Mark Kadzielawa of 69 Faces Of Rock recently conducted an interview with legendary bassist Billy Sheehan (THE WINERY DOGS, MR. BIG). A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
69 Faces Of Rock: The title of the new [THE WINERY DOGS] album [“Hot Streak”] could not be more appropriate. The band is really on a hot streak moving from one success to the next. How did things develop into the second album?
Billy Sheehan: The thing is, we did over a hundred shows together. We’re a lot more experienced playing and spending time with each other. We just got to be better friends; we got to know each other better, musically too. So that was very important; just to know yourselves musically and be able to feed off each other, inspire each other, and get out of each other’s way when you need to in an improvisational situation. All of these things helped in the writing of the new songs on the record. Since we’ve all done so much for so long; I feel reluctant to say it, but it was actually very easy to go in and write the new material. Generally, we write a bunch of songs, and keep the ones we like, and throw away the ones we don’t. It’s a process that, after you’ve done it 15-20 times, it becomes relatively painless. That’s a wonderful state to be in. So when we started writing, things just came to us automatically. It was easy for us to come up with ideas for choruses, riffs, and so on. We’ve never discussed any of it either. We never planned what we wanted to have on this record. We just got a room and played, much like the first record, only with more life experience under our belts.
69 Faces Of Rock: The three of you are involved in other projects, but what keeps you coming back to this particular band?
Billy Sheehan: Well, we decided before we even started the band that we wanted it to be our main group, and not have it as a side project. Small projects can always be put on hold for a while, whereas this is our main project for all of us. And all our other things are now our side projects. We’ve chosen THE WINERY DOGS to be our main band. For me, I love to play live, and this band is really about playing live. I know Mike Portnoy [drums] would play three shows a day for the rest of his life if he could do it. He’s dying to play live, and that’s great for me. I need to perform live to keep my hands in the best of shape. Richie [Kotzen, guitar/vocals] , too, is a great live performer. We did eight shows in nine days with him singing lead on the entire show. Most of the singers can’t do it, but he can do it great. We have a good time when we perform live. That’s one of the reasons for me. It’s just such a live band. But it’s just real easy to work with three people. I should mention, NIACIN, my other band is also a three-piece band, and it’s easy to function as a three piece. My old band from Buffalo, TALAS, was also a three-piece band. The trio has a special thing to it in my mind. It’s just an easier way to communicate with each other, and you’d think that a four-piece or five-piece band would not be hard. But going from three-piece to four-piece is twice as much trouble. I don’t know why that is, it’s a strange thing, but it’s just real easy. It’s an enjoyable thing for all of us to perform in this band, so we all naturally gravitate back to it.
69 Faces Of Rock: What expectations did you have when you first put THE WINERY DOGS together? Did you expect that it would pick up the way it did?
Billy Sheehan: No, I was hoping people would like it. I was just in a situation where I did a record, and I felt it was just phenomenal; a perfect record, I loved it and it went nowhere. So you never can be sure of that. Bands come out all the time, and people say how huge they will be, and nothing happens. You’ll never know what the people will respond to. All you can do is your absolute best. I think the good thing you have on our side is that we’re all fans. Mike is a rabid-ravenous fan of all kinds of music, a big collector of all kinds of music. The same with me; I got a massive iTunes collection that means so much to me. The music is everything in my life; I don’t have very many other hobbies. Richie too, a huge fan of music, and he likes so much great music. I think because we’re fans, we gravitate toward things other fans might have in common in a way. I think that’s one little extra; additional help we have in choosing things.
Read the entire interview at 69 Faces Of Rock.