Late last year, Mike Portnoy (DREAM THEATER, AVENGED SEVENFOLD, ADRENALINE MOB) and Billy Sheehan (MR. BIG) tapped Richie Kotzen (MR. BIG, POISON) 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 last year, their vastly different work ethics and conflicting schedules were solely to blame for the dissolution of their collaboration.
During an interview that aired on this past Friday night’s (July 13) 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.”
He continued, “Me and Billy have already done two writing sessions with Richie, with the three of us, and we have about eight songs done and written and we’ve got another handful that are ready to go, so we’re gonna start the album next month.”
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.”
As previously reported, Portnoy and Sheehan, guitarist Tony Macalpine and keyboardist Derek Sherinian (DREAM THEATER, PLANET X, BLACK COUNTRY COMMUNION) will join forces this fall, embarking on an extended tour of Europe and Asia. The virtuoso band will play an all-instrumental set consisting of material from each of their solo records and their previous collaborations as well as classic instrumental covers and extended solo spots.