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Richie Kotzen Discusses Gear and New Album, ‘Salting Earth’

Photo: Julia Lage

When working on Salting Earth, his 21st solo effort, triple-threat songwriter, guitarist and vocalist Richie Kotzen tossed convention on its ear by taking one step back in order to move two steps forward.

“It’s something I really needed to do in order to reset myself,” he says.

His “charge to recharge” was put into play following the success of the 2015–’16 tour behind the Winery Dogs’ sophomore effort, Hot Streak. And the guitarist’s reset manifesto wound up hitting all the right buttons; the proof is on display on Salting Earth.

I recently chatted with Kotzen about his writing process, gear and, of course, Salting Earth, which will be released April 14.

How would you describe Salting Earth in terms of its sound?

One of the things I love about this record is that the song selection really encompasses what I do as far as the pendulum swing. You have songs like “This is Life” and “My Rock,” which are centered more around the piano, but at the same time you have heavier things, like “Thunder” and “End of Earth.” Then you have songs like “I’ve Got You” and “Meds” that have a slinky, sexy kind of vibe. This new record of all-new material really shows me in the realm of what I do as far as being a recording artist.

What’s your song writing process like? 

I approach my writing in a way that’s not held by any boundaries. I don’t think about when or where I’m going to write or record. It just happens. If I have an idea for a song and I’m nowhere near a studio, I’ll document it on the recorder app of my iPhone. Then at some point, I’ll go back and listen to these ideas and record them. If I’m at home with an idea, then I’ll go straight to the studio and start working on it. What ends up happening is that over the course of the year I may end up with 10 to 20 songs and ideas recorded, and at that point I start looking at what material works well together and what songs I can picture myself playing live. Then I can compile a record.

Is there a particular way you approach writing lyrics for a song? 

Everything happens differently. It just depends on the situation. It’s interesting because there’s a song on the record, “Make It Easy,” that was sitting on my hard drive for a very long time. I knew it could be a cool song but I could never finish the lyrics. Somewhere along the line last year, I pulled it up again and as I was listening to it the lyrics just came to me. Sometimes the lyrics and melody can come simultaneously, like the song “I’ve Got You.” That was a song where the melody and lyrics came together all at once.

Other times you’ll have a song with just a riff. “End of Earth” is a good example of that. I originally went in and just sang the melody and made things up for that one. Then I went back and listened to what I had recorded and was able to take the sounds I created and turn them into words, lines and phrases. Then I could just fill in the blanks.

Read the rest of my
Interview with Richie Kotzen by Clicking Here!

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Richie Kotzen Talks Tech 21 Signature RK5 Fly Rig, ‘Cannibals’ and Dog Camp 2015

Richie Kotzen

Richie Kotzen

We always love talking to Richie Kotzen. This time, we decided to talk tone.

Kotzen played a huge part in developing the Tech 21 Signature RK5 Fly Rig, which happens to play a major role in how he gets his signature sound.

While Kotzen primarily uses his RK5 live in conjunction with his standard amp rig, this compact unit embodies an entire rig on its own. At its heart is the all-analog SansAmp, which makes it possible to go direct to a PA or mixer. For effects, you have the essentials: a reverb, a delay with tap tempo, a powerful boost and Kotzen’s Signature OMG overdrive.

Below, we discuss the RK5, the Winery Dogs his new solo album and more.

GUITAR WORLD: How did your relationship with Tech 21 begin?

They had sent me a few of their delays and other pedals to try out. I took a liking to the delay and started using it as my primary one. During tours with my band, I found myself doing these fly gigs where I would fly in, do a show or two and then fly out. I really wanted something compact and easy to deal with.

What I wound up doing was combining their delay pedal with the overdrive I was using at the time and then added a foot-switch mechanism for my amp and put it all into one little box. It was crude and wasn’t always super reliable, but I showed it to Andrew Barta at Tech 21 when he was in LA and he agreed it was a great idea. It took a good six months in developing until it was exactly right.

Was there a lot of trial and error involved in the process?

The delay was simple because I already knew what I wanted. The overdrive was a little trickier. I learned a lot about circuits by comparing things but relied a lot on my ears. It went through several variations until Andrew came up with a design that’s just right. I can put that pedal in front of any amp and still get a good sound.

You can read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Richie Kotzen by Clicking Here!

