Billy Sheehan, Interview – Talking Winery Dogs, David Lee Roth + More


The Winery Dogs

The Winery Dogs – Story by Anne Erickson, photo by Travis Shinn

Bass great Billy Sheehan joins Anne Erickson to discuss The Winery Dogs, the state of the music business and more in this extensive video interview

The Winery Dogs are a true supergroup, bringing together talent from different areas of the musical spectrum. The band features bass player Billy Sheehan, drummer Mike Portnoy and guitarist Richie Kotzen, all of whom have decades of collective experience with a variety of big-named bands and artists.

It’s been a seven-year break for The Winery Dogs, so fans are ecstatic to have them back. The band’s new album, “III,” dropped in February. If you ask Sheehan, the guys “always intended to” get back together and do another album, but the pandemic got in the way.

“When we did finally had the opportunity to travel, Mike and I went out to LA to Richie’s house and and just started,” Sheehan told Anne Erickson of Audio Ink Radio. “We got into a tiny room like we did with the previous records an started throwing ideas around, and it was great being back in the same room and just playing and having a blast. I love hanging with those guys.”

“We came up with a lot of the songs in a couple of days,” he added. “The actual time spent on the record, when you put it all together, is not a lot of time, and I like that because sometimes when you’re laboring over something and trying to figure out, is this the right chorus, or the right chord? You’re going down the wrong road. When something happens spontaneous and fast and works and falls tog, you feel good about it right away, which is the case with this record, then it’s a good indictor that you’re on the right path.”

Releasing new music today is far different from what it was like in the ’80s and ’90s, when Sheehan was first conquering the music business. He says he appreciates the changes.

“I kind of like it,” he said. “The music biz has changed a lot, and there’s not as many studios and there are no record companies giving out big budgets for albums, but if you have a MacBook Air, you have the equivalent of a studio that couldn’t have even existed with all that technology years ago. Yeah, some people argue digital vs this and that, but on top of it, on that same laptop, you’re a couple of clicks away from thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions or even more people. So, as much as it has changed, there’s still a lot of great opportunity for a band or musician to go and put their songs out and get people to hear them and eventually tour.”

He added, “So, we decided to put this record out ourselves. We used a record company on the first two, and they did an okay job, but it really wasn’t anything we couldn’t have done ourselves. So, we decided to take more control of the situation, which more people do now. A lot of people are self-producing and self-creating a record. It’s all under your control. You don’t have any record company saying, ‘I think this or I think that.’ It’s the musicians.”

So, is the music industry better or worse for the fact that literally anyone can release a song today?

“It’s easy, and it’s cheap. Even on GarageBand, which is a free program, I’ve heard some amazing recordings on that that sound like a record,” he said. “It’s an easy thing to do now, so the gates are wide open. They’re crowded, though, because there are a million people or more than a million trying to do the same thing. so it’s crowded. But, just work hard. Drag as much talent out of yourself that you possibly can, and then hit it even harder again. It’s not easy to make it happen those that do have fought a very, very tough fight, but it can be done, and I believe it can be done by anyone.”

Many people got to know and love Sheehan when we was touring and recoding with David Lee Roth of Van Halen. So, what was working with David Lee Roth like?

“He is the master of his craft,” Sheehan said. “Working with Dave was like getting a Ph. D in Showbiz 101. It was just an amazing thing. Plus, he was generous and kind, and it was an amazing adventure. I’m so honored that I got the opportunity to work with him, as well as its impact on my personal success has been overwhelming. From there, I got to start the band Mr. Big with the momentum that I had from Dave, and we ended up having a No. 1 single and hit records and platinum records and playing all over the world. I don’t know if it would have happened as easily if I hadn’t done Dave prior to it, quite frankly, so I have a great debt that I owe to him always, and I will having nothing but love and respect for the man. It was a great experience.”

Down the road, Sheehan says he plans to do a solo record with Ray Luzier, the drummer from Korn.

“Ray and I have been friends for ages,” Sheehan explained. “I saw him play in LA years and years ago in kind of comedy band, where they would do covers and a lot of jokes, which later tuned into Steel Panther, I believe, when it first started. I remember sitting in a club, and it was jam-packed, and I’m watching the band, and I’m looking around and going, is it me or is this drummer unbelievable? This guy is killing it up there! And I met him, and from that point, we’ve been friends ever since. He’s played on my last two solo records out of three, and he’s a joy to work with. And he also lives in Nashville, where I’ve been in the last five years, as well, so we work a lot together.”

Anne Erickson
Posted by Anne Erickson | Features, Interviews, Music, Rock