Richie KotzenRichie Kotzen Ė Salting Earth
by Dave Schwartz

Fans of Richie Kotzen will not be surprised; heís putting out a solo album-- his 21st.  At this point, calling Kotzen prolific is an understatement.  His new record, ďSalting Earth,Ē is the result of his one-man production regiment.  Itís a collection of 10 new songs that Kotzen will bring onto the road for all to celebrate. 

Recently I spoke with Kotzen and heard about the new record and all his plans. 

DB:  Hi Richie, thanks for taking our call today.  I know that you have a busy schedule, youíre rehearsing for your tour, but I would like to hear about your new record ďSalting Earth.Ē

RK:  Apparently, from what Iíve been told, this is my 21st solo record.  But whoís counting?  Itís a situation where Iíve got a lot of material that I went through and really had the luxury of taking my time to decide which songs fit well together and what I wanted to release.  When you have the luxury of time and are not in a rush I think you end up with something a little more valuable than in other situations in the past where I was up against deadlines and that sort of thing.  I really didnít have to deal with anything like that this time and so I feel like I was able to put together a record that speaks to who I am and what I am about.

DB:  I think youíre creating some exciting music.  Iíve watched the video you released two days ago Ė ďEnd of the EarthĒ Ė and the video has a really cool vibe to it and the song by itself is amazing.  Tell me a bit about the song.

RK:  ďEnd of the EarthĒ is one of the newer songs that Iíve written.  Most of that song, along with a few others that I wrote around that time, including ďDevine PowerĒ and ďMeds,Ē  once I had those three songs I kind of felt like I was on the verge of building something really cool as it relates to a record.  I got inspired and starting writing a lot and also going back into my archive and pulling out other ideas and things.  ďEnd of the EarthĒ is interesting because itís a longer song as far as rock songs go.  I think itís about 6 minutes or so.  But itís interesting because itís not a typical structure.  Itís a fun song and I knew when it was done that it would open the record.  And also, a lyric in the song lead me to the title of the album.  Thereís a lyric in the song-- ďIím Salting a Bit of Earth,Ē and what that means to me is relative to music and what I do is that Iím leaving something behind, some flavor to our world so to speak.  And everybody does it.  When you move on or pass on all that really matters is what you leave behind that resonates with your friends and family or even beyond that.  So ďEnd of the EarthĒ is the first single and it just came out a couple of days ago.

DB:  As I commented, itís a very cool song and video.  Iím reading in your press release that while making this record you had the opportunity to take a giant step back, to clear your head and approach the record with a fresh perspective.  I know that youíre quite busy with all of your commitments including The Winery Dogs and everything else that you do.  Talk for a moment about how valuable it was to take a step back and start fresh. 

RK:  Actually the reality is that the time I took off happened after the record was finished.  When I write and record, itís a continuous wheel.  Iím always writing and recording.  I might go two months without writing a song and then get an idea and document it.  Usually when I get an idea I record it right then and there.  I donít always finish it but I at least document it and get things started.  So by the time last August rolled around I had narrowed things down to these ten songs.  I knew that they would be a record and I decided at that point to master the ten songs and then take a step away from music.  I literally didnít pick up a guitar or sing for months.  I said to myself, Iím going to re-listen to this record and if I still like it, Iíll release it and Iím doing a tour.  If I donít like it I donít have to release it.  So when I came back and listened to it I liked it was excited about becoming active once again.  So weíve decided to release "Salting Earth" on April 14th and the tour starts the 21st and we have a yearsí worth of shows booked around the world so everything is falling into place.

DB:  Obviously youíve put a band together to go out on tour.  Who do you have in the band with you?

RK:  Iíve been playing live with the same guys for about six years now.  Dylan Wilson is the bass player and Mike Bennett is the drummer.  These guys have been with me for about six years and are super talented.  They grew up playing together and come from a jazz background.  Dylan has a jazz and R&B background, Mike has a serious jazz background.  They also play rock and understand what that is.  These guys, with the combination of their jazz background and playing my music, it elevates my music to a new level because they can improvise in ways that metal musicians simply donít understand.  This of course is something that is very inspiring for me and moves my music more into the realm where it can take on a different light.  Iím really thankful to have met these guys and Iím happy that they are playing my music with me.

Richie KotzenDB:  Did you record the entire album by yourself or did you have some help along the way? 

