After his performance at this year's Stone Free festival in London, England, guitarist Richie Kotzen (THE WINERY DOGS, ex-POISON, ex-MR. BIG) spoke with Dawn Osborne of TotalRock Radio. The full conversation can be seen below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET):
On how he decides which songs to include in his live sets:
Richie: "That's a good question. A lot of times, I forget about songs that I've written. Sometimes people come up and say, 'Oh, why don't you play this song or that song?' I'm like, 'Oh my god, I forgot about that.' I try to circulate as much as I can, but sometimes, once I get a group of songs that work well, I kind of like to stick with them and rotate them within the set. Certain songs will always kind of segue into each other. On the last tour, we started opening with this song I had called 'Your Entertainer', which I never played live before, ever. I stumbled upon it and thought, 'Man, I always wanted to try and do that live.' Stuff like that happens. For years, we didn't bother with a setlist, and I really liked that, because I could just read the room and kind of call tunes, but then, I started to get forgetful, and forget about other songs, or, 'Oh, you already played that song in the beginning of the set.' Now, what I do is make a set[list] kind of as a template, so we can still call tunes."
On his influences:
Richie: "I was influenced by a lot of people. The KISS influence was really when I was a little kid, which is what moved me off the piano onto the guitar. It was really because I saw Gene [Simmons], and I thought he looked cool. He was breathing fire and spitting blood, and it looked creepy and I like creepy stuff. I figured, 'I can play then guitar, and then I can kind of look creepy. There weren't a lot of creepy piano players back then. I got into KISS, but then once I realized that Gene played bass and I had a guitar, I disconnected a little bit and started listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Allan Holdsworth, a lot of different stuff. I was never one of those kids — some kids would sit down and learn 'Eruption' from VAN HALEN, and they'd learn it note for note, and it sounded just like Eddie [Van Halen]. I never did that. I'd learn it just to figure out what was happening, and then I'd quickly move to something different, so I never learned anything quite correctly, which I think was good for me, because I evolved into my own kind of thing. There's certain things I do on guitar that are kind of unique to me."
On whether he feels he doesn't get enough recognition as a singer:
Richie: "I think everybody that comes to my shows by now and buys my records and watches my videos knows that I haven't made a record where I wasn't singing in over 20 years. I think by now, everybody that buys a ticket to my show or watches one of my videos on YouTube knows that I'm going to be singing. For me, it's one in the same — I don't separate them. The main purpose for me is not whether I'm playing guitar or singing; it's the creative process. That's what I enjoy — I like having an idea for a song, hearing it my head, developing it, the lyric, the melody, everything kind of coming together. I think that people like to separate everything because it's fun to discuss and analyze and compare, but the truth is, from the inside, you don't think in those terms – you think about creativity and creating music. That's how I look at it, at least."
On what's new on THE WINERY DOGS front:
Richie: "Nothing now. [Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy] have another band — they're like the supergroup guys, aren't they? It's a supergroup machine — they keep churning them out. They have a new supergroup called SONS OF APOLLO, which is doing very well. I actually went and saw them in L.A., and I was very impressed. Different kind of music than anything I would be doing — a lot of shredding. It's all shredding; it's really something to watch. Ron [Thal] is fantastic. I really enjoyed it."
On not using a guitar pick:
Richie: "I'm just lazy. I got tired of packing stuff when I go on a trip. The least amount of things I can take, the better. I got rid of the guitar picks; I got rid of the backup guitar. I just like to travel light. I don't like a lot of stuff."
On the singles he's released this year:
Richie: "I put ['The Damned'] video out, and I got a really strong response from the people that follow me. [They] really seemed to like it, which obviously makes me feel good. It just so happens, I've recorded several new songs as singles. I didn't want to put a record out and start up a whole thing. Every time you make a record, [people ask], 'Oh, is there a concept? Is there a this or a that?' I've always been more of a guy that just writes songs. I just decided, 'I don't want to make a record. If I have a new song, I just want to share it, and that's that.' People don't buy records anyway, so why bother making them? But I'll always make songs, because I write songs. I wrote a few songs and made a video for 'The Damned', and I have a new song called 'Riot', and when that was finished, I made a video for that, and now we just put that up. There's another one that I just finished before I came here, so maybe I'll put that up [soon]. Maybe I'll make another video; we'll see. I kind of like the freedom and flexibility to just, when a song is done, instead of waiting until all 12 are done, and then putting it on a record and everybody steals it, I'll just make the song, put it on the Internet and there you have it. Have fun — knock yourself out."
Kotzen's latest single, "Riot", was released on June 7. The song features his longtime bassist Dylan Wilson and drummer Mike Bennett.
Kotzen's most recent solo album, "Salting Earth", was made available in April 2017 via his own custom label, Headroom-Inc.
The majority of "Salting Earth" was the result of Kotzen's one-man production machine, with the exception of Julia Lage adding background vocals to "Make It Easy".