ďsuper groupĒ gets thrown around a
lot in the music business.
Popular names and faces get bundled
together with the anticipation that
notoriety will equate to a payday.
Sometimes it works and other times,
well it all looked good on paper.
Portnoy, Richie Kotzen and Billy
Sheehan are The Winery Dogs.
Theyíre not asking to be called a
super group, but when you put this
much talent into one band itís
difficult to avoid the branding.
For me, this trio was an unusual
mix. While Sheehan and Portnoy
have made careers out of flashing
their amazing talents and being
labeled the worldís greatest this or
that, Kotzen has enjoyed a quieter
success. He may have somehow
even slipped below the radar of some
fans. All that is about to
Dogs, with roots in hard rock,
progressive metal and blues, have
just released their debut
self-titled album, replete with a
classic rock groove. Some may
think thatís unusual-- until you
learn more about the men and the
journey that created this music.
Billy Sheehan called DaBelly the
other day to discuss the new record
and the fun they had making it.
First of all, thank you for calling
in today. Iíve been looking
forward to talking to you about your
new album, "The Winery Dogs."
Yes, weíre real excited about it.
The response that weíve been getting
is really great.
Why donít you tell me about getting
this new band together and recording
Mike Portnoy and I have been friends
for years. He called me last
year and asked if I was interested
in doing a band. So, yeah, I
was interested. Long story
short, we tried a few options until
Eddie Trunk suggested Richie Kotzen
to us. I was kicking myself,
of course, Richie, why didnít I
think of that? Iíve worked and
toured and recorded with Richie many
times. I think heís a
wonderful guy and a great talent and
So Mike and
I got in touch with him and, bang,
there it was. We got together
the first day to sit down in the
studio. Just drums/bass/guitar to
see what would happen. Five of
the songs on the record had their
start that day. Obviously that
was a good omen. We had good
organic chemistry. Ideas just
started popping out, suddenly we
were arranging parts of songs and
the next thing you know we had
several pieces of music. We got
together several more times to write
and then began to fine tune.
Finally we decided to start laying
down tracks. And the album you
hear is the result of all that.
resulting album is excellent.
I love the fact that itís raw in the
sense of being honest, not over
produced. All of the
instruments come right at you.
Well thank you. Most of it was
played pretty live, pretty one
take-ish. We like that a lot.
The most successful record that I
have ever had came from just sitting
down and playing rather than
figuring it out, punching in and
overdubbing. The ďEat 'Em and
SmileĒ (David Lee Roth) record was
like that. The Mr. Big ďLean
In To ItĒ record was like that.
Well, again, I love the honesty in
the record. I think some of
what is missing from the radio these
days is back-to-basics music, songs
that sound good because they are
good. Letís just roll some
analog tape without the gimmicks.
You know, I was an early adopter of
the digital tape revolution. I
was a big fan of it but I think the
reason I was a big fan was because
it was easy. You can hit a few
buttons and have everything.
Itís also easy to mess around with
the music after youíve recorded it.
So I like the urgency that digital
recording allows you. But the
other side of digital recording is
that you can endlessly tweak things
forever! You can squeeze all
the life out of a song completely.
The song can be technically perfect
and spiritually corrupt.
seems like the endless tweaking has
been tried with varying degrees of
funny, I donít know too many records
that really benefited from that as
opposed to so many records that were
just sort of thrown together and
they work. They live and they
breathe and survive the decades
without ever fading away.
wanted to ask about the tracks that
you worked on prior to Kotzen coming
on board. I believe that you
were working with John Sykes.
Did any of those tracks survive and
make it to this album?
Thatís correct, none of those tracks
were used on this record at all.
John is a wonderful guy and a great
player. It just wasnít perfect
chemistry, thatís all. We
split on very good terms and I know
that John will be successful no
matter what he does. Mike and
I tend to work quickly and make any
decisions on the fly. John was
more methodical, he took a more
careful approach and it works very
well for him.
