KINGDOM COME Singer Says JAMES KOTTAK's 'Health Situations' Have 'Really Been Affecting His Playing'February 2, 2023
KINGDOM COME singer Keith St. John, who joined the band in 2018 as the replacement for original frontman Lenny Wolf, spoke to Chris Akin Presents about the absence of drummer James Kottak from some of the group's recent shows. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "James Kottak has had some health situations over the last year, and they've really been affecting his playing. Everybody in the band really wanted him to be able to continue and play, but he's just gotta sort some things out and wait for some stuff in his body to heal before he has the strength to play the songs [properly]."
Asked if there is any chance of the current lineup of KINGDOM COME recording and releasing new music in the not-too-distant future, Keith said: "It's gone back and forth. Rick Steier [guitar] and I have probably put more material together than any other combination 'cause we both live in L.A. And we were working with James too, but James kind of… Long story short, he's back down in Louisville, Kentucky, which is his hometown, and he's trying to get… He's got some broken bones and all kinds of stuff going on that… He had an accident and he's just trying to get himself back together before he comes back and tries to get back in the fold.
"The other guys, Danny Stag [guitar] and Johnny B. Frank [bass], they live in different cities — one's in Jacksonville, one's in Pittsburgh — and they're writing and they're sending over ideas all the time," he continued. "I mean, we have communication back and forth. So if we can put some of this stuff together and actually get the whole band in the studio for a couple of weeks or whatnot, I think we can come out of it with an album. I'm hoping."
Last month, James said that he "jacked" his left hip up last fall when he "tripped and fell on the pavement." The 60-year-old musician discussed his latest medical setback in an interview with "Rimshots With Sean". Confirming that he was speaking from Louisville, Kentucky, where he was born and lived until 1987, Kottak said: "I came over here [to Louisville], actually, at the very end of October [of 2022]. I was just coming to chill out and hang out with my brother and sister. I was gonna stay for a couple of weeks. But I tripped and fell and really jacked my left hip up. I couldn't believe it. I'd never broken anything in my life. So I ended up going to the hospital and I ended up staying at the hospital for five, six days. So after that, I came over here to my sister's house and I've been here since. And I've really been enjoying it. But I've been back to the doctor, like, three or four times, and they're, like, 'You know, it's probably not a good idea to travel.' I'm, like, 'Okay.' So I've just been here and been going back to my appointments. I had one yesterday. And things on the up and up."
Regarding how he is spending his time while recovering from his latest injury, Kottak said: "One of my endless tasks is staying in shape and exercising and that sort of thing. Right now I'm just doing a lot of stretching. And I'm just now able to walk about — probably do about eight hundred steps a day. And that may sound like a lot, but I'm normally used to doing a whole lot more. So I'm here in Louisville, like I said, and I'm just really laying low and enjoying the time over here at my sister's house. And my brother's hanging out. And I've got all kinds of friends here. But like I said, it's been really kind of quiet here. But once I get back to L.A., there's things planned and there's always something popping up… Now we're past the New Year. Somebody will call about this or that. And then we're also planning KINGDOM COME shows and stuff."
He continued: "Man, that COVID thing came, and for the year 2020, KINGDOM COME — we had about 40, 45 shows booked, and everything got wiped out, man, even the European stuff, 'cause we were going to Germany and all over the place, even Japan. Everything, because of that COVID thing, got totally postponed. And a lot of the stuff that was postponed to 2021 and even 2022 never happened, 'cause a lot of places shut down, a lot of promoters went out of business. It really hurt lots of people. So we're just kind of picking up now where we left off and [talking to] our agent and trying to book some shows."
James went on to say that he is "doing great" and is very optimistic about his recovery. "Another two weeks and I'll be almost back to normal," he predicted. "And that's not what they said. They go, 'Look, give it three to six months.' I'm, like, 'No, I'll be good after two months.' … I'll be up and running here in no time. This is probably the worst accident I've ever had. I just tripped and fell on the pavement. And I didn't feel like anything bad happened."