RK:  I did everything myself.  My wife Julia Lage sang harmony vocals with me on one song, ďMake it Easy,Ē and everything else is me.  I play drums and piano and bass.  Iíve been doing that for a long time.  A lot of the time I do interview s with people and they comment on that as a talking point but the reality is that I probably have 16 records out where Iím the only musician on the record so this is nothing new to me.  This stems back to when I was very young.  I grew up just outside of Philadelphia pretty much in a rural environment.  It was very isolated so if I wanted to do anything I had to do it myself.  So kind of always had that mentality.  I remember in the early days having a 4-track recorder and doing overdubs and bouncing tracks back and forth.  You know, trying to master that studio technique so that I could create more space for more overdubs.  I remember layering myself and often times being the only guy and so thatís how I evolved into what I am now.  So my process now is very simple.  I have my studio and all the instruments are there, everything is micíd up and itís ready to record anytime.  So I have the luxury of going in, tonight for example, and working on an idea and then come back three months later and replace something or evolve it into something else.  Thatís how it works and for me itís very simple.

DB:  You've got such a diverse style and youíve done some amazing work-- 21 records is amazing in its own right.  I know that I could grab anyone of those records and find a host of different styles on the album.  That has always been very cool and amazing to me.  You must feel fortunate to be able to express yourself so clearly, having the ability to play all of the instruments and putting out exactly the music you want. 

RK:  You know itís an interesting thing when you discuss an artistís versatility and style.  I can remember that all of the great records that I liked as a kid, a Led Zeppelin record for example, not all of the songs sounded the same.  If you listen to a great Led Zeppelin record youíve got all of the heavy stuff like ďBlack DogĒ or ďRock and Roll,Ē but then youíve also got acoustic songs and all different types of instrumentation.  It was very sophisticated.  Somewhere along the line in our society we got caught up in this idea, and it really comes from record companies and producers, that everything has to sound the same.  If you write a funk song then every single thing you do needs to be funk, I just think thatís terrible because all of the best artists in the world are diverse and versatile.  Whether you talking about Sly and the Family Stone or Prince or David Bowie Ė any great artist Ė they are all diverse.  There are a lot of things that they do.  Sting has such a broad palette of what he does.  So to me itís always been the norm for an artist to be versatile.  All of the great artists that I can think of were all very versatile and their records reflected that.  Somewhere along the line, probably in the '80s, people were pigeonholed into doing just one simple thing.  Itís unfortunate.

DB:  I agree with your comments.  Looking back in the day before CDs, buying an album was an adventure.  It started with great album art and the music was naturally divided between side one and two which of course kicked of the debate of which side was better.  In the day, albums took you on a journey from beginning to end.  They were written and presented on the record with an overall purpose in mind.  Today, you may find two or three songs on a release with that quality. 

RK:  Thatís true and another thing that I think happened, I think but I could be wrong but, RUSH ďMoving PicturesĒ one of my favorite albums of all time, I think there was something like only seven songs on that album.  The point that Iím going to make is that back in the old days, you had room for seven or eight songs on a record.  Because of that you know that you were getting the very, very best of what the band has to offer.  With the introduction of CDs came the mentality that the artist had to fill up the CD.  So bands began putting 14 or 15 songs on a record and, Iím sorry but I donít care who you are, thereís a good chance that when you start loading up a CD like that that youíre going to have some filler.  There will be some songs there that maybe you shouldnít have released.  Today, things are changing again.  This is much more of a single related market.  They want you to put out a song and not worry about doing a complete album.  Things keep evolving and changing.  I like the industry today.  I like that I can have a direct connection to my base Ė the people buying my music.  But I like thing about the old days too.

DB:  Youíve mentioned that youíre going out on tour for a year.  Where will this tour take you? 

RK:  We open the tour with the first show in Agoura Hills, California at The Canyon Club.  Thatís a great venue.  Weíll be working our across the country to New York.  Itís a five week tour of the states.  Weíll take a couple weeks off to regroup before going down to South America Ė Brazil, Chile and Argentina.  Weíll come back up through Mexico.  Then weíre heading to Japan.  Then after Japan, Europe is already booked.  Weíll probably end the cycle with another tour across America and hit Canada as well.

DB:  Iím looking forward to seeing you Richie when you come to the Phoenix, Arizona area.  Thatís all Iíve got today-- is there anything else you would like to talk about? 

RK:  The record is called ďSalting EarthĒ and it comes out April 14th.  I hope to see everyone on the road! 

I want to thank Richie Kotzen for sharing a moment of his precious time with DaBelly.  Check out his new record, ďSalting EarthĒ and see him live when he comes to your town!

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