At the beginning of October the FLYING COLORS released "Third Degree", their third studio album in eight years. Could the output be bigger, or is the motto "quality instead of quantity" exactly the right recipe for the Prog-Supergroup? On the other hand, this may not be such a bad cut considering all the projects the band members are involved in.
The various activities of singer and keyboarder Neal Morse (Neal Morse Band, Transatlantic), drummer Mike Portnoy (Neal Morse Band, Sons Of Apollo, The Winery Dogs, Transatlantic) and singer and rhythm guitarist Casey McPherson (Alpha Rev) are not the actual reason for the longer studio breaks, which were cleverly bridged with releases of gripping live recordings. First and foremost, the tour dates of Deep Purple, where guitarist Steve Morse mainly earns his living, are putting a spanner in the works of Flying Colors, as Portnoy reveals in the interview.
eclipsed: How was the work on "Third Degree" structured?
Mike Portnoy: Very harmonious. Everything is very simple, feels good when we work together, fits naturally. This time it just took longer. We basically wrote the album within two sessions, but they were two years apart. The first one was in December 2016. We met in Steve's house and studio and wrote seven songs, but found that wasn't enough and we needed a few more for a complete album. Suddenly two years had passed before we met again in my house and studio in December 2018. We went through the seven songs again and found that we were completely satisfied with them. Then we wrote three more, two came on the album, one became the bonus track.
eclipsed: Has your way of working always been so productive and harmonious?
Portnoy: Well, it was like it was getting better and better over the years. When we first met in 2011, it was a bit like a blind date. We didn't know how it would work out with us. There was a certain chemistry between Neal and me already, as well as between Steve and Dave - there were two teams, Team Transatlantic and Team Dregs [Steve Morse and bassist Dave LaRue played together at the Dixie Dregs, note]. But the five of us together - Casey McPherson joined us as a singer - how that would work was a big question mark. Peter Collins as a producer we had initially intended to play the role of mediator. But he didn't have to play them at all, the cooperation between us musicians worked out quite well.
eclipsed: What do you prefer about the Flying Colors, live performances or studio work?
Portnoy: I prefer to play live with all my bands! I particularly like the spontaneity of it. There's always a lot of waiting and hanging around in the studio. The only trouble with the Flying Colors is that we rarely get to play live shows because of our schedule. A big tour is almost a thing of impossibility. The biggest obstacle is Steve's tour planning with Deep Purple. The rest of us have a lot of control over our schedule, but Steve has it all down to Deep Purple, and they don't always let him know six or eight months in advance when he'll be available. We have to plan around his appointments. It was the same with the current tour, it only came about because Steve was willing to perform with us on the free days of the Deep Purple tour.