In December, St. John told the "Pat's Soundbytes Unplugged" podcast that "James has had some health issues in this last — [it's] going on for about two years, I would say, and creeping up. And now he's on a break for a little while until he gets recouped and recovered from everything. And my good friend who plays in '[Raiding The] Rock Vault' with me out here, Blas Elias, has stepped in — Blas Elias from SLAUGHTER; he stepped in to take over the drums for now."
KINGDOM COME played its first two shows with Elias in September in Texas.
Six months ago, Kottak announced that he wouldn't play with his KINGDOM COME bandmates at their concerts in Texas. In the early hours of August 21, 2022, James took to his Twitter to write: "I will not be at the Kingdom Come Plano or San Antonio shows so don't waste your time thanks jams k [sic]".
Last June, KINGDOM COME's appearance at Sweden Rock Festival was described by the popular Swedish site Rocknytt as the event's "biggest fuckup." Writer Peter Johansson singled out Kottak, saying that the drummer played "really badly, sluggishly" and at times failed to keep the tempo "worryingly throughout the concert". At the end of the show, Kottak "stumbled to the edge of the stage to bow with his bandmates," according to Rocknytt.
Also critical of KINGDOM COME's performance was renowned Swedish music journalist and guitar player Janne Stark, who took to his Facebook page to share a photo of the gig and he wrote in an accompanying caption: "I've never seen a drummer fall asleep on stage before but James Kottak is pretty damn close. Drunk? He slows down every song to half tempo. KINGDOM COME, sorry guys but this is SHIT!"
Kottak publicly discussed KINGDOM COME's performance at Sweden Rock for the first time in an interview with "This That & The Other With Troy Patrick Farrell" conducted just days after the concert. Regarding what caused the show to fall short of expectations, James said: "I wanna say about eight or nine days ago, maybe 10 days ago, in the middle of the night, like four o'clock in the morning, I was in a dead sleep and I just rolled off the bed and I cracked three ribs on my left side. And I went to my chiropractor guy and he says, 'Oh, you have hairline fractures.' And I'm, like, 'Oh, great.' And dude, it's just been non-stop pain. It's not just my ribs; it's head to toe. That's why things were a little bit slower. 'Cause I took ibuprofen and the usual, Aleve or whatever, but, man, it was an uphill battle from the time we started. And it was just — I mean, not pain; I'm talking pain-pain, big-time stuff. That's no excuse, because the show must go on. But, yeah, I was a little slower than usual. But also we [usually] have a click track, of course, 'cause we might have a little bit of playback. Something was up with that, so we were flying solo… And [when] you don't have it, you go, 'Oh-oh. Okay. We'll do this.' It was just an off day, and there's nothing you can do about it."
According to James, there was "definitely no drinking" involved prior to the KINGDOM COME mishap at Sweden Rock. "Because that with the medication, it doesn't go good together," he explained. "And it was just an off day, man. I did everything to [make it better] — tons of tea, this and that, and all the usual things that I do — but, man, it was just too soon after falling that we went to play this gig. But it's Sweden Rock, and you don't wanna bail out on that."
Asked if alcohol contributed to him falling out of bed prior to the Sweden Rock performance, Kottak said: "I always sleep on the left side of the bed, and I just somehow, in my sleep, rolled off the bed and landed on my left side. I mean, that's really it. I wasn't drinking — nothing like that. Yeah, I have a few white wines here and there, but nothing like that. I just rolled off the bed. And that's the first time in my life that's ever happened where I actually fell off. I woke up and saw stars. It took me 15 minutes to get off the floor. These things happen sometimes, and there's nothing you can do. With SCORPIONS, going up my riser to get to my drums, there were, like, 14 steps, and I fell down those stairs at least five times, if not six times. Because I was like a dummy — I was always spitting this water. And I'd finish a song and I'd come down not thinking, and, just, 'Whoop', right on my ass."
