Former SCORPIONS drummer James Kottak says he was relieved when his stint with the band ended, explaining that he finally had the time to focus on "getting healthy" and spending time with his family.
In September 2016, Kottak was dismissed from the legendary German hard rock band during his well-publicized battle with alcoholism and was replaced by former MOTÖRHEAD drummer Mikkey Dee.
Speaking to the "Talking Metal" podcast, Kottak stated that he had "no regrets" about his exit from the SCORPIONS. "To be perfectly honest, I've been pretty burnt out for the last four or five years, but I'm still grateful and so thankful to be in the SCORPIONS for twenty-one years," he said (hear audio below). "It's so wonderful and I love the guys so much. We're still really good friends. And I'll be seeing them [in] early [October] here in L.A.; we're having dinner and the usual stuff."
Kottak once again spoke about the circumstances that led to his departure from the SCORPIONS, a series of events that began nearly a year and a half ago.
"In April of 2016, we were in Germany, and, unfortunately, Klaus [Meine, SCORPIONS singer] had some problems with his voice, and we had to cancel the last eight shows in Europe," he explained. "And that left a gap of about two and a half months. At that point, I was kind of struggling a little bit [with my personal issues], so I decided to go down to [the island of] Antigua to Eric Clapton's Crossroads [thirty-six-bed drug and alcohol treatment center]. I was gonna go down there just for a month and kind of check myself and get a tune-up. And it's a wonderful, wonderful place.
"So I went down there while we still had some time, and then I go, 'You know, I'm gonna stay an extra two weeks.' And then I was gonna go back. And the guys were going, like, 'Man, take advantage of this.' So I ended up staying ninety-two days. In the meantime, there were a few [SCORPIONS] gigs [lined up], and, of course, they had to move on, and I gave them my blessing. They go, 'Well, we're gonna get Mikkey to fill in for you.' I'm, like, 'Cool, man.'
"So I came back and then there was some time off," he continued. "I came home about the end of July, and the next batch of gigs were gonna be in South America in September. And at that point, all the gear's getting shipped and all that stuff, and it was only about a handful of dates — seven dates. And to swap the gear out is really expensive. To send Mikkey's stuff home and get my stuff out there was, like, twenty-five, thirty thousand dollars. So I go, 'You know what? I don't wanna be down there anyway.' And then after that, there was just another six or eight gigs left for the year. So it was kind of, like… We were going, 'Let Mikkey finish it out. I could use the time home.' And I got a tune-up and everything was cool. But then we talked, I think it was the end of October-ish, something like that, we were kind of talking and we kind of mutually agreed that it just didn't make sense [for me to continue playing with the band]."
Once he got word that he was no longer a member of the SCORPIONS, "it was actually a relief, to tell you the truth, that it came to that," Kottak said. "They called, and I thought everything was gonna kind of cruise on, but it just worked out that way. And things happen. And, like I said, twenty-one years with one band is incredible, and the guys are just so wonderful; I love 'em to death. But it is what it is. Life has its twists and turns, and this is one of 'em."
Being off the road for most of the last eighteen months afforded the drummer the opportunity to devote "the last year to focusing on James — just really getting healthy, living smart," Kottak said. "Also I was home with my two sons, [who are] twenty-four and twenty, and this was, like the first time in over thirty years that I've been home for a solid year. I've missed so many anniversaries and birthdays, I missed my son's graduation, and you name it. But, anyway, I'm in a great place now and thrilled to death, and that's about that."
Kottak admitted that his time at home hasn't been an entirely smooth ride. "Like any human, I've had my ups and downs and I've had my ins and outs and troubles over the last year as well, 'cause it's a non-stop maintenance thing," he said. "And, again, I'm not perfect — I've had some tough times over the last year, but for the most part, it's been super, mega positive. I have a great support team, and a lot of the alumni from Antigua… And I have my select musician friends, who will remain nameless who have been through a lot of the same stuff that I have, and we talk pretty regularly, and that's always good."
James recently revealed that he is working on a new album from his KOTTAK project in which he plays guitar and sings. The effort is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year for a tentative early 2018 release.
SCORPIONS guitarist Rudolf Schenker told "Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon" in August that he was "very sad" about James's exit from the band. "I always thought that he would be until the end with us," Rudolf said. "We gave [him] a lot of possibilities. We paid [for] his rehab and we tried to really make things happening. We tried to get James on the right track, and we were waiting for the last three years, actually — since 'MTV Unplugged', at least. And we couldn't change it. To book a tour and then also traveling around the world and everything is set up, the crew, you can't really count on somebody who is not stable."