INTERVIEW: Ritchie Kotzen (THE WINERY DOGS)
WIKIPEDIA BIO: Richie Kotzen began playing piano at the age of five. At the age of seven, he was inspired to learn the electric guitar by the band Kiss. He started his career in a band named Arthur's Museum. Kotzen was eventually discovered by Shrapnel Records' Mike Varney, and he recorded his first solo album by the age of 19, the first of two instrumental records, simply entitled Richie Kotzen. He created the video Rock Chops for REH video in 1989, highlighting many of his formative techniques, including using wide-intervals and fluid sweeping. One year later, a second solo album called Fever Dream was released, which was the first one to also feature his lead vocals. Since then, Kotzen has released a long series of more than twenty albums with musical influences ranging from Rock, Hard Rock, Pop, Blues, Blue-eyed-soul, R&B and Funk to Jazz Fusion. In 1991, at age 21, Kotzen joined glam-metal band Poison, co-writing and performing on the album Native Tongue. This album produced two top-twenty singles which Kotzen co-wrote, "Stand" and "Until You Suffer Some (Fire and Ice)". In 1999, Kotzen replaced Paul Gilbert as guitarist in the mainstream rock band Mr. Big, performing on their album Get Over It. He also contributed guitars to their subsequent release Actual Size. The record included the Kotzen song Shine, which debuted at number one on Japanese radio charts. After Mr. Big disbanded, Kotzen released the solo album Change, in 2003. The title track and the song Get a Life were featured in TV commercials throughout Japan. In 2002, Kotzen bought a commercial building in Los Angeles and established a recording studio and production company. He has since produced his own acclaimed solo albums and collaborated with various figures in rock (e.g. Gene Simmons), jazz and fusion, including jazz legend Stanley Clarke. In 2006, Kotzen was the opening act for The Rolling Stones in Japan on their Bigger Bang tour. In 2013, the rock supergroup The Winery Dogs released their self-titled debut album on May 15 in Japan, with a worldwide release on July 23 of the same year.
Playing electric guitar without a pick?
Richie: "It's fun because i always would play a song or two here or there finger style, it's a sound that I've always loved but I never really committed to doing it for an entire show until about 10 years ago. It was I had a dreadful performance somewhere in Brazil where i didn't like anything that I played. I really wanted to challenge myself, so I figured the only thing I can do is take something away, so I decided to try and play the show without a pick and it actually worked, so from there I just stuck with it and it has kinda opened up a lot of doors for me. I actually re-learned some of the things I used to do with a pick and learned how to do it finger-style and it's helped me open up more styles with my finger-style technique. I'm glad I did it."
Was Jeff Beck a big influence on your finger-style playing?
Richie: "Believe it or not, no. I didn't even have any of his records when i grew up, which is kind of odd considering the fact that I'm also doing finger-style, but I will say I saw Jeff Beck live many, many years ago at a venue that doesn't even exist anymore and it was by far the best guitar show I've ever seen in my life, just stunning and sensational. But as far as a real influence in my playing, I never had any of those records and I feel embarrassed to say that. My influences on guitar were believe it or not; Stevie Ray Vaughn was a big influence at one point, Eddie Van Halen was a big influence, George Benson was a big influence, even Hall & Oates were a big influence on me."
People draw comparisons with your vocal sound and Chris Cornell's, was he an influence?
Richie: "Much like the Jeff Beck comparison, Soundgarden became famous after I'd already started making records, so I didn't really grow up the way you did listening to them. But people compare me to him and it's flattering, he's one of the greatest of all time rock singers. Before he was a household name believe it or not I got compared to David Coverdale and even at some point someone compared me to Ronnie James Dio. One of my big influences that I did really study was early Rod Stuart and Paul Rodgers."
Listen to the full interview below (Note this was recorded from a cell phone so the audio isn't fantastic)
Click the tour poster for a link to ticket sales!
Richie's new album Salting Earth is out now!