MIKKEY DEE says he 'secretly' rehearsed with SCORPIONS while JAMES KOTTAK was still touring with the band
In a recent interview with Robert Cavuoto of Metal Rules, Mikkey Dee was asked how he landed the job as the drummer for SCORPIONS in 2016 after spending almost 25 years as a member of MOTÖRHEAD. He responded: “They initially called me in to be the stand-in for maybe their then-drummer James (Kottak). Because they started to get tired of his problems. So they said, ‘Look, if you could be a stand-in on parts of the European tour.’ I said, ‘Yeah. No problem.’ But meanwhile, while I was secretly following the band around in Germany, we were rehearsing a couple of times — secretly. And I’m sure that they wanted to check me out there, of course. And you never know how things are gonna go with the social part or the musical part, but they loved it immediately. And my idea was to show them what they cannot be without, basically.
“James is a great drummer,” Mikkey continued. “He did fantastic with SCORPIONS. He ran into some health problems that he had to deal with. I was never, and I will never, talk him down in any way, shape or form, but I would like to do, what I wanted to do at that point was to show what I can do and what you cannot be without. I said to the guys that I’m gonna Motörize them. ‘I want it harder, tighter and heavier, and I’m gonna show you what kind of drummer I am. I’m gonna put much more energy into what we do, and hopefully that will contaminate the whole band and we can take it to another level. And I can inspire enough to you guys, and you will inspire me as well, of course.’ Because playing pretty much the same stuff for 25 years is one thing. So this was a big challenge for me, of course, as well… And when that works out the way it did, it’s a good thing. They have no attitude. I have no attitude. We knew each other before. We get along great. And now we’re just gonna play great together. But of course, you never, ever, ever know. I might be an idiot getting out there with the SCORPIONS, being a complete prick about stuff. And they go, ‘Holy shit. We don’t remember you like this.’ I might think that, ‘Holy smoke. These guys are fucking morons. I can’t deal with this.’ But that was not the case. And of course, we got along great, and we still do. And we’re having a blast on the road and in the studio. So, it turned out to be a win-win situation.”
The 59-year-old Swedish musician also elaborated on his comment that “secretly followed” the SCORPIONS around in Germany while Kottak was still playing with the band.
“I saw every single show because I had to sit and learn the set,” Dee explained. “And I was sitting secretly up on the arena. Usually, they have it blocked off. If you draw a line on the short side of an arena, the stage and then backwards, it’s never open for the public. I had to sit very, very far away up there with in-ears, so I could hear what was going on. And (James) knew that there was a drummer (acting as a possible stand-in), (but he did) not (know) who it was. And he played great. I mean, he shaped up and played fine. And then I went back (home) to Sweden. And then I got a call just right after the European tour, and they said, ‘Look, can you finish out the year?’ And I said, ‘Absolutely. ‘Cause I’m doing nothing.’ And I realized at that time that (James is) not coming back, because we already did some rehearsals and I showed them kind of what they cannot be without; I was hoping. But he did great, and then, obviously, he kind of lost it there a little bit. You can’t live everybody else’s life, of course. I was not there to snag his seat in the SCORPIONS, but they had to do something, and that’s what they chose to do. And here I was.”
A little over a year ago, SCORPIONS guitarist Rudolf Schenker spoke to Spain’s classic rock radio station RockFM about how he would compare the drumming styles of Kottak and Dee. Schenker said: “Every musician has his own style. James was great, and is still a great drummer — no question about this — but we had a little problem… well, he had a problem, and we tried to help him through the problem. In this case, we noticed that he need(ed) more time than we could give him because we were on tour. So in this case, Matthias (Jabs, guitar) had the idea to call Mikkey Dee, because he was available because of (MOTÖRHEAD frontman) Lemmy‘s death. So, yeah, it was a great thing to see light in the distance because we were a little bit depressed because we (were) helping James so much, but he couldn’t deliver the spirit we gave him. And so we split.”
