New Jersey Stage

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

New "Super" Group WINERY DOGS to Rock Out in Newton

(Newton, NJ) -- The Newton Theatre has added Winery Dogs to their schedule on Wednesday, August 7th at 8:00 pm. It would be easy to call The Winery Dogs a supergroup: Vocalist and guitarist Richie Kotzen made his mark with Poison and Mr. Big, bassist Billy Sheehan has been rocking for decades with Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big and others, and drummer Mike Portnoy was the co-founder of progressive metal superstars Dream Theater. But The Winery Dogs are so much more than a supergroup.

Supergroups are usually short-lived entities composed of gifted players that jam out for little while and then quickly record with the hopes of catching lightning in a bottle. That's certainly not the case with The Winery Dogs, a cohesive, well-rounded classic-sounding trio with blazing songs that defy expectation. The group's self-titled debut is filled with straightforward rock and roll inspired by some of their favorite bands, and their music transcends any of the styles they're best known for.

"We all have our own distinct voicing and styles, but we also have a common ground of music we grew up listening to," explains Richie Kotzen. "What makes the band so special is that somehow, in our collaboration, none of us lost our identity. We all sound like who we are yet we make music that is fresh and exciting and sounds like a new band. There's a natural chemistry that came together; it's one of those things that's meant to be."

"I like the fact that everybody comes from a different background, though there are similarities to them," adds Sheehan. "We have is a real special bond that wouldn't happen if we were all into exactly the same things. We brought disparate elements together and made them into a unified band."

The proof is in the brew: The Winery Dogs is an eclectic, fully realized album of songs that groove and swing without sacrificing any of the grit that makes great hard rock so inspiring. The Winery Dogs toy with established styles and turn them into something special, complete with Sheehan's acrobatic bass fills and Kotzen's rapidfire solos, which help The Winery Dogs album blend in a way that's both instantly recognizable and utterly individual.

"When we were writing, we'd get together and play and everything was really natural and automatic and fell together in a really cool way," Sheehan says. "Some of the jams we did on the record are pretty spontaneous. We'd launch into them and let nature take its course. Honestly, the hardest thing was deciding which songs were our favorites. We'd finish something and be totally happy with it. And then we'd do the next song and go, ‘No, man, that's our new favorite!' It was a rare and beautiful thing. Sometimes birth is hard labor, but these songs just popped out."

Maybe The Winery Dogs sounds so great because, more than anything, the album is a labor of love written from the heart and revealing unexpected shades of melodic eclecticism and lyrical vulnerability. Kotzen's vocals have never sounded better and his guitar playing is extraordinary. Anchored by Sheehan's expert bass lines, which root the songs and provide a lock-and-step foundation for Portnoy to play around, the band creates music that see-saws between primal simplicity and time-honored virtuosity.

"It's very exciting for me to be in a solid rock trio," Portnoy says. "Stylistically, the bulk of my career has been spent playing progressive music, so this was an opportunity for me to do something that wasn't prog or metal. It's more classic rock and, at the end of the day that's what I grew up with and that's the biggest influence in my life. I'm just at home playing on a small four piece kit doing a simple John Bonham groove as I am playing complex tempos on a giant kit. And that's been a great breath of fresh air for me."

The seeds of The Winery Dogs were planted in 2011 when Sheehan and Portnoy were working on music together with a different guitarist and songwriter. When that didn't gel, mutual friend, "That Metal Show" host and consummate music fan, Eddie Trunk, suggested they contact Kotzen. "We all thought that was a brilliant idea," Portnoy says. "We were looking for that super gifted guitar player, singer and songwriter -- and that's Richie."

The musicians got together in January 2012 and the first day they jammed, they wrote three songs, including the album tracks One More Time, and Six Feet Deeper. A month later they wrote five more tunes. From there, it was just a matter of fulfilling other musical obligations before they could get together and start recording the album. "At that point we were all gung-ho into it," Portnoy says.
While many of the tracks on The Winery Dogs were written from beginning to end in the studio, others came out of song skeletons Kotzen had already written. "I had some material lurking on a hard drive, and I played that for the guys and they connected with those and helped me develop them into complete songs. Then there was one, You Saved Me that Mike had some lyrical and melodic ideas for and he ended up writing that. So the process was totally collaborative, no matter who made the first step. There were no egos involved."

The Winery Dogs embrace crowds with their passion, energy, enthusiasm and undeniable talent. For Portnoy, much of the excitement lies in the unique bond the three musicians have created. "This is a band in the true sense of the word," he emphasizes. "It's all about collaborating on every level, from the writing to the production, and that's what makes it more than a ‘project'."

Equally experimental and infectious, their album is a milestone in the hard rock genre. "We're so proud of everything on this album," Sheehan concludes." We can't wait to share it with everyone and spend a lot of time on the road. As much as we love these songs, we feel like the next record we make will be just as cool if not better because it will come out of playing together on the road and we'll learn exactly what works and know what to do next. That's another thing I'm really looking forward to."

Tickets for The Winery Dogs are $34.00 for Premium seating, $29.00 for the Orchestra and $24.00 for the Balcony. Tickets for this performance will go on sale on Friday, June 28th at 11:00 am. Purchase tickets by visiting or contact the Box Office at 973-383-3700.

The historic Newton Theatre, located at 234 Spring Street in Newton, NJ, was founded in 1924. Revitalized and fully renovated, Sussex County's premier entertainment venue reopened in 2011 as a 605 seat capacity live performing arts center. With it's rich history and diverse programming The Newton Theatre is essential to the buoyancy of New Jersey's Skylands region. More information about The Newton Theatre may be found by calling 973-383-3700 or by visiting its website at