In a new interview with Chris Akin Presents…, former DREAM THEATER drummer Mike Mangini was asked if he had any “advance notice” that the band’s original drummer Mike Portnoy would return to the group last fall or if it was “really immediate”. He responded (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): “Immediate. But it’s like… So the fish comes up out of the water, it’s immediate, but the fish was swimming for a while. Where was the fish? Whatever.”
He continued: “The reason it was easy for me to deal with — very easy, actually — I was, like, ‘Oh, okay. Yeah. Yeah. Original guy back in band.’ I got I got it. And I didn’t have to go do through a drop-down menu; I didn’t have to do it. It was just I looked at it and went, ‘Okay.’ And plus I don’t know whether it was intuitive, instinctual [or] intellectual… but I have left so many things on the table for so many years — the publishing of more books, the classes that I wanna teach, the interaction that my own self-development comes largely from me having to teach and talk about it to people. At some point, I mean, I see the whole picture, the grid, and I know what I can’t do, and that inspires me.
“But anyway, the answer to your question is, I got a call and understood the call, and said, ‘Okay, let’s do a joint statement,'” he explained. “And then the next day, I’m, like, ‘Okay.’ I’m having coffee and quite literally, at my think tank, looking at my list and going, ‘How am I gonna complete this job now? I’ve gotta fix this or do that. I’ve got a lot to do.’ My studio facility had construction, there was stuff that had to be fixed. I was, like, ‘Let me just let all of this stuff happen and breathe and just finish these things.’ So that’s what my mindset was. I can’t tell you anything different because that’s what it was.”
Asked how he managed to avoid being angry over the fact that he was being pushed out of DREAM THEATER when Portnoy wanted to come back, even though Mangini was the drummer that helped the band win its first Grammy Award, Mangini said: “Well, a) because I don’t know that that’s what is the full picture. I don’t know that that is what happened indeed. And I don’t let myself even think about it. People decide things and I respect that. It’s just it is what it is.”
In early November, Mangini told SiriusXM‘s “Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk” about his exit from DREAM THEATER and the return of Portnoy: “All I know is the decision was made and when I heard it, all I pictured was, ‘Oh, this is an original guy going back to his band. Uh, okay. All right. Let’s go to the next thing.’ It was nothing more. I was told. It was just nothing more than — it seemed so simple to me. And maybe intuitively it’s, like, ‘Oh yeah, I get it.’ And that was that. That’s really it… So that’s really the crux of it all is it was an easy thing for me to understand. And then once the news hit and it became real, which is when it set in, because once I knew about it, I just got busy. I was, like, ‘Okay, I’ve got all these videos to finish.'”
The 60-year-old Mangini, who joined DREAM THEATER in 2010, continued: “I’m actually doing like a lot of stuff for my [recently released solo] album. I’ll do some drum playthroughs. Not to yap and yap and yap about it, but I have a lot on my cork board and my lists and things to do and things to accomplish and things to complete. There’s so much there I haven’t been able to do. But once it hit and it became real, it was real quick for me. I’m, like, ‘Okay, I get it.'”
When host Eddie Trunk noted that everything about his exit from DREAM THEATER, from the way it was handled to the fans’ response to Mike‘s attitude about it, was “about as good as it could be,” Mangini concurred. “It is as good as it could be,” Mike said. “I think people are where they need to be. It’s, like, there’s stuff to do, there’s places to be, there’s people to see, there are things to accomplish and roles to fulfill and tasks to do. And that’s what it is. That’s really what it is.
“How lucky am I, how fortunate am I to be just a part of that history, to have all this amazing stuff happen?” he continued. “It’s positive, positive, positive.
“I know I’ve accomplished some things with my career, and I’ve had a lot of struggles and a lot of things that didn’t work or whatever, but for my parents to be in their 90s, to see this happen, and I’m not talking about career stuff; I’m talking about how I’ve treated people and how they treat me. I mean, I think that’s what I want for my kids — I wanna feel well about how they are with people and how people treat them at the end of the day. I think that’s just awesome.”
