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My Prog Hero: Luke Illingworth

“I found out about Mike Portnoy about 10 or 11 years ago when a friend of mine played me Dream Theater’s A Change Of Seasons on DVD.

It blew my mind that a song could last for half an hour and I just listened to it over and over before I found out that this was actually a genre of music. That’s how I started out drumming really, trying to work out how to play that song! Mike’s playing made me realise there was so much other stuff you could do on the kit, rather than just a standard rock beat.

I’ve got a lot of Dream Theater’s live DVDs from when Mike was still in the band and I really like the way they had the multiple camera angles. I would practise by watching the Portnoy-cam and from footage I found on YouTube. I’ve never seen him play live but I have been to some of his drum clinics and watching him play in person there was amazing!

He seems like a cool, laid-back guy and just watching him is enough for me to get inspired. I’m blown away by his playing – there’s a lot of melody in it and you can tell he really thinks about what note he’s going to play. I know he’s got about 50-odd symbols and however many drums, but it’s never just him going: ‘Look how good I am!’

When I was at college, I drummed in a Dream Theater tribute band called Nightmare Cinema – we all loved Dream Theater so we thought: ‘Why not play their songs?’ We used to play the simpler ones like Another Day or Pull Me Under but they were still hard – they don’t let up and that’s what got me more into grooves rather than the hard-hitting stuff I grew up with.

Eventually, I want to have the most ridiculous kit like Portnoy’s! I’ve got this idea of having gongs, chimes, percussion – I want to make a hybrid kit on a remote-controlled riser with electronic pads… but at the moment, I just have two cymbals because I can’t afford anything else!”

Fearless Vampire Killers’ new album Unbreakable Hearts is out now on Goremount Records.

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Natasha Scharf

Dark prog (and chocolate) fan Natasha has been a Prog regular since 2009. News Editor between 2014 and 2019, now Deputy Editor, she is the only member of the team to have appeared on Prog's cover.