A little more than a month after drummer Mike Portnoy’s sudden departure from DREAM THEATER, the band held three days of auditions in New York City. Over an incredibly productive three-day period, the band played, jammed and spoke candidly and at length with seven of the world’s greatest drummers. The remaining members of the band got to know the candidates musically, personally and professionally and thus assessed the fit of each drummer’s incredible chops with the band’s trademark prog-rock sound.
As revealed in the documentary The Spirit Carries on, which was revealed online in three parts, after intense consideration the band has unanimously chosen drummer Mike Mangini (Extreme, Steve Vai, Annihilator) to fill the seat behind the kit which was left vacant by Portnoy’s departure late last summer.
The documentary series, which is featured on Roadrunner Records’ YouTube Channel, has received an overwhelmingly positive response from fans and critics alike and amassed over 1.5 million views in just one week. Additionally, both Dream Theater and Mike Mangini were trending topics on Twitter this past Friday, behind only Royal Wedding-related topics.
Keyboardist Jordan Rudess reflected on Mangini’s audition saying, “From the first countoff to the very last note of the final song, every beat Mike played was not only in perfect time, but also executed with an undeniable sense of virtuosity and musicality.”
The band has always been extremely sensitive to the fact that this is not only a monumental decision in their own lives, but also a critical moment in the lives of fans around the world, and has treated their announcement of their new rhythm section anchor with incredible respect to the band’s legacy.
“The departure of our lifelong bandmate and friend was an unexpected and truly heartbreaking blow,” said guitarist John Petrucci. “The fact that as a result of that event we’d be introduced to seven infinitely capable and uniquely talented drummers was heartening. But when we played with the infectiously positive powerhouse of a drummer that is Mike Mangini, we knew we had found a silver lining to what has been, by far, the most challenging episode in our musical lives.”
Bassist John Myung explained that “Mike Mangini is inspiring to us on many levels. His attitude and outlook are entirely positive. His total immersion into performing with us is undeniable, and during the audition, we all felt his strong musical and personal presence. At the same time, we also felt a real unity. He will open up our creative potential. It was destiny at work for us to have found the right person at the right time.”
Going into the auditions, singer James LaBrie had a strong vibe for Mangini’s potential. “I had the privilege of working with Mike on three of my solo albums, so I knew he would be a huge contender. He is without a doubt one of the most intelligent, intuitive, interpretive and virtuosic musicians I have ever played with.”
Mangini is completely cognizant of the demanding rhythmic and artistic responsibilities he’ll be expected to take on as the band’s new timemaster, as well as how deeply the band’s history and relationship runs with DT’s passionate and dedicated followers. “I went to work diligently on the audition material far beyond just learning the songs,” explained Mangini, who, upon taking up the mantle for DT, gives up a coveted faculty position at the Berklee College of Music. “I imagined myself onstage with them, giving the fans what I know Mike Portnoy – who is obviously a legend – always worked so hard to provide. For his sake, as well as for the fans and the band’s, I fought hard to earn the privilege of carrying on the spirit of Dream Theater. At the same time, I wanted to honor Mike’s incredible drumming and musical interpretations. This band has a phenomenal past. DT’s fans are so passionate about DT’s music. They deserve to hear the songs they know played as they love them. I’m responsible for that now.”
With the addition of Mangini to the band’s lineup, Dream Theater moved forward into the studio to begin recording their third release for Roadrunner Records. Guitarist John Petrucci reprises his role as producer, and Paul Northfield (Rush, Queensryche, Porcupine Tree) assumes the same engineering position that he has had on Dream Theater’s previous two Roadrunner releases. The band will kick off a world tour in July 2011.
Mangini, for one, cannot wait to get on the road and show the Dream Theater fan base why he was the chosen one. “I am just busting at the seams on being the new drummer for Dream Theater,” he said. “Digesting the incredibly challenging catalog, exploding with creative ideas, and anticipating what James, John, John and Jordan will come up with collectively and individually for new music and a fresh stage show is going to be really exciting and fun for me. I consider this opportunity the absolute pinnacle of my career. I can’t even imagine what untapped and future musical genius is inside of these guys; I can’t wait until we get into the studio together. Playing with these guys…it’s the mountaintop. This is where I want to be.”