Interview with Adrenaline Mob’s Mike Portnoy

Mike Portnoy is best known as one of the founding members and drummer of the progressive rock group Dream Theater. Portnoy’s latest project Adrenaline Mob which features members of Disturbed and Symphony X is set to release their first full length album on March 13th. Media Mikes had a chance recently to talk with Mike about the group and the upcoming album.

Adam Lawton: How did you first get asked to be a part of Adrenaline Mob?
Mike Portnoy: I have known Russell Allen for many years. Our bands had toured together a couple times and we became very good friends. I have always admired his voice and I think his is one of the best in the business. He is someone that I have always wanted to work with. When my time with Avenged Sevenfold came to a close in 2010 Russell called me up to ask if I would be interested in checking out some material he had been working on with a guy by the name of Mike Orlando. At first I was sort of anticipating material along the lines of Symphony X and Dream Theater. Honestly I wasn’t interested in doing material like that as I wanted to go into some new musical places. I was pleasantly surprised when I hit play and heard the song “Undaunted”. It was exactly what I was looking for and I was instantly on board. It was the right band at the right time.

AL: Can you describe what the writing sessions were like?
MP: The writing happened before my involvement. Mike Orlando has this graveyard of songs and riffs that he has been just waiting for the right band to use them with. He had been working with Russell Allen probably a year or two before my involvement with the project. By the time they asked me to be involved I would say around 80% of the music had been written. I did some shaping and arranging but for the most part everything was there.

AL: How do you think you’re playing on this album differs from that on the Dream Theater and Avenged Sevenfold albums?
MP: I think this stuff is more in line with what I did with Avenged Sevenfold. This was the next natural step in the evolution of that kind of drumming in my life. With Avenged I was out on the Uproar Tour surrounded by bands like Disturbed, Hellyeah and Stone Sour. All these bands are very song oriented and they have a bounce to their grooves. I was very excited playing that kind of music. It’s fun and doesn’t require you to over think anything or play really technical parts. There is nothing wrong with doing that kind of playing but I was looking for a breather. This music definitely is the next step after my drumming on the “Nightmare” album. Having that bounce was the real priority to on “Omerta”. I still wanted it to have my personality and character which I think it does but, have it be restrained somewhat.

AL: Is there a track off the album you are really looking forward to playing live?
MP: At this point we have played everything live already. Every one of these songs comes alive on stage. They are all really energy driven. Songs like “Undaunted” and Psychosane” have a lot drive while the song “All on the Line” serves as a nice breather and a showcase for Russell’s melodic side. When we were playing with Godsmack that song got a great response every night. All the songs serve different purposes depending on what you are looking for.

AL: Where did the idea come from to cover a Duran Duran song?
MP: Mike Orlando and Russell presented that to me at the same time they were showing me all the other material. I had thought it was an original because I never heard the Duran Duran version before. I guess that said something for how well it adapted to the rest of the material. I don’t know which guy actually came up with the idea but it surely works with the rest of the material. Lzzy Hale’s vocals on that track are a whole other attraction. It’s amazing hearing her and Russell trading off together.

AL: What do you think will make this album stand out from others in the rock/metal genre?
MP: I think the thing with Adrenalin Mob is we are taking the song writing structure of bands like Disturbed and Godsmack while keeping with the shred factor. Mike Orlando is an incredible player along the lines of Zakk Wylde and Dimebag Darrell. Add my prog background in and you get something very different. Honestly we aren’t trying to break any new ground with the style of this group. We want to write some great tunes with great riffs and melodies. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. We just wanted to make an album with great songs that are enjoyable to listen to.

Interview with Adrenaline Mob’s Mike Orlando

Mike Orlando is the guitarist for the rock/metal super group Adrenaline Mob. The group is set to release their debut full length album titled “Omerta” on March 13. Media Mikes had a chance to talk with Mike about the album and what it was like playing both bass and guitar on the album.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us what inspired you to put the band together?
Mike Orlando: I had been rolling with the vision and the songs for quite some time. This was even before I had met Russell Allen. Line ups don’t work out or people don’t live up to certain expectations so it’s been in the works for some time. I was working with Russell on writing his second solo album off and on for about 3 years. We are always both on the road so it’s been tuff to get the album done. I brought the tracks to Russell to check out one day and it was just magic. It was exactly what I was looking for.

AL: What was yours and Russell’s writing process like?
MO: I had brought Russell all of the pre-recorded material. Everything was tracked so Russell would either sing on the songs the way they were or we would make some changes to make the tunes work better.

AL: Was it hard balancing both guitar and bass playing duties during the recording process?
MO: No. I love playing bass. I actually have played bass on all of my solo albums. If it has strings I will play it. I never approach the bass like a guitarist. I use my fingers not a pick. It’s very much like John Entwistle who is one of my heroes. I try to look at the tracks like a bass player would as you can’t play bass the way you play a guitar. I think it comes off stiff when you don’t approach it differently. It’s great having John Moyer from Disturbed playing bass in the band now. I told him to do whatever he wanted and to make the songs his own. I gave him the guidelines and he has done a hell of a lot more from what I gave him.

AL: Can you tell us the idea behind covering the Duran Duran song “Come Undone”?
MO: That song has been one of my favorites since hearing it when it came out in 1991. I don’t walk around screaming “Hungry like a Wolf” or anything (Laughs) but “Come Undone” is like my favorite song from that band. When you look past the quirkiness that band is made up of some amazing players. I do try to look a little deeper than their song “Rio”. “Come Undone” I felt always had a haunting vide. The fact that we got Lzzy Hale from Halestorm to do a duet with Russell is amazing. Lzzy I think has one of the greatest voices in rock. I consider Lzzy to be the female Russ.

AL: Is there a track off the album that you really enjoy playing live?
MO: To quote Billy Joel “I don’t have a favorite they are all like my children”. The song “Feeling Me” seems to get a really great response live. I will never forget the first night we played that song when we were out with Godsmack. The song got such a hop. It was infectious. “Hit the Wall” is another one for me that is just very intense

AL: “Omerta” comes out March 13 and I am sure that’s going to keep you busy for some time but, have you guys started thinking about the next album yet?
MO: Oh yeah! I have plenty of material ready for second album. Throughout my life I have been an avid song writer. If I don’t release an album for 3 years it doesn’t mean that I wasn’t still writing and recording. Even when I was younger I would just write and write. I have so much material Mike Portnoy likes to call it my “graveyard” of songs. (Laughs)