By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
When it comes to naming the best drummers of all time, these names would come to mind: Keith Moon (The Who), Ringo Starr (The Beatles), Dave Lombardo (Slayer), Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), and last, but most certainly not least, Mike Portnoy. He is arguably one of the best technically skilled drum masters in modern metal today. He has co-founded some really big names in hard rock and heavy metal, like Adrenaline Mob, the Winery Dogs, Flying Colors, and his most famous project, prog metal icons Dream Theater. Portnoy is pretty good at balancing his time with each group he is in or been a part of. Well, he is back at it with a new supergroup project, Sons of Apollo. Back in October, they released their debut album, Psychotic Symphony, which has been received very well, by both the fans and critics. So, yours truly, was honored to chat with the drumming legend back in October, and it was one of my favorites.
First thing I told Portnoy, was how thrilled I was to speak with him and how much of a fan I was. According to him, his band mate, keyboardist Derek Sherinian, came up with the band name. It stemmed from Portnoy’s phone, and they were throwing around different variations for the name, before settling with Sons of Apollo, which he says gave a Greek mythology twist to it. The group originally started out as an instrumental group, with Tony MacAlpine on guitar, Sherinian on keys, and Billy Sheehan on bass. At the time, he could not commit due to other projects, but eventually joined when the time was right, and also brought on board vocalist Jeff Scott Soto and new guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal. We talked about where the band’s sound comes from. While there is some prog metal in the sound, there is also a good mix of classic hard rock and heavy metal as well.
The name, Psychotic Symphony, comes from a phrase in the song they wrote, “Lost in Oblivion,” and Portnoy thought that would be a cool name for the album. While he did write a lot of the lyrics during his time in Dream Theater, he said Soto handled that department mainly. The song that he found really enjoyable to work on, though he liked them all, depending on the mood, was “Labyrinth.” We would laminate on his career and the experiences he endured in music. The one topic I was interested in, was about his brief time with Avenged Sevenfold, which we discussed. His son, Max, has followed his dad’s footsteps and is drumming in his own group, Next to None. We explored that subject along with how it feels to pass on musical wisdom to his son.
For a solid 20 minutes, it was a real in-depth conversation with one of the coolest musicians on the planet, next to Sammy Hagar of course. It awesome to discuss with him his career and what his next band means to him. Sons of Apollo have plans to tour next year, starting with the States in February. Until then, be sure to pick up Psychotic Symphony, a praiseworthy debut for any group. To Mike Portnoy, I salute you. Horns up!!!
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