James Kottak is at his dressing room, a few hours before Scorpions’ gig at Ioannina. We are about to talk about his band new album, for his many collaborations, for the last tour of Scorpions and for his memories of Ronnie James Dio. His friendliness and warmth are worth taking about.
Interview : Dimitris Kazantzis, Antonis Kostopoulos.
Rockpages.gr: James, after listening to Rock & Roll Forever and having followed your career for over 20 years I felt the album’s feeling represents to a great extent your way of living, doesn’t it?
James Kottak: Absolutely. Rock & Roll is like a lifestyle, it's a way of life, everything that I love, I like traveling, I like music, I like drums, guitars, I like it loud and it’s still going...
Rockpages.gr: Isn’t a little risky to release this album at the same time as the new Scorpions album? Are you not afraid that maybe all the people will deal with Sting In The Tail and ignore Rock & Roll Forever?
James Kottak: We had agreed to release “Rock & Roll Forever” back in December before the announcement of the retirement. We were committed, we knew the new album was going out but we didn't know who is going to sing. We have to wait and tour later.
Rockpages.gr: Playing the guitar with your own band are you feeling maybe closer to the fans, than behind Scorpions’ drum kit on a big stage?
James Kottak: Yes and no, Scorpions fans are so crazy when I 'm playing the drums, I feel like I am there with them. I 'm there but you can't see me. With Kottak when we play live is really fun.
Rockpages.gr: How far is Athena from reaching a James Kottak’s drummer level?
James Kottak: She is a different kind of drummer, she is self-taught, she practices home a lot, playing a lot of videos, she never took courses, she has a different kind of drumming too. On the first album and on the second album, I played a little bit of drums and she has finally taken over completely. So it's not like a competition, she has her style like I have my style and Tommy Lee has his style. But I am the best!!! (Laughs)
Rockpages.gr: After all these years are you still nervous? Is it always like the first time?
James Kottak: You know, there are some musicians that never get too far. For me I 'm so lucky after twenty- something years to play at this level, it's always exciting, I never go “ooohhh....” (as boring) How lucky we are traveling and get paid to play rock and roll... Any time I hear musicians complaining about, I cannot understand it.
Rockpages.gr: Given your obligations with this tour with Scorpions that is very long, do you have any plan to present “Rock & Roll Forever” live in some way?
James Kottak: Of course, we will. Actually, back in February we did a one month tour. We played Belgium, Holland, Germany, Switzerland. We toured and we did about fifteen shows then. We want to do it again. It's just time to have it. We know this year Scorpions gonna have like fifty shows, just like last year. Once the retirement announced we had the promoter going crazy, so, we will tour.
Rockpages.gr: Is this band the James Kottak’s future in the post-Scorpions era, or you plan more things in music or anything else?
James Kottak: You know, we love to bring Kottak to the masses, of course I love to play drums, it's really cool but I 'm focus on Kottak cause I like to achieve my rock and roll dreams and my drumming dreams and see what's coming up next.
Rockpages.gr: You have been in many famous bands and musicians before you joined Scorpions such as Kingdom Come, Bruce Dickinson, The Cult, MSG, Trixter, Paul Shortino, Warrant, Axxis and many more. Could you tell me if you mark out any of your collaborations and the reason why they are special for you?
James Kottak: I love Kingdom Come. The first two albums were superb...
Rockpages.gr: Do You Like It?.....
James Kottak: Do You Like it? (Laughs) I wrote that song, thank you! It was so much fun but things happened and there were problems and sometimes you have to evolve. I played with The Cult about six months , that was a lot of fun and on and on. But I have to say Kingdom Come is my favorite. Plus Michael Schenker was great.
Rockpages.gr: You have two very important qualities. You are on of the top current drummers playing with so many musicians and at the same time the Scorpions’ drummer. Which weighs more?
James Kottak: Playing with Scorpions has been an honor. It's been privilege and awesome. It doesn't really get any better than this. I guess, the only band left out there I can play is AC/DC.
Rockpages.gr: And to fill in the place for John Bonham...
James Kottak: There is still Jason Bonham. He's very fortunate.
Rockpages.gr: You have also participated in some tribute albums. Rod Steward, Led Zeppelin or Bon Jovi? Whο of them have you enjoy more?
James Kottak: I have been a Led Zeppelin fan since day one. I love Led Zeppelin, I’ ve got to meet Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones, Jon Bon Jovi is one of the nicest guys, you'll ever meet. I like to see him live, I don't buy the albums but I like to see him playing with the other guys.
Rockpages.gr: Scorpions have announced their split after the tour ends. Please let me know how you imagine the last show? Would James like something special for this show?
James Kottak: You know this is a tough question because we have just started now on the tour and it is so far away that I imagine “this is really it”, that's three years from now. It's hard to go. So it's like going on the high school, feeling great, what's going to be like on the graduation day? I don't know...shall I retire? I don't like it...
Rockpages.gr: Which element do you believe, eventually, made thousands of people shed tears and faint in front of Scorpions’ stage, which element made millions of people love Scorpions, some of them even if they don’t deal with rock or metal music? Was it their composing craft, Klaus Meine’s voice, the ballads, all this together or maybe something else?
James Kottak: I don't know what it is but Scorpions is a kind of guitar thing, it's not narrow, it's Scorpions itself you can say it's a phenomenon. And the fans are so die hard. It's just crazy! They are so dedicated.
Rockpages.gr: James, before thanking you, this is my first interview after Ronnie James Dio passed away. I want you to tell me a few words about him, if you met him somewhere and what is his place in the rock stardom?
James Kottak: Of course, on the Rainbow “Rising” album there is a song called “A Light In The Black”. That song is why I picked up double bass drumming. Cozy Powell is the drummer he's was an awesome guy. I moved to Los Angeles I went to Vinny Appice's house for barbeque. On that day, he told me “Oh James, what's going on man?” It was 1997 Ronnie was to tour, Vinny Appice got sick and Vinny calls “Hey James, can you fill in for me with Dio?” and I said “YESSSSS!”. I did about ten shows with Dio. It was being close, very close. He was one of the most down to earth guys. We also did a tour with Scorpions on 2002 with Dio and Deep Purple in America. I used to go early every night to see him playing , I have watched twenty five shows. It's very sad. His house is two miles away from my house and his not there anymore. His music will live on forever. R.I.P.