Northampton Press

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Night On The Town:

Thursday, February 6, 2020 by DUSTIN SCHOOF Special to The Press in Focus

For Sons’ Portnoy, different

After 35 years in the business, Mike Portnoy is still hungry.

He is also a little under the weather and yearning for a good night’s sleep.

“But I know once I hit that stage, I know I’ll come alive and the adrenaline’s gonna kick in. I love each and every show,” Portnoy says in a phone interview.

“When it comes to performing, it’s always the audience that inspires me.”

Portnoy plays drums in the progressive hard-rock super group Sons of Apollo, in concert, 8 p.m. Feb. 7, Penn’s Peak, Jim Thorpe. Opening the concert is Tony MacAlpine.

The stop is part of a 13-city North American tour in support of the group’s sophomore album, “MMXX.” Following the stateside trek, the band heads overseas for a series of European dates.

“It’s been awesome each and every night,” Portnoy says, less than two hours before taking the stage at Denver’s Oriental Theater. “Usually, it takes a while to get up and running, but this time we really hit the ground running.”

Formed in 2017, Sons of Apollo is rounded out by vocalist Jeff Scott Soto, former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thai, former Dream Theater keyboardist Derek Sherinian, and former David Lee Roth bassist Billy Sheehan.

Portnoy, who co-founded the influential progressive heavy-metal band Dream Theater in 1985, credits the various musicians he has worked and collaborated with over the years for continuing to influence his playing and fuel his creativity. Portnoy left Dream Theater in 2010. Portnoy is also a former, and founding, member of heavy-metal super group Adrenaline Mob.

“MMXX,” released Jan. 17, builds on the bombast and intricate arrangements heard on Sons of Apollo’s 2017 debut album, “Psychotic Symphony.” Portnoy’s drumming is, unsurprisingly, even more potent the second time around.

Portnoy, who owns a home in Upper Saucon Township, points to the track ”New World Today” as a personal favorite from the album. The track clocks in at beefy 16 min. and 38 sec.

In a press release, Sherinian stated, “You have to remember that Mike [Portnoy] and I come from Dream Theater, where we never bothered about how long a song was. So, for us doing a 16-minute track is not a problem.”

To call Portnoy a working musician is an understatement. Sons of Apollo is one of several groups Portnoy splits his time between, including the bands Flying Colors and The Winery Dogs. The latter also features Sheehan on bass and vocalist-guitarist Richie Kotzen.

“Sons of Apollo is very different in that it’s very technical, very precise,” says Portnoy. “With Winery Dogs, it’s a three-piece power trio. We have a lot of room to improvise and jam; it’s an open field to go crazy.”

Working with different musicians and their varying personalities has enhanced his songwriting:

“The most diversity and range are in those [types of] songs. With each and every one of these bands I’m in, it’s not done via email. The writing is always done in the room together. It truly is a conglomeration of different styles.”

Three-plus decades behind the kit has taught Portnoy “a million lessons,” among them the cruelty of the music business and how to persevere and fight through it.

“You kind of have to learn how to be a team player and be able to adapt to different situations and personalities,” Portnoy says. “Some bands I’m the leader. Other bands I’m a team player. And other situations, I’m the hired-gun drummer, like with Avenged Sevenfold. You have to learn different roles in different situations.

“For me, I’m always inspired by working with such great musicians. To me, that’s the beauty of all the bands I’m in.”

Tickets: Penn’s Peak box office, 325 Maury Road, Jim Thorpe; pennspeak.com; ticketmaster.com; 800-745-3000; 866-605-7325

“Night on the Town” is a column about popular music with an emphasis on live perforrmances. Information: pwillistein@tnonline.com