Mike Portnoy Explains His Reluctance to Tour Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Drummer Mike Portnoy was due to get back into the touring routine this October.
The seasoned musician was to head out on an 11-date concert trek across the United States with The Neal Morse Band. But as the COVID-19 pandemic still threatens to derail live music events across the U.S., he and the group chose to postpone it until 2022.
How did they reach that decision? In a Sept. 21 interview with 22 Now, the video podcast from former Twisted Sister bassist Mark "The Animal" Mendoza, Portnoy explained that the outfit decided not to embark unless every member was comfortable with it.
Not everyone was.
"Honestly, I don't know how I feel about it," Portnoy admitted of the situation as a whole. While some acts, such as Rise Against, have completed tours this year, many others tried and failed.
"I understand wanting to go out," the drummer continued. "We [had] to pull the plug and push it into next year just because we're seeing all of these other tours coming down and people getting COVID out there, even if they're vaccinated." [via Blabbermouth]
Pointing to COVID-related cancellations that plagued KISS, the drummer illustrated, "One guy gets it, and then the show comes down. You watch KISS just firing up their tour, two or three shows in, and then Paul [Stanley] gets it and they have to sit in a hotel for a week. And then they're just getting ready to go again, then Gene [Simmons] gets it."
Portnoy added, "Just the idea of having to quarantine in a hotel for a week or two, putting everybody, the crew and the gear and the trucks and everything on hold, and the venues — it's scary. And I understand the hesitation to go back out. 'Cause with The Neal Morse Band, we just made that call. We had to look at the situation and say, 'Look, we really wanna play. We're dying to get out there. But is it worth the risk, both in terms of health and in terms of financial?' … You've gotta put everybody in hotels for a week, you've got the crew and the trucks and the gear. And you're losing the show guarantees; you're losing all that income."
Besides money, there's people's health to think about as well. Right now, vaccination efforts in the country continue as around 55 percent of U.S. citizens are now fully inoculated. Over 600,000 Americans have already died of COVID, according to The New York Times.
"I know we wanna play, but we've gotta be safe too," Portnoy said. "It's a tough call to make. It hurt for us to cancel this … tour, but we said to each other, 'Look, first of all, if we have to cancel some shows and sit in hotel rooms, are we willing to be personally liable for that financially?' And everyone was, like, 'Well, no.'"
Portnoy's son, fellow drummer Max Portnoy, is in one of the bands who recently had to come off the road because of COVID. Max plays in Tallah, who were on tour with Avatar on their ongoing Going Hunting Tour until some members of Tallah tested positive.
Other musicians who have tested positive for COVID over the last few months include Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), Corey Taylor (Slipknot), Chad Gray (Mudvayne) Jonathan Davis and Munky (Korn), Sean Killian (Vio-Lence), Sebastian Bach (ex-Skid Row) and members of Tesla and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Metal singer Eric Wagner died last month after being hospitalized with COVID pneumonia.
Keep up with Mike — he also plays in The Winery Dogs, Sons of Apollo, Liquid Tension Experiment, Metal Allegiance and more — via his site and social media.