Styles and varieties of music come in all shapes and sizes, with many to possibly explore. Most opt to remain firmly rooted in one genre, but others decide to pursue several different genres. Having parted ways with progressive metal outfit Dream Theater, Mike Portnoy has favoured the latter courtesy of an array of new projects.
Formed in early 2011, Adrenaline Mob consists of: Symphony X frontman Russell Allen, Sonic Stomp guitarist Mike Orlando, bassist Paul DiLeo, Stuck Mojo / Fozzy guitarist Rich Ward and former Dream Theater drummer Mike Portnoy. Self-produced by the group, their eponymous debut EP arrived on August 9th. As well as four original tracks, included was a cover interpretation of Dio-era Black Sabbath composition "The Mob Rules". Available through iTunes, copies are also being sold at live shows. In its first week of release, the EP sold 1,800 copies in the United States, landing at position thirteen on the Top New Artist Albums chart. A debut full-length is due in early 2012.
Mike Portnoy is also recording at a Los Angeles studio with guitarist John Sykes, formerly of Whitesnake, Blue Murder and Thin Lizzy. An unnamed bassist completes the power trio. The sticksman has also teamed up with guitarist Steve Morse (Deep Purple / Dixie Dregs), multi-instrumentalist Neal Morse (Transatlantic / ex-Spock's Beard), Dave LaRue (Dixie Dregs) and vocalist Casey McPherson (Alpha Rev / ex-Endochrine) in another project.
On August 23rd at 21:40 GMT, Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned Adrenaline Mob's management office to speak to drummer Mike Portnoy regarding the group.
Mike Portnoy: Hello?
UG: How are you Mike?
How are you doing, man?
I'm doing well. Would it be alright if we began the interview?
First of all Mike, how did Adrenaline Mob get together?
Russell Allen and Mike Orlando were working on songs for a couple of years before I was even approached by them, and they were writing the material I think for another Russell Allen solo album. It evolved into something different, which was this material. After my run with Avenged Sevenfold came to an end, I guess Russell knew that I was available and looking for some musical options. He and I had been talking about doing something together forever, so he sent me some of these tunes that him and Mike were working on and I was immediately floored by what I heard - the aggressive style of it, and I had been wanting to tap into something like it. I guess that's how my involvement came to be. At that point I was onboard with the guys, we completed the lineup and then completed work on the album.
Is there a story behind the band's name?
Originally those guys wanted to call the band Adrenaline Fueled Junkies and I think another band had that or had the copyright or whatever, so we needed to think of something else. I liked the idea of using the word Adrenaline because I had never heard of any other bands that had that in their band name. I thought it was natural for this music - it's very, very high energy - so I wanted to have the word "Adrenaline" in the band's name. I also liked its position in everybody's iPod and iTunes, wedged between AC/DC and Aerosmith, so we kept the word "Adrenaline". I then suggested "Mob" because we very much felt like a brotherhood or a gang, like the mafia, so we ended up throwing "Mob" on the end. That's how the band name came about.
In terms of the "Mob" part, was the Black Sabbath track "The Mob Rules" an inspiration, which Adrenaline Mob covered?
No - it's the other way around. We weren't thinking of that song when we came up with the band name, but as soon as we came up with the band name we immediately thought of the song and knew that we would have to cover it. We covered it, and it was the perfect track for us to cover because Russell Allen can sing the shit out of Dio. It was a great song to cover.
How would you describe the music featured on Adrenaline Mob's debut EP?
I've said this before, but I think it stands true. I think the elements of the Adrenaline Mob sound are huge riffs, slamming grooves and shredding playing - they're the basic elements of the band's sound. I don't know how you would describe Pantera or Black Label Society or Stone Sour, but I think it's very much in the vein of those types of bands. Just riff-oriented and groove and song-oriented, if not at all progressive - which isn't the point of this band at all. This is supposed to be entirely different, so I don't know. That's what it is, just adrenaline fueled music.
Does performing non-progressive music present a different challenge for you as a drummer?
Yeah. Well, I wouldn't say a challenge. It just presents to me a different environment. I've always been a metal fan; Dream Theater always touched on metal elements, but yet it was still in the context of twenty-minute songs with a million time signatures. I love that kind of progressive music as well - I've done that my whole career - but there's also another side of me that wants to get up there and take off my thinking cap and just have a good time and headbang. I love bands like Pantera and Metallica and Slayer. When I went out and toured with Avenged Sevenfold last year, it was a bit of an awakening for me because I was surrounded by Hellyeah and Stone Sour and all these other bands, and I was up there with a band just having a good time and rocking. It was definitely an element and a side of me that needed to get out, and after I did that tour with those guys I knew that I definitely wanted to do something that was not rooted in prog. I had been doing prog for so long that I think there was another beast inside of me that needed to get out, and have a little fun.
Was age a factor? Playing with younger musicians?
I didn't really think of age when it came to Avenged Sevenfold. You'd have to ask them if they did, but to me I enjoyed playing with those guys and it was a great time. They definitely gave me a shot of youth, and I think I maybe gave them a shot of experience. They were coming off of their incredibly sobering experience after losing The Rev, and I think there was a part of them that was ready to "grow up a little bit". I'm a little older, I've been sober for many years and I'm a family man, so I think I gave them a little bit of what they were looking for and they gave me a little bit of what I was looking for. I really enjoyed doing it together - it was a good time while it lasted.
