Richie Kotzen

September 9, 2004

I was wondering what had happened to you after you left Poison.

It's so funny. I've done a lot of things. It's just that in the States my profile has been kind of nonexistent. After Poison, I got signed to Geffen and made a record for them. Then got kind of held up for a minute to get out of the deal. Then I started doing these licensing deals where I'd make a solo record and sell it off to different territories and then there was Stanley Clarke. Then Mr. Big. Now, I think what happened with this record, I've done something that I really feel strongly about. I figured I'd try and do a little promotion here and just see who remembers and see what new people I can get on board. That's what we're doing.

You said that this CD really defined who you were and wasn't all over the place.

I've done a lot of records. I started making records when I was a teenager and I've done everything from recording with Stanley Clarke and making jazz records to being in hard rock bands and in between that I've done a lot of different solo records that were influenced by all the things that I was involved in. I think what has happened over the years is that I've experimented with a lot of different kinds of music. I did a record last year called Change and it goes from everything from hard rock to jazz and it was fun and cool but I think one of the things that I hadn't done in a long time, probably since I made my second record, I haven't really made an album that really was focused on one style that really defined who I am. I think with this record I wanted to really make sure that I made a record that was cohesive and everything fit together but still contained all the elements that make me what I am. I feel like in listening to it, I accomplished my goal at least on that level and I'm happy with the record.

You've had the opportunity to work with a lot of different styles of music. Do you enjoy these styles of music?

Yeah, I think it has to do with when I was younger, I was really into learning how to play the guitar. I wanted to be a guitar player in a rock band and so I listened to a lot of rock guitar players. From there I got into more of the fusion kind of guitar players like Allan Holdsworth and Al DiMeola and those kind of people. Once I started singing, I wasn't quite as excited about what was going on with the rock singers at the time so I started listening to a lot more R&B music. Stevie Wonder or Sam & Dave and that sort of thing. I think vocally and song wise, I'm more influenced from that style of music so the combination that I have is the rock and the rock guitar player. Then also being influenced by old R&B soul singers, it makes the music a little bit different and that's what I think my two major influences are. Hopefully they come together the right way on this record.

I think it's interesting when people take different styles of music and manage to meld them together. It usually comes out pretty good.

I think a lot of it has to do with just the way I hear things. Whatever it is that I'm doing, I know that I didn't plan for it. I played music my whole life. I started out playing in bands playing cover songs and that sort of thing. Over the years whatever people I played with and influences I have, I think they're there in the music and sometimes it's hard to get rid of some of it so I don't try to get rid of it. I just find a way to make it all work together. Be myself I guess.

You've played with some major bands like Mr. Big and Poison. Out of all the bands you've played with, what was your favorite gig?

I liked all of them for different reasons. The first band that I played with that was known was obviously Poison and the thing that made that situation special for me is how young I was when I got the gig. Up until that point I had been making solo records for an independent label. Virtually no budget, not much money, and all of a sudden here I am in the studio with a $2,000,000 recording budget and guys that play sold out arenas. It was pretty cool right off the bat. The other thing that was really cool about it was that they needed someone that was a song writer to be a part of the band. Which made it really cool for me because I was involved in writing the record so it was a situation where I was not a hired gun but I was actually a band member involved in the writing and that sort of thing. That made it really cool. I guess where it got to be a drag is after we were done making the record, and then I realized that now we have to go and tour and I've got to play all those old songs that I didn't write, at that point it got difficult for me and then things just fell apart and that was the end of it. Initially it was a lot of fun. The Stanley Clarke band was a different issue all together because it wasn't obviously rock and the music was a lot more complicated. It was more of an education for me playing in that band. Then once we got out on the road, it was a record that we were supporting that we all worked on together so everybody was very excited to play the stuff live. We ended up doing a festival tour in Europe and did a lot of really great shows. Played Miles Davis Hall at the Montreux Jazz Festival and all these really cool things that I never had done before. That was a really great experience. Mr. Big was much more of a Japan based thing. They had been very quiet in the U.S. and the rest of the world but in Japan their profile just kept rising for whatever reasons and once Paul Gilbert their guitar player left, I knew those guys from Mr. Big and they approached me about being in the band exactly at the same time that I was in the band with Stanley Clarke. I was obviously very busy that year. We did two studio albums with Mr. Big and I did two tours. We played Japan, Korea, Indonesia, and Hong Kong. That was great fun because the thing that was funny about it is, in L.A. where all my friends are, I go out and say I'm playing with this band, Mr. Big, and a lot of people wanted to know who are they and then I'd have to remind them. Then when I went to Japan, our first show was in front of 40,000 people in the Osaka Dome on New Year's Eve so it was fun. It was like going away for a month to be a major rock star and then come home and just be kind of quiet. That was pretty cool and it helped me a lot to get reacquainted with Asia and people over there that have been interested in me from the past. Got to see me again and since then I've been going a lot and touring. I leave in four weeks to tour Japan on the Get Up record so it was really a good thing for me to do.

When you join forces with a band like Poison who has been around for a while, I don't know what it is about bands, but there used to be a time when they went out on the road and promoted whatever album they had just released. So a lot of material for the tour was off that album and now Poison will release an album and they might do one or two songs off of it if you're lucky. They play all the old stuff because they think everyone wants to just hear that.

Yeah, that's what happened more than 10 years ago when I was in that band. A bit of that was going on. I guess a lot of people really do want to hear the old songs but then at the same time, at least for me when I go out and tour on my solo stuff, I do the old stuff but I do a lot of the new stuff because I'm excited about it and I want people to respond to it. I think with my tour, I'll be doing a lot more of the new stuff and still of course some of the older stuff that people may want to hear. I don't understand why a band would make a new record and then don't play anything from it. It doesn't make sense to me either.

