“It’s alive! It’s alive! It is alive!” A famous quote from the movie “Frankenstein,” where a supposed mad doctor creates a human being from multiple parts of deceased others and brings it to life with a power surge from a lightning strike. Today’s music climate sees multiple artists forming “Franken-bands” as they are varying from their main or defunct groups to collaborate in side projects.
One of these mixed bags is comprised of Dream Theater alumni Mike Portnoy on drums, bassist Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth) and former Poison guitarist and longtime Mr Big mainstay Richie Kotzen; who together form; The Winery Dogs. “The chemistry in this band is, umm, interesting,” said Kotzen with a laugh as he elaborated on the personalities which are what he considers the band’s strong point. “We all have very different strengths and styles. We don’t all always agree but when we do find common ground it becomes The Winery Dogs.”
The Winery Dogs grew from the efforts of Portnoy and Sheehan. The two were working together late in 2011 but utilizing the talents of another guitarist. Reports have it that the trio didn’t mesh as well as hoped and Kotzen had been suggested by a friend of the duo, the rest as they say; is history. The trio first got together in January of 2012 and in their first meeting wrote three songs. One month later they returned for a second time and wrote five additional tunes; they all clicked and knew that they had something special. “When we’re together in a room,” explains Kotzen; “We come up with skeletons of songs. We probably have about God knows how many songs we’ve started or tried or are in the concept mode. We find it also depends on what we were listening to at the time or the night before. Like if I’m listening to R & B, my style tends to reflect that or if Mike is listening to whatever he was into at the moment or Billy; it comes out and hopefully we can make it work or blend it into something.”
October 2 the band plans on releasing their second studio disc titled, “Hot Streak,” followed by a tour which kicks off on October 3 in Ridgefield, CT. “The title comes from a song on the record and we feel it shows the evolution of the band; it also resonated with me for some reason,” says an excited Kotzen who, as he laughed added, “It also describes the attitude of the band, especially on stage; we’re a bunch of hot dogs!”
Kotzen says that this tour and the record release are “Big Stuff” for the band and hopefully for the fans as well. “Oh yeah this is big stuff for us! The new record is coming out and we really feel that we’ve outdid ourselves. This is a bigger record, we took more chances, my producer is very excited and we are anxious to play the new material for our fan base. We’ve been playing “Oblivion” for a while and it’s been going over well so we’re pretty excited.”
Along with the scheduled release and coinciding tour, Kotzen is releasing a live DVD from his solo tour; also on October 2. “I’m going to get it all out there,” he stated with confidence. “Besides The Winery Dogs, I have no other bands. Mike is always touring with somebody, Billy is involved with some other things and me; I’m not really a multiple band guy. I did a stint with Poison and of course with Mr Big but it’s The Winery Dogs for me right now and that’s it; I can’t be in several bands at one time. If not with these guys, I’d be doing my solo thing. I love to write and record and tour and I’m very excited to release the DVD with our CD.”
A native of northeastern Pennsylvania, Kotzen says that the band loves playing Philadelphia, New York City and Los Angeles since they have “Home town connections” to these cities but loves how the band has been received throughout the country. Claiming that the fans will determine the length of the tour, Richie and the band know that regardless of the outcome, those who come to the shows are in for a high energy, good time. “Well, hopefully the fans will love the new record and more shows will be added and we’ll tour far into 2016; so it all depends on them really. It could happen that way or they hate the new record and we go home (laughs). Now if that happens then I’ll probably take a year off or maybe I’ll make another record; I don’t know. I do know this; we are ready to tour, we are anxious to hit the road and play the new material and we’re going to give it our best every night!”
“Hot Streak” is a 13 track effort on the Loud and Proud label. To discover more about the upcoming release and tour; please go to www.thewinerydogs.com.
(Danny Coleman is a veteran musician and writer from central New Jersey. He hosts a weekly radio program entitled “Rock On Radio” airing Sunday evenings at 10 p.m. EST on multiple internet radio outlets where he features indie/original bands and solo artists.)