Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently conducted an interview with Richie Kotzen (THE WINERY DOGS, MR. BIG, POISON). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Icon Vs. Icon: You have seen many changes in the music industry along the way. Are there still surprises out there for you as an artist?
Richie: The most recent surprise is the success of THE WINERY DOGS. When we got together, I will be dead honest, in my mind I was thinking it would be a cool diversion from what I have been doing lately. I thought perhaps we will make a cool record. Perhaps we will do a handful of key market shows in Tokyo, New York, Los Angeles, London, or what have you, and that would be the end of it. I thought, after it was over, I would go back to what I was doing and a few years later we would reconvene and do something else. I remember we were making a connection from Japan to somewhere in Latin America and when we got off the plane there was an e-mail from our manager that said our record just charted on the Top 200 at No. 27. All of us were blown away! None of us expected that! Apparently, there was an iTunes Rock Chart where THE ROLLING STONES were at No. 1 and we were at No. 2. Needless to say, we were all shocked and surprised by this! From there, we started to get some amazing touring offers and opportunities. Here we are a year later, and it has really become a real band that is a priority for all three of us moving forward. That has been a huge surprise for me and a good surprise.
Icon Vs. Icon: When it comes to THE WINERY DOGS, what do you have in store for us both short and long term? What is your vision for the band?
Richie: I don't think in terms of vision for the band because life, for me, is moment by moment. Right now, I am about to go out on tour with my solo band. We will be touring for a few months behind my new release. In the first quarter of next year, I will be releasing a new solo album and I intend on doing some shows in support of that. At the same time, I anticipate writing songs for the new WINERY DOGS record and the goal I have is that we can release a brand new record by the summertime of 2015 and we would be touring in support of that release. I look at this as a big wheel that can keep turning.
Icon Vs. Icon: As you said, you hadn't been in a band for a while prior to THE WINERY DOGS. Was that a difficult transition to make?
Richie: Not really. The reason it is not is because I am not giving anything up in order to play with THE WINERY DOGS. I would never do that. The fact of the matter is that the timing was perfect for me. I had just finished an album cycle and I had even said to one of my friends, "Ya know, I still want to do music but I feel like taking a break from Richie Kotzen." No sooner did I say that then THE WINERY DOGS were formed, so the timing was actually perfect. Now, we did a great album cycle, very successful, and I am back to what I have always done. I am very comfortable with it. By the time I wrap up what I am doing now, I will be ready to do another WINERY DOGS record. It is all good stuff and as long as I am making music I believe in, I will continue to do it.
Icon Vs. Icon: Let's talk a little bit about this new release, "The Essential Richie Kotzen". You have quite an impressive back catalog. Was it a challenge to put this collection together?
Richie: Believe it or not, it was fairly simple for me to put this collection together. The idea came from the record label. Basically, they acknowledge the fact that I do have a fan base, I am able to tour as a solo artist and I have been doing this for many years. There is a considerable amount of people in the rock community who know my name from the past but they don't necessarily know what it is that I do. Some of these people might be curious once they realize that this guy has over 20 records out and might say, "Where do I start?" The real idea here was to put together a package so that someone can go out and get one thing to get turned on to who I am and what it is that I do. I think we achieved that. In picking the songs, I chose songs I felt were relevant from my past but were also relative to who I am today. Some of these are older songs that I still perform live. I actually took it upon myself to re-record some of these older songs in a completely broken-down format, just a voice and guitar, to really put the spotlight on the songs themselves and not so much the production.
Icon Vs. Icon: Is there anything you would change in your career, given the chance or are you more of a no-regrets kind of guy?
Richie: I guess I'm a no-regrets type of guy because I am very happy with where I am. I am thankful for everything that has happened for me. All I have ever done is play music and somehow I have managed to live this way my whole life, so I am thankful for that. No, I don't want to change anything, but I will say I would be really curious to see what would have happened when I was signed to Interscope, before I got into POISON, if things would have went in another direction. When I was signed to them after I first moved to L.A., I would love to see what would have happened if I would not have fought with them about my musical direction. Back then, I wanted to make a R&B rock record and they insisted upon me making a hard rock album, which I refused to do. After a year of fighting, I lost my record deal. I'm curious to know what would have happened if I had made the record they wanted me to make. Would it have worked? Would I have gone on to make a second album or would it have been the only thing I ever did? If I was going to rewind, not change anything, but look and see what would have happened if I had gone down a different road, I think that would be interesting. I certainly don't have regrets and I am very happy with every choice I have made that has brought me to the place I am at now.
Read the entire interview at Icon Vs. Icon.