Fireworks Magazine Online 59 - Interview with The Winery Dogs


Interview with Billy Sheehan by Mónica Castedo-López

Good news travels at the speed of light, hence by now the whole world should be familiar with the name of the new band by three music illuminati: Mike Portnoy on drums, Richie Kotzen on guitar and vocals and Billy Sheehan on bass. The latter two played together in Mr. Big before its initial demise in 2002 but the addition of the ex-Dream Theater and one of the greatest drummers in rock, brings a different dimension to the music they are putting out together. The Winery Dogs kick-ass self-titled debut album will see the light in the UK in early September, days before their live shows on this side of the pond. Instead of resting on their laurels, they have already been playing in Japan, South America and the US. It was in-between this hectic tour schedule that bassist extraordinaire Sheehan found the time to reply to the questions yours truly had prepared for him.

Obviously, Richie and you were in Mr. Big together but whose idea was it to form The Winery Dogs? How did you get Mike in? Were you friends previously?

Initially, it was Mike. He contacted me and wanted to start a band, not just another "side project". I told him I was certainly interested. I'm in Mr. Big of course, as well as Niacin, but neither of those bands plays a lot of shows live. They usually have a two year interlude, at least, between tours, and I really want to play more. I know how much Mike plays and tours, so I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to play a lot more and in many more places, as well as doing it in the company of his very fine playing skills.
In the beginning he tried a situation with another guitarist [John Sykes] that unfortunately didn't work out, so Eddie Trunk suggested Richie Kotzen. I felt stupid that I didn't think of him first. He's one of my favourite singers and guitarists as well! So we all got together and the chemistry was instantaneous and exciting.

Were you or Richie a fan of Dream Theater?

I've played with Richie prior to and after his time in Mr. Big. We've been friends for many years. I've always loved his voice, songwriting and unique guitar playing. Mike and I first worked together on a Rush tribute album a long time ago, then we did a Who tribute tour with Paul Gilbert and Gary Cherone and more recently a worldwide tour with Tony MacAlpine and Derek Sherinian (PSMS). I love Mike’s drumming and we lock together telepathically it seems at times! I was a huge fan of the earliest prog music, before it was even referred to as such: King Crimson, Genesis, Yes and many more, so it's been difficult for me to get into the more recent prog stuff. I know DT is huge and awesome, but I'm not familiar with them for the most part. Much respect though. 

Who decided on the musical direction and who wrote the songs? 

We let nature take its course. We had no "plan" or grand scheme. We just got in there and wrote a lot, fine tuned it, and laid it down. I'm very happy that we approached it that way, just letting things come alive and grow naturally. We generally wrote together in a small room with tiny amps and a small drum kit. Some songs came from things Richie had worked on before we got together.

Do you have a second album in the making or any plans for it?

No, but I do honestly think we could start tomorrow and have another completely new record in a month. It just seems to go very easily in the studio for us.

What is next after the tour and album?

We will learn and grow and evolve as any band does from touring and the results of that will be reflected in what we do from then on. I have high expectations of what we'll come up with after getting into the groove of live interaction for a ton of shows. 
I've been playing a LONG time, ha! Thousands of shows getting near 5000 maybe? and done a zillion records. It's funny, when a fan comes up to have me sign CD covers, the pile is four inches thick! So after all this I look back, supremely thankful for everything. And now to start a new band?! I really enjoy watching the process all over again. I couldn't think of two more wonderful guys to do it with than Mike and Richie. Things are very much different in the music biz these days, but there's nothing in the world like going out and playing your new music live in front of a roomful of friends, which is what I consider fans to be. It never gets old! I'm loving every minute of it. Thanks to everyone involved in this: management, label, agents, press, crew, but most all, everyone who is kind enough to attend our shows. We'll do our very best for all of you.

To read the full double page spread on The Winery Dogs, where Billy talks about ego, some of the album tracks and reuniting with Richie Kotzen, you need Fireworks #59:


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