Athena Lee Kottak is one of the coolest women that I’ve ever had the chance to talk with. She’s not only an extremely talented drummer; she also has a heart made of gold and a personality that’s equally golden. She grew up watching videos on MTV in her spare time and then practicing (on an “inherited” drum kit) the songs she had watched. She started playing out in clubs and was eventually recognized for her talent and nominated for awards all over L.A. Nowadays, Athena is looking into new things that interest her and for a more permanent gig…so all of you national acts looking for a drummer had better hit her up!
Athena took some time out to update T.E.N. on some of the things that’s happened in her life and career, including battling cancer and what it was like growing up with an older brother who also plays drums for one of the world’s most famous rock bands.
The Entertainment Nexus– What have you been up to lately?
Athena Lee Kottak– Let’s see, I’ve been up to A LOT! A lot of changes since we last talked. I finished up the European tour with Blowsight…left the band…left the marriage…left the house. I “HAD TO” leave everything. I didn’t want to, but I HAD TO! I’m taking some time to think about what it is I really want to do and work with. I’m keeping my eyes and ears open. I’ve been working on a few different things with Lorraine Lewis (Femme Fatale/L.A. NOOKIE) and have a few other projects starting up from scratch. One of them is a book, I’ve wanted to start for a LONG time and finally have the time to get on it. It’s really exciting and kinda like therapy at the same time. It will take some time to finish, as I’m constantly remembering and coming up with things to add.
TEN– Can you tell me why did you have to leave everything?
ALK– I HAD TO because they were all no longer “healthy environments” for me.
TEN– I’m sure you get this question all the time but, “What wasn’t like growing up with Tommy Lee as your brother?”
ALK– Stupid! (Laughs) It was cool, it was too quick though. I was still little when Motley Crue took off. I mean not little, I’m only a few years younger than him. I think maybe I was in ninth or tenth grade and he was gone. The only time we had together was when we were real little and then in high school, we started to do our own things. It was a lot of fun, I gotta tell you…and nothing’s changed. When we’re together it’s still each one trying to get the other one in trouble. I mean it’s dumb. We are grown ass people and here we are, still trying to get each other in trouble. (Laughs)
TEN– Does Tommy ever come over and hang out with you guys and you end up destroying drum kits together?
ALK– Not over here! (Laughs) He’s not allowed. (Laughs) We always go up to his house cause he actually has his recording studio done now. It’s called the “Atrium.” I don’t know if you have seen it, but it’s pretty bad ass! You should check it out. It’s just amazing and it’s actually in his house. It’s the whole bottom floor and it’s just crazy. So, he doesn’t want just come over here play drums in a room. (Laughs)
TEN– Was he an influence for playing drums or did you have other influences?
ALK– You know what? He was but in a strange way. Where we grew up…I’m not bad mouthing the place, it’s beautiful it’s no place for teenagers. It’s really boring and there’s nothin to do. We had one mall that had two stores in it. It was great for little kids and for older people, great. There was nothing to do. The reason I started playing is because there were drums in the house. Our father built him a soundproof studio out in the garage. When I was bored I would watch videos and then I would run out there and try to play what I just saw. I would just go back and forth…that would be a whole day for me. As sad as that is, that’s what I did. So it’s not because of him…it’s because his drums were there. He was already gone before I started playing. I was really into Terry Bozzio. Missing Persons, I thought was killer! I was a dancer for years and to me, Terry Bozzio looked like he was kinda dancing while he was playing. I don’t know if you remember just how cool he looked. I just thought that he was bad ass! I would try to go and play his stuff, which was really hard. That’s kinda what I did and I just kept going from there. Nobody knew that I even played. I would do this while my parents were gone. They never knew…they didn’t know for years and one night I just called them and ask them to come to Gazzari’s. It was the first show that I ever did and they were like: “What for?” ya know? They didn’t know what they were coming to see and I go “Just come please, just come out.” That was my first live show and they were going “What the fuck? When did you start doing that?” (Laughs) Nobody knew that I had been playing for years except my brother because I had to ask him for my own drums. (Laughs) I just told him I was goofing off; I never told him that I was playing. I just asked him: “Since I moved out, can I please get one of his old kits?” I went to his warehouse and he gave me the old “Theater Of Pain” kit. Yeah, but little did he know, ya know? It was really cool; I thought I was getting away with something. (Laughs)
TEN– How did it make you feel when you were nominated for “Best Female Drummer” in the L.A. music awards?
ALK– That was the first year a girl was ever nominated. That was pretty cool because I thought there was some really good drummers on there and I was going “What, are you kidding me?” I mean, I’m up with these guys and that doesn’t suck!
TEN– What’s the coolest part about being you?
ALK– Wow, everything! No, I’m kidding! (Laughs) Wow, I never thought of that. I’ve just got a cool…cool life. You know what, I’m just happy. I have a great family and a great life and it’s all good. Things could be way worse. Wow, I don’t know. That’s a weird question and I swear to God nobody’s ever asked me that! I’m going to actually think about that later.
TEN– You’ve also been featured in TV shows like “VH1’s Behind The Music” and “E! Hollywood Story” and you were also on “V.I.P.”
ALK– Yeah, that was cool!
TEN– Is television something that you want to get more involved with?
ALK– Yes, later because here’s my thing, I’m really weird about like…I don’t want to be an actress and do all that kinda stuff. Here’s what I get into. I love the fact that you can get to be somebody else for a day and get away with it. You could just be a “psycho” for a day and it’s good. Nobody’s mad at you because you’re “supposed to” ya know? You could be a nun…who’s gonna believe that shit? But, it’s ok for the day…right? All this kinda stuff that you can do and not get away with but you know what I mean. It’s ok to be an idiot for a day. It’s ok to be a junkie for a day. It’s ok to be a prom queen for a day. I love that! That’s really cool to me.
TEN– You’ve battle cancer in the past. What advice can you give the readers?
ALK– (Long pause) Here’s a really, really big deal. I’ve never really told this to anybody before because it meant a lot to me but other people don’t get it. Like, just get your mind in a good place…ya know…think positive. Don’t be all dark because that’s when things attack you most is when you’re at your darkest, ya know? Here’s what happened. One day, I went in to do my third round of chemo and I was sitting there and one of the nurses came up to me. I think it was during Christmas and someone had brought in cookies. There was a lady next to me and just outta nowhere she goes; “Yeah, you don’t want one of those cookies…there’s cyanide in them!” I looked at her like: “What’s you deal?” But I didn’t say anything, right? The nurse looked at me and she could tell what I was thinking. I probably had a blown away look on my face. Anyway, the nurse sat down with me and said: “I’m gonna tell you somethin. I’ve been doin this my whole life and I can sit with you right now and I can tell you that you’re gonna be fine. I can point out the people in this room that are gonna die within months.” It was a trip. I go; “WHAT? What do you mean?” She goes; “It’s because of there attitudes.” She started pointing around the room and she goes: “Her right there…she’s dead. That one right there…” cause she was just kinda over it. She had done it her whole life and she just knew the people’s attitudes and what they could do. And this is no joke Troy, I walked in over the next few months and the people that she said were gonna be gone…were not there. I started askin her about that lady and she goes: “She’s where I told you she was gonna be.” I was like “Holy Fuck! It really does matter where your head’s at!” If you just walk around all dark, then what’s there to keep you tryin to take care of yourself? You go; “Well I’m done anyway, I might as well smoke and drink.” Ya know what I mean? From that day on, I was like goin: “I’m never gonna be negative, it’s just too…it’s hard to explain, but once I saw what she said to me going on…I go: “She knows. She’s done this her whole life. That’s the deal.” Pretty crazy, so anyway stay light, ya know? There’s thousands and thousands of people who’ve been in the same place as me and done it and been through it and it’s over and they’re healthy. Then there are thousands who’ve just let themselves go because they figured they were done.
TEN– You have to stay positive.
ALK– Exactly…there’s such an amazing difference.
TEN– After your cancer diagnosis, you kinda changed your whole outlook on life.
ALK– I chilled it a little bit.
TEN– Ok, time to shift gears on you. Tell me something disturbing about yourself that you’ve never revealed before in an interview.
ALK– Really disturbing about myself? I’m pretty self destructive. (Laughs) After I’ve been talking about being all positive. (Laughs even harder) That’s a mess! That’s where playing all the characters comes in that I was talking about earlier. Well no, I used to be more like “My own worst enemy.” I would just fight with myself all the time about doing certain things. I used to just drink to a point where I was just fuckin not even around…just really self destructive. Things that normally you would just look at me and go: “Well why are you doin that? You don’t have to do that. You don’t have problems.” But I would just do it anyway just to see if I could. Just to see how many drugs I could possibly do in a weekend or how much I could possibly drink in a week…just really bizarre stuff. I quit doin that to myself but that’s what I used to do. It’s just really weird to just fight with yourself all the time. Like I would go; “Why are you doin this? I dunno…cause I want to.” It was almost like there were two people in my head. One wanted to be the “Good guy” and the other wanted me to self destruct. It was just a constant battle. It was just crazy for a couple of years. Also, I FREAK OUT when I see people cooking with long hair all hanging down. It makes me “weird out” and I don’t want to eat…seriously!
I want to thank Athena for taking the time to share with TEN and for more information on Athena please visit www.myspace.com/athenakottak
For exclusive photos of Athena, please visit the Showing Some Love For TEN Gallery.