead through and through, from day one. Even before I was playing progressive music.”
He’s been a music fan since he was a kid, listening to everything from Led Zeppelin to the Beatles, the Osmonds, Frank Zappa, the Ramones and Slayer. Nothing is really off limits for him; he’ll listen to anything.
“That’s what makes me who I am,” Portnoy says. “If you look at everything I’ve done since Dream Theater, it’s a huge, giant mix bag of everything.”
He’s carried that passion into every band he’s played for.
“If you only listen to one style of music, you’re gonna be a one-dimensional musician,” he says.
Portnoy doesn’t see the music on Psychotic Symphony, the debut of Sons of Apollo — which includes vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, bassist Billy Sheehan, keyboardist and Dream Theater bandmate Derek Sherinian, and guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal — as progressive metal.
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“Honestly, I wouldn’t even call Sons of Apollo a prog band,” he says. “I don’t think we are at all.”
The five-piece takes influences from Van Halen and Deep Purple.
“It has occasional prog elements just because of the extreme musicianship in the band,” Portnoy says.
The Sons of Apollo members are well known. Soto has sung for Trans Siberian Orchestra, Yngwie Malmsteen and Journey; Sheehan has played in the Winery Dogs and Mr. Big; and Bumblefoot has played with Guns N’ Roses.
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“Everybody in this band has been around for 30 years individually in different bands,” Portnoy says. “But it doesn’t matter how big any of our individual names are — the band name Sons of Apollo is brand new. Nobody knows that band until you start working and getting out there and playing and establishing yourself.”
Portnoy will spend most of the rest of the year with Sons of Apollo on tour, but he has plans for another Metal Allegiance record, as well as a new Neal Morse Band album. He's juggling all of his bands, along with his marriage, his children and sobriety.
“I have so much gratitude for everything in this life and in this career,” he says. “It’s been a lot of hard work, but I realize how fortunate I am. I have a deep appreciation and gratitude for everything: my family, all the people I play with in different bands. You have to have that gratitude, though. Because if you’re expecting things and you feel like you’re entitled [to] things, you’re never going to get it. You have to work for it. Then, once you have it, appreciate what you have.”
Sons of Apollo play May 8 at Canton Hall. Tickets are $26.