Ex-Dream Theater drummer, Mike Portnoy said that he was aware of Neil Peart's battle against brain cancer for two years but had been asked to keep it as a secret.
The Rush drummer, Peart, had passed away on 7th Jan after being diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, four years ago.
"I've known for about two years now and was held to secrecy," Portnoy told SiriusXM's Eddie Trunk in a new interview (via Blabbermouth). "It was something that he and everybody in his camp, obviously, went to great lengths to keep private and keep secret. And that was Neil – he was a very, very private guy."
In 2018, Portnoy previously had told Blabbermouth in an interview that Neil Peart retired from Rush due to health issues. He also said, "It's sad to see it end, but you've gotta respect that, because if they can't deliver, and if they are in physical pain and they can't deliver what fans wanna see, I respect that they would go out on top."
I can't imagine how shocking it must be
Portnoy noted, "Even though I've known for this amount of time and I kind of have had time to psychologically prepare for [his passing] knowing that it was inevitably coming, it didn't make it any less shocking; it just took the wind out of me when I heard it on Friday." He adds, "[For] the whole rest of the world that didn't know about this, this must [have come] completely out of nowhere — I can't imagine how shocking it must be."
Portnoy explained that he had been spending time re-reading Peart's emails and he had "a big, big cry" while doing so.
"You've read his books, you've read his tour programs, you've read his blogs on his website, and that's the way he wrote even in his emails," Portnoy explained. "So whenever I would get an email from him, it was very, very lengthy, very thorough, went into a lot of details of whatever he was going through."
The last time the two drummers met up was during Rush's farewell tour back in 2015 where Peart let Portnoy's son play his drum kit and welcomed them to his dressing room.
"This one's a big one for me, personally," Portnoy expressed. "I haven't felt like this since maybe John Lennon or John Bonham or Frank Zappa. It hits on that level as a fan, as it does for millions of Rush fans around the world."
"But this has a whole new level for me as well, because I didn't know John Lennon or John Bonham or Frank Zappa, but Neil I did know and had a relationship with. So there's that whole level as well, which just makes it horrible."