James also denied that his battle with alcoholism was the primary reason he was fired from the SCORPIONS in 2016. He has since been replaced by former MOTÖRHEAD drummer Mikkey Dee.
"I hate to say it, but Blabbermouth's kind of been the worst James basher," Kottak said. "They always say — any article about SCORPIONS, they say, 'Yeah, ever since James Kottak was released for alcohol abuse.' So I e-mailed them one day and said, 'Man, stop saying that.' We parted ways. It wasn't just from alcohol, dude. We went through five years of negotiations, 'cause the manager and tour manager both died within six months of each other. Then the band decided to self-manage, which is cool. But I'll tell you what, man — that's when it was a super-bumpy road and we were just not on the same page anymore. And that happens with bands."
Five years ago, SCORPIONS guitarist Matthias Jabs said that he and his bandmates "had to make" the decision to fire Kottak, explaining that they gave the drummer "all the chances" to get better. During an appearance on "Rock Talk With Mitch Lafon", the guitarist said: "James was a real good friend — and he still is — but we couldn't continue with him. We gave him all the chances, and 10 more. And it was something that developed over the years — the drinking habit. It came in waves — sometimes it was good for four weeks, and then [there] was drama, and if you know him, you know what that's like. Then if it affects the show, you have to go, 'Hmmm…' Because our drum riser goes up 21 feet, or 24 feet sometimes, if the venue allows it, and the production manager, or stage manager, goes, 'I can't have him go up there. It's too risky.' If you can't really walk down the stairs straight, you can't have that. So that affects your intro of the show, and that's not good — it's not professional."
He continued: "We were helping him — we were sending him to [the island of] Antigua [to Eric Clapton's Crossroads drug and alcohol treatment center], and we paid for it, and we did everything we could, because we are extremely loyal. It's always hard if you work with somebody for almost 20 years to say, 'Okay, you've gotta go.' We'd rather do the opposite and try to keep him and help him. But we reached the point — or he reached the point — where it was just not worth it. After three months or four months even — they gave him an extra month in Antigua, the rehab — he'd come home, we'd start again, and you can't even talk to him. So we had to make that decision. We had Mikkey on the road, so [James] didn't notice. So I rehearsed with [Mikkey] and Paweł [Mąciwoda, bass] in the afternoon, just a backup; that was the original plan. But then there was no way we could continue with James, so we started with Mikkey."
Three years ago, Kottak, who joined the SCORPIONS in 1996, told the SCORPIONS official fan club Crazyscorps about the circumstances that led to his departure from the legendary German hard rock band: "I always liked a drink here and there. And then I always also take a pain medication called Aleve. It's what all the baseball players take, all the footballers, and it works like a charm. You take those of those and you don't feel anything. But on top of that, I'm a rock drummer in a rock band, and you've got the green light to drink.
"From 2008 to 2011, I didn't drink," he explained. "I just woke up one day and said, 'I just don't wanna drink anymore.' I didn't go to rehab; I didn't do any of that stuff. I just didn't wanna drink anymore.
"If you have any knowledge of A.A. [Alcoholics Anonymous] or any type of program or rehab, it only lasts so long and then you have what we call in recovery a relapse. I would go through these phases of a year or maybe two years of no drinking, and then you gradually…
"SCORPIONS, we play our show, we go back to the hotel, [and] 45 minutes later, we're all downstairs having dinner," he continued. "And everything's just the right price — free. All these flights back and forth from Europe, from L.A. — I was just flying constantly. Which I'm not complaining about, but it's always business or first class, and once again, all the booze is at the right price. I'm going, 'I've got the next two days off. I might as well have a drink.' And that's what triggered me to start drinking again sometimes.
"It's a typical alcoholic way of thinking: 'Well, I may as well have a drink. Why not?' And that's typical alcoholic disease thinking. 'Cause it is a disease."
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