Mike Portnoy on the new Sons of Apollo album ‘MMXX’, the writing, and more.

Sons of Apollo – MMXX North American tour kicks off Jan 23rd in Sacramento, CA.

Just a couple of weeks before the release of the new Sons of Apollo album ‘MMXX’, we had Mike Portnoy on our Albums of the Decade podcast. We talked a little bit about MMXX and here is that excerpt.

MMXX is out now and the band’s North American tour kicks on Jan 23rd in Sacramento, CA.  Details at sonsofapollo.com.

About the new album and tour…
We’re kicking off the year and kicking off the decade with a bang because this album is really awesome, I’m really proud of it and excited by it. I can’t wait to hit the road with it because it’s an amazing live band. Above all, this band is an incredible live act.

The epic track “New World Today”…
We had a long, long playlist of different riffs and ideas that both Derek and Bumblefoot brought in. So I cataloged it all and had it all in my itunes and we would reference all these different riffs and we were writing all the songs and we found ourselves with about, I don’t know, forty five minutes of music worth already written and we still had all these ideas sitting on the table so we knew we wanted to write a big song in the vein of Opus Maximus from the first album, but not an instrumental. So we knew we wanted to write something big and something crazy with a lot of twists and turns, but with vocal parts. So we went through a lot of the things that we loved the most that were still sitting on the table and we figured out a way to kind of work them all in. And it was it was kind of a, you know, a melting pot of a bunch of different things. Derek had the original intro, which is Ascension, it’s a guitar solo, but it’s something that Derek had the chord progressions and a lot of the guitar lines already written. So we had that. We had the bit that it goes into, which is kind of like a UK kind of thing. And then we had all the middle bits called Adventures in Bumble Land, but it was all these crazy Bumblefoot sick sick riffs. We kind of just pieced it all together in true prog fashion and made a bit of an epic out of it. And it’s got a lot of bits and pieces, got this whole thrash section in the middle and you know, a lot of it ranges from like thrash to UK prog and everything in between in this one sixteen minute journey.

Mike’s role in arranging the songs…
You look at all the bands, even back in the Old Dream Theater days, that’s kind of always been my role, like the director and arranger. And, you know, I put out a million videos of like drum cam stuff anytime we’re recording. I always put that stuff out, but very rarely do we have cameras rolling when we’re writing. And I used to do that with Dream Theater. I did a lot of making of videos for, you know, train of thought and systematic chaos. And so, you know, you would see my role in the writing and arranging of these songs in those cases. But a lot of times we don’t like having cameras running when we’re actually doing the writing. We’d like to do the writing, you know, kind of in the secrecy of our own world. And so a lot of times people don’t get to see that. But that really is always my role in any song I’ve ever been a part of. I’m always kind of like the cheerleader and the one that’s like, yeah, I immediately could see all these riffs and bits and pieces and I see the end picture immediately. And somebody like Steve Morse isn’t used to working with somebody like me. You know, Steve Steve likes to work very methodically, very slowly, but I’m like this crazy energy. And I could immediately take all these bits and pieces and do it. I see it already. Steve Morse will look at me like ‘how do you how is that possible?’ Like, we haven’t we haven’t played it yet. It’s OK, I get it. It’s just a crazy energy and luckily I collaborate with people that that can hang with that energy. You know with the Neal Morse Band and Transatlantic and, you know, Sons of Apollo and all these bands and even with Dream Theater, it’s an energy that luckily I surround myself with people that can hang with it and roll with it and flow with it. Yeah.

The speed in which the band writes and records…
With the new Sons of Apollo, Derek, myself and Bumblefoot were at my house doing the writing and the preproduction I think, a week to 10 days of that process. And, you know, we could usually get a song together in one day or over the course of two days. So it was about a week to 10 days. But then comes the tracking process. And people people misunderstand thinking like we did the whole album in 10 days. No, that’s just the writing and the arranging. But then the recording takes months and months and months. So I hope people don’t misunderstand that. But that process is always fast, even in Dream Theater. I remember we wrote the entire Train of Thought album in the course of a couple weeks and people thought we were shortchanging the music. It’s like, no, that’s all we needed. You know, when you work and you get your heads together real quick, you can do it. I think Transatlantic did the whole Whirlwind album, the writing and arranging in only a week or 10 days, the same thing. In fact, the new Transatlantic album is, I think, one of the longest writing processes I’ve ever had. You know, we we spent, I think, 10 days to two weeks for that. So honestly, I get bored. If you spend more time than that doing the writing and arranging, I start to get bored. I start moving on to the next thing.

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