Rudolf continued: “We rehearsed with Mikkey Dee and we noticed immediately there’s a new kind of kick-ass (energy). Everybody has his own style, and Mikkey Dee is really a very — especially for me as a rhythm guitar player — he is a very influencing person. That means when I play my riffs, he knows how to make them more wild and more powerful. And that’s very good — it’s a synergy effect which even is added by Paweł (Mąciwoda, bass) because they are really a great rhythm team, Pawel and Mikkey Dee, and me as a rhythm guitar player, we can build a great basis for Matthias and Klaus (Meine, vocals).”
In a 2020 interview with the SCORPIONS official fan club Crazyscorps, Kottak discussed the circumstances that led to his departure, saying: “I always liked a drink here and there. And then I always also take a pain medication called Aleve. It’s what all the baseball players take, all the footballers, and it works like a charm. You take those of those and you don’t feel anything. But on top of that, I’m a rock drummer in a rock band, and you’ve got the green light to drink.
“From 2008 to 2011, I didn’t drink,” he explained. “I just woke up one day and said, ‘I just don’t wanna drink anymore.’ I didn’t go to rehab; I didn’t do any of that stuff. I just didn’t wanna drink anymore.
“If you have any knowledge of A.A. (Alcoholics Anonymous) or any type of program or rehab, it only lasts so long and then you have what we call in recovery a relapse. I would go through these phases of a year or maybe two years of no drinking, and then you gradually…
“SCORPIONS, we play our show, we go back to the hotel, (and) 45 minutes later, we’re all downstairs having dinner,” he continued. “And everything’s just the right price — free. All these flights back and forth from Europe, from L.A. — I was just flying constantly. Which I’m not complaining about, but it’s always business or first class, and once again, all the booze is at the right price. I’m going, ‘I’ve got the next two days off. I might as well have a drink.’ And that’s what triggered me to start drinking again sometimes.
“It’s a typical alcoholic way of thinking: ‘Well, I may as well have a drink. Why not?’ And that’s typical alcoholic disease thinking. ‘Cause it is a disease.”
Kottak, who joined the SCORPIONS in 1996, recalled one particular turning point when he spent three months at Eric Clapton‘s Crossroads drug and alcohol treatment center on the island of Antigua.
“I’ve been to hundreds — I won’t say thousands — I’ve been to hundreds of A.A. meetings,” he said. “I spent 92 days in rehab down at Eric Clapton‘s rehab place. I was only supposed to stay there 30 days. They offered me, they said, ‘Hey, if you wanna stay another couple of weeks, it’s okay.’ And I’m, like, ‘What? Well, do I have to pay?’ ‘Cause it’s expensive — it’s, like, 30 grand a month. They go, ‘No. You can just stay if you want.’ So I stayed another two weeks, then another two weeks. And long story short, I was there 92 days, which it changed my entire life and my whole way of thinking.”
James went on to say that he is “still very good friends” with members of the SCORPIONS. “Me and Matthias e-mail, and me and Klaus e-mail regular, like, maybe once every few weeks. And I just say, ‘Hey, man, how are you?’ And Klaus will write back, ‘Hey, everything is great here. What’s going on with you?’ It’s that kind of a thing.
“I saw them (in 2019) down in Orange County, which, from here, it sounds close, but it was like a two-hour drive. I went and visited with the guys, and I said hello to the crew, and I went backstage, and I went and visited with Klaus privately.
“They’re my friends, man,” Kottak added. “Just ’cause you’re not in a band (together) anymore doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. And these guys are my friends.”
Asked if he had any regrets about the way his time with SCORPIONS came to an end, Kottak said: “Of course, there’s always a regret with any change. But 21 years in rock and roll might as well be 150 years.”
Four and a half years ago, Jabs said that he and his bandmates “had to make” the decision to fire Kottak, explaining that they gave the drummer “all the chances” to get better. “We reached the point — or he reached the point — where it was just not worth it,” Jabs said.
Kottak has spent much of the last five years touring with a revamped version of KINGDOM COME, also featuring guitarists Danny Stag and Rick Steier, and bassist Johnny B. Frank, along with singer Keith St. John (formerly of MONTROSE and LYNCH MOB). Original frontman Lenny Wolf declined to participate in the reunion.
SCORPIONS‘ 19th studio album, “Rock Believer”, was released in February 2022.