Is Adrenaline Mob's debut full-length completed?
Yeah. It's probably gonna be out at the start of the new year. We're sorting out the details now.
Has a record contract been signed?
We're weighing up our options right now. We're figuring out where we wanna go with it.
"Originally those guys wanted to call the band Adrenaline Fueled Junkies and I think another band had that or had the copyright or whatever, so we needed to think of something else."
How many tracks will feature on Adrenaline Mob's debut full-length?
We're deciding. We're thinking of maybe adding a few more songs and recording them before we put out the new album, so we're evaluating. We're still figuring out what we wanna do.
Does the album have a title?
How would you musically compare Adrenaline Mob's debut EP to its debut full-length? Is it in a similar vein?
One thing is we didn't put any of the more accessible "radio songs" on the EP because we wanted to hold off on those until we had a full-length out, and the full-length album has at least three to four songs that could be very much accessible songs that could be played on the radio. I think the album you'll find is a little bit more diverse and rounded and has a couple more quieter moments, a little bit more straight ahead, grooving stuff. With the EP we wanted to put stuff on that was a little bit harder edged with a little bit more playing, so that's why "Psychosane" and "Hit The Wall" are on there. What you're hearing though is the general sound of the band.
How will the schedules of the members' other groups affect Adrenaline Mob?
I think it's very common in this day and age for people to work in multiple bands - it happens a lot. It's just a matter of time management, and that's the way it's been for years. In all my years in Dream Theater, I still did many other albums and side projects and it'll be no different with this band. We all have different things going on on the side, so we'll just figure out a way to make it all work.
In previous interviews, you cited Corey Taylor juggling commitments with Slipknot and Stone Sour as an example.
Yeah, that's one example. I could probably give a million examples. Shit, I've always had a million bands, so it's nothing new. It's what people do in this day and age. It's very common.
Speaking of different bands, what can you reveal regarding the band you've formed with John Sykes?
He and I have started working on an album, and we've got a lot of songs demoed. We're working with a bass player we haven't revealed yet. We're gonna start recording the album in the fall and it'll be out sometime in 2012.
What type of sound has this band taken on?
The thing with Sykes is way more classic rock oriented; it's in the vein of Zeppelin and Deep Purple and old Black Sabbath, and Randy Rhoads-era Ozzy and Rainbow. It's very much in that vein, classic rock and old school. It's a power trio; it's me, John and a bass player, so it's a very, very different world from what I'm doing with Adrenaline Mob.
When in 2012 do you feel your album with John Sykes will be issued?
I don't know - it's impossible to predict. Sometime in 2012. I would imagine probably late spring / early summer, but I'm guessing right now as far as that goes.
Is your project with John Sykes the first thing you'll pursue following your current commitments with Adrenaline Mob?
I don't think it'll be at the end of Adrenaline Mob. I plan on working actively with both bands in 2012, and not only that but there's another album coming out that I did earlier this year with Steve Morse, Neal Morse, Dave LaRue and Casey McPherson - that's also gonna see the light of day at the start of 2012. I spent basically 2011 planting the seeds for three new bands, and all three of them are gonna come to fruition and start touring in 2012 and beyond, so busy times for me.
How would you musically describe your project with Steve Morse and so on?
The one with Steve is a little bit more poppy and alternative with progressive elements. It's a weird combination of styles; I would say it's almost like U2 and The Beatles sprinkled with Yes and Kansas. It's a weird combination of alternative, pop and prog, so once again it's completely different from what I'm doing with Adrenaline Mob and completely different from what I'm doing with John Sykes. All three bands that I'm working with at the moment are three completely different musical worlds, which is what totally excites me.
Do these two other bands currently have names?
Yeah, but nothing that we've announced yet.
"We weren't thinking of Black Sabbath track "The Mob Rules" when we came up with the band name, but as soon as we came up with the band name we immediately thought of the song and knew that we would have to cover it."
How are you finding life after Dream Theater, considering it was obviously a huge part of your life?
I'm very happy. I couldn't be happier exploring such broad musical territories with such great musicians. I mean this year alone, I've played with some of the greatest musicians in the world ranging from Paul Gilbert to John Sykes to Russell Allen to Steve Morse. Just this year alone I've surrounded myself with such great players and such great people that it's a dream come true for me to be able to have this amazing address book filled with friends and amazing artists that I can call up and make music with. It's an exciting time for me to be able to explore so many different sides of different styles of music that I love - I've never been only into one thing. What I did with Dream Theater for all those years was a big part of me, but it was really only one part of me. I've always loved progressive music, but I also love thrash metal and pop music and everything in-between. It's exciting for me to be able to explore new ground with new people.
Under the right circumstances, would you return to Dream Theater in several years time?
Well I never say never, and honestly, as is well documented I never intended on splitting with the band - I just merely felt that a little break from each other would've done us some good. That being said, I would always welcome a return to the guys if the situation was right. If I was available, and if they wanted it. I have no idea what their intentions are though. They're gonna move ahead into their future and I'm gonna move ahead into my future, and if our paths cross and if the timing is right, I never say never. I guess we'll see. Time will tell.
Ok. Thanks for speaking to me Mike.
All the best with Adrenaline Mob and your other two upcoming bands.
Thank you man.
Take care. Bye.
You too. Bye.
Interview by Robert Gray
"I never intended on splitting with Dream Theater - I just merely felt that a little break from each other would've done us some good."