The Winery Dogs Will Shred No Rock Before Its Time

Categories: Inquiring Minds

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Paradise Artists
The Winery Dogs: Billy Sheehan (bass), Richie Kotzen (vocals, guitar), and Mike Portnoy (drums).

Though he's maintained a dizzying schedule as a solo artist, spent time as a member of Poison and Mr. Big, and collaborated with dozens of other musicians from heavy metal to jazz, Richie Kotzen is currently in the dog house. But at least there's good stuff to drink in there.

Kotzen - along with bassist Billy Sheehan (David Lee Roth, Steve Vai, Mr. Big), and drummer Mike Portnoy (Dream Theater, Adrenaline Mob) - formed the Winery Dogs.

"What has made it work so well is that we had a very relaxed attitude when we met. And we were only going to pursue something if we liked it," Kotzen says. "Billy and Mike have very unique sounds. It is a band, but no one has lost their identity. If you are familiar with our playing styles, this band isn't too much of a departure."

The group came out when Kotzen's friend, DJ and host of VH-1's "That Metal Show" Eddie Trunk called and up and told him that Sheehan and Portnoy were looking to put together a power trio, and the singer/guitarist slot was open.

After a couple of initial jamming and writing sessions, the three seemed to click, and their debut, The Winery Dogs, came out last year (a recently re-released special edition includes a bonus live disc from a gig in Japan).

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The record features a baker's dozen of tracks that are rooted in a classic rock sound, but are definitely contemporary, with the three playing together as if they had years of experience.

Still, one look at the lyric sheet can't help but make the listener wonder if...um...everything is ok.

At various times, narrators in the songs are on the edge, fighting to survive, a shadow of their former selves, can't control their heads, need to get back on their feet, call themselves damaged and born "lost," are kicked down, and "down in the gutter with a forty in a bag."

Uh, Richie, how are you...really?

"It wasn't until I put the razor blades down and stopped cutting myself that I realized how dark the lyrics were," he offers. "I'm kidding!"

He continues: "The songs people write have to do with what's happening in a certain period of time. If you just won the lottery, you'll write happy songs. If you're going through a breakup, there will be a cloud over your head," he offers.

"But this has been a good year! So maybe the next record will be about cherry blossoms and sundaes."


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