Richie 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
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
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.
DB: 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!