Richard Dale Kotzen Jr. (born February 3, 1970) is an American guitarist and singer. As a solo artist, Kotzen has back catalogue of more than 20 album releases. He was a member of glam metal band Poison from 1991 to 1993, Mr. Big from 1999 to 2002, and since 2012, has been the frontman of the band The Winery Dogs. Kotzen was signed to California-based Shrapnel Records from 1988 to 1991, and again from 1995 to 1997.
|Birth name||Richard Dale Kotzen Jr.|
|Born||February 3, 1970|
Reading, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Kotzen began playing piano at the age of five. At the age of seven, he was inspired to learn the electric guitar, by the band Kiss. He started his career in a band named Arthur's Museum. Kotzen was eventually discovered by Shrapnel Records' Mike Varney, and he recorded his first solo album by the age of 19, the first of two instrumental records, simply entitled Richie Kotzen. He created the video Rock Chops for REH video in 1989, highlighting many of his formative techniques, including using wide-intervals and fluid sweeping. One year later, a second solo album called Fever Dream was released, which was the first one to also feature his lead vocals. Since then, Kotzen has released a long series of more than twenty albums with musical influences ranging from rock, hard rock, pop, blues, blue-eyed-soul, R&B and funk to jazz fusion.
In 1991, at age 21, Kotzen joined glam metal band Poison, co-writing and performing on the album Native Tongue. This album produced two top-twenty singles which Kotzen co-wrote, "Stand" and "Until You Suffer Some (Fire and Ice)". In late-1993, Rikki Rockett, the drummer of Poison, discovered that Kotzen was having a relationship with Rockett's then-fiancee, Deanna Eve. Kotzen was dismissed from the band due to this incident.
Kotzen then focused on his solo career, regularly releasing song oriented, R&B/soul/blues and funk influenced melodic rock albums such as Mother Head's Family Reunion, Wave Of Emotion, Something To Say, Break It All Down and What Is. He also made guest appearances on several albums by artists like Glenn Hughes, Stevie Salas, T.M. Stevens and others. In 1995 and 1997 he collaborated with Greg Howe on two jazz rock fusion albums.
In 1999, Kotzen replaced Paul Gilbert as guitarist in the mainstream hard rock band Mr. Big, performing on their album Get Over It, which sold more than 175,000 copies in its first two weeks in Japan, eventually reaching platinum status. He also contributed guitars and songwriting to their subsequent release Actual Size. The record included the Kotzen song "Shine", which debuted at number one on Japanese radio charts.
In 2001, while still in Mr. Big, Kotzen recorded and released another solo album called Slow, which contains a mix of some crunchy funky and bluesy rock tunes and softer R&B/pop songs like "I Don't Wanna Lie", for which a music video was filmed. On some of the songs on Slow Kotzen experimented with the use of a drum computer, while on others he played drums. After Mr. Big disbanded, Kotzen continued his solo career. He released his next solo album Change, in 2003. The title track, a soft ballad, and the song Get a Life, a rock song in the style of Mr. Big, were featured in TV commercials throughout Japan.
In 2002, Kotzen bought a commercial building in Los Angeles, and established a recording studio and production company. He has since produced his own acclaimed solo albums and collaborated with various figures in rock (e.g. Gene Simmons), jazz and fusion, including jazz legend Stanley Clarke, with whom he realized the project Vertú.
The 2004, follow-up-album to Change, Get Up featured a more edgy, aggressive rock sound. It was more hard rock oriented than any of his previous solo outputs since Fever Dream and contains the ballad "Remember", which became a minor hit.
In 2005, Kotzen teamed up with three Japanese punk rockers to form the short-lived Forty Deuce-Project, which only lasted long enough to record and release one album.
Later in the same year, Kotzen collaborated with Funk Rock Fusion guitarist Steve Saluto on his album Rough Beat, where he contributed 50% of the vocals and co-wrote some of the songs. The album was first released on December 31, 2005, and got re-issued in 2009 under the name Resurrection, coming with five additional tracks.
During the year 2006, Kotzen produced and released two solo studio albums, first Ai Senshi Z×R, an album on which he played several English sung rock covers of theme songs from the Japanese Gundam anime franchise, and only nine months later Into the Black, containing ten self-penned rock songs. The latter starts with the angry song "You Can't Save Me", in which he uses the word "fuck" extensively, which eventually turned it into a fan favorite.
In 2007, Go Faster was released, which alternatively was named Return of the Mother Head's Family Reunion in Europe and Japan. On the album, Kotzen showcases a firework of edgy, driving, yet melodic funk influenced blues rock songs with strong hooks and passionate guitar playing. It includes the eight-minute-song "Fooled Again", which became a live favorite on the following tours, and the soft pop ballad "Chase It" with its significant mandolin riff, for which a music video clip was filmed in Venice.
In 2009, Kotzen also teamed up with songwriter/producer Richie Zito for a short-lived project they called Wilson Hawk. Wilson Hawk produced one album called The Road, on which they celebrate some R&B and soul influenced pop music in the style of the late 60s and 70s and many soulful pop ballads.
After the "Peace Sign" world tour, Kotzen released one single in 2010 (the Rod Stewart reminiscent Angry Boy).
In 2011, Kotzen released a full-length Solo album titled 24 Hours, which features ten catchy, fresh 70s funk and R&B influenced melodic rock songs with strong hooks and vibes, garnished with a lot of fiddling around. The release was followed by another tour.
