inside story: THE WINERY DOGS

After an extremely successful debut album in 2013, Richie Kotzen, Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy - the three titans collectively known as The Winery Dogs - unleash 'Hot Streak'. This second studio release picks up from where their self-titled album left off, yet broadens its musical spectrum incorporating, alongside their traditional Rock vibes, slower and more commercial tracks. Not only is the trio's new release an excellent reason for singer and guitarist Kotzen to be understandably thrilled, he's also just unveiled his first ever professionally shot DVD with his solo band. Without further ado, Mr Richie Kotzen...
I guess you are really excited about this new release. How do you feel about it and how did you write for it?
We wrote for it kind of similar to the first record, the biggest difference is that the on first record I brought in quite a few songs that I had already written and we just recorded them. On this record I didn't do that, kind of on purpose. I figured if I write something on my own I'll just keep it for myself, as a Winery Dogs song should come from the three of us, at least on the music. So basically we got together and just came up with a bunch of musical ideas like little riffs, and we arranged them instrumentally and recorded them and then I spent a couple of months living with them and eventually I wrote melodies and lyrics and pretty much turned them into songs. We did do that on the first record, but just half of it. This time we did that with the entire record. I think somehow, probably because this is my mood, I wrote better lyrics this time and in some ways I feel like we might have made a stronger record. There's certain chances that we took as well with the treatment of the songs and so the record has a broader scope stylistically. The last record was pretty much a straight Rock record with the exception of the song 'Regret'. This one took a few chances stylistically. I always like that because it shows a little bit of growth.
Was that a conscious effort to try different styles or did it just happen naturally?
I think it just happened naturally. We never really talked about anything stylistically and I've always been the kind of person that I write what I write and if I like it, cool, and if I don't, I don't release it.
The debut album was so well received. Were you nervous about recording the follow-up?
I wouldn't say I was nervous but I know that I wasn't ready. I was trying to stall it as much as I could. Our manager was putting pressure on me to start the next record and I didn't really want to because I was pretty burned out from the first album cycle, and secondly after that I put out two records of my own: the compilation 'The Essential Collection'

and the studio album 'Cannibals'. I did a bunch of touring on that with my band as well: we went to Europe, South America and the States. I was really working a lot, so the thought of starting another cycle of anything was not something I wanted to do. So I agreed to at least get together in January and tie things in, and we did. Then I sat for a while and it wasn't until April when we played on a cruise that I started listening to the stuff and started getting ideas. Once I started getting new ideas, I started to get really excited to record them. So we booked studio time around June and we started recording. When we recorded, the guys spent about ten days doing bass and drums and then I'd take over and spend as much time as I needed finishing the record: guitars, vocals, electric piano, acoustic piano... it's quite a bit of work.

'Oblivion' is such a fantastic way to start the album!
Yes, I think that that song is a good opener for the record. It ties in to where we left off. We wrote that song during the first album cycle on one of the breaks we were together and we wrote that and did a little demo of it and started playing it live. There's some other stuff on the record that I love. I love the song 'Hot Streak', I love 'Ghost Town' and we have a ballad there again called 'Fire' that really came out cool. I think it's a cool record.
What are the band's touring plans?
The US tour is posted and starts in October for 4-5 weeks. Then we're looking to do Europe in February.
You've now played together for over 100 shows so by now you pretty much must know what to expect from each other when on stage. Is that chemistry that you develop further and further and that you can still improvise with?
The band is an interesting animal. There's a certain show element to the Winery Dogs. By the way, the same day as the Winery Dogs album comes out I'm releasing my first ever professionally shot live DVD, a properly recorded DVD that I did with my solo band. It was at the end of our touring so we were pretty much at our best. What you'll notice with that band is that we really improvise for real. We really listen to each other and play off each other. With the WD it's definitely more of a show element, not to say that we don't listen but it's a visual element to the WD: Mike throwing his sticks in the air and Billy doing all kind of crazy things to the bass. I always joke and say in basketball terms the Winery Dogs is like watching an NBA All Star game, where people are dunking and flying through the air and scoring 130 points but no one is playing defense; and when I do my trio is almost like watching the Chicago Bulls back in the Jordan era. It's a different animal but both are fun.
Your first show of this tour is only in three weeks' time so I'm guessing you've already started rehearsing and you know which songs the new album you're playing?
Well, I don't know yet because, believe it or not, we didn't start rehearsing yet. We're going to get together three days before we go out and we'll figure it out. It will be fine, we're playing our music so it shouldn't be that hard to get it right. I'm looking forward to getting out and playing live. Then, at the end of this album cycle I'll take a step back and maybe get some time off and see what I feel like doing and not rush into another cycle of anything. But at the moment, I'm pretty much looking forward to getting this music out there and getting heard.
To conclude, please tell us about your solo live DVD.
It's called ''Richie Kotzen Live', although I think it has a different name in Japan. It was recorded in Japan at a place called Blitz and what I love about it is that it's the first real DVD that I've done where I'm recorded properly, both the visual and the audio. Years ago I released 'Bootlegged In Brazil' and although it was a great show, it was a lower quality. So this one in Japan they did a great job. It's me and my rhythm section Dylan Wilson and Mike Bennett and I love it because it's the first time someone actually captures what we do and we played well. A lot of times when you get these opportunities to record and people have cameras and you just have a bad night. But this one turned out to be a really good and accurate representation of what we do. There are a lot of spontaneous moments on here. It's going to be available online order only and you will see a link on my Facebook and Twitter pages. If you're interested in what I do with my solo band and you haven't seen us, definitely check it out, or if you have seen us live get it anyway because it's a really good representation of what we do. I'm really happy to finally have this DVD out.

THE WINERY DOGS live on the road
Jan 29 Essigfabrik Köln, Germany
Jan 30 Kulturfabrik Esch-Sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
Jan 31 The Forum London, United Kingdom
Feb 02 Academy Bristol, United Kingdom
Feb 04 Ritz Manchester, United Kingdom
Feb 05 Institute Birmingham, United Kingdom
Feb 06 Trabendo Paris, France
Feb 08 Kafe Antzokia Bilbao, Spain
Feb 09 Joy Eslava Madrid, Spain
Feb 10 Apolo Barcelona, Spain
Feb 12 Crossroads Roma, Italy
Feb 13 Z7 KONZERTFABRIK Pratteln, Switzerland
Feb 15 Backstage Halle Munich, Germany
Feb 16 Majestic Music Club Bratislava, Slovakia
Feb 17 Barba Negra Budapest, Hungary
Feb 19 Olomouc Rocks/S Klub Olomouc, Czech Republic
Feb 20 Progresja Warszawa, Poland
Feb 21 Bi Nuu Berlin, Germany
Feb 22 Knust Hamburg, Germany
Feb 24 Debaser Strand Stockholm, Sweden
Feb 25 Sticky Fingers Göteborg, Sweden

This article was used with kind permission and co-operation from FIREWORKS MAGAZINE

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