Three veteran rockers have come together to create an all-star trio.
The names are familiar: drummer Mike Portnoy co-founded and spent 25 years with Dream Threatre, while recently playing with Adrenaline Mob. Bassist Billy Sheehan and singer-guitarist Richie Kotzen were together in Mr. Big. Together, the three call themselves The Winery Dogs.
The Winery Dogs’ debut album might not be exactly what Portnoy’s longtime fans expected. Portnoy, after all, earned his way into the Modern Drummer Magazine Hall of Fame performing progressive rock and heavy metal. He says The Winery Dogs is something different - music inspired by the groups they all grew up listening to.
“Bands like Zeppelin and The Who, The Stones, and The Beatles, Cream, and Hendrix. I mean, I grew up with that stuff," he said. "And, although I’ve been able to pay tribute to it throughout my career with tribute bands and things like that, I’ve never been in an all-original band that was kind of playing classic rock power trio stuff. That’s how I describe this band: just a straight up rock band.”
Portnoy says most of the songs on The Winery Dogs were collaborative efforts, written with the three band mates together in a room, just bouncing ideas off each other.
“In all cases, the music was the very first element and from there, Richie would start melodies on top of it. Sometimes the final lyrics were there, coming up on the spot, and other times he would take the melodies and write lyrics later," he said. "There were a couple of examples of Richie having something and bringing it in. In those cases, like “Damaged” and “Regret” we just left them. Because in those two particular cases, the songs were great as they were.”
Clearly, not every song on The Winery Dogs is loud and full of feedback. Though each member is known for playing a distinctive style in previous groups, they step outside those boxes here. Bassist Billy Sheehan has gone in many directions in a career that spans over 30 years. Here, he anchors the band with aggressive, classic-rock bass-lines. Singer-guitarist Richie Kotzen grew up outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a city known for “Philly soul” music. He says that local sound influences the way he sings.
Portnoy is thrilled to be working with them both.
"Billy Sheehan is my favorite bass player on earth and he has been for almost 30 years now. So to work with him and make music with him for me is an honor," he said. "And Richie is someone I have the utmost respect for as an artist. I mean, he is just so underappreciated, not only as a guitarist, but as a singer and a writer as well. I think for me, the most exciting aspect of this band is for people to discover Richie that aren’t aware of what a musical genius he is.”
The Winery Dogs spent much of July in Japan and South America. After a few United States shows, they take a break and then spend September touring Europe, followed by an extensive tour of North America. Details, along with photos, videos and more are on their website, TheWineryDogs.com.