SLEAZE ROXX IS THE BENEFICIARY OF ANOTHER GREAT INTERVIEW FROM MARCELO VIEIRA OF THE WEBSITE MARCELO VIERIA MUSIC. MARCELO HAS BEEN KIND ENOUGH TO TRANSLATE HIS INTERVIEW WITH SMITH / KOTZEN AND THE WINERY DOGS FRONTMAN RICHIE KOTZEN FROM PORTUGUESE TO ENGLISH FOR SLEAZE ROXX. AS MANY OF YOU WILL KNOW, SMITH / KOTZEN CONSISTING OF KOTZEN AND IRON MAIDEN GUITARIST ADRIAN SMITH HAVE RECENTLY RELEASED THEIR SELF-TITLED DEBUT ALBUM.
Sleaze Roxx: Obviously, you [and Adrian] had heard about each other or even heard each other’s work. But when did the two of you really meet?
Richie Kotzen: Nine or ten years ago, we became friends. Our wives did too. Sometimes he would come to Los Angeles and our meetings at my house would become the stage for jam sessions. We played some covers and developed some ideas without compromise. Until someone suggested that we tried to record something together. It was the easiest I’ve ever done in my entire career.
Sleaze Roxx: Why?
Richie Kotzen: It’s great to have someone to share the main vocals and guitar solos with. This made the process a lot smoother and more exciting.
Sleaze Roxx: At which point did you decide who would sing each verse?
Richie Kotzen: We decided that whoever wrote such a part would sing it. So, if Adrian wrote a verse, he would sing it, and with me the same thing. But in the end, we ended up circumventing this rule several times. We experimented a lot in terms of vocals in many songs until we reached the result that we hear. “Taking My Chances” started with a riff brought by Adrian and I wrote the lyrics and “Running” was another initial idea from Adrian, only the chorus is mine. But there were times when we just let it flow, like “Glory Road.”
Sleaze Roxx: Yes, I agree that much of what is heard on the album seems to be the result of hours of improvisation in search for the ideal hook.
Richie Kotzen: “‘Til Tomorrow”, the song that closes the album, took shape as the recording went on. We kept extending the ending so that it ended with a remarkable solo that attests to our “good rivalry.” [laughs]
Sleaze Roxx: In addition to vocals and guitars, you also shared the bass duties.
Richie Kotzen: I recorded [the bass] for about three songs. Same schematics of the guitars — whoever had the idea for the [bass] line, experimented. If it was good, I would go there and record.
Sleaze Roxx: Which three songs?
Richie Kotzen: I do not remember. I get so immersed in the process that everything mixes up and only afterwards do I realize, like, ‘Hey, it’s me playing there!’.
Smith / Kotzen‘s “Taking My Chances” video:
Sleaze Roxx: Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain plays on “Solar Fire” and the final crack consisting of “You Don’t Know Me”, “I Wanna Stay” and the aforementioned “‘Til Tomorrow” feature the drummer of your solo career, Tal Bergman. And then you play drums on the other five tracks!
Richie Kotzen: On the drums, [if] I do the basics, I’m sure it will work. Simpler and more effective steps. It has worked!
Sleaze Roxx: Another connection with Maiden comes through the presence of Kevin “Caveman” Shirley in the production.
Richie Kotzen: Kevin is a hell of a guy. He was with us, albeit at a distance, throughout the process. Later, when we sent the songs to be mixed [by him in his studio] in Australia, we kept in touch more daily. But the entire recording was done by Adrian and me. Everything was completed at the beginning of last year, before lockdowns and border closings. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we had to postpone the release to 2021.
Sleaze Roxx: Was the idea to wait until 2021 due to the possibility of hitting the road?
Richie Kotzen: We can’t wait to go back to doing shows. We want to hit the road, yes. We just need the circumstances to work together so that we can do it safely.
Sleaze Roxx: While this return to the stage does not happen, how about doing like many others and appeal to the live streaming?
Richie Kotzen: I’m not a big fan of the format. It is necessary to have an audience, to have people to establish an exchange, to interact. For now, I see no reason to do a live [stream], but maybe that will change, depending on how much longer it [the pandemic] lasts.
Sleaze Roxx: No matter how much experience you and Adrian [already] have, did you manage to learn something new from each other?
Richie Kotzen: Fortunately, our connection was very immediate and objective. About learning, I would say that any collaboration that involves sharing ideas promotes learning. Adrian conveys a lot of security. He knows exactly what he wants and how to get there. This kind of thing can only be achieved with years and years of playing. This maturity was undoubtedly inspiring, an example.
Sleaze Roxx: Counting your solo tours and the supergroup The Winery Dogs tours, you played more than fifty shows in Brazil. For us, it is always great to have you. How does it feel to play here?
Richie Kotzen: It’s fantastic! I love playing in Brazil! The public is always very affectionate and lively. There are many beautiful places to visit, so I always try to go every year or every two years. I was supposed to go [there] last year, but unfortunately it didn’t work.
Sleaze Roxx: Without any perspectives of any relief from the pandemic, what can we expect from you for the rest of the year?
Richie Kotzen: We [Adrian and I already] have three music videos released, all with an excellent response from fans around the world. So, for now, that’s it — publicize the disc through interviews and articles. That’s what everyone who is putting records out [in the pandemic] is doing — talking about it [the record] with as many people as possible. And I hope that we can tour soon. Until then, stay safe and together, but separate.
Smith / Kotzen‘s “Scars” video: