A. Lee Graham of ElectricBasement.com talked with Richie Kotzen. A few excerpts of the interview follow below.
EB: What led an instrumental guitar virtuoso to join Poison remains a mystery to some fans. How exactly did you hook up with Poison?
RK: Keep in mind I was in a rock 'n' roll band before that. A lot of guys back then were guitar players that never left their personal recording studios. They were genius kinds of shredders, but it ended there.
I was always the guy who was decent on guitar, but was more into playing live and in my cover band back East. I'd throw my guitar in the air, really getting into the whole show. Even though Poison weren't the coolest band musically, they were flamboyant. When I made the record (Native Tongue), it was fun. Where it got to be a drag was when I had to play the old music.
EB: Was it weird stepping into C.C. DeVille's shoes? Did you feel compelled to alter your guitar tone or image at all?
RK: No. I was determinded to be myself, and that's what I did. I'd play his music my way. I kind of had no choice. I would have ended up suicidal if I had to do all those things. As long as it works, it works.
EB: Did you consciously try to change Poison's sound, or did you try to mold your style to fit what they were doing?
RK: I did without trying. Their sound had so much to do with C.C. and the singer and so little to do with the bass player and drummer. Once you take away what dictates 50 percent of the band (singer and guitarist), that changes things.
EB: OK, I'd like to get this story straight. Were you fired for dating Rikki's fiance? I don't want to succumb to rumormongering, but some fans are curious to this day.
RK: The truth was I was asked to leave after I volunteered that fact that I had seen Rikki's ex-fiance. I came to the conclusion that I'd rather be honest and tell them what was going on before they found out about the relationship. It was serious enough that it was something that needed to be talked about. If I had to make a commitment at the time between the band and her, I had to choose her.
There was no real drama, no throwing bags on the bus, no fistfights. The band said we can't continue with you as guitarist. I had signed a record deal with Geffen which put a lot of money in my bank account. I went on to do other things.