Richie Kotzen on His Creative Process and Signature Gear

Richie Kotzen has made quite the career for himself since recording his first solo album at 19.

Those old enough to recall might remember Kotzen as the fresh—faced 21–year–old touring and recording as part with Poison during the early 1990s. At the tail end of that decade, Kotzen was chosen as the guitarist who would fill Paul Gilbert’s massive shoes in Mr. Big.

Richie Kotzen – Salting Earth

Rolling Stones fans might have gotten a glimpse of Kotzen as the band’s opener during the Japanese leg of its “Bigger Bang” tour in 2006.

Hard rock and progressive rock fans might know Kotzen as the guitarist and singer in supergroup Winery Dogs, formed with drummer Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater and journeyman bassist Billy Sheehan in 2012.

But the most formidable aspect of Kotzen’s career so far has to be his prolific solo output. Starting with his self–titled 1989 debut, Kotzen has turned out nearly two dozen albums on Shrapnel Records.

In our recent conversation, Kotzen discussed the recording process behind his new album, Salting Earth, his favorite touring equipment, and how his taste in gear tends to evolve along with his various projects.

You’ve been a busy guy over the past few years, between touring with the Winery Dogs and recording your latest effort, Salting Earth.

I have, haven’t I? [laughs]

The beauty of Salting Earth is that I had my recharge period. I actually had the luxury of finishing it back in September. I’ve been holding onto it so that I could get away from music for a good couple of months.

I said to myself, “If I come back to this a few months later and I still feel as strongly about it as I did when I left it, then I know it’s done.” So, I got time away, I got back to it, and here we are releasing it.

We’ve got a year’s worth of touring booked in support of the record. I’m thrilled to go back out. I had my recharge period. I had enough time to finish the record, get away from it for a good three or four months, come back, confirm that I like what I did. Now I’m ready to get back out and support the album.

Richie Kotzen – “My Rock”

That recharge period seems important after touring non–stop over the course of 2015 and 2016.

Absolutely. For me, there’s a lot of guys out there that just want to play. They don’t care what they’re playing, who they’re playing with, they just want to be on stage playing. That’s not me.

I am a guy who needs to be creatively inspired, you know? I need to be involved in the creative process and that’s what I love most, which is writing. Sometimes the monotony of touring can become very stale. I need a break, and I need that balance.

As a songwriter, you can’t have output without input. So to get input, you have to get away from the daily routine and experience life outside the realm of what you do. Hopefully [you] get inspired and start writing. That’s when things become new and exciting, when I get a little distance.

What’s that old expression? “Absence makes…

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