James Kottak says that he is "cruising along," two years after his split with the SCORPIONS.
In September 2016, the drummer was dismissed from the legendary German hard rock band during his well-publicized battle with alcoholism and was replaced by former MOTÖRHEAD member Mikkey Dee.
During an appearance on the latest episode of "Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon", Kottak, who is preparing to hit the road with a revamped version of KINGDOM COME, offered an update on his health status, saying: "Like any person, I've struggled here and there and went through a few bad days and a few bad weeks here and there. But that's part of what recovery is — if you relapse, then you have to just jump back in and get right back on board. Because the longer you're sober, you start to get cocky and you get overconfident about, 'Oh, I can do this. I can go here.' 'Cause there were months and months and months and months and months I would not be able to go to the place where me and [KINGDOM COME guitarist] Rick [Steier] started and had been going to for 30 years here in Woodland Hills; we'd go in there and have a drink. I didn't even go in there for over a year. So, like I said, it's a work in progress."
Asked how he plans to keep his sobriety in check while he is on tour with KINGDOM COME, Kottak said: "Within KINGDOM COME, Johnny B. Frank, the bass player, I call him Dr. Frank, because he is so knowledgable, and he's been in the program for years. So I have a good support team there.
"We're playing a lot of bars, and everybody wants to buy the band a drink," he continued. "But it is what it is. I'm cruising along and I'm doing the best I can, and that's all you could hope for. Because it's progress, not perfection.
"Our schedule is super tight, and there's not gonna be a lot of time," Kottak added. "But if we can hit [an AA] meeting during the day, then go to soundcheck. There are meetings all over the place at all different times. So that's part of the plan. And also daily checking in and things. I also have — I don't wanna say a network, but I have a list of several people from my rehab that I stayed in touch with, and about once a week, I call [them] and just 'hey,' and it's a five-minute conversation, but it does wonders. And, of course, there's meetings. When you get cocky, that's when the trouble comes. But I'm feeling pretty good about it."
Kottak went on to credit his onetime bandmates in the SCORPIONS for being completely behind him when he entered Eric Clapton's Crossroads drug and alcohol treatment center on the island of Antigua. "Even when I was down at the rehab, and ever since then, I've talked to the guys… I wouldn't say every day, but more like e-mails maybe once a month, and we'd just say, 'Hey, man, the tour is going great,' or this and that," he said. "So I'm super, mega grateful. They came through when I needed it the most. And the timing [for me to go to rehab] was right, because we had to cancel the remainder of the German tour in April of 2016. 'Cause Klaus [Meine, SCORPIONS singer] was having some throat problems and there was gonna be some time off, and I said, 'I might as well go down there.' And it just worked out, 'cause they suggested it. I ended up staying 90 days, and Mikkey came into the band and it was gonna be temporary. And it wasn't until we got down to business in October or November of 2016, which was a long time later, that they just decided to say, 'Hey, man, we wanna talk to you. It's not like you're being fired. We wanna move on. We wanna part ways.' It didn't feel like being fired — put it that way."
"He added: "They're great guys like that — I'm so grateful to them. Put it this way — 21 years is a lifetime. And, of course, I would love to play with them [again], but sometimes it's just time to say, 'That's it,' and you've gotta move on."
SCORPIONS guitarist Matthias Jabs recently said that he and his bandmates "had to make" the decision to fire Kottak, explaining that they gave the drummer "all the chances" to get better. "We reached the point — or he reached the point — where it was just not worth it," Jabs said.
The current lineup of KINGDOM COME, also featuring guitarists Danny Stag and Rick Steier, and bassist Johnny B. Frank, along with singer Keith St. John (formerly of MONTROSE and LYNCH MOB), will kick off a U.S. tour on September 27 in Seattle, Washington. Original frontman Lenny Wolf declined to participate in the trek.