Drummer James Kottak has reassembled the hard-rock band Kingdom Come for a 30th Anniversary Tour and could not be happier. Even with the absence of original lead vocalist Lenny Wolf, the timing has worked out well.
“I’m excited to have Kingdom Come back up and running and I’m so excited to have the original four,” said Kottak, who also has spent more than two decades as a member of The Scorpions. “We have me, (guitarist) Rick Steier, (guitarist) Danny Stag and (bassist) Johnny “JB” Frank, but unfortunately Lenny Wolf didn’t want to come in. But we’ve got Keith St. John and he is phenomenal. He sang with Montrose and I played drums for Montrose, and I’m very proud of that, and I’ll tell you what, man, it’s come together awesomely!
“I wanted to do this in 2012 or 2013 and I had the entire band assembled, including Lenny here in L.A. And then I got this call from … Klaus Meine (of The Scorpions) and he said, ‘James, we’ve been on our farewell tour for a few years but I have to ask you, can you not play with anyone else? Because we’ve decided not to say farewell, we’re going to do another album.’
“Well I said, ‘My allegiance is with you guys,’ so I had to go along with the boys, because they’re like family.”
Kingdom Come’s rise to fame was, in part, due to their association with The Scorpions. “The whole Scorpions situation happened back in 1988 when Kingdom Come was the opening act on the Monsters of Rock Tour. It was Kingdom Come, Metallica, Dokken, Scorpions and Van Halen. We and the Scorpions were on the same record label, so we stayed at the same hotels and we hung out together.
“Then we did an indoor arena tour (with The Scorpions) and everything just kind of clicked. And then a few years later, they were recording with Keith Olsen and he signed my band Wild Horses, which was me and Rick, to Atlantic Records, and then he said that we had to wait another three months because he was doing The Scorpions’ record which was the Wind of Change album, which was a phenomenal success.
“I was always in their company. I did a Michael Schenker album. I did the MSG (Michael Schenker Group) album. I had a really good run because I was a ghost drummer. I played on, I’m not joking, like 60 or 70 albums of other bands, and I wouldn’t be listed because they wanted their drummer to get the credit. I’d go in for one day, maybe two days, and they’d pay me a lot of money, and then I’d go home and sit around on my ass for three or four weeks and do it again. And that went on until Nirvana came along (laughs).
“I love Dave Grohl and his band The Foo Fighters are one of my very, very, very favorite bands. But times change, the rules change, and here we are. You have to evolve.
” “Conform or be cast out, sub-divisions,’ ” he said with a laugh, quoting another one of his favorite bands, Rush. “I love Rush. I’ve seen them seven times since 1975. Wow, what a great band, and what a great time. Have you read that Neil Peart book? It’s heart-wrenching, he has such a way with words that I read it and read it again.”
Kottak was asked what got him started as a drummer.
“My first concert was ZZ Top in 1972, and I still have the ticket stub,” he said. “I drank, like, a half pint of Southern Comfort and got drunk. Pure Prairie League opened. I snuck in a lot of concerts because I couldn’t afford to go. I still have my Led Zeppelin ticket, it was $8.50, and it’s still in my drawer. I saw The Eagles, Jethro Tull, Yes. You name it, I saw it. That’s where it all starts, and then you’re addicted. You’re like a junkie, and I wanted to be in rock ‘n’ roll from that point on, and then went on tour in 1978 and never stopped.”
Kottak said he learned to play drums “from listening to eight-track tapes that my brother had in the basement. I played to Houses of the Holy and Led Zeppelin IV over and over.”
Kingdom Come’s reunion tour will stop close to New Jersey on Oct. 18, at The Sellersville Theater in Sellersville, Pa. But what about new music? Will there be any live or new studio works coming from this tour?
Kottak was vague in his response, but left that door ajar.
“Because of legal situations we cannot put out an album for the next two years. But we’re already one and a half years into that. But I’ll tell you what: me, Rick, Danny and Johnny are on fire. …
“Most importantly, me and Rick Steier have been friends for 40 years. We’re both from Louisville, Ky., and I love him to death.
“What am I going to do? Go play with some other band? I’ve gotten calls to play with other bands over the last year and a half, and I’ve told them no because I wanted to stay home and hang out with my kids. I wanted to swim and go to the gym and do what I do best: hang out and take care of myself and be healthy. And it paid off. I’m really super excited to be back out and be on the road, because it’s a real pain in the ass getting this band up and running.”
Kottak said the band will do “almost the entire first album because it’s a classic. The second album, we have about six tracks that we’re going to hit from that. … We might have to play a Montrose song and a Led Zeppelin song because I love those bands. I only got to play one song with Ronnie Montrose and I wish I had been able to tour with him, but Keith St John toured with him off and on and Ronnie was a legend, and we have to honor him because he was the guy that, when I was 10 years old, I listened to and he changed my life forever. He was beyond. He changed rock ‘n’ roll forever, and then he and Sammy Hagar came along and they destroyed rock ‘n’ roll. And without Ronnie Montrose, we wouldn’t have had Van Halen.”
So the stage appears set for a re-emergence of Kingdom Come, or at least a night of hard drivin’ rock ‘n’ roll. And as for Kottak, personally, “I’ve been sober and I’m doing the best I can, and I’m on a really good crazy train right now,” he said.