By Carl Begai
There’s an unwritten rule in rock and metal that if you’re not legally allowed to drink, you don’t deserve a record deal.
Basically, you have to pay your dues before a Corner Office Suit gives you the opportunity to sign on the dotted line. It should be a process of getting the band out of Mom’s basement and into the garage, tormenting the neighbours with crap covers and even worse originals, being ripped off for rent at your first rehearsal space, asking Dad to bail you out of debt or jail (whichever comes first) before finally locking down that fateful first gig in front of a potentially hostile audience on the way to the big time. So it goes that when people discover newcomers Next To None – consisting of members aged a mere 16 and 17 – sitting pretty with a contract signed to InsideOut for their debut album, some folks dismiss them without hearing a note.
Drummer Max Portnoy has the added pressure of being the son of living and very active drum legend Mike Portnoy, who made a name for himself as a founding member of prog metal kings Dream Theater. Mike currently calls The Winery Dogs home, but divides his time with several different artists including Neal Morse, Flying Colors, Metal Allegiance and Twisted Sister. The thinking is that Portnoy family ties led to InsideOut picking up Next To None and that Max wouldn’t be anywhere without dear old Dad. Max is quick to shut down that line of thinking with regards to the latter.
“He didn’t push me into it or anything like that,” he insists. “Being in a band is something I’ve always wanted to do. Growing up watching my dad play drums did influence me in getting interested in making music, but he never forced me into learning how to play drums. I knew I was going to be a drummer when I grew up, I never questioned it. When I got older and met Kris (Rank/bass), that’s when I decided I was going to form a band. We started playing covers before trying to write our own songs, but my dad didn’t have anything to do with it.”
“Next To None was formed in 2012. At that point we wrote the stuff that’s on our debut EP and we were doing cover shows in the area. It wasn’t anything too serious. We’ve been songwriting since then and working on the stuff that eventually turned into (new album) A Light In The Dark. We started getting serious going into 2014.”
It’s a bit disconcerting when a 16 year-old starts talking songwriting and has the proof to back up the claim that he and his bandmates know what they’re doing. Particularly if you have the life experience of a 40-something adult and can’t write 16 bars of music to save your life.
“It just come naturally, to be honest,” says Max. “That’s probably because we’ve always go into making music just to have fun with it. Even now, Thomas (Cuce/vocals, keyboards) came over today just to hang out and we came downstairs and started writing some new music. It’s a hobby, really.”
As for being taken seriously, Next To None hasn’t had as much of a problem with it as one might expect.
“That goes a lot of different ways. For the most part people are genuinely curious to see if we’re any good, but there are some that don’t believe Mike Portnoy’s son is any good playing drums. They’ll check us out for just that reason and end up being appreciating is and being super supportive of Next To None. And then there are people that don’t even bother checking us out because we’re just kids and can’t possibly be any good. We also have fans that got into the music without even realizing that we’re teenagers.”
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