Three of rock’s top musicians have joined together to form a supergroup called The Winery Dogs. Each of the three members has had long and successful careers in music, and while in some cases the term “supergroup” is a stretch, in this case it’s quite well justified. Mike Portnoy is co-founder of the group Dream Theatre, and is also known for his work with Adrenaline Mob and Avenged Sevenfold. Billy Sheehan co-founded Mr. Big and has played with Steve Vai and David Lee Roth. The third member is Richie Kotzen, best known for his guitar playing in Poison and Mr. Big. The three have been with different bands creating different sounds, and now they mix those sounds together in their self-titled debut album.
In a press release Mike Portnoy commented, “I am so excited about The Winery Dogs and am proud and honored to be working with two of the greatest musicians on the planet!” Screamer sat down with Mike Portnoy to discuss the new band, the album, and the tour.
Their debut album is Rolling Stones meets Soundgarden. “An old school sound with a new school twist,” Portnoy explains. They drew inspiration from these bands along with The Who, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, and Alice in Chains. They are a rock band hoping to be universally embraced with a sound that is original, and uniquely appealing to anybody.
Portnoy and Sheehan were working together to form a power trio when their good friend and “That Metal Show” host Eddie Trunk suggested Kotzen. “It was a brilliant suggestion,” says Portnoy. “That perfect, perfect missing element for what me and Billy were looking for. Richie is just one of those amazing triple threats. He’s an amazing guitar player, an amazing singer, and an amazing writer.” Most people, including Pornoy, were unaware of Kotzen’s talent, only knowing him as the replacement member in Mr. Big and Poison. His vocal and musical range will pleasantly surprise people.
When the three got together they did not have a pre-meditated sound in mind. “We just started playing and this is what naturally fell out of us.” The first studio session was in Kotzen’s rehearsal studio January 2012. They wrote three songs the first day including the album tracks One More Time and Six Feet Deeper. They began recording in August 2012, and then mixed it in January 2013.
Their tour begins in Japan on July 17. Portnoy is looking forward to getting onstage with this band. He says “It will be an incredible, powerful live band. All three of us are really excited about this being the next important band in all three of our careers.”
The album is comprised of 13 songs, each with a unique sound. Portnoy described some of his favorites. Elevate, “has a little bit of everything musically.” In Regret, ”Richie’s voice just sounds unbelievable.” I’m No Angel is a ballad that will surely appeal to the ladies. You Saved Me is a tribute to Portnoy’s wife for standing by him. Portnoy admits that “picking a favorite is hard because they become like your children.” Each day he has a new favorite and looks forward to playing all the songs. “That’s a sign of a good record.”
Kotzen wrote the lyrics to most of the songs other than You Saved Me. He came into the band with song skeletons and the three filled in the missing elements. Musically the three collaborated pretty easily. They wrote their first song within ten minutes of playing together. Portnoy credits this to always surrounding himself with like-minded artists who stay productive, quick-moving, focused and prolific.
The band name was argued about for months until Richie came up with The Winery Dogs. They liked it “because it had an old school vibe like Rolling Stones or The Black Crowes.” However, Pornoy finds it funny and fitting that he is a recovering alcoholic in a band named after wineries.
The band has put out videos for Elevate, I’m No Angel, and Desire. Each video is a simple set up of the three standing facing the camera while playing their instruments. They show them having a good time and keeping it about the music. Desire recently premiered on Ultimateclassicrock.com and all the videos can be seen on their YouTube page.
While each of the members juggle playing in other bands, they would like for this to be the main focus right now. “We want to see how far we can take it. I would love for this to be a new band in my life and in my career that I can call home.”
Although The Winery Dogs will often be referred to as a supergroup, they would like to be the supergroup that sticks around for a while. Portnoy said he would love for the band to sell millions and millions of records and millions and millions in ticket sales. But, he mainly just hopes collectively they have made something special.
He likes the idea of keeping it a trio. It results in “less arguments, it’s easier, and there’s more room on the tour bus!” The band works well together because there are no egos involved. Each song is collaboration. They look forward to pumping out new songs while on tour, and traveling and playing together will help them collaborate just as well–if not better–on the next album.
The album was self-produced and mixed by Jay Ruston (Anthrax, Stone Sour, Steel Panther). Loud and Proud Records will release it. The tour will begin in Japan and continue into South America, a brief stint on the East Coast, Europe and then a full US tour in October.
For more information about The Winery Dogs visit: