Guitarist Richie Kotzen appeared on "Side Jams With Bryan Reesman" recently to talk about his new album with IRON MAIDEN guitarist Adrian Smith as well as his hobbies, one of which is poker. While he's excited about the new SMITH/KOTZEN album, he had to admit he needed to take a break from the road.
"I had four continents worth of shows booked because on February 3rd , I released a solo album," said Kotzen. The tour included shows in Europe, the United States, Japan, and South America but was scrapped due to concerns over COVID. "Here's what's ironic, or whatever you want to call it — I didn't miss the road," he admitted. "Not once during this entire 2020 did I say, 'I'd love to get out and do a show.' I think what happened to me is I needed a break. Obviously, we didn't want this kind of chaos. But I'm trying to find a silver lining here. And I think I needed a break from touring. I needed a solid year at home with my property here, to be here with my wife. So now I'm starting to get that feeling again — I want to get out there with Adrian and play some shows with this new music that we made. So we'll see."
Something that Kotzen really did miss was playing poker particularly for the social aspect. "The funny thing about poker, about playing cards is I know that I'm never gonna win enough to really change my life," he said. "But I'll definitely lose enough to get pissed off. You know what I mean? It's almost like I'm torturing myself. I like the strategy element, but I love the social thing. There were years where I had a couple of guys that I was friendly with and they'd have games. We'd do one night at my house, one night at another guy's house. I was playing three nights a week for a while. Sometimes I'd win, sometimes I'd lose, so I had to keep an eye on things. I didn't want to get into an expensive habit, but the social element is what I really like. We had games in my house where we'd play and all of a sudden the sun was coming up. It's a fun thing. Now with the pandemic, that'd be the ultimate way to spread COVID. And actually, I remember when this first started, the pandemic, my buddy who I used to play with said: 'I'm going down to play cards down on Melrose.' There was a private game down there somewhere. I said, I don't think I'm gonna go. I don't know enough about this COVID thing. And that doesn't sound great, you guys touching cards and touching money and touching this and that.' I said that sounds like a bad idea. I found out a month later, one of those guys ended up getting COVID. That fucked everything up, basically."
Kotzen says he has a reputation as a card player for being unpredictable which reflects his personality. He said that's an asset in card playing. "I'm one of those people where if I took down a big pot and it was on a bluff, I might show my cards once in that particular night," he explained. "So now people will get it in their heads that if I bet big, that I'm full of shit, and so they'll call me. But I'll make sure the next time I act like that on a bet that I'm actually holding, you know, pocket aces. Some people look at me like 'he doesn't have anything,' and then when I win the hand with a full house, aces over, whatever, then they can't predict what I'm going to do. That I guess would be kind of my style."
This past March, Kotzen revealed that he and his wife already battled COVID-19 last year and came out of it relatively unscathed. "My wife tested positive, and then I ran out five, six days later and got a test, and I was negative," he told The Metal Voice. "But then, no sooner than I get the test, I got sick with all the same symptoms. So I can only assume that I had it as well.
"I've been way sicker in my life, but it's not like that for everybody," he explained. "This thing affects everybody differently, and that's why it's so fucking dangerous. So I think people have gotta be responsible, and now that we know how serious it is — obviously — you've gotta do what you've gotta do to stay safe."
SMITH/KOTZEN's nine-track album was recorded on the Turks & Caicos Islands in February 2020. It was produced by Richie and Adrian and mixed by Kevin "Caveman" Shirley.
Kotzen's 22nd solo album, "50 For 50", was released via his own custom label, Headroom-Inc. The three-disc collection was just what the title implies: a collection of 50 previously unreleased compositions produced, performed and written by Kotzen in honor of his birthday. It was the follow-up to his critically acclaimed "Salting Earth" album, which came out in April 2017 via Headroom-Inc.