When it comes to bass players, it doesn’t get much better than Billy Sheehan. He is one of the most influential players out there and has quite a storied career. When he’s not busy performing with Mr. Big, he is performing with one of his other projects, such as The Winery Dogs. Screamer recently sat down with Sheehan to talk about The Winery Dogs, the upcoming release, other projects he is involved in, and much more.
The Winery Dogs is a power trio made up of Sheehan on bass, Mike Portnoy on drums, and Richie Kotzen on vocals and guitars. Sheehan said, “I love three piece bands. It’s one of my favorite formats. My original band, Talas, was a three piece.” The Winery Dogs came about when Portnoy approached Sheehan to do a project together. When looking for a guitarist who’s also a vocalist, it was suggested that they add Kotzen to the mix. The three musicians make up one of the best power trios to date with many hits from their first two albums. Their first two albums received rave reviews and the band has played over 200 shows since setting the music world on fire in 2013.
Sheehan says, “The first day we got together we wrote half of the first record, so we knew we were onto something. This was the pace that we wanted to go at.” They are a great group of musicians who work well with one another so the band was definitely meant to be. “The chemistry right away was really, really good and we also enjoyed hanging out together,” he said. The camaraderie that the musicians have, as well as the talent, has made The Winery Dogs one of the best rock bands around.
The Winery Dogs have a new release coming out entitled Dog Years: Live in Santiago & Beyond 2013 – 2016. The collection will feature live concert footage, music videos and an EP of unreleased studio tracks. It is scheduled to be released on August 4th. Sheehan said, “We’ve played live all over the world and have had some amazing nights at almost every country and region. We did a show in Paris, France, I believe it was our first one, and it was the most crowded room I’ve seen in my life.” He also speaks of playing in Seoul, Korea and describes it as “one of the best nights I’ve ever played in my life.”
The new upcoming release is available in both standard and deluxe editions and can be pre-ordered now on Amazon. It includes a Blu-Ray disc of the 100-minute concert, eight music videos from the bands two albums, and the Dog Years EP on CD. The deluxe edition will include all of that as well as two CDs of the live concert audio, as well as a DVD of the concert in addition to the Blu-Ray disc.
When The Winery Dogs first started touring, they recorded a live DVD at their first or second show, but they wanted a more recent collection. “South American audiences are kind of famous for being out of control so we thought it was probably a good bet if we did Buenos Aires or Santiago, Chile or Brazil it would be pretty awesome so we worked it out that we could shoot in Santiago and sure enough it was just a spectacular night. When the audience is really up and loud, excited, and they sing along to every song, it pushes the band to do better,” Sheehan explained. All of these exciting experiences can be experienced by the fans from this latest musical offering.
As far as the songwriting process for the band, there isn’t just one particular way that it’s done. There are a number of different ways The Winery Dogs write new music. Sheehan said, “Sometimes Richie will come up with the body of a song and melody and then Mike and I will do our thing to it – maybe add some suggestions to the arrangement or whatever. Sometimes we just get into a room with nothing and I’ll play a bass line, Mike will start to play drums to it, and Richie will jump in and there’s a song…it can be any number of things and that’s good because there’s no one process.” The trio works well together and always has a fresh flow of ideas and the chemistry between the members is undoubtedly evident in their work.
There will be much more to come from The Winery Dogs in the near future. At the present moment, the three musicians are working on other projects; however, they will reconnect soon to create new music. “We plan to meet up in six to eight months, maybe nine months to write again and when we come back together again it will be fresh and new and alive and we will have stories to tell with all our stories on the road with the other bands. It will be just like getting together with it brand new again,” Sheehan explains, “…so the third Winery Dogs album will be like the first two – it will be fresh and alive and we’ll be excited about it.” He explains that it’s always important for a band to be fresh when working on a new album.
Sheehan has so many different projects that he is working on at any given time that he finds himself doing music constantly, but that is the way he likes it. “Scheduling gets tough sometimes…but I love to play and I love to play live. Music is everything to me. I’m in my studio right now to learn songs to record tomorrow. I’m always at it and I love it. It’s a blessing to have a job doing what you love most,” he said.
One of Sheehan’s latest projects is recording with a new band called The Fell. It came about when he was approached by Mike Komprass of Smash Mouth who wanted to know if he would like to come into the studio and play on a couple of tracks. “I had a great time. The stuff sounded great – it’s really modern – different from a lot of things that I’m doing,” Sheehan said. This is a totally new venture for him and it’s something that he is really enjoying. He’s now recorded several tracks with the band. The song Footprints was recently released and is totally different than anything he has done before, but definitely in a good way.
The Fell is now preparing to play some shows, and Sheehan will be playing with them. “I love to have the opportunity to play in a genre that’s different than what I normally do because it always helps me to stretch out stylistically and when I come back to my normal thing, which is mostly hard rock, I’ve got a few more words in my vocabulary. As a musician, it’s really helped me to expand.” Sheehan says of the music, “It’s definitely radio friendly stuff which I’ve got to treat differently. It’s not like soloing or wild ass playing and crazy licks. It’s got to be rock solid grooves, bass lines that are memorable and it’s really enjoyable to play something different. This is going to be a cool project.”
Sheehan also recently played a show with his first full-time band, Talas. It was the first show in thirty-two years. When asked what it was like to play a show with the band after so much time has passed, he said “It was absolutely glorious.” He elaborated, “It was about three thousand people of smiling faces and everyone singing along. It was an incredible time to get together with old friends. It’d been thirty-two years since we’d played together and it was just like riding a bicycle again. It was a good night.”
Sheehan has a very busy rest of the year planned. Mr. Big will be touring all over the world with their newest album Defying Gravity, the band’s ninth studio album. “It’s going to be a great year,” he said. The band will start out with international dates and they hope to add some more U.S. dates after that.
For young people wanting to break into the music business, Sheehan has this advice: “Get in a band and start playing. Don’t sit around your bedroom and YouTube yourself. Get in a room with other humans and start working out a band. Get out in front of people and blow people’s minds, be awesome and do the right thing.”
When wrapping up the interview, Screamer asked what three albums have had the biggest influence on him. Sheehan said, “The Yardbirds…the bass player Paul Samwell-Smith was unbelievable…I learned so much from his bass playing. Of course, Sgt. Pepper’s changed the world, and more recently AD/DC’s If You Want Blood You’ve Got It, their first live album.
Stay tuned because there are many exciting things in store for Sheehan fans. Be sure to pick up the new Winery Dogs release on sale August 4th.
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