‘Cannibals’: Richie Kotzen Talks New Album, The Winery Dogs and Gear

CannibalsIn a career that has spanned more than 25 years, guitarist extraordinaire Richie Kotzen has built an impressive resume of albums that showcase his unique shredding prowess, vocals, songwriting and vast musical knowledge.

On Kotzen’s recently released 20th solo album, 2015’s Cannibals, we find the guitarist exploring some interesting new territory.

“In an Instant” and “Come on Free” offer a tasty, Seventies-AOR sound, while “The Enemy” showcase Kotzen’s slide guitar skills. Kotzen also makes the new album a multi-generational affair by including his daughter’s piano-driven song, “You.”

I recently spoke with Kotzen about Cannibals, his songwriting and his current gear setup. He also provides an update on the next Winery Dogs projects and more.

GUITAR WORLD: Lately, you’ve been busy with the Winery Dogs and releasing a compilation package called The Essential Richie Kotzen. What made you decide to release a new solo album?

I felt like it was time. I really had not released a new solo record since 2011. I remember saying to myself around that time that I’d like to take a break from myself and do a collaborative project. The Winery Dogs came at a very good time because the songs I was working on at the time, “Elevate,” “Damaged,” “I’m No Angel” and “Regret,” all ended up on that record.

They were things that we either finished or ideas that were started that ended up on the record. Plus we all wrote new material. After spending the last year and a half doing the band, I really wanted to get back to what it was I’ve been doing for the last 20 years. So I went back into the archives and found some songs I started writing many years ago. There also are brand-new songs, like “Cannibals,” on there too.

This is one of those records where I did what I felt and one that creatively and artistically was true and accurate. I don’t like having to meet a deadline or live up to someone else’s expectations. I’m at my best when I’m left to my own devices.

What’s your songwriting process like these days?

I don’t believe in consciously setting aside a time to write. For me, writing is an emotional, creative thing that requires a lot of variables to line up. To write a real song, there are a lot of things that have to go on emotionally. In my experience, the most truthful material I’ve written comes from unexpected moments. Ideas will come at you many different times and in many different ways. You just have to be prepared to recognize that inspiration and roll with it.

Read the rest of my
gw_logoInterview with Richie Kotzen by Clicking Here!

Richie Kotzen Discusses New ‘Essential’ Package and Memorable Moments from His Career

Richie Kotzen

Richie Kotzen

With styles ranging from rock and blues to jazz and soul, Richie Kotzen has built an eclectic career as guitarist, singer and songwriter.

Over a period of 20 years, Kotzen has accumulated a loyal fan base and has consistently sold out shows throughout the world.

Still, there are many who question what Kotzen is capable of musically. Kotzen’s new Essential package is sure to answer that question.

The Essential Richie Kotzen — which is slated to be released September 2 — contains material curated from Kotzen’s entire career (which has spawned 18 solo albums), not including his work with Poison and the Winery Dogs.

The new package was purposely designed to give listeners the most comprehensive, concise introduction to Kotzen’s extensive body of work.

The Essential Richie Kotzen includes two CDs of classic Kotzen material as well as two new songs, along with a DVD of music videos, acoustic performances and bootleg material. It’s the ultimate collection of music for Kotzen fans.

I recently spoke with Kotzen about the Essential package, his upcoming solo album and some of the most memorable moments of his career.

You can read my completed
gw_logoWith Richie Kotzen by Clicking Here!

The Winery Dogs: Richie Kotzen, Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy Discuss Debut Album

DogsAre they a supergroup? Well, yes.

With guitarist Richie Kotzen (Mr. Big, Poison), bassist Billy Sheehan (Mr. Big, Talas, Niacin) and drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Adrenaline Mob) in the mix, how could they be considered anything else?

Just don’t use that moniker around the guys in the band.

“Most supergroups are short-lived and usually have internal problems,” Sheehan said during my recent conversation with all three Winery Dogs. “We didn’t get together to try to capitalize on what we’ve done before. We wanted to do something that was straight out of the box.”

The guys prefer to be considered a classic power trio, and they’ve already released a powerful trio of music videos in advance of their debut self-titled album, which will be released July 23 via Loud & Proud Records. The disc was produced by the band and mixed by Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Stone Sour, Steel Panther).

I recently sat down with Kotzen, Sheehan and Portnoy to talk band origins, gear, the new album and the secrets behind Kotzen’s sound and hybrid picking style.

Read my complete Guitar World interview with The Winery Dogs by Clicking Here!

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