James Kottak, the former drummer for Scorpions and Kingdom Come, died on Tuesday in Louisville, Kentucky, aged 61. The cause of death was not given. His death was announced by his daughter Tobi, and Kotak's former band, Scorpions, paid tribute to him in a Facebook post.
Kottak was best known as the drummer for the German rock band Scorpions, known for hits like "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and "No One Like You." He held the position from 1996 to 2016, making him the band's longest-serving member. In September 2016, Kottak was fired from the band due to struggles with alcoholism and was replaced by former Motorhead member Mikkey Dee.
Death of an Icon
Scorpions paid tribute to Kottak on their official Instagram account, sharing a poignant photo of the musician and captioned, "Very sad news... our dear friend and drummer for 20 years James Kottak has passed at the age of 61."
"James was a wonderful human being , a great musician and loving family man ... he was our Brother from another Mother and will be truly missed . ... Rock 'n Roll Forever. RIP James."
"Klaus , Rudolf , Matthias , Pawel and Mikkey."
Besides his stint with Scorpions, Kottak was an original member of Kingdom Come, where he had been a drummer from 1987 to 1989 and later from 2018 until his death.
His musical journey also included being a part of his own band, Kottak (formerly known as KrunK), and he played as a drummer in various other bands such as Montrose, Warrant, Dio, the McAuley Schenker Group, and Buster Brown.
Kottak was married to Athena Bass, the younger sister of Tommy Lee, from 1996 to 2010. The former couple had a son named Matthew, who is now 27, and they were involved in a well-known custody battle over him in 2012.
Athena is also mother to Tobi, 33, and son Miles, 31, from previous relationships.
Sound of Silence
Kottak also made appearances on reality TV shows, with one notable instance being in 2012's "Ex-Wives of Rock." Throughout his public life, he was open about his struggles with alcoholism. This issue led to his arrest for public drunkenness in 2014, and eventually, it played a role in his dismissal from the Scorpions in 2016.
"We reached the point — or he reached the point —where it was just not worth it," said Scorpions guitarist Matthias Jabs.
Kottak mentioned in an interview with Detroit's 101 WRIF in 2018 that his recovery from alcoholism was a "work in progress."
"Over the last 10 years, I would say I was 90 percent sober, and then I'd have these struggles and I'd go through a bad two- or three-week period," he said.
"So right now it's, like I said, to use a cliché, it's one day at a time and I work the program."
In 2014, Kottak faced legal trouble when he was jailed for a month for getting drunk and displaying offensive behavior toward Muslims in Dubai. The incident reportedly occurred on a flight from Moscow to Bahrain, where Kottak was scheduled to perform at a Formula One Grand Prix concert.
After consuming five glasses of wine during the flight, Kottak allegedly became disruptive, swearing, and exposing himself.
Upon arriving in Dubai, he mistakenly entered the transit hall and, witnessing Pakistani and Afghan passengers, began to verbally abuse them, making derogatory remarks about 'non-educated Muslims' and expressing displeasure about a perceived smell. These actions led to his arrest and detention in Dubai.
In 2019, Kottak expressed his politically conservative views through his song "Get Out of My Kountry."