Portnoy attended DREAM THEATER‘s concert in March 2022 at Beacon Theatre in New York City. It was the first time he witnessed his then-former bandmates perform live since his exit from the iconic progressive metal outfit 13 years ago. Asked by Trunk if it was “a weird thing” for him to see Portnoy at the gig, Mangini said: “No, and you can ask him. It was like nothing ever changed. In other words, I was post-show getting dressed, and Mike, he walked up the stairs like, and, of course, my door’s open. Of course, I’m basically pantless in a way. And he comes up and I really just like clothed myself. And the first thing I said to him was, I think, something like, ‘Dude, your timing’s off. I just have no pants on for a second.’ I don’t remember what I said. It was like my underwear, whatever it was. But it was like nothing ever changed from the phone calls that we made, from the time he brought me on stage with DREAM THEATER, from the time I’m at a DREAM THEATER show we would though watching ZAPPA DOES ZAPPA and talking about Vinnie Colaiuta and Terry Bozzio. I mean, what other way is there to live? I don’t know anything different. So that’s the truth. That’s the vibe. That’s your answer to your question.”
When Portnoy‘s return to DREAM THEATER was first announced on October 25, 2023, Mangini said in a statement: “I understand DREAM THEATER‘s decision to get Mike Portnoy back at this time. As was said from Day 1, my place was not to fill all the roles that Mike held in the band. I was to play the drums in order to help the band carry on. My main role of keeping our live show working tightly on a nightly basis was an intense and rewarding experience. Thankfully, I got to experience playing music with these iconic musicians, as well as some fun times laced with humor. I also really enjoyed spending lots of time with the crew. And then there’s the Grammy win, which was amazingly satisfying. To the fans: thank you so much for being amazing to me. I cherish the pictures I have of you all losing your minds and having fun. Finally, I really love the band, crew and management and wish them and the entire organization all the best.”
Two months after the aforementioned Beacon Theatre concert, Portnoy told “Trunk Nation With Eddie Trunk” about what it was like to see another drummer play his parts live with DREAM THEATER: “I’ve always been the type of drummer that just flies [by] the seat of my pants in the moment. Even with my own drum parts, I don’t necessarily stick to them faithfully from show to show, whereas Mangini obviously really studied the drum parts and they had everything programmed out. They’re all about the precision, and that’s surely their thing. And yeah, he killed it. There’s no doubt he’s an amazing drummer and he plays my parts incredibly faithfully.”
Portnoy continued: “I feel bad for him. He and I joked about it. He’s in a horrible situation where he’s damned if he does and he’s damned if he doesn’t. He expressed that frustration to me, and I feel for him; it’s definitely a weird position to be put into. I kind of had it a little bit when I played with AVENGED SEVENFOLD and TWISTED SISTER, coming into the throne of two drummers that have passed away, and I tried to learn those parts as faithfully as I could. When I had a hired-gun gig like that, I spent a lot of attention trying to honor the drummer that came before me — it’s important. I don’t wanna go into a gig like either of those and try to force my style onto it.”
Mangini released his debut solo album, “Invisible Signs”, on November 11, 2023. Accompanying Mangini on the LP are Tony Dickinson on bass, Ivan Keller on guitar, Gus G. (FIREWIND, OZZY OSBOURNE) on lead guitar and former EVANESCENCE guitarist Jen Majura on vocals.
Mangini joined DREAM THEATER in late 2010 through a widely publicized audition following the departure of Portnoy, who co-founded DREAM THEATER 38 years ago. Mangini beat out six other of the world’s top drummers — Marco Minnemann, Virgil Donati, Aquiles Priester, Thomas Lang, Peter Wildoer and Derek Roddy — for the gig, a three-day process that was filmed for a documentary-style reality show called “The Spirit Carries On”.
Mangini made his name in the hard rock world in the mid-1990s when he played with EXTREME, before landing the gig with guitar legend Steve Vai in 1996. Nearly a decade later, Mangini took up a full-time teaching position at the world-renowned Berklee College Of Music.