Dog Camp: Richie Kotzen and Mike Portnoy Discuss the Winery Dogs' Immersive New Camp for Musicians

If you've ever wanted to get up close and personal with three of rocks' most talented musicians, here’s your opportunity.

Richie Kotzen, Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy — better known as the Winery Dogs — have announced Dog Camp, their first-ever immersive program for aspiring musicians of all ages and levels.

The event is set for July 21 to 25, 2014, at Full Moon Resort in Big Indian, New York.

Attendees will be able to take part in instrument specific clinics and will learn about songwriting mechanics and the music industry. They'll even get to enjoy intimate performances by the Winery Dogs.

If you’re a guitarist, bassist or drummer, there’s a course path for you to follow. But Dog Camp promises to be a deeper experience; the campers will be living, hanging out and jamming together. You’ll also be able to ask the hosts as many questions as as you want — and Kotzen, Sheehan and Portnoy will initiate one-on-one and group sessions to help you realize your goals as a player.

I recently spoke to Kotzen and Portnoy about Dog Camp and what’s next for the band.

GUITAR WORLD: What was the reason behind the inaugural Dog Camp?

Kotzen: It was something that was brought to our attention by our manager. Billy and I have done our fair share of clinics and have also participated in Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp. The idea of being in a position where you can actually sit and talk and play with people who are buying your records or are listening to what you do is inspiring.

What will a typical day be like?

Kotzen: There will be a lot of one-on-one time and in groups. We’ll also have opportunities to play together, but not just cover songs. I really want to address improvisation and being able to unlock yourself and play with other people.

I also like getting involved in what I call “concepts." Asking yourself, “Why am I learning the instrument and what are my goals and objectives?” Then we can start talking about how you can get there. For me, I use the guitar as a creative outlet to express myself; my biggest ongoing goal is to make the connection between me the person and the music that you hear.

Portnoy: We plan to do a lot of things individually and collectively. The "collectively" being the Winery Dogs doing special intimate shows and situations where the three of us will be open to question-and-answer sessions and playing unique things people won’t normally get at a traditional concert.

Individually, we’ll be doing classes where we talk about our instruments, the business and industry and jamming with fellow musicians and campers. It’s going to be a very unique experience.

What would you like campers to take away from this experience?

Kotzen: The feeling of growth and knowing that you’ve learned something. This camp is an opportunity to share ideas and music and to grow as a musician and as a person. We may be the ones being asked the questions, but sometimes during the reveal I’ll gain a new found perspective on myself. I’m really looking forward to that.

Portnoy: I think it’s important for campers to remember that making music is not just about playing a drum solo in your bedroom or concentrating solely on technique. It’s about communicating with other musicians. For me, the interest is getting into it with other musicians and talking about it in a band scenario.

What can you tell me about the new Special Edition Winery Dogs compilation?

Portnoy: The Winery Dogs Special Edition is a two-disc CD set that has a re-issue of the album on the first disc. The second disc contains 10 live tracks from Japan, including several covers and unreleased songs. It also has an expanded booklet with live shots.

We also have the Dog Treats box set, which, in addition to the Special Edition set, includes a bonus disc of all of the demos we did in 2012 (before the album), a DVD with the music videos and interviews, a big booklet with my studio diary from the making of the record and little “treats” like a dog patch and dog tag.

Mike, why did you decide to include a studio diary?

Portnoy: I’ve always been a stickler for detail and documenting things and organizing facts. When I was doing the studio diary, I wanted to get very specific about how a song came together. It’s interesting to read it and see the history behind every song. Like which ones came from Richie or which ones we came with on the spot or which songs morphed from other songs and demos. It’s a cool insight into not only the making of the record, but also the very beginning of the relationship of the guys in the band.

Can you give us an update on your tour plans and new Winery Dogs music?

Portnoy: We’ll be out on the road April to August and plan on getting the follow-up album out in 2015. We’ve already written one new song that’s going to be in the live set.

You’ve all been involved in other bands and projects over the years. What do you enjoy most about being in the Winery Dogs?

Kotzen: I really enjoy the notion of being in a band where everyone is able to share the load. It’s kind of like being on a really strong basketball team in the sense that you have three guys who are all capable of putting up points instead of just relying on one guy. That’s my favorite aspect of all.

Portnoy: For me, it’s about working with Billy and Richie. They’re musicians I have the utmost respect for and am a huge fan of. Stylistically, I enjoy being able to play something that is straight-up classic rock. I love prog and am the ambassador to prog music for this generation, but my musical taste is very broad. Every once in a while, it’s nice to get into Zeppelin, Who and Beatles mode, and I get to do that with the Winery Dogs.

For more information on Dog Camp, visit For more about the Winery Dogs, visit

James Wood is a writer, musician and self-proclaimed metalhead who maintains his own website, His articles and interviews are written on a variety of topics with passion and humor. You can follow him on Twitter @JimEWood.

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James Wood

James is a guitarist and freelance writer who's interviewed some of the biggest names in music. He is the author of four books and his writing credits include work for Guitar World, AXS and Yahoo! as well as for his hometown newspaper where he writes on a variety of topics with both passion and humor. As a guitarist, he's performed everywhere from local bars and nightclubs to some of the biggest stages in front of thousands of music fans.