2015 Next to None interview with Portnoy & Holland
Being the son of modern rock’s most prolific drummer is a pretty cool gig. If your own aspiration is to be a musician as well, it certainly opens a lot of doors. The downside is having such a famous pedigree comes with big expectations and muttered claims of nepotism. Max Portnoy is following in his father’s massive footprints. Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Avenged Sevenfold, Adrenaline Mob, Winery Dogs, Flying Colors…) is acclaimed as perhaps the best rock and progressive drummer since Rush’s Neil Peart. Max, at only 15 is already making huge strides behind his own drum kit.
Next month, Inside Out Music will release the debut album from Max’s band, Next To None. The album, A Light in the Dark, was produced by Mike Portnoy, who is quick to point out that the four teens in the band (all 15 and 16) wrote every track on the record. Joining Max are good friends, guitarist Ryland Holland, bassist Kris Rank, and vocalist/keyboardist Thomas Cucé. The quartet has been making music and evolving for a few years now, and the depth and talent displayed on A Light in the Dark is undeniably evident.
This week, Max and Ryland spoke with Metalholic to talk about the band and the forthcoming debut album. Max discussed how the band originally came together:
“Me, Ryland and Kris [have known] each other since the first grade. We’ve always played together but we never really made a permanent band though, until six years ago when we met Thomas Cucé. Once we met him we made a permanent band and we wrote, and played shows, and it got more and more serious as we went along. We ended up writing this album: It’s a mix between prog and metal, and really any genre that interests us. We’re basically just having a lot of fun. We wrote whatever we were feeling.”
A Light in the Dark includes a mini concept conceived lyrically by Cucé, but his band mates added musical elements to thread the tracks together as well. Max chose the album’s name based on Cucé’s concept. Max and Thomas are the band’s primary songwriters, but all four are involved in the writing and creative process. As Holland shares, the musical idea that walks in the door may be a different animal when it walks out:
“If you write something, the band will hash it apart and make something completely different out of it. One of the songs I brought in—it was a slow kind of piece—and Max was like, ‘Try this with it;’ and it ended up being a pretty heavy piece.”
It would be disingenuous to say that the Portnoy name did not open up some key opportunities for the young band, but the guys ultimately shine on their own merit. The album’s debut single, “You Are Not Me” blends solid progressive grooves with modern metal elements, ala Slipknot, into a heavy yet accessible track. Cucé transitions easily between harsh and clean vocals. Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal (Guns N’ Roses, Art of Anarchy) makes an appearance on the record as does prog legend Neal Morse (Transatlantic, Flying Colors, and Spock’s Beard).
Recording a debut album is stressful in its own right, but being so young can add its own challenges. However, the guys stated they did not feel any real pressure at all:
“It all just kind of came naturally for me,” offered Max. “Growing up with my dad and being with him when he records with his bands and listening to the demos it just showed me what to do in those sorts of scenarios.”
“For me the hardest part was figuring out what I wanted to write,” shared Ryland. “Especially for guitar solos since there are so many influences there. It kept changing on a daily basis almost. But as I progressed my playing progressed.”
Next To None will release A Light in the Dark on June 30. You can listen to the full interview with Max and Ryland below and you can check out their in-studio video press kit and the video for ‘You Are Not Me” as well.