December 22, 2018

Guitarist Richie Kotzen (THE WINERY DOGS, POISON, MR. BIG) recently spoke with Ryan Witting of the "Rockin' You All Night" podcast. The full conversation can be streamed below. A few excerpts follow (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).

On his plans from now until late April, when THE WINERY DOGS will reunite for an American tour:

Richie: "I want to stay home and fiddle around with my new house, and see if I can electrocute myself. Hopefully, in that downtime, I'll come up with some new ideas and write an album. My goal would be to put a record out sometime in June next year, because I know that I'm already being booked on a few festivals in Europe, so that would be a perfect way to kick off the new album cycle. That's kind of in the back of my mind, but I can't really control that, because the songs come when the songs come. I'm not in a hurry, and I'm not really worried about it."

On his international success:

Richie: "It's a weird thing. Something happened where a lot of guys couldn't get record deals in the '90s, so they were getting record deals from other territories. What they would do is do licensing deals. I was one of them. I was signed to two major labels — I was signed to Interscope, and then I went to Geffen — and then right around that time, everything changed in the music business, and it was very difficult for me to find another major label. I had a name for myself, so I started making my own records — producing them, recording them — and I would do licensing deals to foreign territories to get the record out. Japan was one of them, and back then, Japan would actually fork over major-label money for these records for a lot of us, a lot of people. I did well in Japan — I would go over and play in front of a thousand people; two nights in Tokyo, I could sell out a thousand a night — but I wasn't big. MR. BIG was big. MR. BIG would go there and play three, four nights in Budokan, sell it out. They're big in Japan. I was like a lot of the other guys that were just kind of trying to find their footing, who had a name, but who were kind of going through it with the record companies in America, and then what happened is when the Internet really got to the level that it is, guys like us were able to get our records out without a record company. That was really, really cool, because now I can make the music I want; people that are interested in me can get it, they can hear it; and so then, things start to really open up, so I was able to go all over and tour. South America became a big market for me; Europe became a strong market; and then, the United States is going really, really well, finally. I think THE WINERY DOGS really helped that a lot, because a lot of people knew my name, but they didn't know what it was that I really did.... It was kind of shocking. It was great. My career's actually gone — if you can call it a career — it's actually been going up as I get older, which is good."

On his music's accessibility:

Richie: "I think I have many, many, many songs that could have done very, very well commercially had I been a part of the machine. There's a machine — there's a gatekeepers, and there's a machine in the music business, and that's really how it works... The people that decide are the people, they're gatekeepers in the business, and they can't force you to like something, but what they can do is present you with something and sell it to you and make you aware of it. You need that machine. Otherwise, you're just kind of out there. Thankfully, I've been able to make this career by just doing the same thing over and over — writing songs, making records, touring — and it's been working for me, and it's great. I don't feel like I'm really missing much."

On when he decided to not be a part of the "machine":

Richie: "I would love to be a part of the machine. The machine didn't like me. I was a part of the machine when I was very young. I got signed to Interscope. I was moved from Reading, Pennsylvania to L.A. by Interscope. I was playing football with Bruce Springsteen in Malibu on Jimmy Iovine's front lawn... I was in the machine, but the problem then was, I was very, very young, and there was a huge gap between why the record label signed me and what they thought I could do, and who I was really was... After that, I got signed to Geffen, and it was more shenanigans there. The A&R people said some of the dumbest things I've ever heard in my life. On my original demo that got me signed to Geffen — and this is in '94 — I had my at-the-time-wife sing background vocals on the demos, because I wanted that kind of gospel-y, Bob Seger-y, BLACK CROWES and kind of ROLLING STONES [vibe]. All the bands I love have female background vocals. I wanted to produce my own record, but they wouldn't let me, so I had a meeting with Mike Clink, who produced 'Appetite For Destruction'. He said to me, 'Those background vocals sound very gospel-y. Do you want that?' I'm like, 'Obviously — I recorded it that way'... I go into a meeting with my A&R guy, and he goes, 'You didn't tell me that your wife was signing background vocals on your demo. I'll tell you something — there will be no female singers on your record. You're making a rock record. There's no female singers that matter in rock.' At that moment, I'm like, 'I'm fucked,' because every band I thought was cool had those kind of background vocals. I was constantly in the machine, but in the wrong side of it."

Kotzen released two singles in 2018 — "The Damned" and "Riot". The songs feature his longtime bassist Dylan Wilson and drummer Mike Bennett.

Kotzen's most recent solo album, "Salting Earth", was made available in April 2017 via his own custom label, Headroom-Inc.

Kotzen will re-team with Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy for a month-long American tour with THE WINERY DOGS next spring.

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