Liquid Tension Experiment is an instrumental progressive rock/metal project, founded by Dream Theater's drummer Mike Portnoy, in 1997. The band has released two albums through Magna Carta Records. A third album, featuring three members of the band, was released in 2007.
Mike Portnoy invited Jordan Rudess (keyboard) and progressive rock icon Tony Levin (bass, Chapman Stick) of King Crimson and Peter Gabriel's band to join him. In his instructional video "Liquid Drum Theater", Portnoy said that his first choice for the guitar was Dimebag Darrell, but he was unable to join because of conflicting schedules. Two other primary choices, Steve Morse (Dixie Dregs, Kansas, Deep Purple) and Jim Matheos (Fates Warning) were also unavailable. Portnoy then turned to fellow Dream Theater member John Petrucci to fill the position (despite initially wanting to keep the project completely separate from Dream Theater). The combo was formed as a side project to Dream Theater in 1997. Some theorise that Rudess was asked to join Dream Theater largely because of the success of Liquid Tension Experiment. He had already declined a previous offer to join in 1994 and instead became a member of the Dixie Dregs, known for complex, "Southern fusion" instrumental music.
Liquid Tension Experiment released two albums, Liquid Tension Experiment (1998) and Liquid Tension Experiment 2 (1999) on Magna Carta Records. They also played a few live shows in New York, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. Mike Portnoy has previously stated in numerous interviews (and on his web site FAQ) that there would not be a third LTE album, as 3/4 of the band is in the current Dream Theater line-up and the material would be too similar; yet there can always be live shows with the same line-up. In 2007 however, he said that a third release is possible, but that his problems with the Magna Carta label are more of an obstacle than getting the band members together to record. A situation that to do with the company that released the "Liquid Drum Theater" vhs tape using video footage of Liquid Tension Experiment in the studio without getting the required permission of Magna Carta. Mike Portnoy came back to Magna Carta in 2007 to release the Liquid Trio Experiment's "Spontaneous Combustion" Sessions.
Several songs and riffs from the project have been incorporated into Dream Theater's live performances, such as "Instrumedley" from Live at Budokan.
On October 4, 2007, it was announced that LTE would headline NEARfest 2008 in June. On March 29 2008, six Liquid Tension Experiment tour dates in June 2008 were announced to celebrate the bands 10 year anniversary as well to create a "whole new musical experiment".
Liquid Tension Experiment announced that there will be a new live album CD/DVD coming soon through their Facebook site on June 30th. They also said there are plans for a new studio album, as well as an "Official Bootleg" of their live show in Chicago show on June 25th. That night, Rudess' keyboard malfuncioned about halfway through the show. While he was on the phone with Roland Japan trying to figure out the problem, the other three members jammed on stage. This went on for over an hour, leading up to the finale where Rudess took Petrucci's guitar and played, while Petrucci played Levin's bass and Levin played his Chapman stick. Following that, Portnoy grabbed Levin's bass and Charlie Benante played drums for the grand finale.