In 2012, he joined forces with Mike Portnoy and Billy Sheehan to form the rock supergroup The Winery Dogs who released their self-titled debut album on May 15, 2013, in Japan, with a worldwide release on July 23 of the same year. A world tour followed.
After that, Kotzen went on an acoustic solo tour and started working on his 20th solo effort, which became the Cannibals album, that was released on January, 5th, 2015. Cannibals features a more relaxed, and often R&B influenced rock/pop sound. Kotzen's wife, bassist/vocalist Julia Lage, added some background vocals and also appears in the music video for the song "In An Instant". On the song "I'm All In" Kotzen shares the vocals with Doug Pinnick of King's X and Kotzen's daughter August Eve is featured on the ballad "You", playing the piano. A music video for "You" was also recorded.
By the end of 2016, The Winery Dogs went on hiatus and Kotzen focused on his next solo record Salting Earth, which came out on April 14, 2017. The album incorporates a mix of blues rock and laid back pop/rock songs. From August until late September Kotzen completed a European tour.
On January 25, 2018, Kotzen released a video for his new single called The Damned, a heavy blues rocker, via YouTube, which was filmed at Paramount Ranch in Agoura, California by director Vicente Cordero. On June 5, 2018, a second video single called Riot was released via YouTube, which was again directed by Vicente Cordero. On December 11, 2018, Kotzen announced a Winery Dogs Tour through the US for May 2019, via his official Facebook page, which they completed successfully then.
On June 11, 2019, another solo single titled Venom was published, a dark, bluesy, hard rocking tune in the style of The Winery Dogs, accompanied by a music video.
For his 50th birthday in 2020, Kotzen wanted to offer his fans something special. So in the second half of 2019, he challenged himself to write and record 50 songs, and have them ready for release on February 3, 2020, the date of his birthday. This resulted in the 50-track triple-album titled 50 for 50. For the song "Devil's Hand", a video clip was filmed by the seaside, which was again directed by Vicente Cordero, and also includes scenes with Kotzen's wife, Julia Lage. Another music video for the song "As You Are" was shot by Kotzen himself, dancing and playing in his kitchen wearing a pajama, while he was in quarantine with COVID-19.
In the second half of 2020, Kotzen began working on a project called Smith/Kotzen with Iron Maiden guitarist Adrian Smith. Nine songs were created and appear on the eponymous album. The album was released on March 26, 2021, and was produced by Smith and Kotzen and mixed by Kevin Shirley.
On November 26, 2021,Smith/Kotzen released a four-track EP titled Better Days.
In January 2022, they went on a club tour through California (US), with a UK tour following in February and March. Kotzen's wife, Julia Lage, took over on bass guitar.
Kotzen has described his style as a mix of rock, blues, heavy metal, jazz, fusion, and soul music. Kotzen utilizes a heavy amount of legato and sweeping in his playing. As his main influences, he lists Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eddie Van Halen, Jason Becker (who produced his first album), Allan Holdsworth, and many other jazz and fusion players. Kotzen, since around 2007, has opted to stop using guitar picks and been playing exclusively with his fingers ever since.
Kotzen has used Fender electric guitars for most of his career, most notably his signature model Telecasters and Stratocasters, as well as other custom-made models. Currently, there are two Richie Kotzen signature models made by Fender Japan – a Stratocaster (STR-145RK) and a Telecaster (TLR-155RK). Both guitars feature ash bodies with laminated flame maple caps, maple necks and one piece maple fretboards with abalone dot inlays and 22 super jumbo frets. The Telecaster model features a DiMarzio Chopper T pickup in the bridge position (single-spaced humbucker) and a DiMarzio Twang King in the neck position. The Stratocaster is fitted with three custom made DiMarzio single coil pickups.
At the beginning of his career, Kotzen used Ibanez guitars and Laney amplifiers before switching to Fender guitars and Marshall amplifiers in the early 1990s. He used Marshall Super Lead, JCM800 and JCM900 models as well as Yamaha DG Series amps in the late 1990s. Yamaha DG1000 preamp with Marshall EL34 100/100 power amp, and Yamaha DG130H, Yamaha DG100 combo etc.
In 2005, Cornford Amplification issued a Richie Kotzen signature model – RK100, a single channel tube amp head developed and designed in collaboration with Kotzen to suit his expansive playing style. Cornford ceased production of all amplifiers, including the RK100, in 2013. There were also matching signature model speaker cabinets, equipped with one or four Celestion Vintage 30 12" speakers. Both the amplifier head and the speaker cabinets were the only Cornford models generally supplied with Kotzen-spec black Tolex covering. The 4 x 12" cabinet also includes a special locking jack socket on the rear. Now Richie uses Victory Amplifiers. He has his very own Signature Victory Amp. Kotzen prefers not to use many pedals (or effects, in general) when playing live. However, over the years, he has been using several versions of Sobbat Drivebraker and Glowvibe pedals on top of Marshall amps when not playing with the Cornford. He also uses reverb and delay effects of his signature series Zoom G2R effects processor, which is connected in the effects loop of the amplifier. In 2014, Tech 21 started selling the Richie Kotzen Signature RK5 Fly Rig, which was developed in close collaboration with Richie, who used the final prototype for the bulk of his 2014 tour with the Winery Dogs.