IRON MAIDEN LEGEND Adrian Smith wasn’t looking to collaborate with another guitarist, but several years ago he and his wife, Nathalie, went to see Richie Kotzen perform in London, and what they saw impressed them. “Richie was terrific. Right away, I could sense that he and I were on the same wavelength,” Smith recalls. “My wife thought so, too. She started coaxing me — ‘You should get together and play with him.’”
As it turned out, Kotzen was a massive Iron Maiden fan, and he jumped at the chance to jam with one of his idols. “We played Bad Company, Deep Purple, Humble Pie, Johnny Winter, Free — stuff like that,” he remembers. “We bonded really quickly on classic hard rock and blues-rock, but what was really cool was when we started singing. We both realized our voices sounded really good together.”
For Smith, this was a major “aha” moment. Although he started in the business as a singer-guitarist and has demonstrated his vocal chops in short-lived side bands such as ASAP and Psycho Motel, his opportunities to sing in Iron Maiden have been few and far between. “I’ve always loved to sing, so it was really exciting to fall in with Richie,” he says “As guitarists and singers, we’re very equally matched.”
Before long, jams turned into songwriting sessions and, ultimately, the two-headed to the Turks & Caicos Islands to record. Billing themselves as Smith/Kotzen, the duo has released their eponymous debut. It’s a tight album (nine songs that don’t wear out their welcome) that blends rugged hard rock (“Taking My Chances”), R&B-tinged groovers (“Some People”), and even a little blast of Nineties grunge (“You Don’t Know Me”) with boatloads of guitar shenanigans. “I think we make for a very interesting combination,” Smith says. “If you’re a fan of either of our work, I think you’ll really get into it. And if you happen to like both of us, then you should really love it.”
So… Smith/Kotzen. Why not Kotzen/Smith?
RICHIE KOTZEN: Uh-oh! You’re trying to pit us against each other out of the gate. [Laughs]
ADRIAN SMITH: It’s just the way it rolls off the tongue, I suppose. I mean, somebody had to go first. It’s no more [of a] contribution from me than [from] him.
KOTZEN: Frankly, when I tried to say Kotzen/Smith, it felt clunky. Smith/Kotzen sounds better. We toyed around with band names, but it’s hard to come up with something new. At one point, I thought about Adrian Rich because it sounded like a Nashville artist with a cowboy hat.
You guys seem to be on the same wavelength musically. Are there any real areas where you differ?
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