THE WINERY DOGS, the new project featuring Mike Portnoy (DREAM THEATER, AVENGED SEVENFOLD, ADRENALINE MOB), Billy Sheehan (MR. BIG) and Richie Kotzen (MR. BIG, POISON), will kick off its world tour by playing two shows in Japan this summer: July 16 in Osaka and July 17 in Tokyo. Dates for the rest of the world will be announced soon.
Due on May 15 in Japan via Victor Entertainment, THE WINERY DOGS‘ debut album was mixed by Jay Ruston, who has previously worked with ANTHRAX, ADRENALINE MOB, STONE SOUR and STEEL PANTHER. Sheehan previously stated about the effort: “I’m really pleased with it. Richie sang his ass off and played amazingly unique stuff, and, of course Mike annihilated on drums. [It’s a] really cool, unique record.”
Regarding how THE WINERY DOGS got its name, Portnoy said: “It was Richie’s name. We had a list of about 50 names. I had about 10 that I preferred over THE WINERY DOGS, but you know, when you’re in a band, you have to give and take and choose your battles, and Richie really, really loved this band name. So, you know, it was, like, ‘OK.’ A name is a name. If you feel that strongly about it, then go for it. So that’s who we are.”
At the end of 2011, Portnoy and Sheehan tapped Kotzen to be the guitarist/vocalist of their new project following the departure of John Sykes (WHITESNAKE, BLUE MURDER, THIN LIZZY).
Although Portnoy and Sykes demoed a dozen or so songs at a Los Angeles studio in 2011, their vastly different work ethics and conflicting schedules were solely to blame for the dissolution of their collaboration.
During an interview that aired on the July 13, 2012 edition of Eddie Trunk‘s “Friday Night Rocks” radio show on New York’s Q104.3 FM, Portnoy said, “I love John personally, and we get along great — he’s a sweetheart of a guy — but I need to keep moving. I can’t sit still and kind of wait to make an album over the next three years, I need to put things on the calendar and move forward and get them done, and John‘s kind of just a ‘wait, wait, wait’ guy. Sadly, it kind of just stopped in its tracks, and Billy and I said, ‘Look, let’s do something.’ And you [Eddie] were the one, actually, that suggested Richie Kotzen and I thought it was a brilliant suggestion, because he’s an unbelievably underrated talent, not only [as] a guitar player but a phemonal singer, and just an amazing songwriter and artist. I think people just kind of lump him, or write him off as the guy that was with POISON and MR. BIG. I think they have no idea what he’s really capable of.”
When asked to describe the musical direction of the project, Portnoy said, “It’s a classic-rock kind of power-trio sound. If you picture the classic-rock bands of… the classic ones — [LED] ZEPPELIN, CREAM, [JIMI] HENDRIX, GRAND FUNK [RAILROAD] — if you take that classic-rock power-trio sound of the early ’70s, and then you sprinkle it on top with some of the modern kind of sounds of SOUNDGARDEN and ALICE IN CHAINS or BLACK CROWES or LENNY KRAVITZ… It’s in that vein; it’s kind of a [mixture] of all of those bands. But on top of it all you’ve got the phenomenal playing that Richie and Billy do, and I could play a couple of things on the drums as well [chuckles], so… And all three of us are singing — Richie is the lead vocalist, obviously, but me and Billy are also singing.”