You and Richie have an obvious
chemistry having worked together in
Mr. Big for several years. Iím
sure you know each otherís styles
and abilities inside and out.
But in the Winery Dogs youíve added
the talents of Mike Portnoy to the
mix. How long did it take for
the three of you to sit down and
was surprisingly quick. I
think it was because we all,
especially Mike, he has a real rock
background. I think that side
of him is kind of unknown.
Heís mostly a rock player. You
know he did a bunch of tribute bands
on the side-- Who tribute; Beatles
tribute. You know that heís
spent a lot of years playing
progressive music with Dream
Theater. He comes in as a rock
player with a hell of a vocabulary.
He has the talent to play almost
anything. And Mike and I
benefited from doing a tour
together. We recently went out
with several other musicians (Tony
MacAlpine, Derek Sherinian) and so
it came together really, really
fast. All of us have played
long enough to know when the
chemistry is going to come together
and when itís not, and right away we
all felt comfortable.
Iíve only heard a few of the tracks
from "The Winery Dogs" album, but
immediately I noted something often
takes a musician a lifetime to
learn. Being a musician isnít
just about being able to play, itís
also about knowing when to get the
hell out of the way. It seems
like, with respect to how skilled
you all are on your instruments, you
also give each other plenty of room
to play. To me, that respect
for the music is what makes the
Iím happy that you observed that.
I feel the same way and I know that
all of us were interested in the
strength of the songs and therefore
wanted that strength to come out.
We were very careful when we wrote
and recorded this album. We
kind of abandoned ourselves for the
sake of the songs and thatís why we
knew right away that the chemistry
between us was going to be fine.
The musical exchange between us was
One of the surprises for me on this
album was hearing Richie Kotzen
sing. I know that heís
released other material where he has
sung, but guess I just missed his
work. Richie has quite a
soulful voice. Thereís almost
an R&B flavor to it.
agree, he does have a little bit of
that in his voice, which reminds me
of Paul Rogers or even some of the
really early Dio songs. You
know, before everyone knew him as
that metal guy. He had some
soulful stuff in his voice too early
on. I think Richieís voice
moves us into a little bit of a
bluesier feel. Itís clichť
that everyone always says that they
have blues in their roots but having
a little bit of that flavor,
especially in their vocal is very
cool. You know, like Steve
Marriot from Humble Pie, that kind
of a vibe. Iíve had the great
fortune of working with many
incredible singers and Richie is one
of them for sure.
think the mixture of you and
Portnoyís with Kotzenís ability to
play so many different styles is
going to be very interesting.
There is a track on the record
called ďRegret.Ē Richie plays
piano on it and itís just one of my
favorite tracks that I have ever
played on. Mike is playing
something simple, but his groove
just kicks. Weíre all looking
forward to playing these songs.
We expect to be touring a lot with
this album. Just give us a hot
sweaty place filled with people and
weíll have a great time.
Letís talk a moment about the tour.
Youíve already announced a bunch of
shows. I see the tour opens in
Japan, moves to South America and
then after a month's break youíre
heading to Europe. Will you be
filling that gap with any U.S.
They are working on it, but Iím not
sure that they will book any dates
because August is notoriously slow.
I think that weíll be in America in
October. But donít worry,
weíll get here. The US is the
most important market to us being
Americanís. Iím sure weíll be
real tight as a band by the time we
get to play those shows.
know that youíve already released a
couple videos on YouTube.
Whatís the first single from the
think the single is going to be
ďElevate.Ē Richie sings great on
the song by the way. Our songs
arenít that complicated, but we
always try to throw a little twist
into the mix. I mean we're
musicians and we like to play.
Weíre like everyone else, we get
bored when we hear a song thatís
just sort of plodding along.
We want to put a little bit of spice
I want to
thank Billy Sheehan for allowing
this interview. We originally
had scheduled with Richie Kotzen,
but when Richie caught a bug, Billy
volunteered to step in and give us a
Dogs open their tour in Osaka, Japan
on July 16th. North American
tour dates beginning in October are
just being announced. Check
out their social media for full