Seemingly out of nowhere, Dream Theater announced the return of original drummer Mike Portnoy in October 2023. Portnoy left the band in 2010 and was replaced for the next 13 years by Mike Mangini. Despite Dream Theater and Mangini's decade-plus history together, Mangini said the band didn't give him any advance warning that Portnoy was returning to the band.
"[It was] immediate," said Mangini in an interview with Chris Akin Presents. "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 it. And I didn't have to go 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.' 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."
Mangini later elaborated on his departure, saying he doesn't know how the reunion came to be and what the full story behind it all actually is. "Well 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 a previous interview with The Mistress Carrie Podcast, Mangini spoke a little about Dream Theater's choice to have Portnoy rejoin, saying that he simply understood the decision.
"The situation made sense to me when I heard it in that — I don't know, I guess I just skipped out and thought, 'Oh, that's an original band member going back to a band. Oh, I get that. Okay, I get it.'" said Mangini. "And that's it. I mean, that is literally it."
He continued: "A decision was made that I understood. That's all it is. 'Cause when I heard the decision, I understood it. I tried to explain that I understood the parameters of that being a music thing. Anyway, it's as simple as that. And I'm telling you, I was, like, 'Okay, 'I get that.' I was with the band for 13 years. It was an unbelievable experience."