Richie Kotzen and Adrian Smith swapped signature guitars on their debut Smith/Kotzen album

Adrian Smith & Richie Kotzen
(Image credit: John McMurtrie)

While we’ve all swapped rigs with our bandmates, not many of us are in the position where we can swap our very own signature electric guitar with our friend who, erm, also happens to have a signature six-string.

For Adrian Smith and Richie Kotzen, however, this is exactly what happened, with the rock icons recently revealing in an exclusive interview with Guitarist that they traded signature models while recording their upcoming self-titled debut album.

This means that, at points during the record, Smith wielded Kotzen's signature Fender DiMarzio-loaded Stratocaster, while Kotzen can be heard slaying Smith's signature Jackson San Dimas.

“I did do something I’ve not done in a long time," recalled Kotzen when asked if the pair tried anything new with their gear in the studio. "Towards the end of the recording, I grabbed Adrian’s Jackson a few times.

“He has a locking tremolo and I was joking that on a couple of those solos, I sound like the 19-year-old Richie Kotzen,” he continued. “I found myself doing some tremolo bar things that I just couldn’t do on my guitar.”

Smith certainly had no desire to be left out of the signature-swapping action, and decided to take Kotzen’s own signature six-string for a spin, saying, “I tried his rig too. On the song Running, I used his signature Strat with the DiMarzio pickups.

“It’s got quite a chunky neck,” he mused, before adding, “I’ve never really got on with the Telecasters, but he gave me one of his signature models, which I haven’t had a chance to get going on yet. So many guitars, so little time…”

On whether their rig swapping made any difference to their individual tone, Kotzen commented, “If I get a guitar and amp, and neither are mine, I’ll start fiddling with the knobs to get the sound I hear in my head… So in the end, I’m pretty much gonna sound like me.”

Elsewhere in the interview, the duo touched on their experiences of sharing bass duties and leapt to the defense of bass guitar players around the world, with Kotzen stating, “Not any guitar player can play bass. Bass is a different instrument.”

Commenting on the theory that any guitarist can play bass, Smith added, “The few times I’ve jammed on bass it’s very difficult because you can’t always hear what you’re playing. It’s a boomy bottom-end, it’s like you’re playing in the dark."

Kotzen continued, “It does something different to the guitar. As I evolved, I had the luxury of playing with great bass players. I have a long history of playing with great bass players. 

"I’ve actually studied what the bass does at the same level that I’ve studied guitar. So I am a bass player. I’m not a guitar player who plays bass.” 

Head over to Magazines Direct (opens in new tab) to pick up the latest copy of Guitarist, which features in-depth interviews with Adrian Smith, Richie Kotzen and Angus Young, as well as a close-up look at a collection of anniversary Gibson Les Paul models from the mid-'70s.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.