Keeping the Beat: Q & A with drummer Mike Porter

Mike Porter of Gloversville is a musician who has found success in performing in bands. He currently plays drums for local bands Saving Atlantis and The Grand Design.

The Leader-Herald asked Porter a few questions about his background, his outlook and his current projects. His answers via email are below.?

The Leader-Herald: Where did you grow up and go to school, where do you live now and what do you do for a living?

Mike Porter:?I was born and raised here in Fulton County and graduated from Gloversville High School. I currently live and work in Johnstown. I work for Ruby & Quiri in the areas of advertising and IT.

LH:?What bands are you currently working with, and who are the other guys in the band?

MP:?I’m currently involved with two bands: Saving Atlantis and The Grand Design.

Saving Atlantis is a project founded by myself and Chad Johnson in 2008, during our senior year at SUNY Oneonta. We wrote an entire EP worth of music in an apartment recording studio, and from there, we set out to find a vocalist and a full band that would allow us to play that music live. S.A. is a band that has had an ever-changing lineup over the years. We have released two EPs of original music, the first album featuring our good friend Alex Perrone on lead vocals, and the second album featuring our most current lineup, with Austin Lakata on lead vocals. Over time, we have shifted away from writing original material, and we’re finding ourselves now mostly covering a mix of songs we love. We add our influences and energy to make each tune our own. It’s all about making it a fun, high-energy party at every show. On any given night, you could hear us playing songs from every decade from the ’50s through the 2010s. We play locally as well as throughout the Capital Region and the Northeast.

Saving Atlantis is Chad Johnson – guitars/keys; Mike Porter – drums; Austin Lakata – vocals; Derek Montanye – lead guitar, keys, vocals; Dave Ratzer – bass.

The Grand Design is an all-original band formed in late 2011. We started the band as a way to get back into original songwriting, and also as a way to explore our different musical influences. We released our first EP in July of 2012 (available on iTunes, Amazon, & Spotify), and we’re working on a follow-up as we speak.

The Grand Design is Derek Montanye – lead vocals, guitars; Chad Johnson – synthesizer, guitars, vocals; Mike Porter – drums, programming; Dave Ratzer – bass; Matt DiSanto-Rose – keys, percussion.

LH: How long have you played the drums, and do you play any other instruments?

MP:?I’ve been playing a “formal” drum kit for about 15 years, but my parents would probably tell you that I’ve been tapping on tables and banging on pots and pans since I was a toddler. I come from a family of drummers – my dad, brother and uncles all played, so it was kind of inevitable that I was going to pick it up. I can play a little piano, but the drums have always been my instrument of choice. I think I am just drawn to the tribal aspect of it. We all have rhythm.

As for my drumming influences, I’d have to say that it started in school, first with my concert band teacher, Mrs. Blodgett, and then in high school with Mr. Savage. They taught me my first chops and also gave me a lot of encouragement and pointed me in the right direction as far as who I should be listening to. It’s a little beyond the scope of this interview, but I really can’t stress enough how impactful music education was for me. It creates a successful mindset that stretches way beyond the classroom.

The drummers that are most influential to my playing are Stewart Copeland, Steve Gadd, Carter Beauford, Steve Smith, Jojo Meyer, Levon Helm, Darren King and Dave Weckl.

LH:?In addition to playing with Saving Atlantis and The Grand Design, you occasionally play jazz gigs. How did that come about?

MP:? I’ve always been fascinated by improvisational music. I just really enjoy being up on stage with musicians and not necessarily knowing where each song is heading. We count off and hope we all make it to the end in one piece. It teaches you to listen to each other. In a world where everyone is glued to their smartphone, that’s a time when you can have a real connection with another human being without distractions.

We are blessed to live in an area that is overflowing with amazing musical talent. We have everyone from Berkeley-trained musicians and vocalists, to educator-performers, to seven-night-a-week touring players, right down to the weekend warriors. The opportunity is there to sit in with all different types of players if you have that interest.

LH:?How would you describe The Grand Design’s sound for someone who’s never heard the band?

MP:?We mix elements of pop, jazz, jam, electro and rock into something all our own. You might hear a little bit of the Beatles mixed with bands like Genesis, The Police, Mutemath and even some ’70s jazz-fusion and pop.

LH:?You’ve played at venues around the Capital Region. What’s been the best gig you’ve played so far?

MP:?Well, there’s the “biggest” gig and then there’s the “best” gig. The biggest gig was in 2008, when Saving Atlantis opened LarkFest on Lark Street in Albany. There were something like 30,000 people on that street that year (maybe more). We got to meet Tom Morello from Rage Against the Machine, which was really cool.

The best gig was last July, when The Grand Design played the “Annual Gala” fundraiser for the Saratoga Bridges ARC. It was awesome to be part of an event that raised almost $90,000 for a great cause.

LH:?Saving Atlantis plays a lot of music, but do you have a favorite song to cover?

MP: That’s a tough one because it changes every show. Right now, I’m loving playing “Too Close” by Alex Clare and “Electric Feel” by MGMT. If we need to get a party started, those are the ones to play.

LH:?Do you have any new creative projects in the works, and are any big gigs coming up?

MP:?The Grand Design is working on a new batch of original songs, which has been so much fun. We’ll be taking one or two new songs into the studio to record and hopefully releasing them sooner than later. Saving Atlantis has a full summer schedule booked, and we have plenty of local shows coming up. I’m also working with a new four-piece group featuring bass, fiddle, guitar and drums. It will be interesting to see where that group goes.