By Andrew Catania
Richie Kotzen has come quite a way from his Shrapnel Record days. Mike Varney said in an interview with us that Richie Kotzen is the “complete guitarist.” Having such praise from a giant like Varney speaks volumes.
Kotzen has traded in his shred days for more of a bluesy approach fronting The Winery Dogs that features Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy. Make no mistake about it Kotzen can still shred with the best of them. His vocals fit perfectly for the Winery Dogs. His new 50 song album, 50-50, is a collection of songs that highlight Kotzen’s diverse musical talent that showcases his excellent playing. I spoke with Richie recently about 50 For 50.
What made you put out an album with 50 songs?
RK: I had 12 songs that were ready to go. I was on the road touring in Europe. I said, wow, what if I put out a 50 song album on my birthday? I mean, that’d be a crazy, crazy thing. I’ve never heard of anyone doing that. It might just be an interesting talking point if I could do it. I don’t want to put out random material.
I had the 12 new songs, and then I went back in my archives, and I discovered I had another four or five songs that were finished that I never put out for whatever reason I don’t know why they just sat in waiting. That put me up to about 17 and so for the rest of it, I had a lot of material that was in development and some songs where the lyrics were done and there was a guide vocal, but I needed to finish the recording. Some songs were nothing more than a bass guitar and drum beat, all of these songs in various forms of completion. And I mean multiple types. Some were almost done somewhere, nowhere near done. I just started going in and kind of knocking them down. I was kind of rolling; I started writing new material and ended up being four or five songs that were written out of nowhere.
The song Living The Dream. That’s a song that was one of the last things I did, and just kind of came up with it. I was sitting in the bedroom talking to my wife, and I was strumming the guitar. That’s it. Oh, I just got an idea, and I ran down in the studio and recorded it. So it kind of turned into this wild whirlwind of ideas only being documented. I stopped when I had 50. I mean, I could still be down there finishing music, but I had to stop.
Did you release this on your label?
RK: When you say your label, it’s not an office with a bunch of people sitting behind computers. It’s a label in the sense of a word. I do put it out myself. If I had a situation where one of the big labels came to me and said, Hey, we’re going to get behind you and do something well, that makes sense.
For someone like myself who already has built up an incredible fan base and I tour the world, it doesn’t make sense for me to sign with a label because they don’t unless it’s Universal or BMG, most of the labels can’t offer me anything better than what I can do if I do it myself. I can hire the same publicist that the label’s going to hire. I can fund my music video, I can pay the mastering guy, and I can do all this stuff myself. What can they offer me? Now, granted, if it’s a major label that’s different, the kinds of labels that would possibly entertain working with me, they never really offered me anything that was very appealing.
How did you pick the first song to release the first video for?
RK: That’s a great question because you know I struggled with that. The thing is in today’s time when you put a single out, so much of it revolves around the visual. I was thinking about, everyone always says, Oh well you have to lead with a heavy rock song, you’re a rock and roll artist and this and that. As I was going to lead with, either Stick The Knife, which is more rock and roll type. A
Then I was thinking about the visual, and I didn’t have anything in my mind. I was listening to Devil’s Hand, and I’m like, this is a song because, for me, Devil’s Hand has every element. Yes, it is a ballad. However, it has a transition where it turns into something completely different. And so you have the aspect of the lyrics, the storyline, and then you have this other element where it turns into something else. The story to me was fascinating; the idea of someone having it all and then just losing it, and I was able to storyboard that. We had to shoot that video throughout a couple of days because the first character is me in a situation where I’m living in a van, and I had to look, kind of beat up, and you know; I didn’t shave for a while.
Once I knew I had all those shots, we dropped that into the timeline, and I said to my editor, okay, we’ve got that. I’m going to clean up and now tomorrow or the next day we’re going to do the flashback scenes. So we did all the flashback scenes, and then when we had that in, the last thing we did was we called in the extras, and we rented a place in downtown LA and set it up like a jazz club. And then, we did the scene with me performing the guitar solo, so it was done on three separate days.
For more information on Richi Kotzen and his new album 50-50, please visit his social media sites: