Interview by Danny Coleman
“Yeah I’m excited to have Kingdom Come back up and running and I’m so excited to have the original four; we have me, Rick Steire, Danny Stag, Johnny “JB” Frank but unfortunately Lenny Wolf the original singer didn’t want to come in but we’ve got Keith St. John and he is phenomenal! He sang with Montrose and I played drums for Montrose and I’m very proud of that and I’ll tell you what man, it’s come together awesomely!”
Drummer James Kottak has re-assembled Kingdom Come for a, “30th Anniversary Tour” in celebration of their self-titled debut album and he could not be happier. Even with the absence of original lead vocalist Lenny Wolf, the timing has worked out better than originally planned.
“I wanted to do this in 2012 or 2013 and I had the entire band assembled, including Lenny here in L.A. and then I got this call from singer in a band called The Scorpions and this singer is named Klaus Meine and he said, “James, we’ve been on our farewell tour for a few years but I have to ask you; can you not play with anyone else? Because we’ve decided not to say farewell, we’re going to do another album.””Well I said my allegiance is with you guys so I had to go along with the boys because they’re like family.”
Kottak spent more than two decades behind a drum kit as a member of The Scorpions and has been closely connected with them; in essence, Kingdom Come’s rise to fame was in part due to this alignment. “The whole Scorpions situation happened back in 1988 when Kingdom Come was the opening act on the, “Monsters Of Rock Tour.” It was Kingdom Come, Metallica, Dokken, Scorpions and Van Halen and we and the Scorpions were on the same record label so we stayed at the same hotels and we hung out together. Then we did an indoor arena tour and everything just kind of clicked and then a few years later they were recording with Keith Olsen and he signed my band Wild Horses, which was me and Rick to Atlantic Records and then he said that we had to wait another three months because he was doing The Scorpion’s record which was the, “Wind Of Change” album which was a phenomenal success. I was always in their company, I did a Michael Schenker album, I did the “M.S.G.” album, I had a really good run because I was a ghost drummer. I played on, I’m not joking, like 60 or 70 albums of other bands and I wouldn’t be listed because they wanted their drummer to get the credit. I’d go in for one day maybe two days and they’d pay me a lot of money and then I’d go home and sit around on my ass for three or four weeks and do it again and that went on until Nirvana came along (Laughs). I love Dave Grohl and his band the Foo Fighters are one of my very, very, very, favorite bands but times change, the rules change and here we are. You have to evolve, “Conform or be cast out, sub-divisions,” he laughed as he quoted another of his favorite bands; Rush. “I love Rush, I’ve seen them seven times since 1975, wow what a great band and what a great time; have you read that Neil Peart book? It’s heart wrenching, he has such a way with words that I read it and read it again.”
The Scorpions, Warrant and Montrose have all employed Kottak’s drumming expertise over the years but when asked what got him started in his quest to be a rock drummer, he doesn’t even hesitate to tell the tale.
“My first concert was ZZ Top in 1972 and I still have the ticket stub. I drank like a half pint of Southern Comfort and got drunk,” he said with proud recollection and a hearty laugh. Pure Prairie League opened, it was the, “Fandango” tour. I snuck in a lot of concerts because I couldn’t afford to go; I still have my Led Zeppelin ticket, it was eight dollars and fifty cents and it’s still in my drawer. I saw the Eagles, Jethro Tull, Yes, you name it I saw it. That’s where it all starts and then you’re addicted, you’re like a junkie and I wanted to be in rock ‘n’ roll from that point on and then went on tour in 1978 and never stopped.”
Kottak said, “I learned how to play drums from listening to eight track tapes that my brother had in the basement. I played to, “Houses of The Holy and “Led Zeppelin IV” over and over” and from those humble beginnings came some of the best and worst moments of his touring/performing career.
“I had a Slingerland (Drum set) and I had a 26 inch ride cymbal that I bought in 1975 for sixty bucks and it got stolen at a Warrant gig in ’94 or something like that. That was one of the worst things that happened, it was a big loss but then there was the time that Sebastian Bach and I were in Finland and we hung out for a week one night,” he recalled with a laugh. We hung out many times before, it was like a disaster made in heaven (Laughs). I enjoyed every minute of it.”
So first a reunion tour which sees a stop close to New Jersey on October 18 at The Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, PA; but what about new music? Will there be any live or new studio works coming from this tour? Kottak was vague at best in his response but left that door ajar.
“My deal is, because of legal situations we can not put out an album for the next two years but we’re already one and a half years into that but I’ll tell you what; me, Rick, Danny and Johnny are on fire. Rock ‘N’ Roll is a hard life and after a million or 35, 40, 50 or million years of whatever you want to call it, we got the fire back. We’re working on things, we’ve been rehearsing lately and things are really pretty incredibly awesome and as I told you I wanted to do this in 2012 or 2013 and now I’ve funded this whole thing so it has to work (Laughs). Most importantly, me and Rick Steire have been friends for 40 years, we’re both from Louisville, Kentucky and I love him to death. I sucked him into this skin income thing back in 1987 and it kind of went somewhere; do you know what I love? I love the music, the music is great. The first album is incredible, there’s only 10 songs and then the second album is phenomenal; we did that with Keith Olsen who also produced Whitesnake, Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, you name it but I just always wanted to re-visit it and now I have the opportunity to do so and I’m gonna do it and if I don’t do it now it’s never going to happen. I need to do it now; what am I going to do? Go play with some other band? I’ve gotten calls to play with other bands over the last year and a half and I’ve told them no because I wanted to stay home and hang out with my kids, I wanted to swim and go to the gym and do what I do best; hang out and take care of myself and be healthy and it paid off. I’m really super excited to be back out and be on the road because it’s a real pain in the ass getting this band up and running but I’m super excited.”
Kingdom Come fans seemingly will not be disappointed as the band has plans on playing the majority of their catalog, focusing of course on what started it all; the first album.
“Here’s what you’re gonna get if you’re coming to see us; we’re going to do almost the entire first album because it’s a classic. The second album, we have about six tracks that we’re going to hit from that and I’ll tell you what; it’s really hard rock and we’re gonna be laying it down and it’s gonna be awesome and we’re gonna play as long as humanly possible. We might have to play a Montrose song and a Led Zeppelin song because I love those bands. I only got to play one song with Ronnie Montrose and I wish I had been able to tour with him but Keith St John toured with him off and on and Ronnie was a legend and we have to honor him because he was the guy that when I was 10 years old that I listened to and he changed my life forever. He was, he was beyond, he changed rock ‘n’ roll forever and then he and Sammy Hagar came along and they destroyed rock ‘n’ roll and without Ronnie Montrose we wouldn’t have had Van Halen.”
So the stage appears set for a re-emergence of Kingdom Come or at the very least a night of hard drivin’ rock ‘n’ roll and as for Kottak personally, “I’ve been sober and I’m doing the best I can and I’m on a really good crazy train right now.”
All systems are go and to find out where and when Kingdom Come will be rippin’ up a town near you, please go to www.kingdomcomeband.com.
Danny Coleman (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.)