American drum powerhouse James Kottak recently ended his over twenty years long stint with the Scorpions as the longest serving drummer in the band’s history and is now busy working on the fifth installment from his namesake group Kottak. Steel Mill’s Heather Williams asked James about his current plans and some cool stories from his career.
What happened between you and the Scorpions? You were with them twenty years, longer than Herman Rarebell!
JAMES KOTTAK: I did have some trouble, but I have since worked very hard on myself. I was burnt out and didn’t want to admit it, I had been burnt out for years. You are talking to a guy who did his first USA tour at the age of 15 in 1978. Do the math… that is a lot of miles.
Most peeps wouldn’t admit this but I do. After over 30 years in rock and roll I have been through the wringer. Fortunately I was for 21 years in the Scorpions where we were all family and friends. I just needed a big break from it.
I’ve seen around the net that you’ve claimed it was actually a relief to be out of the band. Wasn’t it weird at first though, after spending so much time with them and giving them so much of your time and talent to not be with them anymore? How has it been so far being out of the band?
Of course, it’s like a divorce. Thank God in this situation we are still very much friends! It wasn’t like all at once, it was gradual. I volunteered to go down to Eric Clapton’s ‘Crossroads’ rehab joint; best move I have ever made. The band backed me for my health, the Scorpions are my R&R family …still!
Did you ever feel like the fifth wheel or out of place at any time in your tenure with the Scorpions after having taken the place of Herman Rarebell?
In the first few years it was a bit awkward, but we hit the groove hard about year three.
How did you come to join the Scorpions?
My phone rang, manager Stuart Young said: “Hello James, would you like to come over to Germany for a play with the boys?” I said “YES!”
I first met the Scorpions on the 1988 Monsters of Rock tour, their first US stadium tour ever. My band Kingdom Come was the opener for Metallica, Dokken, Scorpions, Van Halen… it was insane! Kingdom Come and Scorpions were label mates on Polygram and we stayed in the same hotels, shared dinner, and more. Keith Olsen produced Scorpions’ “Wind of Change” album as well as Kingdom Come’s “In Your Face” album. I also played on MSG’s third album… small world!
You were in a book called “Sex Tips From Rock Stars: In Their Own Words”, published in 2010. It gives insight into rock stars’ sexual instincts, urges, and experiences. How were you approached to take part in this book and why did you agree to be in it?
I did the book as a lark. You should’ve seen the questions I DIDN’T answer!
You were in Montrose with Ronnie Montrose and produced one album with the band in 1987 called “Mean”. How did you come to meet Ronnie and join his band?
Ronnie Montrose is my ultimate hero. He put me on the R&R map with MEAN! I had a metal band based out of my home town Louisville, Kentucky called Buster Brown. We had a truck, PA, lights, etc and we did 25 shows supporting Ronnie in the southwest. After the tour, Ronnie called and said: “Wanna play on my next album?” I went through the roooooof!
After that, you left and joined Kingdom Come in 1987 as their drummer and appeared on two of their albums “Kingdom Come” and “In Your Face”. I love the early “Kingdom Come” album and the song “Do You Like It” from “In Your Face”. But the band split up in 1989. Why?
It’s always complicated; Let’s just say we didn’t agree on things. I love those first two KC albums and want to revisit them again soon!
Are the rumors about you starting a Kingdom Come regroup true? If so, what got those wheels turning? Didn’t Lenny Wolf say that as of 2016 Kingdom Come was over?
I loooove KC ‘s first two albums, I am so proud of these efforts. I hope Lenny will come around and hit it again.
What’s behind this “James Kottak a.k.a. Jimmy Ratchitt” thing? Is Jimmy Ratchitt your real name or something?
Jimmy Ratchitt is an alter ego I created, who represents my punk side and he is a rabid songwriter. He allows me to express myself in ways that I normally wouldn’t. He’s retired by the way.
Your band Kottak used to be called Krunk. An unusual name, where did Krunk come from? And why the name change from Krunk to Kottak?
In Krunk, as in Kottak I sing and play the guitar and Athena (Lee) was the drummer. When our kids were very young we used the word Krunk in place of curse words. It was her idea. Then the rappers came along and ‘crunk’ became one of their words. My label in Europe pushed for changing the name to my last name Kottak, I didn’t want to, but went along with it and here we are.
Was Kottak a side project when you had downtime from the Scorpions?
Yes, and a creative outlet in a big way. We have just started the fifth Kottak album and are doing a Pledgemusic campaign. ( https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/kottak-new-album )
What would be your worst and best tour/show experience?
Greece…the best! I don’t have a worst.
Thank you, James!