James Kottak says that he is "still very good friends" with his former bandmates in the SCORPIONS, four years after his exit from the group.
In September 2016, the drummer was dismissed from the legendary German hard rock band during his well-publicized battle with alcoholism and was replaced by former MOTÖRHEAD member Mikkey Dee.
In a new 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 [Jabs, guitar] e-mail, and me and Klaus [Meine, vocals] 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 a year and a half ago 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 these's always a regret with any change. But 21 years in rock and roll might as well be 150 years."
Two 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 spent most of the last two 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.