Episode 218 of the "Iron City Rocks" podcast (web site) features an interview with legendary bassist Billy Sheehan (THE WINERY DOGS, MR. BIG, TALAS, DAVID LEE ROTH). Sheehan talks about THE WINERY DOGS' current tour, playing with great musicians and how he keeps his chops up. You can now listen to the chat using the audio player below.
Asked if the idea was always to approach THE WINERY DOGS — which also features drummer Mike Portnoy (DREAM THEATER, AVENGED SEVENFOLD, ADRENALINE MOB) and guitarist/vocalist Richie Kotzen (MR. BIG, POISON) — as a power trio-type thing, Sheehan told Ultimate Classic Rock: "Yeah, I like the three-piece — it's great. Now that we're on the road, it's actually really paying off in a lot of ways in that it's easier to watch two guys than watch three or four — it's way easier. Bass, guitar and drums, all watching each other and all singing, it leads to improvisation and successful improvisation where we make moves live each night in every song that we've never done before and it works. We're watching each other and we improvise and the songs come alive on tour and that's an ideal situation for me. I love that you can do that. You don't go so far from the original template that people don't understand what the song is. You work within the boundaries of the foundation of the actual song but [when you] add in the ability to improvise and watch each other and make moves on the fly as we're rolling and have them work, it's a beautiful and extremely satisfying thing as a musician."
Regarding the songwriting process for THE WINERY DOGS' self-titled debut album, Sheehan said: "We went into a little room with a little drum kit, a little bass amp and a little guitar amp and started slugging it out. Within a couple of hours, we had the basis for about five songs that are on the record. It was real easy to put together and I love the idea of sitting in a room with small gear. [When] you're set up [typically] with huge drums and amps and PA and monitors and stuff like that, you kind of get overwhelmed by all of the stuff. Whereas if it's just your hands, your heart and mind and your voice, you tend to [do better]. That's the way to write. For me, when I write personally, I'll just sit down just myself and a guitar. I'm not going to put together some tom loops and synth pads and keyboards. If you can illustrate a song by strumming it on a guitar or playing it on a piano and singing, that should tell you if there's a song there or not. It always makes me laugh when people talk to me about their demos. 'I gotta remix it' and they go 'oh, I've got to do this and maybe add…' No, no, no — if there's a song, you can do it in a distorted little box with a guitar and voice and you should be able to hear it. With that principle in place, we didn't really need too much to illustrate when a song was born and when it did actually work. So it was an easy and enjoyable process, fun with a lot of laughs and the proof is in the pudding. In the end, people seem very pleased with this record, so that's the basis for that, I believe."
"Iron City Rocks" podcast (audio):