If you take a look at the world’s top rock bands, past to present, there are only a few drummers that really stand out.
One of them is, without a doubt, James R. Kottak (born December 26, 1962, Louisville, Kentucky), who beats up the drums for the German super group Scorpions for the last 16 years.
Reading through the Scorpions facts and achievements, they leave you in sheer amazement. Over 85 million records sold, 35 platinum and 100 gold awards, more than 5000 shows in over 80 countries. The Scorpions sold out the Madison Square Garden twice in 24 hours and were the first western rock band playing behind the iron curtain during the cold war, which lead to the inspiration of their worldwide top ten hit Wind of Change.
Having achieved all major goals in rock n roll, lifetime awards, world music awards, rock walk of fame, only to name a few, yes… they are still rocking and rolling and sell out stadiums all over the world!
“The Scorpions were never on hiatus”, says James “unlike other bands that record an album, go on tour and take 3 years off, the Scorps tour for 2 and a half years after each album and then hit the studios again.”
James has recorded 6 CDs and 5 DVDs with the Scorpions so far, but it hadn’t always been that easy. Being born in Louisville Kentucky, James had to struggle through all the typical ups and downs a musician can think of. His early years were spent pounding it out in clubs doing four sets a night, six nights a week.
“When I was a kid, if I wasn’t playing drums, I was doing sports or I was in a rock band…I love to sweat!”
All this stamina led James to his first ‘Big Break’ in 1985, when he was asked to play with Ronnie Montrose on the ‘Mean’ album. “That was the ultimate dream come true, having been raised on the first Montrose record.”
After his move to Los Angeles, which was suggested by James’ mentor Bobby Blotzer in 1987, James played and recorded for countless bands such as Kingdom Come, The Cult, Warrant, MSG, Buster Brown, DJ Ashba, Michael Lee Firkins, Bruce Dickinson. Some of them gold and platinum status; the list goes on and on…
In 1988 James got to know the Scorpions at the Monsters of Rock festival he was playing with Kingdom Come at that time, they remained friends ever since. The rest is history. The roots of James’ life motto can be found during one of those gigs as well:
“As I passed the Metallica guys in the hall I gave them my usual ‘Hey guys’ smile and wave. They returned with their usual ’what the fuck are you looking at’ grimace. They didn’t smile a lot back then. I didn’t care. (btw…They’re actually really nice guys).
With only ten minutes ‘til showtime, I was on a mission from God to get to the phone in the production office (no cells then!), located behind the mammoth stage in a double-wide trailer that would make even Kid Rock proud. As I dialed the number, the crowd of almost 70,000 ‘out of their minds with rock-n roll’ lunatics was deafening with the anticipation of a full day of ear abuse from Van Halen, The Scorpions, Dokken, Metallica, and Kingdom Come. The phone picked up on the other end.
I assumed they said ‘hello’, so, I said “Hey Mom, man, I just wanted to give you a call and say I love you”. The response sounded like the teacher talking in those Charlie Brown cartoons. I had been pretty sick and was burnt from six months of touring and partying… (maybe in the other order) and needed to hear that ‘mom’ voice…I tried anyway.
For the past weeks I kept thinking ‘something’s missing?’… Over and over… something’s missing… like a hole in your gut. You’d think after 15 sold out stadium shows in a row, Johnny Olsen of ’The Price is Right’ would pop up in your dressing room or tour bus and proclaim, “YOOOOU’VE MADE IT!”
It don’t work like that. But it must? I’m here!? I’M HERE! … Or, am I there?
As I smashed through song after song that day, the realization of what was missing floated into my head like a feather. It’s not ‘getting here’ dummy, it’s STAYING here.
To me, HERE is a sea of sweaty freaks as far as the eye can see in every direction. For you, it might be a class room with 60 eyes and 60 ears fixed on your every action. A board room with everyone excited to hear your latest proposal. The dinner you are hosting. The animal shelter you run. The farm you work. The car you fix. The building you clean. What is you’re HERE? ROCK & ROLL FOREVER!
I feel the best is yet to come. I got on this crazy train and plan to literally ROCK & ROLL FOREVER!”