Isn't the point of touring to promote the new record? I would think you'd play a lot of the new material.

I think so. I think that's the idea. I'm planning on it for my tour. I'm planning on doing a lot of the new stuff. The thing that is going to be really interesting is, I'm going to perform in some places that I've never been before. The 28th I'm going to South America and we're going to do Sao Paulo, Brazil. We're going to Argentina, Chile, and Paraguay so it's going to be pretty interesting because I've never played in South America as a member of another band or on my solo stuff. I'm really looking forward to that and Get Up, the record is out there and it's already getting a great response so I'm definitely going to do a lot of the new stuff there. Then shortly after that I'll be going to Spain which I've never played there before either. That's going to be very interesting but once again I'm going to do a lot of new stuff.

That sounds pretty exciting. Tell us a little about Get Up.

I think it's my 13th solo record. That's not including an acoustic record that I made last year and a best of record that my Japanese label is going to be releasing this year. It's definitely a rock record but it's definitely a record that if I had to play somebody one song and they've never heard me before, have no idea who I am or what I've done, I would play them the song "Remember". That's the third song on Get Up. I think that song has all the elements that are unique to what I do. One thing about this record, the way I recorded it, in the past I would make solo records and throughout the course of the year I write a lot of songs and usually right after I write the song, I go in and I record it. Then I move on and record a bunch of other things. By the end of the year I might have 20 or 30 things recorded and at that point it's time for me to make a record. I'll take what I think is the best out of that group of music and it's a cool thing, but at the same time I would end up with some records that sounded very much all over the map stylistically. They keep going back to Change which is the last record I did. I think it's a great record but there are rock songs on there, there are R&B songs, and a bit of everything. This time I wanted to keep all the same influences that make me, me, but I wanted the record to sound like it was done at the same moment in time which is actually the way most people make records. I wrote all the songs at one time within the course of a few weeks. I basically waited until I felt inspired and I went in my studio and just started writing. Then once I thought I had all the material, I started recording and I booked studio time and just went in and within about a month, I was pretty much being finished with recording the record. We spent some time mixing it and that was the end of it. I think it's probably the best record I've made since I started making records. I'm really excited about it.

All of the songs you don't use on whatever record you're making, do they invariably make their way on some other record?

There are songs that are b-sides. I don't have a traditional record deal with one record company. I have various deals with different companies in different parts of the world. When you do things like that, these companies all want bonus tracks. For example, the records that they sell in Europe have one song on it that the Japanese people don't get. The Japanese people get one song that the European people don't get. That sort of thing. A lot of times, there are things that I record that end up as bonus tracks. In a way, I don't really like doing that because what it does, to me it kind of takes away from the record. The actual record to me is the first 10 songs and that's the one that I'm selling in the United States. That's the proper record. If I wasn't requested to have those extra bonus tracks, I probably wouldn't. They're not songs that are as important to me or else they would have been on the actual record. None the less, I have a lot of stuff floating around on two inch tape and on my computer hard drive that may or may not see the light of day.

You recorded and produced this in your own studio.

Yeah, one of the cool things that rock and roll has afforded me is the opportunity to buy things. One of the things that I bought two years ago was a commercial building in North Hollywood. What I've done is, I've taken this building and completely renovated it and turned it into a recording studio. The idea wasn't really for me to be in the studio business. It's not really what I'm interested in and it's not a very good business to be in. What I wanted to do is to create a place where people want to go to record. Where it was a good place to go and record. Through that you develop relationships with people and you get involved in creative situations with the music that wouldn't have happened otherwise. That was the idea behind it. Since I opened it, I've had a lot of cool people come through. Gene Simmons did a lot of his records there. He brought Dave Navarro down for some stuff. Keanu Reeves recorded there. Me’shell Ndege’Ocello, Blu Cantrell. I've had everything from heavy metal to R&B to even country in there. It's become a really cool spot. Obviously when I had a chance to make my record, I did my record at the studio and I billed myself so I did it legitimately.

That's pretty interesting. I guess when you play music for a long period of time, sometimes it's interesting to put on a different hat and go on the technical end of it.

I really love being in the studio in the creative process. I was starting to get into the thing where I was meeting some bands and messing around and recording them and producing some things. I was doing it out of my house because I still have a studio in my house. It started to become a bit awkward. You've got people stopping by and you don't even know them. The girlfriends of the band members are coming and they want to hear the song and there's nowhere to really hang out and they're milling about the house. I figured it was time to get the studio out of the house and get into a proper location and do it the right way. That was also a motivating factor.

I don't think I'd want people hobnobbing at the house. You'll be touring in South America and in Spain. What kind of tour plans do you have for the States?

Right now, I don't have anything booked for this year because what has happened is, we ended up filling up October and November and the record in the States officially is out now. What I'm going to end up doing is probably do a tour next year and I've been speaking to some people on the East coast about starting there. We're trying to put dates together and I'm from the East coast. I haven't been back there in a while so actually I think it would be really fun to kick off the tour in that part of the country. The States is so big, there's more involved to booking a tour. Japan, I know it's really far away and it seems really complicated and whatnot, but it's actually very simple to tour there because they've made everything so easy. The bullet train, you can be from Osaka to Tokyo in three hours. I go over there for six days, I play four shows, and I've toured all the major markets and I'm home. The U.S. is a little more complicated unless you're selling two or three or four million records which obviously I'm not doing that. None the less, I definitely plan on doing some live shows in the States. We're trying to put that together for next year.

Any other thoughts or comments?

I'm rebuilding my website, www.richiekotzen.com, but anyone that goes there can get the new record and find out what I'm up to and that sort of thing.

Richie Kotzen